By Leigh Beadon
Five Years Ago
This week in 2015, the confluence of the Paris attack, the San Bernardino attack, and the rise of ISIS created a perfect storm for the anti-encryption, pro-surveillance crowd. President Obama was hinting at asking Silicon Valley to magically block terrorists from using tech products, while Hillary Clinton was doubling down on her attacks on the tech industry and mocking free speech online in the exact same way Donald Trump was — while Mitch McConnell was promising to offer up whatever bill the president wanted to ban encryption, Dianne Feinstein was bringing back a bill that would force internet providers to report on “suspicious” behavior by customers and teaming up with James Comey to mislead people about encryption, and Michael McCaul was proposing a commission to “force” encryption backdoors. Even a former FCC commissioner was getting in the game, idiotically claiming that net neutrality helps ISIS. In France, law enforcement released a “wish list” of draconian measures including banning open WiFi, which got at least a tiny bit of pushback from the Prime Minister — while Spain brought in a new law allowing widespread surveillance, and Kazakhstan was breaking the internet with an all-out war on encryption.
Ten Years Ago
Today there’s a lot of controversy around Visa and MasterCard blocking Pornhub, but this same week in 2010 the exact same conversation was going on around Wikileaks. The week kicked off with PayPal cutting off payments, a Swiss bank found a technicality that allowed it to freeze the site’s bank account, then Mastercard blocked any payment systems that work with Wikileaks, and were soon joined by Visa (I wonder if that had anything to do with its most recent leak). But attempts to kill Wikileaks were just contributing to its spread, and the government was contradicting itself in its panicked attempts to internally block the site, or just doing really dumb things like blocking any site with Wikileaks in the title, and making extremely silly requests like the State Department asking Wikileaks to “return” the leaked cables (ironically around the same time it was hosting World Press Freedom Day).
Fifteen Years Ago
This week in 2005, big telcos were doing their usual thing and freaking out about competition, even going so far as to punish New Orleans for offering free wifi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, or just completely contradicting themselves on fiber optic broadband, which they hate when municipalities try to offer it but which they are happy to sell themselves. Sony’s DRM woes were far from over, with yet another security vulnerability found in one of their products, as well as a vulnerability in the patch the company issued to fix it. The recording industry was showing it would never be happy no matter what Kazaa did, and really going hard on its new obsession — unauthorized song lyrics — by attacking an app that displays them and even calling for people who host them to be thrown in jail.