The World of P2P: Shadow play
In any open society, secrecy, intentional obfuscation of facts and usurpation or suppression of rights should be seen not only as negatively but often as a civilizational back-step. Often illegal or strictly restricted this types of activities are not only possible by states but also actively pursued by large corporations, that in some nations (or standard setting organizations) are able to exert an unprecedented control over policy.
In a world where the end user intends to have control over their own hardware and software some actions are not intended to see the light of day. This section is dedicated to bring out some of the subjects/actions in an attempt to help the reader to fully appreciate some of the less publicized information that has some kind of baring on the evolution of P2P.
Some organizations (or groups with invested interests) still think that it is up to them to think for the masses, in place of just try to push the information out granting the public the ability to make their own informed decisions. There is an clear organized attempt to, in general, hide facts from the public. Information is power.
Attempting to control access and the flow of information is a fool's errand. People have always rebelled against industry-mandated black box solutions and their artificial restrictions, that do not serve any other purpose but the economic interests of those attempting to exert control.
Since P2P (and P2P related technologies) started to pop up and gather momentum, the security of the user on the OS started to be championed, and placed above user freedoms, by imposing choices that disregards the need to proper educate the users, diminishing their ability to make their own choices. This philosophy keeps people in a state of being technologically challenged, and afraid of change. It is even funny to see to what degree, efforts are made to keep these "security enhancements" hidden.
Well not all is lost, some people can't seem to be made to comply with this state of things and some information can be found and actions reversed.
- about MS Windows
- CrackTcpip.sys - [similar solution for Vista SP1]
- BadVista.org - An information campaign run by FSF/GNU aiming to stopping Microsoft Windows Vista adoption by promoting free software. What's wrong with Microsoft Windows Vista? ( http://badvista.fsf.org/what-s-wrong-with-microsoft-windows-vista ) gives an extensive list of problems in the OS related to user loss of freedom and DRM.
One of the most important aspects of running an Internet providers (ISPs) is being quick to adapt to customers' demands and changes in demands and uses. This adaptation can be done from two sides, adapting by modifying the network offering and creating new service offerings or by the suppression and degradation of new consumer trends. The latter is easily done if the ISPs is part of a larger media outlet, that can not only influence public opinion but shape legislation.
ISPs are not very pleased with P2P technologies due to the load the bring into to their networks, although they sell their Internet connections as unlimited usage, if people actually take on their offer, ISPs will eventually be unable to cope with the demand at the same price/profit level. The simpler solution would be to match their offer to the use, by increasing their capacity and fulfilling at least the contractual obligations, but some decided to simply throttle (i.e. slow down) peer-to-peer traffic or even intentionally interfere with it. This has made clients increasingly worried over some ISPs actions, from traffic shaping (protocol/packet prioritization) to traffic tampering.
San Francisco-based branch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) a digital rights group have successfully verified that this type of efforts by Internet providers to disrupt some uses of their services and evidences seem to indicate that it is an increasing trend other as reports have reached the EFF and verified by an investigation by The Associated Press.
EFF Releases Report Interference with Internet Traffic on ComCast ( http://www.eff.org/wp/packet-forgery-isps-report-comcast-affair ), other information is available about this subject on the EFF site.
Forced traffic shaping
Some ISPs are now using more sophisticated measures (e.g. pattern/timing analysis or categorizing ports based on side-channel data) to detect P2P traffic. This means that even encrypted traffic can be throttled. However, with ISPs that continue to use simpler, less costly methods to identify and throttle P2P networks, the current countermeasures added to P2P solutions remains extremely effective.
Traffic tampering is more worrying than Traffic shaping and harder to be noticed or verified. It can also be defined as spoofing, consisting in the injection of adulterated/fake information into communication by gaming a given protocol. It like the post office taking the identity of one of your friends and sending mail to you in its name.
Pcapdiff ( http://www.eff.org/testyourisp/pcapdiff/ ) is a free Python tool developed by the EFF to compare two packet captures and identify potentially forged, dropped, or mangled packets.
When there is a demand offers to satisfy it quickly fallow. One example is the Sandvine Incorporated application that is able to intercept p2p communications and subvert the protocols. This type of application has dual proposes (for the owner perspective), for instance the Sandvine application was primarily designed to change Gnutella network traffic as a path "optimizer". But as today the adoption of the BitTorrent seems to be taking primacy, recent offers of the Sandvine application are capable of intercepting BitTorrent peer-to-tracker communication as to identify peers based on the IP address and port numbers in the peer list returned from the tracker. When Sandvine later sees connections to peers in the intercepted peer lists, it may (according to policy) break these connections by sending counterfeit TCP resets. Even if BitTorrent protocol continues to implement countermeasures, they have costs and it turns the problem into an "arms race", the issue is moral or legal in nature, with security implications.
The fight for network neutrality
Network Neutrality deals with the need to prevent ISPs from double dipping on charges/fees for both the clients paying for their broadband connections and WEB sites/Organizations having also to pay for prioritization of traffic according to origination and destination or protocol used.
The secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
ACTA has the purpose to establish a new international legal framework that countries can join on a voluntary basis and would create its own governing body outside existing international institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or the United Nations.
The idea to create a plurilateral agreement on counterfeiting was developed by Japan and the United States in 2006. Canada, the European Union and Switzerland joined the preliminary talks throughout 2006 and 2007. Official negotiations began in June 2008, with Australia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and Singapore joining the talks. It is planned for negotiations to finish in September 2010.
Negotiating countries have described it as a response "to the increase in global trade of counterfeit goods and pirated copyright protected works.
The scope of ACTA is broad, including counterfeit goods, generic medicines and copyright infringement on the Internet. Because it is in effect a treaty, ACTA would overcome many court precedents defining consumer rights as to "fair use" and would either change or remove limitations on the application of intellectual property laws.
After a series of draft text leaks in 2008, 2009 and 2010 the negotiating parties published the official version of the current draft on 20 April 2010.
Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration had rejected requests to make the text of ACTA public, with the White House saying that disclosure would cause "damage to the national security."
In 2009, Knowledge Ecology International filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request in the United States, but their entire request was denied. The Office of the United States Trade Representative's Freedom of Information office stated the request was withheld for being material "properly classified in the interest of national security."
Since May 2008 discussion papers and other documents relating to the negotiation of ACTA have been uploaded to Wikileaks, and newspaper reports about the secret negotiations swiftly followed.
In June 2008 Canadian academic Michael Geist writing for Copyright News argued that "Government Should Lift Veil on ACTA Secrecy" noting before documents leaked on the Internet ACTA was shrouded in secrecy. Coverage of the documents by the Toronto Star "sparked widespread opposition as Canadians worry about the prospect of a trade deal that could lead to invasive searches of personal computers and increased surveillance of online activities." Geist argues that public disclosure of the draft ACTA treaty "might put an end to fears about iPod searching border guards" and that it "could focus attention on other key concerns including greater Internet service provider filtering of content, heightened liability for websites that link to allegedly infringing content, and diminished privacy for Internet users." Geist also argues that greater transparency would lead to a more inclusive process, highlighting that the ACTA negotiations have excluded both civil society groups as well as developing countries. Geist reports that "reports suggest that trade negotiators have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements for fear of word of the treaty's provisions leaking to the public." He argues that there is a need for "cooperation from all stakeholders to battle counterfeiting concerns" and that "an effective strategy requires broader participation and regular mechanisms for feedback".
In November 2008 the European Commission responded to these allegations as follows:
It is alleged that the negotiations are undertaken under a veil of secrecy. This is not correct. For reasons of efficiency, it is only natural that intergovernmental negotiations dealing with issues that have an economic impact, do not take place in public and that negotiators are bound by a certain level of discretion. However, there has never been any intention to hide the fact that negotiations took place, or to conceal the ultimate objectives of the negotiations, the positions taken in European Commission Trade 5/6 the negotiations or even details on when and where these negotiations are taking place. The EU and other partners (US, Japan, Canada, etc.) announced their intention to start negotiations of ACTA on 23 October 2007, in well publicised press releases. Since then we have talked about ACTA on dozens of occasions, including at the European Parliament (INTA committee meetings), and in numerous well attended seminars. Commission organised a stakeholders' consultation meeting on 23 June in Brussels, open to all – industry and citizens and attended by more than 100 participants. US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other ACTA partners did the same.
This position changed in 10 March 2010 with a direct European Parliament resolution criticizing the ACTA, the proceedings and the infringements on fundamental human rights.
Threats to freedom and fundamental human rights
An open letter signed by many organizations, including Consumers International, EDRi (27 European civil rights and privacy NGOs), the Free Software Foundation (FSF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), ASIC (French trade association for web 2.0 companies), and the Free Knowledge Institute (FKI), states that "the current draft of ACTA would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the freedom of expression and communication privacy."
Aaron Shaw, Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, argues that "ACTA would create unduly harsh legal standards that do not reflect contemporary principles of democratic government, free market exchange, or civil liberties. Even though the precise terms of ACTA remain undecided, the negotiants' preliminary documents reveal many troubling aspects of the proposed agreement" such as removing "legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers" in effect giving ISPs no option but to comply with privacy invasions. Shaw further says that ACTA would also facilitate privacy violations by trademark and copyright holders against private citizens suspected of infringement activities without any sort of legal due process".
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has published "Speak out against ACTA", stating that the ACTA threatens free software by creating a culture "in which the freedom that is required to produce free software is seen as dangerous and threatening rather than creative, innovative, and exciting."
ACTA would also require that existing ISP no longer host free software that can access copyrighted media; this would substantially affect many sites that offer free software or host software projects such as SourceForge. Specifically the FSF argues that ACTA will make it more difficult and expensive to distribute free software via file sharing and P2P technologies like BitTorrent, which are currently used to distribute large amounts of free software. The FSF also argues that ACTA will make it harder for users of free operating systems to play non-free media because DRM protected media would not be legally playable with free software.
On 10 March 2010, the European Parliament adopted a resolution criticizing the ACTA, with 663 in favor of the resolution and 13 against, arguing that "in order to respect fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy" certain changes in the ACTA content and the process should be made.
Nate Anderson with Ars Technica pointed out in his article ( http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080602-the-real-acta-threat-its-not-ipod-scanning-border-guards.html ), that ACTA encourages service providers to provide information about suspected infringers, by giving them "safe harbor from certain legal threats". Similarly, it provides for criminalization of copyright infringement, granting law enforcement the powers to perform criminal investigation, arrests and pursue criminal citations or prosecution of suspects who may have infringed on copyright. It also allows criminal investigations and invasive searches to be performed against individuals for whom there is no probable cause, and in that regard weakens the presumption of innocence and allows what would in the past have been considered unlawful searches.
Since ACTA is an international treaty, it is an example of policy laundering used to establish and implement legal changes. Policy laundering allows legal provisions—usually administered through public legislation and subject to judiciary oversight—to be pushed through via closed negotiations among members of the executive bodies of the signatories. Once ratified, companies belonging to non-members may be forced to follow the ACTA requirements since they will fall out of the safe harbor protections. Also, the use of trade incentives and the like to persuade other nations to adopt treaties is a standard approach in international relationships. Additional signatories would have to accept ACTA's terms without much scope for negotiation.
From 16–18 June 2010, a conference was held at the Washington College of Law, attended by "over 90 academics, practitioners and public interest organizations from six continents". Their conclusions were published on 23 June 2010 on the American University Washington College of Law website. They found "that the terms of the publicly released draft of ACTA threaten numerous public interests, including every concern specifically disclaimed by negotiators."
Requests for disclosure
In September 2008 a number of interest groups urged parties to the ACTA negotiations to disclose the language of the evolving agreement. In an open letter the groups argued that: "Because the text of the treaty and relevant discussion documents remain secret, the public has no way of assessing whether and to what extent these and related concerns are merited." The interest groups included: the Consumers Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Essential Action, IP Justice, Knowledge Ecology International, Public Knowledge, Global Trade Watch, the US Public Interest Research Group, IP Left (Korea), the Canadian Library Association, the Consumers Union of Japan, the National Consumer Council (UK) and the Doctors without Borders' Campaign for Essential Medicines.