Top 5 things to know about the splinternet

As the internet begins to split into different versions in different countries, the laws that govern data are changing. Tom Merritt explains five things you need to know about the splinternet.

Top 5 things to know about the splinternet As the internet begins to split into different versions in different countries, the laws that govern data are changing. Tom Merritt explains five things you need to know about the splinternet.

You may have heard the term "splinternet" floating around. It's the idea that, as some countries crack down on what internet content is allowed, the internet is splitting into various versions that offer something different, depending on where you are.

This is not just the Great Firewall of China anymore. Europe, Brazil, Russia, and more countries are requiring companies to follow laws on how they handle data within a border differently, sometimes requiring data be stored regionally. This is changing the once borderless internet. Here are five things to know about the splinternet.

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  1. You can't ignore it: As more countries implement region-specific data laws, you will eventually run across a country passing a law that affects you and your business--ignore it, and your business may no longer be a business in that region.
  2. It may cost you: Even if you don't ignore it, you have to do it right in each region. Fail to comply with new laws and, in many cases, you'll pay a hefty fine.
  3. You can't wish it away: Promoting openness and transparency is good, but it shouldn't be the only thing you do. Work for a global open internet, but make sure you adapt to a splintering internet where it's actually happening.
  4. Prepare: Even before laws are debated, evaluate how fast you can respond to regulatory changes. Do your legal, compliance, data, and other teams have systems to work with each other? Are systems designed with the ability to change settings? If so, can it be done by region?
  5. Centralization is hard to justify: Decentralized data has lots of practical advantages already, but easier adaptation to varying regulatory regimes is one of them. You probably need to end reliance on centralized data.

We're not saying you should give up, but the reality is that right now the splintering of the internet is looking more likely than ever before, and even if it just means pulling out of a market, it's important to be aware and prepared.

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Image: iStockphoto/Voren1