Last month, we wrote about continuing confusion by the major publishers about ebook pricing, and how many wanted to keep them artificially high, because they still think that’s the best way to maximize profits. However, in that post, we also noted that Rob Reid’s funny sci-fi novel about aliens wanting to destroy the earth over our copyright laws (they owe all the money in the world to the record labels because they’ve been infringing), was being price-tested for a while at $1. The book had been out for over a year, and apparently Random House was willing to do some price experimentation. The result? The book that came out 15 months earlier jumped back in the NY Times best seller list, coming in the 22nd spot on the ebook fiction list.
Of course, anyone who’s followed Gabe Newell at Valve knows all about how price elasticity works. Dropping your price significantly doesn’t always mean a decrease in revenues or profits — and can actually mean an increase due to significantly greater volume. So, again, this isn’t revolutionary, but it’s still quite amazing how resistant so many publishing companies are to this idea that selling for less might actually be a good idea. For all the talk about “devaluing the book,” who is actually going to complain if lower prices bring in both more readers and more money?
Last week, Team Prenda took another big loss and got smacked around by another judge ordering them to pay even more in attorneys’ fees. The list is really starting to add up. This case, which involved Prenda representing porn producers Lightspeed (rather than one of their own shell operations), had been sitting out there for a while, but it was one of the cases that involved Prenda trying to route around the trouble they’d been having with copyright claims by arguing a computer hacking violation instead. And, on top of that, it involved Prenda going after AT&T and Comcast for refusing to just blindly hand over the names of people attached to the IP addresses listed. Back in April, Prenda had filed a ridiculous response to lawyers Booth Sweet asking for attorneys’ fees. Given everything that’s come out (and, honestly, much of which had already been public) the hubris of Prenda’s Paul Duffy is impressive. In the lawsuit he attacks Booth Sweet arguing that they “routinely file baseless motions for attorneys’ fees in hopes they will eventually get lucky.” Of course, Booth Sweet’s track record is pretty strong here, and while it took a few months, the judge in the case, Patrick Murphy, realized that it was Team Prenda who was really playing games:
The litigation smacked of bullying
Elsewhere, the judge notes that awarding attorneys’ fees is appropriate “when
counsel acted recklessly, raised baseless claims despite notice of the frivolous nature of these
claims, or otherwise showed indifference to statutes, rules, or court orders,” suggesting that he sees Team Prenda’s actions as fitting into those categories.
At this point, all of these attorneys’ fees wins are more or less meaningless. It’s doubtful that any of them will get paid (though, there does appear to be money somewhere…). The main event, a more thorough investigation and possible criminal charges against Team Prenda still await — but those things take time. Still, that isn’t stopping Team Prenda from pulling their standard response to these kinds of rulings against them, pulling the same failed tricks out of their increasingly frayed trick bag.
In this case, it involves Paul Hansmeier claiming “what? who, me?” in response. He notes that, while he was involved in the case at some point, briefly, this was really a Paul Duffy case all along, and he, Hansmeier, along with his partner in crime John Steele, simply had no idea this case was even still going on, let alone that they might be on the hook for potential attorneys’ fees. As unbelievable as that might be (and potentially a process violation — since Hansmeier is no longer a lawyer in this matter, he shouldn’t make filings in the case without first getting permission from the court), the bigger issue is that this is the first time I can recall where Hansmeier and Steele appear to pretty clearly be throwing Paul Duffy under the bus.
If you haven’t been paying attention, Team Prenda has been gradually dwindling as the main players have gradually thrown the redshirts under the bus one by one. Brett Gibbs went down first, but Mark Lutz was a recent addition to the under-the-bus crew. But, from the beginning, many have argued that Duffy was the patsy for Steele and Hansmeier, and here’s a case where Hansmeier appears to be leaving Duffy out to dry on yet another failed case. You’d think that Hansmeier would be more careful, because if there’s anyone who likely knows all the details of how Prenda is setup, it would be Paul Duffy. As they say, never throw anyone under the bus who might take you with them. Hansmeier and Steele seemed to miss that with Brett Gibbs, and now they’re repeating it with Duffy. As for Lutz, he still seems to be completely MIA, which seems increasingly suspicious… especially since Hansmeier insisted that Lutz would appear shortly to answer questions the court had asked.
Recently, the LA school district has had some problems with its adoption of iPads into its classrooms. Kids will be kids, and some of them figured out how to use their school-issued iPads for unsanctioned activities like watching movies, playing games and wasting time on Facebook. Clearly, there’s a bit of a learning curve for using technology as an educational tool as educators try to figure out how to lock down the devices and keep kids focused on using them solely for school-related work. Many parents with young kids want to encourage their children to use all kinds of technology, but the advice and recommendations from various experts can be a bit conflicting or almost useless. Here are just a few links on kids and screen time.
The review, announced late Friday afternoon by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, will also include an assessment of how the institute creates encryption standards.
The institute sets national standards for everything from laboratory safety to high-precision timekeeping. NIST’s cryptographic standards are used by software developers around the world to protect confidential data. They are crucial ingredients for privacy on the Internet, and are designed to keep Internet users safe from being eavesdropped on when they make purchases online, pay bills or visit secure websites.
But as the investigation by ProPublica, The Guardian and The New York Times in September revealed, the National Security Agency spends $250 million a year on a project called “SIGINT Enabling” to secretly undermine encryption. One of the key goals, documents said, was to use the agency’s influence to weaken the encryption standards that NIST and other standards bodies publish.
“Trust is crucial to the adoption of strong cryptographic algorithms,” the institute said in a statement on their website. “We will be reviewing our existing body of cryptographic work, looking at both our documented process and the specific procedures used to develop each of these standards and guidelines.”
The NSA is no stranger to NIST’s standards-development process. Under current law, the institute is required to consult with the NSA when drafting standards. NIST also relies on the NSA for help with public standards because the institute doesn’t have as many cryptographers as the agency, which is reported to be the largest employer of mathematicians in the country.
“Unlike NSA, NIST doesn’t have a huge cryptography staff,” said Thomas Ptacek, the founder of Matasano Security, “NIST is not the direct author of many of most of its important standards.”
Matthew Scholl, the deputy chief at the Computer Security Division of the institute, echoed that statement, “As NIST Director Pat Gallagher has said in several public settings, NIST is designed to collaborate and the NSA has some of the world’s best minds in cryptography.” He continued, “We also have parallel missions to protect federal IT systems, so we will continue to work with the NSA.”
Some of these standards are products of public competitions among academic cryptography researchers, while others are the result of NSA recommendations. An important standard, known as SHA2, was designed by the NSA and is still trusted by independent cryptographers and software developers worldwide.
NIST withdrew one cryptographic standard, called Dual EC DRGB, after documents provided to news organizations by the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden raised the possibility that the standard had been covertly weakened by the NSA.
Soon after, a leading cryptography company, RSA, told software writers to stop using the algorithm in a product it sells. The company promised to remove the algorithm in future releases.
Many cryptographers have expressed doubt about NIST standards since the initial revelations were published. One popular encryption library changed its webpage to boast that it did not include NIST-standard cryptography. Silent Circle, a company that makes encryption apps for smartphones, promised to replace the encryption routines in its products with algorithms not published by NIST.
If the NIST review prompts significant changes to existing encryption standards, consumers will not see the benefit immediately. “If the recommendations change, lots of code will need to change,” said Tanja Lange, a cryptographer at the University of Technology at Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. “I think that implementers will embrace such a new challenge, but I can also imagine that vendors will be reluctant to invest the extra time.”
In Friday’s announcement, NIST pointed to its long history of creating standards, including the role it had in creating the first national encryption standard in the 1970s — the Data Encryption Standard, known as DES. “NIST has a proud history in open cryptographic standards, beginning in the 1970s with the Data Encryption Standard,” the bulletin said. But even that early standard was influenced by the NSA.
During the development of DES, the agency insisted that the algorithm use weaker keys than originally intended — keys more susceptible to being broken by super computers. At the time, Whitfield Diffie, a digital cryptography pioneer, raised serious concerns about the keys. “The standard will have to be replaced in as few as five years,” he wrote.
The weakened keys in the standard were not changed. DES was formally withdrawn by the institute in 2005.
The announcement is the latest effort by NIST to restore the confidence of cryptographers. A representative from NIST announced in a public mailing list, also on Friday, that the institute would restore the original version of a new encryption standard, known as SHA3, that had won a recent design competition but altered by the institute after the competition ended. Cryptographers charged that NIST’s changes to the algorithm had weakened it.
The SHA3 announcement referred directly to cryptographers’ concerns. “We were and are comfortable with that version on technical grounds, but the feedback we’ve gotten indicates that a lot of the crypto community is not comfortable with it,” wrote John Kelsey, NIST’s representative. There is no evidence the NSA was involved in the decision to change the algorithm.
The reversal took Matthew Green, a cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, by surprise. “NIST backed down! I’m not sure they would have done that a year ago,” he said.
One of the regular claims from the major labels and their representative groups, like the RIAA and BPI, is that copyright infringement is serious business, and everyone “knows” when copyright is being infringed. They always seem to brush off any claims of accidental infringement as if that’s impossible. And then, of course, they get caught doing it themselves. Over the weekend, TorrentFreak had the story of how both the RIAA and BPI violated the terms of licenses for open source software they used on their website, which makes it infringing. To their credit, both organizations fixed the violations pretty quickly upon being contacted, but it again raises a larger point. With the state of copyright law today, it’s incredibly easy to infringe. Law professor John Tehranian did some research a few years ago, into how much of his normal daily activity could be considered copyright infringement, and realized that under today’s insane statutory damages rules, he had a daily liability of $12.45 million — and that wasn’t because he was downloading music. It was just everyday activities that people do all the time.
So, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with the RIAA and BPI screwing up like this and infringing on some copyrights. It happens. But one would hope this leads those organizations to realize that their extreme claims about copyright infringement and their ridiculous support for statutory damages are way out of line with reality. But, since they remain such big supporters of statutory damages, and always seem to push for the maximum, would each organization be willing to donate $150,000 (the statutory maximum) to the open source projects which each of them used without a proper license? It seems only fair.
Back in June, Mike wrote about the important Myriad Genetics judgment from the Supreme Court, which said that naturally-occuring genetic material could not be patented. However, because of some hedging from the judges, there were concerns about how much this would block gene patents in practice. Last week we had an indication that the impact is indeed likely to be significant, as VentureBeat reports:
a District Court judge in California upheld the landmark [SCOTUS] ruling, and struck down a patent held by a San Diego-based diagnostics company called Sequenom. Sequenom offers a non-invasive genetic test for Down’s Syndrome, which pregnant women can take as early as 10 weeks.
Sequenom plans to appeal the decision to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. It was highly unexpected, and has caused shockwaves of disbelief in the scientific community. The judge, Susan Illston of the United States District Court in Northern California, ruled against Sequenom after a summary judgement, citing the Supreme Court case “Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 12-398.”
In both cases, the judge ruled that a “natural phenomenon” could not be patented.
If this decision stands, “I don’t see how you can maintain a genetic diagnostic claim anymore,” says Christopher Holman, a molecular biologist and professor of law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
However, that does not mean that biotech is now an area that will be abandoned by investors. As the VentureBeat story notes:
Bryan Roberts, a health-focused investment partner at Venrock, predicts that “real innovation will be patentable and rewarded” while patents on natural phenomena will not. Roberts is a leading investor in Ariosa Diagnostics, the San Jose, Calif. based company that filed suit against Sequenom in 2011.
That connection means that Roberts may be biased in his view of this particular case, but his broader analysis of the ruling’s impact remains true:
The ruling “raises the bar to rely on intellectual property as a business defense,” said Roberts. “It will drive prices down [and support] the product that is both high quality and efficiently priced.”
What makes this latest judgement (embedded below) particularly welcome is that it joins the Myriad Genetics decision, and an earlier SCOTUS ruling that struck down a patent on basic medical diagnostics, to form part of a growing body of US case law that brings some much-needed sanity to the world of gene patents.
Over the years, at times, I’ve seen people criticize Bruce Schneier for perhaps getting more publicity than other security researchers, but it’s rare to see people question his knowledge. The complaints often appear to stem more out of jealousy than anything else. But, I’ve never seen anything quite as ridiculous as this “CNN iReport” by Richard Marshall and Andre Brisson, which appears to be a blatant hatchet job attack on Schneier that is at times incomprehensible, at times factually incorrect and bizarre throughout. Marshall is a former NSA and DHS “cybersecurity” expert, but he’s now the CEO of “Whitenoise Labs,” (something not mentioned in the article). Brisson is the founder of Whitenoise Labs, and appears to have a beef with Schneier going back at least a decade if not more. Brisson and Marshall appear to not be particularly adept at explaining themselves, so the history is not clearly laid out anywhere. The short hand, as far as I can tell, is that Brisson thinks he’s discovered some magic elixir security solution, which Schneier mocked way back in 2003. Brisson now feels that the security community gives him no respect and even Defcon ignores his pleas to present his own brilliance.
Last year, Brisson appears to have hired Marshall, and the two of them see this as an opportunity to attack Schneier. It looks like there are two main points to the article: (1) they don’t like Bruce Schneier (2) they want you to know about their own solution, which even they admit Schneier dismissed as “snake oil.” But here’s the bizarre part. Even though it’s clear that they’re just trying to promote their own thing, pretty much the whole point of their article is that you shouldn’t trust Bruce Schneier because he blogs and he’s only trying to promote his own business. I’m not joking.
It appears that one of the sources of Mr. Schneier’s information are documents leaked by E.Snowden, fugitive American living in Russia and former contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, and Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who worked with Mr. Snowden. Mr. Schneier’s intentions clearly have nothing to do with his convictions about privacy, as much as business and profit motives. It must be emphasized that blogs are not journalism: they are marketing tools specifically designed to try to sell a product, not to get to the truth.
Where to start? First off, it does not “appear” that one of the sources is Snowden, it is confirmed fact. Also, Greenwald did not “work with” Snowden. Greenwald is a journalist and Snowden was a source. Since then, the Guardian, whom Greenwald worked for, also brought on Schneier to help understand some of the Snowden documents. This is all public knowledge. Second, while Schneier does blog quite a bit, he’s also been regularly published in all sorts of news publications that have significant editorial staffs, including The Guardian, the Atlantic, Harvard Business Review, Wired and more.
The suggestion that he’s just some random blogger is obviously false, and pretty much everyone knows that. Furthermore, Schneier’s experience in the field is pretty damn well documented. His own firm, Counterpane, was acquired years ago by British Telecom and Schneier has obviously done tremendous work in the world of computer security for many, many years.
Weeks of research regarding Mr. Schneier’s claims have highlighted one of the most frustrating problems with the internet age. Because virtually anyone lacking serious journalistic credentials can, and often does, write or post freely on any subject, the resulting sheer volume of information available may lead people to believe that the reporting is even-handed and well-researched. Unfortunately, in many circumstances nothing can be farther from the truth.
Weeks? As noted: Brisson’s feud with Schneier appears to go back a decade. And it took me all of about 3 minutes to find all those well known publications that Schneier writes for. Brisson and Marshall (two people!) couldn’t find them in weeks? Also, I’m beginning to wonder if the above paragraph actually refers to the article by Brisson and Marshall a lot more than anything Schneier has ever done.
Because the very information analyzed and evaluated may result in policy, it absolutely demands that such information be subject to the highest and most stringent scrutiny and as such, deserves to be evaluated and vetted by verified experts, politicians, business leaders, and citizens with proven track records of integrity, honesty, and true concern for the public interest. It should not be done by those with a history of practicing self-interest over privacy and security.
Again, this is coming from people whose main purpose with this article appears to be promoting their own mocked security solution, and who regularly run silly promotional “contests” and “countdown clocks” designed to focus on their own self-interest.
For many weeks, it has been noted that volumes of proselytizing and dissemination of “opinion-as-fact” come from unverified information through Mr. Schneier’s self-promoting blog, other blogs and various online sites, such as gamer’s sites, of unknown, dubious reputation and/or expertise in the critical areas of cryptography and privacy and not from reputable publications as The New York Times or The Washington Post.
I’ll let that sink in for a bit. Notice, of course, that they leave out “The Guardian” and “The Atlantic” — two publications that Schneier does write for, with reputations that are at least on par with the two publications named. Also, it appears to leave out that both the Washington Post and the NY Times have been publishing stories quite similar to Schneier’s, and both have (at least some of) the same documents from Snowden, which these two guys mocked Schneier for using as his source.
Mr. Schneier decries the NSA and mandated law enforcement agencies empowered by our laws. Yet, Mr. Schneier’s track record shows, significantly, that at least twice over the last decade he has turned a blind eye to workable security (but he complains about privacy.)
This bold claim is not supported anywhere in the article. It likely refers to Schneier ignoring or mocking their own “solution.”
The article goes on to make some half-baked suggestions about how to deal with the NSA surveillance issues that suggest they don’t even understand what’s going on. Their solution? “using the improved security technology we have available to combat the fatal flaws of public key” technology — which of course is what their firm has been pushing on the world for years, and which ignores the fact that the evidence so far from Snowden has shown that public key encryption, when done right, still works pretty damn well.
Reading the article, it’s laughable. Nearly all of the attacks on Schneier are more accurately directed at the authors of that article. If the DHS and the NSA are looking to attack Schneier, they should at least try to find former execs who can write comprehensibly, and who didn’t go off to work for a foreign “security” company with dubious credentials.
There’s a huge disconnect between the mindset of the intelligence community and everyone else outside it. Considering the majority still lies with those on the outside, you’d think they’d make more of an effort to connect. But, as this statement, made to the PCLOB (Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board), indicates the gap hasn’t narrowed in the slightest.
Employees at the National Security Agency follow the same standards as controversial “stop and frisk” policies when accessing phone surveillance data, intelligence officials said Tuesday.
Though the agency collects data about all U.S. phone calls, NSA employees need to demonstrate “reasonable and articulable suspicion” when they want to access that phone call data.
“It’s effectively the same standard as stop and frisk,” NSA General Counsel Rajesh De said during a hearing held by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which supervises anti-terrorism surveillance programs.
It simply cannot be stressed enough that you need to choose your words wisely when discussing programs that are already suspected of violating civil liberties. Comparing them to something just as controversial only calls the programs into further question, not to mention Rajesh De’s judgement.
A board member called De out on this, pointing out the NYPD’s program is hardly without its problems, seeing as it’s currently the subject of multiple lawsuits including two high-profile cases in federal courts. Having been apprised of developments outside the intelligence bubble, the officials “amended their claim,” so to speak.
The intelligence officials defended their version of the process, saying that searches of the phone call database are subject to more oversight than police officers who stop and frisk people on the street.
Well, one would hope so, considering the particular “cops on the street” Rajash De compared NSA analysts to have had very little oversight over their program, which simply requires an officer to fill out a small form and check some boxes (“furtive movement”) in order to justify shoving someone up against the wall.
As it stands now (especially with the City’s stay being granted), stop and frisk hardly even needs “reasonable suspicion.” Supposedly the NSA does, but again, we’re expected to take officials’ word on this, and any references De (or anyone else) makes towards “oversight” should probably be ignored. “Oversight” is the ideal, not the reality. The same goes for the NYPD, which has been granted (like the NSA) an extremely long leash by indulgent overseers (Mayor Bloomberg/intelligence committees).
DNI counsel Robert Litt added that the “actual degree of intrusion” when the agency searches the (not officially a) collection is much less than that of a stop and frisk search. Well, I would hope so. For one thing, no one’s pockets are being turned out or having their crotch region manhandled. If they were, there’d be a whole lot fewer unnoticed privacy violations, much to the chagrin of Mike Rogers.
The NSA’s bulk record collections is facing plenty of legislative opposition as a result of Snowden’s leaks. Its own carelessness and abuse nearly cost the agency its metadata collections back in 2009 and it’s apparently unwilling to consider any limitations being placed on this program going forward. Dianne Feinstein has pitched in with an attempt to codify the collection into law, something that will make it a bit more politically unassailable, but in the meantime, multiple pieces of legislation have been introduced to control the NSA’s metadata dragnet.
The NSA has previously argued that it was allowed by section 215 of the Patriot Act to store millions of phone records of Americans in order to find potential terrorists and their connections inside the United States. A court found that NSA could hold onto the data on the grounds that it was relevant to terrorism inquiries. In theory, storing the data with the companies, instead of at the NSA, would allow the telcos to serve as a kind of privacy watchdog. They’d be in a position to examine the government’s requests for information about their customers and possibly to object to them in court.
But the intelligence lawyers warned that Americans’ would be subject to even greater privacy incursions if their personal information were stripped from NSA’s control.
You heard the man. Allowing telcos to store the collections onsite would cause greater harm to Americans’ privacy than allowing the NSA to store them in its databases where it can peruse them at its leisure. Putting telcos in control would mean additional legwork for the NSA, mainly because it would be limited to obtaining data actually relevant to its investigations, rather than just grabbing it all and hoping everything collected becomes “relevant” at an undetermined point in the future.
This would seem to give Americans a bit more privacy protection, but the ODNI doesn’t see it that way. The FBI’s general counsel backed up Litt’s theory with some speculation of his own.
Patrick Kelley, the acting general counsel of the FBI, said the phone company data could be made available to “other levels of law enforcement enforcement from local, state and federal who want it for whatever law enforcement purposes they’re authorized to obtain it.” He also raised a frightening prospect: “Civil litigation could also seek to obtain it for such things as relatively mundane as divorce actions,” he said. “Who’s calling who with your spouse … So if the data is kept only by the companies than I think the privacy considerations certainly warrants scrutiny.”
If Kelley believes this sort of scary “data sharing” would only be a possibility if telcos control the databases, then he’s obviously been ignoring the developments of the last few months. Not only does the NSA share data with agencies like the DEA, but it also encourages them to falsify how they acquired the information. So, this privacy “concern” of Kelley’s is already a reality — and all the more reason to limit access to collected metadata. And that doesn’t even touch the amount of data sharing it does with foreign countries, often in unminimized form. Furthermore, law enforcement can already access phone records as they’re covered by the Third Party Doctrine, the same doctrine both the NSA and the FBI have been taking advantage of for years.
Second, even if it would increase the amount of civil litigation, that still would offer greater overall protection for Americans’ phone data. How? Very simply. Litigation is targeted and data requests would be limited to those authorized by discovery. As it stands now, the NSA gets everything and is only limited by controls the NSA itself implements — and those internal checks on abuse are only as strong as the NSA’s statements to the FISA court claim they are.
And this fear of unfaithful partners’ phone records being “outed” by litigants is easily mitigated, as FP’s John Hudson points out.
Any act of Congress modifying the phone records database could include provisions prohibiting the use of telephone metadata for purposes not related to national security. And if lawmakers wanted to keep the information out of the hands of local police or civil attorneys, they could write a provision preserving its exclusive use by the NSA and the intelligence agencies.
This faux concern for the privacy of Americans is just another intelligence community dodge. Protecting privacy is only a concern when it’s politically advantageous or can be twisted into a defense of embattled collection programs. Litt and Kelley’s arguments are completely weightless. Worse, they both seem entirely unaware of the fact that recent revelations completely undercut their arguments. And yet, they approach an oversight board presumably familiar with these facts and make the arguments anyway.
This is just more evidence that the intelligence community is insular and self-absorbed, the result of many, many years of operating in complete secrecy. Its spokesmen and legal reps seem to be aware of nothing more recent than the latest talking points. These agencies are ultimately disinterested in protecting the privacy of Americans if it means scaling back their existing programs. Since they can’t have it both ways (protect privacy, keep programs intact), they will always opt for the latter.
M.G. in Greenbrae, CA must have been inspired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s quest for a porn-free Britain. The Prime Minister’s idealism has resulted in an insistence that all internet providers make access to porn “opt-in.” Anti-porn filters are on by default. For the children.
As the Daily Dot points out, M.G.’s petition for online porn blockage is likely to be severely short on support. For one, the US government has been generally opposed to regulating the internet in this fashion. Not that there aren’t plenty of little instances where legislators have imposed their will on internet communications, but by and large, a nationwide censoring of certain content is highly unlikely. For another, it’s highly unlikely a majority of Americans would be supportive of a plan that makes them ask, in writing, for their internet porn tap to be turned back on.
That being said, it’s a large nation with 300 million people, a certain percentage of which enjoy imposing their morality on others. 100,000 signatures isn’t completely out of the question. (Not that this will guarantee an administration response…)
But what is M.G. asking for, specifically? Here’s the entire petition, which is mercifully brief.
Require Porn to be an “Opt In” feature with Internet Service Providers rather than a standard feature.
Hang on. Let’s deal with the title first. I don’t believe any ISP offers porn as a “standard feature.” Yes, your internet access will provide you with a gateway to porn, but it’s not on the feature list right after the breakdown of your underachieving (but overpriced!) connection speed. So, “porn” isn’t a standard feature — it’s just something that’s available on the internet. And it’s far from the only thing.
In its current state, Internet porn seeks out users by email solicitations and massive amounts of free content throughout Internet browser searches. The average person, even children, can type in the word “cat” or “home” or “soup” and instantly be inundated with offensive and disturbing pornographic images. Parents and individuals have to go to great lengths to install Internet filters that often don’t weed out all porn. We are asking for greater protection and responsibility from Internet Service providers and our country. We are asking that people who are interested in porn should have to seek it and choose it. They should have to “Opt In” for it by making arrangements to receive it with their Internet Service Provider. Everyone else should be free from it and assumed “Opt Out”.
It would appear that M.G. has clicked through on some very questionable ads and linkbait and, worse, provided some sketchy forms with his or her email address. I have yet to receive a porn email solicitation — or at least, I haven’t received one in years. Anyone using a halfway competent email service will find these sorts of solicitations routed directly into their spam folder without ever being made aware of porn’s apparent ubiquity. Perhaps what’s sketchy here is M.G.’s email provider.
Following up this dubious assertion that “average people” (including children, which is what this is all about, innit?) can stumble across porn using words like “soup.” And “home.” You can, if so inclined, perform some iterations of everyday words that will allow you to “inadvertently” conjure up pornographic images, but for most people, using common words will return common search results, especially considering most search engines provide a “safe” search by default. Sure, you may find some edge leakage, but for the most part, searching for “soup” will net you soup-related images and links, not porn.
And then M.G. tanks the whole thing by complaining that parents have to make an effort to protect their average children from accidentally accessing soupporn, and notes that even these so-hard-to-use filters don’t even filter out all of the bad stuff. But then, M.G. ignores this gaping (soup) hole in his/her plan and arrives at a pair of bad conclusions.
1. ISPs are supposed to “protect” users. What? 2. The government can make a perfect porn-proof filter, even if private companies cannot. Wat.
This sounds like someone who wants to look at porn, but believes he (or she) shouldn’t and feels this “responsibility” should be entrusted to higher powers in order to protect he/she from his/her vices. Anyone can be almost completely free of porn (edge leaks excluded) with a minimum of effort. What M.G. wants is something that prevents users from accessing porn, even if they wantto. Signees want the government to force ISPs to be their conscience, so to speak.
Now, I won’t paint everyone in Utah with the same brush, but the state does have, shall we say, a prevailing religion. Now, like most religions, Mormons believe porn is “wrong.” Thus, it would follow that they’d like to see it blocked. But why would they feel the government should get involved, what with church and state and all that?
A study by a Harvard Business School professor shows that Utah outpaces the more conservative states — which all tend to purchase more Internet porn than other states…
Utah has the nation’s highest online porn subscription rate per thousand home broadband users, at 5.47, while the nearby states of Idaho and Montana showed the lowest rates of 1.98 and 1.92, respectively, according to the study.
All speculation, of course, but this looks a whole lot like a bunch of people want assistance curbing their vices. This puts the onus (a word that only sounds dirty) on someone else to put them on the path to righteousness. More “evidence?” The next two states listed most frequently are Idaho (Utah Lite) and Texas (a state that elected Rick Perry, someone who still makes political hay complaining about the disappearance of prayer from public schools).
Now, the petition is gaining new signatures at a slow but pretty steady pace, making it a long shot to make 100,000. But not impossible. So, there’s a slim chance the administration may have another petition to ignore (or talk around) by the end of November.
Conversely, if you’re one of those people completely unaffected by this sort of moral panic, you may be finding your internet is woefully inefficient when it comes to delivering the porn-y goodness. Good news! Someone out there, also inspired by David Cameron’s porn blocking, has compiled a bit of scripting to help you properly filter the internet [possibly NSFW – “denial” page contains hand-drawn penises] by swiftly separating the porn wheat from the overly-inhibited chaff (via Egg Miliband) by using a porn filter against itself.
The filter is a dns server which checks all queries against the OpenDNS FamilyShield DNS server. Any request that is denied by OpenDNS is then allowed by our DNS server, and any request allowed by OpenDNS is blocked by us.
The server itself is built using the python Twisted framework which handles both the DNS requests and acts as a simple web-server to host the denial page.
Here’s a brief video explaining the HOW. [Again, NSFW – penis drawings]