Sunday 18 November 2012

6 Strikes and you're out! Big Brother's cracking the whip in the U.S.

You know what we are just so excited about? The constant and steady erosion of privacy rights in the United States. I hope you’re picking up on the sarcasm. Sadly though, privacy will be taking another hit this month as American internet service providers team up with big content providers and implement a digital 1984 “Six Strikes” plan. Thankfully, a good VPN like SumRando can completely quash their attempts to police your personal life.

If Six Strikes sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been floating around as a possibility for some time now. And while there have been various versions and ideas suggested and each ISP will enforce the plan a little differently, all of them will be following a similar blueprint. Here’s how it works.

Rights holders will monitor peer-to-peer sharing sites like BitTorrent and look for users distributing and downloading content they (the rights holders) own. In the case of torrents, rights holders will look at the swarms (groups of people downloading and uploading a file) and record the IP addresses of swarm participants. Now, the rights holders will only be able to record IP addresses, not actual names or locations. At this point, the IP addresses will be passed on to the Internet Service Providers who can then pair the IP address with the name of a subscriber. It should be noted that ISPs will not share names or any other details with rights holders. Once an ISP has identified a copyright violator, they will issue a strike. The more strikes you accumulate, the worse life gets.
Strike 1: The ISP will send an email notice to the email address registered with the account notifying them that their account has been used to download illegal content. 
Strike 2: This strike is the same as the first. Just a second notice. 
Strike 3: On the third offense, an email will be sent out, but the account holder will be required to reply to the notice, confirming that they have actually received it. We’re not yet sure how the read receipt will work or what the consequences are for not acknowledging it. 
Strike 4: Same as Strike 3. 
Strike 5: This is where sh*t gets real. At this point, ISPs will implement what they call “mitigation measures” There are several possibilities here. The worst is a suspension of service, leaving you sans internet. But some ISPs are saying they’ll only throttle internet speed. Once your connection is either throttled or suspended, you will be required to call your service provider to discuss your deviant ways. Fortunately for you, ISPs can choose whether or not to enforce the mitigation measures at Strike 5. 
Strike 6: The mitigation measures are required. Frankly though, if you haven’t started using a VPN at this point, you pretty much deserve to have your internet cut off. (Just kidding. Kinda.)
Proponents of the Six Strikes plan say it’s a good alternative to litigation. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence and no likelihood that rights holders will stop suing anybody because of this plan.

The Center for Copyright Information, the grotesque organization spawned in a horrible ménage-à-trois involving American ISPs, Hollywood and the record labels, says the new approach will function “primarily as an educational system” and that it’s not intended to be used for enforcement. Right…

Like I said before, nobody at SumRando is advocating for any kind of illegal activity or speaking in support of copyright violators. However, we certainly believe that what you do on your computer and through your internet connection is your own business. As things are, both your ISP and rights holders (along with hundreds of other parties that have nothing to do with this system) are monitoring your online activity. This is both an invasion of your privacy and very creepy.

The ISPs have said that Six Strikes won’t affect “hardcore” rights violators because they’ll simply use a VPN to access the content. After all, when you use a VPN, you’re assigned an anonymous IP address that leads snoopers back to the VPN servers, not your computer. But it shouldn’t just be “hardcore” users who dodge Big Brother.

So in that sense, maybe I agree with CPI. Let’s make this an “educational system”. Let’s make sure that every user on every ISP knows exactly what they need to do to keep their information away from the prying eyes of the content industry and ISPs. 

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