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Background


Any site that pops up a notice telling you 'we respect your privacy' doesn't, or they wouldn't have to tell you.  Normally the notice is followed by a request to plant cookies and 'other  tracking technology' on your device in order to disrespect your privacy.  Or worse, they tell you that by using their site your accept their use of cookies, etc.  That's like telling you - 'do not read this billboard'

This site uses an https address because some browsers tell you sites using 'old fashioned' http are unsafe to view.  Https secures the communications between site and viewer.

We don't issue a cookie warning or request that you approve their use, because we don't issue cookies.  The hosting company we use keeps track of your IP address (or your first VPN-link address) to enable communication, and their Cpanel output tells us generally where you (or your VPN link) are located.  But that's about all.

We don't track users.  Why should we?  We don't want to sell you anything, and we don't want to sell you to anyone else!  But it makes us reflect: why isn't the commercialism of Internet surveillance defined as slavery?  Consider it a civil rights issue.

Compare it with 'traditional' slavery: both are based on a relatively small number of parties (once land owners, now technology resource owners) profiting from people who are ill equipped to avoid their 'captivity' or negotiate to extract a fair portion of the profits they generate.

The definition of slavery has expanded over time to include situations that don't fall under the traditional understanding of the term; the United States Department of State counts multiple forms of modern slavery, including human trafficking and armed forces recruitment or use of children as combatants through force, fraud or coercion   (https://www.state.gov/what-is-modern-slavery/).  We contend that the commercialization of Internet surveillance should be added to the list. 

What is significant for slavery?  A major element is that 'captive' individuals aren't allowed to benefit fairly from their participation.

Plantation slaves were fed and housed, but they were slaves none the less.  Tracked web users may enjoy their 'free' systems and services, but unfortunately our lunch is never free.  It is irrelevant how the landowner procured his land or the technologist his technology.  It is relevant that we aren't involved in profiting from the value of the information being collected and sold or traded.

We are not given the choice to sell our information to the highest bidder on our own behalf.  We are offered 'free' services, and we can be excluded from the 'free' services if we don't consent to information about us being collected and sold.  That's coercion.

The traditional slave could always 'avoid being caught', or risk running away, but even when offered 'opt out' the Internet user has few places to hide. 

Facebook has 2.936 billion users (April, 2022), and Mozilla's Firefox browser tells us: "Facebook can track your browsing far beyond Facebook.com.  Facebook Like and Share buttons, for example, can track where you've been - even on pages you never like or share." 

We have no opportunity to examine any trade links between the companies tracking us; we can't profit from our own information when it is no longer our own. 

How much are you worth?  We are treated as chattel when we are not allowed to see the value of our information that is collected, collated and sold.  "Chattel [is] the most extreme form of slavery, in which the enslaved were treated as property" (Wikipedia).

The profits generated by commercialized tracking skew competition between providers.  Companies funding development through the sale of tracked information have an advantage over those who do not, so we should expect increased tracking as a commercial business practice.

But are we physically captive?  Any company that calls itself Meta recognizes there is no difference between our physical captivity and coerced Internet captivity.

Several administrations are distressed about individual lack of privacy, and the business models employed by the tech giants and their commercial support networks. 

Is the commercialization of Internet surveillance just a smart business model?  Of course.  But admit that slavery on a cotton plantation was just a smart business model too.

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In 1994 I created a public website for a very large, high tech company headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.  The company name is a common Swedish family name. 

It was a rational business decision to register the company name under the .se country code top level, but also under .com and, since the company is multinational, a large number of additional country code top levels.

I subsequently checked the local telephone directory and found there were 100 unrelated companies in the Stockholm area listed under 4 variant spellings of our company name.  None of the others could register .com or .se using 'our' name spelling and, by some standards, anyone using their variant spelling could be accused of typo-squatting.

So - one company could prevent 100 other companies in Stockholm from presenting themselves under their familiar name on the Internet, many more in the rest of Sweden, and even more in those countries where we registered under the local country code TLD.

Today an online directory finds 12,781 companies in Sweden under the name Ericsson.

The lack of appropriate domain names doesn't make the Internet a safer, more secure and inviting place for companies, organizations and individuals.  It is a limiting factor that invites abuse.  These DNS limitations don't promote the public interest. 

You may recite 'first come, first served' but that's misleading and semantically incorrect.  It's 'first come, exclusively served'.  Citing 'first come' doesn't mitigate the damage to all those who are not served.

You may claim 'that's how the Internet works' but demonstrates how it doesn't.  You don't dismiss ransomware injections that take down the East Coast fuel supply as an example of 'how the Internet works'.

Remember, the Internet once 'worked' only when domain names were written in letter/digit/hyphen ASCII.  Why should everyone in the world be required to speak a subset of American English.

IDNA (Internationalized names) solved the language problem by adding a little code to every browser.  This code is invisible to the user.

Where's the innovative technical solution to the 'first come exclusively served' conundrum?  Requirements include unlimited naming, full backward compatibility, easy to learn and use, that only a browser update is required (not network infrastructure), and that no current name holders and their content are negatively impacted.  Multiplexed Names meet the requirements.

Both the telephone network and social networks like Facebook manage 'unlimited' users with the same name/spelling as the company mentioned above.  There are approximately 366.3 million domain names registered across all top-level domains (end of Q4, 2020, according to Verisign) but Facebook has 2.8 billion users.  The WIPO has handled >50,000 UDRP cases involving the DNS, but needn't mediate 'rightful ownership' of Facebook user names or telephone numbers. 

The phone in your pocket has added new features and functions since 1993, and you use it more. 

In his 1999 book Weaving the Web, Tim Berners-Lee, wrote:
"There can be a Joe & Sons hardware company in Bangor, Maine, and a Joe & Sons fish restaurant in San Francisco.  But there can only be one joeandsons.com."

He could have written:
There can be a beer.se and ale.se, but neither a bärs nor öl.se with the Swedish characters ä and ö.

Both statements were correct at the time he wrote, but non-LDH ASCII ('foreign' characters and scripts) can now be translated by the IDNA edge application in every browser.  

It's easy to evolve the Domain Name System to point to multiple users of 'the same name'.

Full disclosure: we have no affiliation with any TLD registry, registrar or re-seller. 



August 1, 2022
W. Kenneth Ryan