December 12, 2006

Reasoning By Analogy [10:42 am]

While I can understand the need, I don’t see how this can be implemented, particularly for web-based email accounts, Are we really going to start putting keyboard sniffers on every convicted sex offender’s computer? On every computer a convicted sex offending might access? Va. AG wants sex offenders’ online names - pdf

If enacted, Virginia would be the first state to require registration of e-mail addresses and instant-messaging identities on the state’s sex offender registry, McDonnell’s office said.

“We require all sex offenders to register their physical and mailing addresses in Virginia, but in the 21st century it is just as critical that they register any e-mail addresses or IM screen names,” McDonnell said in a news release.

[...] MySpace announced plans last week to develop technologies designed to help block convicted sex offenders by checking profiles against government registries, but the News Corp. site’s ability to do so is limited by the fact that users do not have to use their real names.

Requiring registrations of e-mail addresses would make matching easier. To guard against offenders registering one address but using another on MySpace, the penalty would be the same as it would be for not registering or for providing incorrect information, which could result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.

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FTC and Viral Marketing [8:14 am]

An opening sally: FTC Moves to Unmask Word-of-Mouth Marketing - pdf

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday said that companies engaging in word-of-mouth marketing, in which people are compensated to promote products to their peers, must disclose those relationships.

In a staff opinion issued yesterday, the consumer protection agency weighed in for the first time on the practice. Though no accurate figures exist on how much money advertisers spend on such marketing, it is quickly becoming a preferred method for reaching consumers who are skeptical of other forms of advertising.

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Eulogy for Tower Records [8:11 am]

For Tower Records, End of Disc - pdf

All of it is going, of course — not just Tower, but the record store culture that Tower embodied. Anything that can be squeezed down to ones and zeros and moved around at the speed of electrons doesn’t have to be stacked in plastic cases, shoved into bins and splayed over aisles under fluorescent lights anymore. All of it’s going online.

And isn’t that better? Doesn’t the digital universe give anyone with a computer and a credit card wider and speedier access to more music than any Tower could ever stock? Isn’t it better when you never have to find a parking space or deal with one of those haughty, green-haired clerks who always gave your Beach Boys and show-tune selections a look that said, “Wow, you are such a geezer”?

No, it isn’t. Not exactly.

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Jokes, Prudery and the FCC [7:43 am]

So This Manatee Walks Into the Internet

At the end of the skit, in a line Mr. O’Brien insists was ad-libbed, he mentioned that the voyeur (actually Mark Pender, a member of the show’s band) was watching www.hornymanatee.com. There was only one problem: as of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m., no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC: If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it.

In a pre-emptive strike inspired as much by the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission as by the laws of comedy, NBC bought the license to hornymanatee.com, for $159, after the taping of the Dec. 4 show but before it was broadcast.

By yesterday afternoon hornymanatee.com — created by Mr. O’Brien’s staff and featuring images of such supposedly forbidden acts as “Manatee-on-Manatee” sex (again using characters in costumes) — had received approximately 3 million hits, according to NBC. Meanwhile several thousand of Mr. O’Brien’s viewers have also responded to his subsequent on-air pleas that they submit artwork and other material inspired by the aquatic mammals, and the romantic and sexual shenanigans they imagine, to the e-mail address conan@hornymanatee.com.

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Hey, Isn’t The Market Always The Answer? [7:40 am]

“Stop me before I steal again — buy my theft insurance.” Protectors, Too, Gather Profits From ID Theft

It is not just criminals who are profiting from identity theft; financial institutions are making money, too. Fear of identity theft has helped give rise to a nearly billion-dollar business in credit-monitoring services sold by the major credit bureaus — companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — as well as direct marketers and banks.

[...] Credit monitoring has quickly gained traction with consumers through aggressive advertising that often promotes its value in protecting against identity theft. But its abilities are far more limited than is commonly perceived.

In the meantime, measures that could stem fraud from identity theft — like legislation empowering consumers to block access to their credit records, making it impossible to extend new credit — have faced stiff resistance from industry groups.

“Identity theft has essentially become a business — not just for bad guys but for good guys, too,” said Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant in Washington. “A lot of the people that are involved in profiting legally from identity theft are direct participants in the whole credit system that doesn’t have the protections in place to prevent identity theft in the first place.”

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