April 10, 2006

Google Wireless, Advertising and Privacy [8:27 am]

Some Worries as San Francisco Goes Wireless

But even before the city announced the winning bidder, privacy advocates had begun to criticize the Google approach for what they say is its potential to violate consumer privacy. Early last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Council released a joint report calling the EarthLink and Google proposal “privacy-invasive,” because it would involve “cookies” that track users from session to session to enable customized delivery of ads.

Mr. Vein said the criticism was premature given that the city and the companies had not yet negotiated the details of the network.

“While we have picked somebody, we haven’t necessarily agreed to the details of the proposal,” Mr. Vein said. “It is just a starting point.”

Mr. Vein said the city would make decisions related to privacy as the issues came up during negotiations. “I will be pushing to maintain the privacy and security of citizens as best I can as I put this deal together,” he said.

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Afghani Digital Bazaars [8:22 am]

U.S. Military Secrets for Sale at Afghan Bazaar [pdf]

No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

[...] A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked “Secret.” The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for “kill or capture” and discussions of U.S. efforts to “remove” or “marginalize” Afghan government officials whom the military considered “problem makers.”

The drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit card accounts in soldiers’ names.

After choosing the name of an army captain at random, a reporter using the Internet was able to obtain detailed information on the woman, including her home address in Maryland and the license plate numbers of her 2003 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicle and 1998 Harley Davidson XL883 Hugger motorcycle.

Later: LATimes’ Data Leaks Persist From Afghan Base [pdf]

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What To Do When “Piracy” == “Promotion?” [8:17 am]

Studios Not Sure Whether Web Video Innovator Is Friend or Foe [pdf]

In the four months since it launched, YouTube has become a full-blown Internet tsunami. It streams about 35 million videos a day and attracts an audience of more than 9 million people a month, according to Web measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

That makes it more popular than Google, Yahoo or AOL’s video services. The company plans to eventually convert the traffic to advertising revenue.

YouTube also illustrates the conundrum facing the entertainment industry as it struggles to control the online distribution of its television shows, movies and other types of content. Unlike Internet file-swapping services such as Napster and Kazaa, YouTube doesn’t tout itself as a place to steal other people’s stuff.

By all accounts, it acts like a responsible corporate citizen when asked to remove copyrighted works.

That leaves the studios internally conflicted about how to deal with YouTube, with lawyers sending threatening letters alleging infringement even as other executives contemplate how to exploit its ability to reach a young, tech-savvy audience that is growing up in front of a computer screen instead of a TV.

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