Tuesday, January 29, 2008

AT&T's plans to filter the Internet

AT&T's plans to filter the Internet

AT&T is planning to open “all packets” on the Internet, and examine them for intellectual property violations. Email, IM, everything. So, when Boing-Boing writer Joel Johnson was invited onto AT&T’s Hugh Johnson Show to talk about gadgets, he decided to talk about that instead. The video:

Naturally, the show’s crew calls a halt to the show almost as soon as Joel lets the cat out of the bag, but not before the audience has called out “No!” to Joel’s question: “Do you want AT&T reading your mail?” Here’s what happened afterwards:

As you can see from the video, the crew ended up scrubbing the interview about half-way through. Figuring that might happen, I asked my steely-nerved friend Richard Blakeley to tape the first take. I wanted to make sure that we had a record of the event, primarily to ensure that AT&T would have no reason to try to bury the interview entirely—the same reason I am running this clip now, while discussion about what to do with my segment in post-production is surely underway.

After the crew got their wits about them—they were not very happy with me, understandably—we went on to shoot a second take, which to Hugh’s credit also included not only talk of gadgets, but of network neutrality and AT&T’s collusion with the NSA. I look forward to seeing that segment air on the The Hugh Thompson Show.

The crew was upset with me not only because I was making their job more difficult, but because they feared that my stunt would cost them their jobs. Everyone looked at the staff member who booked me on the show with sad eyes, assuring me that he would certainly be fired. After their initial panic at an interview gone off the rails the crew acted professionally and efficiently to continue shooting the show. If AT&T ends up letting a single person go from that crew, shame on them. What I chose to do has nothing to do with the crew or Mr. Thompson himself, who despite being visibly perturbed handled the whole mess like troupers.

There’s some discussion over at Slate about whether it’s even technically possible for AT&T to do this. Wouldn’t it be interesting if AT&T was simply leveraging and privatizing technology it had already been paid to develop under Bush’s warrantless surveillance program?

Mr. Randall L. Stephenson
Chairman and CEO
AT&T, Inc.
175 E. Houston
San Antonio, TX 78205-2233

NOTE Via Big Orange (a non-candidate diary!)

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