July 11, 2007

Dataveillance, In The Best Way Possible, of Course [2:03 pm]

Hey, they’ll probably figure out how to subsidize the work by selling names to mailing lists: FBI Plans Initiative To Profile Terroristspdf

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is developing a computer-profiling system that would enable investigators to target possible terror suspects, according to a Justice Department report submitted to Congress yesterday.

[...] “STAR does not label anyone a terrorist,” the report said. “Only individuals considered emergent foreign threats (as opposed to other criminal activity such as U.S. bank robbery threats) will be analyzed.”

Some lawmakers said, however, that the report raises new questions about the government’s power to use personal information and intelligence without accountability.

[...] The STAR system would be subject to a privacy-impact assessment before launched in final form.

And I’d like to know how someone even goes about doing, much less defending, a “privacy impact assessment.”

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A Nexus of Law, Culture and Technology [1:07 pm]

In lectures, Dave Clark sometimes speaks of the debasement of the ideals of the Internet developers by pointing out that it became an instrument for widespread copyright infringement. I’m sure that this story is going to replace that example: First Amendment Claim in Cockfight Suit

A company that broadcasts cockfights on the Internet filed suit in federal court in Miami on Tuesday to challenge a largely untested federal law that makes it a crime to sell depictions of animal cruelty.

[...] “We believe firmly that broadcasting and selling legal cockfighting over the Internet is not a crime,” said David O. Markus, a lawyer for the company, Advanced Consulting and Marketing, which runs the site www.toughsportslive.com. “As bullfighting is part of Spanish culture and as violent human fighting is part of our culture, cockfighting is part of Puerto Rican culture.”

[...] The law, enacted in 1999 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, makes it a crime to sell depictions of animal cruelty for commercial gain. There is an exception for works of “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.”

The cockfighting Web site, which calls itself “the #1 rooster fighting network in the world” and sells package deals that also allow subscribers to see women in bikinis shooting large guns, seems unlikely to qualify.

The article goes on to describe even more horrible stuff, but it’s hard not to remember Babylon when reading about stuff like this. What constitutes entertainment these days is sometimes hard for me to fathom.

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Working to Criminalize or Cripple “Search” [10:22 am]

Give a million monkeys enough time, and they may very well come up with a successful strategy, but I don’t think that this is it: Policy group says Google soft on piracypdf

Hoping to see “Blood Diamond,” “Spider-Man 3″ or other full-length movies, TV series and concerts for free online? The National Legal and Policy Center on Tuesday released a list of the top 50 videos it found on the Google Video search engine, uploaded by Web users who might be guilty of copyright infringement.

[...] NLPC is far from satisfied with the company’s efforts. “Google has been dragging its feet for months in coming up with a solution to pirated content,” Boehm said. “(It) still requires copyright owners to go through the laborious process of issuing DMCA take-down notices before the content is removed, while smaller companies are beginning to show real leadership on this issue.”

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Chasing the “It’s for the Children” Hysteria [9:59 am]

Just how tenuous a connection is going to be required in order to ensure that we will be “protected?” Accuser Says Web Site Has X-Rated Link

On its Web site and in press reports, Stickam says that it is owned by Advanced Video Communications, or AVC, a three-year-old Los Angeles company that sells video conferencing and e-commerce services to businesses in Japan and other Asian countries.

But according to Alex Becker, a former vice president at Stickam, and internal company documents, Advanced Video Communications is managed and owned by Wataru Takahashi, a Japanese businessman who also owns and operates DTI Services, a vast network of Web sites offering live sex shows over Web cameras. Mr. Becker alleges that Stickam shares office space, employees and computer systems with the pornographic Web sites.

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A Couple of Content Developments [9:55 am]

  • Digital Music Group Plans to Merge With the Orchard

    The Orchard, a digital music company that has built a business distributing albums from independent labels to online stores like iTunes, plans to announce today that it will merge with Digital Music Group. The combined company will continue to trade publicly under the Digital Music Group’s Nasdaq listing, but it will be controlled by the Orchard and do business under that name.

  • Online Movies Without a PC

    TiVo, the pioneer of digital video recorders, said yesterday that it had introduced a service to let customers buy movies and television shows from the Unbox service of Amazon.com without using a personal computer.

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What You Do When The Orthodox Models Fail [9:45 am]

Shades of Thomas Kuhn! And a hope that the economics profession will start to revisit some of their basic premises about the pursuit of economic knowledge (e.g., the reconstruction/revitalization of W. Leontieff’s work to bridge engineering and production economics, for example?): In Economics Departments, a Growing Will to Debate Fundamental Assumptions

“There is much too much ideology,” said Alan S. Blinder, a professor at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Economics, he added, is “often a triumph of theory over fact.” Mr. Blinder helped kindle the discussion by publicly warning in speeches and articles this year that as many as 30 million to 40 million Americans could lose their jobs to lower-paid workers abroad. Just by raising doubts about the unmitigated benefits of free trade, he made headlines and had colleagues rubbing their eyes in astonishment.

“What I’ve learned is anyone who says anything even obliquely that sounds hostile to free trade is treated as an apostate,” Mr. Blinder said.

And free trade is not the only sacred subject, Mr. Blinder and other like-minded economists say. Most efforts to intervene in the markets — like setting a minimum wage, instituting industrial policy or regulating prices — are viewed askance by mainstream economists, as are analyses that do not rely on mathematical modeling.

That attitude, the critics argue, has seriously harmed the discipline, suppressing original, creative thinking and distorting policy debates. [...]

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Google Lobbying Bearing Fruit? [9:21 am]

FCC wants open access to spectrumpdf

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin is readying proposed guidelines for the upcoming auction of prime public airwaves that would require that the winning companies let consumers hook up any wireless device to the network.

The guidelines, which must be approved by the FCC in the coming weeks, are the subject of fierce lobbying in Washington because they could help determine the fate of a multibillion-dollar chunk of spectrum being abandoned by TV stations in their conversion to digital signals. Federal officials hope the airwaves will carry another nationwide high-speed Internet service to compete with those offered by phone and cable companies.

[...] Europe and Asia, for example, have been quick to introduce phones that surf the Internet with WiFi, but in the U.S. wireless companies lock their devices into their own networks.

“That’s the kind of innovation that’s too slow to roll out here and would be facilitated by a rule that the network operators would be required to allow you to bring your own handset,” Martin said. Under the proposal, people who subscribed to a network would be able to hook up any device or any software application they chose.

Wireless phone companies, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, adamantly oppose any open-access requirements on the new spectrum, which they hope to add to their networks. Public interest groups and technology companies such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have been demanding broad open access that also would force wireless companies to lease the new airwaves at wholesale rates to third parties.

Martin isn’t proposing to go that far. His plan also would apply only to about a third of the TV spectrum to be auctioned by January.

Later: The article Verizon Wireless exec opposes open access idea (pdf) includes this bit of sophistry:

“Spectrum is a finite resource that must be managed efficiently for the benefit of all network users,” [Verizon general counsel Steve] Zipperstein said.

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