Internet Governance

On Feb. 11, We’re Fighting NSA Spying by Donating our Revenue to the Electronic Frontier Foundation

As part of our ongoing efforts to support Internet privacy and good governance, ServInt is donating the first month of all revenues earned from participating new VPS and dedicated hosting accounts added on Feb. 11 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. We’re taking this extraordinary step because — on “The Day We Fight Back” against NSA bulk surveillance — we want the world to know we’re serious about our commitment to Internet freedom and fairness. Following is a brief review of just some of the reasons why — reasons that hopefully will show you why you need to get involved, too.

Let’s start by stating the obvious: NSA spying is wrong. It’s wrong because no government should ever monitor all of its citizens’ online activities just because any one citizen might be using the Internet to break the law. If only for this reason, you should join ServInt in observing “The Day We Fight Back” on February 11.

But there is another reason to join in the global crusade against the NSA’s “bulk surveillance” tactics — a reason that has more to do with the real-world impact the NSA’s activities could have on your online business. In other words, if you think legislative and regulatory activism is all about pie-in-the-sky idealism, think again. Here is the real dollars-and-cents reason why you should join us.

Let’s start by looking at something I addressed in a previous blog post on this issue: the acceleration of the break-up of the global Internet into separate, national “internets.” What exactly does this mean, and how could this have an impact on your web-based business?

First, let’s explain the connection between NSA bulk spying and the balkanization of the Internet. It’s true that there are nations that are already pursuing national firewalls and other methods of cracking down on content they deem offensive or subversive. China is of course the most famous example. In the mid-1990s, the Chinese government decided to build the most (politically) worrisome parts of the Internet themselves, eliminating the risk of free speech poisoning the Chinese online community from outside China’s borders. Repressive regimes around the world have lined up to purchase much of the technology China has designed for this purpose, to replicate their “success”.

The North Koreas, Syrias, and Khazakhstans of the world are already determined to cut themselves off from the global Internet for their own reasons, and I’m certain the NSA is not making them do that any faster or slower. But there are other internet economies — based in nations that previously trusted the basic fairness of and openness of America’s Internet-related laws and regulations — that are now thinking seriously about getting their content out of data centers based in the US, and off of networks that flow through this country, because they simply don’t trust us anymore. I’m not talking about North Korea and Syria here; I’m talking about countries like Brazil, Germany, and many others.

And here’s where all this gets very real for ServInt customers. None of you (I assume) are worried about lost revenue stemming from Kim Jong Un’s efforts to block the Internet in North Korea. But having nations like Brazil or Germany enact legislation that changes the way the Internet and e-commerce works within their borders, simply to get it out of the NSA snooping zone — that could have a devastating effect. Here’s how. Once the Internet is governed by local, rather than supra-national, political bodies:

  1. You could easily wake up to new “customs” or “duty” charges being levied against paid subscribers to your service, or purchasers of your product. Different taxes would apply for customers in different nations, and you would have to keep track of them.
  2. As governments start to erect e-commerce trade barriers at the perimeter of their national internets, you may have to keep track of what goods, services, or forms of content are protected by local law — i.e, are served up, by law, first from local providers, and then by servers located outside of that nation’s borders.
  3. You may have to keep up with privacy laws and regulations that are vastly different depending on the country in which your content is being viewed.
  4. Finally: if the idea of NSA sniffers being posted at network weak spots outside of major US-based free e-mail/social content sites scares you — a balkanized Internet may result in similar sniffers being built at points where traffic enters and leaves other nations’ internet “grids.”

Of course, nobody really knows what kind of effect the rise of “national internets” might have on your web-based business. But it’s an extremely safe bet that your business management responsibilities will go up, rather than down.

Here’s another important point that is in danger of getting lost: mass surveillance is an international problem and moving your hosting outside the United States isn’t going to fix it. Heck, the primary stated goal of these programs is to gather foreign intelligence. The only way to reduce the risk of having your content examined without cause is to take a stand and fight back.

We’ve all enjoyed a great run of enlightened global Internet governance for many years — but, thanks in large part to the NSA, it’s in danger. Help us reverse this tide. Join us in our support of the “Day We Fight Back.” Visit to learn how you can stand up to the NSA, stand up for freedom, and protect your business.

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