The New York Times reports on the privacy questions surrounding the “net neutrality” proposal from Google and Verizon. (For more about how the proposal could affect the open Internet, visit Public Knowledge.)
Last week, two elephants — Google and Verizon — came together to propose a vision for the Internet that represented what many characterize as a retreat by Google from its past strict adherence to so-called net neutrality. The phrase net neutrality, really more of a rallying cry than a technical term, describes a policy that would prohibit Internet service providers from exploiting their role in delivering information to favor their own content, or the content of the highest bidders.
The two companies were presumed to be on opposite sides of this issue since Google bases its business on an open Internet and Verizon, among other things, sells access to the Internet. For the sake of getting commitments from Verizon to support a “neutral” Internet delivered on hard wires, Google wrote on one of its blogs, it agreed to some exceptions: no neutrality for the Internet delivered wirelessly and for “additional, differentiated” online services. […]
Without neutrality, say advocates of online privacy, the Internet becomes more like a mall — where users are from the start viewed as consumers — and less like a public square.
“The people who are pushing for a nonneutral world are pushing it for monetary purposes,” said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for privacy online.
“Interfering with packets,” she said […] “creates the space for this kind of surveillance.” […]
Eben Moglen, a professor at Columbia Law School who is an advocate for free software and online privacy, sees frameworks like the one proposed by Google and Verizon as emphasizing the business of the Internet at the expense of the privacy of the Internet.
“As the network does more to adapt to what commerce needs, it becomes more and more about knowing what’s inside the head of the user, about what the person is doing and buying,” he said.