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The New Zealand DIA Internet filter status

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Jan-2012 11:07

Remember back in 2009 there was some discussion about New Zealand government giving the DIA powers to maintain an Internet and Website Filter (Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System) containing a list of pages that should not be accessed by New Zealanders because of their child exploitation-related contents?

I have been reading some of the committee reports and this is a summary. Note the highlights will appear in order of most recent reports to the oldest ones, and of course you should read the links to have the full picture.

The filter itself is optional to ISPs, but once an ISP decided to use the filter then all its customers would be automatically included - it's not optional for customers. Currently the following ISPs are using the filter:

  • Airnet
  • Maxnet
  • Telecom New Zealand
  • TelstraClear
  • Vodafone
  • Watchdog
  • Xtreme Networks

I am reading the latest briefing document (December 2011) and it gives us some interesting data to date:

  • seven ISPs
  • 16.1 million requests blocked
  • 415 records in the filter list
  • 368 unique web sites
  • 25 appeals.

Going through some meeting minutes I found that one of the committee members objected to the reported number of blocked requested being technically correct but too high. To be fair, as per the minutes, this is number of requests, not number of page views. Remember a web page can be made up of many items to be downloaded, hundreds even.

Reading the minutes of March 2011 we  find out that the DIA isn't only involved in filtering but actively working in identifying people trading this material over peer-to-peer networks, as found in the minutes of this meeting:

Officials demonstrated software that had been developed in-house for the easy identification of IP addresses trading child sexual abuse images over peer-to-peer networks. This tool has been translated and made available to enforcement agencies in over 20 countries.

I see one of the committee members commented on the Australian filter list and shared fears of political interference in some cases:

The Group noted that following the elections in Australia, the implementation of a compulsory filter is back on the agenda with a filter list that addresses child sexual abuse imagery, bestiality, sexual violence, detailed instruction in crime, violence or drug use and material that advocates the doing of a terrorist act. Duncan Campbell noted that the inclusion of websites supporting terrorism on the Australian filter list could be subject to political interference.

Also on the same report, there's a nod to some of the criticism towards the filter:

It was noted that critics of the website filtering system often state the DIA would be better to spend its money pursuing actual offenders. Officials agreed that these statements demonstrate that the public is not fully aware of the enforcement action taken by the DIA and information on the number of search warrant and prosecutions undertaken should be made available on the department's website.

I found a small change in directions on how information collected by the Internet filter is used. When the filter was created, its proposal had this:

2.4 A person who views a website containing chid sexual abuse images is in possession of those images, if only for the period they appear on the screen. The Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System therefore will help prevent inadvertent exposure to these images and will also help prevent New Zealanders from committing crimes.

Note how the minutes from February 2010 describes the filter as not being an enforcement tool:

It was explained that the filtering system is not an enforcement tool and could not be used to aid prosecutions. The Department was unaware of any European jurisdiction, currently using a webpage filtering system, which uses their system for enforcement purposes.

And later from a committee meeting in August 2011:

Andrew Bowater asked whether the Censorship Compliance Unit can identify whether a person who is being prosecuted has been blocked by the filtering system. Using the hash value of the filtering system's blocking page, Inspectors of Publications now check seized computers to see if it has been blocked by the filtering system. The Department has yet to come across an offender that has been blocked by the filter.

This is a big change in usage of filter log records. As said before the filter is there to prevent inadvertent exposure, so a PC being blocked doesn't mean intent. It could've been inadvertent, right?

In the February 2010 meeting we read:

Asked to address some of the criticisms of website filtering, officers explained that, while a website filtering system will not address peer-to-peer trading it will still make a significant contribution to combating child sexual abuse images. There is a great deal of traffic going to objectionable websites and inadvertent exposure to this material is a real risk of being online. Websites also play a part in transactions to purchase child sexual abuse images and act as a gateway to peer-to-peer services. Often an offender's first interaction with this material is through such websites. The filtering system is also a tool to raise the public's awareness of this type of offending and the harm caused to victims. The Group agreed that this particular aspect of the filter needs to be more clearly conveyed to the public.

So it looks like the filter is working, the committee is doing a good job of keeping on top of things, although there has been some change in how the information collected is now being used to help investigations, which wasn't what the filter was intended for (at least not what they set in the first meeting).

The two most recent reports also list some of the reasons submitted by people who stumble on the filter page and request access to the material behind it. The list is sad and hilarious, reading like a description of dumb scum people:

  • I just want to see it
  • I fantasy about my aunt
  • I don't have children
  • Its only hentai there is no auctal harm in it
  • Curious
  • Not Real
  • Just to see if its as bad as you say it is ok
  • Reaserch
  • I like cute boys
  • Just looking
  • None of your business
  • At 70 yrs old I should be able to see this
  • just peeking so i can report it for blocking

These idiots really are the lowest of the lowest scum, right? The filter seems to be doing its job, the DIA is working hard to catch people trading this type of content. So why am I touching (no pun intended) on this again, after two years?

Because back in 2009 when the filter was created many people (myself included) were afraid a nationwide Internet filter system could one day be used for political purposes either by filtering free speech, or protecting copyright ownership and so on.

It seems the filter has been well applied in the last couple of years, although I disagree with the stance change in "not helping investigation prosecution" to "helping investigation and prosecution", but so be it, it's still within the child exploitation limits.

But because there was this change I still fear other changes can be made. I still have fears that our own little DIA filter can one day be expanded from "think of the children" to "think of the copyright owners and anyone who dares disagree with the established opinion or government actions". Check foobar's old blog post on this possibility. Read about the proposed SOPA legislation in the US. And read about the recent Spanish anti-piracy law.

Yes, I know. Think of the children. But think of our future too.



Thanks NBR for the laugh (on BlackBerry, RIM and its execs)

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Dec-2011 11:20

Seriously having a laugh at the coincidence today on NBR's technology RSS feed:

(1) Drunken BlackBerry execs chewed through restraints

(2) 'Best BlackBerry ever' gains local release

The first story refers to a couple of drunken RIM executives who were fired a couple of weeks ago from the Canadian company after creating a stir during a long haul flight. The second story is about the local launch of a new BlackBerry smartphone.

Separate the stories are unrelated. But when listed in a sequence like that, I thought it hilarious...



Government to subsidise Igloo set top boxes?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 14-Dec-2011 09:15

If reports are true, the New Zealand government have plans to subsidise Igloo set top boxes when the old analogue TV signals are turned off next year.

According to the New Zealand Herald:

The move is aimed at easing the transition to digital transmission, but would fit with Government policies that promote pay TV and undermine Freeview and the free-to-air TV sector.

Igloo is a digital receiver with a pay-per-view option. It will receive all open free-to-air channels, plus you can pay a monthly fee to receive additional channels, supplied by Sky. You will also be able to pay to watch specific movies or events. It is 51% owned by Sky Television.

If the New Zealand government wanted to give subsidies to help the transition between analogue to digital TV next year it should go to Freeview, our free-to-air broadcast platform, not to a private platform owned by a company that already dominates the satellite TV market in this country.



Law Commission to regulate new media: submissions open now

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 12-Dec-2011 09:22

Just received this press release today, and it affects New Zealand-based media companies in general and bloggers in particular. I strongly suggest you go to the Law Commission website, download the document Review of Regulatory Gaps and the New Media and submit your comments:

THE NEWS MEDIA MEETS 'NEW MEDIA': RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES AND REGULATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE

The Law Commission is seeking New Zealanders' views on the role of the news media in society and the standards to which they should be held to account.

In its latest Issues Paper, The News Media Meets 'New Media': rights, responsibilities and regulation in the digital age, the Law Commission puts forward a number of preliminary proposals for reforming the regulatory environment in which the news media operate.

It also asks whether the legal rights and responsibilities which have traditionally applied to news media should be extended to some new media publishers, such as current affairs bloggers and web-only news sites. [my emphasis]

Commissioner John Burrows said the news media, like every institution, have been profoundly affected by the internet. They no longer have a monopoly on the generation and dissemination of news.

"This Issues Paper looks at what distinguishes this special class of publisher called the 'news media' from other types of communicators. 

"It asks whether, and how, the news media should be regulated in this digital world in which the traditional boundaries between print and broadcasting are dissolving, and where anyone can break news and comment on public affairs." 

The Commission's preliminary proposal is to replace the Broadcasting Standards Authority, which currently regulates all traditional broadcasters, and the industry-based Press Council, which regulates print media, with a new converged news media regulator that would be independent of both the Government and the news media.

The Commission is suggesting the new independent regulator could extend its jurisdiction to any new digital publishers, such as bloggers or news websites, who wished to access the legal privileges and exemptions currently reserved for traditional news media organisations. 

"The regulator we are proposing would have no impact on citizens exercising their free speech rights on the internet. It would only apply to those who wished to be classified as 'news media' for the purposes of the law," said the project's lead Commissioner, Professor John Burrows.

Professor Burrows said the Commission was also asked to look at a second question: whether the laws which deal with crimes such as harassment, intimidation, defamation, and breach of privacy are fit for purpose in the digital age. This inquiry extends beyond the news media to all forms of communication.

"Our preliminary consultation with groups such as NetSafe indicates that alongside the positive impacts of the internet there is always the potential for humans to abuse this extraordinary new technology. Our report contains many examples of how these abuses can result in serious harm."

The Commission is seeking public feedback on a proposal to establish a special Communications Tribunal, that would operate at a lower level than the courts, but which would be able to grant a range of remedies including, for example, take down orders, when content clearly breached the law and could cause serious harm.  

"NetSafe tells us that many people come to them feeling defeated and powerless after attempting to have seriously offensive or damaging material taken down. What is needed is a body capable of taking swift and proportionate action when there has been a clear breach of the law."

The Commission is also proposing amendments to a number of statutes, including the Harassment Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Human Rights Act , to ensure  provisions designed to prevent serious speech abuses are capable of being applied in the digital era.

It is also considering recommending making it an offence to incite someone to commit suicide, irrespective of whether or not they do so, or attempt to do so, and an offence to impersonate someone with malicious intent.  

"We hope this paper, and the preliminary proposals it makes for reform, will be widely debated in New Zealand - in both traditional and new media fora. The issues it grapples with are vital to the health of our democracy."

Submissions on the paper can be made until 12 March, 2012. The Commission will also be hosting online forums to debate its proposals in February 2012.  



Igloo FAQ

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 7-Dec-2011 16:45

Just received the press release about Igloo, the new TV service coming to New Zealand in early 2012, results of a partnership between Sky Television (51%) and TVNZ (49%). Here is the FAQ for this service:


  • What is Igloo?
Igloo is an exciting new pre-pay telly service which offers Kiwis more choice and flexibility than ever before. It’s the first of its kind. 

Igloo comes with an easy-to-install set top box with no long term contracts and no termination fees! You pay for what you want to watch when you want to watch it. This is pre-pay TV! 

Igloo offers a great range of free to air channels and pay television channels, plus over a 1,000 pay-on-demand titles to choose from and live pay-per-view sporting events too. 

Even if you don’t buy the 11 channel pack you can still use your Igloo set top box to watch all of the free to air channels, and you can still purchase any of the great live pay-per-view sporting events and/or rent any of the 1,000 plus video-on-demand films and TV episodes. That’s just great flexibility. 
  
  • Why do we need another TV service?
Because Kiwis have asked for it. We’ve just completed 6 months of research where we asked Kiwis about every part of their TV experience, from what they wanted to pay, to what they wanted to watch, even down to the look and feel of the set top box and we took all of that research and created Igloo. 

Kiwis want an option between SKY and free to air television – that’s exactly what Igloo is. New Zealanders told us that – as long as it’s flexible and on their terms – there is a market and there is an opportunity in the 50% of households that don’t currently subscribe to pay TV. 

Kiwis want a lower price point, more flexibility, and they want choice in the form of additional ‘quality content' to the free to air channels that they currently receive. We think that Igloo meets all those needs head on. 

Igloo is aimed at people for whom TV viewing is occasion-based; they don’t want a long term contract. Consumer research showed us that people want flexibility and choice without the big price tag. That’s a perfect description of Igloo. 

  • Cost?
The retail price of the set top box is yet to be confirmed but we are aiming to sell it for under $200. 

For around $25 Kiwis can receive 11 channels of great content for 30 days on top of all free to air channels (in Hi Definition when available). 

There is also access to a video-on-demand library of more than 1,000 titles to rent from and great live pay-per-view sporting events. 

The Igloo box also comes with live pause, a handy home media player and so much more. 

This is really the simplest, most flexible, no termination fees, pre-pay model. 
  
  • How many channels?
Igloo offers a 30 day pack of 11 linear channels. Plus all the free to air channels. 

Our 11 channels are: 
  1. Vibe
  2. UKTV
  3. BBC World News
  4. BBC Knowledge
  5. Kidzone24
  6. MTV Hits
  7. National Geographic Channel
  8. Animal Planet
  9. Comedy Central
  10. Food TV
  11. TVNZ Heartland
The selection of these channels was very much informed by the research we conducted amongst our target market. We are offering a broad range of quality content which will please lots of people – from news junkies who love the BBC, to music lovers, from drama fans to wholesome shows for kids, plus all sports buffs can purchase live pay-per-view sporting events. 
  
  • Will you release more channels in the future?
No additional channels will be launched in the foreseeable future. 
  
  •  Contracts?
No long term contracts, no termination fees. That is why this is such a flexible option. You can opt in and out of paid content whenever you want, paying through the set top box, via the website, or via our call centre. 

Flexibility and simplicity came back time and time again in our consumer research. And we modelled Igloo on these consumer insights. We believe Igloo is exactly what Kiwis want. 
  
  • Where can I buy it?
Igloo will be available at high street retail outlets nationwide and also online through our Igloo website www.igloo.co.nz 
  
  1. 8.      How complicated is installation?
Easypeazy, out-of-the box self-installation. All you need is a UHF aerial on the roof and a TV – no matter how old it is! 
  
You should not need a technician but if you do we are happy to help. 

We have put a lot of research into ensuring that Joe Public can pull it out of the box and hit play. 
  
  • And for those that fail?
If people have any problems we’ll have an Auckland-based call centre team ready to talk them through it step-by-step. 

And if they can’t nail down the issues then people have the flexibility to call in a third party to help them with the installation. 

At launch we will have an Auckland-based customer support team ready to take  calls. 
  
  • Any video on demand?
Yes, we will launch with over 1,000 films and TV series. 
  
  • How much to rent an On Demand title for a 48 hour period?
It’ll vary between $4 and $7 per movie and $1 and $3 per TV episode. 
  
  • Can I purchase sports?
You can purchase live pay-per-view programmes such as big rugby games or a netball game. You don’t need to have bought a channel pack to access sport content. Prices will be announced later. 
  
  • Will the film download to my hard drive like MYSKY?
No, it will stream over the internet. 

After purchasing a film you will have 48 hours to watch it as many times as you wish. 
  
  • Can I live pause?
Yes you can by simply plugging in a USB stick. 

A USB stick allows you to live pause and also to buffer for up to four hours depending on the size of your USB stick. 
  
  • Will the system have parental locks on it to prevent children seeing inappropriate films?
Yes, there will be a parental lock for all Igloo channels. 
  
  1. 16.  Will streaming eat into my datacap?
Streaming will use your data. 

However, to put that in perspective, a full feature film is only 2GB and, according to our research, most Kiwis have a datacap of at least 20GB per month. 
  
  • If my internet connection drops out will I lose the film?
No you won’t lose the film. The system will handle the fluctuations in internet speed. 

You have 48 hours to watch the programme as many times as you want. 
  
  • Launch?
Igloo will launch in the first half of 2012, to offer a great alternative in time for the beginning of the Digital Switch Over (DSO) in September 2012. 
  
  • Will free to air channels be available?
Yes all free to air channels (in Hi Definition when available) come standard with Igloo plus so much more whenever you want it. 
  
  • Will there be an alert function where you can book programmes and the EPG will tell you when they are about to start?
Yes, reminders are available for all channels. 
  
  • How many free to air channels will you offer?
All of them, the Igloo box can tune to all free to air channels, including regional free to air ones. 
  
  • Will you add more pay channels in the future?
We are happy with our launch line up and there are no plans to change the channels but as with every new product we’ll need to see how it is received by customers so future changes are possible. 



The TelstraClear unmetered weekend, and asking you for ideas

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 4-Dec-2011 09:51

TelstraClear "unleashed" an unmetered weekend. And what a weekend it has been (still Sunday morning here). If you are not in New Zealand you should know most ISP plans are "metered", i.e. customers have a usage allowance measured in GB, with overage charges after that.

TelstraClear is the country's second largest ISP and boldly announced all data traffic from Friday 2nd Dec 2011 6pm through Sunday 4th Dec 2011 would be "unmetered", meaning this traffic would not be counted towards the customers' usage.

Obviously people would take advantage of this, by either uploading their digital content to online storage and backup, downloading as much content as possible for later viewing, or watching as much as possible YouTube, or using video calls like crazy - it's almost Christmas after all.

There's a long discussion on Geekzone on "how was your TelstraClear performance during free data weekend" and comments on NBR here.

Here's an interesting comment on Geekzone:

I must confess that I'm a bit confused as to why people are painting TelstraClear as callous, outrageous, moronic, illegal gits for actually TRYING to do, for once, what people have been clamouring for - "all you can eat" broadband.

Be careful what you wish for. 

I decided to post my reply to this comment in this blog post as well, to make it more visible outside the forum. And I agree with the gist of that comment.

This is because ISPs can't provision resources based on a constant peak demand, because what happens with all those resources during non-peak times? Who's paying for that? The costs would be enormous, which would of course be reflected on prices to consumers.

This "experiment" weekend by TelstraClear is not even a valid model showing how much resources the second largest ISP would need, because people are actually using a lot more than they would normally, just because this is an unusual event.

In effect what we are seeing here is the most demanding usage the network would be required to service. But not necessarily the demand an all you can eat plan would require in "normal" sense.

What are your views? Do you think unlimited plans are a good idea? Or do you think metered plans are better? What would you suggest to limit the impact of the Tragedy of Commons for example, where a few use all the available limited resources that should be shared by a larger group?



But TelstraClear redeems...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Dec-2011 22:59

Sorry folks if my previous post was a bit harsh. Trying to get things done here, taking advantage of an exceptional offer of free data. Then things die after only 30 minutes.

But thanks to some dedicated people, who joined in the hunt for a fault, we now know this is  a hardware fault, even one that was not seem before (thanks to us here using a new technology).

Those people worked after hours to find what is wrong, and for this I am thankful. You know who you are. Have a good weekend folks.



Unbelievable TelstraClear...

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Dec-2011 19:41

A couple of weeks ago I was battling with some small outages on my Telstraclear cable service. The connection would drop for 20 to 30 minutes and come back, once every evening. Then one evening it was down and I decided to "rest". Next morning, almost 12 hours later, the connection was still down.

I tried swapping the router, direct connection from a PC to the modem, etc. Called their help desk and had someone reset my connection on the cable node. Note my connection is one of the very few 100 Mbps service in Wellington, so I thought it could be some configuration on the node, or the Cisco modem being one of the old DOCSIS3 version.

Fast forward to this weekend. TelstraClear made a big noise about their "unmetered broadband" weekend and I thought I'd take advantage of that - first to push my connection to the max, while the entire network is being used at its max.

Thirty minutes into a 60GB download (I'm copying a couple of virtual machines down as a backup) and an extra 10 GB upload to my Crashplan online backup, the connection died.

Again, before calling TesltraClear I tried all we know they were going to ask: swap router, plug a PC directly to the cable modem, etc. The modem won't come online.

Then I decided to call TelstraClear. Unbelievable. Their customer services is closed, and won't open until 9am, about 14 hours away. On the weekend they announced to everyone to push their network to the limits. For me, it's a fiasco.

All the good will they brought in when they announced a good reduction in broadband prices for this month is gone now. I can't work, cant do the things I wanted to do, and the LEDs in their frigging modem are blinking, without being able to connect.

UPDATE: We have now at least three people looking into this. After many remote resets and all, still no traffic. Everyone around seems happy, so it could be the hardware. If nothing works it looks like I will have to get a modem replacement.

Many thanks to those people working late at night trying to figure out what's going on.

UPDATE: It is now decided this is a hardware fault. So now we wait for a new box to arrive.

Again, thanks to those who joined a call late at night to figure this out, including those working from home.



Plan for Geekzone Freeview Pizza 2012!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 2-Dec-2011 12:30

We have just started talks for our annual Geekzone pizza evenings, and for the third year in a row Freeview has confirmed its support to the event. We very grateful for this (make sure you visit their site to check what/how/why).

Dates are not locked in yet, but it will be somewhere around February/March 2012. We are now looking for drinks sponsors, and prize donors. Check out 2011's sponsors and 2010's list.

This year I am thinking of getting a little bigger, with 80 people attending in Auckland, 80 people in Wellington and 60 people in Christchurch. I hope we have a great event in Christchurch, since last year's had to be cancelled after the terrible earthquake.

As usual these will be open to Geekzone users only, over 18 years old (because the beer rolls free until our bar tab is gone). Similarly to last year's we will be charging a $5 booking fee. That's because we pay the venues based on number of people booked, and in previous events we found out there's a large number of people who booked and didn't show up, so we had to pay for them anyway.

Booking will again be staggered: Geekzone subscribers will receive the link first, followed by other users a day later. Users can buy an extra ticket for guests, at full price.

Keep an eye on this discussion for updated information. We will send email notifications to everyone who replied there before the registrations open.



The SKA Big Data infographic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Nov-2011 14:34

I am told IBM has completed the software research project for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Global Telecospe. While we wait for a decision where the SKA is actually being built (contenders are Australia/New Zealand and South Africa), here's an infographic showing how big Big Data is when it comes to this project (click image for larger version):

SKA will be the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. It has been estimated that the SKA will generate in excess of one Exabyte of raw data in a single day - more than the entire daily internet traffic. One of the central design challenges of the SKA project is how to process this huge volume of astronomical data and enable insights to be drawn from it.



freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I work for Intergen and I'm also the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums.

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If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

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