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.