I was at an event recently that was governed by Chatham House rules. For this reason I cannot name the individual concerned but he is an uber geek, with very strong ties to the Internet Engineering Task Force. The topic of conversation was the ongoing fall out from the Snowden revelations. The upshot was, according to my uber geek friend
We have become so concerned about the behaviour of governments around the world we are taking steps to protect the internet from their unacceptable predations.
In saying this he was merely reflecting a widely held view within his professional circles. They were most forcefully set out by every uber geek’s uber geek, Bruce Schneirer
Only an idiot could fail to recognise that trust in governments and the security services has been substantially eroded, not just by what Snowden revealed but by many other things. My uber geek friend spoke, as Schneirer does, of them – the geeks – making the internet “fit for purpose, trusted again”.
Now I get that and I don’t doubt that most of the people involved in trying to give effect to such a vision are completely genuine in their sense of being engaged on a righteous mission. Their righteous mission.
But excuse me if this does not rather underline the intensely political nature of the project.
Here comes the cavalry, only it seems the guys in charge of the horses are not elected, not accountable to anyone but themselves. They sit in quiet rooms on Mount Olympus writing code, pained by and disdainful of the inadequate ways of mortals. Do I find that any more reassuring than leaving it to the traditional public policy making methods of yesteryear? You know – where people got elected and if the people who elected them didn’t like what they were doing they threw them out? Hmm. Let me get back to you on that.