Tech Crunch – Here’s Our New Policy On A.P. stories: They’re Banned

The stories over the weekend were bad enough – the Associated Press, with a long history of suing over quotations from their articles, went after Drudge Retort for having the audacity to link to their stories along with short quotations via reader submissions. Drudge Retort is doing nothing different than what Digg, TechMeme, Mixx and dozens of other sites do, and frankly the fact that they are being linked to should be considered a favor.

After heavy criticism over the last few days, the A.P. is in damage control mode, says the NYTimes, and retreating from their earlier position. But from what I read, they’re just pushing their case further.

They do not want people quoting their stories, despite the fact that such activity very clearly falls within the fair use exception to copyright law. They claim that the activity is an infringement.

A.P. vice president Jim Kennedy says they will issue guidelines telling bloggers what is acceptable and what isn’t, over and above what the law says is acceptable. They will “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.”

Those that disregard the guidelines risk being sued by the A.P., despite the fact that such use may fall under the concept of fair use.

The A.P. doesn’t get to make it’s own rules around how its content is used, if those rules are stricter than the law allows. So even thought they say they are making these new guidelines in the spirit of cooperation, it’s clear that, like the RIAA and MPAA, they are trying to claw their way to a set of property rights that don’t exist today and that they are not legally entitled to. And like the RIAA and MPAA, this is done to protect a dying business model – paid content.

So here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet.

June 16, 2008
Michael Arrington

Source: Tech Crunch

AP To Set Guidelines For Using Its Articles In Blogs

The Associated Press, one of the nation’s largest news organizations, said that it will, for the first time, attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright.

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances. For example, a book reviewer is allowed to quote passages from the work without permission from the publisher.

Fair use has become an essential concept to many bloggers, who often quote portions of articles before discussing them. The A.P., a cooperative owned by 1,500 daily newspapers, including The New York Times, provides written articles and broadcast material to thousands of news organizations and Web sites that pay to use them.

Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words.

On Saturday, The A.P. retreated. Jim Kennedy, vice president and strategy director of The A.P., said in an interview that the news organization had decided that its letter to the Drudge Retort was “heavy-handed” and that The A.P. was going to rethink its policies toward bloggers.

The quick about-face came, he said, because a number of well-known bloggers started criticizing its policy, claiming it would undercut the active discussion of the news that rages on sites, big and small, across the Internet.

The Drudge Retort was initially started as a left-leaning parody of the much larger Drudge Report, run by the conservative muckraker Matt Drudge. In recent years, the Drudge Retort has become more of a social news site, similar to sites like Digg, in which members post links to news articles for others to comment on.

But Rogers Cadenhead, the owner of the Drudge Retort and several other Web sites, said the issue goes far beyond one site. “There are millions of people sharing links to news articles on blogs, message boards and sites like Digg. If The A.P. has concerns that go all the way down to one or two sentences of quoting, they need to tell people what they think is legal and where the boundaries are.”

On Friday, The A.P. issued a statement defending its action, saying it was going to challenge blog postings containing excerpts of A.P. articles “when we feel the use is more reproduction than reference, or when others are encouraged to cut and paste.” An A.P. spokesman declined Friday to further explain the association’s position.

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

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French Government decides to censor the Internet

Keep your Égalité and Fraternité but shove your Liberté!

THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT has apparently decided that it doesn’t much like being democratic, and that it would rather like to censor the Internet instead.

Not content with simply limiting itself to blocking despicable child sex abuse, a move three major ISPs in the US also agreed to today, the French government feels it necessary to go a radical step further and decide for its citizens whether or not they can view content it considers inappropriately racist and or linked to terrorism.

In fact, worse still is that any site is now game for a French blockade, as Sarkozy’s government is inviting people to send in huge long lists of sites which offend their delicate sensibilities. The French government, which will purportedly be able to receive complaints from Internet users in real time, will be able to add sites to a so called “black list”, which it will then force national ISPs to block.

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The Cyber Militia Defends America

The U.S. government has quietly gone ahead and formed several special security organizations for policing the internet.

Because there is such a (trained, not to mention talented) manpower shortage right now (and in the foreseeable future), this was done on the cheap. An effective force could not be recruited, even if everyone agreed to accept government pay levels, because of the huge expense.

One solution that was suggested even before September 11, 2001, and eventually caught on, was to organize and reward the pro bono cybersecurity efforts that have been going on for some time. A lot of talented whitehats just get pissed off and go after bad guys on their own nickel.

An example is HoneyNet (the pro bono network of honeypots set up to attract, analyze and document backhat activities and techniques). One suggestion that did not fly was setting up a “CyberCorps” as a separate corporation, with a few really good people to run it, and enough budget to pay market rate for the right people, and still have a close working relationship with government agencies and commercial firms that spend a lot on net security (banks and brokerages, for example.)

Instead, a “Cyber Corps” program was set up to give tuition assistance to college students studying computer security, in order to increase the number of qualified experts in this area. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security established working relationships with existing computer security groups, while the Department of Defense encouraged the services to set up computer security operations. The air force established the Cyber Command, a major operation that, it is hoped, will give the air force the lead (and most of the budget) for defense related Internet security operations.

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U.S. Internet will shrink to 2 strong players

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An Internet analyst for a major Wall Street firm argues in a new report that Google Inc and Inc will be long-term winners, while Yahoo and IAC InterActiveCorp fall by the wayside and eBay Inc becomes a merger target.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay argues in a 310-page report entitled “U.S. Internet: The End of the Beginning” to be published on Tuesday that Google and Amazon are best placed to withstand the current economic downturn.

“We expect two players to continue to perform strongly, Google and Amazon,” Lindsay writes. “Both Google and are still racking up annual growth rates in the 30-40 percent range, with only a relatively modest slowdown in sight.”

Lindsay reiterates his previous positions that Yahoo eventually will be sold to Microsoft Corp and that Barry Diller’s IAC e-commerce conglomerate will go ahead in August with its five-way split-up, as planned.

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FILE SHARING: Anti-piracy strategy will help government to spy, critic says

Fears raised changes could lead to policing of legal activities like buying DVDs online

The way Canadians use the Internet and technology – from downloading music to buying new cellphones – could face unprecedented restrictions under new federal policies that critics say are being decided behind closed doors.

The Conservative government has been involved in international talks in recent months to develop an international anti-counterfeiting strategy to reduce Internet piracy and the flow of counterfeit goods. But critics say that instead of cracking down on rogue Internet users heavily involved in illegal file sharing, the agreement seems poised to dramatically increase the government’s ability to police the activities of Canadians, even when they legally purchase music files, DVDs and electronic equipment such as cellphones and personal video recorders.

“This is an attempt here to create a very broad umbrella that strikes at the very heart of every day activities for millions of Canadians,” said Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair of Internet and e-commerce law.

The issue is gaining significant momentum after a discussion paper on the anti-counterfeiting strategy that purportedly originated with the U.S. government was leaked on the Internet a few days ago. One of the most contentious proposals is to “encourage” Internet service providers to monitor the online activities of their customers and report activity that may infringe copyright law – a move that amounts to spying and could undermine the privacy of Canadians, Prof. Geist said.

The changes may also give border guards the authority to search laptops and personal music recorders to look for any illegally obtained material.

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Access To Next Gen Internet May Be Uneven

The lack of high-speed Internet access in some areas of the U.S. has been hotly debated, even as that digital divide has narrowed. But a new, wider gap is being created by technology that will make today’s broadband feel as slow as a dial-up connection.

Much like broadband enabled downloads of music, video and work files that weren’t practical over dial-up, the next generation of Internet connections will allow for vivid, lifelike video conferencing and new kinds of interactive games.

But while access to cable and phone-line broadband has spread to cover perhaps 90 percent of the U.S. in the space of a decade, next-generation Internet access looks set to create a much smaller group of “haves” and a larger group of “have nots.”

The most promising route to superfast home broadband is to extend the fiber-optic lines that already form the Internet’s backbone all the way to homes. Existing fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, connections are already 10 times faster than vanilla broadband provided over phone or cable lines. With relatively easy upgrades, the speeds could be a hundred times faster.

In the U.S., the buildout of FTTH is under way, but it’s highly concentrated in the 17-state service area of Verizon Communications Inc., which is the only major U.S. phone company that is replacing its copper lines with fiber. Its FiOS service accounts for more than 1.8 million of the 2.9 million U.S. homes that are connected to fiber according to RVA LLC, a research firm that specializes in the field.

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China: Police State 2.0 is Ready for Export

Excerpts from the long but excellent article:

“Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts.”

“The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as “Golden Shield.” The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon:”

“Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.”

“This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.”

“Here is a small sample of what the company (L-1) does: produces passports and passport cards for American citizens; takes finger scans of visitors to the U.S. under the Department of Homeland Security’s massive U.S.-Visit program; equips U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with “mobile iris and multimodal devices” so they can collect biometric data in the field; maintains the State Department’s “largest facial-recognition database system”; and produces driver’s licenses in Illinois, Montana and North Carolina. In addition, L-1 has an even more secretive intelligence unit called SpecTal. Asked by a Wall Street analyst to discuss, in “extremely general” terms, what the division was doing with contracts worth roughly $100 million, the company’s CEO would only say, “Stay tuned.””

“It is L-1’s deep integration with multiple U.S. government agencies that makes its dealings in China so interesting: It isn’t just L-1 that is potentially helping the Chinese police to nab political dissidents, it’s U.S. taxpayers. The technology that Yao purchased for just a few thousand dollars is the result of Defense Department research grants and contracts going as far back as 1994, when a young academic named Joseph Atick (the research director Fordyce consulted on L-1’s China dealings) taught a computer at Rockefeller University to recognize his face.”

Thirty years ago, the city of Shenzhen didn’t exist. Back in those days, it was a string of small fishing villages and collectively run rice paddies, a place of rutted dirt roads and traditional temples. That was before the Communist Party chose it – thanks to its location close to Hong Kong’s port – to be China’s first “special economic zone,” one of only four areas where capitalism would be permitted on a trial basis.

The theory behind the experiment was that the “real” China would keep its socialist soul intact while profiting from the private-sector jobs and industrial development created in Shenzhen. The result was a city of pure commerce, undiluted by history or rooted culture – the crack cocaine of capitalism. It was a force so addictive to investors that the Shenzhen experiment quickly expanded, swallowing not just the surrounding Pearl River Delta, which now houses roughly 100,000 factories, but much of the rest of the country as well.

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Air Force Aims for ‘Full Control’ of ‘Any and All’ Computers

The Air Force wants a suite of hacker tools, to give it “access” to — and “full control” of — any kind of computer there is. And once the info warriors are in, the Air Force wants them to keep tabs on their “adversaries’ information infrastructure completely undetected.”

The government is growing increasingly interested in waging war online. The Air Force recently put together a “Cyberspace Command,” with a charter to rule networks the way its fighter jets rule the skies. The Department of Homeland Security, Darpa, and other agencies are teaming up for a five-year, $30 billion “national cybersecurity initiative.” That includes an electronic test range, where federally-funded hackers can test out the latest electronic attacks. “You used to need an army to wage a war,” a recent Air Force commercial notes. “Now, all you need is an Internet connection.”

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Report Pushes Passage Of Thought Crimes Bill

“First off, the threat of terrorist operated Internet sites is a complete fraud. IntelCenter a CIA front group which supposedly finds all of these Al-Qaeda terrorist video and audio tapes on the Internet never provides the source of where they obtain the terrorist propaganda.”

“If these materials were real terrorist propaganda and they didn’t want to reveal the source, why have we not seen warrants served, the web servers seized and people questioned? Why is it that the terrorist video and audio tapes that are released by this so called terrorist organization always seems to indirectly help the Bush administration?”


The Internet is now becoming a new front in the phony terror war. Legislation like the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 that is in the forms of HR 1955 and S 1959 which seek to give the government powers to define thoughts and belief systems as homegrown terrorism, is on the brink of being pushed down our throats. HR 1955 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 404-6 and now it appears as if the U.S. Senate is attempting to justify its future passage.

The U.S. Senate homeland security committee lead by war mongering fascist Joesph Lieberman, investigated the so called growing threat of terrorists using the Internet for recruiting and training purposes. In their report, they paint the Internet as a dangerous tool for terrorists and conclude that new laws need to be passed “to prevent the spread of the ideology.” It is incredibly convenient that S 1959 provides the legislation that is called for in their report. The true purpose of this report is to push for the passage of S 1959 which will give the government powers similar to what the government of Oceania used in George Orwell’s book 1984.

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FBI Targets Internet Archive With Secret ‘National Security Letter’, Loses

The Internet Archive, a project to create a digital library of the web for posterity, successfully fought a secret government Patriot Act order for records about one of its patrons and won the right to make the order public, civil liberties groups announced Wednesday morning.

On November 26, 2007, the FBI served a controversial National Security Letter (.pdf) on the Internet Archive‘s founder Brewster Kahle, asking for records about one of the library’s registered users, asking for the user’s name, address and activity on the site.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive’s lawyers, fought the NSL, challenging its constitutionality in a December 14 complaint (.pdf) to a federal court in San Francisco. The FBI agreed on April 21 to withdraw the letter and unseal the court case, making some of the documents available to the public.

The Patriot Act greatly expanded the reach of NSLs, which are subpoenas for documents such as billing records and telephone records that the FBI can issue in terrorism investigations without a judge’s approval. Nearly all NSLs come with gag orders forbidding the recipient from ever speaking of the subpoena, except to a lawyer.

Brewster Kahle called the gag order “horrendous,” saying he couldn’t talk about the case with his board members, wife or staff, but said that his stand was part of a time-honored tradition of librarians protecting the rights of their patrons.

“This is an unqualified success that will help other recipients understand that you can push back on these,” Kahle said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning.

Though FBI guidelines on using NSLs warned of overusing them, two Congressionally ordered audits revealed that the FBI had issued hundreds of illegal requests for student health records, telephone records and credit reports. The reports also found that the FBI had issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs since 2001, but failed to track their use. In a letter to Congress last week, the FBI admitted it can only estimate how many NSLs it has issued.

The Internet Archive’s case is only the third known court challenge to an NSL, all of which ended with the FBI rescinding the NSL, according to the ACLU’s Melissa Goodman.

That makes you wonder about the the hundreds of thousands of NSLs that haven’t been challenged,” Goodman said, suggesting that the FBI had collected sensitive information on innocent Americans.

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Gates says big changes in store for Internet in next decade

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said there will be a vast shift in Internet technology over the next decade as he met Tuesday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.”We’re approaching the second decade of (the) digital age,” the software mogul and philanthropist told Lee at the start of their meeting at the presidential Blue House, according to a media pool report.

“The Internet has been operating now for 10 years,” Gates said. “The second 10 years will be very different.”

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Spy Grid Part Of Consumer Technology

Tech savy proponents might think it’s great, meanwhile skeptics and naysayers still deny its existence, but microphones and internal listening devices are being installed in hi-tech hardware, and have been for several years.

Motorola released a fact sheet concerning their next generation HD cable boxes and broadband devices and admitted that:

This innovative plug-and-play technology enables broadband operators to offer consumers a way to control their digital services by voice commands with no complicated set-up or the need for training. Consumers can “talk” to their TV through a remote which incorporates a microphone. By just spoken commands, they can navigate digital programming, the IPG and on-demand services using phrases like “scan sports” or “find movies with Julia Roberts”. From a consumer’s perspective, the solution only requires a small receiver which attaches to the cable set-top to receive signals from the enhanced remote. The technology, which recognizes over 100,000 phrases and deciphers multiple languages, has been field tested in an alpha deployment on the Motorola DCT2000 digital set-top platform.”

The next generation equipment is being fused by Motorola into their ‘AgileTv‘ program, which will allow customers to use voice commands to search and choose programs, listen to music, order movies, etc etc. The program is called ‘PromptU’ and promises to allow seamless voice recognition in order to remove tedious typing and scanning by customers to find what they want. The PromptU spoken search is described as:

“Phones can support more content than ever, and subscribers want it all: ringtones, games, wallpapers, songs and videos. There are hundreds of thousands of titles, and the selection grows daily. Yet subscribers don’t buy as much as they could, because looking for content with text searches, or endless scrolling and clicking, is frustrating. Too many searches are abandoned or not even attempted. Promptu Spoken Search™ changes everything. With Promptu finding content as easy as asking for it. For example, requesting “Tiger Woods,” “Coldplay,” “Spiderman,” or any other favorite from a mobile handset returns on-target search results instantly, from across all types of content. So subscribers find everything they want, and discover all kinds of related titles to buy in the process.”

Last year Microsoft also acquired its own listening technology in the Tellme Networks which will allow consumers to choose and interact with multimedia via voice recognition software over their own systems. Of course what they won’t tell you is how these voice recognition commands will be interpreted, which of course will be done by internal audio devices called microphones – implemented into the hardware via remotes, boxes, or even ones as small as mobiles and pdas.

Bill Gates has been championing this next generation, interactive technology, and in his Strategic Account Summit speech last year, he glowed over the introduction and acceptance of this new technology by customers. Apparently, the industry is ecstatic that the privacy concerns aren’t presenting any kind of hurdle for consumers who are only intent on getting things that are bigger, faster, and in higher resolution. As long as it blinks and lets them veg out, all the better.

Web 2.0 should actually be called World 2.0 and will incorporate technology into every aspect of our lives, even more so than it is now. The next generation of cable boxes, internet, IPTV, VOIP, iphones, PDAs, and mobiles are all being absorbed into the control grid; and the cameras, microphones and other spy technology is just being pitched to the public as a product feature, rather than the all-invasive big brother hardware that it is. Private companies don’t mind it because it allows more focused marketing strategies, ie more profits for the bottom line; and of course governments love it because it allows them to circumvent privacy rights by integrating with companies in order to use this technology grid to spy on its own people.

But to simplify it all, yes, microphones exist in our cable boxes and computers, and will continue to be used, whether we accept it or not. The corporations are listening, the governments are listening; are you?

Ethan Allen

Source: Rogue Government

Pentagon Expands Propaganda Reach With Foreign “News” Websites

The Pentagon is expanding “Information Operations” on the Internet with purposefully set up foreign news websites that are designed to look like independent media sources but in reality are nothing more than direct military propaganda.

USA Today reports:

“The Pentagon is setting up a global network of foreign-language news websites, including an Arabic site for Iraqis, and hiring local journalists to write current events stories and other content that promote U.S. interests and counter insurgent messages.”

The websites at, and are three of the said Pentagon run operations aimed at people in the Balkans, North Africa and Iraq.

The front pages of the sites appear to be populated with regionalized news stories, but the disclaimers buried within the sites and accessible only via small links at the bottom of the pages reveal that all three are run by the US Department of Defense.

See screenshots below for the disclaimers (click to link through):

The disclaimer is in Arabic. It reads:

“( is) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense to support the resolution No. 1723 (of the) Security Council of the United Nations. ( highlights and emphasizes the move towards greater regional stability through bilateral and multilateral cooperation … and the steps taken by governments towards stability in Iraq.”

Though Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England commented that the sites are “an essential part of (their) responsibility … to shape the security environment in their respective areas.”, other Pentagon spokesmen have claimed that the sites’ content is not intended as propaganda, but is “a counter to extremist propaganda … with truth.”

Michael Vickers, the assistant secretary of Defense in charge of special operations commented that the websites are designed to counter enemies on the internet who put out information that is not in keeping with the interests and goals of the U.S. military:

“It’s important to … engage these foreign audiences and inform,” Vickers said. “Our adversaries use the Internet to great advantage, so we have the responsibility of countering (their messages) with accurate, truthful information, and these websites are a good vehicle.”

Since when has the federal government and its war machine military been concerned with promoting the truth?

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Unleashing the Bugs of War

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, that secretive band of Pentagon geeks that searches obsessively for the next big thing in the technology of warfare, is 50 years old. To celebrate, DARPA invited Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Defense Secretary well aware of the Agency’s capabilities, to help blow out the candles. “This agency brought forth the Saturn 5 rocket, surveillance satellites, the Internet, stealth technology, guided munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles, night vision and the body armor that’s in use today,” Cheney told 1,700 DARPA workers and friends who gathered at a Washington hotel to mark the occasion. “Thank heaven for DARPA.”

Created in the panicky wake of the Soviets’ launching of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, DARPA’s mission, Cheney said, is “to make sure that America is never again caught off guard.” So, the Agency does the basic research that may be decades away from battlefield applications. It doesn’t develop new weapons, as much as it pioneers the technologies that will make tomorrow’s weapons better.

So what’s hot at DARPA right now? Bugs. The creepy, crawly flying kind. The Agency’s Microsystems Technology Office is hard at work on HI-MEMS (Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System), raising real insects filled with electronic circuitry, which could be guided using GPS technology to specific targets via electrical impulses sent to their muscles. These half-bug, half-chip creations — DARPA calls them “insect cyborgs” — would be ideal for surveillance missions, the agency says in a brief description on its website.

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Your Internet provider is watching you

Fine print reveals that you have fewer rights than you might realize

The Comcast case is a rare example of the government getting into the ISP contract nitty-gritty. “There really should be an onus on the regulators to see this kind of thing is done correctly,” said Bob Williams, who deals with telecom and media issues at Consumers Union.

NEW YORK – What’s scary, funny and boring at the same time? It could be a bad horror movie. Or it could be the fine print on your Internet service provider’s contract.

Those documents you agree to — usually without reading — ostensibly allow your ISP to watch how you use the Internet, read your e-mail or keep you from visiting sites it deems inappropriate. Some reserve the right to block traffic and, for any reason, cut off a service that many users now find essential.

The Associated Press reviewed the “Acceptable Use Policies” and “Terms of Service” of the nation’s 10 largest ISPs — in all, 117 pages of contracts that leave few rights for subscribers.

“The network is asserting almost complete control of the users’ ability to use their network as a gateway to the Internet,” said Marvin Ammori, general counsel of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. “They become gatekeepers rather than gateways.”

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We spied on 36,000 customers using the internet, admits BT

BT tested secret “spyware” on tens of thousands of its broadband customers without their knowledge, it admitted yesterday.

It carried out covert trials of a system which monitors every internet page a user visits.

Companies can exploit such data to target users with tailored online advertisements.

An investigation into the affair has been started by the Information Commissioner, the personal data watchdog.

Privacy campaigners reacted with horror, accusing BT of illegal interception on a huge scale. Yesterday, the company was forced to admit that it had monitored the web browsing habits of 36,000 customers.

The scandal came to light only after some customers stumbled across tell-tale signs of spying. At first, they were wrongly told a software virus was to blame.

BT carried out undercover trials of a system which records every website a customer visits (below)

Executives insisted they had not broken the law and said no “personally identifiable information” had been shared or divulged.

BT said it randomly chose 36,000 broadband users for a “small-scale technical trial” in 2006 and 2007.

The monitoring system, developed by U.S. software company Phorm, accesses information from a computer.

It then scans every website a customer visits, silently checking for keywords and building up a unique picture of their interests.

If a user searches online to buy a holiday or expensive TV, for example, or looks for internet dating services or advice on weight loss, the Phorm system will add all the information to their file.

One BT customer who spotted unexplained problems with his computer was told repeatedly by BT helpdesk staff that a virus was to blame.

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NSA shifts to e-mail, Web, data-mining dragnet

The National Security Agency was once known for its skill in eavesdropping on the world’s telephone calls through radio dishes in out-of-the-way places like England’s Menwith Hill, Australia’s Pine Gap, and Washington state’s Yakima Training Center.

Today those massive installations, which listened in on phone conversations beamed over microwave links, are becoming something akin to relics of the Cold War. As more communications traffic travels through fiber links, and as e-mail and text messaging supplant phone calls, the spy agency that once intercepted telegrams is adapting yet again.

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