Spend 2 minutes to learn why net neutrality is more important than you think

Website throttling
Your favorite website will be in the “Everyone Else” lane if Net Neutrality is lost Source: Iowa State Daily
Washington Post gives a neat synopsis of what The People stand to lose if Trump appointed Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gets his wish and finds a way to reverse the Obama era protections establishing net neutrality, which WaPo defines as, “the regulations that forbid Internet providers from blocking or slowing Internet traffic.”

The rules, approved by the FCC during the Obama administration, classified Internet providers as “common carriers” — a move that allowed the agency to regulate those companies more strictly than before. In addition to banning the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic, the regulations also gave the FCC the ability to investigate business practices among Internet providers that it deemed potentially anticompetitive.

Supporters of the regulations argue that they are a vital consumer protection that prevents Internet providers from abusing their strategic position between Internet users and the rest of the Web. Without strong regulations, they say, Internet providers will be free to raise costs for consumers — such as charging customers extra to keep their personal data private, or to be able to view certain websites or use certain apps. Meanwhile, advocates say, ISPs could be allowed to charge website owners extra fees to reach consumers’ screens, and determine what apps and services may flourish online.

Why the TPP’s so bad, and why you should care

EFF on TPP
Info on TPP found at the EFF website
You know the part where they teach you that we are citizens of a democracy – which means free speech, civil rights for all and fairness in our justice and commerce systems?

No matter what we might be duking out on United States soil in regards to what that means for People of Color, women, transgender folk and whatnot .. what would our lives be like if those rights were permanently taken away from all of us, permanently .. and control over them were given not even to foreign governments, but to major corporations instead of any government at all?

That’s what the TPP is.

The EFF shares a lot more. Is EFF a credible source of information? I think so. Learn more about them at Technopedia (this is just a snippet of the info they serve up) and make up your own mind:

The group’s objective is to confront cutting-edge digital rights issues by defending privacy, free speech, consumer rights and invention.

EFF is a partner in Our Fair Deal coalition, which explains how international law affects you:

The changes to copyright required by the TPP would reduce our access to information and restrict our ability to innovate, both on and offline.

Changing our copyright laws in ways that restrict the open Internet and economic opportunity are unfair to citizens, businesses, creators, and civil society organizations. Not only could such changes raise prices for users of copyright works, but they could also stifle our knowledge economy and chill innovation.

There are lots of petitions circulating to protest the TPP. Sign all of them, starting here.

Google maps search for N***** House returned: the White House

google maps search for n**** House yields White HouseIt’s an embarrassment to the search giant that Google Maps produced highly inappropriate racist results, even though it happened because racist terms are often shared on the internet. A Wired reporter explains:

It was discovered that when searching for “n***a house” and “n***a king,” Maps returned a surprising location: the White House. A search for “slut’s house” led to an Indiana women’s dorm. Initially, you may have suspected this to be the work of a lone vandal, or even a coordinated campaign. But Google Maps gave racist, degrading results not because it was compromised, but because the internet itself is racist and degrading … It … means that if enough people online refer to a specific place using vile epithets, even one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States can be reduced to racist garbage.

Google got plenty of egg plastered on its face. Executives apologized and removed the offensive results, but some feel they shouldn’t be let off the hook too easily. LovelyTi makes good points:

One Google VP offered an apology:

Following the PR nightmare of the racist Google Maps search for “n—- house” that landed users at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Google has issued an official apology. A blog post by vice president of Engineering and Product Management Jen Fitzpatrick begins, “This week, we had some problems with Google Maps, which was displaying results for certain offensive search queries. Like many of you, we were deeply upset by this issue, and we are fixing it now. We apologize this has taken some time to resolve, and want to share more about what we are doing to correct the problem.”

But after two days, there was still no glowing news to share about Google’s reaction to the White House gaffe:

…Google Maps users were alarmed by the the very disturbing discovery that searching the racial slur “n—- king” directed them to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, or as it’s more commonly known, the White House. The same results were achieved with a search for “n—- house.” If anyone needed proof of the ongoing existence of racism in the United States, there are now literally directions for it.
Following this overt display of racism, poor taste, and all around foolishness, Google announced that they were “temporarily disabling editing on Map Maker” as they “continue[d] to work towards making the moderation system more robust.” A spokesperson for the tech company stated, “Some inappropriate results are surfacing in Google Maps that should not be, and we apologize for any offense this may have caused. Our teams are working to fix this issue quickly.”

Unfortunately, the issue does not appear to have been fully resolved quite yet, as a current search of “n—- house” still zooms in on the presidential residence.

Seems to be corrected now, though. When I tried the search myself at 2:30 am on May 25 no objectionable results turned up.

BIGGER attacks on internet freedom

People have a right to privacy and also a right to develop our own minds and make thoughtful decisions. Every time major corporations and governments acquire one more way to track our activities and interests, compile statistics about what we like and what we do, and use that information to control our behaviour by limiting us, selling us and brainwashing us, our independence as autonomous beings is eroded. Privacy is not something we can give up on fighting for.

They’re still trying to pass a version of SOPA/PIPA – under the national radar

Why did Congress back off of trying to pass SOPA/PIPA legislation? In case you don’t understand how bad SOPA/PIPA are, here’s a fantastic explanation of what it’s all about for “privacy, liberty loving American(s)”. I guess it wasn’t because we scared politicians with massive protests and the blackout of many internet sites. Only days later, individual states are beginning to pass the same laws on a state by state basis. Believe me, this is a planned campaign and Hawaii is only the first. Monied interests are not going to give up the right they see as G-d given to make money on everything we do and to buy real estate inside our heads where they can camp out and dictate needs and wants to us. Make no mistake, this is more than a fight: it’s a war.

Hawaii’s legislature is weighing an unprecedented proposal to curb the privacy of Aloha State residents:

requiring Internet providers to keep track of every Web site their customers visit.

The legislation appears to have been inspired by this Web site attacking Hawaii Rep. Kym Pine. It was created by her ex-Web designer after a billing dispute. Its House of Representatives has scheduled a hearing this morning on a new bill (PDF) requiring the creation of virtual dossiers on state residents. The measure, H.B. 2288, says “Internet destination history information” and “subscriber’s information” such as name and address must be saved for two years. H.B. 2288, which was introduced Friday, says the dossiers must include a list of Internet Protocol addresses and domain names visited. Democratic Rep. John Mizuno of Oahu is the lead sponsor

Google gets more aggressive about collecting your information

In a separate move, Google has created a unified privacy policy for all of its services, claiming that this will make users’ lives easier. What this move actually makes easier, is Google’s ability to collect data about users, compile, collate them and use this information to figure out ways to make us wonder and think a certain way about certain things, want to buy certain things (“things” being what profits them) – and sell this information to major corporate interests who are polluting our planet; ruining our air, water and food supplies, and causing global warming.

In Europe, push-back against ACTA grows

“from the wow dept . . . European Parliament Official In Charge Of ACTA Quits, And Denounces The ‘Masquerade’ Behind ACTA . . . Kader Arif, the “rapporteur” for ACTA, has quit that role in disgust over the process behind getting the EU to sign onto ACTA.”

ACTA — a global treaty — could allow corporations to censor the Internet. Negotiated in secret by a small number of rich countries and corporate powers, it would set up a shadowy new anti-counterfeiting body to allow private interests to police everything that we do online and impose massive penalties — even prison sentences — against people they say have harmed their business.

Europe is deciding right now whether to ratify ACTA — and without them, this global attack on Internet freedom will collapse.

Twitter also joined the privacy violation chain today

This was the banner day for privacy busters everywhere.

Open Letter To Twitter: Stand Against Censorship

Oh no! Reuters, CBS, and other outlets are reporting that Twitter is going to start censoring tweets in certain countries:

Twitter announced Thursday that it would begin restricting Tweets in certain countries, marking a policy shift for the social media platform that helped propel the popular uprisings recently sweeping across the Middle East.

And this quote is just tragic, as Twitter tries to rationlize away restrictions on speech as mere cultural differences:

“As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression,” Twitter wrote in a blog post published Thursday.

From the Middle East, to Occupy, to SOPA and PIPA, the importance of open platforms like Twitter couldn’t be more clear than it is today.

Couchsurfing joins the trash users’ privacy bandwagon

Not wanting to be left out of attacking privacy rights, Couchsurfing, which recently was bought for $7.6 million dollars by an investment group, decides to completely trash its current users’ privacy rights by making past group posts visible to the world. Here’s the comment I posted on the CS administration’s blog:

This is obviously actionable. On Feb 1 if it’s implemented, I’m going to offer sign-ups to a group to begin a class action suit. I hope LOTS OF CSers will join.

The community makes this group. So many volunteers have built CS into the vibrant, cozy community it is – those who open their homes to others, share information, moderate the activity. Now because some investors need to make money, that’s all going to be flushed down the toilet.

All the social communities out there are being operated along the same principles: see a group bonding and growing. Wham! Start selling that engagement to the highest bidder. Find ways to collect more data, pool the data, share it for profit with other social organizations.

CSers profiles show their real addresses, show their real life friends, tell each other when they’re going to be away from home on vacation. CSers show pictures of their minor children, tell about their family’s habits and preferences. The new CS administration wants to encourage rapists, thieves, murderers and voyeurs to explore our community by enticing them into the fold with snippets of information turned up in Google searches and the promise of much, much more when they sign up for membership.

The person who said,” I see the need to monetize the site.” That is not correct. There was greed, not need. Now, probably, the original owners who sold CS community members down the river are wishing they’d never done this – but its too late. Time to build a new CS and sue the pants off of the current one.

What can I do to protect my privacy?

Educate yourself. Understand the issues, and the votes taken on them, so you can discuss the issues and the politicians with others.

Raise your voice – write and call your politicians on all levels of society, write letters to the editors of newspapers, blog, comment on blog posts and on news sites. Talk to your family members, friends, work colleagues, sports buddies. Get your teeth sunk into this issue and hold on for dear life.
Get involved with group discussions. Form an educational group, propose materials on the subject to your reading group, speak to other parents.
Support the people and organizations that are fighting for your freedom (and mine).

Sign petitions.

‘Barbershop Punk’ documentary explains Net Neutrality and issues

Michelle Maisto of Connected Planet writes,

“Barbershop Punk,” a David-and-Goliath style documentary about Net Neutrality and citizen’s rights to the Internet has been touring the film festival scene and on Friday night — a day after the Senate voted to strike down a move to block the FCC’s net neutrality rules . . . Small audience by small audience, the film — which includes interviews with Henry Rollins, OK Go’s Damian Kulash, Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry and FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, among others — is educating viewers . . .

Its title refers to the punk sensibility of questioning the status quo and to Robb Topolski, a software engineer and fan of barbershop quartet music who noticed, while trying to share turn-of-the-century barbershop recordings online that his Comcast service slowed down each time. It was Topolski’s methodical research into the service weirdness, followed by an AP story, that brought the Net Neutrality issue to nation’s attention.

Two ideas have stayed with me since the viewing. The first was that the Internet originally followed “common carriage laws,” which were developed with the nation’s postal service and meant that the post office couldn’t read your letter and then decide if it wanted to send it — if you paid for a stamp, it mailed your letter regardless of its content. Eventually, though, Internet traffic grew, and became increasingly lucrative, and the FCC was convinced that the Internet is a different animal and shouldn’t be subject to common carriage, which is very loosely the net neutrality argument in a nutshell: The ISPs believe they own the networks and should be able to read your digital bits and bytes before sending them on, while other people believe the Internet belongs to everyone and should remain open.

Jump to full story on ConnectedPlanet.com

Robb Topolski, technologist and Ham Radio operator, testifies to the FCC on Comcast throttling his bandwidth when he attempted to share non-commercial music recordings to the point that it was impossible to share them. Robb explains that when technology advances made it possible for internet providers to “see” the content of information sent over the internet, some providers began choosing not to transmit some content. “Deep packet inspection (that new technology) means that we are looking past that envelope . . . and looking into the content and then making decisions about how the network is going to treat that packet – not based on the customer’s instructions – but based on the content itself . . . It’s dangerous because there’s no way for the user to know it’s going on,” Topolski says. He asserts that this practice should not be used to slow down people’s internet connection at a broadband service provider’s whim.

EFF expands Robb Topolski’s research on Comcast throttling and corroborates his findings:
https://www.eff.org/wp/packet-forgery-isps-report-comcast-affair
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2007/10/eff-tests-agree-ap-comcast-forging-packets-to-interfere

Excerpt from the referenced AP article:

Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.
The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider.