Jennifer Granick gave a fantastic keynote address (video here) at Black Hat 2015. I wish I could have been in the audience. There is a sadness permeating it that communicates very clearly what has been lost, and it would have been depressing if not for the resolve also that is also evident. A resolve to reclaim a lost purpose. We need more debate along these lines. If for nothing else then to educate those who were not online in the mid 90's.
I agree with the speaker that we need to push for policy and legislation, in the U.S. as well as in Europe, to retain what internet freedom still exists, and regain that freedom which has been lost.
But one thing not mentioned are the technological developments that also have the potential to push the pendulum back towards greater internet freedom.
The rise of peer-to-peer technologies, and the feverish innovation currently taking place in that field, gives me the greatest hope for the future. In the next couple of years we are going to see a whole host of services built on blockchain technology come online.
P2P cloud storage, as is currently being developed by IPFS (www.ipfs.io) and MaidSafe (www.maidsafe.net) to name just two. And the Ethereum project (www.ethereum.org) which seeks to create a trustless platform for applications as a complement and alternative to our current technologies. Apart from being powerful new applications of blockchain technology, these projects have the potential to create a big push back towards decentralization, without forcing us to give up on any of the great new features that have come with the social net. They also allow their users to take back control over their data, and manage every aspect of their digital identities.
Legislation still has a part to play even in a future where services like these become influential and widely used. Firstly by not legislating against them, and secondly in maintaining net neutrality.
If we are all still free to use our harddrives, our processors, and our bandwidth as we wish, and if enough of us play our part in the P2P experiment, then perhaps there is cause to feel optimistic about the future of internet freedom.