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Book Review: The Internet Police

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Books 27

Nerval's Lobster writes "When Ars Technica editor Nate Anderson sat down to write The Internet Police, Edward Snowden hadn't yet decided to add some excitement to the National Security Agency's summer by leaking a trove of surveillance secrets to The Guardian. As a result, Anderson's book doesn't mention Snowden's escapade, which will likely become the security-and-paranoia story of the year, if not the decade. For anyone unaware of the vast issues highlighted by Snowden's leak, however, The Internet Police is a handy guide to the slow and unstoppable rise of the online security state, as well as the libertarian and criminal elements that have done their level best to counter that surveillance." Read below for the rest of Nerval's Lobster's review.Anderson starts off his book in 2000, with an exploration of HavenCo. The people behind HavenCo had a fascinating idea: build a datacenter on a rusting naval fort in the North Sea, and use it to hold data for customers concerned about the government sniffing around. But the company's dream of constructing a "true libertarian paradise" eventually sank, thanks to a toxic combination of infighting and infrastructure challenges.

HavenCo was an early entrant in a longtime attempt to place a large swath of the Web beyond the reach of governments and corporations, and it definitely wasn't the last: from Silk Road to MegaUpload, the properties dedicated to a "liberated Net" have proliferated in recent years. Some people founded such sites out of high principle; others for the LULZ; and many because they simply wanted to download movies and music and possibly highly illegal drugs for free.

Anderson does an excellent job of tracing the push-and-pull between these Websites and various government and corporate entities. People form peer-to-peer networks to swap copyrighted content, and corporations sue to shut them down; others set up networks to trade pornography or drugs, and law-enforcement agencies unleash all sorts of surveillance tools to track down the perpetrators; spam networks rise, and governments pass legislation (boosted by corporations) to nuke them off the Web, with varying degrees of success. These attempts at control usually prove successful, at least until new and improved versions of those Websites rise from the smoking ruins of the old.

To his credit, Anderson wears his journalist hat to the proceedings, never tipping his sympathies to one side or the other. He acknowledges that government and law enforcement really do want to keep people safe above all else, even as certain legislatures and police departments run roughshod over citizens' privacy; he also details how many software creators built their security and privacy tools out of a genuine desire for people to have as much freedom as possible online, only to watch as criminals and others twisted those tools to their own nefarious ends.

Anderson's conclusion is that society needs an Internet police in order to keep some degree of peace, but that "we need to keep a close eye on them." In this post-Snowden era, when it seems increasingly clear that governments have the ability to monitor virtually every single aspect of our electronic lives, this bit of advice seems more important than ever.

You can purchase The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online, and the Cops Followed from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews (sci-fi included) -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Dear Slashdot... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44611655)

Dearest Slashdot, will you stick your thumb up my arse? If not, I will kill myself in the next 35 minutes. I hope you can live with yourselves.

Re:Dear Slashdot... (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | about a year ago | (#44611863)

the problem is u...not /.

Full crap (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44611735)

Just ignore the shit.

Re:Full crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44611879)

How much were you paid to post that?

I Want (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44611883)

The ability to download possibly highly illegal drugs for free also! Does that make me a criminal?

Re:I Want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44613159)

Yes, it makes you a criminal. Please stay where you are and wait for the proper authorities.

I've backtraced your IP, and we'll be arriving at your door in 3.. 2.. Oops. I nearly knocked on my own door. That's a little embarrasing!

I'm having some network connection problems, so if it's not too much trouble, could you please just ziptie yourself and walk to the nearest police station and ask them to contact Internate Agent Jones?

Safety (2, Insightful)

jpublic (3023069) | about a year ago | (#44611955)

He acknowledges that government and law enforcement really do want to keep people safe above all else, even as certain legislatures and police departments run roughshod over citizens' privacy

That's a laugh; what they really want is power. If they truly wanted to keep people safe, they wouldn't try to extend their own power in ways that would allow them and others to abuse people with ease.

Re:Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612825)

government and law enforcement are synonyms for legislature and police department resp., There might be some truth that a minor part of each of these show some concern for the people but when the push comes to shove, they will be either silent at best are side with the rest at the worst.

NOT THE REAL JANE (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44615229)

I would like it to be very clear that this person (3023069) is NOT the Jane Q. Public (1010737) who has been around Slashdot for years.

I do not yet know Slashdot's policy on impersonating other users, but I intend to find out.

Re:NOT THE REAL JANE (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44616635)

Call the Internet Police. They will stop this nefarious impostor.

Re:NOT THE REAL JANE (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44620289)

"Call the Internet Police. They will stop this nefarious impostor."

It's not funny. If you had been using the same name for years, and somebody suddenly popped up, pretending to be you, there is a pretty good chance you would be upset about it.

Consequences .... (1)

ultrasawblade (2105922) | about a year ago | (#44611983)

will never be the same.

"libertarian and criminal elements" ??? (4, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | about a year ago | (#44612031)

Well, I've occasionally wondered when it would occur to people to lump these rather disparate groups together, with a phrasing implying that the people involved are both. ;-)

After all, it's been some time since the media decided that "hacker" should no longer mean someone who enjoys tinkering with technology and is good at it, and conflated that term with "criminal". It's about time that other groups that believe in various sorts of freedoms to get the same treatment.

It's actually a bit surprising that it took so long to read someone conflate "libertarian" and "criminal". I wonder what other groups are overdue for this treatment ...

Re:"libertarian and criminal elements" ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612083)

First they came for the hackers, and I did nothing, for I was not a hacker.... WAIT A MINUTE! Did I just follow Godwin's law?

Re:"libertarian and criminal elements" ??? (1)

Paleolibertarian (930578) | about a year ago | (#44613657)

That the media in general is conflating Libertarian with criminal activities is more a sign of the general public being brainwashed in the government indoctrination camps (public schools) to believe that security is preferable to liberty.

I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612145)

Snowden created a discontinuity not only in public perceptions but in the sheer mass of available factual information about the worldwide surveillance state. That is no small feat. The tragedy of 9/11 gave the scumbags a perfect opportunity to put the entire population of the West under their control. Perhaps the disclosures will be a sufficient seed to push back the nightmare started by 9/11.

The Snowden affair is still unfolding, but when it's over, I would very much like to read the 2nd Edition of this book. The world will never be the same again, that's for sure. It may even be worse, as the police state strengthens its iron grip worldwide, but there is at least a hope that public pressure will reign in the terror by government. Hope is good.

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (0)

godel_56 (1287256) | about a year ago | (#44612269)

Snowden created a discontinuity not only in public perceptions but in the sheer mass of available factual information about the worldwide surveillance state. That is no small feat. The tragedy of 9/11 gave the scumbags a perfect opportunity to put the entire population of the West under their control. Perhaps the disclosures will be a sufficient seed to push back the nightmare started by 9/11.

The Snowden affair is still unfolding, but when it's over, I would very much like to read the 2nd Edition of this book. The world will never be the same again, that's for sure. It may even be worse, as the police state strengthens its iron grip worldwide, but there is at least a hope that public pressure will reign in the terror by government. Hope is good.

Mod +1.

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612499)

Snowden created a discontinuity not only in public perceptions but in the sheer mass of available factual information about the worldwide surveillance state. That is no small feat. The tragedy of 9/11 gave the scumbags a perfect opportunity to put the entire population of the West under their control. Perhaps the disclosures will be a sufficient seed to push back the nightmare started by 9/11.

Hahaha, how cute. Most US citizens want Snowden arrested and strung up as a terrorist like they want with Assange.

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44615237)

Hahaha, how cute. Most US citizens want Snowden arrested and strung up as a terrorist like they want with Assange.

Oh really? Well not a single one of the people I know as family, friends, professional colleagues and even mere acquaintances has such a view, and that's hundreds of people spread over many walks of life. If "most US citizens" want it, I'd expect to see some of those represented among the very diverse people I know, yet they're totally absent.

So I suspect that you live in military barracks and have had your thought patterns decided for you by your superiors, rather than being allowed to see how citizens feel for yourself. It's also supported by your clear barbarism in wanting a person "strung up" at all. Civilized people don't talk that way, they believe in due process. It's also possible that you're a minor and simply haven't learned yet why being civilized is important.

The general man in the street actually likes to hear about what their government is doing behind closed doors and is grateful for the information from whistleblowers. For one reason or another, this is a public interest which you appear not to comprehend.

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44619215)

Sorry, but it seems that you have a problem with statistics.
"... of the people I know ..." is not a random sample of US citizens.
Let's define ALFA as NUMBER_OF_PEOPLE_YOU_KNOW / NUMBER_OF_US_CITIZENS.
Is NUMBER_OF_PEOPLE_YOU_KNOW_IN_STATE(x) / TOTAL_CITIZENS_IN_STATE(x) about the same size as ALFA for every state ?
What about age, educationlevel, ... ?
Sorry, but your math is flawed. The only thing you can say about the people you know is that they all have a similar opinion, they are completely useless to make statements about larger groups.
Google "random sample" for more info

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44616329)

Hahaha, how cute. Most US citizens want Snowden arrested and strung up as a terrorist like they want with Assange.

That might be true if you define "most" as less than 55% [usnews.com] .

Re:I'd like to read the post-Snowden version (1)

mvdwege (243851) | about a year ago | (#44615185)

Snowden being a swivel-eyed nut and his cause being championed by an increasingly strident and irrational Greenwald did the cause of freedom more harm than good.

When everything you do is watched (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44612291)

You quit doing anything.

Re:When everything you do is watched (2)

RenderSeven (938535) | about a year ago | (#44612373)

When all you do is watch, you also quit doing anything. That'sa shatload of people doing nothing.

Copyright Date: Is It Conveniently Missing? (1)

hutsell (1228828) | about a year ago | (#44612485)

Knowing when it was created improves reading comprehension about the writer's point of view.

Since this distraction has been happening a lot more often during the past decade, is it time to consider another legal word to distinguish between the author's first date of creation of an original work and the date of financial ownership — presently, a more accurate definition of copyright.

Re:Copyright Date: Is It Conveniently Missing? (1)

RockinRoller (3023071) | about a year ago | (#44614141)

2013... at least accd. to Amazon

Sneaky downloading criminals! (1)

Guest316 (3014867) | about a year ago | (#44613849)

>Some people founded such sites out of high principle; others for the LULZ; and many because they simply wanted to download movies and music and possibly highly illegal drugs for free.
>download movies and music and possibly highly illegal drugs for free.
>download illegal drugs

wat
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