Posts Tagged ‘Net Neutrality’

They Know You’re a Dog

May 21, 2010

Some news from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: most web browsers have a unique “fingerprint” that could be used to track people as they wander through the Internet.  The EFF did a study with volunteers who visited a specific web site, logging in information from each volunteer’s system and browser.  Then they compared that data to a database of “configurations collected from almost a million other visitors”.  What they found was that 84% of the configuration combinations were unique; browsers with Flash or Java plug-ins are 94% unique.  And therefore, trackable.  Even when the volunteers went back and changed their browser settings, the EFF could still identify them with 99% accuracy. So if online privacy is important to you, and you routinely delete HTML and Flash cookies, you can still be identified by the fingerprint of your browser.  So if some nefarious company wanted to track users without their consent, they could do so by recording these unique characteristics.  For those of you who are academically inclined, here’s the whitepaper.

And PS, if you want to see the cartoon from which the title of this post comes, you can find it in the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank.


Hillary Clinton’s Free Speech Speech

January 22, 2010

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for global internet freedom to “seize the opportunity created by the proliferation of connection technologies. These technologies are truly the platform for communication, collaboration, and commerce in the 21st century. They’re connecting people to people, people to knowledge, and people to the global marketplace.” In her remarks, she criticized some regimes for censoring all types of new media, including text messages.  The Internet has a great role in promoting free speech and the “freedom to connect”, she said.  Needless to say, some advocacy groups, the Open internet coalition and Public Knowledge among them, latched onto this speech as a vehicle for promoting net neutrality laws both in the US and abroad.  Ms. Clinton’s speech can be seen here.

Big Doings at the FCC

January 11, 2010

January is going to be a big month over at the FCC.  There will be hearings on broadband, media ownership rules, and a ruling on the Comcast- BitTorrent case which is going to be a big player in the net neutrality issue, scheduled to be on the calendar in the spring.  Speaking of net neutrality, this week, the Songwriters Guild sent a letter to the FCC stating that any laws that did not allow ISPs to ban illegal downloaders “would continue to permit rampant Internet piracy”.   On the other hand, according to the Hollywood Reporter, The Writers Guild East favors net neutrality, saying that  “it is critical that the extraordinary potential of the Internet not be stifled by corporate conglomerates that restrict access for their own commercial gain.”  Seems like they might be speaking directly to the Comcast stake in NBC Uni.  The writers feel that an open Internet gives the public options to gain access to content that might not be available from traditional outlets. While this body also opposes piracy, it feels that the piracy issue is one for law enforcement agencies to control.

The Most Important Media Merger Since Lucy Married Desi

December 4, 2009

The biggest media news this week was the pending merger of NBC with Comcast, as I’m sure you know, unless you have been in a tryptophan-inspired coma for a week.  “This is the most important media merger since Lucy married Desi,” declared Andrew Schwartzman of the Media Access Project. “The merger clearly threatens to transform video markets nationwide.”  The new media behemoth is certainly going to change the picture, but how?  At the outset, you can see why Comcast would want to own NBC – for its content. It will give Comcast control over several cable properties as well as a TV network. What does this mean for Hulu, the leading online video site, owned in large part by NBC?  Comcast owns the third largest video site, Fancast, and this will greatly increase its searchable video universe. And of course, Comcast’s experiment with TV Everywhere will get a boost with more stuff to watch everywhere. The Christian Science Monitor points out that Comcast will be able to bundle all of its bundles more effectively with more content. “Comcast is pursuing NBC Universal precisely because it wants to transition from being just a subscription-based cable company to a media content provider.” (more…)

Are You Being Watched? If You’re In the UK, Maybe

December 4, 2009

Over across the pond, illegal file-sharing is getting an axe to the head from one of the UK’s leading providers, Virgin Media.  It announced plans last week to use deep packet inspection technology to track those who are downloading illegally. It will track about 40% of its network, although it will not inform those who are being monitored that it is being done. The company providing the technology for this says that it will only monitor filesharing activity, but not information on individual users.  Many of us might feel this is a fairly specious claim. Techdirt appraises the issue, and says that there is no such thing as an anonomyzed dataset.  And once they find the filesharers, then what? As ReadWriteWeb says, “Although the tech only examines aggregate traffic data, and although a Virgin spokeperson states that records will not be maintained on individual users, privacy concerns are right behind raining-on-our-parade concerns when one examines the question of monitoring user behavior. Isn’t warning, fining, censoring and/or restricting access for infringing users the next logical step?”

Beyond Net Neutrality

October 30, 2009

The net neutrality issue has been heating up lately as the FCC begins to look into it.  ISPs, notably AT&T are against it, web sites, notably Facebook, Twitter and Digg, as well as Google, Amazon and IAC are for it.  AT&T’s lobbyist recently sent a memo to all of the company’s employees “urging them”, The Washington Post says, “to express their concerns over” the net neutrality proposal that the FCC is considering.  Meanwhile a group of 24 companies sent a letter to the FCC saying that  “An open Internet fuels a competitive and efficient marketplace”.  Ars Technica has another take on the issue, beyond net neutrality.  What kind of neutrality will we need after we’ve dealt with net neutrality? When Google owns behavioral targeting, which seems likely, as well as the entrance point to most web sites through its search engine, is Google Neutrality what we will be seeking next?

Net Neutrality and Blocking Traffic

October 16, 2009

For a long while, we’ve been talking about Comcast and its battle with the FCC over net neutrality.  The official argument is that some wireless users use a lot of it, and they’re blocking traffic for other, more moderate users.  A new voice has been heard in this argument, as Qualcomm’s CEO spoke this week at a wireless conference about a crisis in wireless capacity.  It must be met, he said, with ‘traffic shaping”. There is therefore danger in the concept of net neutrality. Regulations, he feels, should not restrict an operator’s ability to manage its data. However, leaving this up to the carrier to decide has already proven, in the case of Comcast, not to be such a good idea.  Comcast has already been castigated for limiting BitTorrent traffic. On the heels of FCC chair Julius Genachowski’s call for net neutrality, it seems that the flood gates of protest are about to open. The story from Cnet.

Comcast and the FCC, Again

October 9, 2009

Last year, Comcast was sanctioned by the FCC for violating net neutrality principles when they elected to block traffic of alleged P2P downloaders.  Neutrality advocates are now asking an appellate court to uphold the FCC’s ruling. Comcast is appealing the original ruling, saying that the FCC had no authority to sanction it based on net neutrality principles that had never been codified. Papers were filed separately by several advocacy groups and also by a group of law professors.  Given the current climate, with the FCC chairman a true net neutrality fan, it is likely that the ruling will be upheld.  On the other hand, the political climate is also extremely partisan, and Republican opposition to net neutrality is growing. The story from MediaPost

Gizomodo has another take on the same story.