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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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on Kazaa and spyware

giles pointed out a good article about Kazaa's spyware apps here:

Sounds like the project was mismanaged to me. But as long as you fully close down Kazaa between sessions and do not install any third-party programs which you're occasionally invited to do while connected to Kazaa, I would think you'd be safe.

"Spyware" is a touchy word - full of emotion, I think. It's not hard to see why advertisers would like to gather as much demographic data as possible on their audiences in order to push their decreasingly effective banner ads and other promotions to the most carefully-selected groups possible. It should sure as hell be clearly regulated (which it's probably not), but it's hardly the Big Brother scare that it's occasionally made out to be.

Of course, we're all entitled to our opinions...

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chaizzilla March 13th, 2002
dig that icon :)

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iamom March 13th, 2002
I think it's a legitimate privacy issue. Lots of people wouldn't mind sending their demographic data in the background in order to improve their internet shopping experience, for example. But for those who don't wish to provide that kind of information related to their Internet usage habits, they should be provided with an easy opt-out method that actually works. I expect such a thing might need to be regulated in order to be followed, but that doesn't mean that a lot of bureaucracy or red tape would be required. The policy would just need to be well planned and simply executed, I think. And the onus should probably be on the ultimate users of this data (i.e. the advertisers) to execute the bulk of the processing required to provide this opt-out list and maintain its effectiveness.

What do you think about it?

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no apology necessary

iamom March 13th, 2002
Yours is a perfectly understandable reaction, and I agree with it in principle. I was really just focusing on some conceptual items of discussion at the time, I think.

Still at the conceptual level, I'm loathe to consider music trading via P2P as electronic shoplifting. I know I'm not alone in using it as a research aid for my CD purchases. I spend at least 20% more on CDs now as a result of my ability to listen carefully to new artists before I purchase their CDs.

If the technology is currently such that we can take these traded files across a number of platforms, well, that's just an inevitable outcome of the technology. I'm sure that there are programmers intelligent enough to design good enough software keys to act on a legitimate proof of purchase code which would render pirated files unplayable on major systems. I'd like to draw out more dialog about that very process in order to legimitize and validate the whole practice of music sharing in general.

Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own publishing rights, and the system needs to reflect and support our current needs in that regard. Idealistic, but true, no? Similar discussion could be had about the sharing of text-based intellectual property via the Internet.

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Re: no apology necessary

iamom March 14th, 2002
That's precisely why I want to have this discussion. If we could all agree on the fundamental tenets of our "copyright laws", we'd be able to use existing technology to build a fantastic distribution system for all of our collective creative output. Having said that, I'm always one to look for solutions that are already in place (why waste time building something new?), and I think that the solutions to these dilemmas are probably easier to grasp than we might think.

Back to the concept board, then: Can we agree than a fundamental tenet of this program is that nobody has the right to distribute for free to other people the clearly-marked creative content of someone else without the explicit permission of the content's creator? (This would ostensibly include all forms of music, text, imagery, other forms of data and other creative media.)

giles March 13th, 2002
In my understanding, it's the third-party stuff that causes the trouble. I haven't used Kazaa, but I've used LimeWire... I don't think anybody's ported their spyware to OS X yet, though.

However there are SOME privacy issues intrinsic to any kind of file-sharing, depending on how paranoid you are... I guess gnutella-type programs are a fine example of something that slaps your IP address up there next to all the pr0n and warez you have shared on your hard drive... I seem to recall something in the early days of gnutella where some people were posting fake child porn filenames, monitoring the IP's of who tried to download them, then posting a list of the offenders...

I think Spyware is offensive - not particularly dangerous, but certainly offensive. I'm a big believer in anonymity through the masses... and unless someone at the Spyware company takes a personal interest in me or my IP, it's going to take a hell of a lot of coincidences before my mother somehow gets emailed the list of websites I visited that day.

Now if I was going to wax TRULY paranoid, I'd say that some company having lists of your web-surfing habits cross-indexed with goodness knows what other information about yourself is the LAST thing the government wants to regulate against at the moment. Think of the subpoenas! Everytime I read a news story where some guy got arrested for whatever and conveniently had child porn or whatever on his hard drive, I think about how many spam-mails I get daily promising Russian lolitas getting raped by horses and wonder what an investigator digging through my email trash would make of THOSE.

Yeah. So anyway, I'm sure the Men in Black LOVE companies spying on us and gathering credit card and phone records... hardly an episode of "Law & Order" goes by without that stuff coming in handy... and when they can just subpoena our web-records and find out who went to bombsrus.com that week, we can all sleep soundly knowing that the enemies of Oceania all have rats strapped to their faces in a dark room far away from us.


jjjiii March 13th, 2002
Regulation will never work. It's too subject to abuse. Information is like toothpaste; once it's out of the tube, you can never put it back. I don't want to find out that information I trusted to a company for a specific use is now being used/stolen by some other organization that plans to use it for some other purpose.

Also, if you fully close down KaZaA when you're not using it, then you're not serving the filesharing community very well. The idea behind peer-to-peer networks is that you leave your resources available. The *best* time to do this is when you're not using the computer for something else -- you just leave it on and connected, and let people download from you. Other people do this in return, which is how you're able to get stuff from the p2p network in the first place. If you shut everything down when you're not actively using it, you're not really being a good citizen to the filesharing community.

Granted, p2p cand deal with a few freeloaders, and it's understandable if you're just using a dialup connection that ties up a phone line or something, but if that's what everyone does, the reliability of the p2p network suffers greatly. So it's not a really good answer for everyone.

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