An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project
The following was written in response to the pricing plan for Wireless Washtenaw.
Rich Sheridan has served on the steering committee of the Wireless Washtenaw Project for some time. Rich is someone for whom I have done work in the past and I am surprised by his poor judgment and lack of knowledge of the issues in this particular instance.
An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project:
Thanks for the interesting conversation today regarding Wireless Washtenaw. You told me, “The Internet was built by business”. When I disagreed and asked you if you had ever heard of Prof. Jon Postel, you finally (after asking the third time) admitted you had not heard of him. Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on Prof. Jon Postel.
When Jon died, he received the some of the most moving tributes from around the world that I have seen for any person, recent or historical. Many of the founders of the Internet are among the eulogists recorded at the Internet Society pages about Jon.
The Internet did not come about through the profit motive. Not at all. The Net is possibly the single most complex and valuable piece of engineering ever accomplished by humans, and it came about through the efforts of selfless individuals working for the betterment of all mankind. People like JCR Licklider, Bob Kahn, Larry Roberts, Steve Crocker, Vint Cerf, and Dr. Postel are the people we should be seeking to emulate personally and professionally.
To take the surplus value in the Net created by all these selfless patriots and try to monetize it in the way that 20/20 is doing through the public face of the Wireless Washtenaw project, is not a good thing. Having third parties who just happen to own one of the dozen or so routers between sender and receiver insert into the datastream their own or third-party ads degrades the Net for both sender and receiver, and breaks the unwritten compact whereby anyone with an upstream router on the Net passes along third-party traffic in a manner similar to a common carrier, without intercepting or interfering by, for instance, adding spam advertising content to that communication. This principle is sometimes referred to as “Net Neutrality”.
There are also legal issues revolving around this approach to funding Wireless Washtenaw regarding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 18 USC § 2510.
Also pertinent is the General Prohibition Against Traces and Traps 18 USC § 3121.
I also think this deliberate insertion of spam into the network may fall afoul of the Michigan statue Fraudulent Access to Computers, Computer Systems, and Computer Networks, MCL 795.791 et passim.
What you all are talking about doing with this Wireless Washtenaw “free” service is filling the web browsers of people using the free, public service with third-party spam. Adding banner ads to a content provider’s web page without their consent or inserting interstitial ads between content provider and subscriber is leveraging the intellectual property of that content provider without their permission. This is analogous to sneaking into the Washtenaw News warehouse on S. Industrial and slipping additional advertising into the Sunday Times inserts without their permission. This Wireless Washtenaw “free” service with spam added is not a public service at all, but a fundamental attack on the integrity, security and utility of the Net itself.
Henry Edward Hardy
Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy