The Business of the Internet Is Stuck in Trump’s Swamp

At an appearance at a tech conference last September, Facebook’s Zuckerberg expressed his disgust. “The government blew it,” he said. But the consequences of the government’s actions—and the spectacular leak that informed the world about it—was now plopped into the problem set of Zuckerberg, Page, Tim Cook, Marissa Mayer, Steve Ballmer, and anyone else who worked for or invested in a company that held customer data on its servers.

Not just revenue was at stake. So were ideals that have sustained the tech world since the Internet exploded from a Department of Defense project into an interconnected global web that spurred promises of a new era of comity. The Snowden leaks called into question the Internet’s role as a symbol of free speech and empowerment. If the net were seen as a means of widespread surveillance, the resulting paranoia might affect the way people used it. Nations outraged at US intelligence-gathering practices used the disclosures to justify a push to require data generated in their countries to remain there, where it could not easily be hoovered by American spies. Implementing such a scheme could balkanize the web, destroying its open essence and dramatically raising the cost of doing business.

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Ask Me One Thing

Corey writes, “You said we are allowed to ask for anything. and I have many, many tech questions. But what I need the most is the press contact information to Bill and Melinda Gates.”

Corey, do I look like Google? But you are correct—I invite readers to ask me anything. So here’s the contact page for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Of particular interest to you will be the section about “media inquiries.” I do hope that either Bill or Melinda gives an interview to your TV station.

While we’re on the subject, let me take the chance to say that, in general, reporters aren’t the best conduit to the subjects they interview. It’s not like we hang out with our billionaire interviewees all the time, and late in our evenings with them, after we’ve drained the choicest bottles from their data-center-sized wine cellars, Bill or Jeff or Zuck will ask us, “Hey, did you get any emails recently from people who have come up with inventions that will make me more billions? Or a totally novel and foolproof idea for world peace?” I hope this clears up this apparently widely held misconception. And Corey, you are welcome to ask me those tech questions now.