Category Archives: Internet

Follow the Money: The Internet No-Privacy Act in the 115th Congress

The Verge offers a public service for American voters, compiling the votes on the Internet No-Privacy Bill HJRes 43 and the money received from Big ISPs.  Thus we discover that Senator Dean Heller received $78,950 from industry sources, which doesn’t put him “up there” with the $251,110 given to Senator Mitch McConnell, and the $215,000 awarded to Senator John Thune, but nevertheless a nice contribution.

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) received a tidy $22,000 contribution from the industry coffers.

What the resolution does is muddy the waters about enforcement of FCC rules, Verge explains:

“That brings us to the privacy rules. Through a rarely invoked law, Congress was able to take back the privacy rules set by Wheeler, effectively undoing his interpretation of what the Telecom Act says about customer data. That leaves a gap: we don’t know how Chairman Pai will interpret the law, or what rules he’ll set. He might replace them with looser rules that take after the FTC or wait to roll back the Title II interpretation overall. But until he acts, we can’t say for sure what carriers will be allowed to do.

At the same time, the absence of firm rules could be the whole point. Pai is a free-market conservative, and believes that companies will typically find the optimal solution without government interference. Holding off on setting new rules could be right in line with that philosophy, leaving companies to make their own judgments on customer data without fear that they’ll be punished for overstepping FCC guidelines. Unfortunately for privacy-minded consumers, that would leave few legal protections for private data shared with carriers.”

That last line is rather chilling.

What the advertisers want is a land amenable to “granular personalized targeting,” read advertising directed to specific consumers for specific products and services.  Those advertisers can just as easily be political groups and organizations.

The final irony is that Our information may be aggregated and sold to the highest bidders, but members of Congress are protected.  The ‘yes’ votes may be saying, in essence, “I’ve got my privacy, you try to get yours.”

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, Politics, privacy

SJR 34 and Your Internet Privacy

The purpose of SJR 34 (and HJR 86) was simple: To allow Internet Service Providers to collect and sell your Internet browsing history.  Not only did Senator Dean Heller support this, he signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill on March 7, 2017, one of 23 sponsors to do so.  Who’s impacted by this? Anyone who links through Comcast (17 million customers), AT&T (another 17 million customers), Time Warner Cable (add another 14 million customers), Century Link (additional 6.4 million customers), Charter (another 5 million customers), and a host of smaller providers. [Ecom] (See also PEcom)

Nevada customers of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox and others, are also among those whose private browsing history can be tracked, collected, and sold off. [into link]

It seems bad enough to have the ISPs sell off information about browsing history to advertisers, who after browsing one day for sneakers, would want to be bombarded by advertising for the next year with sneaker ads?  Browsed for ‘best garden supplies?’ Expect ads for plant food, fertilizers, spades, and wheelbarrows for eternity? Then the scenarios become more pernicious.

Browse for information on asthma? Not only is the human browser now in line for a multitude of ads for medications, but there’s a hint here that some personal medical history may have been collected and sold.  The same issue might be raised about those looking up symptoms and treatments for everything from pediatric illnesses to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Thus far we’re only talking about the initial sales, and the use of the collections by commercial advertisers. However, there’s a question about what constitutes a buyer for the information?

The buyer might not have to be, for example, the Interpublic Group of New York City, one of the nation’s largest advertising firms. Could the buyer be the WPP Group of London, UK? Or, the Dentsu Group, of Tokyo. Could the buyer be RMAA, the largest advertising firm in Russia? Is there any protection in the bill to prevent the secondary sale of browser histories from an advertising agency to a data management and analysis company? What we have herein is a bill to allow the transfer of massive amounts of valuable data collected from individuals in the United States to the highest bidder, with little or no consideration of the after effects.

Gee, let’s hypothesize that I’m a foreign power with some experience dabbling in US state and national elections.  Let’s also assume that the foreign power is familiar with inserting ‘bots’ to drive traffic to particular websites, or insert fake news, confirmation bias ‘news,’ and other practices into the research patterns of American Internet users. What do I want? I want data on where those people ‘go’ on the Internet; the better I know my ‘target’ the better I can hone my message. Do those who go to Senator Bilgewater’s site also tend to go to sites concerning wildlife preservation?  If I can put these two bits of information together I can more effectively insert advertising either for or against the Senator. I can more effectively insert phony information into my messaging for the supporters or opponents of Bilgewater.  In short, I can ‘dabble’ more efficiently. Even more bluntly, have we handed our adversaries more ammunition for their advertising and propaganda guns?

The Senate twin in the House (HJR 86)/SJR 34 passed on March 28, 2017, only Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) voted in favor of the bill; Representatives Kihuen, Titus, and Rosen voted against it. [RC 202]

At the risk of facetiousness  on a serious topic, when Jill, of downtown East Antelope Ear, NV, goes online to search for a bargain on bed sheets, does she find herself viewing a plethora of ads for sex toys, a result of Jack’s periodic perusal of pornography sites? Would a simple search for high thread count sheets yield the splitting of those sheets in the Jack and Jill household? At least Jack and Jill will know whom to call about the issue — Senator Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei, who thought selling browser histories to be a grand idea at the time.

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Filed under Amodei, Heller, Internet, media, Nevada politics, Politics, privacy, Republicans, Titus

Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill Passes Senate and Other Folks Are Stalking You

What human beings are capable of doing to one another can be supremely egregious, but what we’re capable of doing to the rest of the animal kingdom defies comprehension at times, and March 21, 2017 was one of those moments.  The Senate of the United States of America voted in favor of HJR 69, otherwise known as the Cub and Pup Slaughter Bill, or more exquisitely politely the “non-subsistence take of wildlife in Alaskan wildlife refuges.”  For the record, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voted in favor of the bill, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against it. [Vote 92]  The bill makes it perfectly AOK to track down and slaughter bear cubs and wolf pups in a Wildlife REFUGE.

As if stalking cubs and pups isn’t bad enough, the self-same Senate voted in favor of Senator Jeff Flake’s bill to allow Internet Service Providers to sell your information to whomever. SJRes 34 “disapproves” a rule protecting our privacy as customers from whomever for whatever purposes.  Thus we may be stalked to our lairs by advertisers unknown for the purpose of targeted messages and other forms of commercial relations. However, it might not end there. Who knows?  Once more, Senator Dean Heller voted in favor of Customer Hunting (that would be US with targets on our backs) and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted against this form of hunting. [Vote  94]  Senator Bill Nelson commented:  “With today’s vote, Senate Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission,” he continued.” [Hill]

At this rate it won’t be too long before we can empathize with bears and wolves?

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Filed under Congress, Heller, Interior Department, Internet, Nevada politics, Politics

Don’t Feed The Net Trolls!

Net Neutrality

If you like your Internet the way it is then you are supporting “net neutrality.”  As of now corporations like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast cannot charge you (or your company) more for higher speed service. 

Meanwhile  back in the U.S. Senate, Senator Ted “Cuban-Canadian” Cruz is staging a full on frontal attack on Net Neutrality – using a lovely combination of lies, misunderstandings, obfuscation, and downright idiocy to make his points.  Here’s a classic:

“CRUZ: When you regulate a public utility, it calcifies it — it freezes it in place. Let’s give a simple contrast. The Telecommunications Act of 1934 was adopted to regulate these [brings out an old rotary-dial phone]. To put regulations in place and what happened? It froze everything in place. This is regulated by Title II. [pulls out an iPhone] This is not.” [Wonkette]

WRONG, WRONG, AND WRONG.  Excuse me, but my smart-phone has an FCC number on the back. It is regulated just as every other phone is regulated, by the provisions of the 1934 Communications Act.  Far from being “calcified” the phones in my life have run the gamut from the Tulip Phone in my grandparent’s hallway to the smart-phone in my pocket.  The old Tulip Phone and my smart-phone are subject to the same Communications Act of 1934.  So, Senator Cruz can haul out Grandma’s Tulip, or the 1957 rotary, or the 1966 Ma Bell wall phone, or the Princess Phone, or the not-quite-portable cellular Bag Phone, or the Flip Top, or the smart-phone … and it’s perfectly obvious that the Communications Act of 1934 didn’t “calcify” anything.  (See Also: Bob Cesca – “Whopper”)

Not that being dead wrong has ever stopped the Tea Party Darlin’ from Calgary before.  So, he goes off some more:

CRUZ: “”Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”   [Gizmodo]

Silly, Silly, and Silly.   There’s not much substance here, just an admixture of political cynicism, buzzword rhetoric, and silliness in the service of some very very profitable corporations.   The logic herein is non-existent: If you don’t like the President and you don’t like health insurance reforms then you won’t like Net Neutrality.  Huh?  This is all froth and no beer.

What the President wants is to prevent the corporations from BLOCKING, THROTTLING, OBFUSCATION, AND USING PAID PRIORITIZATION. [White House]   As a consumer, you don’t want to be blocked from the legal content of your choice.  As a consumer, you don’t want the corporations to deliberately slow down some content and speed up others based on the type of service or your ISP’s preference.

As a consumer you want INCREASED not decreased transparency.  There should be no special treatment of points of connectivity between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.  And, as a consumer you don’t want to be “stuck in the slow lane” because you didn’t pay some extra fee to the ISP.

Who’s Opposed to Net Neutrality?  The Daily Dot provides a succinct summary:

Going back to 2005 (when the phrase “net neutrality” first shows up in lobbying disclosure reports), the principle’s biggest opponents (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and their allies) have lobbied against net neutrality about three times as hard as the biggest proponents of neutrality (Level 3, Google, Microsoft and their allies).

It’s not that the Big Three are struggling for money – AT&T reported just under $129 billion in sales/revenue (2013), Verizon reported $121 billion in sales/revenue (2013), and Comcast reported about $65 billion in the same category. {Marketwatch 11/19}

They’re also spending that money on a major lobby effort to end net neutrality, and the following chart (Daily Dot) shows how much from 2005 to 2012:

Net Neutrality spending

Senator Cruz might just as well show up on the Senate floor wearing an auto racing fire-suit bedecked in corporate logos, with the largest sponsorships decaled on his vehicle advertising Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast.

Which side are you on? If you happen to me a multi-billion dollar communications corporation you don’t want to be a “utility,” you want to be “deregulated!”  If you happen to be a consumer – as are most of us – you want Net Neutrality – you depend on it for sending holiday photos to relatives, for looking for job openings, for finding information on topics of special interest, to make vacation bookings, to watch a movie or video, or for all the other things the Internet has to offer.

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Filed under Internet, Net Neutrality