The Economist today had an article on a case involving Microsoft’s alleged refusal to turn over documents stored on a foreign server to FBI. The article can be found here (archived here).
According to the Economist:
SUPPOSE FBI agents were to break into the postbox of an American company in Dublin to seize letters which might help them convict an international drug dealer. There would be general uproar, if not a transatlantic crisis. But that is essentially what the FBI wants to happen, albeit in the virtual realm: it has asked a court to order Microsoft, in its capacity as a big e-mail provider, to hand over messages from a suspect in a drugs case which are stored in a data centre in Ireland. On September 9th an appeals court in New York will hear oral arguments on whether Microsoft has to comply.
The case has many wrinkles … But at the core of the case is one of the most knotty legal questions in the age of cloud computing: how to give law-enforcement agencies access to evidence when laws remain national, but data are often stored abroad and sometimes even at multiple places at once?
This article rightfully brings up conflicts in law in the Internet arena within the West. Over the last few years, certain very public and passionate debates have flared up with Europe and the U.S. regarding privacy, right to delete, and censorship on the Internet.
If there is a religion in the modern world, it is the fanatic belief in democratic self-governance. From a philosophical perspective, the legitimacy of democratic self-government requires the notion of a public forum – a democratic corpus, a public sphere formed by citizens, if you will – to frame, debate and discuss political issues and events, free from “government interference.” This might be called a public sphere of privacy (privacy from government), rather than a private sphere of privacy (privacy from other citizens), and is essential to the working of a democratic government. It is of utmost importance to keep this public sphere vibrant and pure because in today’s paradigm, all governments have a tendency to to intrude, dominate, and control for its benefit at the expense of that of the people. And a democratic government means little if people’s thoughts and voices can be manipulated, coerced, manufactured, or censored. A belief in the vibrancy of the democratic corpus to deliver good governance (with that, justice, prosperity, “freedom,” and peace) represents the very soul of the modern democracy religion.
Have you ever wondered how a map would look like if it showed Internet freedom versus the NSA dragnet recently revealed by Edward Snowden? Well, it would look like the following map. Click to have a look first and then come back to this post.
At this point, the dominant narrative in the American media on Edward Snowden is undoubtedly him being a traitor. The reason for a turn for the ‘worse’ is Snowden revealing to the world, especially to China and Hong Kong, how the United States hack their universities, public officials, and tapping into Pacnet, the major backbone of the Internet for the whole Asia region and stealing SMS and other communications. Kurt Eichenwald argued recently on that point, and major American reporters on Twitter are lauding that line of thinking as “cogent” and a “must read.” The idea there is that NSA’s ability to spy and hack the Chinese (and Russians and other countries the United States may get into conflict with) is severely compromised. If Snowden had kept to whistle-blowing only on the surveillance of Americans, the debate about whether he is a traitor would have continued. Since he divulged American spying and hacking capabilities to potential enemies, he has become a traitor. I buy that argument. Continue reading Finally, a “cogent” argument why Edward Snowden is a traitor to America→
You’d think after all the “traitor” media narrative and digging hard for evidence of Edward Snowden’s espionage link with China, Snowden’s own words on why he is seeking political asylum would make the news – well guess again: