A Letter to the Electronic Frontier Foundation

I have just posted an email to the EFF asking a few questions about something that’s been on my mind.

The US Government owns many or all of the primary DNS servers that rout internet traffic around the world. They are increasingly invading users’ privacy, regardless of the country of origin for the traffic. On top of this, the ISPs that provide internet service to users around the world are, at best, self-serving and unaccountable. At worst, they are directly feeding your private data to the US security organisation, the NSA.

So.. why not establish publicly owned, co-operatively financed and transparent Internet Provider networks, in the same way people have made Credit Unions to work around abusive banking? And on a broader scale, why not leverage available technologies such as bittorrent to make a completely redundant, publicly owned and encrypted DNS system that has no central servers for governments to snoop in on?

Here is the text of the email I sent the EFF. I have realised since posting that some of the assumptions about the internet status-quo I made might be wrong; I’m sure they’ll correct me and help clear the air.


A Public Co-Op for Internet Integrity?

Dear sir/madame,
I am writing to you with a few questions that I am hoping you can help answer for me, which concern internet security and transparency for the public.

As I understand it, the internet was supposed to be more or less decentralised at first, for a variety of reasons. The inventors in Geneva wanted ease of communication for their data to and from Universities, and later interest from the military was focused on a communications channel that could survive widespread destruction.

However, in the present day the internet is centralised around Domain Name Servers, which maintain the directories of different internet addresses. What concerns me about this is that all of these DNS servers (or at least the foundation-stone servers) seem to be based in America, and are under the control of a governmental organisation; hardly decentralised and public. What’s more, recent exposures of deep vulnerabilities in the DNS software cast doubt on the wisdom of maintaining this model.

Why is it that nobody has tried to establish free, open source and publicly owned DNS servers? With currently available technology, a system could be established where each internet user’s browser maintains a list of IPs, and will offer portions of this list to outdated connections to maintain a cloud-based DNS system. Users typing in a domain name would be directed to a central server, as in the present, but the servers would be redundant and wouldn’t require as much bandwidth as the present ones, as they could direct users to any number of other smaller servers, the data of which is constantly updated, maintained and standardised by the users’ bittorrent cloud.

That idea aside, I still fail to see why no organisations have attempted to make their own conventional DNS servers, marketing them as more secure and transparent. Some users would even pay extra to access a DNS that they could trust.

In a similar vein: I have been considering for some time the possibility that, with the increasing trend among established ISPs of flouting users’ privacy and rights, users could establish their own Co-Op ISPs to access the internet. I was hoping that you could explain what such a CoOp would require in order to access the internet as an ISP and start routing users’ traffic reliably?

I’m eager for some help in this, as I’m more and more concerned with the future of the internet if it remains in the hands of a questionable government and entirely self-serving corporations. I’m looking forward to your reply.

Thanks,
Cathal Garvey

PS, As I maintain a blog that concerns privacy and internet politics to some degree, I am publishing the above text there. I will not publish your replies without permission._