Thursday, July 20, 2006

Missing the Point 

It is not often an article so completely misses a point that one has to say something about it. This one does in the latest copy of CIO Magazine. The article describes how the Chinese are moving to the next generation of the internet -- Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) from the longstanding version used by the rest of the world, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4). It rhapsodizes about what the Chinese will be able to do when each network device has its own unique address on the internet, something that is not possible under IPv4. Only in a sidebox comment does the writer get into a real reason why the Chinese are leapfrogging the rest of the world by moving to IPv6. The government will be able to track every internet user: None can hide from it with a uniquely addressed network device. China will become Big Brother peering over the shoulders of a billion citizens.

Public relations at its root assumes a Free Speech society, for how else can one have a conversation with individuals who grant one the permission to survive and succeed -- consumers, shareholders, etc.? One builds a relationship through mutual trust, not through mutual suspicion. Until China accepts the notion that its citizens can speak out on their own, it will never be free. There isn't yet clear evidence that it has granted that right. On the other hand, it isn't clear that a number of countries have granted it. There was news from India in the past week that the government blocked access to bloggers after the bombings in Mumbai.

The day that IPv6 is universal will be remarkable indeed for what one will be able to do on the internet, but for each step forward, there is an equal risk of a fall backwards. We must never forget that.


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