Toujours à propos de Pursuit, que Francesca Musiani avait brièvement présenté ici, un article récent revient sur son fonctionnement et présente les vidéos de présentation de cette nouvelle façon (décentralisée) d’accéder au web.
Internet est désormais utilisé dans une grande partie du monde et on peut imaginer qu’il fonctionnera toujours de la même manière. Pourtant, des chercheurs travaillent actuellement sur un nouveau moyen de se connecter au Web, inspiré du peer-to-peer : le « Pursuit Internet ». DGS vous explique cette innovation en détails.
Ce projet s’inspire de la notion de peer-to-peer (P2P), un système de partage de données qui permet d’alléger le serveur web à l’origine d’une demande trop conséquente en répartissant la tâche avec tous les ordinateurs téléchargeant ces mêmes données.
Sur ce même modèle, The Pursuit Internet veut faire disparaître les serveurs pour laisser place à un contenu plus dispersé qui ferait primer l’information plutôt que la source. De fait, l’accès serait plus facile, puisque cette nouvelle architecture permettrait de distribuer le contenu à plus de personnes en moins de temps, ce qui nous épargnerait le contraignant : « Serveur surchargé ».
Les lecteurs du blog ADAM pourraient être intéressés par ma note de lecture du récent livre de Laura DeNardis, The Global War for Internet Governance (en anglais), également disponible sur le site américain d’Amazon.
A Guide to the “Technologically Concealed” in Internet Governance, January 21, 2014
Book Review: Laura DeNardis (2014). The Global War for Internet Governance. New Haven, CT and London : Yale University Press.
The final draft of Laura DeNardis’s most recent book, officially released on January 14th, 2014, had most likely been finalized before Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about the pervasive surveillance implemented by the U. S. National Security Agency entered the media spotlight, which explains the absence of direct references to the controversy throughout the 300-page volume. Yet, because of the Snowden revelations and a number of other issues addressed thoroughly in this extremely important book – from WikiLeaks to the SOPA and PIPA bill projects – the exploration of Internet governance (IG) issues through a “global war” lens has never been more relevant than it is today. Information and communication technologies, the Internet first and foremost, are increasingly mobilized to serve broader economic, political and military aims, ranging from the theft of strategic data to the hijacking of industrial systems. The rise of techniques, devices and infrastructures destined to digital espionage, data collection and aggregation, tracking and surveillance is highlighted not only by the recent Snowden revelations, but also by the construction and the organization of a dedicated, increasingly widespread and lucrative market.
As an interdisciplinary scholar of Internet governance grounded in Science and Technology Studies (STS) myself, I had been very much looking forward to the release of this book, which will undoubtedly prove to be a central reference for Internet governance as an emerging field of study in the coming years. As she had already and so ably done in Protocol Politics (2009), Laura DeNardis builds on her interdisciplinary training as an information engineer and STS scholar to untangle – and richly account for – the “technologically concealed and institutionally complex ecosystem of governance” that permeates today’s Internet. In doing so, she contributes to unveil what media and policymaker accounts of Internet governance all too often cause to stay out of the public radar.
While this book is also, indirectly, a means to revisit and update the debates on “multistakeholderism”, prominent in some IG venues such as the Internet Governance Forum, the author’s main interest rests unambiguously with the “technologically concealed” and its socio-technical agency: the extent to which non-human actors (to put it in STS vocabulary) such as information intermediaries, critical Internet resources, Internet exchange points and security devices play a crucial “governance” role alongside political, national and supra-national institutions and civil society organizations. Throughout the book, Laura DeNardis explores how Internet governance takes shape in the myriad of infrastructures, devices, data fluxes and technical architectures that – discreet, often invisible, yet no less crucial – subtend and build the increasingly public and articulate “network of networks”.
The author’s conceptual framework is shaped by five core research questions: how arrangements of technical architecture are, inherently, arrangements of power and politics, which can be revealed by bringing infrastructures to the foreground; how “traditional power” structures are increasingly mobilizing Internet governance technologies as proxies for content control; how Internet governance is increasingly privatized, enacted by corporations and non-governmental entities, in areas as diverse as privacy, control of online financial flows, censorship, and copyright enforcement; how decisions implemented within technical spaces on the Internet reflect conflicts over competing sets of values, rights, policy norms, as well as ongoing negotiations of the values subtending Internet architecture; and finally, how the variety of “local Internets” and the stability of the global Internet intersect and mutually influence each other, calling for a “carefully planned global governance framework” (p.18), a luxury that the rapid pace of innovation, the impressive scaling, and the diversification of uses have almost never allowed to Internet architecture in its global era.
This five-pronged framework opens the door to Laura DeNardis’s exploration and narrative of Internet governance as an ensemble of controversies and battles over “control points”, a narrative which constitutes the remainder of the book. These control points range from the deepest layers of Internet infrastructure to the “last mile” of user access to the network; from the blocking of financial flows to the deliberate “kill-switches” of Internet-based services; from the “graduated response” termination of domestic Internet access to the attempted use of the Domain Name System for copyright enforcement purposes; from the Internet’s backbone infrastructure to the establishment of interconnection agreements; and finally, the de facto public policy role assumed by private information intermediaries in the variety of instances where they gather, collect, aggregate, select, present data to users and to other actors of the Internet value chain — thereby enacting governance over privacy, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and reputation.
The author’s training as an engineer provides the background and the tools for an exploration of Internet governance that I have described elsewhere as “not afraid of its subject of study” (Musiani, 2012): able to resist the temptation of an excessive “institutionalization” of IG, to avoid recoiling from the dense, intricate, complex, technically-grounded substrate of Internet governance power struggles, and to embrace the challenge of accounting for it in a detailed yet engaging way. While the methodological toolbox and narrative devices of STS are, unambiguously, precious instruments for the author, enabling her to achieve these objectives in a successful manner, this book is not “blatantly” STS. The vocabulary of actor-network, delegation, black boxes, co-production is there as a means, not an end in itself; the references to Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star’s work on standards (1996), to Bruno Latour’s musings on technical mediation (1994), to Michel Callon’s sociology of translation (1986), to Tarleton Gillespie’s “politics of platforms” (2010) are tools, not enumerations of the obligatory literature review; the description of socio-technical controversies is ever-present, but weaved discreetly into the narrative.
As Jeanette Hofmann once wrote, Internet governance is a “regulative idea in flux” (2007). Indeed, the search for concepts, tools and categories to make sense of 21st century Internet governance, both as a set of practices and technologies and an academic field of study, is very much open-ended, unresolved and problematic. The conclusion of The Global War for Internet Governance ties together beautifully the variety of “stress factors” that Internet control points will likely keep on being subjected to in the immediate future: increasing international pressure to introduce additional regulation at interconnection points; greater governmental control; technology-embedded threats to privacy; reduction of anonymity and its consequences for freedom of expression; loss of platform interoperability; and finally, “creative” uses and misuses of Internet infrastructure and their impact on the Internet’s security and stability. In this sense, Laura DeNardis’s work is indeed a blueprint for an infrastructure- and architecture-based “Bill of Rights” for the Internet — and extremely interesting, required reading in order to understand more thoroughly the indispensible “backstage” of today’s highly-mediatized Internet politics.
Bowker, Geoffrey C. and Susan Leigh Star (1996). “How Things (Actor-Net)work: Classification, Magic and the Ubiquity of Standards”, Philosophia, November 18; 1996.
Callon, Michel (1986). “Elements of a Sociology of Translation”, in John Law (ed.), Power Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge?, London: Routledge.
DeNardis, Laura (2009). Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Gillespie, Tarleton (2010). “The Politics of ‘Platforms’”, New Media and Society, 12 (3)
Hofmann, Jeanette (2007). “Internet Governance: A Regulative Idea in Flux”, in Ravi Kumar, Jain Bandamutha (eds.), Internet Governance: An Introduction, Hyderabad: The Icfai University Press, pp. 74-108.
Latour, Bruno (1994). “On Technical Mediation”, Common Knowledge, 3 (2): 29-64.
Musiani, Francesca (2012). “Caring About the Plumbing: On the Importance of Architectures in Social Studies of (Peer-to-Peer) Technology”, Journal of Peer Production, 1.
Francesca Musiani, l’une des coordinatrices du projet ADAM a remporté, grâce à ses travaux, le prix de la CNIL 2013. Nous tenions ici à la féliciter et à lui rappeler combien elle est un moteur au sein de notre projet de recherche.
Encore bravo Francesca!
Le 5ème Prix de thèse Informatique et Libertés est attribué à Francesca Musiani pour ses travaux sur les architectures pair-à-pair (P2P)
Le jury du Prix de thèse Informatique et Libertés, présidé par M. Jean-Marie Cotteret, membre de la CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés), a attribué le 5ème prix Informatique et Libertés à Francesca Musiani pour sa thèse intitulée « Nains sans géants. Architecture décentralisée et services Internet ».
Le 5ème prix Informatique et Libertés de la CNIL, qui récompense les travaux de doctorants de 3e cycle et intéressant la protection des données personnelles, a été attribué à Francesca Musiani, postdoctorante au Centre de Sociologie de l’Innovation à MINES ParisTech et affiliée au Berkman Center for Internet and Society de l’Université de Harvard (Etats-Unis).
Le prix récompense ses travaux consacrés à l’exploration du développement des architectures pair-à-pair (P2P). L’objectif de cette thèse est très ambitieux puisqu’il s’agit d’étudier le développement des architectures P2P sous des angles très différents:
L’angle technique : les contraintes introduites par ce type d’architectures et les avantages qu’elles apportent ;
L’angle juridique : les incidences de ces choix architecturaux sur des obligations légales, notamment en matière de protection de la vie privée et de la propriété intellectuelle ;
L’angle économique : les difficultés à développer des modèles d’affaire capables de concurrencer les acteurs dominants qui reposent sur des architectures centralisées ;
L’angle sociologique : les interactions entre parties prenantes (notamment développeurs et utilisateurs), la sociologie de l’innovation.
Le Prix de thèse “informatique et libertés” incite au développement des recherches universitaires concernant la protection de la vie privée et des données personnelles. Ce prix s’adresse à de très nombreuses disciplines telles que les sciences humaines, le droit, les sciences politiques, l’économie mais aussi les disciplines technologiques, de l’innovation et du design.
Nous y reviendrons plus longuement prochainement mais nous tenions à faire circuler l’information sur notre plateforme de recherche. Voici donc une présentation d’Arkos, les informations suivantes sont extraites du site web https://arkos.io.
What is arkOS?
Not just an operating system.
arkOS is a lightweight Linux-based operating system that runs on a Raspberry Pi. But arkOS more than just an operating system — it is a full software stack managing your self-hosting experience in an intuitive and intelligent way. arkOS does the work for you.
A visual gateway to your self-hosted web.
arkOS will allow you to run websites, email accounts, social networking profiles and much more, from its clean and easy-to-use graphical interface. With Genesis, even the most complex task becomes possible. No need to spend hours looking up command line functions — or learning to use Linux itself. Genesis gives you the power to manage your online life like it was meant to be done.
Your own private “cloud.”
With arkOS, you can will be able to run and maintain a variety of personal cloud services with the push of a button. Using solutions like ownCloud, you can store your calendar, contacts, files, music, photos and more at home, and manage all of these items. Share them only with the people you want to see them. No more “privacy creep” from services like Google or Facebook – with arkOS, you become the master of your own privacy controls.
Your data’s gateway to the Internet.
Don’t want the trouble of buying your own domain? Don’t worry. arkOS will allow you to connect your node to the Internet anyway, through a variety of services like dynamic DNS and port relays. Sometimes your Internet connection might prohibit you hosting your own data. In these circumstances, arkOS will provide ways to connect your node to the greater World Wide Web.
Un article très intéressant paru en décembre dernier sur le blog “Elements” du magazine bi-hebdomadaire américain The New Yorker (le 13 décembre 2013, en anglais seulement), revient sur le “projet”, qu’ils qualifient de “mission” dans le titre, de décentraliser l’Internet… Vaste programme s’il en est…
The Mission to Decentralize the Internet
L’article rédigé par Joshua Kopstein présente à la fois un historique de la décentralisation (ou plutôt de la non-décentralisation) de l’Internet mais également une histoire des non succès de plusieurs services décentralisés qui portaient ou portent toujours en eux de façon intrinsèque, à l’intérieur de leurs codes et de leurs design les, les “valeurs” d’un Internet décentralisé.
L’auteur s’attarde plus longuement sur l’intérêt de trois services innovants et décentralisés: Bitmessage, Bitcoin, Mailpileet ArkOS. Il revient aussi sur les relatifs échecs d’autres services web innovants et décentralisés (Freedom box et le réseau social Diaspora).
La lecture est édifiante et aisée pour les nons-spécialistes, elle présente rapidement certains éléments qui nous occupent au sein de ce projet de recherche. Bonne lecture:
[…] Solutions like these follow a path different from Mailpile and ArkOS. Their peer-to-peer architecture holds the potential for greatly improved privacy and security on the Internet. But existing apart from commonly used protocols and standards can also preclude any possibility of widespread adoption. Still, Novak said, the transition to an Internet that relies more extensively on decentralized, P2P technology is “an absolutely essential development,” since it would make many attacks by malicious actors—criminals and intelligence agencies alike—impractical.
Though Snowden has raised the profile of privacy technology, it will be up to engineers and their allies to make that technology viable for the masses. “Decentralization must become a viable alternative,” said Cook, the ArkOS developer, “not just to give options to users that can self-host, but also to put pressure on the political and corporate institutions.”
“Discussions about innovation, resilience, open protocols, data ownership and the numerous surrounding issues,” said Redecentralize’s Bolychevsky, “need to become mainstream if we want the Internet to stay free, democratic, and engaging.”
Un article (en anglais) paru la semaine dernière sur Wired magazine:
The internet is weak, yet we keep ignoring this fact. So we see the same thing over and over again, whether it’s because of natural disasters like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, wars like Syria and Bosnia, deliberate attempts by the government to shut down the internet (most recently in Egypt and Iran), or NSA surveillance.
After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last month, several towns were cut off from humanitarian relief because delivering that aid depends on having a reliable communication network. In a country where over 90 percent of the population has access to mobile phones, the implementation of an emergency “mesh” network could have saved lives.
Compared to the “normal” internet — which is based on a few centralized access points or internet service providers (ISPs) — mesh networks have many benefits, from architectural to political. Yet they haven’t really taken off, even though they have been around for some time. I believe it’s time to reconsider their potential, and make mesh networking a reality. Not just because of its obvious benefits, but also because it provides an internet-native model for building community and governance.
But first, the basics: An ad hoc network infrastructure that can be set up by anyone, mesh networks wirelessly connect computers and devices directly to each other without passing through any central authority or centralized organization (like a phone company or an ISP). They can automatically reconfigure themselves according to the availability and proximity of bandwidth, storage, and so on; this is what makes them resistant to disaster and other interference. Dynamic connections between nodes enable packets to use multiple routes to travel through the network, which makes these networks more robust.
Compared to more centralized network architectures, the only way to shut down a mesh network is to shut down every single node in the network.
That’s the vital feature, and what makes it stronger in some ways than the regular internet.
But mesh networks aren’t just for political upheavals or natural disasters. Many have been installed as part of humanitarian programs, aimed at helping poor neighborhoods and underserved areas. For people who can’t afford to pay for an internet connection, or don’t have access to a proper communications infrastructure, mesh networks provide the basic infrastructure for connectivity.
Not only do mesh networks represent a cheap and efficient means for people to connect and communicate to a broader community, but they provide us with a choice for what kind of internet we want to have.
For these concerned about the erosion of online privacy and anonymity, mesh networking represents a way to preserve the confidentiality of online communications. Given the lack of a central regulating authority, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to assess the real identity of users connected to these networks. And because mesh networks are generally invisible to the internet, the only way to monitor mesh traffic is to be locally and directly connected to them.
But the Real, Often Forgotten, Promise of Mesh Networks Is…
Yet beyond the benefits of costs and elasticity, little attention has been given to the real power of mesh networking: the social impact it could have on the way communities form and operate.
What’s really revolutionary about mesh networking isn’t the novel use of technology. It’s the fact that it provides a means for people to self-organize into communities and share resources amongst themselves: Mesh networks are operated by the community, for the community. Especially because the internet has become essential to our everyday life.
Instead of relying on the network infrastructure provided by third party ISPs, mesh networks rely on the infrastructure provided by a network of peers that self-organize according to a bottom-up system of governance. Such infrastructure is not owned by any single entity. To the extent that everyone contributes with their own resources to the general operation of the network, it is the community as a whole that effectively controls the infrastructure of communication. And given that the network does not require any centralized authority to operate, there is no longer any unilateral dependency between users and their ISPs.
Mesh networking therefore provides an alternative perspective to traditional governance models based on top-down regulation and centralized control.
Indeed, with mesh networking, people are building a community-grown network infrastructure: a distributed mesh of local but interconnected networks, operated by a variety of grassroots communities. Their goal is to provide a more resilient system of communication while also promoting a more democratic access to the internet.
Are We There Yet?
In recent years, different mesh network initiatives have emerged to address the above and other objectives that could be accomplished with mesh networking.
For instance, in face of the damages caused to Haiti’s communication infrastructure by the 2010 earthquake, the Serval project was launched in Australia with the objective to create a disaster-proof wireless network that relies exclusively on the connectivity of mobile devices.
Meanwhile, after the Egyptian government attempted to shut off the internet in the whole nation, the Open Mesh Project emerge with the goal of providing open and free communications to every citizen in the world regardless of national boundaries.
Finally, there is the Open Technology Institute’s (an initiative of the New America Foundation) Commotion Wireless project. Originally aimed at providing a secure and reliable platform to prevent authoritarian regimes from controlling or blocking dissident or activist communications, it has so far only been deployed in confined areas where the communication infrastructure was either damaged or missing.
So why hasn’t mesh networking already taken off?
Well, there are technical reasons of course. The complexity to set up, manage, and maintain a mesh network is one obstacle to their widespread deployment. Getting a mesh network to work properly can be harder than it seems, especially when it comes to latency. Although the technology is there, routing protocols are currently unable to scale over a few hundred nodes and network coverage is constrained by the limited range of wireless user devices.
Another barrier is perception (and marketing). Mesh networks are generally seen as an emergency tool rather than a regular means for communication. While many mesh networks have been deployed during a period of crisis (during the Boston marathon bombing for example) or after standard communication infrastructures have been damaged or destroyed (such as the Redhook initiative in Brooklyn), very few have been deployed beforehand. They’re used more as an ad hoc measure than a precautionary one that could provide an alternative and more resilient network infrastructure.
Finally, there are political and power struggles, of course. Even though mesh networking could theoretically support the government in providing internet connectivity to poor neighborhoods or undeserved areas, mesh networks cannot be easily monitored, nor properly regulated by third parties. As such, mesh networks are sometimes regarded by the state as a potential danger — one that could disrupt public order by providing a platform for criminal activities.
The same is true of the private sector. For large ICT companies (including mobile operators and ISPs) mesh networking constitutes a new competitor in the market for internet communication, which — if it were more widely deployed — could potentially jeopardize their traditional business model based on pay-per-use and monthly subscriptions. Whether nefariously or simply because of structural circumstances, these actors are all committed to maintaining the status quo of the current internet ecosystem.
* * *
As has been done with Freifunk in Germany and GuiFi.net in Spain, more mesh networks need to be deployed on an arbitrary basis. This will help establish the basic infrastructure necessary to ensure the autonomy and long-term sustainability of a community-based network structure. One that, in any kind of situation, can connect people and even save lives.
But beyond the internet, the governance model of many community wireless networks could potentially translate into other parts of our life. By promoting a DIY approach to network communications, mesh networking represents an opportunity to realize that it can sometimes be more beneficial for us, as a community, to rely on our own resources and those of our peers than that of centralized authorities. It’s bringing the principles of the internet to our physical lives.