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FCC Chairman giving up the net neutrality fight?

(Tech News) Net neutrality remains a hot topic and as the feds come closer to changing history, a key leader appears to be floundering.

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FCC Chairman Wheeler now just wants to “get it over with”

Recently, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, attempted to explain, or rationalize, his position regarding net neutrality. If you have missed this on-going saga, you can catch up quickly here.

Wheeler’s latest blog post outlines how he feels about net neutrality (also called, “the Open Internet”). As you read through his lengthy post, you may notice he glosses over several items. First, and perhaps most prudent, he does not acknowledge the fact that the federal appeals court dismissed previous net neutrality rules because the FCC was shortsighted in its verbiage.

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The FCC did not think about categorizing Internet service providers (ISPs) as a critical part of communication infrastructure. As we previously mentioned, simply revamping the original rules and adding to them, including the reclassification of ISPs would be all they need to get back on track.

Reading between Wheeler’s lines

Wheeler writes, “I am concerned that acting in a manner that ignores the Verizon court’s guidance, or opening an entirely new approach, invites delay that could tack on multiple more years before there are Open Internet rules in place. We are asking for comment on a proposed a course of action that could result in an enforceable rule rather than continuing the debate over our legal authority that has so far produced nothing of permanence for the Internet.”

He seems to be saying that he is content to let telecom companies like Verizon win (by using their language and accepting it as the gospel), as long as it allows him to “get this net neutrality thing over with.” Given his background in telecommunications, as former CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, one might assume he would have an idea on how to set these binding regulations without relying on previous court case language. He also states he will not hesitate to reclassify infrastructures if it process to be necessary, which begs the question: why not do it now?

To further insult consumers’ intelligence, he breaks down the ways in which he feels “we” are overreacting to potential policy changes, regarding “fast lanes.” He states, “something that harms consumers is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading service in order to create a new ‘fast lane’ would be shut down.” This sounds good when you first read it, but it does not address other issues. Perhaps service will not be “degraded” merely left “unimproved.” They could simply offer special rates for improved services and anyone who uses it frequently will want the improved services.

Failing to address the elephant in the room

Next, “something that harms competition is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher priced tier would be shut down.” Wheeler seems to think the only “harm” that can be done is for services to be degraded; he does not address the fact that a failure to improve service is in fact a de facto degradation.

He also states, “Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.”

Breaking down the facts

Again, I turn to the Consumerist’s Chris Morran for the perfect example, “this doesn’t seem to require the ISP to provide the same level of service or access; merely that it not make that better service exclusive. So if Cable Company X (which is also an ISP) owns an online sports channel that it gives priority access to, Company X need only offer priority access to competing networks; it doesn’t say Company X can’t charge a premium fee for that access.”

And finally, “Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online such action should be shut down.” No kidding? You are not going to allow ISPs to engage in illegally activity? This is simply restating previous basic definitions of net neutrality: ISPs cannot block content.

So what’s next?

Since Wheeler repeatedly makes statements regarding the possibility of “reclassifying” ISPs if necessary, it makes you wonder if he is indeed concerned at all about net neutrality, or if he would rather just “get this over with.”

We will continue to update as more news of net neutrality becomes available and remember: the commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal on May 15, 2014. Then, they will accept feedback from the pubic. So be ready to voice yours.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Tech News

Google chrome: The anti-cookie monster in 2022

(TECH NEWS) If you are tired of third party cookies trying to grab every bit of data about you, google has heard and responded with their new updates.

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3rd party cookies

Google has announced the end of third-party tracking cookies on its Chrome browser within the next two years in an effort to grant users better means of security and privacy. With third-party cookies having been relied upon by advertising and social media networks, this move will undoubtedly have ramifications on the digital ad sector.

Google’s announcement was made in a blog post by Chrome engineering director, Justin Schuh. This follows Google’s Privacy Sandbox launch back in August, an initiative meant to brainstorm ideas concerning behavioral advertising online without using third-party cookies.

Chrome is currently the most popular browser, comprising of 64% of the global browser market. Additionally, Google has staked out its role as the world’s largest online ad company with countless partners and intermediaries. This change and any others made by Google will affect this army of partnerships.

This comes in the wake of rising popularity for anti-tracking features on web browsers across the board. Safari and Firefox have both launched updates (Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari and the Enhanced Tracking Prevention for Firefox) with Microsoft having recently released the new Edge browser which automatically utilizes tracking prevention. These changes have rocked share prices for ad tech companies since last year.

The two-year grace period before Chrome goes cookie-less has given the ad and media industries time to absorb the shock and develop plans of action. The transition has soften the blow, demonstrating Google’s willingness to keep positive working relations with ad partnerships. Although users can look forward to better privacy protection and choice over how their data is used, Google has made it clear it’s trying to keep balance in the web ecosystems which will likely mean compromises for everyone involved.

Chrome’s SameSite cookie update will launch in February, requiring publishers and ad tech vendors to label third-party cookies that can be used elsewhere on the web.

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Tech News

Computer vision helps AI create a recipe from just a photo

(TECH NEWS) It’s so hard to find the right recipe for that beautiful meal you saw on tv or online. Well computer vision helps AI recreate it from a picture!

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Ever seen at a photo of a delicious looking meal on Instagram and wondered how the heck to make that? Now there’s an AI for that, kind of.

Facebook’s AI research lab has been developing a system that can analyze a photo of food and then create a recipe. So, is Facebook trying to take on all the food bloggers of the world now too?

Well, not exactly, the AI is part of an ongoing effort to teach AI how to see and then understand the visual world. Food is just a fun and challenging training exercise. They have been referring to it as “inverse cooking.”

According to Facebook, “The “inverse cooking” system uses computer vision, technology that extracts information from digital images and videos to give computers a high level of understanding of the visual world,”

The concept of computer vision isn’t new. Computer vision is the guiding force behind mobile apps that can identify something just by snapping a picture. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your credit card on an app instead of typing out all the numbers, then you’ve seen computer vision in action.

Facebook researchers insist that this is no ordinary computer vision because their system uses two networks to arrive at the solution, therefore increasing accuracy. According to Facebook research scientist Michal Drozdzal, the system works by dividing the problem into two parts. A neutral network works to identify ingredients that are visible in the image, while the second network pulls a recipe from a kind of database.

These two networks have been the key to researcher’s success with more complicated dishes where you can’t necessarily see every ingredient. Of course, the tech team hasn’t stepped foot in the kitchen yet, so the jury is still out.

This sounds neat and all, but why should you care if the computer is learning how to cook?

Research projects like this one carry AI technology a long way. As the AI gets smarter and expands its limits, researchers are able to conceptualize new ways to put the technology to use in our everyday lives. For now, AI like this is saving you the trouble of typing out your entire credit card number, but someday it could analyze images on a much grander scale.

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Xiaomi accidentally sent security video from one home to another

(TECH NEWS) Xiaomi finds out that while modern smart and security devices have helped us all, but there are still plenty of flaws and openings for security breeches.

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Xiaomi home device

The reason for setting up security cameras around your home is so the photos can get streamed to your neighbor’s device, right?

Okay, that’s obviously not why most (if any) of us get security cameras, but unfortunately, that scenario of the leaked images isn’t a hypothetical. Xiaomi cameras have been streaming photos to the wrong Google Home devices. This was first reported on Reddit, with user Dio-V posting a video of it happening on their device.

Xiaomi is a Chinese electronics company that has only recently started to gain traction in the U.S. markets. While their smartphones still remain abroad, two of Xiaomi’s security cameras are sold through mainstream companies like Wal-Mart and Amazon for as low as $40. Their affordable prices have made the products even more popular and Xiaomi’s presence has grown, both nationally and abroad.

To be fair, when the leaked photos surfaced, both Google and Xiaomi responded quickly. Google cut off access to Xiaomi devices until the problem was resolved to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Meanwhile, Xiaomi worked to identify and fix the issue, which was caused by a cache update, and has since been fixed.

But the incident still raises questions about smart security devices in the first place.

Any smart device is going to be inherently vulnerable due to the internet connection. Whether it’s hackers, governments, or the tech companies themselves, there are plenty of people who can fairly easily gain access to the very things that are supposed to keep your home secure.

Of course, unlike these risks, which involve people actively trying to access your data, this most recent incident with Xiaomi and Google shows that your intimate details might even be shared to strangers who aren’t even trying to break into your system. Unfortunately, bugs are inevitable when it comes to keeping technology up to date, so it’s fairly likely something like this could happen again in the future.

That’s right, your child’s room might be streamed to a total stranger by complete accident.

Granted, Xiaomi’s integration mistake only affected a fraction of their users and many risks are likely to decrease as time goes on. Still, as it stands now, your smart security devices might provide a facade of safety, but there are plenty of risks involved.

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