US-China relations have turned contentious over the past several months, particularly in regard to the issue of “Internet freedom.” But neither nation has an unblemished record on Internet privacy, says Eben Moglen, a Columbia University law professor and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center.
Last month, Google declared that it has discovered cyberattacks on its systems targeting Chinese humans rights workers, and made a decision to terminate the censored version of Google in China as a response.
Within a matter of days, U.S/ Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanded that China investigate Google’s claims, and called for an Internet free of censorship. (Disclosure: I donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and was an active volunteer)
Both countries should take heed to the call for freedom, Moglen says. The only difference between spying in the U.S and spying in China is that China’s is centralized through the government, and the U.S has the capitalist kind, he said.
“We won’t win any freedom of the Internet discussion carrying Facebook on our backs,” Moglen quipped.
Moglen, who is a well-known figure in the free software movement, is concerned about the impact that the Internet’s predominant client/server architecture has on privacy due to the architecture’s potential for abuse.
Americans, he said, live with a microphone under every bush, a Webcam in every tree, and “a data miner under your feet.” Facebook and other cloud services such as Gmail spy on their users, he claims.
Data is aggregated about things you don’t want people to know, Moglen said. People would be “creeped out” at the how somple it is to un-anonymize data, he added. “Commercial data sources can be used to assemble maps of people’s lives.”
That is technically true, but I do not have to jump through hoops to watch YouTube uncensored. The information that is collected about me online is probably more pervasive than I know, but the spying doesn’t have an immediate effect upon my freedom. Perhaps that makes it easier to take my privacy for granted.