Juno to Establish Virtual Supercomputer Network
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Juno Online Services Inc. is working on a revolutionary approach to monetize its free subscribers by tapping the processing power of their computers, but the method may raise alarms for privacy watchdogs.
"We're going to be announcing the establishment of the Juno Virtual Supercomputer Network," Juno Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Charles Ardai told InternetNews Thursday. But the network, which would harness the processor power of subscribers' computers, also necessitated changes in Juno's service agreement.
Juno posted a new service agreement on Jan. 18 -- prior to making the Virtual Supercomputer Network project public -- with language that would require subscribers to allow it to download "computational software" to their computers, and which could even require subscribers to leave their computers on at all times.
"In connection with downloading and running the Computational Software, Juno may require you to leave your computer turned on at all times, and may replace the "screen saver" software that runs on your computer while the computer is turned on but you are not using it," section 2.5 of the service agreement says. "The screen saver software installed by Juno, which may display advertisements or images chosen by Juno, is an integral part of the Computational Software and you agree not to take any action to disable or interfere with the operation of either the screen saver software or any other component of the Computational Software."
Additionally, the policy puts the onus on subscribers for dealing with costs associated with those requirements.
"You agree that, as between you and Juno, you shall have sole responsibility for any maintenance or technical issues that might result from such continuous operation," the policy says. Furthermore, the policy gives Juno the right to have subscribers' computers initiate contact with Juno. "If your usage of the Service is infrequent, Juno's ability to obtain the results of completed computations may be impaired. Consequently, you expressly permit and authorize Juno to initiate a telephone connection from your computer to Juno's central computers using a dial-in telephone number you have previously selected for accessing the Service; Juno agrees that it shall exercise such right only to the extent necessary, as determined in Juno's sole discretion, to upload the results of completed computations to Juno in a timely fashion; and you agree that, as between you and Juno, you shall be responsible for any costs and expenses (including without limitation any applicable telephone charges) resulting from the foregoing."
Charles Ardai, chairman and chief executive officer of Juno, told InternetNews Thursday that the program is intended to follow through on the company's responsibility to its shareholders by further monetizing its free subscriber base.
"There is an emerging area in the Internet space that's very exciting, we think it's an interesting opportunity," Ardai said.
There is, however, a possibility that the language of the service agreement could extend further than just giving Juno the option of developing new features.
"One can also construct a lot of really invasive things that they might want to do that are covered by this language," Christopher W. Savage, head of the telecommunications and Internet practice at the Washington D.C. law firm Cole Raywid & Braverman, told InternetNews Radio Thursday, before Juno unveiled its virtual supercomputer plans. "As I read it, if I were to agree to this contract, then I can't turn off my computer when I want and they have a seemingly unlimited right to make computations with whatever the computational software does. And it's not really terribly clear, from reading 2.5, what it's computing -- you know -- what it's doing. My concern is that they're trying to have it both ways. They don't want to discourage any of their cus