The principle of equal treatment of traffic, called “Net Neutrality” by proponents, is not enshrined in law but supported by some regulations. Most of the debate around the issue has centered on tentative plans, now postponed, by large Internet carriers to offer preferential treatment of traffic from certain content providers for a fee.
Comcast’s interference, on the other hand, appears to be an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers.
[...] Comcast’s technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.
Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: “Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.”
[...] Comcast’s interference affects all types of content, meaning that, for instance, an independent movie producer who wanted to distribute his work using BitTorrent and his Comcast connection could find that difficult or impossible — as would someone pirating music.
October 22, 2007
Letting the EU Do The Heavy Lifting [11:28 am]
The Microsoft Corporation agreed today to obey crucial parts of a 2004 antitrust ruling upheld by an appeals court last month, European regulators said today, cutting royalties for rivals and handing information over to open source developers.
The software company said separately that it would not appeal the decision, dropping a challenge of a European Commission order that found it guilty of monopoly abuse three years ago.
See also F.T.C. Chief Balks at Intel Inquiry
LATimes Editorial Channels Terry Fisher [10:13 am]
The new content filters are a double-edged sword. They are critical to the efforts by tech and entertainment companies to turn the Internet into a profitable content distribution network. But they could give copyright holders too much control over what is and isn’t a fair use of their works, while encouraging them to withhold their content from the Web instead of profiting from it.
[...] There are good business reasons for websites to use the new technologies. For starters, major advertisers don’t want their pitches running alongside bootlegged videos. But Hollywood would be ill-advised to use the filters to bottle up its works, particularly the advertiser-supported ones. The Net is notoriously leaky, and blocking content on one set of sites won’t stop it from reaching users by other means. A better use of content-identification systems is to track how many times a song or video is viewed or downloaded, then use that information to split the advertising revenue generated by those files between its producers and its distributors. The Web presents a huge pool of opportunity, and content owners need to jump in and compete instead of waiting for all the pirates to be swept from the waters.
For more on Terry Fisher’s Promises to Keep, see this earlier entry.
Sin City As Troubling Testbed [9:14 am]
This city, famous for being America’s playground, has also become its security lab. Like nowhere else in the United States, Las Vegas has embraced the twin trends of data mining and high-tech surveillance, with arguably more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country. Even the city’s cabs and monorail have cameras. As the U.S. government ramps up its efforts to forestall terrorist attacks, some privacy advocates view the city as a harbinger of things to come.
[...] “You could almost look at Vegas as the incubator of a whole host of surveillance technologies,” said James X. Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. Those technologies, he said, have spread to other commercial venues: malls, stadiums, amusement parks.
And although that is “problematic,” he said, “the spread of the techniques to counterterrorism is doubly worrisome. Finding a terrorist is much harder than finding a card counter, and the consequences of being wrongly labeled a terrorist are much more severe than being excluded from a casino.”
“We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us” [6:58 am]
Petteri Koponen, one of the two founders of Jaiku, described the service as a “holistic view of a person’s life,” rather than just short posts. “We extract a lot of information automatically, especially from mobile phones,” Mr. Koponen said from Mountain View, Calif., where the company is being integrated into Google. “This kind of information paints a picture of what a person is thinking or doing.”
In practical terms, Jaiku’s mobile application allows users to broadcast not only their whereabouts, but how the phone is being used, even what kind of music it is playing.
The information opens up a world of new mobile services for regular users, beyond the world of early adapters familiar with Jaiku.
[...] All this opens serious questions about privacy, and about whether people are prepared to be constantly traceable, even if only by friends. Mr. Koponen said Jaiku was aware of this and was working hard to allow users to limit the information they share, without making the service too complicated.
“To date, many people still maintain their illusion of privacy,” he said in an e-mail message.
Ideologies in Competition [6:55 am]
Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.
The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.
[...] “There are two opposed pathways being mapped out,” said Paul Duguid, an adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. “One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear.”