Posts tagged FREEDOM
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer is the head of the United States’ delegation to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). That means he’s the man debating and discussing critical Internet issues on behalf of America’s more than 300 million citizens.
After day five of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, Kramer, whose background includes 25 years of experience in the telecommunications sector, spoke to ReadWrite about the major issues at stake, the debate process and a potential positive outcome to a meeting many consider the death knell of the Internet.
Kramer worries that some countries are trying to co-opt the conference from advancing telecom issues to regulating Internet communications under that umbrella. If the organization’s terminology is changed to allow governments the same designations as traditional telecom providers, many observers fear that could be the end of a free and open Internet.
What’s At Stake
ReadWrite: Terminology is a big issue. What might happen if the term “operating agency” was changed to include large telecom operators?
Terry Kramer: The fundamental issue here is whether the Internet is included in the review or not. All this terminology – “recognized operating agencies” versus “operating agencies” – have to do with what type of organizations are subject to these regulations. “Recognized operating agencies” (are) traditional providers of telecommunication services. “Operating agencies” is a much broader term. It includes private networks which would include a variety of Internet players, cloud computing players, ham radio operators. It would also include government networks. Whether the Internet is included or not, is what’s being discussed, and it’s creating a lot of debate and issue. The conference was set up to just focus on telecom sectors. And what’s happened is in proposals such as the one that’s come from Russia, a variety of countries in the Arab states, Africa, etc., what they’re saying is there’s convergence today and the Internet should be part of all this.
RW: What’s the threat there?
Kramer: The problem is that people have ulterior motives when they want to include the Internet. It’s a very slippery slope that starts allowing governments, potentially, to be able to see what things people are looking at. All the traffic routing allows them to see what’s going on. Now individual countries can do whatever they want for their national sovereignty. We don’t want something going into a global treaty that validates practices that we don’t agree with. So we put forward a proposal a little over a week ago that said the foundation issue that we see here is dealing with this issue of whether the Internet is included or not. If we can’t get comfort on that, then the proceedings, the discussions, are going to be very difficult because every single issue we negotiate is going to have the risk of the Internet being mixed in there.
RW: What is the downside of having the Internet looped into that “operating agency” term?
Kramer: There’s an economic downside and it’s also a free speech downside. You’re basically opening the door for the government to get into the business of managing the Internet. Once governments do that, you have to say ‘what are these governments like, and what will they do,’ and the concern from a democracy/free speech standpoint is we don’t want to validate a practice of governments being able to look at what people are seeing and doing. People should be free on the Internet, the Internet itself should be free – free flow of information – without risk of any type of censorship.
The separate issue is a commercial one. If the Internet gets mixed in here, there have been some proposals that have put forth what’s called “sending parties pay regimes,” which basically say if you’re a content developer or an app developer and you have an app or content you want to send internationally, you’d have to pay a fee to have that traffic delivered. Networks abroad, whether they be in Africa, Europe, wherever, they would have the right to charge a fee for receiving that traffic and delivering it to the end user. The big worry is you’ll have a lot of players that won’t send traffic abroad… From a commercial standpoint, it would have a chilling effect on the whole Internet base.
The Big Issues
RW: What’s your take on the deep-packet inspection issue?
Kramer: Deep packet inspection was designed to look at how networks are performing. But what’s happened is that there’s a clear capability of deep packet inspection to go down to an individual user basis. Instead of aggregating traffic and anonymizing it and saying ‘now I know my network’s overloaded here or it’s not here,’ it’s actually going down and saying ‘I know Adam is using this amount of capacity and by the way, Adam is using YouTube clips, Adam’s on Amazon.’ And all of a sudden it opens the door to monitor it. It violates peoples’ privacy rights.
RW: Any other major issues on the table: Fraud and misuse, quality of service, charging rates?
Kramer: The big ones are the Internet being included or not, that’s the first and most fundamental.
The “sending party pays regime” we talked about is number two. That’s an issue of are content players are going to get charged.
The third one is cybersecurity. Countries have said, “Hey, our networks are being attacked,” and we agree, that’s a legitimate issue. But we fundamentally don’t agree that one organization, one government, the ITU, owns exclusive rights to dealing with that issue. Multi-stake holder organizations, the IFTF and WC3, a lot of these independent organizations that are open to other countries, they’re the best ones to deal with Internet issues. They’ve got technical expertise, they’re agile, they’re open to others, they’re not a government-based organization.
RW: So then the U.S. stance would be to keep the status quo of what we had before, of ICANN and those other organizations being the regulators?
Kramer: I don’t know if I would call it status quo. I would call it supporting multi-stakeholder organizations and continuing to support the growth.
RW: Those other issues you mentioned, do we have a date when we think those are goig to be resolved?
Kramer: We don’t. It could end up that it’s a package that gets reviewed all together. And that would be my guess. But again we won’t know until later next week.
RW: You’re the head of the U.S. delegation. Does that mean you’re the only person on behalf of the U.S. that’s voting on these issues?
Kramer: We have a U.S. delegation of 120 people. Roughly 50 people in the U.S. government, another 40 that are industry, another 10 that are civil society. So at the end of the day I’m responsible for representing the U.S. to other nations in negotiating. Now I obviously work with a lot of different government agencies. The Commerce Department, the State Department, the FCC, they all have interests, so they all submit feedback.
RW: For every consensus ruling on an issue, even if it’s something “bad” that happens, it still has to come back to each country for legislatures to basically vote on, correct?
Kramer: That’s right. Each country has to decide what they’re going to implement. This is not the end of the world in terms of the final things that get decided. The most important thing is the values that this sets. The reason we’re taking this thing so seriously is even though countries can do what they want, to have something in a document that says governments have the right to review traffic, to monitor (or) charge for traffic being delivered, would set a terrible precedent.
RW: What fundamental changes to how the Internet works do you see coming out of this conference?
Kramer: I think number one, if we can get to a point and say the Internet’s not part of this, which has been the goal all along, the goal that Hamadoun Touré, the secretary general had said. We need to talk about the advancement of international communications, not the Internet communications. If that happened, that’s a good outcome, because we have advanced on the communications side. We’ve also been able to reach agreement in that area and keep the Internet out. I think having an explicit discussion of the criticality of the Internet needing to be free. Not governed, not regulated, not controlled by governments. That would be a fundamental breakthrough.
RW: And if that doesn’t happen?
Kramer: It’s going to be an interesting set of discussions going forward because you’ve got very different camps. Ones that want to control the Internet, and ones that want to say “let it be free.” And it’ll be an interesting set of discussions afterwards…
RW: So what do you think is going to happen?
Kramer: I don’t know. I really don’t know. Everybody’s very motivated to try to get to a successful outcome. One of the things I think that should be considered seriously here is: Can there be a higher level agreement here about what we’re trying to accomplish, advancing communications and not get into Internet discussions. Because that’s all the controversy. Keeping this high-level, the importance of the communications area, that would be a great outcome.
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The highly prized freedom of speech came with the cost of an American Ambassador’s life. On Monday night, Muslim radicals attacked the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya and killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of the State Department staff. Subsequent investigation of the incident has uncovered that the coordinated attack was [...]
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In a blog post late last week, Twitter announced plans to begin censoring users’ tweets within certain countries. The censorship policy, which the company has stated is reactive only, will not filter tweets before they appear on Twitter. Instead, after Twitter receives what they view as a valid and applicable legal request concerning a specific [...]
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“You can always opt out,” said the fellow at the other end of the table, reminding me of that most priceless freedom which the Internet, in all its majesty, has given me, given us, given the people. “If you don’t want to share anything with anyone, hell, why would you join a social network at all?”
And therein lay the small print, the disclosure at the other end of the asterisk. Opting out* is already carrying with it a social stigma, the personal choice to remain behind doors with locks and windows with shutters, to not be One of Us. At the same time, it is the new symbol of American freedom as professed by its right wing, the inalienable right for each of us to exit, to withdraw, to take the door other fools would take: the right to do the wrong thing.
“In most cases…”
“When users first install one of the new Open Graph apps with auto-publishing capabilities, they’re asked for persistent permission to report their activity back to Facebook through a system called frictionless sharing,” reads Facebook’s official description. “They can set the privacy of their shared content to buckets such as ‘public,’ or choose a specific friend list to share with. In most cases, though, users simply choose the default of ‘friends only.’” Isn’t it good to know what the majority of users will do so that you never have to make the wrong choice? If only all voting worked like that.
“From then on, whenever users engage with the app or Facebook-integrated Web site, their activity is published to the home page’s Ticker, their profile or profile Timeline, and in some cases the news feed,” Facebook continues. “Typically, there is no way to preemptively hide or opt out of sharing a specific activity, such as listening to an embarrassing song or reading a controversial news article. Users must go to their profile and manually delete the post, but by then some friends may have already seen the activity in the real-time Ticker.”
Thus far, the discussion about Facebook’s accelerated implementation of this feature has centered around whether it is “ruining sharing,” as CNET’s Molly Wood contends; exploiting sharing, as RWW’s Marshall Kirkpatrick believes; or redefining sharing, as RWW’s Richard MacManus argues. If I may interject a fourth point of view: Since when have we forfeited the right to define sharing for ourselves without either the status or stigma of “opting out?”
Up to now, I haven’t felt the need to “share” with the world what I eat, where I walk, what I listen to or read, on what point of the Earth I stand or sit. It’s nothing personal; as a journalist, I just seem to have this inner feeling that you don’t actually care. One of the skills that comes with journalism is filtering out unimportant information. If I were to write an article about my music listening habits on a day-to-day basis (“On Monday starting at 11:28 a.m. I listened to Joe Bonamassa, followed by Chris Smither, then Diana Krall…”) you would not stick around to read the complete list. You would rightly ask, what kind of conceited maniac shares everything short of his own bowel movements with the general public?
Well, if you would rather I not “share” this information with you in a blog post, then under whose content quota am I obligated to “share” it with you through some social channel? Of course, as Facebook reminds us, “in most cases” other people with more sense than I will share with “friends only.” Explain to me how that makes sense, that the outgoing data feed I would filter for my regular readers’ benefit should remain unfiltered for my friends’.
We used to speak with one another, but now through the convenience of electronics, we can enable a service to do that for us. Or, in the alternative, we may opt out. The point where “sharing” drifts away from pure communication, and toward Aldous Huxley’s searingly prescient vision of thousands of couples simultaneously fornicating in glass houses under spotlights, is what blogger Robert Scoble calls “the Freaky Line.” The ability for Facebook to strategically relocate this line, as it is appearing to do once again with “frictionless sharing,” is described by Scoble as “Zuckerberg’s brilliance.” Through the movement of this line, he continues, “the media comes to us.”
Once we have ceded the responsibility for maintaining our “Freaky Lines” to an outside entity, so that media and other junk can save us from the inconvenience of having to make choices for ourselves, when can we expect those lines to stop being moved on our behalf? Keep in mind that Facebook is actively experimenting with the Internet of Things protocol (MQTT), with creating an exchange mechanism for everyday devices that may be used by members. On the day that RFID-empowered groceries enable me to walk out of the grocery store and pay for them automatically, do I want the contents of my grocery cart to be published on Facebook? What’s my heart rate right now; did you ever wonder? When I try on a pair of jeans, do I want the world to see, “Scott Fulton is trying on a pair of 501s!” When I trip down a public staircase, should my personal feed announce to the world, “ROTF?” When I run out of gas on a highway, should you know the mile marker?
If none of this information coming from me is important to you, then why should the converse be any more valuable? If you would not open your windows and doors to voyeurs hiding in the bushes, why would you illuminate every detail of your life online? When do you decide to opt out, to choose the wrong door, drop out of the club, make the non-preferred choice? When do you exercise the freedom to speak for yourself and not have your life be spoken for you by some bot in the name of targeted advertising? When and where do you start drawing the lines again?
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We do this dance at least twice a year now, and we’re starting to get the steps so well memorized that once we hear the familiar tune, we start stepping to the beat without a moment’s thought. It’s the Anti-piracy Shuffle, and one defining element of its choreography is that we always end up right where we started.
Here’s how it goes: You can’t run an Internet server that trafficks in illicit content to American clients, from American soil, without violating American law. Makes sense. The magic of the Internet lets someone in America run a server in another country, whose domain may be registered in yet another country, that sends illicit content to American downloaders. It’s impossible to prosecute one downloader without prosecuting all of them, otherwise you run into the selective prosecution defense.
The government tried to create a way to go after the Internet service providers that direct clients to these illicit addresses. What the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which some considered evil when it was passed) managed to do was provide ISPs with an iron-clad defense: If they do not know what all their customers are downloading because there are just too many of them, then they cannot be held complicit in copyright violation. It’s the basis of the safe harbor defense, and it gives ISPs good reason not to pry into customers’ online behavior.
From the perspective of a legislator or justice official trying to resolve the piracy issue, safe harbor has become an unexpected obstacle. Suddenly, all the world’s traffic passes through a set of points whose administrators can effectively claim no responsibility for their content. If only ISPs could be provoked to make some effort to look in the general direction of their customers, perhaps that would be just enough to dissolve the safe harbor defense. Then the Justice Dept. might have the leverage it needs to thwart Internet traffic around pirate sites. Otherwise, the DOJ cannot legally force ISPs to do what the DMCA protects them from having to do.
Last year’s effort by the Senate to rustle up something enticing for ISPs came in the form of legislation called the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). Had it become law, this bill would have empowered the DOJ to post a blacklist of suspected illicit content traffickers. It then would have granted immunity from prosecution to ISPs that voluntarily take pre-emptive steps to redirect or otherwise stop access to these traffickers’ addresses.
Cue the music, and the Anti-Piracy Shuffle began. Nothing less than the First Amendment principle of free speech hung in the balance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation told reporters, including myself. Because once an ISP has the incentive to direct Internet traffic however it wants, we were told, it can dictate what you can and cannot see on the Web. Having some overlord look over your shoulder at what you’re reading, recording every button click and hyperlink, is inherently undemocratic.
Was the irony of the online movement against this law being organized on Facebook lost on everyone except myself?
This year’s round of the Shuffle changes the sheet music somewhat but not the tune. In the Senate’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the blacklist provision is gone entirely. (Remind me again how anyone thought a legally supported blacklist was good politics.) But the immunity provision remains. Keep in mind that this immunity enticement promises that DOJ will not prosecute ISPs for complicity in acts of trafficking which it cannot prosecute them for anyway.
But cue the music anyway. The EFF’s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry wrote on Wednesday, “Web sites that simply don’t do enough to police infringement (and it is not at all clear what would qualify as ‘enough’) are now under threat, even though the DMCA expressly does not require affirmative policing. It creates new enforcement tools against folks who dare to help users access sites that may have been ‘blacklisted,’ even without any kind of court hearing.”
While McSherry is correct in stating the bill is an effort to circumvent safe harbor, the blacklist from COICA is gone, even though her complaint is not. And the bill’s explicit language against obstructing free speech is called into question as a gimmick, a ruse to hide its implicit intent as a speech squelching mechanism.
Protecting your assets
As Gen. George B. McClellan learned in the Civil War, when you devote all your efforts to defending your frontier, you leave your core assets unprotected.
EFF needs to take a wider-angle view of what’s really going on here. Like an unwilling magnet, it gravitates too easily toward the infringement of speech argument. Which, in turn, triggers all the outbursts you read today about declaring war on the Internet, eating Internet freedoms for breakfast, and endangering the future of humanity. It’s people who hold copyrights versus you, the poor consumer, whose only crime may have been the occasional sampling of a gigabyte or two of some torrent downloads.
Everyone’s still dancing to music that has already stopped. The complaints roll on, even though the language they complain about has been changed or deleted.
- The blacklist is gone.
- The part about requiring ISPs to block access without a court order, may be found in a paragraph preceded by the following heading: “After being served with a copy of an order pursuant to this subsection…”
- The bill would reward ISPs for taking measures on their own, not out of pressure but instead from (as yet unsubstantial) enticement.
We keep doing the same Dance of Doom so eagerly, like chickens in a Pavlovian experiment, that we don’t take stock of what’s really going on here. The opportunity existed, years ago, for the producers of content to build an enticing and engaging system of fair digital distribution, where customers paid a reasonable amount to see, use, or maybe own content. And Apple built it instead. Now that the content industry no longer has the opportunity to build the walls that keep customers in, perhaps it can build the walls to keep pirates out.
We saw how that movie ended already. The anti-piracy controls on Blu-ray are both a tragedy and a joke. Could the industry work with ISPs to build voluntary content management schemes? Obviously not; we saw how the whole net neutrality scenario played out, too. So who’s open to discussion on this, other than… Congress.
Congress! This is the same government body that can’t quite get its heads together on deciding lunch. Folks, if the greatest threat to our civil rights to organize an anti-behavioral-monitoring campaign on Facebook comes from Congress, we’re in better shape than we might think.
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As promised back in May, multiple APK support has now arrived in the Android Market. Originally said to be launching in June, the actual arrival took a bit longer, it seems. The new publishing option will allow developers to maintain separate copies of their apps for different devices, whether those are tablets, phones, TVs or otherwise. Developers can also use this feature to offer apps optimized for different chipsets or OS platform versions.
At this year’s Google I/O conference in San Francisco, Eric Chu, Mobile Platforms Program Manager at Google, told developers that the company will launch multiple APK support in June 2011. This was the same conference where Google announced that there were currently 310 different types of Android devices in the world. In other words, there’s a lot to code for.
While this change is beneficial to developers who want to offer users the option to install both the tablet and the phone version of an app without having to purchase it twice, it can also be used to offer more narrowly targeted variations, like phone-specific apps. Or even, heaven forbid, phone-specific apps by Android OS version.
Freedom or Fragmentation?
The introduction of the feature is both a blessing and curse, in many ways. It indicates that Android, as a platform, is so varied that in some cases, one APK won’t work on all phones, much less all devices. For some developers with high-performing applications, they will may even go so far as to develop apps optimized for different GPUs.
But is this a fragmentation problem or the end result of an open platform? Probably both.
And how much of this problem will be solved, at least on the software side, by the forthcoming “Ice Cream Sandwich” Android OS, which aims to merge Gingerbread and Honeycomb at last? We don’t know.
In the meantime, develoeprs can upload their multiple APKs and the Market will automatically select the appropriate version for the cusotmer. The product listing will aggregate the app details, ratings and comments across the APKs, however, which frankly seems a little unfair, or at least troublesome. One bad, crash-prone APK out of several uploaded could lead to overwhelming negative reviews and down ratings – something developers should be aware of before jumping to upload experimental versions.
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Freedom SEO Launches SEO Reseller Program In Australia
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A French court fined Google 430,000 Euros for four breaches of copyright, while the Spanish courts are considering referring a ‘right to be forgotten’ case involving 80 instances to the European Court of Justice.
“We’re pleased that the [Spanish] court is considering asking guidance from Europe’s top court on whether Spain’s [data-protection agency] has overridden European law. It shows that key issues are at stake,” Peter Barron, Google’s head of European external relations, said in a statement,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
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File this under I for Internet Freedom. Or I for Irony. (You decide.)
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs have announced a Joint Request for Statements of Interest (SOI) from organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that support Internet freedom under the “Governing Justly and Democratically” Foreign Assistance program objective.
This isn’t a formal Request for Proposals, as the bureaus will invite select organizations that submit SOIs to expand on their ideas, submitting full proposals at a later date.
The State Department says it’s interested in projects that “foster freedom of expression and the free flow of information on the Internet and other connection technologies in East Asia, including China and Burma; the Near East, including Iran; Southeast Asia; the South Caucasus; Eurasia, including Russia; Central Asia; Latin America, including Cuba and Venezuela; and Africa. Programming may support activities in Farsi, Chinese, Russian, Burmese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, French, and other languages spoken in acutely hostile Internet environments. Concepts may be global in nature, regional or country-specific.”
The projects should support digital activists, according to the announcement, and should include at least one of the following activities:
- Counter-censorship technology
- Secure mobile communications
- Digital safety training
- Building the technology capacity of digital activists and civil society in hostile Internet environments in the Near East
- Virtual open Internet centers
- Emergency funding
- Internet public policy
The State Department’s interest in these sorts of projects points to its recognition in the importance of Internet technologies in fostering freedoms and expanding democracy – both on and offline.
But the timing of the announcement rings a little hollow as the Obama Administration weighs charging WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange for violation of the Espionage Act for his work, particularly as many elements of WikiLeaks appear on this list of digital activism.
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Freedom SEO rank page 1 on Google for SEO within 6 months
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