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26 October 2020

Splinternet: A Short Story | Finn Brunton – CoinDesk

Splinternet: A Short Story | Finn Brunton – CoinDesk


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Other people from the apartment block were already sitting on the gritty concrete: snacking, vaping, talking, thumbing through their devices and killing time.

The phone she needed for university was expensive: a German-made, handy model, code-compliant with what the phone called SBI, “Schengen Boundary Internet,” but everyone else called the “EUnternet.” The phone was locked down and tamperproof, the software highly regulated for privacy, security and accuracy, constantly cautioning you in stiff, formal language.

internet phone, so it couldn’t work with the protocols of the internets in Brazil, Russia, China or any of the others – but she couldn’t legally work in those networks anyway.

Like most people with an internet phone, she had partitioned it with the help of an aftermarket technician who had also installed a nice physical selector to switch between the partitions, since each was for a different set of apps and platforms that belonged to different corporations.

Some apps would refuse to be installed on the same phone as others; some, on the same phone, tried to sabotage each other in the background by throttling internet traffic, running covert attacks and redirecting requests from one platform to another.

Each platform constantly implored her attention and pinged her with sleazy come-ons that reflected their intimate surveillance of her data and activity; they had the sweaty, bad-boundaries energy of getting game from a pick-up artist at a bar.

It was slow: It connected to platforms that passed data from phone to phone, duplicating and sharing as they got copies, or to networks that anonymized and rerouted every request so that it appeared to come from Lagos, Montreal, or Djakarta, assembling the shards back in her hand in Mexico City.

They hid inside other networks, living interstitially in the world’s internets like mice in the walls of a building, moving traffic through the Panama Canal of other people’s data.

People and bots kept informal lists of where different conversations and archives could be found as they moved; every time she unlocked the phone it was like coming back to town, asking around with the aid of nicknames, high signs, secret handshakes and allusive references to learn where to go and what was up.

She had other resources here: favors she was owed, gifts given and received, post-monetary mutual aid networks that threaded through the world right into her neighborhood, and her rights of access to specialized tools and conversations

internet were both utterly open and unobstructed spaces on which you were as exposed as an ant on a white tablecloth – the only difference was that in one you knew who was watching, and in the other you didn’t

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