24 August 2010

Estonia closes Internet border to gambling

I am grateful to one of my former graduate students who is from Estonia, who first made me aware earlier this year that Estonia had chosen to "close" its Internet border to many international gambling sites. Here's one report of the closing in a casino trade paper.

The method of border enforcement chosen by Estonia is (I believe) the shape of things to come in most countries around the world, because it is less cost-intensive than building and operating a national network gateway.

17 August 2010

What is this Internet thing and how do we shut it down?

One failed attempt to control the entire Internet in the 1990's sheds some light on why enforcing state borders on the Internet is an achievable goal.

In the mid-1990's I was a junior lawyer in the technology law group at the world's largest international law firm, based in London. A senior partner telephoned me from our litigation department. He came straight to the point:

"I understand that you know something about the Internet. Well, a client of ours has had a bit of a disaster. Some disgruntled former employee has walked out with a number of confidential documents and has published them on the Internet. Now, what is this Internet thing and how do we shut it down?"

11 August 2010

The case of the persistent salesman

At our law office in London, we were just given a stunning reminder of how easy it is (sometimes) to know where end-users are located.

A couple of us spent some time earlier today looking online for a particular type of networking equipment. We found multiple references to one specific piece of equipment, including web sites of distributors here in the UK.

A few hours later and the phone rang. It was a sales representative calling us from one of the distributors, who asked to be connected to our IT department. The salesman then said, "We noticed that you have been looking at the [equipment name] on our web site. I thought I would call to see if I could answer any questions or offer you a chance to try one of these devices."

8 August 2010

Where is my Cloud?

Cloud Computing. A brilliant approach for data handling. Want to process a large data set (like client details) accessible in all of your firm's offices without the messy expense of buying and maintaing a data centre? Host it in "the Cloud".

But what, and crucially where, is "the Cloud"?

4 August 2010

Google location data - someone knows where you are

Google faced heavy criticism recently when data privacy regulators discovered that Google Street View survey cars had been surveying with more than just cameras. As we now know, they were also collecting data relating to local WiFi routers - both public and private. A lot was written (and much heat generated) about the possibility that Google might "sniff" content in transit: snippets of emails, or web browsing traffic, or whatever else they could collect in the few seconds that a car was in range of a WiFi point.

But most people missed the bigger story. The (seemingly benign) purpose of the data capture was to get MAC codes of WiFi routers and develop a database of their geo-locations.

2 August 2010

RIM faces more international hurdles

I don't really want this blog to become "the Blackberry Report" but clearly RIM is a hot item in the news right now.

I think it's important to state that again for clarity: "RIM" is a hot item. That is to say Research in Motion, the company that provide the global secure data communication service, is in the news. Like reporters around the world, I have been referring to this story as the Blackberry story. I want to highlight that Blackberry is the device and trade name, while RIM is the "legal person" (i.e., the company) providing a back end service.

1 August 2010

Blackberry problem spreads to Saudi

Earlier today when discussing the problem of RIM/Blackberry vs the UAE, I mentioned that RIM should not ignore this problem because "... the risk here is that other countries could (and I believe will) follow the UAE's lead on this and threaten similar shut-downs."

When I wrote that, I figured that other countries would follow suit in a matter of months. Now it seems that it took less than 2 hours for news to leak that Saudi Arabia is planning a similar move, and for similar reasons.

Reports are sketchy, but here's an interesting source. The Saudi threat put an additional 700,000 subscribers (and 700,000 subscribers' revenue) at risk.

The stakes are now that much higher for RIM.

UAE Blackberry tension rises

Wow. Less that a week after I wrote about the UAE and Blackberry, and they're in the news again. Only this time it looks like the gloves are off.

Reports indicate that the United Arab Emirates (a sovereign federation of seven Emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai) has announced they will suspend "messaging, e-mail and Web browsing" services to Blackberry users in the UAE with effect from 11 October 2010 "until a solution compatible with local laws is reached". Here are the reports from the BBC, Bloomberg, and the AP courtesy of Google.

Here is a statement from a service provider in the UAE with their understanding of the shut-down order, which includes helpful added details. They make it clear that domestically managed services, such as voice telephony, SMS, MMS, and carrier-provided web browsing, will continue as normal. The shut-down order relates only to value-added services provided by Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that designs Blackberry devices and operates the back-office service that makes them all work so smoothly. These are the services that really make the device a hit with customers such as Blackberry email and Blackberry system web browsing. Without those services, the device becomes just another web-enbled mobile phone - and not a great one. (I'm a biased iPhone user.)

So here is the problem in a nutshell.