October 31, 2007

Sen Rockefeller Wants Amnesty All Around [12:08 pm]

John D. Rockefeller IV - Partners In the War On Terrorpdf

The president’s warrantless surveillance program and his decision to go it alone — without input from Congress or the courts — have had devastating consequences. One is that private companies, which would normally comply with legitimate national security requests, now have incentive to say no.

Here’s why. Within weeks of the 2001 attacks, communications companies received written requests and directives for assistance with intelligence activities authorized by the president. These companies were assured that their cooperation was not only legal but also necessary because of their unique technical capabilities. They were also told it was their patriotic duty to help protect the country after the devastating attacks on our homeland.

Today there is significant debate about whether the underlying program — the president’s warrantless surveillance plan — was legal or violated constitutional rights. That is an important debate, and those questions must be answered.

In the meantime, however, these companies are being sued, which is unfair and unwise. As the operational details of the program remain highly classified, the companies are prevented from defending themselves in court. And if we require them to face a mountain of lawsuits, we risk losing their support in the future.

[...] The fact is, private industry must remain an essential partner in law enforcement and national security. We face an enemy that uses every tool and technology of 21st-century life, and we must do the same.

If American business — airlines, banks, utilities and many others — were to decide that it would be too risky to comply with legally certified requests, or to insist on verifying every request in court, our intelligence collection could come to a screeching halt. The impact would be devastating to the intelligence community, the Justice Department and military officials who are hunting down our enemies.

Wait a minute — aren’t we moving the goalposts here? If FISA is a bad idea, then let’s work on that, not on giving a blanket amnesty to firms who SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!!

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ICANN, whois and Privacy [8:50 am]

Internet Policymakers May Punt on Privacy Issuepdf

Under the existing process, any person or entity that registers a Web site name is required to provide their name, e-mail and physical addresses, and a telephone number. The information is then entered into a publicly searchable database.

Privacy groups say the domain registry has become a data-mining dream for marketers and spammers, who constantly trawl the database for new e-mail addresses. Opponents of any change in the system counter that the data is essential in resolving intellectual property disputes, aiding cyber crime investigations, and helping computer security experts quickly shutter fraudulent Web sites.

Under the change being debated Wednesday at an ICANN meeting in Los Angeles, Web site owners would still be required to provide accurate contact information when registering a Web site. But domain registrants could opt out of having their personal information published to a public database. Instead, they would be permitted to list a third-party contact — such as the Web site registrar that sold the domain name to the registrant. The third party would then route any legal, technical or operational inquiries to the registrant.

[...] But Milton Mueller, a partner in the Internet Governance Project and professor at Syracuse University, said he believes ICANN is likely to punt on the issue by voting for a third proposal currently on the table, which calls for additional studies on the privacy impact of the WHOIS database.

Honestly, the most interesting thing about this article is the characterization of ICANN as a group of Internet policymakers.

See also this news report on Vint Cerf leaving ICANN: Internet pioneer leaves oversight group - pdf

Later: Whois Studies Approved, Privacy Deferredpdf

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The LATimes on Hulu [8:39 am]

Hulu hopespdf

But why bother creating a whole new distribution arm when YouTube and MySpace are already drawing millions of viewers? One reason is to get rid of the middleman youdon’t own (e.g., YouTube) in favor of one you do. Hulu’s founders also believe that they can be a more reliable source than the sites offering amateur videos and bootlegs. These assumptions are worth testing, for all of Hollywood’s sake. Unfortunately for Hulu, though, it doesn’t have a comprehensive library of content, and what it has will stay on the site for only a few weeks. Its distribution partners include few of the leading sites for online video and none of the file-sharing networks that have become major outlets for movie and TV bootlegs.

Most important, Hulu isn’t giving users the power they enjoy on YouTube and MySpace, which may be the most important factor in such sites’ success. Users not only supply videos for those sites, they curate them and provide the running commentary that glues the community together. Much like the television companies that feed it, Hulu seems to want complete control over the programming lineup. But the Net isn’t television. Content may be king, but the mob rules.

See Hulu Readies Its Online TV, Dodging the Insults

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A “Do Not Track” List? [7:49 am]

We’ll see — note that even the process of opt-out includes other opt-ins, and there’s still the chimerical hope that ads will be better-targeted — which puts us right back where we started: Online Marketers Joining Internet Privacy Efforts — pdf

Most consumers are familiar with do-not-call lists, which are meant to keep telemarketers from phoning them. Soon people will be able to sign up for do-not-track lists, which will help shield their Web surfing habits from the prying eyes of marketers.

Such lists will not reduce the number of ads that people see online, but they will prevent advertisers from using their online meanderings to deliver specific ad pitches to them.

[...] There is a silver lining for marketers, however: the AOL site will try to persuade people that they should choose to share some personal data in order to get pitches for products they might like. Most Web sites, including AOL, already collect data about users to send them specific ads — but AOL is choosing to become more open about the practice and will run advertisements about it in coming months.

Consumers who have already seen some benefits from online tracking systems — in the form of movie recommendations from Netflix, perhaps, or product recommendations from Amazon — might warm to AOL’s argument.

“Instead of having interruptive ads, instead of jarring things that will grab your attention, things are hopefully tailored to be suitable to your experience,” said Jules Polonetsky, the chief privacy officer for AOL. “We think tailoring advertising content in a way that is useful is a good proposition.”

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“Taking It To … YouTube?” [7:45 am]

Another example of the strange doublethink that the Internet seems to inspire in people: Castlegate and Morse Street gangs posting rap videos on YouTubepdf

The three-minute video is one of two posted on the Internet featuring teenagers who say they belong to Castlegate and Morse Street, two notorious Boston gangs whose members often turn up in police reports about shootings around the city. Now, the gangs appear to be staking out new turf with their work, which is appearing on the popular video-sharing website YouTube, alongside videos of celebrities, sports highlights, and amateur pranks.

One of the men in the video, a 19-year- old Morse Street resident who identified himself only as Millz, said the rappers are merely trying to launch a musical career online and grab the attention of hip-hop producers.

“We’re just rapping,” he said in an interview on Castlegate Road, a street off Blue Hill Avenue that is no more than two football fields long and is lined with attached low-rise brick buildings. “That’s all it is.”

But among their rap’s most rapt listeners are Boston police officers, who say the videos may help them identify gang members. If any of the men in the video should appear at an arraignment on a weapons charge, police said, they could use the video as evidence of affiliation with a gang.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Police Superintendent Daniel Linskey. “If we can play a video for a judge that shows they’re involved with criminal activity, that helps us, and bodes well when we go for dangerousness hearings. We like to use these videos to use their own words against them.”

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Norms, Architecture and Adaptation [7:33 am]

Chinese get the message on textingpdf

E-mail has become the new snail mail for many Chinese as they turn to the immediacy of text messages on cellphones and instant messages on personal computers. The most affluent and educated use e-mail, but by and large people here rely much more heavily on the shorter, faster and more conversational methods of electronic communication.

E-mail here is treated with the same disdain as the telephone answering machine, said Guo Liang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

“You won’t have a direct response; you have to wait,” he said.China’s mania for messaging — particularly mobile messaging — is largely a product of how technology developed here. Like other emerging global markets, rural regions of China lacked phones or even a television as recently as two decades ago. The country modernized just as mobile technology was broadly accessible throughout the world.

China is now the world’s largest mobile phone market.

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