Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who Controls the Network - Privacy and the Internet

My presentation covered issues of privacy and the internet. There is a vast number of ways for your privacy to be invaded on the internet. Your personal information can be obtained by cookies, spyware, bugs, spamming, routing information, social networking sites, unsecured wireless networks, deep packet inspection and even general web search engines. With so many intrusion possibilities to guard against one can never ensure his/her complete privacy online, but should implement as many precautionary techniques to their web behavior as possible to reduce their risk. Awareness of the variety of possible threats is the first step to being safer with your personal information across a largely unregulated medium like the internet.

The question I posed to the class at the conclusion of my presentation was:

Knowing that most internet service providers oppose net neutrality and its ramifications, do you think we will see increased regulation across the internet. Should ISP’s be able to charge users extra or throttle their bandwidth based on their behavior or content accessed on the web? How far in the future do you expect to see this? Do you consider that an invasion of your privacy, or a sincere effort to provide quality services?

Many believe that we will see increased regulation and commercial models of tiered access develop and continue to grow in the near future. At the same time it was stated during discussion that “it seems like a way for companies to make a quick buck,” rather than a benefit to the internet, its users, and the free flow of information. On the other hand the question, “Are there any positive or beneficial uses of deep packet inspection and similar techniques that go against net neutrality rules.” The answer is yes, everything from, filtering content such as child pornography and copyrighted material to protection against adware, spyware and viruses can be achieved with DPI.

As for the question “who controls the network,” my answer would be that it is a combination of the internet service providers and their end users. To me the bigger question at hand is which of those two actually possess more control. Is it the common carriers and ISP’s that provide the physical access to the network, or is it the users themselves who control the flow of information and the many uses of the internet? As long as the internet remains unregulated, then the fight for control between its users and ISP’s will be a present and ever-changing issue.

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