Monday, January 20, 2014

Broadband Throttling, Data Mining, Floods of EMail, Bad Law, and More: Technological Progress and "Invention" Mean Two Steps Forward and One Step Back: Where Are We Now?

Some people view invention and technological progress as a forward-moving vector, whereas we define it in terms of the actual beneficial  "advancement of humanity" -- which often means two steps forward and one step backward.

For one example of technology gone negatively wild, see e.g. Nick Bilton at the New York Times in Disruptions: Looking for Relief From a Flood of Email.

Another example is data mining and the ever-spreading disregard of privacy rights and the misuse of personal communications by corporations, politicians and the government. See John Nichols at The Nation in Beyond the NSA: What About Big Data Abuse by Corporations, Politicians? who writes:
"[I]t’s not just the government that’s paying attention to our communications—and to what they can reveal about our personalities, lifestyles, values, spending habits and political choices.
There’s a reason the NSA has been interested in accessing the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. When you’re mining, you go where the precious resources are, and technology companies have got the gold.

Data is digital gold. Corporations know that. They’re big into data mining."
Anyone who thinks that data mining is "progress" is in another ball park. Rather, anything you say online can be used against you, and is.

Indeed, ever since the recent terrible net neutrality decision in Verizon v. FCC (link 1) and our postings about it, we are unable on our state-of-the-art and fast broadband PC to access GMail in "standard mode" (normal mode) and can only view our German-based Google Mail mailbox via "basic mode", an HTML version out of the Internet pioneer era which surely saves someone a lot of bandwidth. Is this blockage connected to the Verizon v. FCC (link 2) decision? We do not know.

We do know that similar net neutrality breaking has surfaced in Germany in the past year, as Deutsche Telekom, the German broadband giant, had its plans to throttle heavily-used broadband connections blocked by a German court, but that throttling battle is far from over. Other companies such as O2 also plan to throttle power users unless they pay more money for services.

At the same time, the European Commission of the EU has said it plans to bar online throttling and site-blocking in the European Union. They better get moving fast before the Internet as we know it is destroyed beforehand.

Digital and Internet technology today is in many ways in backward mode as far as consumers are concerned, and not just because of Verizon v. FCC. The normative legal sector still does not appreciate fully the great dangers of actual monopolistic developments, especially in intellectual property law.

One reason for this is that the prevailing rules and guiding institutions of society lag far behind technological developments. As in the case of patent law, for example, they actually serve to harm that very same advancement of humanity which intellectual property law was intended to promote.

This problem is also especially visible in the undemocratic software programming excesses that now mark program developments and updates.

"Force" seems to be the modus operandi of the major corporations in updating their monopolistic software (Microsoft Windows, Google, Facebook, even Firefox, etc.) Users are not given the option of opting in or out of changes made by these companies in their software programs. They are to obey.

Most people seem to think that these monopolistic companies will continue to prosper down the road forever, but we are not so sure. We are protesting.

We do not buy overhyped, overpriced Apple products.

We look at Facebook rarely and have always viewed it to be a gross violator of privacy rights. Today to our further consternation we found our Facebook pages filled with superfluous ads of all kinds, which we do not want to see when conversing with our friends. Facebook as a place for communication has been replaced by Facebook as an ad factory. Moreover, private communications are being data mined for profit. We do not need Facebook.

For years, we have been great fans of Google, but they seem to be approaching the same status as Apple and Facebook, a status under which power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We just got rid Google+ for the second and last time, after giving it another chance, for being irresponsibly invasive of private rights. We do not want strangers to be able to put us into "their circles". Forget it. Google+ fulfills none of our basic Internet needs. We will write emails -- privately -- should there be such a program out there.

We are in fact looking around for a new email program to replace Gmail, because we are also tired of viewing "trimmed" Gmail emails which are forcing us to click three dots (....) in order to see the text of what has been written. When we want trimmed emails, we will tell Google, otherwise we want to see what people are writing to us, that is why we have email.

As for Microsoft, which is one of the worst offenders with their adolescent ribbon interface, the user merely has to look at Windows 8 and 8.1 to see that software programming has virtually nothing to do with customer use, as favorite features such as the Start button are eliminated without asking and are often replaced by nonsense, as Microsoft attempts to unify their graphic user interface for mobile use, thus ignoring the needs of serious PC users.

For years, we have been using Yahoo! Groups, but that has been recently "redesigned" for all groups with the consequence that all of our introductory material for our group was lost. The redesigned replacement now gives the users a tiny box -- the size of which can not be changed -- in which to make postings -- a joke. We do not need Yahoo! Groups and are in the process of moving that group elsewhere.

Even Mozilla Firefox, originally designed to give the USER full control over his browsing options, now is content with forcing changes on the user that the user does not want, e.g. abandoning the Google Toolbar, which we viewed to be one of the major plusses of that browser, making useful add-ons incompatible with newer versions, etc.

The days in which the user had the "option" to choose are gone and we now have an Internet climate in which monopoly, force and greed are the reigning values.

Whether the companies operating by those value systems will survive long-term is questionable.

Will 2014 be good for the Internet user? We doubt it.

Thankfully, there is one program we CAN recommend to all -- yet.
That is What's App, a communication service designed -- are you ready --
to which we thus give five stars plus.
May they make billions! They deserve it.

Maybe the other companies in the digital field could invite the guys who run that service to give them some pointers about forming the future digital world with the customer in mind.

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