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Thursday, October 03, 2002

DPR at 12:23 PM [url]:

Do I own my computer?

UPS just recently sued Gator Corporation - a company that distributes "spyware" that tricks you into installing it on your computer, then watches your browser's activities and does things like pop up ads based on what you are viewing. The article I read says that they are "working to discuss a possible settlement".

Sounds like a "conspiracy of thieves" to me. Because this particular activity is happening on our computers! Gator keeps appearing on my wife and children's computers, installed as "Precision Time" and "Schedule Manager". Did they agree to install it? No. They were tricked by the shrink-wrap agreement of some software they did agree to install (usually a game download), or maybe by a deceptive click on a button that led to a completely hidden install.

What really is going on is that Gator is hijacking our computers for its own ends. Despite slimy rhetoric that they are an "opt-in" system, my wife and kids really have no choice, at least not an informed one.

And then Gator uses that ill-gotten platform to make deals with UPS? Deals that put UPS on their side against the people who own the computers they play their sleazy games on?

Gator's never asked permission to use any of our computers to play these games. Yet the legal system is set up to protect them.

And soon we'll have our operating systems and hardware built so that companies like Gator can install stuff that will be protected so that we can't see what it is doing on our machines. Maybe sometimes this is good, if you have recourse. But these guys are seeking laws that give us no recourse over things that happen on our computers.

This is what is wrong with Berman-Coble, with DRM, with TCPA, and with Gator.

It's my computer, dammit. If I don't give informed consent, you can't use it.

Monday, September 30, 2002

DPR at 10:15 AM [url]:

Open Spectrum in the Wall St. Journal today

Lee Gomes wrote a nice piece about Open Spectrum in his Wall St. Journal column Boomtown today. He didn't mention crucial ideas about capacity that scales with usage and cooperation gain, but it's great to get that kind of coverage of Open Spectrum.

Lee says it will probably take 5-10 years before we realize these ideas fully in the marketplace. I'm hoping for sooner, but these new ideas threaten some very entrenched interests in limiting and controlling communications. 802.11, with all of its limitations, has scared these interests with its market success. Already major technology companies are trying to "embrace and extend" that technology to bring it under control. There are rumors that the US DoD is trying to take back the 5.8 GHz UNII band. Motorola's lobbyists have filed a brief with the FCC that calls for all future unlicensed radio bands to be put up above 10 GHz, which delays for years the effective use of Software Defined Radio in unlicensed transmitters, a key element of the innovation cycle that enables Open Spectrum.

This isn't an issue that can be categorized as "left" or "right", "Republican" or "Democrat". It's about change vs. control. The spectrum owners want control of communications, to block competitors who might provide a cheaper, better alternative for their customers. So do some on the left and right who like to use the FCC to control speech. And then there are the folks who like scarcity because it lets the government raise revenue for their favorite causes (conservative or progressive) by auctioning off spectrum a bit at a time.

I once attended a meeting in DC about communications policy with Mitch Kapor and a dozen lobbyists from big companies. Asked to state who we all represented, when Mitch's turn came, he said "I represent the companies yet to be born, using technology yet to be invented". More of us need to represent the future, not just the future companies, but all future communicators.

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