The EFF’s TOSBack Tracks Terms of Service Policies

If you’ve been using web applications for any length of time, you may have found yourself dismayed at unreasonable Terms of Service (TOS) agreements more than once. If you’re like many users, though, you probably don’t read them at all. Ignoring TOS agreements can be a mistake, especially as they often change without notice and can have serious implications for data ownership and privacy. That’s why it’s good to see the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) new site TOSBack. The EFF has a long history of advocating user rights online, and its new site tracks 44 Terms of Service agreements at many of the web’s most widely-used sites. Here’s how it works.

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TVs to Help Boost Online Vid Viewers

ABI Research released its Broadband Video and Internet TV report today, in which it predicts that, thanks to more Net-connected TV devices, the number of people watching online video will grow globally to 941 million in 2013 from 563 million at the end of 2008.

Online video in this particular case has a pretty wide definition in that it includes any video that’s delivered via an Internet connection (excluding IPTV services). So Netflix (s NFLX) streaming, Apple (s AAPL) video, Hulu (s nbcu), etc.

This coming online video viewer boom will be a result of the growth in all forms of content (premium and UGC) and devices that plug into your TV and as such, becoming capable of delivering all this content, a trend we’ve seen pick up steam over the past year (have you seen how sweet YouTube’s HD streams look on an HD TV?). Netflix embodies both elements of this report’s finding, offering streaming movies on a wide range of boxes — from the standalone Roku, to the TiVo (s TIVO), to Blu-ray DVD players, to the Xbox game console.

I spoke with Michael Wolf, who covers the digital home space for ABI, and he had some further predictions. “I feel strongly that these new boxes are not going to be the big winners,” he said. “There will be smaller hits — Apple TV, Roku — but consumers are going to want to use existing boxes.”

“There’s a traffic jam in the living room,” Wolf went on to say, and he believes consumers won’t want more than three devices under their TV. He thinks they’ll keep their cable or satellite box, some kind of DVD player and a game console. “Beyond that, ” said Wolf, “it’s hard to get a consumer to say ‘I’m going to invest in a new box.'”

I Always Feel Like My ISP’s Watching Me

Today the FCC took issue with how Comcast managed its network, essentially it looked at the packets and blocked or throttled those related to peer-to-peer applications on the upload side. If you thought warrantless wiretapping was intrusive, think about all the information you send and receive via data packets.

We’ve tracked a lot of these rather disheartening developments in previous posts, but after Google declared privacy a mythical construct, we thought we’d drive it home. Here are three ways your ISP monitors (quite literally) your data and seeks to control or monetize it.

So as not to leave you feeling too powerless (or totally reliant on Congress actually making any changes to protect your privacy) the Electronic Frontier Foundation has released some open source software called Switzerland, designed to help Internet users detect if their ISP is mucking around with their packets. There’s a network effect benefit here, because the more machines have the software, the easier it is to test what happens to your packets en route.