Given the amazing advances in search algorithms during the past decade, you’d think sifting through large volumes of customer data to find examples of copyright infringement within would be de rigueur for the Feds – part of the cost of regulating content on behalf of publishers while both protecting innocent consumers and proving its case against criminal ones. You’d think so because it is much easier (almost fully electronic) than in the past. And, you’d think so because the content’s all in one convenient container. Like YouTube in many ways. But this week the Feds proved how low their regard for the 99% (or 5% or 23% or whatever) is by planning (as of today) to delete the entire data set of the world’s tenth largest file-sharing site without consideration of the honest majority (or at least one innocent party amidst the file-sharing frenzy). It turns out there aren’t any protections and there aren’t any forensics. It’s over for the data hosts and their subscribers/users.
We should all be bothered. But there were few outraged tweets and Facebook updates, to my surprise. Apparently, news of it was overwhelmed by Facebook’s IPO numbers. Yet, all those 800 Million people and the $5 Billion are at greater risk than I’d earlier imagined. Because if criminals choose to do so, they could compel the Feds to act again. Here’s the transcript from a conversation on my wall earlier today:
Me: MegaUpload: No analog example of punitive indifference shown by Feds unless we count decimating a country for the actions of a single despot
Facebook Friend: In English?
Me: 50 million Megaupload users have data in danger of being erased. All of it. Because of copyright infringement and file sharing by a portion. Cloud hosted content is a fragile business model if disks get wiped by Feds without protections for consumers. Could happen to gmail, for example.
Facebook Friend: In that case, agreed! I didn’t actually realise Megaupload had content other than the TV shows and movies. That’s absolutely unfair to punish people for uploading legitimate files for safekeeping, and goes against the whole point of cloud—which SHOULD be infinitely safer than backing up to a hard disc.
Me: It was the 10th largest host. Baby pictures, wills, drafts of novels, recipes… gone without recourse.
Facebook Friend: isn’t there anyone who can offer to back it up temporarily?
Me: The laws of commerce = competitors can’t take the risk of consuming tainted content, and no one has the appetite to do the forensics on the corpus of content for a fee. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it will try to help… but really, it’s too late and they don’t have a real plan. Just outrage.
Me: It’s pretty clear that service level agreements and protections need to be in place before Trust is earned again by hosts.
Facebook Friend: With no warning?
Me: well… see http://www.megaupload.com. That was the warning. Data could all be wiped by EOD today. No access for end-users at all since the lockdown of the site.
Facebook Friend: Without giving users the ability to back up their data, I wouldn’t consider that a warning. Just like in the movies as you watch the progress bar on your laptop as some sinister virus wipes out your hard drive isn’t really a warning.
Me: We agree. And, it isn’t as if the Feds can’t use analytics to sort out criminal content and let a competing service pick up the remainder. They’ve chosen to stand on a very bad practice of championing the studios over the consumers without regard to fair practices.
What do you think? Can the industry create effective policies and service level agreements soon enough so that individuals can enter their content in the Cloud with the same confidence as enterprises? Can the Feds be bound by rules of evidence handling that are less scorched-earth for the Cloud?