Category Archives: privacy

Comcast to FCC: Network neutrality is DEAD

Comcast has decided to make its case against network neutrality by hindering bit torrent downloads. The problem with its policy is that the debate is far from over and this move will anger customers who are likely to have other options for broadband.

Comcast blocks some Internet traffic – Yahoo News

NEW YORK – Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

Not to mention, Comcast’s moves are underhanded and deceitful.

Comcast’s technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer â?? it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: “Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.”

By spoofing (pretending to be another computer), Comcast is undermining the credibility of its network. Its behavior resembles that of a Chinese ISP, doing its part to maintain the Great Firewall of China, rather than an American ISP (or am I giving Comcast too much credit?). Comcast is also strengthening arguments for the FCC to label it a common carrier so it doesn’t interfere with the network traffic of its customers. Ultimately, the FCC needs to step up and slap Comcast for its spoofing, which is absolutely not in the public interest.

If Comcast wishes to limit the amount of bandwidth used by its customers, it should cap download speed and total bandwidth available for X time period. It then needs to appropriately set expectations by communicating such limits with customers and providing tools for customers to monitor their usage. The last thing it should be doing is filtering or interfering with traffic based on application type, destination, recipient, etc.

A note about Bit Torrent. It is a file sharing tool that, although used for illicit purposes, does have legitimate uses. For example, Silkroad Online, a free massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), is distributed using BitTorrent. To get the game, you download a 865 MB file. Normally, you would download the game from a single server. That server would be limited by the number of simultaneous connections it has available. For sake of argument, let’s say it has 100 available connections. If 200 people try to download the same file, the first 100 will take all those connection slots. The other 100 users attempting to connect will get an error message to that effect. Each person will need to wait for a slot to free up before they can download the game. Because it takes a long time (one or two hours) for each person to completely download such a large file, those second 100 people will be waiting for quite a long time before they can begin their downloads. Making the game available as a BitTorrent distributes the game more efficiently and limits those error messages game users receive. Instead of setting up several servers to handle traffic for those few people, the company can set up a few seed computers and distribute its game to many more (theoretically, at least).

Verizon Wireless, Privacy, and new Customer Agreement

I received a notice from Verizon that it is changing the Customer Agreement Terms and Agreement for my wireless account. Most specifically, it is changing its privacy policy to share my customer information with its “affiliates, agents, and parent companies (including Vodafone) and their subsidiaries.” Amorphous if you ask me. I’m fine with agents since those companies work on behalf of Verizon. But I wonder how they define affiliates. How many companies are included? And does that include all companies affiliated in any way with Verizon, including parties to huge marketing deals? I’d prefer it post a list to its web site, updated once or twice a year, identifying all its ‘affiliates.’

Not knowing what affiliates means, I did what any sane customer interested in limiting spam does — I opted out by calling the number provided: 800-333-9956. It was simple. It asked for my phone number, zip code, and the last four digits of my social security number. It even let me enter multiple phone numbers.

If you’re a Verizon customer, I suggest you also opt-out. That is, unless you want more snail mail to shred. 😉

Drunken Spammers beware …

I have a rare email address with one of the original big free email providers and I still use it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, it gets a few hundred spam emails per day and, worse, it is frequently spoofed by spammers. Needless to say, I hate spammers more than most people because of the double whammy.

It was only with great pleasure that I got a chance to talk to a spammer directly, one-on-one, to threaten legal action. For whatever reason, a spammer decided to include a toll-free number (877-208-5642) in its spam email messages. The guy picked up the phone like this: “Hello, are you interested in a business loan?” As much as I wanted to unleash several years of pent up anger, I didn’t. I told the guy on the other end that he was spoofing my email address in his spam emails and if he continued, I would take legal action. He told me he would stop.

Needless to say, my next call will be to AT&T to track down who supplies the toll-free number. I will send that company a happy letter asking them to disconnect it and telling them if they don’t and he continues to spoof my email address that I will include their deeper pockets in any lawsuit I file. 🙂 Not to mention, it will be on notice and anyone else who might read this may choose to demonstrate those deeper pockets had notice one of its customers was an evil spammer and refused to take action.

Note: I’m not advocating that you call the spammer. For all you know, by the time you read this, he’s moved on to another toll free number. That said, should you choose to call up the spammer (877-208-5642), do so from pay or other public phone. Toll-free calls have a caller ID system that shows all incoming phone numbers, regardless of whether you told the phone company to block your number or not.

I received several dozen bounced messages with that toll-free number. Here is one such message. For sanity’s sake, I removed email addresses.

**********

The original message was received at Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700
from qmail2.iswest.net [10.0.2.1]

—– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —–
<mcd@….com>
(reason: 554 5.4.6 Too many hops)

—– Transcript of session follows —–
554 5.4.6 Too many hops 28 (25 max): from <danny@…com> via localhost, to <mcd@….com>
Reporting-MTA: dns; canitscan3.iswest.net Arrival-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:33:23 -0700 Final-Recipient: RFC822; mcd@….com Action: failed Status: 5.4.6 Diagnostic-Code: SMTP; 554 5.4.6 Too many hops Last-Attempt-Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 09:13:10 -0700

—–Inline Message Follows—–

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

No Hassle Business Loans!

If you have your own business and want:

  • IMMEDIATE cash to spend ANY way you like
  • Extra money to give the business a boost.

orried that your credit is less than perfect? Not an issue.

Just call the number below.

You’ll thank me later!

Call Free 1 [877] 2 0 8 5 6 4 2

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including Sundays and Holidays!

UPDATE (9/13/07): The emails are still going out. AT&T was helpful and told me it isn’t the service provider for the number but the service provider code is ixc01, likely Excel Communications. Excel’s web site says that toll free calls from pay phones cost at least 35 cents each. It turns out ixc01 isn’t Excel’s provider code; however its staff was more helpful pointing me towards Broadwing Communications.

UPDATE (9/18/07): Broadwing is now Level3 which I contacted on the 14th. Their customer service folks seemed pretty cool. However, the spam email keeps going out and the toll-free number is still alive. I’ll need to call it again when I get a chance, likely Thursday afternoon. I understand it takes a while for things to wind through the corporatocracy but I figure a week should be plenty of time.

UPDATE (9/20/07): The number is still alive so I contacted Level3 again. I was redirected to someone in its Customer Service (I guess I wasn’t in contact with that department before). I also have been calling the toll-free number from the spam. I generally get an error telling me its voice mail is full. Today, I was able to get through and speak with two different people who both identified the company by name when answering. “Empire funding. Are you interested in a business loan?” Each person repeated the company name when asked. I also queried each person for the company’s address and was given an address on N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, AZ. One person gave me 201 as the street address and the other 205. No suite number. After a little research, I found out that 201 N. Central Ave. is the address of Chase Tower, tallest building in Arizona. JP Morgan Chase Bank has large offices there, along with the posh, private Arizona Club, Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and a number of other well known tenants. I was not able to find an online directory of tenants in Chase Tower, but I’m skeptical that a fly-by-night spamming loan company would be able to afford a high rent building. I also filed a complaint with the FTC.

Yahoo! Shareholder Proposal Re: Internet Censorship (The anti-Y! China proposal)

Yahoo! shareholders have made two very interesting proposals that will be voted on during the annual shareholder meeting next week (June 12, 2007).

First, the City of New York Retirement System proposed that Yahoo! set six minimum standards to help protect freedom of access to the Internet. The proposal is directly aimed at Yahoo! China, a subsidiary of Yahoo!, Inc., for providing contact information for journalists and other pro-democracy activists to the Chinese government which subsequently imprisoned those activists. The minimum standards are:

  1. Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
  2. The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
  3. The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
  4. Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
  5. Users should be informed about the companyâ??s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
  6. The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with, and that information will be publicly available.

Second, someone with a small number of shares (200) has proposed that Yahoo! set up a board committee for Human Rights.

Truth is, businesses should not have offices or subsidiaries in a country if the return also comes with assisting a dictatorship or other authoritarian regime to inhumanely treat its people. I’m sad in general that any company would be stuck in this quandary. And I’m sad that we, as a country, have transfered a great deal of our manufacturing and labor intensive tasks to countries with such authoritarian governments and have almost all turned a blind eye to what we’re doing in the name of progress and economic benefits (it provides neither in the long run).

In the end, I think we as shareholders need to be responsible for the actions of companies we own. And this message goes to shareholders of Cisco (creator of the Great Firewall of China), Google (censoring search results for China), and a host of companies doing business in China and other countries to skirt more stringent environmental regulations in the US and EU.

I have a very small number of shares of Yahoo! that I acquired while working there and will vote for both although I don’t think my vote counts for much more than my symbolic expression, and I don’t expect either to pass.

*note: I’m still a fan of Yahoo! and a user of its products. I just happen to disagree with some of the business decisions made – business decisions any other company would have a hard time not making an identical choice. A little constructive criticism never hurt anyone, unless you live in a country that outlaws it.

PROPOSAL NO. 6
STOCKHOLDER PROPOSAL
The City of New York Office of the Comptroller, 1 Centre Street, New York, NY 10007-2341, has notified the
Company that it intends to present the following resolution at the annual meeting, as custodian and trustee of the New York City Employeesâ?? Retirement System, beneficial owners of 1,587,718 shares of common stock of the Company, The New York City Teachersâ?? Retirement System, beneficial owners of 1,164,585 shares of common stock of the Company, the New York City Police Pension Fund, beneficial owners of 628,874 shares of common stock of the Company, the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, beneficial owners of 187,208 shares of common stock of the Company, and as custodian of the New York City Board of Education Retirement System, beneficial owners of 110,387 shares of common stock of the Company. The proposal and the proponentâ??s supporting statement appear below in italics.
The board of directors of Yahoo! strongly opposes adoption of the proposal and asks stockholders to review the Boardâ??s response, which follows the proposal and its accompanying recitals.
The affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the shares of common stock present, in person or
represented by proxy, and entitled to vote on the proposal is required to approve this proposal.
Our Board of Directors recommends that you vote â??AGAINSTâ? the stockholder proposal.
Stockholder Proposal
INTERNET CENSORSHIP
Whereas, Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental human rights, and free use of the
Internet is protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees freedom to â??receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiersâ?, and
Whereas, the rapid provision of full and uncensored information through the Internet has become a major
industry in the United States, and one of its major exports, and
Whereas, political censorship of the Internet degrades the quality of that service and ultimately threatens the integrity and viability of the industry itself, both in the United States and abroad, and
Whereas, some authoritarian foreign governments such as the Governments of Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba,
Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam block, restrict, and monitor the information their citizens attempt to obtain, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States such as Yahoo, that operate in countries controlled by
authoritarian governments have an obligation to comply with the principles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and
Whereas, technology companies in the United States have failed to develop adequate standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian governments while protecting human rights to freedom of speech and freedom of expression,
Therefore, be it resolved, that shareholders request that management institute policies to help protect freedom of access to the Internet which would include the following minimum standards:
1) Data that can identify individual users should not be hosted in Internet restricting countries, where
political speech can be treated as a crime by the legal system.
2) The company will not engage in pro-active censorship.
3) The company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with
such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures.
4) Users will be clearly informed when the company has acceded to legally binding government requests to
filter or otherwise censor content that the user is trying to access.
5) Users should be informed about the companyâ??s data retention practices, and the ways in which their data is shared with third parties.
6) The company will document all cases where legally-binding censorship requests have been complied with,
and that information will be publicly available.
Board of Directors Statement AGAINST Stockholder Proposal
Yahoo! is committed to preserving and advancing the fundamental principles of free speech and expression,
and as described in detail below, has already adopted policies to promote open access to information and
communication for users of the Companyâ??s services around the world. The board of directors believes the
Companyâ??s existing policies, which were carefully developed by Yahoo!â??s management team, provide the Company with the flexibility and resources to comply with applicable laws and, at the same time, protect and advance these important freedoms. By contrast, Yahoo! believes certain of the standards suggested by the proponent would give the Company insufficient flexibility in responding to applicable legal requirements. Accordingly, while Yahoo! shares many of the proponentâ??s concerns and objectives, the board of directors believes, in light of the policies, practices and initiatives already in place at the Company, the proponentâ??s suggestions are both unnecessary and counter to the best interests of the Company and its users, and therefore urges stockholders to vote â??AGAINSTâ? the proposal.
Yahoo! is deeply concerned by efforts of some governments to restrict communication and control access to
information. Yahoo! also firmly believes the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo! in these markets is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform. Yahoo! understands its responsibility to remain engaged on these issues on a global basis; however, Yahoo! believes private industry alone cannot effectively influence foreign government policies on issues like the free exchange of ideas and open access to information.
Because state actors have the most leverage in this field, Yahoo! believes continued government-to-government dialogue in bilateral and multilateral forums is vital to achieve progress on these complex political and human rights issues.
As part of the Companyâ??s ongoing commitment to preserving the open availability of the Internet around the
world, Yahoo! announced in February 2006 it was undertaking the following actions:
â?¢ Collective Action: Yahoo! will work with industry, government, academia and non-governmental organizations
to explore policies to guide industry practices in countries where content is treated more restrictively
than in the United States and to promote the principles of freedom of speech and expression.
â?¢ Compliance Practices: Yahoo! will continue to employ rigorous procedural protections under applicable
laws in response to government requests for information, maintaining its commitment to user privacy and
compliance with the law.
â?¢ Information Restrictions: Where a government requests that Yahoo! restrict search results, Yahoo! will do
so if required by applicable law and only in a way that impacts the results as narrowly as possible. If Yahoo!
is required to restrict search results, it will strive to achieve maximum transparency to the user.
â?¢ Government Engagement: Yahoo! will actively engage in ongoing policy dialogue with governments with
respect to the nature of the Internet and the free flow of information.
Since this announcement, the Company has also established a multi-disciplinary and cross-functional team of
Yahoo! employees worldwide to coordinate and support the Companyâ??s efforts to address privacy and free
expression issues on a global basis. The team consists of Yahoo! employees from a variety of disciplines and
departments, including legal, public and governmental relations, privacy, public policy, community affairs, global law enforcement and compliance, security, emerging markets and international operations. Members of the team consult regularly with Company officers and other personnel and respond to internal and external requests for information and feedback on foreign laws and Company practices and policies. Members of the team also consult with governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Department of State, and various outside professionals in the field, including experts at various academic institutions. Members of the team also collaborate with leaders and representatives of other technology and communications companies to seek solutions to free expression and privacy challenges these companies face when conducting business internationally.
To further advance thinking and practices around the promotion of free expression and privacy, Yahoo! is
actively engaged in a formal dialogue, co-facilitated by Business for Social Responsibility and the Center for
Democracy & Technology, that includes industry counterparts, various human rights groups, academic institutions and socially responsible investors. This diverse group aims to produce a set of global principles and operating procedures on freedom of expression and privacy to guide company behavior when faced with laws, regulations and policies that interfere with human rights. The groupâ??s goals also include creating an implementation, accountability and governance framework, as well as a forum for sharing ideas.
The policies, practices and initiatives described above have been developed by Yahoo! management based on
its thorough and careful consideration of the inherent complexities associated with operating under the laws of multiple foreign countries. These complicated issues require a detailed understanding of the Companyâ??s business (which is highly competitive and characterized by rapid change), user base and technologies, as well as an ability to conform to the various legal and regulatory systems of the countries in which the Company maintains operations.
Yahoo! believes that it would be imprudent for the Company to be constrained by a set of specific, static and highly prescriptive standards and policies that may not be workable and effective across countries and business lines.
Instead, Yahoo!, its stockholders and its users are better served by more generalized policies that fully reflect the
Companyâ??s commitment to the principles of free speech and user privacy and still afford the Company enough flexibility to design and implement procedures that comply with the various legal systems under which the Company chooses to operate.
Yahoo! also believes its existing policies appropriately recognize the different roles private industry and
governments play with respect to the nature of the Internet and the flow of information, and that such policies properly allocate to the Company responsibility for working and maintaining a dialogue with governments, members of academia and other industry participants for the purpose of advancing and protecting these fundamental principles. The Company believes its existing policies, practices and initiatives, as described in more detail above, strike an appropriate balance in furthering these important objectives and will effectively position the Company to serve as a continued force in promoting openness and reform.
Recommendation of the Board of Directors
FOR ALL OF THE FOREGOING REASONS, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS
THAT STOCKHOLDERS VOTE

PROPOSAL NO. 7
STOCKHOLDER PROPOSAL
Mr. John C. Harrington, 1001 2nd Street, Suite 325, Napa, CA, who owns 200 shares of the Companyâ??s
common stock, has given notice of his intention to present a proposal at the annual meeting. The proposal and the proponentâ??s supporting statement appear below in italics.
The board of directors of Yahoo! strongly opposes adoption of the proposal and asks stockholders to review the Boardâ??s response, which follows the proposal and the proponentâ??s supporting statement.
The affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the shares of common stock present, in person or
represented by proxy, and entitled to vote on the proposal is required to approve this proposal.
Our Board of Directors recommends that you vote â??AGAINSTâ? the stockholder proposal.
Stockholder Proposal Amendment to Corporate Bylaws Establishing Board Committee on Human Rights

RESOLVED: To amend the corporate bylaws, by inserting the following new Article 4.4:
Article 4.4
Board Committee on Human Rights
a. There is established a Board Committee on Human Rights, which is created and authorized to review the
implications of company policies, above and beyond matters of legal compliance, for the human rights of
individuals in the US and worldwide.
b. The Board of Directors is authorized in its discretion consistent with these Bylaws and applicable law to
(1) select the members of the Board Committee on Human Rights, (2) provide said committee with funds for
operating expenses, (3) adopt regulations or guidelines to govern said Committeeâ??s operations, (4) empower said Committee to solicit public input and to issue periodic reports to shareholders and the public, at reasonable expense and excluding confidential information, on the Committeeâ??s activities, findings and recommendations, and (5) adopt any other measures within the Boardâ??s discretion consistent with these Bylaws and applicable law.
c. Nothing herein shall restrict the power of the Board of Directors to manage the business and affairs of the
company. The Board Committee on Human Rights shall not incur any costs to the company except as authorized by
the Board of Directors.
Supporting Statement
The proposed Bylaw would establish a Board Committee on Human Rights which would review and make
policy recommendations regarding human rights issues raised by the companyâ??s activities and policies. For
example, Yahoo reportedly disclosed the identity of a Chinese citizen who had published information critical of the Chinese government on the internet; as a result of Yahooâ??s disclosure, the individual is serving a 10 year jail sentence. Also, of the major internet search engines operating in China, Yahoo censored more terms, according to a limited test conducted by Reporters Without Borders. We believe the proposed Board Committee on Human Rights could be an effective mechanism for addressing the human rights implications of the companyâ??s activities and policies on issues such as these, as they emerge anywhere in the world. In defining â??human rights,â? proponents suggest that the committee could use the US Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as nonbinding benchmarks or reference documents.
Board of Directors Statement and Recommendation AGAINST Stockholder Proposal Yahoo! shares the proponentâ??s commitment to human rights, and as described in more detail in the boardâ??s statement in opposition to proposal no. 6 in this proxy statement, the Companyâ??s management team has already instituted practices and initiatives that are designed to assess the implications of the Companyâ??s activities and policies and to protect and advance essential freedoms, such as freedom of expression and privacy rights.
To further advance thinking and practices around the promotion of free expression and privacy, Yahoo! is
actively engaged in a formal dialogue, co-facilitated by Business for Social Responsibility and the Center for
Democracy & Technology, that includes industry counterparts, various human rights groups, academic institutions and socially responsible investors. This diverse group aims to produce a set of global principles and operating procedures on freedom of expression and privacy to guide company behavior when faced with laws, regulations and policies that interfere with human rights. The groupâ??s goals also include creating an implementation, accountability and governance framework, as well as a forum for sharing ideas.
These practices and initiatives have been developed by Yahoo! management based on its thorough and careful consideration of the inherent complexities associated with operating under the laws of multiple foreign countries.
The board of directors believes that Yahoo!â??s management team, with its day-to-day involvement in the Companyâ??s business operations and its detailed understanding of the legislative and regulatory landscape of the countries in which the Company operates, is in the best position to assess these matters and to make informed judgments as to what practices and policies are most likely to promote the interests of the Company and its stockholders and users.
Recommendation of the Board of Directors
FOR ALL OF THE FOREGOING REASONS, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS
THAT STOCKHOLDERS VOTE â??AGAINSTâ? THIS PROPOSAL. PROXIES RECEIVED BY THE
COMPANY WILL BE VOTED â??AGAINSTâ? THIS PROPOSAL UNLESS THE STOCKHOLDER SPECIFIES
OTHERWISE IN THE PROXY.

Google to acquire DoubleClick for $3.1B – Yahoo News

Although I need to work on a brief for, I can’t help comment on Google buying Doubleclick which it appears was just announced today.

Google to acquire DoubleClick for $3.1B – Yahoo News
Seeking to expand its already well-honed ability to sell targeted Internet advertisements, online search leader Google Inc. said it has agreed to pay $3.1 billion in cash to acquire ad-management technology company DoubleClick Inc.
The two companies announced the deal after the markets closed Friday. The boards of both companies have approved the takeover, which is expected to close by the end of the year.

New York-based DoubleClick helps its customers place and track online advertising, including search ads, which Google â?? more than its nearest search competitors Yahoo Inc. Nasdaq:YHOO – news and Microsoft Corp. â?? has turned into an extremely lucrative business.

This is a strange pairing for three reasons although there are obvious attractions. First, Google built itself on a promise not to use banner advertising, a business Doubleclick helped pave the way for. Sure, Google has been testing graphical ads for a few years now, but those were limited. With Doubleclick in the family, Google will be fully reliant on the banner ads they spurned for so long. When the going gets tough, and it will in the cyclical advertising market, will Wall Street force Google to utilize the Doubleclick relationship to place branded, graphical advertising all over its site? Is it already too late for them? This will be the most interesting aspect of this engagement to watch from the sidelines.

Second,does this mean Google didn’t have the engineering experience or expertise to build out a branded advertising unit. I find this interesting and somewhat strange because they already have most of the things needed for a branded advertising network. They have ad targeting technology used for adwords, they have relationships with most major advertisers, and they have an extensive network of publishers, many of whom will consider putting branded advertisements on their site for the right price.

Third, Google holds itself above the rest with regards to privacy. On the flip-side, Doubleclick has been a privacy pariah since 1999 when it purchased Abacus Direct, an offline direct marketing company, and promptly announced it would combine anonymous profile information collected though its adservers with personally identifiable information collected by Abacus. The result is history. After lifting the lid on their plans, Doubleclick was quickly scalded by public and government reaction that saw it investigated by the FTC and several states, forced them to withdraw those data merging plans, and eventually the parting of ways with the Abacus Direct unit.

It’ll be interesting to see how users react to the change in ownership. My guess is that most people are now used to being profiled and tracked and that will shrug their shoulders. This isn’t 1999 when tracking and profiling online was new and most people said “Huh? Who!?” when they first read or heard about Doubleclick and Abacus. Now, Google is a trusted company with obvious brand recognition. Others may sound concerned but will quickly trade privacy online for the free products they’ve become accustomed to. The rest use AdBlock Plus and regularly clear cookies.

BTW: There are Google cookies on this page. I use the Google Analytics product for audience measurement.

limiting postal marketing mail

A family member recently commented on the amount of junk snail mail they receive. I prepared an email with information to help reduce the amount received and decided to post that information in case anyone else finds it useful.

The best way to stop receiving marketing mail is to contact the companies you do business with and tell them to limit the amount of marketing mail they send you and to not sell your personal information. However, that is often not enough because of direct marketing is big industry in the US. There are existing lists with your personal information that is sold wholesale, credit bureaus, public records such as telephone book listings or property deeds.

Offers of credit:
From the the Experian Privacy Policy:

“You can remove your name from prescreened credit or insurance offer mailing lists from Experian, Innovis, TransUnion and Equifax by calling 888 5OPT OUT (888 567 8688).

You will be given a choice to opt out for five years or permanently. If you elect to opt out permanently, you will be mailed a Notice of Election to Opt Out Permanently, which you must sign and return to activate your permanent opt-out. Even though your request becomes effective with Experian within five days of your notifying us, it may take several months before you see a reduction in the amount of solicitations. “

I opted-out in August and have only gotten two more offers since October. Much better than the two per week I had been receiving.

Other generic marketing mail addressed to you. Think, Publisher’s Clearinghouse:

  1. Delist your name and address from the telephone book. For me, it costs about 40 cents per month (although, in reality should be free).
  2. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the largest of the trade organizations representing companies and organizations that send direct mail. They allow an opt-out but will force you to pay a dollar before honoring your request, citing a bogus excuse of fighting fraud. I will submit a legislative proposal to my state legislator and congresswoman at some point in the next year proposing that such charges be banned and suggesting the creation of a do not mail list, like the do not call list. Marketers only bring it upon themselves.
  3. Major data warehouses and resellers

And if you’re getting telemarketing, make sure you get on the National Do-Not Call list maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to an FTC press release on June 21, 2006, more than 125 million phone numbers were registered on the do not call list . BTW: According to that same press release, cell phones don’t need to be included because of specific Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that already forbid telemarketing to cell phones.

Google WiFi, now up and running

I struggle with my wireless router on a daily basis. It is old and my laptop is new, and they hate each other like humans would. As usual, the laptop wouldn’t find the router sitting two feet away but found nine other local wifi routers broadcasting a signal. I was stunned that one of those belongs to Google.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I live in Mountain View, home of Google and their long expected wifi hotspot experiment. But I was. I’m now using it temporarily until I find a good deal on a new router.
I posted a screenshot to Flickr of the first page my browser sees when using their service:

google wifi

They let users sign up for a new account without forcing them to give cell numbers. They’re missing a link to their privacy policy which says a lot to me. I haven’t bothered to search for it, but I’m sure they reserve the right to mine my traffic history to target ads to me. I don’t mind since I don’t use their services much while I’m logged in; there just isn’t much value in that to me yet.

Update:  The free G-wifi is pretty zippy. They provide a free VPN to go with the free wifi access. However turning on the VPN brings the speed to a snails pace.