The Internet Kill Switch – maybe time to back up your social network information?

Too much power for one man?

What would you do if the internet suddenly disappeared? Some might see it as a blessing, while many others will be socially and professionally crippled. We often take for granted the fact that there is a whole world of interaction and information available at our every beck and call, whether it be used to buy Christmas presents from the comfort of one’s sofa, or to double-check equations for a quantum physics paper. But surely the internet can’t just disappear, can it? I didn’t think so, and up until this week when I read Daniel Nasaw’s article on BBC News Online,  I was completely oblivious to the fact that President Obama has the power – in the event of a ‘national emergency’, it must be added – to flick an ‘internet kill switch’ within the United States of America.

Rooted in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the decades-old law originally gave President Roosevelt (and his subsequent successors) the power to take control or shut down “any facility or station for wire communication”. Now obviously the internet had not been invented in these times, and the probable impact of such a decision would be limited to a few commercial TV and radio stations, as well as throughout the military and intelligence organisations it was designed to safeguard. However, the vagueness of the original law does appear to grant The President almost limitless power. Should this action have to be taken in today’s world, the ramifications would be immeasurable.

On an individual level, it might be a breath of fresh air to take a rest from the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and who knows, maybe you’d go out more often and make friends the old fashioned way? However for online businesses, banking systems, healthcare infrastructures etc, the loss of this means of communication would be nothing short of catastrophic. But whilst this action would be contained within the US, there is a high risk of a spill-over effect in other countries.

So say the worst happens, and the theoretical plug gets pulled with any and every computer going offline – what next? Well presumably once whatever ‘national emergency’ has passed, we reboot. But will everything still be functioning normally? Will all web pages and social networking sites still have their content? This form of drastic action has never to my knowledge been taken before, so the answer is that we really don’t know. However it always pays to back up non-physical data, as any computer user worth their salt will tell you. After all, if you have to rebuild something, it’s a hell of a lot easier starting from square three than square one.

For all my scaremongering over the last few paragraphs, it must also be noted that there is strong opposition to this law from Washington. The wheels are in motion for US Congress to curtail and clearly define what powers the current, and any future President of the United States of America possesses with regards to the internet. But as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry – if you don’t want to lose your online content on the whim of one man, then you’d best back it up.

So this brings us neatly to the reason as to why I am discussing this story on this particular blog site. In case you hadn’t already realised where I was going with all of this, a potential powering down of the internet is the exact sort of situation where SocialSafe would be a life saver – well, for your online life at least. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your Facebook page. By backing up all of your contacts, photos, wall posts and the like from your Facebook profile, you at least have all of the composite materials to rebuild your digital life. If the man in the Oval Office does ever flick the switch, you can be be secure in the knowledge that SocialSafe has carefully backed up your Facebook profile, and you won’t be left completely in the dark.