Blown To Bits

Posts Tagged ‘Add new tag’

Why Defaults Matter

Sunday, March 8th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

A standard philosophical posture taken on privacy issues is that choice is what counts. If you have a choice between sharing information and not sharing it, the burden of responsibility shifts to you from the entity (usually a corporation) that collects the information. If you don’t like the way your information is being shared, you have only yourself to blame.

Hogwash. It all depends on the default: Do they share UNLESS you tell them not to, or do they share ONLY IF you explicitly tell them it’s OK? Almost no one ever changes the default — because, practically speaking, almost no one ever reads the fine print in which the default is stated. So most people have to depend on the ethics and good taste of the company, and that is rarely enough.

Though these are old saws — read the part of Blown to Bits where we discuss Sears Holding Company — rarely does one ever see a case quite as egregious as what David Weinberger describes about Verizon. Not only is the opt-out barely whispered, it is almost impossible to find and to make functional, even if you follow Verizon’s instructions exactly. A short, quick, funny, and infuriating read. And maybe I’m wrong about this being rarely seen — maybe it’s just that few of us have the patience to do what David did to chase it down.

Keeping the Internet Open, Innovative, and Free

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 by Hal Abelson

On June 4, the Center for Democracy and Technology published The Internet in Transition: A Platform to Keep the Internet Open, Innovative and Free. This 25-page report summarizes CDT’s recommendation on Internet policy for the next Administration and Congress.

Readers of Blown to Bits will find the issues here familiar: preserving free speech while protecting children online; strengthening consumer privacy and restoring protections again government surveillance; using the power of the Internet to promote freedom and democracy on a global scale; protecting innovation by resisting attempts to undercut the Internet’s open architecture; and capitalizing upon the Internet as a force to encourage open government.

In the words of the report:

In recent years, policymakers seem to have forgotten what makes the Internet special. Increasingly, policy proposals treat the Internet as a problem to be solved rather than a valuable resource that must be supported. Debates over objectionable content online, protecting intellectual property, preventing terrorism, or restructuring telecommunications policy seem to have lost sight of the Internet’s history and its architecture.

This version of the report is a first draft. CDT and has launched a web site for readers to comments and suggest additional policy initiatives for incorporation into later versions of the report.

There are many detailed proposals and links to other CDT policy reviews. This is a great reference to Internet policy, and well worth reading and commenting on, regardless of where you stand on the issues.

The site is at and the report itself is available at