Article 43


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Senators Debate Future Of Web


By John Dunbar
Associated Press
April 22, 2008

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday his agency has all the authority it needs to prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against Web surfers and that new legislation is unnecessary.

“I do not believe any additional regulations are needed at this time,” Martin said at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. “But I also believe that the commission has a responsibility to enforce the principles that it has already adopted.”

The FCC has conducted two hearings on “network management” following admissions by Comcast Corp. that it sometimes delayed file-sharing traffic for subscribers as a way to keep Web traffic flowing.

The hearing was called at a time when the issue of “network neutrality"the principle that people should be able to go where they choose on the Internet without interference from network ownersחhas heated up.

The network neutrality debate has divided Congress, with Democrats largely in favor and Republicans mostly opposed, a point that became clearer at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

“It is a political division now and it’s getting more so,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. “It is unfortunate.” He said a return to “intense regulation” of the Internet is “entirely unwarranted.”

The hearing included some star power, with the appearance of Justine Bateman, best known for her role on the TV sitcom Family Ties. Bateman is now a founding partner of a new online media venture.

“The idea of your site succeeding or failing based upon whether or not you paid the telecom companies enough to carry your material or allow quick access is appalling,” she told the committee.

Also speaking for a free-flowing Internet was Patric Verrone, the president of the Writers Guild of America, West, which recently ended a 100-day strike that virtually paralyzed television production. The Internet was a valuable organizing tool for the writers, he said in an interview.

“When your employers are the same companies that control the media, it’s hard to get your message out,” Verrone said.

To maintain contact with one another, guild members used blog postings, e-mail and videos. It was the success of that campaign that prompted Verrone to come to Washington and push for legislation that he hopes will guarantee the Internet’s status as an open forum for communication.

Verrone, a television writer and producer for over 20 years, supports legislation proposed by Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., that would force those who control Internet service to treat all traffic equally.

Large network owners like cable and telecommunications companies are opposed to network neutrality legislation, saying it would add a layer of regulation that will hurt consumers. They say it is unnecessary and amounts to a solution in search of a problem.

Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, described the picture painted by pro- net neutrality commenters as “a complete fantasy.”

McSlarrow said of the tens of millions of people who use the Internet every day, “no one is being blocked” and if they were, they could go to another service provider.

Martin told the panel that the FCC’s anti-discrimination “Internet Policy Statement,” approved in 2005, is enforceable and gives the commission adequate authority to protect consumers.

When the policy was approved, Martin had a different opinion, however.

In his statement at the time, he noted “policy statements do not establish rules nor are they enforceable documents” but that the commission decision “does reflect core beliefs that each member of this Commission holds regarding how broadband Internet access should function.”


Posted by Elvis on 04/24/08 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alcatel-Lucent’s Project Rialto


Project Rialto’s PRCrawler Is Data Mining?

By IncrediBILL
Incredible Bill’s Random Rants
April 11, 2008

Since I whitelist allowed bots I’ve had PROJECT RIALTO blocked since the beginning but I was curious what they were doing since they first showed up on my radar on 01/23/2008 and kept coming back over and over.

From one of their job ads:

We are designing high-performance algorithms and developing reliable, fault-tolerant and scalable real-time systems that can handle massive volume of data for in-depth analysis of user behavior to enable targeted advertising.


Research and investigate academic and industrial data mining, machine learning and modeling techniques to apply to our specific business case

Oh boy!

It appears they want to crawl our sites and use that information to shove more ads in our face.

Somehow, I don’t think so…

If you’re going to mine data, shouldn’t you get the URLs right?

The site they’re attempting to “mine” is on a Linux box and URLs are case sensitive and my URLs all have upper/lower case in them yet the PRCrawler only asks for those URLs in all lower case so even if I left them crawl my site they’d get nothing but 404s.

No wonder their home page says they’re a “stealth company” because I’d hide too if I couldn’t even get the proper case of the URLs right.

Here’s their user agent:

“PRCrawler/Nutch-0.9 (data mining development project; )”

They operate from the following IPs:

The first two were from, the rest are all from

I haven’t seen anything from since the initial contact but that’s only 2 months ago so who knows.

Don’t know where they primed the pump for their data mining operation since they already had lots of information about my site when they attempted to crawl, but since it was all lower case it was completely useless.

I’m just curious if they got it my URLs from somewhere already in lower case or someone there slapped a tolower() around a line of code when importing the URLs into Nutch.

Don’t know, don’t care, it’s amusing either way.

Good luck with Project Rialto, you’re going to need it.


Posted by Elvis on 04/23/08 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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NebuAd Era

Data Pimping Catches ISP On The Hop

By Cade Metz
The Register
April 22, 2008

What’s the story with PHORM, NEBUAD, and other behavioral targeting firms that TRACK USER DATA from inside the world’s ISPs? In some cases, even the ISP can’t tell you.

In February, the Silicon Valley-based NEBUAD deployed its deep-packet inspection technology on a Middle America ISP known as WOW, formerly WideOpenWest. The official word from NebuAd is that its partner ISPs are required to DIRECTLY NOTIFY CUSTOMERS via letter or email before its hardware is turned on, but WOW! - America’s 12th largest cable operator, serving Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio - says this did not happen on its service.

According to vice president of programming Peter Smith, WOW! updated its terms of service to include a mention of NebuAd, and in some cases, it told customers that the terms had been updated. But it didn’t go any further.

“We started rolling out the service in February and we completed the roll-out the first week in March,” Smith told us. “About the third week in March, we got an updated memorandum from NebuAd detailing their ‘best practice’ standards. That was not provided before we rolled the service out.

“When we got the memorandum, we put together a plan to comply with the best practices, and we’re in the process of doing that right now, sending customers an email that explicitly alerts them to NebuAd and providing messages on bills.”

At least two WOW! customers argue that the ISP’S INITIAL NOTIFICATION WASN’T ENOUGH. Both of these Chicago-area customers were unaware that NebuAd was tracking their behavior until some unexpected Web cookies turned up on their machines. When they visited Google, non-Google cookies were being read by addresses such as “”

When these users contacted WOW! customer support, reps initially denied that the ISP was responsible for the cookies. So these customers did some digging on their own, eventually turning up the NebuAd mention in WOW’s terms of service. Only then did reps confirm that NebuAd was a partner.

Someone else’s cookies

When we contacted WOW! to discuss the matter, VP Peter Smith initially denied that NebuAd uses tracking cookies. “There’s been a lot of rumors out there are not correct,” Smith told us. “NebuAd doesn’t drop cookies, so those were someone else’s cookies.” When pressed, Smith then said that NebuAd only drops a cookiewhen users opt-out of the service.

But NebuAd makes no bones about the fact that it drops cookies from the get-go. “We place just one cookiefor each NebuAd ad-serving domain,” said NebuAd CEO Bob Dykes. “It usually contains just an alphanumeric, which is not the number we use internally to identify the user anonymously, and some ad-serving related info such as ad frequency caps, which is similar to functionality used by almost all ad networks in their cookies. If the user opts out, then that is noted in the cookieand the alphanumeric is deleted.”

Peter Smith negotiated WOW!’s contract with NebuAd, but he said that these negotiations carried on for months and that NebuAd’s practices may have changed since the two companies first spoke.

NebuAd’s behavior-tracking service is similar to ISP-based SERVICES USED BY PHORM in the UK and FRONT PORCH here the US (though Front Porch shares its data with outside ad firms). Other operations that appear to be working on similar services include ADZILLA and PROJECT RIALTO, a “stealth company” created by Alcatel-Lucent, but these firms did not respond to our interview requests.

According to NebuAd, its current ISP contracts give it access to the search and browsing activity of at least 10 per cent of American net surfers. It then uses this data to target advertisements.

NebuAd insists the data is never matched to personally identifiable information. But many - including the Center of Democracy and Technology - believe that end users should be actively notified before these services start tracking their behavior and given every opportunity to opt-out.

NebuAd aka Nebula

When one WOW! customer - we’ll call him WOWed - first noticed those un-Google cookies on his machine, he assumed it was infected with spyware. “I realized that Google was loading slowly, and I spent hours trying to clean spyware off my system,” WOWed told us. “Finally, I reinstalled my machine from scratch, installed all of Microsoft’s patches, and the cookies came back. I was convinced that this was coming from the ISP.”

And WOW! customer support did nothing to dissuade him. “They just said that I had spyware too, that they ran tests from their office and that when they went to Google, they didn’t see a problem.”

A second WOW! customer - we’ll call him WOWed Again - had a similar experience. “When I first noticed this, I called customer support, and no one knew anything about it,” WOWed Again told us. “Then I called again and pointed them to the new terms and conditions.

“The rep said ‘Oh no, sir, we don’t monitor any internet usage. We don’t care what you’re browsing.’” WOWed Again has since noticed that his January bill from WOW! mentioned that the ISP’s terms of service had changed.

But the company eventually told both customers that its network was equipped with NebuAd hardware. According to WOWed, a company employee - believed to be the head of customer service - told him “You can opt-out if you go to Nebula’s [sic] site.”

NebuAd does provide an opt-out, but both WOW! users complain that this does not remove NebuAd’s cookies from their machines. “NebuAd says they don’t track you if you opt-out,” WOWed Again said. “But if I go to Google, my browser is still calling back to NebuAd’s servers. I’m not happy with this at all.”

When we asked NebuAd about its opt-out cookie, the company called it an “industry-standard mechanism.”

“Once a user opts out, the users surfing habits are no longer being observed by NebuAd,” the company told us. “Once a user opts out, NebuAd removes the history on the user and will ignore the user’s subsequent surfing habits. An opt-out flag in a cookieis the industry-standard way of signaling to the system not to track this user.”

The company also said that some web surfers may notice a NebuAd cookieon their machine even if their ISP is not a partner. “Because we buy some media unrelated to our ISP partnerships, the fact that a user sees our cookiedoes not indicate that the userҒs ISP is using NebuAd.”

According to WOWed Again, when a WOW! customer support rep finally acknowledge the company had contracted with NebuAd, she assured him this wasn’t a problem. “She said ‘We really haven’t gotten too many calls about this, so apparently people think there’s value in getting targeted ads.’”

“I should have told her ‘You haven’t gotten many calls because no one knows about it.’”

Yes, NebuAd has now told WOW! that it needs to be more proactive when notifying customers. And WOW! says it began sending emails to customers early last week (though it doesn’t have email addresses for all customers).

But according to WOW!, NebuAd didn’t give the ISP its so-called best practices until after the company’s service was discussed on BROADBAND REPORTS and in various news stories. Some have argued that behavioral ad trackers have received an unfair shake in the press. But on some level, press is necessary.



NebuAd’s Data Monitoring Appliance Placed Inside ISPs: A 360-degree View Of You

Democratic Media
November 16, 2007

It’s time the FTC and the online ad industry redefined Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to reflect the realities of the interactive marketing era: it must include the bits of data about us which describe and analyze our behaviors, now classified as non-PII. Such so-called non-PII tracking is really linked to individuals. The role that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) play in providing behavioral targeting and other interactive marketing firms with our data requires an investigation. Take NebuAd, a company that explains:

[T]o date, the role of service providers (ISPs) has been limited to enabling, but not participating in, the online advertising revenue ecosystem. NebuAd creates a greater market opportunity for the entire online advertising ecosystem, opening new revenue possibilities for ISPs that preserve and enhance the interests of the advertisers, publishers and consumers on their networks.

NebuAd also says that it is the:

leading the industry to a new level of advertising effectiveness. NebuAd combines web-wide consumer activity data with reach into any site on the Internet. The result is vastly more data and relevance than existing solutions that are limited to one network or site. NebuAd is dedicated to the highest standards of consumer privacy. In fact, the company touts its membership in Truste and claims that it is committed to the highest standards of consumer privacy. NebuAd’s network was architected from the ground up to meet industry best-practices regarding consumer information privacy protection.

But in this week’s Behavioral Insider, NebuAd’s CEO says the following (our emphasis):

We don’t track individual consumers by anonymous we mean we collect no personally identifiable email addresses, last names, home addresses, social security or phone numbers, financial or health information. The kind of data we do aggregate includes Web search terms, page views, page and ad clicks, time spent on specific sites, zip code, browser info and connection speed...within this vast universe of information we create a map of interest categories, beginning with the widest definitions, auto, finance, education, what have you. But within those we can provide far greater granularity. So if youre talking about auto, we can drill down into particular interest segments, say SUVs, luxury cars, minivans, and then even to particular brands or models. Within the interest category of travel, we can identify consumers interested in learning about Martinique, the south of France or Las Vegas.

How do they do that? Why, they get ISPs to turn over our data. Here the Nebu Ad CEO again (with our emphasis):

ISPs have been a neglected aspect of online’s evolution over the past several years. But the fact is the depth of aggregated data they have to offer, anonymous data, is an untapped source of incredible power The conventional approach to behavioral targeting has been to place cookies on specific Web sites or pages. WeŅve gone about it in a very different way. We place an appliance in the ISP itself. Therefore were able to get a 360-degree, multidimensional view over a long period of time of all the pages users visit. So what we’re really talking about for the first time is a truly user-focused, though still anonymous, targeting, taking the totality of anonymous behaviors rather than just a subset of sites on a network.

Huh? That’s privacy protection? ISPs are going to have a lot of explaining to do about the appliance” (built by the NSA?) watching us. I think the company better reconvene its new Privacy Council.”

PS: Heres an excerpt from the press release NebuAd issued at ad:tech two weeks ago:

NebuAds rich insight into consumer interests surpasses any other behavioral targeting solution and enables NebuAd to deliver precisely targeted ads that drive substantially increased value per impressionNebuAd’s deep insight into anonymous consumer commercial interests across the Internet, combined with its ability to micro-target the most relevant ad placements, brings a new level of value for advertisers, publishers and ISPs..



Deliver targeted, scheduled messagesthat inform, promote, or advertiseŗdirectly to your subscribers browser. Deployments in networks of 5K to over 1M subscribers in North America and Europe demonstrate PerfTech’s superior scalability.

Blocking Perftech Injected ISP Messages

DSL Reports
April 24, 2008

Canadian cable provider Rogers recently gave American cable users a possible glimpse of the future when they started charging data consumption overage fees for their capped and throttled broadband service. They’ve also been using a new user alerttechnology from Perftech that could see broader use as an ad-injection engine. Perftech’s technology lets the ISP inject a banner ad above, beside or below any existing web content.

Perftech’s technology clearly can be of practical use: it was used as early as 2005 on Wide Open West’s network to deliver Amber alerts. It can also be used to alertsubscribers to possible infection or if their PC is being used as a spam relay. Rogers currently only uses it to alertcustomers when they get close to their monthly cap of 60GB.

However, Perftech also advertises the technology as a possible way for ISPs to subsidize certain lower-cost tiers of service. In this industry, it’s hard not to think that a number of ISPs—under constant pressure from investors to create new revenue streams—will eventually use the technology to try and grab an additional slice of ad revenue. It’s a good guess that users, ad networks and network neutrality supporters might get slightly annoyed.

Rogers does allow users to opt-out of the alerts, though users are forced to opt-out every billing cycle. One user in our Rogers forum highlights that the system is fairly easy to block if you want a more...absolute solution. You simply have to identify the server (in Roger’s cap alertsystem’s case it’s, then use either a rule based firewall or a personal proxy server to block the IP. Might be useful information to keep on hand for down the road.



Can Phorm Be Trusted to Track User Clicks?

By Cynthia Brumfield
IP Democracy
April 8, 2008

For those of you who haven’t been following a primarily UK-based controversy, digital technology company Phorm sells a system to ISPs that tracks user Internet activity in order to provider better “behavioral targeting” data for advertising purposes. Although Phorm’s purported history as a spyware provider and its recent sketchy Wikipedia editing behavior have drummed up controversy for the company, it earned a bad rap when it was disclosed last year that big ISPs BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk were testing Phorm’s system without clearly notifying customers of this fact, an obvious privacy concern that Phorm tells the NYT’s Saul Hansell will be remedied by an “unavoidable notice” pop-up screen that users can’t ignore.

Phorm, formally 121Media, comes with a little bit of baggage. First, the company is rumored to have once been a spyware purveyor, although Phorm argues that its spyware was really adware (note: a lot of web encyclopedias define adware as spyware.)

Then earlier this month Phorm got caught in an embarassing attempt to edit its Wikipedia profile by deleting key factual and unpleasant facts about the company. Phorm executives admitted to being “overzealous” in the Wikipedia edits and promised to never do it again.

Still, Phorm looks better than NebuAd, its main rival. NebuAd, which has contracts with U.S. ISPs Embarq and WideOpenWest, doesn’t go as far as the opt-out pop-up notification. ISPs that use NebuAd can send emails, bill inserts or include boilerplate language in their user or privacy policy statements—any one or all of these methods are almost virtually guaranteed to be ineffective.

Opting-out is far from an ideal solution, even ignoring the notion that opt-in methods are preferred by privacy advocates. According to a technical white paper by Cambridge University researcher Richard Clayton, opting out of Phorm’s system might increase latency or reduce robustness of the user’s Internet activity. (The “GET” requests are redirected three times for opt-out users, or something to that effect.)

Although I’ve always been less worried than most about private sector privacy violations (as opposed to law enforcement privacy violations), operating under the belief that few companies are smart enought to do bad things with the overwhelming snarl of data they receive, lately I’ve received some eerily targeted ads and feeds that are clearly based on things about myself that I consider private (mostly investment-related stuff...sorry, nothing really good.) Although Phorm might very well be an upstanding outfit, I’d feel a lot better if the company that is tracking all my Internet activity were far beyond anyone’s moral reproach.


Posted by Elvis on 04/23/08 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

US-Columbia Free Trade Agreement


United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act

HR 5724
April 8, 2008

THIS LEGISLATION ratifies a trade deal negotiated by the United States and Colombia. 

The agreement is MODELED on the 1994 NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (NAFTA) and the 2005 CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (CAFTA) and, like those agreements, removes most export tariffs between the signatory nations while providing new rights for investors and increasing protection for pharmaceutical patents and other intellectual property.

Increased international trade can contribute to economic growth, but the way trade rules are formulated in agreements like this means that the benefits of trade are distributed unevenly, ultimately undermining the middle class and aspiring middle class in both the U.S. and the nations it trades with. The trade deal with Colombia is particularly troubling because of Colombias abysmal record on human and labor rights: not only is Colombian labor law inadequate and poorly enforced, but workers who try to organize unions or call for higher wages regularly face violent reprisals and even murder.

According to the AFL-CIO, 39 Colombian trade unionists were killed in 2007, and another 12 were murdered in the first weeks of 2008. Most killers are never brought to justice. In effect, this pact would increase opportunities to outsource U.S. jobs to a nation where wages are kept low because working people literally fear for their lives if they stand up for their internationally-recognized rights on the job.

Trade deals may at the top of corporate America’s agenda, but at a time when Americas soaring trade deficit contributes to the nation’s economic weakness, another trade deal is far from the agenda of the American MIDDLE CLASS.


Posted by Elvis on 04/22/08 •
Section Dying America
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Net Transparency Hearings


FCC Hearings at Stanford: Towards a Consensus on ISP Transparency?

By Peter Eckersley
Electronic Frontier Foundation
April 18, 2008

Yesterday, the FCC held a SECOND HEARING in its investigation of Comcast’s use of FORGED RST PACKETS to interfere with BitTorrent and other P2P applications. Free Press has a page LINKING to written testimony, statements, and audio and video recordings from the Stanford hearing.

At the previous hearing at Harvard Law School, Comcast attracted criticism for FILLING THE AUDITORIUM WITH PAID ATTENDEES. This time around, the telcos declined to participate at all. They sent proxies in their place: a conservative think tank called the Phoenix Center, freelance tech pundit George Ou, and one ISP: of Wyoming. It’s a pity that ISPs aren’t willing to participate in public debate about their own practices.

EFF HAS ARGUED that the FCC should use its position of leadership to clarify that ISPs should, at the very least, provide adequate disclosure of any discriminatory network management practices that they deploy (we are also trying to get similar information by promoting independent testing of ISP networks with our TEST YOUR ISP project). This kind of transparency is essential for a properly functioning marketplace: the public must be able to know when their software doesn’t work because it’s buggy, and when it doesn’t work because of interference by an ISP. Without this information, users don’t know which tech support line to raise hell with, whether they need to switch to new software, or whether they need to switch to a new ISP.

Transparency and responsiveness is also essential for application developers to understand the way that their applications will have to fit into ISPs’ networks.

We were very pleased to see that requirements for disclosure and transparency seemed to command a near-consensus amongst the Commissioners and those testifying. The devil will be in the details, of course: will disclosures be informative enough for programmers to work with and for consumers to make good decisions?

One prevailing point of confusion in the discussion was the relationship between the lack of information about network traffic in general (eg, how much of Internet traffic is P2P? What kind of P2P?), the lack of information about Comcast’s discriminatory network management practices (what percentage of BitTorrent seeds has Comcast been reseting? How has that varied at different times, and in different locations across the country?), and the lack of information about discrimination by other ISPs (Cox Communications, for instance, discloses that it uses “traffic prioritization” and “protocol filtering”, but we don’t know if its techniques are precisely the same as Comcast’s, or whether it is planning to phase them out). These are all separate known unknowns and we know the FCC should look in different places if it wants to resolve them.

Another interesting question raised by Commissioner Tate was how an FCC disclosure obligation or principle would fit together with new software tools to test ISPs. We think the answer is that both are required: disclosures by ISPs and independent tests by the public are complimentary; neither of them will tell us everything we’d like to know about the network, and each of them will act as a cross-check for the other.

In the mean time, the threat of intervention by the FCC has caused Comcast to eat a great deal of humble pie. They’re promising to work with BitTorrent Inc we hope they’ll also work with the wider Internet community - to find less discriminatory ways to manage their network.

In closing, we doubt that RST forgery will be the last “network management” practice to spark consternation and controversy. But we hope that in future, it won’t take the best part of a year of wrangling and an FCC proceeding before transparency and common sense start to prevail.


Posted by Elvis on 04/22/08 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy
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