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.

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.

July 28, 2006

Would a Google PC succeed?

Richard Brandt asked me to look over his post on the oft-rumored possibility of a Google PC. I actually opined on this back in January, when the rumors were rife in connection with a supposed Wal-Mart sales/marketing agreement. I concluded that that would make a lot of sense for internet connectivity and student/homework uses (I didn’t consider work-at-home or gaming uses because that didn’t seem a good fit with Wal-Mart). The reasoning I came up with back then looks good in retrospect, with only minor tweaks (e.g., my new reason for not worrying about IE-only websites is the IE emulation capability in Firefox).

Richard, however, goes further, thinking that Google could succeed in PCs used mainly to run word processing, spreadsheets, etc.. His arguments include:

Read more

July 25, 2006

Scatterchat and Tor vs. The Great Firewall of China

Hacktivismo has just released Scatterchat, an IM tool intended to beat repressive regimes’ firewalls. Unlike other anonymizer types of tools that use Chinese repression mainly as a marketing hook, Scattershot seems to truly be focused on its stated goal. I haven’t figured out whether it does much clever other than leverage Tor, an anonymous network established by the Electronic Freedom Foundation to try to beat traffic analysis. This all sounds like a perfect example of what I’ve been calling for — technological creativity directed at beating technological repression.

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July 24, 2006

Universal surveillance of vehicle movements

This is scary stuff. And we’re not going to wind up stopping it, even if we try. We can only hope to blunt its ill effects, by adopting new laws and legal principles that prevent misuse of data the government has already collected.

July 3, 2006

Unlocking fiscal from technical architecture

Martin Geddes of Telepocalypse is kind enough to call Tariff Rebate Passthrough “the first new idea I’ve seen in a long time on the stale network neutrality debate.” He goes on to express concern about the practicality of the idea, but hopefully I addressed that somewhat in subsequent posts. While there certainly are major systems to build, which I acknowledge, I don’t see why it’s worse than what would be needed if the telcos’ preferred bill successfully makes it through Congress.

July 3, 2006

So THAT’S why Andrew Orlowski still has a job

Good things can come from the oddest sources, like mushrooms from a guano cave. And thus an amusing and worthwhile article has appeared under Andrew Orlowski‘s byline. It’s over-the-top, of course, but hey — it IS an Orlowski piece, after all.

His basic thesis is that political bloggers feel so driven to just write that they eventually lose touch with logic, and that this plays in to the general paranoid theme in political discourse. (For some reason, he identifies paranoia uniquely with Americans, but let’s overlook that piece of silliness.) In particular, he thinks the pro-net-neutrality arguments are extremist, even as he correctly points out that the bill being rammed through Congress in their despite is horrifically anti-competitive.

June 26, 2006

Simple legislative language for Tariff Rebate Passthrough

One of the best features of Tariff Rebate Passthrough is that, even with pricing flexibility, it can be implemented using simple legislative language. There only have to be three stipulations:

I think that’s it. Maybe I’m missing something – I’m surely no regulatory lawyer – but those three provisions seem to incorporate the essence, and the benefits, of Tariff Rebate Passthrough.

June 26, 2006

Tariff Rebate Passthrough – achieving pricing flexibility

I’ve thought more about the one weakness so far in the Tariff Rebate Passthrough plan – pricing flexibility. Contrary to what I implied a few hours ago, I now believe that Tariff Rebate Passthrough (TRP) is fully compatible with the kinds of service pricing flexibility providers and consumers are used to or would want. To see that, let’s consider the basic kinds of telecom service pricing:

Read more

June 26, 2006

How Tariff Rebate Passthrough would work

Dave Siegel posted a challenge to my Tariff Rebate Passthrough net neutrality proposal, claiming that technical implementation would be unduly burdensome, and also touching on the fact that consumers generally prefer flat-rate to metered pricing. I think the best response would be to spell out, in a little more detail, how it would work. Along the way, I think I can answer Dave’s (and anybody else’s) concerns. Read more

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