Why All Innovation Is Not Good

March 30, 2009

My point here is not at all anti-innovation, but simply that all innovation is not good, because innovation is a means not an end. People can innovate for both good, and bad, purposes.

  • Cyber-criminals, hackers, predators, terrorists and other malfactors, constantly innovate on the open Internet with malware, viruses, spam, botnets, p2p piracy and phishing, denial of service attacks, etc.
  • Cyber-security experts marvel at the innovation and ingenuity of these multiplying malfactors.

My big point here is that the push for the Government to maximize innovation by mandating an “open Internet” is a knife that can cut both ways. Just like an open Internet enables well-intentioned innovators, it also can enable innovative cyber-crooks and bad actors.

Anything good can become bad or a problem, if it is taken to excess.

  • While it may be most convenient and efficient for application providers to have the Government mandate and force openness on the Internet, there has been too little discussion about how forced openness could endanger cyber-security by making it equally convenient and efficient for cybercriminals and bad actors to prey on Internet users.
  • While forced openness may improve the competitiveness of application providers versus network and content providers, there has been little discussion about how forced openness could undermine American competitiveness overall by making it easier for foreign entities to engage in espionage and steal American corporate property or trade secrets.

Simply a lack of safety, security and privacy is a greater threat to the Internet, than a lack of innovation or openness. The Internet is overwhelmingly open today, it doesn’t need to be forced open more. What the Internet urgently needs more of is safety, security, and privacy.

Key congressional Chairman overseeing the Internet understand this.

  • Senate Commerce Committtee Chairman Jay Rockefeller is taking the lead in elevating the priority of cybersecurity. In a hearing two weeks ago on cybersecurity, Chairman Rockefeller said: “It is an understatement that cybersecurity is one of the most important issues we face.” As the former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee 2007-2009, Chairman Rockefeller is uniquely positioned to understand the seriousness of the cyber-threat.
  • House Internet Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher recently stated in an interview that one of his top three legislative priorities was Internet privacy legislation “primarily with regard to Internet-based applications.”

The Internet is already open; it does not need to be forced open further. What the Internet really needs is to become more safe, secure and respectful of users’ privacy.

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