January 14, 2008

Dataveillance on the Farm? [10:06 am]

Or preserving the quality of the food supply? Farmers fear a barnyard Big Brotherpdf

A Bush administration initiative, the National Animal Identification System is meant to provide a modern tool for tracking disease outbreaks within 48 hours, whether natural or the work of a bioterrorist. Most farm animals, even exotic ones such as llamas, will eventually be registered. Information will be kept on every farm, ranch or stable. And databases will record every animal movement from birth to slaughterhouse, including trips to the vet and county fairs.

But the system is spawning a grass-roots revolt.

Family farmers see it as an assault on their way of life by a federal bureaucracy with close ties to industrial agriculture. They point out that they will have to track every animal while vast commercial operations will be allowed to track whole herds.

Privacy advocates say the database would create an invasive, detailed electronic record of farmers’ activities. Religious farming communities, such as the Amish and Mennonites, fear the system is a manifestation of the Mark of the Beast foretold in the Book of Revelation.

And despite the administration’s insistence that the program is voluntary, farmers and families, such as the Calderwoods, chafe at the heavy-handed and often mandatory way states have implemented it, sometimes with the help of sheriff’s deputies.

The result is a system meant to help farms that many farmers oppose.

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EFF on “Attempted Distribution” [9:51 am]

EFF Files Brief in Atlantic v. Howell Resisting RIAA’s “Attempted Distribution” Theory (via Digital Music News)

As in more than 20,000 other lawsuits, the recording industry claims that Mr. and Mrs. Howell committed copyright infringement by using P2P file sharing software (in this case, Kazaa). But rather than going to the trouble of proving that the Howells made any infringing copies (by ripping CDs or downloading songs) or any infringing distributions (by uploading to other Kazaa users), the record labels argue that simply having a song in a shared folder, even if no one ever downloaded it from you (i.e., “making available”), infringes the distribution right. This essentially amounts to suing someone for attempted distribution, something the Copyright Act has never recognized (although the DoJ unsuccessfully tried to get something like that from Congress last year).

See also Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Usepdf

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The MySpace Primary [9:14 am]

Where the youth vote is: MySpace, Facebookpdf

NOT only are we going to Iowa, we’re going to New Hampshire and South Carolina and Oklahoma and MySpace and Facebook . . . YEEAEAAAH!!

Exciting, isn’t it? In yet another sign that politics is going digital, two of the Internet’s largest states have played host to online presidential primaries — and more than a few citizens showed up to vote.

On Jan. 1 and 2, MySpace welcomed more than 150,000 users to its virtual polling booths — one ballot per user, of course, and no robots allowed (yet).

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The Writer’s Strike and Web Startups [9:06 am]

Writers strike turning into incubator for Web start-upspdf

Few online entertainment ventures today make money. Yet that has not deterred striking Hollywood writers, eager to bypass the studio system, from forming start-ups to distribute their work on the Web.

[...] These new ventures are incubating in the fiery glow of the 2-month-old strike by the Writers Guild of America. The work stoppage has affected about 10,000 union members, who are seeking higher pay when their movies and TV shows are shown on the Internet. Their studio employers have pushed back, contending that the economics of the Internet are too uncertain for them to ratchet up writers’ online pay.

Some writers are now taking matters into their own hands, using their downtime to meet with venture backers, other writers and technologists.

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“Fun?” [8:51 am]

Surveillance, a watchword for our timespdf

MEET the friendly new face of surveillance culture.

It’s called FaceFinder, and since launching this summer, the smart sculpture resembling a gargantuan alarm clock has functioned like a high-tech photo booth in a courtyard off Sunset and Vine. Sheathed in aluminum and fronted by a glass-shelled video monitor screen, FaceFinder scans its target area outside Borders Bookstore, fixes upon a subject, captures his or her image with a camera concealed in its blob-like “ear,” then magnifies every facial twitch at about six times normal size on a 5-foot video screen.

[...] “People go up to the FaceFinder, play with it, or mock it, see if they can trick it,” says creator Steve Appleton. “This whole dialogue occurs and the payoff is, there’s this possibility that your face will join up with others projected on the wall.”

Appleton is among a new breed of tech-savvy artists using motion sensors, 3-D cameras, robots and pattern-recognition software to put their own spin on a central fact of contemporary life: More and more, we are being watched. Security cameras capture the action at traffic intersections and border crossings — and in malls, dressing rooms, airports, parking garages, hotel lobbies, museums. Cellphone cameras, Google Earth satellites and camcorders empower citizens to zoom in on celebrities and neighbors alike. Drones fly over Houston searching for “suspicious behavior.”

Ingenious and pervasive, the monitoring of personal behavior in public spaces has given rise to an “art of surveillance” forged from tangled impulses encompassing interests in privacy, safety, exhibitionism, paranoia and good clean fun.

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Hardware and the WWW [8:32 am]

What drives standards? An example; and, as a happy user of the Touch, I look forward to getting my own iPhone: Google Sees Surge in iPhone Traffic

The iPhone has taken the frustration out of browsing on a mobile phone, said Charles Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Company.

Other companies confirmed the trends, if not the specific data, observed by Google. Yahoo, for instance, said iPhones accounted for a disproportionate amount of its mobile traffic. And AdMob, a firm that shows billions of ads on mobile Web sites every month, said it saw traffic from iPhones surge drastically around Christmas.

“Consumers are going to demand Internet browsers” as good as Apple’s, said Vic Gundotra, a Google vice president who oversees mobile products.

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How Can Jobs Not Laugh About This In The End [8:16 am]

After all, he gets what he wants — DRM-free music that can be put on any player. So what if they don’t want to use iTunes — Apple doesn’t make any money off it anyway. Free Song Promotion Is Expected From Amazon

Though iTunes blazed a trail in encouraging fans to pay for music online, record executives now complain that Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, wields too much clout in setting prices and other terms. At issue now is whether the labels can help popularize a more industry-friendly service and accelerate the pace of digital sales.

Behind this strategy is a growing desperation: sales of digital albums and songs are rising far too slowly to offset the rapid decline of the CD, the industry’s mainstay product. CD sales slid 19 percent last year; after adding in the 50 million digital albums sold last year and counting every 10 digital songs sold as an album, overall music sales were still down 9.5 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

In trying to nurture Amazon’s service, the four major record companies have offered it one potential edge. One by one, they have agreed to offer their music catalogs for sale on the service in the MP3 format, without the digital locks that restrict users from making copies of the songs. Sony BMG Music Entertainment, the second-biggest company and the last holdout, signed on last week. Sony BMG is a joint venture of Sony and Bertelsmann.

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