Blog 4: Public data, private data centers; or, “dam” it Google

Blog 4: Public data, private data centers; or, “dam” it Google

Blum concludes his journey with his last stop at Google. In chapter 7, he uses many geographical metaphors to paint the picture for data centers: He calls The Dalles the Kathmandu for data centers, Google as the Grand Canyon of data, and compares Google’s data center to the Bonneville Dam.

Blum is concerned about the way organizations privatize data centers. He thinks that the idea of the internet would be quite different if data centers and network hubs were open and welcoming to the public. From the standpoint of Google and data center providers, I see why data centers need to be secured– for security sake. However, given the open culture of the internet and digital nation, there needs to be some kind of access for public since the internet is arguably a public artifact.

Blum has also raised a concern for internet security. We have been discussing in class how the internet should be “protected” from potential detriment or attack. A question that has emerged through my reading and thinking about the physicality of the internet is the shape of security: What do we mean when we refer to the security of the internet? Are we talking about the physical security of data centers? Do we mean (anti)hacking for access to restricted content? Or is it about revealing of our personal data?

What, then, are the implications of these different considerations?

My hunch is that most of us are concerned about the latter in the list of questions above. We tend to focus more on security issues immediate to our personal spaces. On popular media, we often hear about violations in the collection and use of personal information through various technology, such as our personal computers, phones, surveillance technologies, and more recently, wearable devices. Beyond personal data, what public security issues should we be aware of?

Here is a lecture on internet security and safe computing.

In closing, Blum offers a nice little quotable:

What I understood when I arrived home was that the Internet was’t a physical world or a virtual world, but a human world.

Blum’s realization isn’t new to us. We have been talking about the human condition of the internet since we started reading this book. Blum’s closing assures us that the internet–as with any technology–is indeed a human technology and that we should really pay attention to how our human acts dictate its use.

Questions for discussion:

  • How might everyday citizens (like us) play a part in protecting the security of the internet?
  • What ethical considerations should we teach to users of the internet?

Blum, A. (2012). Tubes: A journey to the center of the internet. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. [Chapters 7 & epilogue]

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