Tech policy predictions for 2009

Surveillance State's predictions for 2009 include bad news for Net neutrality and privacy, but good news for AT&T and Comcast.

It's that time of year again: predictions for the next 12 months, most of which are likely to be wrong, and a few that, if right, will further cement Surveillance State's status as a top tier tech blog...maybe.

  • President Obama will break the heart of Net neutrality activists by picking pro-telecom industry people for the FCC. On the other hand, Obama will pick someone great for the position of privacy czar, and then castrate him/her by not giving the position any power.
  • Comcast, AT&T and other ISPs will begin the mass deployment of monthly download caps. However, they will strike profit sharing deals with Google/YouTube and Apple to exempt such traffic from customers' monthly bandwidth limits. Customers who go over the cap will have to pay extra--thus also conveniently killing off much of the P2P market (since no one will pay for BitTorrent), without having to resort to Deep Packet Inspection.
  • Google and Yahoo will win the war to define the terms of the privacy vs. data logging debate: The search engines will settle on storing search log data for three to six months, but Microsoft will (unfortunately) fail to define the debate on how the data is anonymized, rather than after how many months. Google and Yahoo will continue to engage in privacy theater by not effectively anonymizing their logs.
  • We will not see the passage of any comprehensive overhaul of privacy law in 2009. Efforts to restore privacy to searches of laptops at the border will fail. If legislation does pass, it'll be toothless.
  • Bruce Schneier will be the next cybersecurity czar for the federal government.
  • The Transportation Security Administration will reverse the liquid ban, but will continue to engage in pointless security theater. The replacement for head honcho Kip Hawley will not shake things up.
  • The RIAA will suffer its first major loss in the courts, and will be forced to pay more than $100,000 in damages (in addition to legal costs). Likewise, attempts by the RIAA and MPAA to institute "three strikes" rules in the U.S. will fail.
  • The copyright office will reject most of the applications for new DMCA exemptions. It will likely extend the Sony rootkit exemption (although expanding it to downloads/DVDs), and will also likely approve the exemption expansion request for academics to use DVD ripping software for classroom use. All of the other requests will be turned down.
  • The transition to digital TV will be a giant trainwreck. Politicians from all sides will rush to point the finger and blame the FCC, and in particular, (by then) former Commissioner Kevin Martin.
  • Senator Herb Kohl's investigation into text message pricing will go nowhere, the carriers will not drop prices, and the class action lawsuits will be thrown out of court.
 

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