Computer Ethics, Sum 2021

Class 5 Readings

June 8

Read Baase chapter 2 on privacy


The EFF is vexed ISP is held liable for copyright infringement by its subscribers

Sony sued Cox for tolerating filesharing (mostly Bittorent) by its subscribers. The district court ruled in favor of Sony, deciding that Cox had not done enough to terminate the accounts of subscribers who engaged in filesharing. (Cox felt it had implemented alternative blocking measures.)

While the $1 billion judgement against Cox is excessive, the EFF's real concern is that this decision will force Cox to become much more aggressive about terminating Internet access. This is especially likely when an account is shared, or provides public access.

Nigeria Bans Twitter After President's Tweet Is Deleted

The tweet contained a veiled threat against the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria's southeast; President Buhari wrote that those like himself “who went through the war, will treat them [the rebels] in the language they understand.”

There is no word as to how long the block will remain in place.

FBI tries to subpoena from USA Today data about everyone who read an online article

They eventually dropped the subpoena request, after USA Today objected.

The request was for the IP address of everyone who clicked on a February article about the fatal shooting of two FBI agents in Florida. The subpoena was limited to those who clicked on the article during a 35-minute window.

It remains unclear whether the subpoena targeted only USA Today readers of the story, which was also carried by other news outlets, and, if so, why. The time restriction was also unclear.

From Justice William O. Douglas' concurrence in the Supreme Court decision US v Rumely:

A requirement that a publisher disclose the identity of those who buy his books, pamphlets, or papers is indeed the beginning of surveillance of the press.

An FBI Success Story

Slightly over half of the Colonial Pipeline ransom payment was "clawed back" by the FBI. See

The article states that "the private key for the Subject Address is in the possession of the FBI in the Northern District of California". How on earth did the FBI get that? Some theories:

Why you too should hate Big Tech

Or not. See

The article is a good summary of many of the outright contradictory positions against Big Tech taken by many observers.

We'll return to this later. But, for now, think about this: which Big Tech actions have the effect of harming consumers? Does Amazon lead to higher prices? It may, but that's speculative. For me, personally, Amazon is vastly less expensive when I take my time into account.

A common alternative monopoly theory is that companies should not be allowed to use their platforms to promote products that harm competitors. Back in the '90s, Microsoft used Windows to tout Internet Explorer, to the detriment of Netscape. More recently, Google touted Google Meet over Zoom. Amazon has pushed all sorts of Amazon Basics products. Facebook has pushed hosting videos on Facebook instead of on YouTube. But there is a very serious question here: is this behavior in any sense wrong?

Government issues and privacy