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What we’re reading: On ISPs, online advertising, Uber & more

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Should broadband data hogs pay more? ISP economics say “no” – Ars Technica

Big ISPs usually rely on peered connections to other major ISPs, connections which incur no per-bit cost. As for the cables in the ground, they’ve been there for years. The equipment back at the headend must be installed once, after which it runs for years. Cable node splits and DOCSIS hardware upgrades are relatively cheap. Requesting one additional bit does not necessarily incur any additional charge to the ISP.

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Guardian of the GPL: Online advertising is becoming “a perfect despotism” – Ars Technica

The problem, Moglen explained to Ars, is that the Internet today undermines human autonomy, and seeks to control our behaviour. “The idea that advertising is still primarily about displaying an advertisement is part of the culprit here.” Major platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which Moglen collectively refers to as “the machine,” are experimenting with readers billions of times a day in order to capture our attention and to change our behaviour, without our understanding and rarely with our informed consent.

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Website for models can be sued for not warning users about rapists – Ars Technica

Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, and other online companies had told the court (PDF) that such a ruling would have a chilling effect on the Web. In a court filing, they said that the CDA shields website operators “from the risks, burdens, and uncertainty of lawsuits that would hold them liable for hosting or facilitating online exchanges of third-party information that may result in harm.”

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OkCupid study reveals the perils of big data science – Wired

For those concerned about privacy, research ethics, and the growing practice of publicly releasing large data sets, this logic of “but the data is already public” is an all-too-familiar refrain used to gloss over thorny ethical concerns. The most important, and often least understood, concern is that even if someone knowingly shares a single piece of information, big data analysis can publicize and amplify it in a way the person never intended or agreed.

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The Google/Oracle decision was bad for copyright and bad for software – Ars Technica

APIs are not something that is wholly distinct from source code. An API at its heart is a combination of literal source code—the functions, classes, data structures, and so on that constitute a software interface—and some form of behavioral contract. APIs suffer the same conflict between expression and idea; while functional needs can shape an API and in some cases may even be a straitjacket that constrains an API’s expression, they do not exclude creativity.

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Uber is in the sub-prime auto business – Houston Chronicle

Uber initially claimed to be part of the “sharing” economy, a marketing term that masks the unsavory nature of these exploitative business plans. But as we learn more about what companies like Uber must do to enrich the venture capitalists who back them, it becomes clear that old-fashioned exploitation of the desperate is at the heart of the enterprise.

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Read previous articles from this series here.

Image source: Flickr user Robert under CC BY-NC 2.0

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