top ten things lawyers should know about the Internet: #4

April 19th, 2008 by kc

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#4: The data dearth is not a new problem in the field; many public and private sector efforts have tried and failed to solve it.

  1. Information Sharing and Analysis Centers, such as those that exist for the financial services industry have been attempted several times, but there is no research activity or channel to share data with the research community, nor any independent analysis of the performance or progress of such a group.
  2. The National Science Foundation has spent at least $1M on CAIDA’s Internet measurement data catalog to support sharing of Internet measurements, but as a science and engineering funding agency, NSF could only fund the technical aspects of the data sharing activity: developing a database to support curation, indexing, and annotation of Internet data collected by researchers and providers. Since the real obstacles have to do with economic, ownership (legal), and trust (privacy) constraints rather than technology issues, this catalog has been less utilized than we hoped.
  3. Recognizing that the data sharing problem constitutes a threat to national security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (specifically, HSARPA) has spent 4 years developing a project — PREDICT — to facilitate protected sharing of realistic network data that will enable cybersecurity researchers to validate the network security research and technologies they develop. Unfortunately after four years the PREDICT project has not yet launched, and when it does it will not be able to include data on networks that serve the public, since the legal territory is too muddy for DHS lawyers to navigate while EFF lawsuits have everyone in the U.S. government skittish about acknowledging surveillance of any kind. Even the private networks that PREDICT can serve immediately, such as Internet2 (the research backbone in the U.S. serving a few hundred educational, commercial, government, and international partners) have lamented that the PREDICT framework does not solve their two biggest problems: sketchy legal territory, and fear of RIAA subpoenas and/or lawsuits. Meanwhile, other accounts (from non-objective parties, with no data sources) claim that the vast majority of traffic on the Internet is illegal by current laws, and ISPs should be held accountable for preventing this traffic. Given the exposure to copyright lawsuits for file-sharing (ironically, what the Internet was originally designed to do), the counterincentives to sharing data on operational networks grow stronger by the day..

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