Category Archives: Government

netneutistockfeature1-e1293050143472While trying to feverishly watch season 2 of House of Cards, I’ve noticed a few spinning rainbows via my AppleTV. What’s up? I tend to blame my Internet connection, but in reality it seems like there’s some nefarious “auto slowdown” occurring. It seems like Netflix is having a conflict with Verizon and other broadband providers over how much content should be carried without additional fees. Netflix complains that they’ve encountered a 14% slowdown in average speeds. The Wall Street Journal is reporting on the conflict between the two titans, but they’re telling us that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, have already begun paying broadband providers for smoother access to their networks, which leaves Netflix kind of flapping in the wind complaining about tiered access.

The war around the idea of “net neutrality” is heating up as consumers move away from traditional TV and focus more on “binge watching” and a la carte watching via Netflix, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes and other streaming and/or subscription services. Just last month, a court ruled in favor of Verizon’s suit to block the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules, which has spurred chaos among the providers and content creators as more people consume more high-definition video. To add fire to the furnace, Netflix is more than likely very interested in the upcoming federal review of Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, and may push for new requirements on traffic-swapping deals. As we move forward into the unknown waters of “tiered Internet access” it’s going to be more and more about who pays what: the content creators and/or their customers.

fingerprintBy now, most of us realize that the US government is tracking our online activity (it’s just to what extent, we’re still a bit unsure), but it’s probably safe to say the bureaucrats know more about us than we’d like them to know. What’s more disturbing, however, is the extent that advertising and marketing companies go to determine who you are, what you do, what you buy, and who you buy from. And it’s no longer just your online activity: data mining allows companies to combine your offline activity with your online activity to create a more accurate profile of everything you do. This aggregation should cause more concern than anything the NSA is doing, and as of now, it’s completely unregulated.

Ever heard of Acxiom? Probably not. Well, Acxiom has heard of you. In fact, they probably know more about you than many of your own family members. Acxiom currently runs 23,000 servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year. Acxiom has dropped over 1.1 billion cookies onto hundreds of millions of Americans’ computers, they have constructed over 200 million mobile profiles and average about 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. Scott Howe, the Acxiom CEO has stated, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

The recent hacking of Target’s commerce system has been widely reported, but what you may not know is what Target knows about you. Target assigns each customer a unique “Guest ID” which is linked to their credit card number, email address and/or name. Every purchase or interaction the customer has with Target is linked to their unique Guest ID. You tend to buy a lot of yogurt, live in San Francisco, and shop with your American Express? Target takes this data and links them to your profile, and then uses it to market more products to you. This seems harmless at first glance, and some would argue that targeted advertising is valuable, however, this data can be aggregated, diced and sliced to predict your future behavior. Target will know if you’re pregnant based on what you purchase. They’ll use that data to predict when you will be interested in buying diapers. Of course, they won’t stop there. They’ll know the gender of your baby when he/she is born, and be able to market to them as well. Lock them in at birth! This is valuable data for other companies too. PetCo will know if you’re buying dog food for your “older pet” and sell the data to insurance companies that will then encourage you to buy health insurance. Sound creepy? Creepier than the NSA logging your phone calls?

Sure, the NSA’s tracking activities should be a major concern, but you might also want to think about what advertising, marketing and data mining companies are doing “behind the scenes” with all those breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind.

"Boston Skyline" by Flickr user brentdanley, cc-nc-sa license

Our hearts go out to those in Boston right now.

If you need to find someone, find a runner, or find someplace to stay, social media has you covered in the aftermath of today’s horrible events.

Google PeopleFinder: Boston Maraton Explosions: Enter information if you’re looking for someone or if you have information about someone (or yourself).

Red Cross Safe and Well: Like Google’s people finder, this lets you enter information about someone – whether you are in search of them or you have information about anyone.

The Boston Globe is working to make sure everyone has a safe Pokies place to sleep tonite. If you’re a runner in need of a place to stay, enter your information on this Google Doc. You can also check this spreadsheet for possibilities of a place to lay your head.
If you have a place to offer stranded runners, you can enter your information on a separate Google doc.

Finally, you can check on the status of a runner, and see their last check-in from the race, that option is now at the top of the Boston Marathon site.

If you know of any other social aids for those in Boston today, please list them in the comments.

Stay safe.

 

I’m quite frequently angry with Comcast Xfinity. I pay a small fortune for my measly 30 mbps Internet speeds and I’m lucky if I get that for longer than a second.

The idea of ubiquitous wifi appeals to me. I think it should be regulated, to a degree, by those who maintain it. But being able to always be online, eliminating ridiculous fees I pay each month to both Verizon and Comcast? Well, let’s just say I support the idea of free public wifi as a right (right to pursue happiness perhaps?).

Much to my surprise, the FCC agrees. The FCC wants a free, public WiFi net, nationwide. If approved, it would take a few years to put together and launch, but their plan is extensive and far-reaching.

“We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.”

Of course, the carriers – everyone from Verizon and AT&T  to Cialis Online Qualcomm – have issues. This would put their current business models at risk.

But according to this Washington Post article, this planned WiFi net would make it possible for heart monitors to communicate with hospitals over a mile a way, and would make things easier for emergency response teams in times of crisis. That’s a large and strong network they’ve got in mind.

The new plan has the backing of both Microsoft and Google, who see ubiquitous wifi as a way for everything from more tablets to robots and self-driving cars to access the Internet. These two companies see the FCC’s plan as viable and a step forward, paving the way for things to come. Ubiquitous wifi, clearing away the monetary broadband gap between upper and lower classes, could bring an explosion of new innovation.

Like anything coming out the government, this has to go through countless committees for approval. With the lobbying power of companies like AT&T, Verizon, Qualcomm, and Intel, this could be stopped dead in its tracks. For now, at least, I’m a bit comforted that the FCC is on the same page as me.