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posted by Dopefish on Monday February 17 2014, @02:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the government-should-mind-their-own-business dept.
mattie_p writes "MIT students won a hackathon last November with a non-functioning demo of Tidbit. The concept is to replace web advertising revenue with a tiny amount of Bitcoin mining on the user's browser. Out of the blue, the students were hit by a subpoena from the New Jersey Attorney General demanding that the founders 'turn over sensitive information including source codes, hosting websites, and all of the Bitcoin wallet addresses associated with Tidbit.'

At first MIT council referred the students to legal assistance from the EFF, who quickly came to their defense. Now there is a petition going around requesting the MIT administration support the students directly. Parallels are being drawn to Aaron Swartz, possibly because one of the authors of the recent petition is Prof. Hal Ableson, although details of the two cases have very little in common.

MIT President Reif has now come out strongly in support of the students--and in favor of academic freedom from interference by government."
 
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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by githaron on Monday February 17 2014, @02:42PM

    by githaron (581) on Monday February 17 2014, @02:42PM (#741)

    What is wrong with Tidbit? It sounds like an awesome idea. Instead of trading your screen real estate (ads) and privacy for content, it allows website developers to consider a third option: clock cycles for content. Of course, some greedy websites will probably try to have ads, privacy selling, and Bitcoin mining. I could also see there being other computing networks like research clusters trying the same thing.

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  • (Score: 1) by clone141166 on Monday February 17 2014, @03:01PM

    by clone141166 (59) on Monday February 17 2014, @03:01PM (#755)

    I think Tidbit is an interesting idea, I was more just pointing out that with every new technology comes the potential for good and the potential for evil...

  • (Score: 1) by mmcmonster on Monday February 17 2014, @03:27PM

    by mmcmonster (401) on Monday February 17 2014, @03:27PM (#770)

    As an opt-in, I have no problems with this.

    ESPECIALLY for a news website such as this. Imagine the option: "As a valuable member of our community, would you like to choose the option of in-browser bitcoin mining while you are viewing this site on this computer instead of viewing adds?

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by omoc on Monday February 17 2014, @05:09PM

      by omoc (39) on Monday February 17 2014, @05:09PM (#843)

      I'm with my laptop on battery ~80% of the time I read news. I want neither ads nor javascript running. However, I would not object to pay for a LWN like revenue model if the website delivers.

    • (Score: 1) by Keldrin on Monday February 17 2014, @10:05PM

      by Keldrin (773) on Monday February 17 2014, @10:05PM (#1117) Journal

      I agree. I'm in favor of having lots of options when it comes to supporting a website I enjoy. However, I would have a problem if this became mandatory. As I'm sure a lot of us are, I am quite paranoid when it comes to letting code run on my machine. If I'm forced to run code that I don't have time to examine, I'm far more likely to use a different service. Besides, letting a website hog computing power may cause instability with other applications, and I don't relish the idea of having my computer lock up just because I was playing a windowed game while surfing the net.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tftp on Monday February 17 2014, @11:07PM

      by tftp (806) on Monday February 17 2014, @11:07PM (#1159) Homepage

      "As a valuable member of our community, would you like to choose the option of in-browser bitcoin mining while you are viewing this site on this computer instead of viewing adds?

      The loss of performance and waste of energy would be incomparable with the benefit of mining at least one µBTC. It may well be that the web site operators do not care, since the service comes for free to them, but society-wise it looks like a very poor investment of power. BTC mining is marginally cost-effective on ASIC miners today... The Tidbit Web site says this:

      So if it ran across 1000 users machines, you could produce 7.40x10^-9 BTC. With BTC at 350, you would have made 2.5x10^-6 dollars!

      Is it worth messing up with 1 BILLION computers to earn measly $2.50? What will you spend in bandwidth serving that Javascript? I bet just that alone will put you deep into red.

      As other people mentioned, too many today browse from mobile platforms, where power is at premium, and CPU clocks are dialed down to the bare minimum.

      OT: <sup> tags do not work. They have very low potential for evil, IMO, and should be allowed.