Most of the technology companies don’t have geographic borders. Although you might be using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Office365 from India, China or any other country, these websites are being managed from within the US and maybe they have their servers located in different countries. What if there is a war between, let’s say, America and China? Can America stop these technology companies from providing their services to the Chinese?
Why there is a need for a Digital Geneva Convention
Today Donald Trump wants to build a wall between America and Mexico, and tomorrow, he may tell technology companies like Microsoft to stop providing services to its Mexican customers. What will Microsoft do then? What would Google do if Donald Trump tells the company not to provide its search engine in Mexico or one of the 7 Muslim countries facing immigration ban? These are not rhetorical questions, such is the geopolitical situation in the world.
Keeping this in mind, Microsoft, in this blog post, has proposed a “Digital Geneva Convention”.
Technology these days isn’t just posting messages on Facebook and Twitter (although they are very critical communication tools, no doubt). Technology goes way beyond that. Many critical operations such as health care road transport, air transport, power generation and power distribution, railways, financial services and civil administration depend on technology. Want to bring down a country to its knees? Sever its technology infrastructure.
Cyber warfare no longer belongs to the realm of sci-fi or a futuristic vision of the world. It is already there. Countries are already attacking other countries using cyber weapons like computer worms and viruses. America and Israel attacked the Iranian nuclear plants using the Stuxnet computer worm. China has an elaborate plan to completely shut down India’s IT infrastructure in case of war, it has been reported by defence experts.
So, what Microsoft proposes is, the technology companies should be kept away from such wars. Countries should not be able to arm twist them into submitting to their conditions.
Is this possible?
It will need political will because tech companies cannot decide on their own because in 100% cases they have to work within local laws. If local laws in the US say a particular tech service be disallowed in a particular country, the company will have to abide by the law.
The suggestion is good by Microsoft because Internet services transcend borders. The demands of the global economy are such that businesses and organizations need to use globally connected services.
The above post says:
Perhaps most disconcerting, recent years have witnessed the expansion of nation-state attacks. The Sony attack by North Korea in 2014 was not the first nation-state attack, but it represented a visible turning point. While prior attacks had focused on economic and military espionage, the Sony attack in 2014 involved retaliation for free expression in the form of a (not very popular) movie. It was followed in 2015 by even more visible international discussion about nation-state attacks aimed at the theft of companies’ intellectual property. And last year the issue broadened again to include hacking incidents connected to the democratic process itself.
The last sentence alludes to a suspicion that Russia was able to hack into US computer systems managing elections and may have influenced the outcome (helping Donald Trump become the president).