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Aug 09, 2000

UpsideToday Newsroom:
Privacy from Companies8/9/2000; 9:31:26 AM 'As of last week, the International Olympic Committee had ruled out streaming video over the Internet, saying its free availability would create conflicts with exclusive broadcast deals the IOC has made with individual media companies on a country-by-country basis.'But the deal to make video available on the NBCOlympics.com website makes a neat end-run around the IOC limits, via Axient's OctaneSM network. 'Partnership with ISPs The Octane network, in a nutshell, consists of Axient's partnership with more than 100 Internet service providers (ISPs) across the country. These ISPs have agreed to verify that all their customers are within the United States, where NBC holds exclusive broadcast rights, thus circumventing the IOC's problem.'Notice that this principle could be extended further. While I doubt the ability to correctly pinpoint the location of an IP address along will ever really exist (especially in the age of roaming access) just by scanning address blocks and trying to basically guess what IP block is where, by joining forces with ISP's, tracking technology becomes not just feasible, but very powerful. It could potentially tie your IP address to you... your address, phone number, all the other stuff the ISP has to know about you because they have to remit a bill.The Octane network is harmless if it only functions as described in the article, but it lays down the technical foundation necessary for IP address-based monitoring.


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Aug 09, 2000

Udell & Lessig on Internet Regulability
Misc.8/9/2000; 9:21:58 AM 'Assume the existence of trusted systems that enforce copyright protections, count the number of copies of protected works that they make, and perhaps even artificially degrade the quality of such copies. What will stop alternatives from usurping the role of these trusted systems, just as Napigator and Gnutella and Freenet are now preparing to stand in for Napster?'It's easy, and tempting, to say: "Well, nothing will stop that. You'd have to shut down the Internet." 'But is that really true? 'An interesting dicussion based on that question follows.


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Aug 08, 2000

The Cornucopia of the Commons
Technology & Sociology8/8/2000; 4:11:31 PM 'What we see here is that increasing the value of the database by adding more information is a natural by-product of using the tool for your own benefit. No altruistic sharing motives need be present, especially since sharing is the default.'The only thing I'd take issue with is the title of the article... if you increase the value of something by using it, then by definition, it isn't a common. One of the distinctive properties of the commons is that nearly any use inevitably degrades it. (The other importent ones are anyone can use it (which lowers the value of the commons) and there are no strong constraints on use.)What happens under those circumstances approaches mathematical certainty. One wonders if something is a commons, in which case we know it will have the property of degenerating with heavy use, rather then labelling something a commons just because it seems like a 'common' resource, in which case we know nothing about it.This is much the same reason I don't like people to use metaphors when discussing things on the internet; it reverses the order of business. First you determine the interesting properties about A, then you go looking for other things (B, C, D) with those properties and try to draw conclusions about the future of A. You don't go looking for things that just look like A, and then draw conclusions about the properties of A based on that superficial relationship. It's backwards.But it is a good title, isn't it?


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Aug 08, 2000

Publius Home Page
Boundary Breakers8/8/2000; 2:01:03 PM Publius has apparently started working.Technical details:'Our system consists of publishers who post Publius content to the web, servers who host random-looking content, and retrievers who browse Publius content on the web. At present the system supports any static content such as HTML pages, images, and other files such as postscript, pdf, etc. Javascript also works. We assume that there is a static, system-wide list of available servers. Publius content is encrypted by the publisher and spread over some of the web servers. In our current system, the set of servers is static. The publisher takes the key, K that is used to encrypt the file and splits it into n shares, such that any k of them can reproduce the original K, but k-1 give no hints as to the key. Each server receives the encrypted Publius content and one of the shares. At this point, the server has no idea what it is hosting -- it simply stores some random looking data. To browse content, a retriever must get the encrypted Publius content from some server and k of the shares. Mechanisms are in place to detect if the content has been tampered with. The publishing process produces a special URL that is used to recover the data and the shares. The published content is cryptographically tied to the URL, so that any modification to the content or the URL results in the retriever being unable to find the information, or a failed verification. In addition to the publishing mechanism, we provide a way 'Or, to simplify, a piece of content is broken into some number of pieces, where you need some smaller number of pieces to reassemble it, but each of those pieces look totally random, as does the result if you try to re-assemble too few pieces.From the C|Net announcement, 'Because it allows free distribution of files online, without any checks by copyright owners or law enforcement, Publius has been talked about in the same breath as Napster, Gnutella and Freenet. 'But the designers hope this won't be the focus for the system and have built in a few safeguards. 'At least in its first release, the system will accept documents only 100 kilobytes in size--much too small to accept an MP3 or video file. 'And unlike Napster, the Publius system does not have a search feature. Easy searches are partly what have made file-sharing systems such as Napster so popular so quickly.'Again, like FreeNet, this merely systematizes what was already an accomplished fact, that a post on the Internet could be untracable, in such a way that it will become possible for the average user to do it, not just the technincally sophisticated ones, so in terms of free speech, it doesn't really change anything.Interestingly, when FreeNet and Publius were announced, there was no loud concern over copyrights at the time, it was all about the 'dangerous speech' aspects. In the post-Napster world, now it's all about copyrights. This is sad, because copyrights are a purely monetary issue; free speech is much more importent in the long run.


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Aug 08, 2000

E-Privacy's Foggy Bottom
Privacy from Companies8/8/2000; 10:00:49 AM 'The discovery spurred a controversy over the role of this unseen third party -- as well as lawsuits targeting Toysrus.com and Coremetrics. The suits focused on the seemingly inflammatory fact that the hand-off was not mentioned in Toysrus.com's privacy disclosures even though the information handed over was explicitly personal. 'But the alleged privacy transgression isn't as clear as it might seem. Coremetrics was a contractor to Toysrus.com, which was turning over its customer activity data for analysis to Coremetrics. That outsourcing relationship between the two companies shed light on an area of relative obscurity in the debate over the acceptable ebb and flow of private information online.'It's worth remembering that it was an out-sourcing relationship, and the hoopla is over what could happen, not what has happened. While a reason for concern, as few we have trusted with our data have resisted the temptation to abuse it, nothing truly wrong has been done.However, from the article:'Privacy advocate Jason Catlett said concern over the issues misses the point. "A company
that outsources doesn't necessarily make its customers more vulnerable to privacy violations than a large company that processes the data in-house," Catlett said.'
I have to disagree. It greatly increases the potential correlation of the data, which greatly increases the value... which greatly increases the temptation on the part of Coremetrics. It is proper to be concerned... though a lawsuit is a bit much, admittedly


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