by Paul Rudo on 24/05/12 at 3:09 pm
The recent controversy over the Facebook IPO really showed how powerful and critical the Internet has become to our daily lives.
Today, people all over the world are connecting via social networks and organizing massive grass-roots political movements. These have recently included everything from the fall of middle-eastern dictatorship regimes to the Occupy Wall Street protests.
As you might expect, governments are paying attention to online buzz. And they’re desperately taking measures to contain and guide its impact.
One of the most controversial solutions to this important social issue has been online censorship. Currently, many nations are implementing some sort of mechanism to control access to online content. Sometimes this is done through legal punishments, and other times it is done through automated filters.
In the case of child exploitation, bullying, racism, and threats, legal punishments are ideal since they specifically target the criminal while ignoring law-abiding use of those same channels.
However, automated filters are much more cost-effective and scalable. But the problem with automated Internet filtering is that they are vulnerable to false-positives, and they punish the innocent for the potential future crimes of the guilty.
Some examples of countries that use automated filtering mechanisms would include:
- The Chinese government uses proxy servers, IP filtering, DNS filtering, packet filtering and other methods to block access to restricted and anti-government materials. China has also been known to require that service providers and search engines filter results based on Government guidelines.
- In 2008, Australia began asking that ISPs block access to over 10,000 web sites which they considered to be inappropriate or offensive. Many have argued that the primary goal of this filtering effort is to end peer-to-peer file sharing in the country.
- The Saudi-Arabian government has implemented a fully-automated web filter proxy which is designed to block out sexually explicit and anti-Islamic content.
- In the USA, the government has been discussing the possibility of implementing an “Internet Kill Switch” as a national security protection initiative.
As we move more towards an OS-neutral, cloud-centric, mobile-enabled world, these kinds of cross-border access issues will become critical. If a foreign government decides to shut off external internet traffic, this could end up blocking access to your cloud-hosted data at a time when you need it the most.
But there are a few measures you can take to protect yourself. The first and most important would be to keep your data within domestic borders. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it cuts your risks by half since you only need to deal with the Internet filtering of a single nation.
In addition to keeping your data local, you could also try to set up and manage your own private cloud. This way, you would still control the underlying infrastructure in the event that network traffic gets cut off.
Of course, due to cost and maintenance reasons, this option isn’t practical for everyone. So if you want to save money, a hosted SaaS service is definitely the way to go. But make sure that your cloud provider is locally owned and that they’ll host your data within domestic borders.
Automated Internet filtering and government-run Internet kill switches will unfortunately likely become part of our every day realities within the next 4 of 5 years. That’s why we need to start making smarter decisions about how we pick our cloud services today.
About The Author: Mary is a professional writer on cross-border legal issues which affect cloud computing. She also manages a leading niche site which reviews domestic online backup services.