Word by word

In which i analyze a paragraph much loaded and far reaching, from http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/12/victory-for-the-tabloids-online-porn-to-be-filtered-by-default-in-uk/ word by word to determine it’s implications, applicability, effectiveness and eventually it’s uttermost impossibility.

The paragraph is “Every owner of a new computer will be asked when they log in through their Internet service provider if they have children in the house. If they answer yes, it will immediately prompt them to set up filters blocking content, individual sites, or restricting access at particular times of day”

#1 – “Every owner” : requires technical ability to identify the “owner”, computers do not typically come with biometric identification peripherals nor can ISP’s be imagined to hold a database linking such biometrics to a given person.

Verdict: improbable technically, privacy implications, ISP cost implications, can’t really be enforced.

#2 – “a new” : requires technical ability to determine it, the network hardware’s MAC address can be used for that but it implies the ISP storing a database of all MAC addresses in order to determine if the machine is “new”, a guest’s computer would have to go trough the same activation/identification procedure in order to have internet access.

Verdict: possible technically, privacy implications, ISP cost implications, locks internet access to the owner’s computers, improbable to be enforced.

#3 – “computer” : requires technical ability to determine if a networked hardware connecting to the ISP is a “computer” or some other kind of internet connected device like say a Nest thermostat, advanced heuristics can be employed if extensive traffic analysis is performed as to see what kind of internet services are being accessed.

Verdict: can’t be accurately determined technically (only guessed) , privacy implications, ISP cost implications, can’t really be enforced.

#4 – “will be asked” : requires a interface between the ISP and the computer user, there are only two ways, ISP’s software has to run on the computer (very hard if it is a iPad for example) or a browser based approach has to be taken, for the browser approach a browser must be opened, if the user never opens a browser it would be technically possible to access the blocked content from other applications without the browser ever getting a chance “to ask” unless everything is blocked by default for any new (unknown) device and each has to be activated/identified (see #2).

Verdict: can’t be universally applied technically, ISP cost implications, hard to be enforced.

#5 – “when they log in” : requires a log in between the ISP and the computer user which has to be either implemented in the operating system, ISP’s software has to run on the computer (see #2) or done trough a browser,

Verdict: can’t be universally applied technically or it limits the types of compatible “computers”, can’t be enforced without ISP loss in market/service availability.

#6 – “through their Internet service provider” : what if it’s not their ISP and they are just guests at the owner’s house, being able to share your internet connection with guests might not be an inviolable human right but it’s something taken for granted and people will easily notice if it goes away.

Verdict: can’t be enforced without taking exiting functionality and/or PR backlash from public uproar.

#7 – “if they have children in the house” : assuming this means “if they have children” period, as in your legal children, not if say children come to visit your house it still boils down to your declaration as such, the ISP does not have a database to the customer’s children (even if it could get access to entities that do)

Verdict: comes down to a person’s declaration, ISP cost implications if they have to access a third party’s database to determine this.

#8 – “If they answer yes” : What if that is now known, sure everyone knows if he has children or not right, well how about the cases when they don’t know, or when they don’t have today but will have tomorrow.

Verdict: can’t be determined absolutely, only for a very specific point in time, assumes knowledge of the fact and the respondent not lying.

#9 – “it will immediately prompt them to set up filters blocking content” : Yea, people are very good on setting up filters and managing them, and ISP’s are very good at making effective interfaces for doing so.

Verdict: ISP cost implications, usability implications.

#10 – “content” ISP has to monitor traffic for content.

Verdict: impossible with encryption, privacy implications, ISP cost implications, can be marginally enforced.

#11 – “individual sites” ISP has to monitor DNS requests to determine sites or monitor and resolve IP’s in HTTP requests to domain names (in a timely manner without creating lag for the user), if a DNS server like Google’s “Public DNS” or OpenDNS is used the ISP has to fall back to monitoring and resolution of the traffic itself or mandate usage of ISP’s DNS.

Verdict: hard if ISP’s DNS is not used, privacy implications, high ISP cost implications, can be marginally enforced.

#12 – “restricting access at particular times of day” : no impediments, the only sensible thing of the whole bunch

Verdict: totally doable.

FINAL VERDICT
You might have notice three things that come up, first there are cost implications for all points, secondly technical issues for almost all and privacy implications for many, in the order of your choosing these are pretty heavy bottlenecks, even if i am wrong in 90% of my assessments there is still enough to make the enforcement of this impossible or limiting it’s scope just to #12.

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