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If ISPs want to play, there need to be rules

Submitted by on Monday, 22 December 2008 No Comment

Dead technophobes can rest in peace: The Recording Industry Association of America says it’s no longer going to head straight to court in instances such the case where it accused a West Virginia granny who’d been dead for more than a year of pirating 700 songs from the grave.

The rest of us, though, might have cause for concern. The recording industry instead plans to use Internet service providers as its consigliere

According to the Wall Street Journal, the recording industry says it has deals with major ISPs — it’s not saying which ones — under which the RIAA would alert the ISP when it suspects someone is sharing music online. The ISP then would lean on the subscriber — just the living ones I think, though this isn’t clear either — through a series of email nasty-grams, service slowdowns and, ultimately, shut offs.

It’s a sweet deal for everyone but wrongly accused pirates. The recording industry gets to quit demanding that ISPs invade customers’ privacy by turning over their names — not that you have much privacy where your ISP is concerned — and the ISPs get to appease politicos who just want the lawsuits to end.

It’s also a reminder for the rest of us to keep an eye out, as ISPs start to slobber over the nice hunk of financial filet mignon that would  be President-Elect Barack Obama’s wish to spread the broadband love through out the country.

It took until a congressional hearing in September for AT&T and Verizon to agree to stop tracking every move their customers make online. And it wasn’t until last week that Yahoo agreed to stop keeping personal data for longer than three months.

The “if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about” set will think all this is fine, just as they didn’t have a problem with the Bush Administration talking Verizon, AT&T and Bell South into turning over tens of millions of phone records in the name of national security.

”Are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al Qaeda?” Sen. Patrick Leahy asked a the time. ”These are tens of millions of Americans who are not suspected of anything … Where does it stop?”

It needs to stop now.

If the ISPs-telecoms want a cut of the hundreds of billions of dollars that some estimate broadband for all would cost, then they need to assure Americans that they’re not going to blab all they know about all of us.

And, no, I don’t have anything to hide. Except maybe my hideous fourth-grade class picture, and I don’t think that’s online yet.

But I happen to think it’s no one’s business if Big Guy has an embarrassing ingrown toenail and I search Yahoo for possible cures. Or if, as part of a science project some day, he googles something the National Security Agency doesn’t like and we get a knock on the door in the dead of night.

Think that will never happen? Then why take the chance.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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