Advertising on the internet involves a complex system that automatically ... As part of the changes, Google plans to expand a policy that prohibits ads ...
Jon Koomey — [a research fellow at Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy who has been studying Internet energy effects since ...
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Co-authored by Dr. Augustine Fou, Independent Cybersecurity and Ad Fraud Researcher and David Mitnick, President of DomainSkate
The breach of the Democratic National Committee email system and a massive digital advertising fraud believed to be run by alleged actors in Russia share a common thread beyond their ability to capture the news cycle. Although each event targeted a different weakness in brand/online security platforms, the common denominator is the use of fraudulent domain names.
In the case of the DNC hack, an email linked to a look-alike Google domain was a critical component that allowed hackers entry into the DNC computer system. On the ad fraud side, alphanumeric and gibberish domains were used to bilk advertisers of millions of dollars a day via a complex system that showed real ads to fake people.
With respect to ad fraud, the use of alphanumeric and gibberish domains are particularly attractive because they are cheap (no premiums like for those domains that are normally associated with popular terms) and anonymous. Whereas prior schemes relied on some form of human intervention — whether it was fake clicks from confused users or hired clicks — the new schemes require none. In fact the entire purpose of registering a domain name like www.000chat000.com is that it will remain anonymous and not attract attention.
We did research on some recent alpha-numeric domains registered in the .COM registry and found that there were obvious patterns in the registrations. For example, see the below registrations that were made just last month:
Many of these domains were registered within minutes of each other which means that the registration was likely automated as part of a targeted scam. Specifically, bulk registrations can be performed by bots by simply adding slight variations to the domain names (as in the list above, and the examples below). And all are unique domains that will have a different payment ID in the ad exchange. Here are a few examples:
Creation Date: 2013-02-04T21:01:29Z
Creation Date: 2013-02-04T21:01:42Z
Creation Date: 2013-02-04T21:01:48Z
We also visited these sites and it became clear that the sites had no (human) traffic and were simply created for fraudulent purposes. The front pages of the sites most of them were exactly the same — that means they used the same site template. There was also no real or useful content on the pages. Though there was no legitimate purpose for the sites, the large numbers of them could be useful if used to commit ad fraud — where scammers would add them into ad exchanges in order to carry ads (e.g. display ads, video ads, search ads, etc.) just like in the recent Russian advertising scam.
The bottom line is that it is important for every company, large or small to monitor their brand names online and to pay close attention to the details in their media/digital advertising reports. On the brand side, a failure to monitor means that users or customers can be harmed by phishing scams that might otherwise be preventable.
With respect to digital advertising and media, it is important to always insist on line-item details when buying digital media. With these details you will be able to see domain names (e.g. on which your ads and media ran). When you see domains like the ones discussed in this article, be very suspicious and do further investigation, because they are more likely to be used for fraudulent purposes than for legitimate ones.
Written by David Mitnick, President DomainSkate LLC
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Those rules are important to preserve online freedoms in countries that have a history of cracking down on Internet speech, but in the Canadian ...
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"Hundreds of Cisco switches vulnerable to flaw found in WikiLeaks files" Zack Whittaker reporting in ZDNet: "Cisco is warning that the software used in hundreds of its products are vulnerable to a 'critical'-rated security flaw, which can be easily and remotely exploited with a simple command. The vulnerability can allow an attacker to remotely gain access and take over an affected device. ... The security flaw was discovered by the company's own security researchers in WikiLeaks' most recent disclosure of classified information, released last week."
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Ever since I published an essay exploring the relationship between climate change and the Internet, I have endeavored to bring this subject to the fore as often as possible (and in relevant fora and discussions) since the responsibility of creating a more sustainable world falls on all communities and stakeholder groups. It is particularly pressing now — at a time when international interest in curbing climate change is strengthening, while it is juxtaposed with the receding commitments of the United States government vis-à-vis climate change and the environment under the Trump administration, which was reflected in his first official budget proposal.
Such instances where I have highlighted this topic included advocating for more environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing energy use and/or transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar and wind, at the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in December 2016. The Dynamic Coalition on the Internet and Climate Change (DCICC), which was a focus of the aforementioned essay, submitted its annual report leading up to the IGF, and was represented at the Dynamic Coalition (DC) main session where we updated the IGF community about our work and progress made in 2016. I was able to facilitate two breakout sessions at the Internet Society (ISOC)-sponsored Collaborative Leadership Exchange (CLX) as well — one where we discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and another that focused solely on the Internet, information and communications technologies (ICTs), and the environment. The work has only just begun, however, and is continuing in earnest. For instance, I was appointed as the focal point for a European Dialogue on Internet Governance (EuroDIG) workshop examining digital pollution and the effects on the environment (such as electronic waste (e-waste) and energy consumption), and I am co-organizing the DCICC annual session at the 2017 WSIS Forum.
So far, most of the feedback I have received from individuals across the Internet governance community about raising this issue has been positive. I greatly appreciate the support that has been shown, and the relevance of maintaining this discussion was further reinforced by a World Health Organization (WHO) ">publication that was released earlier this month (March) regarding technology, e-waste, and the environment:
"The WHO also noted [in their Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children's Health and the Environment report [PDF] the importance of properly managing emerging environmental hazards like electronic and electrical waste. Without proper recycling, this can lead to children being exposed to dangerous toxins known to harm intellectual development and cause attention deficits, as well as more serious conditions like lung disease and cancer."
With the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the dangers raised by the WHO's report are even more pressing. Yet, e-waste is only one part of the problem. As more and more people come online, more devices are going to come online as well, which is going to further add the need for power consumption by the Internet and ICTs. This point was explicitly raised in a personal email exchange between Vint Cerf — one of the "fathers of the Internet" who co-invented TCP/IP — and I. We were discussing Google's transition to fully renewable energy use for its data centers, and he posed two questions. After Vint gave me his consent to share the information from our exchange, I decided to publish it here as a follow-up to my October 2016 essay. The following was my substantial answer to his questions (which are listed below in bold). Also, for full disclosure, note that I often refer to Google as a case study because (1) Vint is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google, (2) his inquiry regarding Google's data center efficiency is specifically what prompted the discussion, and (3) Google has been committed to reducing its carbon footprint for years as well as sharing that insight with other stakeholders, specifically in the private sector and technical community.
1. "Do you know whether the aggregate power requirements for the data centers exceed the power requirements for all the laptops, desktops, mobiles, tablets, home routers and Wi-Fi units, etc.?"
I do not have this information, but I can imagine it is a great deal when multiplied by the billions of devices that exist. I found two articles that list the wattage for various electronics (one from Daft Logic, the other from the American Council for the Energy Efficient Economy). I am not sure, though, if those numbers would reflect the various realities (and policy environments) of various non-U.S. electronics.
2. "What fraction of the power consumption does the Internet (and its access devices) take?"
I wish there was an easy number to cite, but unfortunately the numbers are constantly in flux — based on myriad factors taken into account during analysis as well as the number of devices and various optimizations to infrastructure like data centers (e.g., using renewable/green energy, using artificial intelligence (AI) to help increase efficiency, etc.). They often also do not take into account global numbers (as doing so would likely be much more difficult). Having said that, I found many sources that can help shed light on this question (while also shedding light on the first question he posed above):
To begin, the 2008 Global e-Sustainability initiative (GeSI) SMART2020 report, which examined how to enable the low carbon economy in the information age, indicated: "ICTs currently contribute 2 percent to 3 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions." To put this into perspective and even based on 2008 numbers, "If the Internet were a country, it would rank as the fifth-largest for energy consumption." Note, however, that the 2015 GeSI Smarter2030 report stressed, "ICT emissions as a percentage of global emissions will decrease over time," and the GeSI revised the percentage of total global carbon emissions predicted in their 2008 report "due to a range of investments companies in the sector have been making to reduce their emissions and to the expected improvements in the efficiency of ICT devices ... [Therefore,] the ICT sector's emissions 'footprint' is expected to decrease to 1.97 percent of global emissions by 2030, compared to 2.3 percent in 2020."
Bear in mind as well that the numbers are constantly changing in terms of the environmental impact of the Internet. For instance, as reported in The Verge, Google "used some 4,402,836 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in 2014 (equivalent to the amount of energy consumed by 366,903 U.S. households)," but that number is being offset by the amount of renewable energy and other innovations powering its infrastructure as well. Furthermore, according to CCCB Lab:
"The first thing that emerges after surveying various sources is that nobody knows for sure. In 2010, The Guardian came up with the figure of 300 million tons of [carbon dioxide (CO2)] per year, 'as much as all the coal, oil and gas burned in Turkey or Poland in one year.' A controversial article titled "Power, Pollution, and the Internet" in The New York Times put the figure at 30 billion watts of electricity in 2011, 'roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.' And according to Gartner consultants, the Internet was responsible for 2 percent of global emissions in 2007, outstripping the carbon footprint of the aviation industry. A more recent study by the Melbourne, Austraila-based Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) estimated in 2013 that the telecommunications industry as a whole emits 830 million tons of carbon dioxide a year — [accounting for 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the world's energy consumption] — and that the energy demands of the internet could double by 2020. Jon Koomey — [a research fellow at Stanford University's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy who has been studying Internet energy effects since 2000 and identified a long-term trend in energy-efficiency of computing that has come to be known as Koomey's Law] — estimates that the direct electricity use of all the elements that make up the Internet is probably around 10 percent of total electricity consumption, but he emphasizes that it is very difficult to calculate exact figures: 'You can use a computer to play video games or write a text and not be online, and this energy use is often counted as part of the Internet even though it isn't actually the case.'"
Additionally, in a 2015 article published in The Atlantic, the following data was purported:
"According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2012 global electricity consumption was 19,710 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). Using Google's estimate [of its data center's energy use] and electricity-consumption data from the CIA World Factbook, they're using about as much electricity annually as the entire country of Turkey. (Honestly, that number seems impossibly high considering that in 2011 Google disclosed that it used merely 260 million watts of power, at the time noted for being slightly more than the entire electricity consumption of Salt Lake City.) In its 2013 sustainability report, Facebook stated its data centers used 986 million kWh of electricity — around the same amount consumed by Burkina Faso in 2012 ... The impact of data centers — really, of computation in general — isn't something that really galvanizes the public, partly because that impact typically happens at a remove from everyday life. The average amount of power to charge a phone or a laptop is negligible, but the amount of power required to stream a video or use an app on either device invokes services from data centers distributed across the globe, each of which uses energy to perform various processes that travel through the network to the device. One study ... estimated that a smartphone streaming an hour of video on a weekly basis uses more power annually than a new refrigerator" [emphasis mine].
Another perspective to consider is how growth affects the numbers. For example, after interviewing Dr. Mike Hazas, one of the researchers from Lancaster University's School of Computing and Communications involved in a study that warned how "the rapid growth of remote digital sensors and devices connected to the Internet [and the IoT] has the potential to bring unprecedented and, in principle, almost unlimited rises in energy consumed by smart technologies," the writer of this article shared the following data:
"The increase in data use has brought with it an associated rise in energy use, despite improvements in energy efficiencies. Current estimates suggest the Internet accounts for 5 percent of global electricity use but is growing faster, at 7 percent a year, than total global energy consumption at 3 percent. Some predictions claim information technologies could account for as much as 20 percent of total energy use by 2030."
Conversely, in 2013, The Register reported: "The information and technology ecosystem now represents around 10 percent of the world's electricity generation." It based this data on an August 2013 report written by Digital Power Group (DPG) CEO Mark P. Mills titled The Cloud Begins With Coal: Big Data, Big Networks, Big Infrastructure, and Big Power (disclaimer: it was sponsored by the American Coal Association, a pro-coal lobbying group). He wrote:
"Based on a mid-range estimate, the world's [ICT] ecosystem uses about 1,500 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually, equal to all the electric generation of Japan and Germany combined — as much electricity as was used for global illumination in 1985. The ICT ecosystem now approaches 10 percent of world electricity generation. Or in other energy terms — the zettabyte era already uses about 50 percent more energy than global aviation ... Hourly Internet traffic will soon exceed the annual traffic of the year 2000. And demand for data and bandwidth and the associated infrastructure are growing rapidly not just to enable new consumer products and video, but also to drive revolutions in everything from healthcare to cars, and from factories to farms. Historically, demand for bits has grown faster than the energy efficiency of using them. In order for worldwide ICT electric demand to merely double in a decade, unprecedented improvements in efficiency will be needed now" [emphasis theirs].
The Registry's report also emphasized the following about power consumption regarding personal devices: "Reduced to personal terms, although charging up a single tablet or smartphone requires a negligible amount of electricity, using either to watch an hour of video weekly consumes annually more electricity in the remote networks than two new refrigerators use in a year. And as the world continues to electrify, migrating towards one refrigerator per household, it also evolves towards several smartphones and equivalent per person" [emphasis theirs]. (A methodology note from The Register: "This example used publicly available data on the average power utilization of a telecom network, the cost of wireless network infrastructure, and the energy that goes into making a tablet, although it ignored the data centers the video is served out of, and tablet charging" (in other words — though Google has purported that the cost of a Google search is 0.0003 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy — the likely cost is higher due to the power cost lurking in the non-Google systems used to deliver the data and perform the search). "[Furthermore,] the report's figure reflects not just the cost of data centers — according to a 2007 report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. data centers consumed 1.5 percent of U.S. electricity production, and was projected to rise to 3 percent by 2011 — but also the power involved in fabbing chips and the power consumption of digital devices and the networks they hang off)."
It is important to highlight, however, that regarding the stated fact that direct electricity use of the Internet is probably around 10 percent of total electricity consumption, Koomey said the same thing during his keynote address at Google's How Green is the Internet Summit in June 2013, but he immediately added that "the number does not tell us very much" (source). His words were further reinforced by the slides he presented at the event. On slide 7, he shared a graph based on data from a 2013 study using information collected for Sweden in circa 2010 that showed annual electricity use (GWh/year) across various technological devices. It showed that user PCs accounted for approximately 1,800 GWh/year compared to the second-most energy consuming devices: data centers and third-party local-area networks (LANs), which were responsible for close to 1,300 GWh/year). Other user equipment accounted for around 700 GWh/year, while the lowest-ranked technology, Internet Protocol (IP) core network was responsible for around 250 GWh/year. But whether this trend has been sustained from 2010, though, is unclear. (The Google event itself was bolstered by a blog post that was written that same month, which corresponded with the release of a report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) titled The Energy Efficiency Potential of Cloud-based Software: A U.S. Case Study. It showed that "migrating all U.S. office workers to the cloud could save up to 87 percent of information technology (IT) energy use — about 23 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh) of electricity annually, or enough to power the city of Los Angeles for a year" (Berkeley Lab also made their model publically available "so other researchers and experts can plug in their own assumptions and help refine and improve the results." Bear in mind that, ultimately, the goal in this case was not to emphasize the effects of personal electronics, but energy efficiency and management overall of larger technical infrastructure).
There is also information available from a 2013 Time article that directly addresses some of the specifics regarding Vint's second question and criticizes Mills' study:
"It's important to note that the amount of energy used by any smartphone will vary widely depending on how much wireless data the device is using, as well as the amount of power consumed in making those wireless connections — estimates for which vary. The above examples assume a relatively heavy use of 1.58 GB a month — a figure taken from a survey of Verizon iPhone users last year. That accounts for the high-end estimate of the total power the phone would be consuming over the course of a year. NPD Connected Intelligence, by contrast, estimates that the average smartphone is using about 1 gigabyte (GB) of cellular data a month, and in the same survey that reported high data use from Verizon iPhone users, T-Mobile iPhone users reported just 0.19 GB of data use a month — though that's much lower than any other service. Beyond the amount of wireless data being streamed, total energy consumption also depends on estimates of how much energy is consumed per GB of data. The top example assumes that every GB burns through 19 kilowatts (kW) of electricity. That would be close to a worst-case model. The CEET assumes a much lower estimate of 2 kWh per GB of wireless data, which would lead to a much lower electricity consumption estimate as well — as little as 4.6 kWh a year with the low T-Mobile data use. In the original version of the post, I should have noted that there is a significant range in estimates of power use by wireless networks, and that this study goes with the very high end."
A note on the calculations on smartphone energy use: this comes from an email by Max Luke, a policy associate at the Breakthrough Institute, which posted about Mills' study. He wrote:
"Last year [in 2012], the average iPhone customer used 1.58 GB of data a month, which times 12 is 19 GB per year. The most recent data put out by ATKearney for the mobile industry association GSMA (p. 69) says that each GB requires 19 kW. That means the average iPhone uses (19kW X 19 GB) 361 kWh of electricity per year. In addition, ATKearney calculates each connection at 23.4 kWh. That brings the total to 384.4 kWh. The electricity used annually to charge the iPhone is 3.5 kWh, raising the total to 388 kWh per year. The EPA's Energy Star shows refrigerators with efficiency as low as 322 kWh annually."
The Time article continued: "Breakthrough ran the numbers on the iPhone specifically — Mills' endnotes (see page 44 in the report) refer to smartphones and tablets more generally — but Luke notes that Mills confirmed the calculations. These estimates are at the very high end — other researchers have argued that power use by smartphones is much lower. And the Mills study itself has come in for strong criticism from other experts."
As this Forbes article noted:
"[Koomey said] he 'spent years debunking' Mills' claims and published a paper in 2000 that directly contradicted his findings. Koomey [added] he was shocked to see Mills 'rehashing' his ideas now. 'If he is making this claim again, that would be just crazy, outrageous,' Koomey said. 'What we found in 2000 is that a refrigerator used 2,000 times more electricity than the networking electricity of a wireless Palm Pilot. He is not a credible source of information.' [Moreover,] Gernot Heiser, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and co-author of a 2010 study on power consumption in smartphones, echoed Koomey's sentiments [that Mills' work was flawed]. Heiser said Mills' work 'seems blatantly wrong.' He said Mills overestimates the amount of power used by a modern smartphone, in this case a Galaxy S III, by more than four times. 'I'd have to have a quick look to see how they arrive at this figure, but it certainly looks like baloney to me,' Heiser said."
Quoting from the Time article, "Gang Zhou, an associate professor of computer science at the College of Williams and Mary, was less direct in attacking Mills' claims, but nonetheless said his measurements for the power consumption of smartphones was at least 'one or two magnitude' higher than they should be. Nonetheless, Zhou added that the subject of data center electricity usage is an important issue and it 'should raise concern.'"
Koomey also reinforced the aforementioned criticism. In a 2013 article titled "Jonathan Koomey: Stop worrying about IT power consumption," the author of the article wrote:
"By 2010, for example, data centers accounted for approximately 1.3 percent of worldwide electricity use and 2 percent of U.S. electricity use, according to Koomey's August 2011 paper, "Growth in Data Center Electricity Use, 2005 to 2010." This amount is growing, certainly, but at a far slower rate than we previously imagined. Still, that article helped inspire an industry-wide interest in the nexus of technology and energy efficiency that might otherwise have taken years to develop. "It was the process of debunking those claims that led me to spend a lot more time on data center electricity use and also on the electricity use of all sorts of computing devices,' Koomey recalled. As he dug into the numbers, he actually discovered that efficiency has been improving since the days of vacuum tubes, a thesis he explored in his 'One Great Idea' presentation at the 2012 VERGE conference in Washington, D.C. This is one thing making the explosion of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers viable, along with the associated reductions in the power consumption associated with client computing devices. Consider that a desktop computer uses roughly 150 kWh to 200 kWh of electricity annually, compared with 50 to 70 kWh for a notebook PC, 12 kWh for a tablet or 2 kWh for a smartphone. It's also a very important development for the so-called Internet of Things, the vast network of sensors emerging to support a huge array of applications related to green buildings, intelligent transportation systems and so on. Despite suggestions otherwise, these applications should have very little impact on overall IT power consumption."
Based on the outdated and often contradictory information available, I would stress that the ultimate answer to Vint's question is that, unfortunately, it is inconclusive. Even a follow-up question Vint posted about the merits of switching to LED lighting in offsetting the power consumption of ICTs was undermined by a New Republic story that argued (according to the aforementioned Time article):
"The greenest building in New York City [at the time] — the Bank of America Tower, which earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) highest Platinum rating — was actually one of the city's biggest energy hogs. Author Sam Roudman argued that all the skyscraper's environmentally friendly add-ons — the waterless urinals, the daylight dimming controls, the rainwater harvesting — were outweighed by the fact that the building used 'more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan,' consuming more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old (though recently renovated) Empire State Building."
What is not undermined, however, is my rationale for exploring this topic more within the Internet community. While the Internet and ICTs are not the main contributor to climate change (compared to, say, energy production in general), there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
1. The issue of energy needed for infrastructure such as data centers as well as electronic devices (regardless of size or scope) is essentially two sides to the same coin, but data center/server operators generally have much more centralized control over how such centers/servers are powered than end-users.
2. Private sector data centers are becoming more efficient and are increasingly run by renewable energy, but many Internet exchange points (IXPs), for instance, as well as other critical infrastructure and non-private sector structures (such as government servers) are not. (See, for example, the abovementioned Atlantic article: "But that's leverage available to companies operating at the scale of Facebook and Google [to galvanize states to cut non-renewable/fossil fuel energy sources]. It's not really something that smaller colocation services can pull off. Relative to the entire data-center industry — data centers run on university campuses, enterprise colocation providers, hospitals, government agencies, banks — companies like Facebook and Google are a pronounced, but still minor piece of the larger data-center landscape. Some smaller companies have been able to push for changes, but they tend to need one of the heavy-hitter companies to act as muscle first" [emphasis mine]).
3. As more people come online, more and more data will be generated — to the point where the amount of energy needed to power the infrastructure that supports such data could grow exponentially. As Mills' report stressed:
"Future growth in electricity to power the global ICT ecosystem is anchored in just two variables: demand (how fast traffic grows) and supply (how fast technology efficiency improves). As costs keep plummeting, how fast do another billion people buy smartphones and join wireless broadband networks where they will use 1,000 times more data per person than they do today; how fast do another billion, or more, join the Internet at all; how fast do a trillion machines and devices join the Internet to fuel the information appetite of Big Data? Can engineers invent, and companies deploy, more efficient ICT hardware faster than data traffic grows?"
Addressing each of these points — and what the Internet governance community can do about it — is critical. Given the inconclusive nature of this article, it is better to err on the side of caution — that is, address concerns related to energy and the environment within our domain, especially when investing in infrastructure upgrades. For instance, Koomey argued, "For in-house data centers that are standard business facilities, there is a strong case from both a cost and environmental perspective for going to the cloud."
This also involves sharing best practices, solutions, and working collaboratively to help make current infrastructure more efficient and sustainable as well as better plan for the future (which of course includes policy discussions) as well as examining our entire production process and incorporating a more circular economy. By extending this logic to ICTs, it also includes not merely infrastructure and processes governing the Internet, but also aspects of the information society such as wireless infrastructure (e.g., towers and routers), wired infrastructure (e.g., manufacturing and laying fiber (including underwater cable)), the recyclability and sustainability of Internet-connected devices (e.g., manufacturing processes, recycling, and resource acquisition), and where the materials for such devices will come from in order to help the next billion(s) get online.
Written by Michael Oghia, independent #netgov consultant & editor
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Last week the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global; www.BuySafeRx.pharmacy) presented its inaugural Internet Pharmacy Safety E-Commerce Leadership Award to two organizations during the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Joint Meeting of the Registries and Registrars Stakeholder Groups at ICANN58 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it was announced on Tuesday.
ASOP Global selected the award recipients, Rightside and Realtime Register, based on their corporate policies and practices; responsiveness to illegal online drug sellers; prevention of illegal use of domain names for illegal online drug sales; cross-industry collaboration; and public and consumer awareness efforts, explained ASOP Global's Executive Director, Libby Baney.
"Both organizations have shown exceptional and consistent efforts to improve patient safety online by actively addressing concerns regarding illegal online drug sellers and promptly responding to reports of potential domain abuse, often within 24 hours," Baney said. "Likewise, while both Realtime Register and Rightside have registries amassing hundreds of thousands of domains each, our award winners have a near zero count of illegal internet pharmacies utilizing their services," she added.
"Rightside is pleased to be recognized for its ongoing efforts to shut down illegal pharmacies on both its registrar and registry platforms. The access to, and distribution of, unsafe medications to consumers without a license is a serious global public health risk and Rightside is glad to participate with other companies to address this problem," said Rightside Vice President for Business and Legal Affairs, Statton Hammock.
"It was really great to accept this award from ASOP Global in front of all of the delegates attending the Joint Registries and Registrars Stakeholder Session as we were able to show our colleagues the other side of the issue in which many of our registries and registrars are working responsibly to ensure patient safety online," said Realtime Register's Compliance and Policy Officer, Theo Geurts.
Nominations for ASOP Global's second Internet Pharmacy E-Commerce Safety Award are now open. All questions and nominations may be sent to "Nominations@BuySafeRx.pharmacy”. Award recipients will be announced during ICANN63 in October 2018 in Barcelona, Spain.
About the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies – Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) is an international 501(c)(4) social welfare organization dedicated to combating illegal online pharmacies and ensuring the safety of consumers worldwide.
Written by Libby Baney, Digital Health Policy Consultant; Executive Director, ASOP Global
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Today's case: FTC v. American eVoice, Ltd, et al, CV-13-03-M-DLC (DC Montana Mar. 14, 2017). See also Stipulated Permanent Injunction.
The FTC brought an action against Defendants claiming that they were engaged in cramming, adding unwanted voicemail, electronic fax, and call forwarding services to consumers bills to the tune of $70 million. Slip at 3. The FTC concluded that this was a violation of Sec. 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce." Slip at 3.
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that they are common carriers and therefore exempt from FTC jurisdiction. This argument had been successful recently. In FTC v. ATT Mobility (9th Cir. Aug. 2016), the FTC had brought an action against ATT Mobility for data throttling (before the FCC's Open Internet order declaring Internet access service a telecommunications service). The 9th Circuit found that ATT Mobility had the status of a common carrier, therefore the FTC lacked jurisdiction over ATT Mobility. Specifically, Sec. 5 states that the FTC lacks jurisdiction over "common carriers subject to the Acts to regulate commerce." The term "common carrier" is not defined in Sec. 5. The 9th Circuit conducted an extensive review, concluding that the language applied generally to firms that have the status of being a common carrier, and not specifically only to actions that constitute the provision of common carriage. In other words, according to the holding of the 9th Circuit, the FTC lacks jurisdiction over ATT Mobility even if ATT Mobility is selling hot dogs out of a push cart because ATT Mobility has the status of common carriage for some other part of its business.
So are Defendants in the case at hand "common carriers" or not?
The Court cites to Computer II authority, for which it gets my thumbs up. But of course Computer II has been superseded by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which codified definitions for an "information service” (a.k.a. "enhanced services") and a "telecom service." An "Information Service" is
the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications, and includes electronic publishing... 47 U.S.C. § 153(20)
By contrast, a "telecom service"
And of course, "telecommunications"
means the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received. 47 U.S.C. § 153(50)
As the court states, telecom service is essentially a pipeline. It is the transmission layer of the communications service. It pretty much is someone saying "hi grandma" into a telephone network and "hi grandma" comes out the other end.
Anything more than that is an "information service." This is a bright line test. If "hi grandma" is spoken into the network and "Bonjour Grand-mère" comes out the other end of the network, you gots yourself "a change in the form or content of the information" sent.
The FCC and the courts have been deciphering the distinction between "information services" and "telecommunications services" for more than half a century. There is a bit of precedent here. What we know, according to the court, is that defendants offered "voicemail, electronic fax, and call forwarding." Have previous courts and the FCC passed on whether these are "information services"? Yes they have.
Service | Classification | Authority
- Voicemail | Information Service | CPE Order 2001 ¶ 2; FWD MOO; Stevens Report, ¶ 73; BOC Petition Order 13770-774, App. A; Computer II Final Decision, ¶ 98; In re Southwestern Bell CEI Plan for the Provision of Voice Messaging Services, DA 88-1469, Memorandum Opinion and Order, 3 FCC Rcd. 6912, 65 Rad. Reg. 2d (PF) 527, 1 (September 29, 1988); Petition USTelecom2013 ¶ 20; Computer III Further NPRM 1998 ¶ 1
- Electronic Fax | Information Service | (actually, the court does not describe what 'electronic fax' is so I am not 100% confident but....) Computer III Further NPRM 1998 ¶ 1; Review of Customer Premises Equipment and Enhanced Services Unbundling Rules in the Interexchange, Exchange Access and Local Exchange Markets, CC Docket No. 98-183, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, para 1, n. 20 (October 9, 1998); MOO, Bell Operating Companies Joint Petition for Waiver of Computer II Rules, DA 95-36, 10 FCC Rcd 1724 n.3, 1995 FCC LEXIS 217 **2 (Jan 1995)
- Call Forwarding | Telecom Service | Stevens Report, ¶ 73; Computer II Final Decision, ¶ 98
Whoops. That did not go as planned. "Call Forwarding" is a "Telecom Service"?? According to Computer II
We indicated that 'computer processing applications such as call forwarding, speed calling, directory assistance, itemized billing, traffic management studies, voice encryption, etc., may be used in conjunction with 'voice' service.' The intent was to recognize that while POTS is a basic service, there are ancillary services [a.k.a. adjunct services] directly related to its provision that do not raise questions about the fundamental communications or data processing nature of a given service. Accordingly, we are not here foreclosing telephone companies from providing to consumers optional services to facilitate their use of traditional telephone service. Computer II Final Decision, ¶ 98.
Ah! So now we have to introduce one more concept: adjunct services. According to the FCC, adjunct services are services that may involve something that looks like an information service but facilitates the operation of the telecommunications service. Adjunct services take on the regulatory classification of the facilitated telecom service. Here is a simple example. If you call directory assistance to get a telephone number so that you can make a call, that's an adjunct service and therefore a telecom service. If however you call directory assistance with a reverse lookup, querying with a telephone number and asking for the name, that is an information service because that reverse lookup does not facilitate the operation of the telecom service (you already have the telephone number; getting the name doesn't help set up the call).
The policy behind this exception was that telecom services like ATT and the Baby Bells were prohibited from providing information services pursuant to the 1956 Consent Decree. The FCC wanted ATT to be able to offer services that facilitated operation of the telecommunications service - things like directory assistance, call forwarding, speed dialing, and caller ID. So the FCC classified these very telephone-like things as "adjunct-to-basic" services. The Telecommunications Act codified this as the Telecom Management Exception.
But an adjunct service must be adjunct to something. An adjunct service that is adjunct to nothing - this has no meaning. If ATT offers call forwarding, then this 'enhancement' facilitates the use of ATT's telecom service and therefore takes on the regulatory classification of ATT's telecom service (in other words, the "information service prohibition" would not have blocked ATT Mobility from offering this service). However, a company that just offers call forwarding but does not also offer a telecom service wasn't prohibited from offering information service in the first place and cannot offer an adjunct service to a non-existent telecom service. Thus, a stand-alone enhancement like call forwarding falls within the "information service" bucket and not the "adjunct service therefore telecom service" bucket.
According to the court, "there is no evidence before the Court that the corporate Defendants operated a transmission pipeline" [a.k.a. telecom service]. Slip at 10. Unlike ATT Mobility which had the status of "common carrier" because some part of that company offers common carrier service (even though other parts of the company do not), no part of Defendants companies were found to offer "telecom service," thus Defendants do not fall within the FTC exception to jurisdiction over common carriers.
Oh, by the way, the Court noted a further problem with Defendants' claim to be "common carriers." According to the Court, they had not registered with the FCC as common carriers; they had not named an agent for service of process as a common carrier; they made no showing that they complied with common carrier obligations like paying into the universal fund. Slip at 11. Adding to the jurisprudence of the Duck Test, the Court concluded that these Defendants don't quack like a duck.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on the grounds that Defendants are common carriers outside the jurisdiction of the FTC dismissed.
Written by Robert Cannon, Cybertelecom
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