Michael Booth of the Denver Post has an article out today about the use of censorware at Denver International Airport to block access to certain websites on the airport's public WiFi service. The net-filtering at DIA came to public attention when legendary musician, artist, and techno-explorer David Byrne blogged about not being able to access Boing Boing and other blogs from DIA.
They say they're using prudent judgment in a public, family-friendly atmosphere. But others see it as cyber-censorship that taints Denver's self-portrayal as a progressive economy.
"Give people some credit," said David Byrne, founder of the legendary art-rock band Talking Heads, who was blocked from boingboing.net. while connecting through DIA to an Aspen workshop last month. "And the more credit you give them, the more they respond. It's just trusting people's discretion."
Critics, like boingboing.net. editor Xeni Jardin and others, point out that DIA uses the same kinds of software filters employed by the repressive regimes of Sudan and Kuwait. Jardin is tired of her tech-update site getting blocked by private and government filters just because it occasionally posts respected artworks that might include nudity.
"This gets to the heart of what the Internet is all about and whose responsibility it is," said Jardin, who is based in California. "It seems particularly unfortunate that something as symbolic as the city's airport, a gateway to culture, commerce and the flow of ideas, would be blocked in such a fundamental way. The intent is understandable, but the outcome is bad for Denver."
Link. Image: "Dave Lewis of Aurora uses the free Wi-Fi service at DIA. Airport officials say they would rather deal with complaints about blocked sites than an angry parent whose child accidentally saw porn. (Brian Brainerd, The Denver Post )."
Update: Here's a testimonial from a BB reader familiar with DIA, who calls baloneyshit on some of the statements by people in the article defending the use of censorware there...
I travel on United extensively (1K flyer), and have to put up with the DIA "free" wifi system all the time.
a few things you should know about the system:
1. "With more than 4,000 Wi-Fi connections a day, the airport has received only two formal blocking complaints so far, he said."
After being frustrated by an inability to access Boing Boing, I spent 15 minutes on the DIA's website trying to find out how to lodge a complaint. There isn't any way that I could find, short of writing a snail mail letter. There is no phone number, no email address, no webform for pubic feedback.
no wonder they only received 2 complaints.
2. I have technology installed on my machine that alerts me to attempted breakins on my computer. The advertising system that DIA uses employs a technique called "cross-frame scripting" that has the potential to examine private information on webpages I am viewing, such as bank accounts and credit card information, as a means of displaying contextual advertising. Luckily my machine is protected against these kinds of attacks, but not every machine is. I have filed a complaint with the CERT, which is run by DHS, against DIA.
3. Because the DIA advertising system uses a proxy server to reformat the web pages with a set of contextual ads, it must intercept all web traffic. This has the effect of preventing the many other applications that use the same communications mechanism (HTTP) as web traffic from operating correctly on the DIA wifi network.
4. Since the system is free, there is way too much traffic on the DIA network, which makes it excruciatingly slow for a business traveller like myself. Since I already have a T-Mobile wifi subscription, I usually hang out underneath the escalators that lead to the Red Carpet Club, and hop on the much faster T-Mobile wifi network. As a "business hub," DIA is hurting its business travelers with this system.