Tag Archives: Internet

Have We Reached The Tipping Point On Online Privacy?

Over the weekend The Los Angeles Times published a new poll suggesting that we may have reached the tipping point on online privacy, finally forcing policymakers to take notice and react to ease people’s concerns.

The USC Dornsife/Times poll found a stunning 82 percent of Californians say they are very or somewhat concerned about “companies collecting your personal information when you visit their websites or use their services.”

The new poll confirms a Consumer Watchdog’s poll findings nearly two years ago when we were battling to raise privacy issues as a priority that 84 percent of Americans favor preventing online companies from tracking personal information or web searches without your explicit approval. Ninety percent supported more laws to protect privacy.

The most damning aspect of the USC Dornsife/Times poll is the lack of trust shown in some of the tech world’s biggest brands.  Respondents  were asked to rate six on whether they trusted the companies to be responsible with personal information, with 0 meaning no trust and 10 meaning complete trust.

In a clear blow to the tech giants, none scored above 5.  Apple was highest with a score of 4.6, followed by Google at 3.8, LinkedIn at 3.0, YouTube (owned by Google) at 2.8.  Facebook was 2.7, just ahead of last place Twitter, 2.4.

Those are not numbers that any company who relies on consumers can possibly be pleased with, no matter how you spin it.  As Linda DiVall, president of American Viewpoint, the firm conducting the poll, told the Times:

“I thought the ratings were strikingly low. If I were involved with the branding image of those companies, I would be very concerned.”

That may be a reason industry is scrambling to appear more privacy friendly. A number of key players are participating in the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) effort to set a standard for a Do Not Track mechanism and what the obligations would be for a site to be compliant if it receives a DNT message.  Yahoo! last week said it will honor the standard and Google has finally agreed to offer the DNT option its browser, Chrome.  Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer already give users the option; the problem is that websites are under no obligation to honor the message.

But, as I said, I think we may have reached a tipping point on privacy.  In February the White House offered its privacy proposal, calling for a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.  Last week the Federal Trade Commission released its privacy report and strongly endorsed Do Not Track.

Conservative Rep. Joe Barton, (R-TX) told the Times that the poll “reaffirms my opinion that privacy is a big deal – and it’s becoming a bigger deal.” He is partnering with liberal Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) in sponsoring privacy legislation.

Silicon Valley’s premier companies have earned our distrust by continually playing fast and loose with our information. Google unilaterally changed its privacy policy and announced it will combine data across all its services.  It was then caught deliberately circumventing the Safari browser’s privacy settings. The point is that we’ve reached a tipping point, precisely because the companies have continued to invade our privacy.

We need to continue pushing back and demanding action from policymakers until we finally have regained control of our information. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz got it right when he said nobody has the right to put something on your computer without your permission. Now we need to make sure the Administration, Congress and the FTC enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy. If they don’t, in California at least, there is another option: a ballot initiative in 2014.

Darrell Issa teams with Ron Wyden to Protect the Internet

Republicans and Democrats join together to pursue a more balanced legislation toward piracy.

by Brian Leubitz

They say that even broken clocks are right twice a day, and perhaps that is what this is about.  However, Rep. Issa managed to hit upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart to be on the right side of the issue.  Who knows, maybe there is something pecuniary in it for him, but I’ll just go with the fact that he is right on the issue and move along.

So, what exactly is Rep. Issa, a target for much scorn around here, being a solid leader for?  Well, that would be the legislative question surrounding copyright and the Internet.  Specifically, a Senate bill called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and its House counterpart, the PROTECT IP Act.  Here’s a quick summary about the Internet Blacklist legislation from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

The “Stop Online Piracy Act”/”E-PARASITE Act” (SOPA) and “The PROTECT IP Act” (PIPA) are the latest in a series of bills which would create a procedure for creating (and censoring) a blacklist of websites. These bills are updated versions of the “Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act” (COICA), which was previously blocked in the Senate. Although the bills are ostensibly aimed at reaching foreign websites dedicated to providing illegal content, their provisions would allow for removal of enormous amounts of non-infringing content including political and other speech from the Web.

The various bills define different techniques for blocking “blacklisted” sites. Each would interfere with the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), which translates names like “www.eff.org” or “www.nytimes.com” into the IP addresses that computers use to communicate. SOPA would also allow rightsholders to force payment processors to cut off payments and advertising networks to cut ties with a site simply by sending a notice.

In the end, these bills could mean that America will have, much like China, a different internet than the rest of the world. Each of these two bills would endanger sites like DropBox or Box.net and even artist sites like Etsy.  Innovating new companies are likely to meet massive resistance from the oligopolies that run the copyright industries, and there is very little due process.  Domain names can simply be turned off at the drop of a hat, and you have to find a way to talk to somebody to get the site turned back on after the fact.

In other words, these two bills are an unworkable solution.  So, Rep. Issa and Sen. Wyden worked together to find a concept that would protect innovation while still working to protect rights holders and have released a concept bill called OPEN.  The bill might not be perfect, but it is a pretty good start.  Basically, the International Trade Commission would serve as a clearinghouse to review claims under OPEN.  Under SOPA, well, that would be banks and ISPs, large corporations that are entirely unaccountable to the people.

However, rather than dealing with OPEN honestly, the backers of SOPA resort to saying that OPEN “goes easy” on piracy. In response, Issa and Wyden launched KeepTheWebOPEN.com to solicit comments from the public, and in fact even invited the MPAA to mark up the bill.

“I’ve heard MPAA’s response to the #OPEN Act. I believe American artists and innovators – not to mention you, the digital citizen – deserve better than soundbites,” Issa said after the movie industry lobbying group argued the bill “goes easy on Internet piracy.” (The Hill)

DNS is too important to the Internet to monkey with, and the Internet is too important to our economy to rush into something before we know the consequences of those actions. We have a lot of legislation on online piracy already on the books, much of which was placed there in a pretty one-sided process. This time, let’s be sure to bring in all stakeholders in the issue to get a piece of balanced legislation that doesn’t “break the internet.”

The Fun Never Stops With Infographics

The fun never stops with infographics… this one is particularly interesting for those of us obsessed with politics – whether it’s local, state or national, voters are using the Internet to learn about candidates and issues. We’re beginning to see a solid link between voters clicking “Like” and filling out their ballots. Data release yesterday by local news aggregation site Topix makes a compelling case for new media as a medium for engaging, persuading and then – closing the deal.

This is definitely worth checking out:


The Genius of Broadband Is in the Innovation

There’s been a lot of talk in the wake of Steve Jobs’ passing about the future of innovation and the status of tech ingenuity in a post-Jobs world. It got us to thinking about what are the drivers of invention and innovation. Clearly, when it comes to technology, a single person’s brilliance has proven strong enough to shape and reshape, our cultural, social and tech landscape.

But what about for the other 99.9999% of us, the not-geniuses – what will we rely on to shape and reshape our own world and future – to change careers, start a business or connect with like-minded people? And what about those of us living in rural areas?

We found the beginnings of an answer in a recent post by Rick Boucher of the Internet Innovation Alliance, which makes the simple but profound point that: “This generation’s light bulb is broadband.” In short, with broadband access, all of us have the power to invent and innovate. Boucher uses telemedicine to make his case that

“high-speed Internet connectivity overcomes distance and enables transformative changes in the economy and quality of life for rural areas.”

Boucher puts it this way:

“Broadband breaks down barriers to modern day advancement. In terms of commerce, it enables nearly any business to be conducted from any wired location. Physical urban proximity to customers and suppliers, which once was the norm for businesses, is now unnecessary due to the virtual proximity created by a high-speed Internet connection–the same communications needs can be met and business operations completed whether located across a street or across an ocean.”

He goes on to site a new report conducted by the University of Texas Medical Branch Center that

“explores the potentially life-changing (and life-saving) benefits of widespread broadband deployment. The report, “Benefits of Telemedicine in Remote Communities and Use of Mobile and Wireless Platforms in Healthcare,” http://www.internetinnovation…. explores the role of telecommunications technologies in raising the bar for the quality of healthcare that Americans can access, particularly those in remote communities.”

This report is well worth checking out – it goes in-depth to examine

“how broadband connectivity has enabled progress in healthcare innovation and impacted real-world patients. Mobile platforms like modern smartphones, for example, can be connected wirelessly to physiologic monitors worn on a patient’s body or embedded into a patient’s garment. These new telehealth-related possibilities have translated into observable outcomes such as improved access to specialists, increased patient satisfaction, improved clinical outcomes, less crowded emergency rooms and cost savings.”

The report and Boucher’s blog are both good reads, and will make you reflect on the fact that “being away from the big city doesn’t have to mean being behind the big city” because broadband is the innovation that will fuel a new generation of innovation and advances.

Fun with Infographics

OK, we’ll admit it – we love a great infographic. And this one from the Internet Innovation Alliance is one of the best we’ve seen in a while. It makes the connection between broadband and jobs – the fact that more Americans than ever before rely on a fast, reliable connection to do their jobs. That more investment in broadband will yield hundeds of thousands of jobs. That… well, we could go on, but really you should just check it out for yourself.

A really great infographic on broadband and jobs! http://internetinnovation.org/…

Correcting the Record on LightSquared

Special interests are trying to distract attention from the facts.

For eight years, LightSquared has navigated the regulatory process to win approvals to build America’s first privately funded coast-to-coast wireless broadband service. LightSquared’s plan to invest billions of dollars to use its frequencies for an integrated ground-space network has been supported by both Republican and Democratic regulators –Michael Powell and Kevin Martin, FCC Chairmen appointed by President Bush,and Julius Genachowski, the FCC Chairman appointed by President Obama. In fact, the regulatory approvals that paved our way came in the mid-2000’s, during the Bush administration under Powell and Martin.

Regulators from both parties understand LightSquared’s approach will create more competition in the marketplace, put downward pressure on the prices paid by consumers, create good paying jobs in the tech sector, and give Americans access to the most modern cellular technology. LightSquared’s plan has drawn bipartisan support because it’s right for the country.

Any suggestion that LightSquared has run roughshod over the regulatory process is contradicted by the reality of eight long years spent gaining approvals. Just this week, there has been another request from the government for an additional round of testing of LightSquared’s network.

We understand that some in the telecom sector fear the challenges for their business model that LightSquared presents. We understand the opposition of some in the GPS industry; many of their devices “squat” on someone else’s spectrum and while technological fixes are readily available, some companies are loath to make the necessary engineering changes and would instead prefer to get access to someone else’s spectrum for free.

It’s also ludicrous to suggest LightSquared’s success depends on political connections. This is a private company that has never taken one dollar in taxpayer money. About $10,600 sits in the LightSquared PAC. The founder of LightSquared has given to candidates in both political parties in the last eight years, with two thirds of his contributions going to Republicans because of the founder’s free market philosophy. It’s difficult to charge that LightSquared has undue political influence when it was denied the opportunity to testify at the recent hearing of the House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee – or even be allowed a one-on-one meeting with the chariman of that committee prior to the hearing, as the GPS industry was given.

This entrepreneurial company is poised to create as many as 15,000 jobs as it spends $8 billion to help provide American consumers with cheaper, better cell service. It’s time Washington politicians stop using LightSquared as a piñata. Smart engineers, not political rhetoric, should decide LightSquared’s fate.

If LightSquared is blocked from entering the wireless market, consumers will lose out on the benefits of a new source of more competition, better service and lower prices.

Merger Boils Down to Jobs and Access

There are a lot of opinions being debated about the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile USA merger. From where we stand here in California, it really boils down to two things: jobs and access. Bill Burrato in a Guest Op-Ed in the Pacific Coast Business Times got it right. Whether you live in Ventana or Ventura,

“AT&T’s recently announced plan to acquire T-Mobile is great news for the Central Coast.”

Pointing to the increase of telecommuting, Buratto goes on to say:

“Businesses today are becoming more and more dependent on effective and reliable broadband speeds and seamless coverage throughout the community. Now, it is more common for business to be done by using virtual and electronic communications services. The use of state-of-the-art information technology to conduct business is no longer a competitive advantage, it is a necessity.

The good news is that we no longer have to be tied to our offices. However, we need to make sure that small and large businesses are able to be flexible and mobile when it comes to conducting business wirelessly. Two major technology providers like these coming together would mean that the communications that are at the very core of success for all of our businesses will be more reliable, faster and effective.”

It’s about technology. Or as Buratto puts it

“Simply put, this proposed acquisition will provide technological advancements businesses need to compete on a global level.

This acquisition will help us maintain our state’s competitiveness by giving us expanded and reliable access to high-speed wireless services. Not only will these enhancements to the network infrastructure support innovation, it will help our state continue to cultivate start-up companies that need the most competitive edge to succeed.”

And it’s about rural access:

“This acquisition will help people, companies and institutions in rural communities in California. It’s important that customers in smaller markets have access to technology offered in major metro areas. This acquisition will do that in a significant way, by making LTE technology available to more Californians, no matter where they live.”

Expanding network capacity and accelerating faster speeds to more people in more locations will not only benefit our businesses but it will also benefit residents. In the wake of all the major disasters that have happened over the past couple of years, VCEDA has promoted disaster preparedness to businesses and communities. The strength of the two networks will provide customers with more robust disaster recovery capabilities than we would receive in the absence of this acquisition.

“This merger is great news. It means better service and greater access to fast wireless Internet services. And it means a better and a brighter future for all of our businesses.”

It really is as simple as that. The merger is about creating jobs and expanding access for Californians.