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Are public web consoles a service or disservice?

By in News
Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:02:54 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

While making a rare excursion to my nearest mall, I noticed a kiosk that's offering a "free T-1 internet connection" to patrons throughout the summer. A closer inspection of the display revealed that it was provided by CyberExpo and Star Net, but not as an enticement to register to any actual ISP service. Instead, the terminals on the display were providing content as a "convenience" to mall patrons, much like payphones or those areas where you can change your baby's diaper....


Having worked in retail for awhile, I can tell you costs for the display space on something like this are going to cost quite a bit. Couple that to the connection fees, maintenance charges, etc., and the figures rise even higher. Naturally enough, what's gained in return are demographics. Before logging on, a user is requested their sex and age group, and then are allowed access through CyberExpo's proprietary portal setup, replete with GoTo's search engine, a web-based email service if you don't have your own online address, and a firewall system to block any sites with content.

During the brief time I was there, people were swarming up to the kiosk and logging in to their mail accounts, browsing online shops, and visiting their friends' homepages, etc. , with less concern than they might have if they were lining up at an ATM machine.

Has anyone else noticed this in their area? I can only imagine the amount of (physical world) reseller information *alone* that could be sold from a service of this type.

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Are public web consoles a service or disservice? | 33 comments (33 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Disservice? No. ... (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by duxup on Sat May 20, 2000 at 10:19:36 AM EST

duxup voted 0 on this story.

Disservice? No. Low quality service? Sure. Bad business idea? Probably. I've used one to check my e-mail from time to time in airports. I never thought of them as usefully browsing machines where I expected to do some thoughtful browsing like I do at home. I wouldn't say they're harmful really. Low quality service maybe, but there's a difference between crappy service and a disservice. There's nothing that says I can't offer you a crappy service. Turn on the infomercials at night, lots of cruddy stuff. Most of it is crappy, but totally legal. The buyer should be ware when buying anything, including internet access from a big kiosk in the mall.

That first paragraph needs work.... (none / 0) (#11)
by End on Sat May 20, 2000 at 10:51:41 AM EST

End voted 0 on this story.

That first paragraph needs work.

-JD

maybe some pics or something, or ma... (none / 0) (#4)
by davidu on Sat May 20, 2000 at 12:20:13 PM EST

davidu voted 1 on this story.

maybe some pics or something, or maybe more info...companies, etc...URLs?

I dont mind public web consoles, ev... (none / 0) (#10)
by inspire on Sat May 20, 2000 at 12:24:47 PM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

I dont mind public web consoles, even if they do collect demographic information. If they were snooping which sites you visited, I'd be worried, but I find that sometimes when walking around in the city I become overwhelmed with the urge to check something (like the progress of my latest open source project ;) on the web.

As long as you're not doing anything top-secret, I dont see a reason why they are a disservice. Perhaps education about the risks of web surfing like that is the answer, rather than providing a pay-for-access booth, like they do here in Australia.

Currently the price is $2 / 10 minutes from the booth at Melbourne Central, the main shopping complex in Melbourne, or $5-$6 per hour in one of the nearby Internet cafes.
--
What is the helix?

yeek. I'm surprised they don't ask... (none / 0) (#13)
by warpeightbot on Sat May 20, 2000 at 01:17:08 PM EST

warpeightbot voted 1 on this story.

yeek. I'm surprised they don't ask for name address phone number SSN and mother's maiden name. Lesse.... Freddy Krueger, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, District O'Crime, 20012, 1-900-shove-it.....

Here in Seattle we do have a lot of pay-for-play Internet cafes, a number of which are run (ISP-wise) by my own ISP (which got started as a cybercafe). Inexpensive, good customer service, and they also do DSL. :) (And dialup/DSL customers can use the terminals for free :) :)

I haven't seen any of these. But I... (none / 0) (#6)
by FlinkDelDinky on Sat May 20, 2000 at 01:39:44 PM EST

FlinkDelDinky voted 1 on this story.

I haven't seen any of these. But I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's no different than a netzero account (do those work in Linux? If so, how?). You don't have to be truthful in your answers to the sign on questionare.

Although I don't use NetZero I do have an account with them. Lying on the questionare gets some intresting advertising. All I can say is that women are really intrested in makeup. I'm deeply concerened about this, discuss...

Re: I haven't seen any of these. But I... (none / 0) (#27)
by Anonymous Hero on Sun May 21, 2000 at 10:26:00 AM EST

I've heard of netzero being used with Linux, but I wouldn't recommend doing it as it would violate their terms of service. I've also heard that the utility at www.stormloader.com/dialguard/ can be used to display an username and password which can then be placed in a PAP secrets file, but that's too technical for netzero's targetted audience.

[ Parent ]
What's the point of this article? I... (none / 0) (#18)
by eliot on Sat May 20, 2000 at 02:11:05 PM EST

eliot voted -1 on this story.

What's the point of this article? I can't tell if the author likes or dislikes these kiosks nor his reasoning one way or the other.
- Soli Deo Gloria -

This is a good question. I've only ... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Sat May 20, 2000 at 03:45:31 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

This is a good question. I've only seen these in ISP-sales booths. But providing the "service" raises a lot of questions about privacy and security for me. We have a reasonable expectation that our ATM transactions are secure... should we have the same for public web terminals?

____
Not the real rusty

When you input personal information... (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by bmetzler on Sat May 20, 2000 at 03:58:24 PM EST

bmetzler voted 1 on this story.

When you input personal information you assume that it is going to be used for marketing. No big deal. No one is forcing you to use the terminals. You can choose to sell your information to marketers, or not use the service. There shouldn't even be a second thought here about anything.
www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.

Re: When you input personal information... (none / 0) (#25)
by orabidoo on Sun May 21, 2000 at 09:40:45 AM EST

eggs-acktly. I just don't see where the problem is; they're offering you a service, probably not a very good one, but if you don't like it, hey, just do as if the thing didn't exist. and if you're worried about entering your personal info, just make it up. or register as the good old 'cypherpunks', password 'cypherpunks' ...

[ Parent ]
Great place to shoulder surf. But ... (none / 0) (#3)
by Inoshiro on Sat May 20, 2000 at 04:15:45 PM EST

Inoshiro voted 1 on this story.

Great place to shoulder surf. But then I'm in Canada, and we have those job kiosks from Stats Canada that are on the network where they keep the files on all Canadian citizens :-/

--
[ イノシロ ]

I think that it is an interesting a... (none / 0) (#19)
by Mr_Person on Sat May 20, 2000 at 04:21:52 PM EST

Mr_Person voted 1 on this story.

I think that it is an interesting article and would be interested to see other people's opinions on this subject

A very interesting point and timely... (none / 0) (#14)
by zoo on Sat May 20, 2000 at 05:27:44 PM EST

zoo voted 1 on this story.

A very interesting point and timely. Internet privacy issues are very poorly understood by the average individual and I think more attention needs to be drawn to this area.

I can imagine that is successful th... (none / 0) (#12)
by cthulhu on Sat May 20, 2000 at 07:46:36 PM EST

cthulhu voted 1 on this story.

I can imagine that is successful the retailers in the mall (or maybe even their competitors) will support it with their dollars.

Oh no, someone wants to know my sex... (none / 0) (#16)
by _cbj on Sat May 20, 2000 at 08:38:56 PM EST

_cbj voted -1 on this story.

Oh no, someone wants to know my sex! Retreat, retreat!

Be scared.... (none / 0) (#8)
by TomG on Sat May 20, 2000 at 11:48:58 PM EST

TomG voted 1 on this story.

Be scared.

You get what you pay for. Like it o... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by Ozymandias on Sun May 21, 2000 at 01:09:38 AM EST

Ozymandias voted 1 on this story.

You get what you pay for. Like it or not, we live in a capitalist society; if you want something, you must give something else in exchange. You want public, free, no-obligation internet kiosks without restrictions, tracking, or demographic surveys? OK - introduce a bill and get your local, state, or federal government to provide them. Then watch your taxes go up, and watch me get pissed since mine go up, too.

If you want privacy in your net access, surf from home. If that's not possible; you're on vacation, whatever - go to a for-pay Internet Cafe.
- Ozymandias

Reminds me of those "prizes" some c... (none / 0) (#15)
by Rasputin on Sun May 21, 2000 at 01:10:05 AM EST

Rasputin voted 1 on this story.

Reminds me of those "prizes" some companies give away for answering their survey. If the information they collect offsets the cost of the service, you can expect to see this grow. Maybe I need to develop a couple of bogus "in person" identities to go with my "send your spam here" email addresses.
Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Re: Reminds me of those (none / 0) (#31)
by dash2 on Mon May 22, 2000 at 01:29:42 PM EST

Maybe I need to develop a couple of bogus "in person" identities to go with my "send your spam here" email addresses.

The fun thing to do is to fill in the forms at random. I am usually either a 1 year old (dob 1999) or an old lady from Arkansaw with 6 kids and a love of fast cars & cheap liquor.
------------------------
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
[ Parent ]

Thought-provoking original content.... (none / 0) (#5)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sun May 21, 2000 at 03:09:14 AM EST

Perpetual Newbie voted 1 on this story.

Thought-provoking original content. I like.

Convienence Internet terminals are a really neat idea. They've got to pay for themselves somehow, although I would hope that they could find a more respectable way to make the machines profitable. I take it that there is no privacy statement on the machines? It would be reassuring for a nerd like me to know if there is no keystroke logging or logging of email addresses or HTML form data. I'm guessing the firewall is a CYA measure; "My Johnny saw a breast on your Internet! I'm going to sue for $megabux!" You can never be too careful these days.

I would probably use one of these machines. Tracking what websites I visit is a privacy violation when it's my hardware, but this is their box and they have a right to know what I'm doing with it. As long as they don't do something overly devious like stealing passwords or capturing and spamming email addresses, I have little problem with what they're doing, and I applaud their efforts to bring the Internet to wider public attention.

Re: Thought-provoking original content.... (none / 0) (#20)
by bobsquatch on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:09:46 AM EST

Tracking what websites I visit is a privacy violation when it's my hardware, but this is their box and they have a right to know what I'm doing with it.

Interesting concept. Would you extend that principle to public phones?

[ Parent ]

Re: Thought-provoking original content.... (none / 0) (#21)
by Neolith on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:39:10 AM EST

>>Tracking what websites I visit is a privacy violation >>when it's my hardware, but this is their box and they >>have a right to know what I'm doing with it. >Interesting concept. Would you extend that principle to >public phones? Then again, you do *pay* for your telephone calls, therefore you maintain ownership of them.

[ Parent ]
Re: Thought-provoking original content.... (none / 0) (#28)
by Perpetual Newbie on Sun May 21, 2000 at 05:12:33 PM EST

Interesting concept. Would you extend that principle to public phones?

Depends. There's a difference between recording what number is dialed at what time versus recording or listening in on the conversation.

[ Parent ]

[OT] CYA measures? (none / 0) (#22)
by inspire on Sun May 21, 2000 at 07:05:12 AM EST

Sorry about the topic drift, but I noticed you used the phrase:

I'm guessing the firewall is a CYA measure;

Now I've wondered often where the term CYA comes from, ever since I read it in a Tufte book.

I know that it's basically a statement or action thats just there to prevent any legal liability, but can someone please enlighten me as to where the term comes from, and what it stands for?
--
What is the helix?
[ Parent ]

Re: [OT] CYA measures? (none / 0) (#24)
by rongen on Sun May 21, 2000 at 08:18:09 AM EST

Are you kidding? :) (K5 troll?)

If not then allow to enlighten you:

CYA := cover your assets (sometimes people leave off the "ets" ending of "assets").

Unless I am mistaken it means they are taking reasonable measures to see children (or more likely their parents) don't see anything naughty or offensive when viewing WWW pages on the systems they provide...
read/write http://www.prosebush.com
[ Parent ]

Re: [OT] CYA measures? (none / 0) (#26)
by inspire on Sun May 21, 2000 at 10:22:38 AM EST

Nope, not trolling, although it may seem like it.

The passage that had me from Tufte's book was, ".. in the lower left of this chart lurks a legalistic disclaimer (technically known as a CYA notice)...".

A search on the web yielded no results for obvious reasons.

Thanks!
--
What is the helix?
[ Parent ]

Creepy, this, although I think it m... (none / 0) (#7)
by mattm on Sun May 21, 2000 at 04:02:54 AM EST

mattm voted 1 on this story.

Creepy, this, although I think it might be improved by a bit of the ol' mindless link propagation. :)

Australia (1.00 / 1) (#23)
by shonson on Sun May 21, 2000 at 07:09:28 AM EST

I used to visit these Internet kiosks while I was on holidays in Sydney, they charged $3/hour, which wasn't too bad (i pay $0.02/hr here at home). The only thing I did was load up my webpage with a Java SSH client in it, and check my mail, chat and browse the web that way, everything was encrypted. I dont know what I would have done for 3 weeks without the Internet, all i can say is, they were a great service. Apart from the fact most of the ones i visited were about 10 machines all going through a webramp with a 56k modem or something, so it did get slow at times.
-- Steven in #kuro5hin
FWIW... (none / 0) (#29)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon May 22, 2000 at 07:34:46 AM EST

FWIW, I'm typing this message from a Maxim's, the Chinese-food Hong Kong equivalent of a McDonalds. I see nothing wrong with public Internet terminals.

Actually, was the story poster trying to make a point?

fluffy grue (too lazy to logon from this fast food joint)

Re: FWIW... (none / 0) (#30)
by rusty on Mon May 22, 2000 at 08:53:07 AM EST

You're in Hong Kong? Cool.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: FWIW... (none / 0) (#33)
by bobsquatch on Mon May 22, 2000 at 08:20:43 PM EST

As far as you know... :)

[ Parent ]
It could be a good thing for consumer and retailer (none / 0) (#32)
by Anonymous Hero on Mon May 22, 2000 at 06:04:38 PM EST

A customer comes in to your store and says, "I was just comparison shopping at the web kiosk down the walk way, and store X has this for $100 cheaper...can you match it?"
or
in order to keep up with competitors, you send an employee to browse competitors web sites to keep up on their latest deals vs what your store has to offer.
or whatever

Are public web consoles a service or disservice? | 33 comments (33 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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