Public policy and privacy

Public policy issues such as privacy, technology industry economic development, education to support technology workers, and so on. Privacy in particular, whether or not strictly tied to public policy.

January 10, 2008

Richi Jennings changed physics, and I didn’t even notice

While ego-surfing, I found something I let slip by last April. Responding to my views on network neutrality, Richi Jennings pooh-poohed my claim that low latency is important. Specifically, he said:

Here’s the thing… Those of us that live the other side of the Atlantic live with 250ms latency every day, when we connect to services hosted in North America. I dare say the same is true for those on the other side of the Pacific. There’s not much getting around the speed of light.

Now, I’ll confess to not being the greatest of networking mavens, my networking startup and my various relationships with Network World notwithstanding. Truth be told, I dropped out of a physics major when the only uncompleted course was electronics lab. But before I dropped out, I did get the speed of light drilled into me. It’s 186,000 miles/second, aka 3 x 10^10 cm/sec. (“Not just a good idea; it’s the law!”). 186,000 miles, I’m quite convinced, is a lot more than 4 times the difference across the Atlantic Ocean. And the same remains true even when you knock off 50% or so because that light is traveling through glass rather than in a vacuum.

April 27, 2007

My Network World column and outside links on network neutrality

Oops! It turns out Network World ran my column on network neutrality and Tariff Rebate Passthrough on April 23, not April 30 as I previously believed. So I should have gotten my list of outside links together sooner. Sorry. Confusing matters further, my post on Jeffersonet vs. Edisonet got Slashdotted, without me having provided a link to the column itself. Well, here goes.

April 17, 2007

Link list for network neutrality

My April 30 Network World column is scheduled to be on network neutrality, with this post linked out as a guide to further research.

Some of my own writings on the subject include:

I’ll supply some outside links on the subject later on.

April 17, 2007

The two Internets, Jeffersonet and Edisonet, and why they need to be regulated differently

Edit: This post was Slashdotted, along with Richi Jennings’ reply.

In a way, proponents and opponents of network neutrality are both correct! That is, they are each correct about different aspects of the Internet.

Net neutrality is both necessary and workable for what I call Jeffersonet, which comprises the “classical”, bandwidth-light parts of the Internet. Thus, it includes e-mail, instant messaging, much e-commerce, and just about every website created in the first 13 or so years of the Web. Jeffersonet is the greatest tool in human history to communicate research, teaching, news, and political ideas, or to let tiny businesses compete worldwide. Any censorship of Jeffersonet – even if just of the self-interested large-enterprise commercial kind – would be a terrible loss. Net neutrality is workable for Jeffersonet because – well, because it’s already working just fine. Jeffersonet doesn’t need anything beyond current levels of bandwidth and reliability. So there’s no reason to mess with what’s working, other than simple profit-hungry greed.
Read more

January 5, 2007

David and Richi on Cisco and Ironport

The Ferris Research lads offer a succinct analysis of the Cisco/Ironport deal. As an old software stock analyst, I was particularly struck by their estimates that A. Cisco paid over 10 times revenue for Ironport and B. Ironport’s revenues weren’t growing. Even more interesting in my opinion is what Richi said to me by e-mail in response to a query, namely (emphasis mine):

Yes, clearly IronPort’s reputation data is part of the prize for Cisco. …

An interesting question is what will happen (if anything) with SpamCop. IronPort deliberately ran SpamCop at arm’s length as a matter of policy. I wonder if Cisco will maintain that policy. SpamCop is of course part of the raw data feeding into SenderBase, along with the data phoned home by the IronPort boxes.

As we’ve seen with the BlackSpider acquisition by SurfControl, spam control companies that aggregate lots of data about spam sources are valuable, for reasons in addition to spam control. If a zombie is sending spam, it’s also probably a potential source of other bad stuff, such as worms and DDoS connections.

Quite possibly, one of Cisco’s goals (dreams?) for this acquisition is to put a whole lot of sender policing into the network infrastructure. Mainly, that’s a good thing — but like most kinds of internet policing, that technology also has the potential for abuse.

In that vein, I note that the Ferris guys say Ironport’s big competitor was Ciphertrust, acquired by Secure Computing. Well, in my opinion Secure Computing are bad guys, or at least were as of my research a few years ago. They have long helped enforce nationwide Web censorship in Saudi Arabia; they got dinged by the SEC for early for CEO stock hyping/selective disclosure; they in my opinion were guilty of a lot more hyping than that; and for the cherry on top of this ethical sundae, CEO John McNulty has a resume in Secure’s SEC filings that is inconsistent with the SEC filings of a previous employer.

November 30, 2006

Anonymizer – penetrating the Great Firewalls of China and Iran

Lance Cottrell of Anonymizer is one of those rare guys who make me believe he started a company in no small part to do good. And so his cloaking-technology company is providing free services to help Chinese citizens sneak through their national firewall, and is doing the same thing for Iran on a paid basis, under contract to the Voice of America. I think this is wonderful, and he reports that it’s working well now. Even so, I think there are scalability concerns. Right now only 10s of 1000s of users are covered. If there were a few more zeroes on that, standard spam-blocking techniques, currently ineffective, might work. What’s more, the Chinese bureaucracy, currently not highly motivated to shut the service down, might bestir itself to be much more effective.

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November 30, 2006

Anonymizer — internet privacy through anonymity

I chatted today with Lance Cottrell, the founder and president of Anonymizer. They’re a little 30-40 person company, but even so they do three different interesting kinds of things. In increasing order of importance, these are:

  1. Provide anonymity services to ordinary individuals.
  2. Provide anonymity services to enterprises (aka enterprise sneakiness support).
  3. Help people get through the national firewalls in Iran and China.

Read more

July 31, 2006

Why an actual peace treaty is essential in Lebanon

War is inevitably a terrible thing. This truth is repeatedly forgotten or disregarded, not least in the Middle East, most recently by Hizbollah and Israel alike, and perhaps by other parties influencing the Lebanese conflict as well.

But I am writing today, not about hatred and folly in general, but about a narrower point – namely, the need for an actual peace treaty in Lebanon, after decades of a formal state of war. Such a treaty is, in my judgment, essential for Lebanon’s economic future. And so it is essential for Israel’s security too, and by extension for the security of many other countries as well. For if Lebanon does not thrive — if the people of Lebanon lose hope — Lebanon will remain what it has been for three decades, an unstable and uncontrollable enemy of the Israeli state.

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July 29, 2006

AOL’s IM content privacy policy

AOL’s privacy policy isn’t as bad as Microsoft’s, but it’s no joy either. “Rights” can be a slippery word, as partisans all over the political spectrum are apt to point out.

The contents of your online communications, as well as other information about you as an AOL Network user, may be accessed and disclosed in response to legal process (for example, a court order, search warrant or subpoena); in other circumstances in which AOL believes the AOL Network is being used in the commission of a crime; when we have a good faith belief that there is an emergency that poses a threat to the safety of you or another person; or when necessary either to protect the rights or property of AOL, the AOL Network or its affiliated providers, or for us to render the service you have requested.

July 29, 2006

Microsoft’s non-privacy policy

I just went to download Microsoft Messenger, and reviewed the terms and conditions. The following is excerpted, emphasis mine.

We consider your use of the Service, including the content of your communications, to be private. We do not routinely monitor your communications or disclose information about your communications to anyone. However, we may monitor your communications and disclose information about you, including the content of your communications, if we consider it necessary to: (1) comply with the law or to respond to legal process; (2) ensure your compliance with this contract; or (3) protect the rights, property, or interests of Microsoft, its employees, its customers, or the public.

EDIT: I can’t find anything at all about content privacy on the Yahoo! Messenger privacy page.

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