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Internet balkanization, courtesy of NSA

One of the reasons we opposed the ill-considered efforts by ETNO and others to impose sending-party-network-pays charging on Internet traffic was the danger of balkanization: differential access to the Internet from different countries or splinternet. We beat back that effort in a temporary alliance with the US State Department, but little did we know that another part of the US government was actively destroying the basis of the Internet. It will cause massive negative economic effects to US tech companies, as described well in a Wired article.

Zuckerberg is referring to a movement to balkanize the Internet—a long-standing effort that would potentially destroy the web itself. The basic notion is that the personal data of a nation’s citizens should be stored on servers within its borders. For some proponents of the idea it’s a form of protectionism, a prod for nationals to use local IT services. For others it’s a way to make it easier for a country to snoop on its own citizens. The idea never posed much of a threat, until the NSA leaks—and the fears of foreign surveillance they sparked—caused some countries to seriously pursue it. After learning that the NSA had bugged her, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff began pushing a law requiring that the personal data of Brazilians be stored inside the country. Malaysia recently enacted a similar law, and India is also pursuing data protectionism.

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