Writings on what makes Europe and the world tech

Trust zoning and ISP KYC, political science lab leaks, neuroprivacy regulation and government led tech acquisition in Europe

The #discoveries below really capture the essence of Shift Print. Each week (less so in the summer :) it explores the intersection of technology, politics and society and this dispatch covers the following:

Trust zones for a more secure internet

At the moment, control over the internet stack is being disputed normatively and geopolitically. The main countries in the tech race started with asserting control over their domestic internet and are moving to establish a global vision of their local systems. Lastly, security of systems and data is constantly being debated.

Against this background, two computer science and internet infrastructure inventors and pioneers from MIT and University of California are proposing Trust Zones. This thinking would “focus on regional security rather than unachievable global security”.

Their article requires some technical familiarity and is a goldmine of information about learning from the history of unsuccessful initiatives.

“Our experience of the last 30 years has convinced us that the path to better security does not lie in proposals for global changes to the Internet protocols, but in finding operational practices that regions of the Internet can implement to improve the security profile of those regions.”

Trust zones would work by regionalizing systems (whether nationally or commercially). This approach is built for security and interoperability in mind and is different from balkanisation – which is more deliberate disconnection of regions.

Once a system is established by an internet service provider for example it will have to verified – sort of like an individual performing identity verification ahead of opening a bank account. Once verified, different zones would communicate on a “trust-but-verify framework”.

This approach would avoid exposing data in transit and the authors point to an example where it was successfully implemented by Internet Society.

Political science lab leaks

According to Paul Musgrave, assistant professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Amherst, “when ideas get out from academia into the wild, they can be surprisingly dangerous”.

The article has an intriguing argument and leaves one with many “what if” questions. “Isms” or concepts can come from policy as well as academia or research circles and affect governance, military and potentially technology.

According to the author, game theory and the “clash of civilizations” hypothesis are examples of such, untested/heavily critiqued, leaks. I'll focus here on the latter. “Huntington’s thesis was not a conjecture based on careful empirical study—it was a speculation”. As such “...it was primed to thrive in the wild, free from the confines of empirical reality.”

Putting on the tech hat, one reason why concepts like the above proliferated the world of academia and policy can be due to a high degree of “political theory-political environment fit”.

Neuroprivacy laws in Chile

Just as unknown or potential threats of AI are pushing researchers and policy makers to create handbooks and rules for governing this space, neurotechnology does the same.

The term refers to “any technology that can read and transcribe mental states by decoding and modulating neural activity” that can for example “detect neural activity related to people’s moods and can suppress undesirable symptoms, like depression, through electrical stimulation”.

Chile is leading the way in codifying rights to “personal identity, free will, mental privacy, equal access to cognitive enhancement technologies, and protection against algorithmic bias”.

Great article by Abel Wajnerman Paz who's an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Alberto Hurtado University, in Santiago.

Government led acquisition in Europe

A while ago, I wrote about how the generous support for startups in Europe stops at the exit stage. If governments were to acquire home grown companies, they would foster national champions and build excellence and capacity in critical areas and technologies.

Both of these pursuits are cornerstones of the European digital sovereignty pursuit. With this in mind, it was great to read about Swiss Post's acquisition of Tresorit – an encrypted cloud provider.

Hopefully this is the first of many, Web 3.0, acquisitions as the EU builds its capacity in key technologies.

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