ISPs — you can’t trust’em (part II)

Harking back to  yesterday’s post,  ISPs — you can’t trust ’em comes  a CNN item  by Douglas Rushkoff:

“This month,  (July) if everything goes according to schedule, your Internet service provider may begin monitoring your account,  says Rushkoff,  “just to make sure you aren’t doing anything wrong with it — like sharing copyrighted movie or music files”

“Your Internet service provider may soon begin monitoring your account, and that’s because >>>>

A  anew alliance of Fox, Disney, Sony, big ISPs to detect, stop online piracy

A new plan lets ISP’s keep track of, punish offenders, but could take in the innocent

Subscribers will be losing expectation of privacy from their own service providers

“While we might all agree that copyright holders need to be protected,  says the story,  “we may not all be equally happy about all of our communications being checked for violations he says, going on  “People and businesses who are not doing anything illegal may still have some things they wish to hide from their Internet access providers.”

“Under normal circumstances, your Internet service provider, or ISP, tries to protect you and your data from spying eyes. Cablevision, Time Warner Cable (an independent company no longer directly affiliated with TimeWarner, the parent of CNN and this site) and Comcast utilize all sorts of software to keep the connections between our modems and their servers safe. They also encourage us to keep our home networks secure from eavesdroppers.
“But what are we supposed to do when the eavesdropper is the ISP itself?
“This is the most disturbing question raised by a new alliance among America’s biggest ISPs and media giants such as Disney, Sony and Fox, which is to go into effect this month. The effort, dubbed the Center for Copyright Information, hopes to combat the illegal downloading and sharing of movies and music by monitoring it at the source – your computer.

Until now,Rushkoff continues, it was up to movie and music companies to figure out when their stuff was being illegally shared.

This was a little tricky,  he says,  “because files aren’t stored on just one user’s computer. Hundreds or thousands of sharers have bits and pieces of stolen files, for downloaders to reassemble into songs or movies.

“So movie companies have been searching online for copies of their own movies, identifying the locations of everyone from whom they received a bit of data. Then they contact the Internet service providers, who send letters of warning to subscribers’ homes.

A number of clever workarounds, including certain kinds of encryption or the use of “proxy” servers in other countries, have helped advanced users of file-sharing software stay one step ahead of the movie companies. If a file sharer appears to be working out of New Guinea, say, the movie studio can’t rely on a friendly ISP to find an illegal downloader here in the United States.

“As I understand the new agreement and subsequent comments, which are about as cryptic as a copy-protected DVD, ISP’s have agreed to implement a standardized “graduated response plan” through which offending users are warned, restricted and eventually cut off from the Internet for successive violations. The companies are supposed to be developing systems that keep track of all this, so that the letters and usage restrictions happen automatically. The fact that they are all agreeing to participate makes it harder for any one company to win the disgruntled customers of those who have been disciplined by another.

“But now that they’re free from individual blame, there’s also the strong possibility that the ISPs will be doing the data monitoring directly. That’s a much bigger deal. So instead of reaching out to the Internet to track down illegally flowing bits of their movies, the studios will sit back while ISP’s “sniff” the packets of data coming to and from their customers’ computers. While they’re simply claiming to be protecting copyright holders, ISPs have a lot to gain from all this as well.

Rushkoff  concludes:  “

The longer term solution would be to develop an appropriate social contract: conducting ourselves online under the same civilized behavioral norms that keep us from, say, stealing stuff from one another’s homes even though we could probably get away with it. It’s not really that hard, and it’s worth figuring out before the privilege of free interaction is taken away from us – along with any expectation of privacy.

Only by strengthening people’s ability to distinguish between sharing and stealing will we be able to build a society capable of surviving our networks.”

(Cheers, Ray)


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