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AM: Internet user demographic and privacy

To:     <>
Subject:     AM: Internet user demographic and privacy
From:     "Andrew Forbes" <>
Date:     Sat, 17 Jan 1998 15:14:02 -0500

I recently posted a couple of questions about the
value of the demographics behind an IP address.
When I posted my original question, I tried
specifically to avoid the issue of consumer


People I've talked to draw a line in the sand, and say 
that anybody that crosses that line is a heretic. 
Whether the line is

* Complete anonymity; or
* Aggregate demographics; or
* Individual demographics; or
* Full identity sales; or
* No IP traffic monitoring; or
* Aggregate IP monitoring; or
* Individual monitoring; or
* Full sales of an individual's IP traffic w/ demographics
   and identity included

Before talking about what is appropriate and
inappropriate, let's talk about what is possible.
It's my position that it would not be terribly difficult 
to build a system that could be installed at an
ISP's facilities that would:

* Capture all IP traffic generated by the ISP's 
   customers; and
* Convert the IP traffic to the HTTP, NNTP, FTP, etc 
   level; and
* Log the captured data to a database; and
* Associate the captured data with a particular user; 
* Associate the captured data with traditional 
   demographic data

PLEASE NOTE: I have not built such a system,
and I have no plans to build such a system, but as
an exercise I did design and price such a system 
a few years ago.

Now, assuming that the above is not only possible,
but not terribly expensive to do, this means that 
people will in fact build such systems, so some
decisions need to be made about how much of this
information should be sold.

I have opinions about what is and is not appropriate,
but my opinions do not matter.  What matters is the
opinions of the marketplace, consumers, and
the government.

I would really like to hear from people that have
informed opinions about what the marketplace,
consumers, and the government are likely to do
in the next few years vis a vis Internet user privacy.

For example:

1) Will the government stand aside and let people
    accept *free* Internet access in exchange for their
    demographic profiles being sold?

2) Will the government stand aside and let people
    accept *free* Internet access in exchange for their
    Internet activities being monitored?

3) How long will it be, assuming No 2 happens, before
    a judge somewhere permits an attorney to subpoena
    an individual's Internet activities?

4) How many of us would be embarrassed to have our 
    spouses knowing the content of the sites we visit?
    Would you accept an Internet access account that
    monitored everything you did if that data was available
    to you so you could see what your children/spouse
    was up to?

5) I have antidotal knowledge of a study where
    consumers were put in front of a dial.  All the way 
    to clockwise was "Ultimate Privacy".  All the way
    to counter clockwise was "Lowest Cost".  The
    consumers were asked to set the dial where they
    felt comfortable.  A majority of the consumers
    tested spun the dial hard over onto "Lowest
    Cost".  Was my source pulling my leg?  Or is this
    really how most people react?

6) How many people that rabidly defend Internet privacy
    have shopping discount cards?  Is this a double

7) Traditional marketing databases seems to know
    everything about me there is to know.  Why are
    Internet profiles anything but a small extension
    of these databases?

8) How much extra would you pay a month for an
    Internet access account that guaranteed that no
    monitoring or identity sales would take place?

9) Should the marketplace and consumers be allowed
     to decide where the privacy "line in the sand" should
    be drawn? Or is this more appropriately a decision
    that should be made by the Government?

10) The FBI is trying to require telephone companies
    to use equipment that can be easily wiretapped.
    Are they trying to require ISPs to use equipment that
    would make it easy for the FBI to stick a network
    probe in on demand?

Andrew Forbes

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