Several years of watching Parliamentary hearings, participating in the shaping of legislation, and observing the politicisation of the fundamental rules of the open web have proven the old axiom: if you regulate the web as if only Facebook and Google exist, the end result will be that only Facebook and Google exist.
Let’s talk about democracy, and technology, and how sausages are made.
When I retired from open source projects in February, I did so with more than a little curiosity about what new opportunities would come up to fill the void. That’s how life works, after all. Here is the first one. Read More
Yesterday I had the misfortune of discovering an appalling violation of children’s privacy rights: a piece of keylogging stalkerware being sold as a “safeguarding” tool for parents, packaged in a hysterical scare story about sexting.
I spoke with Business Insider about the political context behind Google’s decision to move UK accounts out of the EU’s jurisdiction.
I also spoke with TechCrunch about the issue from a slightly different angle.
One of my tweets about the issue was retweeted by Neil Gaiman, who now owes me a new phone battery.
As I’ve written on my side blog, https://afterbrexit.tech:
With the UK now out of the European Union, it is clear beyond any doubt that Brexit is being used as a means for British policymakers to embark on an open regulatory experiment. Legislators across all parties, think tanks, and media outlets are seeking to fundamentally redraft the legal and social foundations of the open web, our access to it, and our use of it, under the guise of “taking back control”. This policy drive is unabashedly nationalistic, specifically promoted as a “British Model” of internet regulation crafted to “British values”. Yet those values, whether they aim to take the form of replacements or wholesale eliminations of European digital frameworks, are far darker than what they will replace. Many proposals coming out of government will dramatically restrict freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and personal privacy, while imposing severe new obligations for content moderation, filtering and censorship, and corporate monitoring. They will regulate private behavior in the online world in ways not replicated in the offline world.
This drive to turn British tech businesses into the arbiters of civil discourse, as well as arms-length privatised law enforcement bodies, carries grave implications for the sector’s economic future as well. The divergent “British Model”, which will see the UK operating under its own set of restrictive rules not replicated in any other western system, is being sold as an incentive to trade deals – when, in fact, it is a barrier to them. The implementation costs for domestic businesses for compliance with the “British Model” will make the UK an impossible place to do business online, and will render the UK a no-go zone for foreign investment in our domestic tech sector.
It is our work, our projects, our startups, our businesses, our content, and our livelihoods which are stuck in the middle. Professionals working in the sector must not assume that we will be consulted on these changes, or that our experience will be respected. Equally, we must proceed on the understanding that the removal of European safeguards on human rights, privacy, and freedom of expression will not protect our users, or ourselves, from the “British Model” and its rapacious demands for a more restricted, monitored, and surveilled open web.
If you don’t think this is a fight you should be showing up for, or if you believe that this is “politics” and tech doesn’t do politics, do the world a favour and get the hell out of tech.
In July I sat down with Nathan Wrigley from WP Builds for a chat about open source, privacy, politics, and open source privacy politics. The interview has now been published here, along with a full transcript.
I couldn’t have picked a nicer person to speak with.
There was a call for comments ahead of this weekend’s scheduled panel discussion at WCUS on the autoupdates plan. I’ve been asked to respond to it from my perspective, so I will.
Something distressing happened this week in the Commons chamber, and the Prime Minister wasn’t even there.