Links and thinks: satellites, shutdowns, and whistleblowers (oh my)

Published 19 March 2018.

Kia ora koutou and welcome to this weeks links and thinks. We've been reading and talking about satellite Internet (and space), Bali's Internet shutdown (kind of), Cambridge Analytica's use of facebook, the crypto wars and of course, some schadenfreude about cryptocurrencies.

Satellite Internet upgrade coming

In 2019 SpaceX will be launching a new satellite that will offer an Internet connection to the Pacific region. The era of cheaper satellite launches is opening up more options for getting online. That's good news, particularly for people who don't have a connection now.

Unfortunately, satellite does not necessarily get to everywhere. Some of InternetNZ's members in rural Marlborough have started a petition (link takes you to a OneDrive file) to get better Internet to their communities (satellite doesn't seem to be a good solution due to topography).

Bali shuts down mobile Internet for Day of Silence

We don't look favourably on government shutdowns and governments taking the Internet offline. So when we saw a headline about Bali's mobile Internet networks turning off for a day we had to read on. Bali's shutdown was for Nyepi, a "Day of Silence". The airport shuts, the beaches are emptied and people meditate and contemplate. The cultural practice of thoughtful reflection is a point for pause, respect and consideration. This year, the mobile providers turned off mobile Internet (albeit with services for security, aviation, hospitals and disaster agencies left alone)

They're not actually turning OFF the Internet, but the they are giving a strong signal to encourage people to engage meaningfully with a Day of Silence. I'm not sure how I feel about this one to be honest (or if I even get to have feels about it), but at the very least it's an interesting case of an Internet shutdown that doesn't confirm to the usual stereotype.

Whistleblower behind Cambridge Analytica's technology

Last week Facebook booted the infamous marketing and political dark arts company Cambridge Analytica for misuse and breach of their terms of services. Today the Guardian has put out a long-form article about an ex-Cambridge Analytica employee whose been a major source for them. It's a really interesting read and we highly recommend you find yourself 5-10 minutes to read the whole thing.

Australia continues the Crypto Wars

Australia's Government has again reignited the Crypto Wars, again setting out law enforcement's expectations to always have access to encrypted communications and content.

There are a range of problems with this.

People talk about encryption in terms of locks and keys. These let us scramble and unscramble information so others can't read it. Talking about "digital locks" at last week's NetHui Copyright event, keynote speaker Cory Doctorow made a couple of great points about encryption.

Firstly, encryption doesn't work if you share the keys: "banks have very good safes, but we still don't keep them in bank robbers' homes". Secondly, locks that other people control are not for your benefit. If someone sells you a lock, they shouldn't keep the key for themselves.

Cryptocurrency corner: Marshall islands & cryptocurrencies

The Marshall Islands is known as a tax haven, and has apparently passed a law to establish and recognise a new cryptocurrency called "Sovereign". There are many enthusiastic news stories about this, offering little detail on what it actually means. A bit like "blockchain", the term "legal tender" gets thrown around a bit without anyone saying what it's actually about. Will Sovereign be accepted for tax or other debts to the Marshall Islands government? Will it be good for clearing a bar tab or other private debts in the Marshall Islands?

We did find the actual law involved. It wasn't in the news stories. It wasn't even on the website of the Marshall Islands Parliament. Instead, we found a scanned copy through the "sov.global" website of Israeli company Neema, which is receiving half of the Sovereign cryptocurrency issued.

The law makes it clear that Sovereign will be legal tender under Marshall Islands law, and will be subject to "know your customer" rules that are meant to stop money flowing to terrorism and other criminal activities. We make no judgement on how effective the Marshall Islands is at enforcing financial rules. No judgement at all.

If you do want to know what "legal tender" means, our Reserve Bank has a good detailed document. The short version is that buyers and sellers decide what type of payment makes sense, and the idea of legal tender is normally not that relevant.

Anway, that's all from us for now. We're still digesting all the excellent thinking and opinions we heard at NetHui Copyright. Oh and if you missed Optimistic Futures last month, the website is now updated with video of all the speakers.

Ka kite.