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September 6, 2006

The Culture of Dataveillance [7:50 am]

A look at how the erosion of our notion of the legitimacy of privacy, the expansion of technological capabilities and the assumption of the primacy of the firm is leading to some stunning actions: Phone-Records Scandal at HP - pdf

While the piece was upbeat, it quoted an anonymous HP source and contained information that only could have come from a director. HP’s chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, told another director she wanted to know who it was; she was fed up with ongoing leaks to the media going back to CEO Carly Fiorina’s tumultuous tenure that ended in early 2005. According to an internal HP e-mail, Dunn then took the extraordinary step of authorizing a team of independent electronic-security experts to spy on the January 2006 communications of the other 10 directors-not the records of calls (or e-mails) from HP itself, but the records of phone calls made from personal accounts. That meant calls from the directors’ home and their private cell phones.

It was classic data-mining: Dunn’s consultants weren’t actually listening in on the calls-all they had to do was look for a pattern of contacts. Dunn acted without informing the rest of the board. Her actions were now about to unleash a round of boardroom fury at one of America’s largest companies and a Silicon Valley icon. That corporate turmoil is now coming to light in documents obtained by NEWSWEEK that the Securities and Exchange Commission is currently deciding whether to make public. Dunn could not be reached for comment. An HP spokesman declined repeated requests for comment.

Related: Republican Rift Over Wiretapping Widens - pdf; later from the LATimes: State Probes HP’s Spying on Directors - pdf

Republican leaders have planned to produce legislation by month’s end that would give the administration as much latitude as possible to continue the program. But that effort may be splintering. [...]

[...] At issue is the balance between congressional oversight and executive- branch latitude. In July, Specter announced what he called “a major breakthrough” when he presented legislation backed by the White House that would allow the administration to submit the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program to a secret intelligence court for review of its legality. Under the bill, the secret court that now administers surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would be permitted to review the legality of the program as a whole and not individual wiretaps, which could continue without warrants.

Republican leaders rallied around the deal, apparently believing they could portray Democratic opposition as evidence that their opponents are soft on terrorism. But since then, some Republicans have moved to toughen the terms of the agreement.

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Sony Reworking TV “Space” Shifting Products [7:43 am]

Sony Reintroduces TV ‘Place-Shifting’ Products - pdf

When it comes to watching television, TiVo revolutionized the “when,” allowing viewers to easily record a program and watch it later. Now, Sony Corp. is trying to get out front in a battle for the “where” of TV viewing.

[...] Analysts credit Sony for helping pioneer “place-shifting” products, which allow remote viewing of programs that are airing on the television set back home. But the product line attracted little interest when it launched, in part because the idea of watching mobile television was not widely known and also because the device was difficult to set up.

“You needed a significant amount of technical expertise to get it working,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research. “Sling, on the other hand, focused on the user and made the setup process a fairly simple, out-of-the-box experience.”

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Experimenting With WiFi Services [7:39 am]

So why not make sure it works at home first? Can’t imagine a more demanding market — plus, you get to eat your own dog food. Silicon Valley to Receive Free Wi-Fi

A consortium of technology companies, including I.B.M. and Cisco Systems, announced plans Tuesday for a vast wireless network that would provide free Internet access to big portions of Silicon Valley and the surrounding region as early as next year.

[...] The project will cover 1,500 square miles in 38 cities in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Santa Cruz Counties, an area of 2.4 million residents. Its builders, going by the name Silicon Valley Metro Connect, said the service would provide free basic wireless access at speeds up to 1 megabit a second — which is roughly comparable to broadband speeds by telephone — in outdoor areas. Special equipment, costing $80 to $120, will be needed to bolster the signal enough to bring it inside homes or offices.

The consortium will also offer a fee-based service, with higher speeds and technical support, and will allow other companies to sell premium services over the network as well.

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Google as News Archive Portal [7:35 am]

Rather than offering up their own copies of archives — exploring ways around the Book Search fight? Or just working to keep the newspaper publishers happy (and Times Select in business?) Google to Offer Print-Archives Searches

Google plans to announce on Wednesday that it is offering a service that will permit Internet users to search through the archives of newspapers, magazines and other publications and uncover material that in some cases dates back more than 200 years.

The new feature, to be named Google News Archive Search, will direct Google searchers to both paid and free digital content on publishers’ Web sites, but will not directly generate revenue for Google.

Google would not state how many publishers were taking part in the new service, for which Google has independently indexed material from online databases and will display the results both as part of standard searches and through a new archive search page (news.google.com/archivesearch). However, it announced a number of partners including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Guardian Unlimited, Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, HighBeam Research and Thomson Gale.

In contrast to Google’s book scanning project, which has led to legal skirmishes with some publishers over copyright issues, some of the partners involved with the new service said they had been pressing Google to offer access to their archives for several years.

Also Google opens up 200 years of news

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Open Access Status [7:31 am]

Momentum for Open Access Research - pdf

When the Federal Public Research Access Act [S.2695] was proposed this year, scholarly society after scholarly society came out against the legislation, which would require federal agencies to publish their findings, online and free, within six months of their publication elsewhere. The future of academic research was at stake, the societies said, and both their journals and the peer review system could collapse if the legislation passed.

It is increasingly hard, however, to say that those societies reflect the views of academe on the issue. In July, the provosts of 25 research universities came out in favor of the legislation, saying that the current system of research publishing leads to outrageously high journal costs that are harming libraries and making it impossible for people to follow research. Now the presidents of 53 liberal arts colleges — at the behest of their librarians — are issuing a joint letter backing the legislation. And while it is unlikely that the bill will pass this year, the new letter that was released Tuesday is part of a broader effort by open access supporters to place higher education in a new position when the debate is renewed next year.

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The Start of the Fall Term … [7:27 am]

Brings all sorts of faculty concerns: You May Have Been YouTubed - pdf

If you don’t like what RateMyProfessors.com has done for the image of professors, get ready for the YouTube effect. [...]

[...] Because YouTube is very popular with college students, it should probably come as no surprise that they are posting videos of course scenes on the Web site — and judging from interviews with the “stars” of these postings, the professors aren’t being asked or giving permission for the filming. Nonetheless, some of the videos feature professors’ names, disciplines and institutions.

[...] To colleges and faculty members, the filming raises a variety of issues — with regard to their intellectual property and their dignity. Many colleges have been warning students about the images they post of themselves and their friends on YouTube, telling them that scenes of drinking and partying that seem amusing in a dormitory room may not go over well with potential employers. But colleges’ focus has been on telling students about the harm they may be doing to themselves, not their professors.

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Industry Consolidation [7:20 am]

Universal May Get Publishing Unit of BMG - pdf

Universal Music Group is expected to purchase Bertelsmann’s BMG Music Publishing unit for about $2.1 billion, creating the world’s largest music publisher, said people familiar with the negotiations.

[...] Music publishers own the rights to a song’s melody and lyrics and license those rights to record companies, which record the song and sell it on compact disc and via digital download. Publishers also sell rights to film, television and video game producers who want to use the song in shows or games.

In addition, publishing rights are needed to sell ring tones — song clips played on cellphones — which have exploded into a multibillion-dollar business.

Each publishing transaction is typically small, but publishers that sell millions of songs profit handsomely. Moreover, because of the steady nature of catalog sales, publishing companies tend to exhibit less of the volatility that marks the hit-driven recording industry.

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