Saturday, October 18, 2008

Forget Net Neutrality

In the ongoing efforts to control spam and "bad" web sites, there is a technology that promises good results.

There are a lot of bad things on the Internet: spam, child porn, malware, phishing and so on. Until recently, it’s been up to people to protect themselves, using security software or web site blocking.Lately, however, governments and legislators have been calling for service providers to limit where users can go, both to stop criminal activity and to protect na?ve surfers from straying onto malicious sites. Recent advances in DNS may soon let carriers comply with such regulations.

Efforts have been made: In June, three major carriers agreed to purge child pornography hosted on servers their customers operate in their data centers.

Yet there are diffculties: Blocking dangerous destinations is difficult. They change often, so firewalling their addresses doesn’t work well. Inspecting user traffic is CPU-intensive, and deep packet inspection (DPI) has privacy concerns (which hasn’t stopped Sweden.) So it’s been hard for carriers to enforce regulations.

There is a technology which might work: DNS.

In other words, the next time you try to visit a banned site, you’ll simply get an “Address Not Found” error. You’ll also be taking the first step toward a day when your government, your ISP, and even your community will decide what it’s OK for you to visit.

There is a flip side to controlling objectionable web sites: loss of individual choice, and growth of monitoring by the proverbial Big Brother.

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