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Home » The Battle for Power on the Internet: Bruce Schneier at TEDxCambridge 2013 (Transcript)

The Battle for Power on the Internet: Bruce Schneier at TEDxCambridge 2013 (Transcript)

Bruce Schneier at TEDxCambridge

Bruce Schneier – American cryptographer

So we are in the middle of an epic battle for power in cyberspace. On the one side, it’s traditional power, think of organized institutional powers like governments and large multi-international corporations. On the other side, think of distributed power, both the good part and the bad part: grassroots movements, dissidents’ groups, hackers, criminals…

Initially, the Internet gave power to the distributed. It gave them coordination and efficiency and made them seem unbeatable. Today, traditional powers are back and they’re winning big. What I want to do here is tell the story of those two powers fighting. Who wins and how our society survives their battle.

So back in the early days of the Internet, there was a lot of talk about its natural laws. Censorship was impossible, anonymity was easy, police were clueless about cybercrime. The Internet was fundamentally international and it would be a new world order. Traditional power blocks are bended, masses empowered, freedom spread throughout the world, and this will all be inevitable. It was a utopian vision, but some of it did actually come to pass: in marketing, entertainment, mass-media, political organizing, crowd funding and crowd sourcing. The changes were dramatic.

eBay really did normalize the world’s attics. And Facebook and Twitter really did help topple governments. But that was just one side of the Internet’s disruptive character. It’s also made traditional power more powerful.

On the corporate world, there are two trends that are currently feeling this: First, the rise of cloud computing means we no longer have control of our data: our email, photos, calendar, address book, messages, documents, they’re now on servers belonging to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and others. And second, we are increasingly accessing our data using devices that are tightly controlled by vendors.

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