What a year 2016 has been! On the one hand, the American FCC finally began to act to protect Internet users against monopolistic abuses by ISP’s, such as by imposing limits on the secretive collection and sale of consumers’ private information. On the other hand, consumers have suffered from continuing data breaches, such as the notorious hacks of Yahoo! and Adult Friend Finder, while governments worldwide have increased censorship efforts against both porn and political dissent. Adding to the concerns, the incoming US administration has declared its commitment to roll back hard-won consumer protections such as net neutrality and announced its willingness to resurrect the failed adult-content censorship policies of the past.
Despite the political turmoil, this past year was mostly good for me, although my health has continued to deteriorate. I had wanted to comment regularly about the political and legal challenges facing consumers and the adult content industry, but because of painful arthritis of the shoulders, I can no longer write beyond a paragraph or two at a time.
As the year draws to a close, I feel that this would also be a good time for me to retire from blogging, at least for now. I thank all of my readers for their support over the past 3 1/2 years. My wish is that all of us will have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year and many more great years ahead.
Happy New Year 2017
Xbiz reports that UK Internet users can now sign an online petition to protest the invasive, privacy-killing requirements of the recently passed “Investigative Powers Bill.” The bill, if approved, would require that ISPs monitor and store large amounts of information about Internet users’ browsing histories. Combined with the proposed adult-website age-verification measure, the UK would mandate the collection and storage of highly sensitive and intimate information about users, increasing the risks of misuse by hackers, blackmailers, and rogue agencies.
xHamster Asks U.K. Users to Sign Petition
xHamster.com today started urging users in the U.K. to sign a petition calling for the repeal of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which recently wended its way through Parliament and now awaits royal assent, which would turn the piece of legislation into law. Read More>>
Thousands of xHamster login credentials surface online
Around 380,000 log-in credentials used at adult site xHamster have been compromised, including military and government e-mail addresses. Anyone who has an account there should change their password immediately. This incident reinforces the importance of using separate passwords for each account and not using work or sensitive e-mail addresses to register for adult websites.
Via DSL Reports:
Trump Appoints Third Net Neutrality Critic to FCC Advisory Team
President-elect Trump today added yet another fierce critic of net neutrality to his FCC transition team. The incoming President chose Roslyn Layton, a visiting fellow at the broadband-industry-funded American Enterprise Institute, to help select the new FCC boss and guide the Trump administration on telecom policy.
Via XBIZ, lawmakers in both the US and UK have separately proposed measures to censor or tax access to mature content online:
Legislative Attempts to Filter Porn in the U.S. Are Mounting
New Mexico will join about two dozen other states that will slate legislative attempts in 2017 to force ISPs and makers of PCs and mobile devices to install porn filters. Read more>>
Despite previous attempts, introducing mandatory filters in the U.S. for objectionable content has never come to fruition, because such proposals would be struck down as violations of both the 1st Amendment and the Commerce Clause, which does not permit individual states to regulate Internet commerce by filtering.
U.K. Digital Economy Bill Moves Forward to House of Lords
Members of the House of Commons today approved the third reading of the U.K. Digital Economy Bill, effectively sending the draft legislation to the House of Lords for consideration. Read more>>
Today, The Verge is reporting that another hack of Adult Friend Finder and several related websites resulted in over 400 million accounts having been exposed. Information stolen includes e-mail and IP addresses and account passwords, but unlike a previous hack, this one apparently doesn’t include information on sexual preferences. The Verge reports that the websites stored user data in plain text or encrypted with outdated algorithms.
Anyone who ever had an account at AFF or Friend Finder Network should immediately change any similar passwords that were used elsewhere. (This breach is a great example of why people should never re-use the same password at multiple websites.) Users may also wish to check their e-mail accounts for possible breaches using the free service at https://haveibeenpwned.com/
Impact on the adult industry:
Studio Heads Weigh In on Trump as President
Donald Trump triumphed last night, and now the adult entertainment biz is trying to figure out what it all means. Read more>>
“… Trump went on record saying that pornography should be illegal,” (Penthouse owner Kelly) Holland said. “Face it, Trump is the puppet. The strings will be pulled by his ultra-conservative vice president, [Mike] Pence, his presumptive attorney general, [Rudy] Giuliani and the rest of the alt-right that will pull the strings.
Impact on the Internet:
From DSL Reports:
Trump Could Spell Big Trouble for Broadband, Net Neutrality
While Hillary Clinton was seen as overly-cozy with telecom in her own right, new President elect Donald Trump is already laying the ground work for an administration that could spell major trouble for broadband consumers, broadband competition, and the nation’s new net neutrality rules. Trump has made it clear he vehemently opposes net neutrality, despite repeatedly making it clear he’s not entirely certain what net neutrality even is.
More from DSL Reports
On a positive note for companies like AT&T, Trump has given every indication that he opposes net neutrality — despite seemingly not understanding what it is. And while his telecom policy proposals have been murky at best, a Republican-controlled FCC is likely to kill numerous policy efforts including cable box reform and efforts to bring additional competition to bear on industry incumbents.
More from Gizmodo:
Donald Trump does not support net neutrality. Actually, he thinks it will lead to the censorship of conservative media. “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he tweeted in 2014.
Happening now: several Denial of Service attacks are ongoing against DNS provider Dyn, knocking down major websites including Twitter and GitHub.
Furthermore, CSO Online reported a few hours ago on another huge compromise of private information from adult dating and entertainment sites:
Penthouse, Adult FriendFinder databases leak, at least 100 million accounts impacted
Databases recently obtained by LeakedSource, as well as source code, configuration files, certificate keys, and access control lists, point to a massive compromise at FriendFinder Networks Inc., the company behind AdultFriendFinder.com, Penthouse.com, Cams.com, and more than a dozen other websites.
Even as the American organizations CDT and FSC work to promote consumer privacy for adult websites, UK authorities continue to plow ahead with their ill-conceived plan to require mandatory age verification for consumers to access adult material. (A similar plan in the US was defeated in court partly over First Amendment concerns regarding the right to receive controversial speech anonymously.) The UK has designated the British Board of Film Classification to perform age verification, but astonishingly, the law makes no provision to protect the privacy of adult-website visitors.
As described in this petition, “The Digital Economy Bill currently before Parliament will introduce compulsory age verification without guaranteeing privacy protections for subscribers. This omission risks users’ personal details and private sexual preferences being exploited for commercial gain and/or leaked into the public domain.”
Discussion of the Digital Economy Bill by The Independent
Update: adult industry stakeholders held a protest outside Parliament today against the bill, which they say “imposes state censorship and surveillance of consensual adult sexual content in the U.K.”
In the aftermath of ongoing revelations about mass surveillance and enormous data breaches, consumers have rightly become more concerned with online privacy and security. As Xbiz reports, the Center for Democracy and Technology has partnered with adult industry group Free Speech Coalition to promote the use of privacy-enhancing https technology by adult websites to reduce the erosive effects of indiscriminate dragnet monitoring programs. (This website has not yet adopted https technology because of hosting company limitations but plans to do so as soon as it is feasible.)
FSC Pushes to Make Adult Sites More Secure
The Free Speech Coalition and the Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital civil liberties group, have agreed to work together to advocate use of the encryption protocol HTTPS for adult sites. Read more>>