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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: 1) by furiousoyster on Monday February 17 2014, @03:34PM

    by furiousoyster (594) on Monday February 17 2014, @03:34PM (#774)

    You make it sound like paying a fee is less complex or cumbersome than looking at an ad or running some virtual currency mining scripts. It's not.

  • (Score: 1) by weilawei on Monday February 17 2014, @07:29PM

    by weilawei (109) on Monday February 17 2014, @07:29PM (#973)
    After factoring in the immense amount of third party support you have to rely on for payments, yes, ads and mining ARE simpler. In one case, say you use PayPal. Well, PayPay needs datacenters, they need to work with credit card companies, they need to clear transactions and chargebacks, and that's just before you integrate it into your site. Then you need to trust it won't fail, or screw you over. Any third party service comes with this caveat, and payments are a big one. See "The Cloud" for reference on how that goes.

    Ads can be served off a single host, with no interaction or legal snafus from handling customer data. Finally, bitcoin mining pushes the complexity to an individual user, with none of the issues of storing personally identifiable information. The actual volume of code to be run for mining could be far smaller than that for payments, and depending on the ad system, less than that.
  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @07:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 17 2014, @07:38PM (#985)
    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with PCI-DSS regulations which require QUARTERLY independent security audits by a PCI Council "qualified independent scan vendor" if you handle personally identifiable information. Otherwise, the credit card companies will cut you off. That pretty much means anyone smaller than a large business is outsourcing their payments to someone else. That itself is a can of worms.