Big Brother is Watching Your Web Activity
In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.
Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.
Federal spies may soon go beyond the stage of monitoring as an international agreement is being drawn up in South Korea which could force internet service providers to remove access from users suspected of improper activity.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an attempt to update international law to deal with online intellectual-property violations. The negotiations concluded on Friday and the next round are scheduled for Mexico in January.
The member states, which include the U.S., Canada, the European Union, and other states including Morocco and Mexico, hope to finish off the discussion and make it law later that year. For the average Internet user… 2010 could shape up to be a drastically different year than 2009, with much more scrutiny given to everything you do on your computer and mobile device – every download, upload, viewing, phone unlocking, burning, backing up, etc.
One of the proposals, according to leaks, involve a three-strikes system: three infringements and your Internet service provider (ISP) has to yank the cord from the IP address, not just the lone user. A few illegal downloads, iPhone hackings or movie uploads and an entire family could be without Internet for 12 months.
The Federal Communications Commission is attempting to become your permanent ‘Net Nanny’ through a legislative power grab with the Orwellian name ‘Net Neutrality’.
Proponents of net neutrality would likely respond that it’s necessary to preserve the Web’s long-standing openness. Without tougher regulations, they might say, we could end up with a corporate-controlled Internet that stifles free speech, hurts innovators, and denies the public its rightful access to a powerful communications tool. And they might point to studies they argue prove their points.
But key reports being used to bolster the cause of net neutrality are flawed and unconvincing. And neutrality advocates have precious little in the way of hard data to back up their worries about an Internet broken by corporate control…
According to George Ou, policy director for Digital Society, a tech-policy-focused non-profit funded by tech-industry group Arts + Labs, the report, which places U.S. broadband performance in the middle of the pack, relies heavily on misleading and likely erroneous data.
For example, one metric ranks countries by fastest broadband speed offered by an incumbent provider. But the ranking relies on OECD reporting about the providers’ advertised rates, which aren’t always comparable across national borders. Residents of Japan, for instance, may have access to connections advertised at an ultra-fast 100 mbps, but, based on real-world usage data from Akamai, one of the web’s leading providers of data storage, those connections frequently deliver actual speeds far slower than advertised.