Mozilla's Privacy Chief Sounds Off on the "Balkanized" Internet

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 22, 2014

The scandal over NSA snooping has caused many adverse reactions, but one of the more notable ones has just come from Mozilla's chief privacy officer Alex Fowler. Speaking with NPR, with the interview coming just after President Obama's public comments about government surveillance reform, Fowler said that the threat of a balkanized Internet is real. And indeed, some countries are proposing limitations on Internet use that would effectively keep users dealing with information produced within their own countries' borders.

In the interview with Fowler, he notes the following:

"So one of the really critical values of the Internet is that it is global, it is distributed, it is very easy for people to gain access to it. And so one of the things that we're always concerned about is any kind of governmental action whereby those countries would be isolating themselves, creating their own versions of the Net and closing off that broader access to information and the ability to contribute back to the broader Internet community. So balkanization is really a notion where you would essentially have a separate Internet for, say, citizens in Brazil than what the same users outside of Brazil would see when they visit those sites."

"A year ago, we were talking about balkanization in the context of Russia and China. And now, we're talking about that in the context of Brazil and Germany, in democratic countries, seeing that as a viable approach to protecting the privacy and security of their citizens."

Ironically, Brazil and Germany are launching some of the more ambitious plans to deploy open source software on a governmental basis, but they also have both considered proposals to place heavy Internet restrictions on residents.

Mozilla and Fowler have been consistently critical of government snooping in general.  Fowler also told NPR that the next director of the National Security Agency should take human rights concerns into account when overseeing surveillance activities.