FCC Approval Of Zero Rating Shows Companies Can Still Violate Neutrality Under New Rules, They Just Have To Be More Clever About It

We’ve discussed more than a few times the awful precedent set by AT&T’s Sponsored Data effort, which involves companies paying AT&T to have their service be exempt from the company’s already arbitrary usage caps. While AT&T pitches this as a wonderful boon to consumers akin to 1-800 numbers and free shipping, as VC Fred Wilson perfectly illustrated last year, it tilts the entire wireless playing field toward companies with deeper pockets that can afford to pay AT&T’s rates for cap exemption.

So how will the FCC’s new net neutrality rules impact AT&T’s plans? There’s every indication it won’t. The rules are still a few years and a few legal challenges away from becoming tangible, and in the interim, the FCC is telling companies that none of the zero rated efforts currently in play should be impacted. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway, Chile and now Canada all realize the threat posed by zero rated apps and have passed net neutrality rules that outlaw zero rating. The FCC, in contrast, has consistently implied it sees zero rating as “creative” pricing.

That’s given AT&T the justifiable confidence to sally forth with its dangerous precedent. After all, injecting a gatekeeper like AT&T (with a generation of documented anti-competitive abuses under its belt) right into the middle of the wireless app ecosystem won’t hurt anyone, and has nothing whatsoever to do with net neutrality.

Link (Techdirt)

Popcorn Time “Fan Pages” Nuked By Anti-Piracy Outfit

Released in the first quarter of 2014, any minute now Popcorn Time will celebrate its one year anniversary.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the various forks of the project after generating hundreds of headlines between them. Needless to say, many have focused on how the project provides sleek access to unauthorized content.

Predictably that ease of use has proven most popular in the United States but interestingly Popcorn Time also proved itself a disproportionate hit in the Netherlands. Last September one fork reported 1.3 million installs in a population of just 17 million.

No surprise then that Popcorn Time has appeared on the radar of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. The Hollywood-affiliated group has been relatively quiet in recent months but is now reporting action aimed at stemming the flow of users to the popular torrent streaming application.

Denouncing Popcorn Time as an “illegal service”, BREIN reports that it has recently shut down “six Dutch Popcorn Time sites” and reached a settlement with their operators.

BREIN usually keeps the names of shuttered sites a closely guarded secret, but on this occasion has chosen to name four out of the six.

PopcornTime.nl, Popcorn-Time.eu, Popcorn-Time.info and PopcornTimeFilms.nl are now non-operational and currently display the warning message below as per their agreement with BREIN.

This site has been removed by the BREIN foundation for propagating Popcorn Time Software.

Popcorn Time encourages illegal use and uses an illegal online supply of films and television series.

WARNING: Popcorn Time software uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology allowing users to both up – and download. Streaming, uploading and downloading of illegal content is prohibited by law and will therefore result in liability for the damages caused.

NOTE: Uploading is illegal and causes greater damage than a single download.

SUPPORT CREATIVITY: Go to Thecontentmap.nl and see where you can legally download and stream.

Link (TorrentFreak)

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft

European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

“Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

“If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday.

The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said.

Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request.

Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.

According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year.

The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.

Link (The Intercept)