February 18, 2007

And I Just Renewed My MA Driver’s License [12:04 pm]

On the other hand, I did it while still wearing the beard I developed during the early stages of my recovery from a broken ankle: Driver’s License Emerges as Crime-Fighting Tool, but Privacy Advocates Worry

On the second floor of a state office building here, upstairs from a food court, three facial-recognition specialists are revolutionizing American law enforcement. They work for the Massachusetts motor vehicles department.

Last year they tried an experiment, for sport. Using computerized biometric technology, they ran a mug shot from the Web site of “America’s Most Wanted,” the Fox Network television show, against the state’s database of nine million digital driver’s license photographs.

The computer found a match. A man who looked very much like Robert Howell, the fugitive in the mug shot, had a Massachusetts driver’s license under another name. Mr. Howell was wanted in Massachusetts on rape charges.

[...] At least six other states have or are working on similar enormous databases of driver’s license photographs. Coupled with increasingly accurate facial-recognition technology, the databases may become a radical innovation in law enforcement.

[...] Critics say the databases may therefore also represent a profound threat to privacy.

“What is the D.M.V.?” asked Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a privacy advocate. “Does it license motor vehicles and drivers? Or is it really an identification arm of law enforcement?”

[...] In time, though, the combination of facial recognition and other information — from financial records, mobile phones, automobile positioning devices and other sources — may do away with the ability to move anonymously through the world, Mr. Tien, the privacy advocate, said.

“The real question with biometrics,” he said, “is that they are part of a cluster of technologies that will allow for location tracking in both public and private places.”

Hmmm — where have I heard concerns voiced about losing anonymity before….?

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Managing A CC Licence [12:02 pm]

Don’t Buy My Book, Just Read It

Creative Commons licenses are meant to encourage the wide dissemination of intellectual property, while allowing their creators to retain certain rights. Mr. [Seth] Godin never had any intention of making money from the 52-page book, but he also indicated that he would rather not have his name stamped on something that is making money for someone else under false pretenses.

As it happened, the publisher quickly revised the book’s cover to include the notice: “This is a reprint of a 2005 free e-book under Creative Commons license.” That was good enough for Mr. Godin, who told his readers, “go buy it!”

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Consolidation Around © Management [11:38 am]

As a followup to this posting, we have YouTube anti-piracy software policy draws fire - pdf

The media industry is clashing with YouTube over its proposal to offer anti-piracy tools only to companies that have distribution deals with the top online video-sharing service, media insiders said.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc., plans to introduce technology to help media companies identify pirated videos uploaded by users. But the tools are currently being offered as part of broader negotiations on licensing deals, they said.

The move contrasts with YouTube’s biggest rival, News Corp.’s, popular Internet social network, MySpace, which said on Monday it would offer its own version of copyright protection services for free.

YouTube’s “proposition that they will only protect copyrighted content if there’s a business deal in place is unacceptable,” a spokesman for Viacom Inc., owner of MTV Networks and Comedy Central, said this week.

Related: The Old Guard Flexes Its Muscles (While It Still Can)

INTELLECTUAL property law is clear that the legal impetus, for now, rests with the copyright holder to tell a Web site to take down unauthorized material. Indeed, it would be cumbersome to ask every kid with a community site to spend his days policing what the members have posted.

The media giants have a point, however, when they ask why they even have to cajole Google, a self-professed friend, to make nice.

Yet Google and its brethren also have a point when they wonder if the media giants are only hurting themselves by pressing the copyright issue. They point out that their sites have served as great promotional venues — and that they do not charge the media companies a dollar for that help. Moreover, there are no barriers to entry to stop NBC, Viacom or anyone else from starting its own Web video efforts.

What we have here is the most fascinating game of digital chicken the media world has seen. Who will cluck first?

See also Toobin on Google BookSearch in The New Yorker

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