Dec 172016

The following was recently published on Techdirt, although with a different title.

Regardless of what one thinks about the apparent result of the 2016 election, it will inevitably present a number of challenges for America and the world. As Mike wrote about last week, they will inevitably touch on many of the tech policy issues often discussed here. The following is a closer look at some of the implications (and opportunities) with respect to several of them, given the unique hallmarks of Trump and his proposed administration. Continue reading »

Mar 152015

I was asked by someone to comment on an opinion article lambasting the recent FCC action to regulate Internet broadband under Title II. Some of the rhetoric surrounding Net Neutrality is so polarized, he observed, that he couldn’t tell fact from hyperbole and was hoping I could demystify what is going on. As I started writing down my thoughts, they began to take the shape of a blog post, which follows here.

The infrastructure allowing people to connect to the Internet is, by and large, in the hands of a few private commercial entities who have figured out that it might be profitable for them to prioritize certain network traffic over other traffic if those originating this content pay them for this prioritization. The worry here is that content prioritization inherently also amounts to content discrimination. If this practice is allowed to continue, such that the only content Internet users can effectively access is that which is produced by moneyed players able to pay for its prioritization, all the grassroots voices or start-up businesses that also depend on the Internet to have their content disseminated, but cannot afford to pay for the broadband carriers for it, will effectively be drowned out.

Of course, not everyone believes that this sort of scenario is something to get worked up over, and this view shows up in the net neutrality debates. But increasingly the attitude of “Net Neutrality? Who cares?” seems to be largely marginalized. Public opinion (especially ever since the John Oliver soliloquy) seems to be of the view that for the Internet to remain the valuable resource it is, entities providing access to it should allow for the transmission all content equally. President Obama has also come out publicly in support of this view, and at least the three FCC commissioners who ended up voting for the Title II classification appear to share it as well.

Essentially the debate has now moved from “should we have Net Neutrality?” to “how do we achieve Net Neutrality?” The problem now is, though, that while we may want a free and open Internet, it’s not entirely clear how we get it.
Continue reading »

Dec 142011

The New York Times reports that California has established a division to investigate and prosecute cybercrimes such as identity theft, Internet scams, computer theft, online child pornography and intellectual property theft. The unit already has been handling several dozen cases and joins Texas, Florida and Louisiana in having such units, although California’s scope and mandate will be much broader. (Texas’s and Florida’s cybercrime units focus almost exclusively on online child pornography.)

Per the article, this move was prompted by the difficulty in prosecuting these types of multi-jurisdictional crimes at the local level.

Take the case of George Bronk, a Sacramento-area man, who was sentenced to four years in prison in July for hacking into the e-mail and Facebook accounts of women and blackmailing them with indecent pictures and videos. His victims spanned at least 17 states. Initial attempts to report the blackmail to local law enforcement often proved futile because it could not be tied to any one jurisdiction.

“The unique aspect of technology is that it knows no jurisdictional boundary,” [State Attorney General Kamala] Harris said in an interview Tuesday. “We want to ensure Internet crimes don’t drop off simply because it wasn’t clear for local law enforcement, or the consumer, where to go because an incident occurred in the cloud.”

There appear to be some considerable upsides to this new arrangement: resources can now be allocated more efficiently to deal with crimes that impact more than one area, and the knowledgebase necessary to properly investigate and prosecute them can also be developed in a central location. Also, at least in theory, it may lessen abuse: I know of at least one example, although one from another state, where police in one county deliberately lured defendants into their jurisdictions through online “stings” (I use the word “sting” lightly, as from all accounts “entrapment” would have been more accurate) in order to be able to prosecute them. Having these enforcement powers centralized and more visible would help alleviate similar risk in California.

On the other hand, as the cited example shows, cybercrimes are often Internet crimes, and the Internet is not contained within the state of California. It may be an open question as to the extent California has a duty or right to enforce some of these matters.

Dec 102011

From ZDNet, reports that the Dutch government is avoiding doing business with US cloud providers out of concern that the USA PATRIOT Act could make any data it stores subject to disclosure, in possible contravention of European data protection law.

Discussed by the European Parliament’s Privacy Platform earlier this month, the Patriot Act is being investigated by European authorities, after Gordon Frazer, managing director of Microsoft UK, exclusively told ZDNet that the Redmond-based company must comply with Patriot Act requests, and other companies with a U.S. presence must do also.

This contravenes European law, which states that organisations cannot pass on user data to a third-party outside the European zone without the users’ permission.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, Dutch minister Ivo Opstelten asserted that, in response to previous questions (Dutch): “This basically means that companies from the United States in such bids and contracts are excluded.”

Dec 082011

An American citizen has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for having posted criticism of the Thai king online. From Yahoo News:

Gordon, a former car salesman, is accused of having translated excerpts from the unauthorized biography “The King Never Smiles,” published by Yale University Press, into the Thai language and publishing them in a blog. He also provided links to the translation to other two Web forums, prosecutors say. Continue reading »