FTC: Snapchat Settles Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False

The Federal Trade Commission announced that messaging service Snapchat has agreed to a proposed settlement (subject to public comment) on charges that the app violated the privacy of its users. The FTC said: Snapchat, the developer of a popular mobile messaging app, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers with […]
Privacy Lives

Wheeler’s Plan Ends 1% Silicon Subsidy; The 99% Would Benefit Even More If Other Distortions Ended, Too

One of the key takeaways from Tom Wheeler’s new Net Neutrality proposal is that regardless of what form it will take (either a 706 or Title ll approach), it will remove, or certainly lessen, the “Silicon Subsidy” to rich 1% edge providers like YouTube and Netflix.

Consumer advocates should be shouting for joy for the 99%, elated that the subsidy is going bye-bye! You see, the now illegal Net Neutrality rules essentially made Average Joe pay for YouTube / Netflix and his neighbor’s 20-movie-a-day downloading addiction even if Joe didn’t use those services. The new rules (if they are adopted as reported) would greatly minimize that, placing the costs more closely on YouTube / Netflix and the movie addict instead of Joe.

The regressive nature of some subsidies, fees and taxes tends to inhibit the uptake by less advantaged individuals of any given product or service.  Keeping these levies low is of especial concern on the “essential” Internet, because as one consumer activist has astutely noted:

“For folks who are thinking about adopting broadband, who have much lower incomes or don’t value broadband as much—[even an] extra dollar [of fees or taxes] on the margins will cause millions of people…to not adopt.”

Millions not adopting.   From fees / taxes / subsidies. That doesn’t sound good for the 99%.

At the end of the day, Tom Wheeler wants his new version of Net Neutrality to boost broadband deployment and, ultimately, its adoption by all Americans. Eliminating the “Silicon Subsidy” for some of the richest companies in America is a good start.

But Wheeler shouldn’t stop there.

If he’s truly concerned about increasing broadband adoption, he would do well to push to remove the thicket of federal, state and local taxes, fees, surcharges, and other regulatory extortions, which have made America’s communications landscape more regressively taxed than “sinful” items like tobacco and alcohol. Not only would that reduce prices, it would bring new competition into the marketplace, helping broadband consumers get better services at lower costs.

Ending the 1% “Silicon Subsidy” and allowing network providers to better recover their costs is the right policy. The 99% could be further encouraged to adopt broadband if other choking government distortions were eliminated, too.

Keep going, Tom!

Media Freedom

Choose what you protect, because anonymity is really hard.

Pregnant belly

Meet The Woman Who Did Everything In Her Power To Hide Her Pregnancy From Big Data | ThinkProgress

Janet Vertesi, sociology professor at Princeton, recently tried an on-line experiment. She had just discovered that she was pregnant, and wanted to see if it would be possible to hide that fact from “big data”. Could she prevent advertisers and social media companies from discovering this one fact, and using it to profile and target her.

Janet only tried to hide this one fact. She used pre-payed payment methods, TOR anonymity tools, and took great pains to prevent her “friends” from mentioning the pregnancy on any social media platforms. She had already opted out of using Gmail, which would have been scanning her emails as well.

While she was able to be reasonably effective, the effort and cost involved was significant, and there were some slips from within her social network. This is a great demonstration of the idea that you really need to be specific about what it is you want to hide. The personal and social costs of trying to stay “off the grid” completely are completely unacceptable for most people. The more you can identify and isolate just the individual facts or activities you want to protect, the easier it is and the more likely you will succeed.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Privacy Blog

Op-Ed at Telegraph (UK): Privacy matters in ‘internet of things’ innovation race

I’ve written before about the “Internet of Things,” which is a computerized network of physical objects. In IoT, sensors and data storage devices embedded in objects interact with Web services. (For more on privacy and the IoT, see a Center for Democracy and Technology report that I consulted on and contributed to, “Building the Digital Out-Of-Home Privacy Infrastructure.”) In […]
Privacy Lives


Today is Primary Election Day.

Each of us have one and only one vote.Voting is one of the few times when we each have an equal  say. No matter how much money you have or who your friends are, you only get one vote.

If you think that your opinion doesn’t matter about who’s sitting as Commissioner, County Council member, Judge, Auditor, County Clerk or Sheriff, think again!

The people in office now are making decisions that will affect your life, your taxes, and your wallet. 

Regardless of party you need to look at each candidate. If they sit on the County Council look at their voting record. If they are currently in office and run for another position, look at what they did in the other office. Some office holders are career politicians. They jump from one position to another to live off us taxpayers and build their pensions..

We ask you to NOT vote for the Party but the person. If they have wasted your tax dollars, why even vote for them. That is called a under vote. 

Grandstanding has NO place in politics or elections.

If an elected official tells you: You just don’t understand. What that means is “your not smart enough” to see right through their lies and BS.

It is time to go vote. 

Be sure and pick up your: We The People sticker after you Vote.


The Privacy Blog Podcast – Ep. 19: Heartbleed, IE, and Internet Sovereignty.

Standard-Profile-Picture.jpgIn episode 19 of The Privacy Blog Podcast, recorded for April 2014, I  talk about:

  • The Heartbleed bug, and why it is such a big deal.
  • A major vulnerability in Internet Explorer, and why we are focusing on the wrong thing.
  • The reasons behind recent pushes for national Internet sovereignty.
  • and finally about the increasingly international reach of US search warrants.

The Privacy Blog

Boston Globe: Boston Medical Center fires vendor after data breach

The Boston Globe reports on a security breach that affected individuals’ medical privacy: Boston Medical Center said it fired a transcription service after a health care provider reported the records of about 15,000 patients at the hospital were posted without password protection on the vendor’s website used by physicians. The records contained patients’ names, addresses, […]
Privacy Lives

Heads-on-a-Pike-Economics Cannot Sustain the Internet’s Development

Last week, reports had it that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was supposedly giving up on Net Neutrality.  You see, in crafting a regulatory response to the DC Circuit’s Net Neutrality rejection, it seems Wheeler’s (still unseen, leaked) plan would allow for ISPs to charge bandwidth hogs for better access to their networks.

On cue, the we-want-it-all-for-free-crowd went ballistic.  To them, such economic arrangements herald the death of the open (and free) Internet.  Consequently, feeling betrayed by a fellow progressive, the freebies all last week set about trying to get Tom Wheeler’s head on a pike.  In fact, they’re still at it.

I could see this coming back last January when the DC Circuit threw out the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules (for the second time). It was clear then that the Chairman was hemmed in by the Court’s ruling, which tossed the old rules because they illegally treated ISPs as phone companies. But, all was not lost for Wheeler and the FCC. The Court created two “outs.” One – to legally reclassify the provision of broadband access as an old Title II phone service. Or, two – to allow some room for “commercially reasonable” / individualized bargaining by ISPs and third-parties for priority access to the ISPs’ customers.

The freebies have demanded the former – the Title II model.

Wheeler seems to have sided with the latter – the “commercially reasonable” approach.

According to the Chairman, his new Net Neutrality lite proposal – which in fact won’t be seen by the public until the middle of May – will require:

  • That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;
  • That no legal content may be blocked; and
  • That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.

In defending his position (and working to avoid being fragged by his own progressive troops), Wheeler notes:

The allegation that [my proposal] will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is…unfounded. That is exactly what the “commercially unreasonable” test will protect against: harm to competition and consumers stemming from abusive market activity.

Translation #1: ISPs will now be allowed to sell their services to third-parties (like Netflix, YouTube or Amazon) that use or access their networks. And, this policed pricing – which the Net Neutrality rules once clearly forbade – will allow a more proper cost recovery for ISPs, thus benefitting competition and consumers because ISPs can make money on their significant investment.

Translation #2: The flipside to the Chairman’s “individualized bargaining” approach – that is, the indentured servitude of Title II phone rules for the ISPs and the Internet – would achieve the opposite. It would doom the Internet to public utility status, thwarting sustainable growth and innovation because what ISP would want to heavily invest in a market where no money can be made?

Certainly, not those that wanted to make a profit.

Now, I’d be fibbing to you if I said Wheeler’s new proposal is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It ain’t. The new regulatory schema still puts the FCC in the catbird seat when it comes to regulating the Internet. And, abuse will spring from that at some point. But I am also a realist. The politics of Net Neutrality and the current administration’s support thereof make it impossible for the FCC to do nothing. Imperfect as the Wheeler solution is, it does help rectify a crummy rule that made two-sided markets plainly illegal for ISPs. Moreover, it far beats what this bellicose freebie wants:

Wheeler [should just] say to the ISPs: “…You’ve got 60 days to get your copper out of our dirt, or we’ll pay you scrappage rates and turn it over to a company that will give people the bits they want, not the bits that pay you the most.”

Heads-on-a-pike-economics cannot sustain networks. Real profits do.

As always, the devil’s in the details; we have yet to see the actual text of the rule.  Still, Chairman Wheeler’s “commercially reasonable” proposal appears to be a step in the right direction.  It’s time to move there.

Media Freedom

Next Avenue: A Privacy Expert’s 3 Tips to Protect Yourself Online

Next Avenue has an interview with Julia Angwin, who has written about privacy for the Wall Street Journal and has a new book on privacy and technology, “Dragnet Nation.” Angwin discusses tips on how people can better protect their privacy online: In researching her book, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Angwin (who reported on privacy and tech issues […]
Privacy Lives

Sedition, e-libel become the new Pacific media front line

Participants in today’s University of the South Pacific media freedom forum chaired by
Stanley Simpson (centre), founding editor of Wansolwara. Image: USP Livestreaming

Criminal cyber defamation, journalist killings with impunity and legal gags are growing threats to Asia-Pacific press freedoms, writes educator David Robie on World Media Freedom Day.

ONE OF Fiji’s best investigative
Café Pacific – David Robie | Media freedom and transparency