Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Jennifer Granick, addressing security professionals at the annual Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on August 5, said "the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse: terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers" are allowing the government to push for even more regulation and control of the Internet. (Photo: Lily Hay Newman via Slate)

'The Dream of Internet Freedom is Dying,' Warns Top Civil Liberties Attorney

In keynote address to Black Hat security conference, Jennifer Granick tells experts: 'We need to get ready to smash the Internet apart to make something better.'

Lauren McCauley

"The dream of Internet freedom is... dying," said attorney and civil liberties expert Jennifer Granick during her keynote speech before a major computer security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Granick, formally the civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and now the director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, was addressing some of the world's foremost technology experts attending the annual Black Hat information security event this week.

"Centralization, regulation, and globalization," Granick said, have wrought havoc on a space once thought of as "a world that would leave behind the shackles of age, of race, of gender, of class, even of law."

The dream is dying, she said, because "we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness." And governments, for their part, have capitalized on the fear of "the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse: terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers" to push for even more regulation and control, she added.

Granick's dire pronouncement, which echoed similar assertions made by security experts and civil liberties groups, comes just over two years after National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden cracked open the seal on the U.S. government's online spying capabilities and revealed just how little security and secrecy remain on the World Wide Web.

Late last month, Snowden himself made a direct plea to technologists to build a new Internet specifically for the people.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to push for expanded surveillance capabilities, such as with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) currently making its way through congress, which would allow companies to share personal user information with the government if there is a so-called "cybersecurity threat."

In her keynote address, Granick also took on the undisclosed rules which supposedly enable much of the government's spying activities. "We need to get rid of secret law. We have secret law in this country and it is an abomination in the face of democracy," Granick proclaimed, to much applause.

In the future, she further warned, Internet users won't be aware of the "secret" software-driven decisions directly impacting their rights and privacy.

"Software will decide whether a car runs over you or off a bridge," she said. "Things will happen and no one will really know why."

"The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago," Granick said, concluding that if this is the case, "we need to get ready to smash it apart to make something better."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Donald Trump Has Finally Run Out of Places to Hide' as House Dems Get Tax Returns

"It's no longer a question of if he's hiding something big," one watchdog group asserted, "it's a question of what he's hiding."

Brett Wilkins ·


Democrats, Progressive Groups Push DOJ to Publish Database of 'Corporate Lawbreaking'

"The Corporate Crime Database Act will bring transparency to the corporate crime crisis so that the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies can better reckon with this greed-driven menace," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


As Corporations Enjoy Record-High Profits, Experts Urge Congress to 'Rein Them In'

"Today's record corporate profits mirror what we have been hearing on earnings call after earnings call: Corporations are gleefully reporting that their strategy to burden families with unnecessary price hikes is working."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Egregious': PFAS Firefighting Foam Spills at Notorious Red Hill Naval Facility in Hawaii

While officials said there is no evidence that drinking water was contaminated, the incident generated further local frustration with the closing fuel storage complex.

Jessica Corbett ·


House Passes Paid Sick Leave for Railway Workers Despite Opposition of 207 Republicans

"Now let's get it through the Senate," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who led the fight to add seven days of paid sick leave to a White House-brokered contract that failed to provide any to railroad workers.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo