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June 1, 2006

Hey, Why Not? It Works With Pets [4:32 pm]

Proposal to Implant Tracking Chips in Immigrants

Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has proposed implanting the company’s RFID tracking tags in immigrant and guest workers. He made the statement on national television earlier this week.

Silverman was being interviewed on “Fox & Friends.” Responding to the Bush administration’s call to know “who is in our country and why they are here,” he proposed using VeriChip RFID implants to register workers at the border, and then verify their identities in the workplace. He added, “We have talked to many people in Washington about using it….”

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Chinese Internet Vigilantism [2:39 pm]

It’s not what you think — the story of punishing “Bronze Mustache:” Mob rule on China’s Internet: The keyboard as weapon - pdf

It was the latest example of a growing phenomenon the Chinese call Internet hunting, in which morality lessons are administered by online throngs and where anonymous Web users come together to investigate others and mete out punishment for offenses real and imagined.

In recent cases, people have scrutinized husbands suspected of cheating on their wives, fraud on Internet auction sites, the secret lives of celebrities and unsolved crimes. One case that drew a huge following involved the poisoning of a Tsinghua University student - an event that dates to 1994, but was revived by curious strangers after word spread on the Internet that the only suspect in the case had been questioned and released.

Even a recent scandal involving a top Chinese computer scientist dismissed for copying an American processor design came to light in part because of Internet hunting, with scores of online commentators raising questions about the project and putting pressure on the scientist’s sponsors to look into allegations about intellectual property theft.

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Wired News @ ISS World Conference [1:06 pm]

Crashing the Wiretapper’s Ball

The popular law enforcement myth is that crooks are getting ever more sophisticated in their use of modern technology, so the police have got to acquire more “sophisticated” point-and-drool equipment to catch them. We find versions of this incantation in virtually every Justice Department press release or speech related to CALEA. But these tools — especially in the IP realm — are not so much sophisticated as complicated and very expensive. They’re a bad alternative to old-fashioned detective work involving the wearing down of shoes and dull stakeout sessions in uncomfortable quarters such as automobiles. The chief impulse behind this law enforcement gizmo fetish is laziness, and it’s a bad trend: The more policemen we have fiddling with computer equipment, the fewer we have doing proper legwork.

The windup is that garden-variety crooks will remain those most susceptible to remote, electronic surveillance, while sophisticated, tech-savvy bad guys will continue operating below the radar. CALEA and its most potent technological offspring are inadequate to catch the people who most need catching. The project of “lawful interception” is huge, grotesquely expensive, controversial, infused with unnecessary secrecy and often useless against the most important suspects it purports to target.

It poses a tremendous threat to human rights and dignity in countries without adequate legal safeguards, and still invites occasional abuses in countries with them. Its costs are paid by citizens who are deliberately kept in the dark about how much they’re paying for it, how effective it is in fighting crime and how susceptible it is to abuse. And that’s the way the entire cast of characters involved wants to keep it.

Which, of course, is exactly why the public needs to know much more about it, even if it requires rude tactics like crashing the spooks’ soirée.

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Expression, Art and Copyright [9:35 am]

Glass Artists Face Off in Court

Mr. Chihuly is in the midst of a hard-edged legal fight in federal court here over the distinctiveness of his creations and, more fundamentally, who owns artistic expression in the glass art world.

Mr. Chihuly has sued two glass blowers, including a longtime collaborator, for copyright infringement, accusing them of imitating his signature lopsided creations, and other designs inspired by the sea.

“About 99 percent of the ocean would be wide open,” Mr. Chihuly said in an interview. “Look, all I’m trying to do is to prevent somebody from copying me directly.”

The glass blowers say that Mr. Chihuly is trying to control entire forms, shapes and colors and that his brand does not extend to ancient and evolving techniques derived from the natural world.

“Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art,” said Bryan Rubino, the former acolyte named in the suit who worked for Mr. Chihuly as a contractor or employee for 14 years. “If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly.”

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Some Wisdom on Digital Identity [8:13 am]

Stolen Lives: Technology and Easy Credit Give Identity Thieves an Edge

In an economy that runs increasingly on the instantaneous flow of information and credit — aggressively promoted by banks and credit card companies despite the risks — Phoenix and its surrounding area provide a window on one of the system’s unintended consequences.

[...] [T]he real problem, many officials and consumer advocates say, lies elsewhere. In recent years banks have campaigned energetically to extend more credit to more people with fewer hassles, and retailers and consumers have embraced instant, near-anonymous access to credit.

Last year a group of prosecutors, law enforcement officers and security executives from banks and credit card associations met to discuss ways of curbing identity theft. The group had plenty of ideas, including PIN numbers or fingerprint verification for all credit card purchases and a ban on mailings that include blank checks.

But all ran counter to the promotional campaigns of banks and, banks say, to the desires of consumers.

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Pirate Bay Goes Down [8:07 am]

Sweden Pulls the Plug on Pirate Bay - pdf

The movie industry viewed the shutdown as a modest victory.

“I’m under no illusions that after the Pirate Bay goes down that there won’t be other would-be pirate kings who want to take their place,” said John G. Malcolm, executive vice president and director of worldwide anti-piracy operations for the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the trade group for the film industry. “But we’ll keep going after them.”

More than 50 law enforcement officials raided 10 offices across Sweden that were operated by Pirate Bay, confiscating the organization’s servers and detaining three people.

Launched in 2003, Pirate Bay thrived in part because the Swedish government did not enforce copyright protection, industry officials said.

Slashdot’s ThePirateBay.org Raided and Shut Down discussion reminds us that there’s been talk of setting up a political party around Pirate Bay and its take on IP. See this interview

Later: ThePirateBay Will Rise Again?

Even later: Swedish Security Police probe suspected Web attacks - pdf

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Sony’s (Dis)Connect [8:02 am]

This week’s New Yorker profiles Stringer and his task at Sony (not available online). This article suggests it’s not going great: Sony Failing to Connect in Online Music Market - pdf

Sony Corp. marked the launch of its online music store two years ago by hiring Sheryl Crow to belt out songs in the aisle of a jet at 30,000 feet.

The store, called Connect, has lost altitude ever since and the Sony executive who was at the controls, Phil Wiser, is bailing out as Connect limps along with less than 3% of the digital music market.

Wiser’s planned departure Friday underscores the challenges facing the company that invented the Walkman as it struggles to regain its former prestige and prominence in a digital world.

“The challenge isn’t so much [Wiser's] departure, but it underscores the fact that Sony Connect has really failed to take the world by storm — or even a little drizzle,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

[...] Connect was beset by a series of problems, starting with its pairing with the MiniDisc player, which, although popular in Asia and Europe, never caught on with American consumers.

The service was further hamstrung because it supported Sony’s proprietary music format, and its anti-piracy software. Those earlier devices couldn’t play unprotected music files known as MP3s. Newer devices support unprotected music and play songs in Microsoft’s Windows Media format.

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