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Author: Joseph Reagle

Date: 07 November 2002

Audience: TPP Colleagues at MIT

Question: A Personal History of Technology Policy


Also see the following lectures:

A Personal History of Technology Policy

1993-1995: First Wave - The Cypherpunk Years

Tim May and the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto:

"Computer technology is on the verge of providing the ability for individuals and groups to communicate and interact with each other in a totally anonymous manner. Two persons may exchange messages, conduct business, and negotiate electronic contracts without ever knowing the True Name, or legal identity, of the other. Interactions over networks will be untraceable, via extensive re- routing of encrypted packets and tamper-proof boxes which implement cryptographic protocols with nearly perfect assurance against any tampering. Reputations will be of central importance, far more important in dealings than even the credit ratings of today. These developments will alter completely the nature of government regulation, the ability to tax and control economic interactions, the ability to keep information secret, and will even alter the nature of trust and reputation."

Barlow and A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace:

"Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather."

1995-1996: The CDA and PICS

This philosophy of Internet independence and individual control was engaged in Washington:

However, Lawrence Lessig and others begin to ask, what if this personal tool becomes the infrastructure and prone to abuse? "PICS is the Devil."

W3C posts a Statement on Public Policy:

"The philosophy of independence and individual control was engaged in Washington. This architecture must allow local policies to co-exist without cultural fragmentation or domination..."

and Statement on the Intent and Use of PICS: Using PICS Well, which recommends explicit labelling, transparency, localized control, and multiple rating systems.

1997-1999: The Birth and Adolescence of P3P

Generalized the problem of computer mediated agreements in the new context of web site privacy practices.

Designing a Social Protocol: Lessons Learned from the Platform for Privacy Preferences.

Eskimo Snow and Scottish Rain: Legal Considerations of Schema Design

1998-1999: Second Wave - The Rise of Free and Open Source, and P2P

The particulars of the cypherpunk dream never materialize:

But there is an alternative dream arises giving many computer users (geeks and gradmothers alike) get a sense of the freedom envisioned:

1998: Sabbatical

1998: Internet Regulation

Internet behavior is regulated as explained by Lessig.

  1. Law: n/a?
    "The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Gilmore.
  2. Architecture: protocols (IETF, W3C)
    "Architecture is politics." Kapor.
  3. Markets: consumption and production patterns
    "The Internet isn't free. It just has an economy that makes no sense to capitalism." Shapcott.
  4. Social  norms: the Internet culture, maxims, and memes
    "Some jerk infected the Internet with an outright lie. It shows how easy it is to do and how credulous people are." Vonnegut.

On the Net, the architecture, markets, and memes have generally opposed regulation by law.

1998: Questions of Governance

The Internet could  be characterized as anarchic:

"And, just to state the obvious, anarchy does not mean chaos nor do anarchists seek to create chaos or disorder. Instead, we wish to create a society based upon individual freedom and voluntary co-operation. In other words, order from the bottom up, not disorder imposed from the top down by authorities."  [A.1.1 What does "anarchy" mean? Anarchist FAQ]

1998: Real World Governance

Internet Governance

Internet Policy Formation (1/2)

Primary Characteristics

"We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code." Clark.
Open Participation ("We")
citizen engineer:  citizen is a contributor to her space (lists, Web, MUD, FAQ)
Consensus. ("... believe in rough consensus ...")
is it good enough, does it merit moving on, are there show stoppers?
No Kings ("... reject kings, presidents and voting.")
consensus mediated by Elders, citizen engineers who built the space and institutions others inhabit.
Running Code / Implementation ("... believe ... in running code.")
all policy is tested by both its support and formulation through implementation

Internet Policy Formation (2/2)

Secondary Characteristics

Coercion and Lack of Choke-Point
there have been few formal institution that real world governments could coerce because institutions of Internet policy are decentralized and non-coercive themselves!
Limitation of Scope
most policy is explicitly scoped, defined, and conservative in its application.
Funded Mandates and Lack of Fiat
any change requires work and resources, as tested by running code and implementation.
Uniform Enforcement
policies cannot be selectively enforced as they are in the real world.
Veridical Policy
"your clickstream is your vote."
Policy Deprecation
old policies fade into the background

1999: An Entangling Patent

I spent nearly six months preparing an Analysis of P3P and US Patent 5,862,325Intellectual Monopoly Rights can

Two options were available to us: to argue that we did not infringe and to argue the patent was invalid. We opened by arguing it did not infringe which was adequate. I learned much about the US Patent system, little of praiseworthiness.

Serious evidence that even the "Second Wave" can be encumbered with intellectual monopoly rights.

The W3C soon afterward begins its widely commented upon process to develop a patent policy for its standards.

2000: The Crackdown - Naspter and the DMCA (DeCSS/2600)

Intellectual monopoly rights are combined with Governmental action of: linking, choking, gouging, browbeating, and herding.

2002: The Race - Open Source and Standards versus Intellectual Right Monopolies