Paul Vixie is a world famous computer engineer, credited as one of the creators of the Internet. He earned this well-deserved recognition from his work on the Domain Name Service (DNS), one of the foundational technologies that allowed the World Wide Web to take off.
Recently, Vixie made headlines in the tech world after coming out against Internet giant Google and their questionable data collection methods.
Google attracted Vixie’s ire after the engineer bought the company’s Chromecast device, used to stream content from a computer to a TV monitor. But when he went to set it up, he found it doing something he never allows any device in his network to do: the Chromecast was demanding Vixie use Google’s public server and not his own private DNS server. This essentially means that any data Vixie would pull from the Internet would first have to go through Google, making all that information accessible to the company. In a post to the Internet Engineering Task Force mail list, Vixie went all out on Google. “Google, this is bogus as hell […] No, this device I’ve paid for, will NOT be allowed to send you any information, other than what I personally approve, which will never include DNS traffic. If you don’t like that deal, buy it back from me and I’ll find some other video appliance that doesn’t twist my arm.”
Putting aside the irony of an Internet company trying to get the creator of DNS to relinquish control of his own personal DNS, this story highlights a disturbing trend within the Internet sphere. Big Tech makes money off of being able to keep track of users’ data preferences. Thus they will seize any opportunity to gain access to that data.
While there are innocent reasons as to why a company like Google would want to run data through their own servers, there are more nefarious ones as well. In 2017, Google was hit with a massive $2.7 billion fine by the European Union for allegedly using its search engine to filter out competition and divert users to its own services.
U.S. lawmakers have been dealing with the growing problem of how to relate to such concentrated power in the hands of Internet juggernauts. It is incidents like these that will likely push forward decisions on this increasingly important issue.