Controversial Pentagon Program Scuttled, But Its Work Will Live On

Total Information Awareness moves into the shadows of a classified intelligence program

4 min read

26 September 2003—Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA), a U.S. defense department program to mine credit card, medical, travel, police, and other governmental data, is being disbanded. Originally called Total Information Awareness, TIA got nothing but bad press, because of its Orwellian name, mission, and origin as the brainchild of Admiral John Poindexter, a prominent figure in the ”Irangate” scandal that tarnished Ronald Reagan’s second term.

A joint House-Senate appropriations conference committee voted on 24 September to defund TIA through 2004, along with its bureaucratic parent, the Information Awareness Office (IAO), a branch of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) that Poindexter had headed. But the committee allowed some programs to continue under different offices and agencies. The effect, ironically, will be to make some TIA programs less visible and less accountable. ”Killing the Information Awareness Office is a positive first step,” says David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Washington, D.C.), ”but it doesn’t eliminate the government’s datamining initiatives. It drives them underground.”

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Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

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