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The Most Trusted Name in News Just Stole Your Computer

Posted on Feb 5, 2009

Visitors to CNN’s Web site looking to watch streaming video of the inauguration on Jan. 20 got this message: “For faster, better video, click ‘yes’ here.” Doing so installed a peer-to-peer plug-in that transferred the bandwidth responsibility of streaming the video from CNN to the users, taking over visitors’ computers and potentially saving CNN a boatload of cash in the process.

Distributed downloading can be efficient, and there’s nothing wrong with a major media company trying something new, but there are a number of ethical and technical concerns that could have been avoided if CNN had simply bothered to tell its visitors what clicking “yes” would actually do.

Windows Secrets:

Many people who watched live streaming video of the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 may not realize that their PC was used to send the video to other PCs, too.

Clicking “yes” to a dialog box installed a peer-to-peer (P2P) application that uses your Internet bandwidth rather than CNN’s to send live video to other viewers.

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By Allan, March 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While I have no moral objections over p2p being used for this, I do have a moral objection about them trying to sneak it in, without being up-front and clear about it.

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By UK Guy, March 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

StumbleUpon brought me to this a little late.

My comment is this: many popular ISPs (including Virgin Media, one of the biggest in the UK) throttle people’s connections if they use peer to peer traffic during the daytime.

I’m not against p2p traffic but I reckon CNN should’ve at least openly asked whether users wanted to allow their bandwidth to be used to share the video with others.

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By Retep, April 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Come on… Why bash one of the very few legal uses of P2P? I think it’s totally cool to do it this way! Perhaps they should’ve had a larger disclosure of their means, but there was no harm.

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By anon, April 20, 2011 at 9:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

P2P technology is the future of modern media, its not about the money. Its about moving more information faster with less effort. Please quit criminalizing something that really has done no wrong doing.

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By CaptainZM, June 15, 2010 at 10:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I… am unsure if I’m just not stupid enough to see what the problem is or if there is a mass misunderstanding of what P2P means when it comes to bandwidth usage and vulnerabilities…

I guess they figured if you had the admin rights to install programs on a computer you weren’t a total moron and would know just what you were getting into.

The whole idea of sharing the bandwidth is great and quite a few people seem to be acting paranoid for paranoia’s sake.

I swear to god the average computer user is as inept as they were 10 years ago.. please bother to learn more…

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By geeks, October 8, 2009 at 3:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That was an inspiring post,

would it not just show up with a anti virus scan that there is somthing hidden within the file.. and i agree wit h the opinon the internet is great censored over the past few years.. and that is great…..for some.

Thanks for writing about it

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By KDelphi, February 8, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

The internet is more censored and cynical than it was 10 years ago. You might not notice it if you were always online.

I was offline for years. When I came back on, I couldnt believe it.

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By ocjim, February 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

The business community has been infected with the Bush-neocon virus of lies, misinformation, distortion, and deceit. The greedy and self-serving have chosen to be immune to decency while our laws, our media, and the voters have allowed crooks like Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Rove, and many others to escape without facing justice, thus pardoning this criminal behavior for all future times.

Ironically, only morality—something the neocons erroneously claim for themselves—is all that keeps us more honest since most poorer lawbreakers are behind bars.

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By Margaret Currey, February 7, 2009 at 6:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I trust the computer less and less, when I get junk in my e-mail box I do not read it I just eleminate it as soon as possible, I download nothing, I do not go for the okey doke because you have to watch your back all the time, if large corporations can trick people into paying for their game they will do it after all who goes after large corporations?


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By Hatchcover, February 6, 2009 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

cyrena - it means “your goose is cooked”! 

Ah that’s too bad cause I loved reading your comments on TD.

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By wok3, February 6, 2009 at 4:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As near as I can tell, what CNN did is use those who clicked “yes” to distrubute video, saving them a ton on bandwidth usage.  Many ISP are proposing or implementing caps on how much bandwidth a person could use, so this software could easily put you over the limits set even though you yourself did nothing wrong.

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By cyrena, February 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment

Oh Jeeze…what does it all MEAN?!?

I read the entire article, and none of that stuff clicks in my mind. Does this mean that if I watched streaming Inaugural video from CNN on my computer, that I’m now hooked into the Oceania mainframe? Forever after?

Does it mean Cheney has a direct hook-up to my computer now?

Does it mean that I can get even MORE paranoid?

What should I do? Is my computer now permanently infected?

Woe is me.

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