Friday, November 30, 2007

How much for your Browsing Privacy? Free WiFi.

In my experience, Wifi in Manila is quite expensive but it remains free in the provinces[1]. In Manila the price rivals that of your pricey food order. Thus, we make do with using our cellphones to browse the net or as a modem for our laptops.

I believe that the service is not affected with the number of users as long as they are all within the capacity of the provider. There is then no use of limiting the number of users, except to create a demand to be able to keep the price high. We lose more this way by failing to maximize the commodity. The companies should reevaluate this system and come up with a better way to make a profit.

WiFi is perfect, fast and mobile. The matter of the price may be improved on by allowing the provider to advertise on your browser. Some stores in the US now offer free WiFi, it allows merchants of any size to offer free advertising-supported Wi-Fi to customers on the store premises. Banner ads or short video spots or both appear before their browsing session. It targets the consumers who are the most inclined to buy the products.

The only downside is that private details of the browser are compromised to allow the advertisers to flash on to the screen. This is a tradeoff between privacy and free WiFi. It’s a matter of choice, as long as it is at the option of the user. Credit card numbers and other sensitive information need be secured but otherwise personal users will largely benefit from this setup. The “persistent messaging frame” will not be a bother, the speed from the WiFi can accommodate that. The danger is the same every time we log on to sites which offer downloadable materials. The advertisers flock our screens and even can detect our area. I can live with that as long as WiFi is free.

When The ZTE deal scandal was still raging, I found out from the news report that the WiFi service would have reached every household in the Philippines. It can cover you wherever you go even while on the road. This is wonderful news. The DSL service breaks down so often because of some reason that only their maintenance can fix. It takes them precious days to fix it and then, it never reaches the promised speed anyway. Not to mention the unsightly wires and the immobility of the router which fetter you within the house. I wish advertisers will subscribe to this idea and the WiFi providers will do too.

[1] Gen. Santos City, Cebu City and Iloilo City


Identity in the Internet

Identity is important to human beings. We need to find a way to differentiate ourselves from one another. It is integral to our uniqueness and when you think about it, vital to our need for self-expression.

It is amazing to see how this need is translated in the Internet. Handles have taken the role of names and avatars have become a replacement for our appearances. Perhaps we do not notice it anymore but the more personalized a website account can get, the better it is supposed to be. The more our internet identity can mimic our true selves, the more we patronize a particular website or internet service.

When it comes to business or work related accounts, this preference becomes an absolute imperative. It is fascinating to see how the Internet has evolved to accommodate this need. Personal Identity Numbers (PINs) have taken the role of access codes to our accounts, credit card numbers have become the mode of choice in validating online transactions, and a variety of websites now require a slew of personal questions as part of their registration process. The need to unify our internet identities to our actual identities become so important that detailed personal information have become portals, access points to our online identities.

But the truth is we are not who we are in the Internet. These accounts are mere reflections of our true self, extended to the Internet for purposes of ease and convenience. What happens then should they get tampered or perhaps even stolen?

Canada recently passed bills proposing amendments to their Criminal Code. The bills seek to punish not only identity theft but also recklessness such as the absence of precautions around securing customer personal data. The bill was made as part of a growing concern over access to personal information in the Internet, indicating thus the gravity of the problem. Identity in the Internet is susceptible to attack as personal information, due to the nature of the electronic word, is not as easy to protect. It is a problem that we all share as the Internet is borderless, a medium that transcends states boundaries and jurisdiction.

I have yet to hear of legislation addressing similar concerns in the Philippines. Our closest bet may perhaps be the e-commerce act. It is easy to oversee the problem of not having applicable laws as we do not have a developed system for online transactions here in the Philippines. But then again, it may be possible that we do not have a developed system precisely because we do not have the laws.

Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Emily Sander was "a sweet little girl" who has "done real good in school” in the eyes of her family. To them, she was a normal 18-year old girl who went to their community college in Kansas. But when she went missing last week, they learned that she was not a sweet little girl after all.

It began as an ordinary case of a missing person. But as the investigation went further, more information about Sander came up. Her friend revealed that she was living a secret life as an online porn star using the name Zoey Zane. This was also confirmed by her brother. Apparently, she also told her parents during Thanksgiving that she signed a contract with a pornography company.

When these information came up, the FBI and internet crime experts were brought in to help with the investigation. The investigation is still on-going. A body has been found but the authorities have yet to determine if it belongs to Sander. The investigators are also trying to check if Sander's work as an online porn star contributed to her disappearance.

If the investigators theory is correct, then this news is really disturbing. The internet is supposed to be a source of information and not the cause of destruction of innocent lives. It is really unfortunate when technology is abused.

The United States is fortunate because they have internet crime experts to consult. Imagine if this happened in the Philippines, who will we run to?

But a more pressing matter would be the institution of sufficient safeguards in our law to prevent these kinds of crimes. While I personally believe that parents should be held primarily responsible for policing their children’s activities, I also think that the lawmakers should take an active part in ensuring that these crimes will not happen in our country.

We have already heard of a number of victims raped or killed by their textmates. Do we have to wait for our own Zoey Zane before we act on the matter?


-Trina Joy A. Solidon

Unreliability of electronic purchases

During the time of dial-up internet, I had on few occasions, made internet purchases of toys and books which I had either delivered at my doorstep or shipped to a foreign address to be handcarried by a relative on her way back home. The transaction entailed keying in a 16-digit credit card number [encrypted, to “ensure” safety] and the merchandise would soon be on its way. How convenient, I thought. Internet purchases were not only quick, reliable and safe, but the goods also often turned out cheaper even with the added shipping costs. Indeed the internet, coupled with the credit facilities of a VISA made life as a homemaker somewhat more exciting for me back then.

With the arrival of stores with better inventory, some even offering book order service, my “need” to order merchandise online lessened. I did not buy anything for a while until a year ago when I attempted to buy a techie gadget with instructions to ship it to a US address to be carried by a friend home, like I used to do. As almost a week passed without my credit card company verifying the purchase like it always did, I called the company’s 1-800 number only to get a curt reply as “they did not accept credit cards issued in the Philippines” for purchases in excess of $50. With no further explanation than company policy and unaware of what was then happening in the world of e-commerce, it did not make sense to me. To my knowledge, my credit account did not have a history of fraud. But where was I supposed to complain to? To the credit card company? (They were not even aware of my purchase transaction with the Internet seller). I don’t remembering bothering much about this thought but it certainly made me think of e-commerce as unreliable.

As a consumer who belatedly learned about fraudulent big-time purchases made using stolen credit card information, I never before realized how unsafe they could be. While pushing for the adoption of ICT for individual and collective commercial growth may be good on the one hand, the move may not be sustained in the long run without laying the legal groundwork in the form of government policies and regulatory measures addressing the safety of electronic payments preferably with a tamper-proof verification system to make them safe once again. And since internet involves reaching out to the global market, policies providing for remedies in case of fraud must be established to maintain “acceptability” of credit cards in e-commerce because the suspension of the credit facility of consumers from an entire country hampers the reliability of e-commerce and discourages the market that fuels the business. Until regulations and remedies are put in place, how can we expect businesses, especially the small to medium-sized ones, to bother investing in expensive technology when weighing the promise of a better business [in general] against the promise of headaches due to lack of mechanisms protecting both businesses and consumers, makes it seem like it is not worth it? Before these basic constraints are dealt with, I am afraid we can only dream that our local industries seriously consider integrating ICT into their businesses.

-Marichelle B. Recio

losing money online

When I ask people what they think of the concept of cyberspace it seems to me that to ten different people, it will mean ten different things to the first five people and as to the other five, they either couldn't care less or didn't have a clue.

The idea of "policing" cyberspace or the internet seems even more vague to most people and to be a matter worthy of even less interest.

However, I know some persons who would find the topic of policing cyberspace very interesting, these would be the victims of crimes committed "in cyberspace." In our lawschool, I know of two persons who sadly lost small fortunes online. They are interested.

Once a person is victim of so-called "cyber-crimes" like online credit card fraud or identity theft, we may again prefer our good old reality over the virtual. When one loses his own hard-earned money online, the idea of policing cyberspace probably won't sound so negligible anymore.

However, it doesn't sound so good if I imagine the MMDA or the PNP snooping around online. We may end up losing more money than we did without them around. Can you imagine online suhol? :p paypal, globecash or smartmoney...

Does our government have an agency tasked to crack down on online offenses?
Are we left to police things on our own?
Is there a regulatory framework that sets guidelines for entities conducting business online to Philippine consumers?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Comic Publishers Fight Back

Marvel and DC, the two biggest comic book publishers in the world have begun to aggressively enforce their copyrights over their comics by filing legal threats against internet torrent sites that host "illegal, scanned and pirated"copies of their comics on the latter's trackers. And they have met with success.

Zcult, a popular download site for comic book fanatics had to take its tracker off line for some time while site administrators mulled over the legal threats. Administrators of DCPSearch, another popular site have agreed to remove any marvel comics from their tracker.

No reason for the sudden desire to protect their copyrights was stated in the cease and desist letters sent to site administrators but Marvel has recently opened its online comic book archive service and DC is speculated to follow suit.

In retaliation, comic book geeks have threatened to boycott Marvel and DC comics but the effectiveness of this boycott has yet to be seen. After all, these are the guys who are too cheap to shell out money to buy original non-scanned copies.

The attack on comics only torrent sites is just one of the battlegrounds in the war between supporters of public peer to peer torrent sites on one hand and associations of artists and big multinational companies that represent the copyright holders on the other. It is a war that the copyright holders are winning. With international treaties and domestic laws in their favor, copyright holders have been able to force the "pirates" to stop by threatening the companies renting servers to these "pirates" or by threatening the ISP providers of said buccaneers. A landmark victory for these "rightists" was the closure of Demonoid, a well known and well loved torrent site. Alas, old friend, rest in peace.

There have been some holdouts against this new wave of regulation. The most prominent being THE PIRATE or TPB as it is called by its admirers and detractors alike. TPB's servers were seized by local authorities in the country wherein they were hosted sometime in 2006 and several site administrators were held for questioning. The site was forced off line for a time before TPB's lawyers got the persons and goods released. The experience prompted TPB to consider the acquisition of the micronation of Sealand, a man-made sea platform, so that it would be free from restraints imposed by local copyright legislation. However, Sealand's government refused to sell to TPB. Also, Swedish prosecutors have announced that charges will be filed in January 2008 against 5 people who are connected to TPB.

It seems only a matter of time before the "rightists" achieve total victory in this online copyright war.