Robert Carolina, Senior Visiting Fellow to the ISG, announces: THE CYBERSPACE FRONTIER HAS CLOSED

thumbRobert Carolina, Senior Visiting Fellow to the Royal Holloway Information Security Group, announces: THE CYBERSPACE FRONTIER “HAS CLOSED”.

The “Close-of-Frontier” announcement was delivered by Internet lawyer and academic Robert Carolina in an address at the first Royal Holloway Information Security Group Alumni Conference, 21-23 July 2008. Carolina also observed that the Internet now has Borders, and has entered an age of De-Globalisation.

The first-ever Information Security Group Alumni Conference included a stark assessment and surprising announcement by cyberspace legal expert Robert Carolina, who said that the Cyberspace “Frontier” has closed. Carolina’s announcement came at the end of the second day of the three day event, which drew together alumni from the venerable Royal Holloway Information Security Group degree programmes.

“The ISG alumni conference gave me an opportunity to reflect about developments in the laws of cyberspace over the past 15-20 years”, said Carolina. “Like so many others in the early 1990’s, I thought of the Internet as a brave new frontier that needed to be settled and tamed. In the same way that the US Census Bureau stated in 1890 that the US Western Frontier no longer existed, it is time for us to acknowledge that the Cyberspace Frontier is now closed.”

Carolina observed that governments, law enforcement officials, lawyers, judges, and policy makers in 1990 (when the “Frontier” tag was often applied) were generally unaware of the Internet’s existence, or method of operation. Nearly two decades later Internet and cyberspace experience has become commonplace. That knowledge has brought routine investigation and enforcement of the rules of society on activity that previously seemed to take place in a lawless void.

“Cyberspace has come back down to Earth – where it always was”, said Carolina.

Cyberspace has Borders

Carolina also explained that borders applicable to Cyberspace are the same borders already found in the real world.

“For better or for worse, we as a species have chosen to organise our international existence around the theory of geographical sovereign states. These sovereigns continue to apply their laws as appropriate to online actvity.”

De-Globalisation of the Internet

Carolina concluded with a claim that the Internet has entered an age of de-globalisation. “The way in which we experience the Internet is increasingly driven by our physical location,” he said.

Examples cited included the different experience of persons in the US and persons in the UK who both observe the same BBC News web site using the same URL. Such people who access the URL from the US often see banner advertising while people in the UK experience the same site at the same address ad-free. Carolina also mentioned the increasingly common practice of automatically redirecting end-users to “local market” web sites.

“We are too accustomed to the idea that the Internet is ‘inherently’ international. We have entered an age of ‘de-globalisation’, or ‘regionalisation’, of the Internet. This might one day extend to domain name or IP number allocation practices, although I hope things don’t go that far.”