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Building People In:

Architecture Is Policy

In today's information society, the rules we live by are not just governmental. The complex interaction of underlying network architectures and new services as well as the products that operate on them govern how we communicate with each other and the kinds of relationships we form online.

Technology is not just a value-neutral set of tools -- it embodies the norms, perspectives, and biases of those who create it. As a global society, we need to better understand the rules and standards built into technical architectures to ensure an approach that respects the rights and freedoms of individual users, as well as businesses, and governments.

Consider the architecture that allows Internet users to access a page on the Web. Due to the way network servers process requests based on one's Internet Protocol number, the underlying architecture allows others to learn about those using it in ways never experienced before. Online reading, viewing, and listening habits can therefore be profiled and used in ways that may or may not be in our best interest.

EFF has observed an increase in the development of technical architectures designed to favor particular business or government interests that conflict with principles of free expression, privacy, and openness. For example, new copyright management systems are being created that extend far beyond the strong intellectual property protections granted by law, thereby eroding checks and balances between the rights of content owners and those of their consumers.

Failure to consider these issues will create a technical reality that locks out individuals, chills open, democratic dialogue, and interferes with future innovation; the very things that brought us where we are today.