Quotulatiousness

December 3, 2012

The feudal technopeasant internet

Filed under: History, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:20

Bruce Schneier on the less-than-appealing state of user security in today’s internet:

It’s a feudal world out there.

Some of us have pledged our allegiance to Google: We have Gmail accounts, we use Google Calendar and Google Docs, and we have Android phones. Others have pledged allegiance to Apple: We have Macintosh laptops, iPhones, and iPads; and we let iCloud automatically synchronize and back up everything. Still others of us let Microsoft do it all. Or we buy our music and e-books from Amazon, which keeps records of what we own and allows downloading to a Kindle, computer, or phone. Some of us have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether … for Facebook.

These vendors are becoming our feudal lords, and we are becoming their vassals. We might refuse to pledge allegiance to all of them — or to a particular one we don’t like. Or we can spread our allegiance around. But either way, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to not pledge allegiance to at least one of them.

Feudalism provides security. Classical medieval feudalism depended on overlapping, complex, hierarchical relationships. There were oaths and obligations: a series of rights and privileges. A critical aspect of this system was protection: vassals would pledge their allegiance to a lord, and in return, that lord would protect them from harm.

Of course, I’m romanticizing here; European history was never this simple, and the description is based on stories of that time, but that’s the general model.

And it’s this model that’s starting to permeate computer security today.

1 Comment

  1. Tell me about it. At work we bought our operating system from Sun, ERP from vendor A, bill of material from B, HR from C, a bus from D, integration server from E to hook it all together.

    Ten years later Oracle owns everything worth having in the server room that isn’t Exchange.

    Comment by Brian Dunbar — December 3, 2012 @ 20:36

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