The net neutrality is threatened
Keep in mind that in a merchant Internet, the user is always a source of direct or indirect income for a service.
However, by their intermediary position, access providers have the power to discriminate traffic between their subscribers and services. In addition to charging a subscription to the first, and without regulatory constraints to treat all traffic indiscriminately (the neutrality of the network), providers who have many subscribers seek to monetize services by a form of blackmail: ” if you want my subscribers, you have to pay me “.
A service that does not pay the access provider will see the quality of their interconnection degraded, and all the subscribers of the provider will then have a bad experience of the service which will incite them to turn to the competition. In these conditions, only the “big” services can get out. And for them this practice is even a boon that allows them to strengthen their oligopoly.
But it goes further: if for a service, the income generated by a user exceeds the price of his subscription to the Internet, the service will be ready to pay the access provider this price in order to have one more user. But it will be a subscription restricted to its services, not a subscription for the Internet. This is called the “zero rating” and illustrates the vision of the Internet that has the services: just a “pipe” to reach customers, pipe they are even ready to finance!
The freedom to change shackled
Users are linked to the services they use by the data they entrust to them and the contacts they have there. They are thus taken hostage: to leave a service, it is to lose its data and its relations. The acceptance of this very widespread practice goes in the direction of “big” who capitalize on their network effect to bring more users into their “silo”.
In an attempt to remedy this, in Europe, a directive obliges services to offer users the possibility of recovering all their data. But this possibility is mostly a principle, the cost of migration remains very high, and users remain captive of the services they use.
Users lose control over what is done with their personal data when they accept the conditions of use of a service, essential step to access it. This is the visible part, where we inform the user, and he has the choice to deprive himself of the service.
Other actors act in the shadows, they offer no services to users, but develop and exploit “spies”, and pay services to insert them into their pages or their applications. Their job is then to resell “profiles”. In Europe, a regulation obliges the services to inform the user that their site uses “cookies”. Some of these cookies may be necessary for the proper functioning of the service. But those of these actors are not.
Without regulatory constraints again (for example in Europe, the directives on the protection of personal data and respect for privacy), the possibilities of abuse are innumerable.
Mass surveillance and censorship
The concentration of data greatly facilitates mass surveillance. And it does not happen only in totalitarian regimes (PRISM program, surveillance of the NSA in the US, Intelligence Act in France, etc.). The ultimate guarantee of freedom of expression remains anonymity. It is particularly essential to political opponents, whistleblowers, sources of journalists.
But this concentration also facilitates censorship: it is enough to ask the service that hosts the disputed data to make them inaccessible. In democracy this was done by judicial order, but the tendency is to be satisfied with an administrative request, even to make the services more responsible so that they themselves control their contents. In case of refusal of the service, it remains the option to enter his domain name, to block his IP address, or to physically identify where the server in question and disconnect.
On the censorship aspect, the US is probably the best placed since the freedom of expression is inscribed in their constitution. Everywhere else in the world there are lots of things that we do not have the right to say. In contrast, it is also one of the leading countries in mass surveillance.
The risk of data theft
To manage to defeat the protections of a service gives access to the personal data of all its users. The cost / benefit ratio is very interesting and that is why the servers regularly undergo attempts of intrusion with the most diverse motivations. In the end successful intrusions are frequent and the consequences for the millions of users whose data have been stolen can be disastrous (privacy breaches, identity theft, fraudulent payments, etc.).
Breakdowns and denials of service
Large departments have the means to ensure reliability through redundancy (which increases the energy cost), and having dedicated teams to maintain continuity of service. The smaller ones often depend on a few devices in a data center. In case of power failure, network outage or DoS attack (Denial of Service), the service is interrupted with sometimes heavy losses.
In 2015, the energy consumption of servers, grouped into data centers, already accounted for around 2% of the world’s energy output. This consumption becomes an ecological concern all the more important as it always takes more servers.