September 30, 2008

Poor Pitiful Rambus [8:03 am]

Apparently, even a court decision can’t clean up certain smells: Chip Maker Rambus Wins Battles, but Faces Bigger War

A wave of recent court victories was supposed to be a turning point for Rambus. In August, a federal appeals court in Washington upheld a ruling throwing out a decision by the Federal Trade Commission that Rambus was guilty of monopolistic behavior in its dealings 10 years ago with the standard-setting group Jedec Solid State Technology Association. But the F.T.C. said last week it may appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

A jury in March in San Jose, Calif., found that the company had not deliberately misled memory chip makers when it patented memory chip technologies while the industry group was deciding whether to make the technologies an industry standard.

Any day now, a federal judge in the San Jose court is expected to decide whether to grant Rambus’s request for an injunction against Hynix, a memory chip maker. And last Monday, yet another trial began in San Jose, this one involving Samsung.

But the victories have not helped much. “Every day we’re amazed at how victories in court don’t necessarily lead to settlements,” said Sharon Holt, Rambus’s senior vice president for worldwide sales, licensing and marketing. “We really need the courts to help force these parties into settlement talks. We’re not having as much momentum in signing new business as we’ve liked.”

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September 29, 2008

LATimes Editorial On Laptop Searches [10:16 am]

Laptop searches go too far (pdf)

Should U.S. citizens returning from abroad be forced to surrender their laptop computers to the prying eyes of customs agents, even when there is no reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed? Two federal appeals courts say yes. If the Supreme Court doesn’t rule otherwise, Congress should act to curb this exponential invasion of privacy.

The links in the article go to:

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How Would You Know? [9:07 am]

I mean, pledges are nice and all, but how would you know the firm is complying? Sounds like an interesting engineering systems design problem: AT& T, Verizon to Refrain From Tracking Users Onlinepdf

AT&T and Verizon, two of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, pledged yesterday to refrain from tracking customer Web behavior unless they receive explicit permission to do so.

The announcement, made at a Senate committee hearing, represents a challenge to the rest of the Web world, where advertising is commonly delivered by companies that record a consumer’s visits across multiple Web sites. The practice, known as “behavioral targeting,” is largely invisible to customers and generally done without their consent.

“Verizon believes that before a company captures certain Internet-usage data . . . it should obtain meaningful, affirmative consent from consumers,” said Thomas J. Tauke, Verizon executive vice president.

AT&T’s chief privacy officer Dorothy Attwood made a similar pledge to legislators, and then, taking aim at Google she noted that AT&T’s promise to get consumer consent is an advance over others in the industry.

The Broadband Providers and Consumer Privacy hearing testimony:

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Fighting the Second Enclosure Movement [6:53 am]

Link By Link - Who Owns the Law? Arguments May Ensue (pdf)

[I]n the real world, judicial decisions and laws and regulations can be exceedingly hard to find without paying for them, either in book form or online. And that doesn’t even include quasi-official material like the numeric codes doctors are required to use when filing for Medicaid or Medicare payments or the fire safety codes that builders are required to follow.

“The law is pretty clear that laws and judicial opinions and regulations are not protected by copyright laws,” said Pamela Samuelson, a professor at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. “That isn’t to say that people aren’t going to try.”

A favorite method of trying, as Ms. Samuelson and other legal scholars explain, is to copyright the accoutrements surrounding the public material. So while the laws and court decisions themselves may be in the public domain, the same is not necessarily true for the organizational system that renders them intelligible or the supporting materials that put them into context.

In other words: the beer is free, but you have to pay for a specially designed stein. Of course, you could always choose to cup your hands.

[...] “So many people have been moving into the public domain and putting up fences,” [Carl Malamud] said in an interview from his office in Sebastopol, Calif., where he runs a one-man operation, public.resource.org, on a budget of about $1 million a year. Much of that money goes to buy material, usually in print form, that he then scans into his computer and makes available on the Internet without restriction.

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September 27, 2008

Slipping One In Under the Wire [2:01 am]

While we all are following the crisis in the financial markets, along comes a fast-tracked intellectual property law enforcement bill: HR 4279: Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008. From Declan McCullagh’s writeup:

The bill was stripped of a controversial measure that would have given federal prosecutors the power to file civil lawsuits against peer-to-peer users who violate copyright laws. The Commerce Department and Justice Department voiced their opposition to the provision in a letter this week, saying it would create “unnecessary bureaucracy.”

The legislation still provides increased resources for the Justice Department to combat intellectual property theft and provide coordination for federal and state efforts against counterfeiting and piracy. It also increases penalties for intellectual property infringements.

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September 26, 2008

Speculating on Open v Closed Phones [3:34 am]

Apples iPhone is closed. Googles G1 is open. Which is better?

Watching Google and Apple carve out space in the mobile business, one can hardly avoid thinking that history is repeating itself. In the 1970s and 80s, Apple created the first great personal computers. But because Apple closed its platform, it was IBM, Dell, HP, and especially Microsoft that reaped the benefits of Apples innovations. [...]

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September 25, 2008

So, What Kind of a Deal, Really? [11:15 am]

Something I know I need to think about — after I get home: Royalties Deal in Online Music (pdf)

The agreement, revealed Wednesday, is designed to settle how the industry calculates royalty rates for limited downloads and music that is streamed online, including when it is provided by subscription and advertising-supported services.

Fans using on-demand music streaming can select the songs they want to hear but do not keep a permanent copy.

Under the proposal, providers of such services will pay a royalty of 10.5 percent of revenue after other royalties are calculated.

The Digital Media Association’s press release: Major Music Industry Groups Announce Breakthrough Agreement

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September 23, 2008

Some More Shoes Drop [6:22 am]

Expanded Powers to Search Travelers at Border Detailed (pdf)

In July, the Department of Homeland Security disclosed policies that showed that federal agents may copy books, documents, and the data on laptops and other electronic devices without suspecting a traveler of wrongdoing. But what DHS did not disclose was that since 1986 and until last year, the government generally required a higher standard: Federal agents needed probable cause that a law was being broken before they could copy material a traveler was bringing into the country.

The changes are part of a broader trend across the government to harness technology in the fight against terrorism. But they are taking place largely without public input or review, critics said, raising concerns that federal border agents are acting without proper guidelines or oversight and that policies are being adopted that do not adequately protect travelers’ civil liberties when they are being questioned or their belongings searched.

[...] In July 2007, the government dropped the requirement that there be reasonable suspicion to review material but specified that the review had to take place in connection with laws enforced by CBP, according to a copy of a policy the groups obtained.

Then, this July, the government issued its broadest policy to date regarding information searches at the border, allowing documents and electronic devices to be detained for an unspecified period. Moreover, they may now be copied without any suspicion of wrongdoing, the lowest legal standard.

See these earlier posts: “Unreasonable Search and Seizure” and Electronic Devices and Searches

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e-Filing [6:13 am]

Just Click Send

We suspect that most Senate Republicans know how to use a computer and all of the other devices of the electronic age. Which means there is no excuse — except a desire to slow the public’s right to know — for their ongoing efforts to block electronic filing of their reports on campaign donations.

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The Changing Music Business Model [6:09 am]

Red Roof Inns Teams Up With Country Music Artists

THE latest recordings by a couple of popular country music acts will never hit the Billboard charts but, to paraphrase the title of a song from the movie “Nashville,” it don’t worry them.

That’s because the recordings — by the singer Phil Vassar and the group Little Big Town — were made on behalf of Red Roof Inn, a leading budget lodging chain. As part of a multimedia campaign, the voices of Mr. Vassar and the members of Little Big Town can be heard when guests at Red Roof motels ask for wake-up calls or potential guests are placed on hold when calling to book rooms.

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The NYTimes Dives Into Social Networking [6:03 am]

TimesPeople FAQ - The New York Times

What is TimesPeople?

TimesPeople is a social network for Times readers. But it’s not a social network like Facebook or MySpace — you won’t have Times friends, and it won’t get you Times dates. Instead, you’ll assemble a network of Times readers. Then you’ll be able to share interesting things on NYTimes.com with others in the network. For example, when you recommend an article, comment on a blog post, or rate a movie or restaurant, these activities will become visible to other TimesPeople users in a special toolbar at the top of every NYTimes.com page. You’ll also have a personal page that keeps track of your TimesPeople activities and lets you browse your network of readers.

TimesPeople is a great way to discover things on NYTimes.com that you might not otherwise have found and to share your discoveries with other NYTimes.com readers.

How does TimesPeople work?

Once you have signed up, TimesPeople begins to collect the public actions you take on NYTimes.com. Other readers can choose to see your activity, and you can choose to see theirs. You’ll have several ways to begin building your network: use the built-in search box, select from a list of suggested users you might know, or import your e-mail contacts. And you’ll continue to expand your network simply by using TimesPeople and encountering other readers.

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September 19, 2008

The Story of Unigo [3:37 pm]

The College Issue - The Tell-All Campus Tour

On Unigo, the information is all free — “free,” of course, understood as a synonym for “accompanied by advertisements” — and with the exception of brief editorial overviews of each of the 267 colleges featured at start-up, all of it is voluntarily provided by current students at those colleges. “For so long, the colleges have been able to have this stranglehold on the P.R. image of their school,” Goldman said recently in his office, decorated boy-workaholic-style with nothing but an open box of Frosted Flakes and a toy robotic dinosaur. “It’s just harder to look at them as the main source of information. If you’re a college student, you are as much of an expert on being a student at that college as anyone.”

The beauty part is that Unigo has not only declined to enlist the colleges’ help with this “national grass-roots movement,” as Goldman likes to refer to it, but the company has also kept it a secret from them. [...]

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Uses of New Technologies [8:11 am]

Picture Taken by Cellphone Leads to Sex-Crime Arrest

She sensed the presence of someone too close to her on the stairs. She turned and saw a man peering into his cellphone. A passer-by confirmed her suspicion: The man had taken photographs under her skirt.

“I said I had to do something,” the woman said on Thursday. “Since he is taking pictures of me, I am going to take pictures of him.”

She said she followed the man onto the southbound No. 1 train, walked through several cars and found him on a seat. She prepared her cellphone camera. He looked at her and mumbled something. “And I told him ‘smile’ because I am going to the police,” she said.

She took a picture, e-mailed it to the police and filed a report. On Tuesday, an officer at the 110th Street subway station at Central Park West approached a man matching the photograph, the police said. [...]

On Sept. 9, the police started tapping into the ubiquitous technology by inviting people who witness crimes to take pictures with their cellphone cameras, if safety permits, and to send them along when they make 911 calls.

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Sneaking Around [7:51 am]

“If I told you how big the problem was, I’d have to kill you.” Excellent — another excuse to duck oversight. I look forward to finding out what the next one will be: Cyber Attack Data-Sharing Is Lacking, Congress Told (pdf)

U.S. intelligence agencies are unable to share information about foreign cyber attacks against companies for fear of jeopardizing intelligence-gathering sources and methods, cyber security expert Paul B. Kurtz told lawmakers yesterday.

Kurtz, who served on the National Security Council in the Clinton and Bush administrations, spoke at the first open hearing on cyber security held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. [...]

Some testimony has been posted:

  • Paul Kurtz
    Former Senior Director, Critical Infrastructure Protection
    White House Homeland Security Council

  • Amit Yoran
    Former Director, National Cyber Security Division
    Department of Homeland Security

  • John Nagengast
    Former Assistant Deputy Director
    National Security Agency

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September 18, 2008

Hoist [7:43 am]

Glenn Greenwald has a field day: What does Sarah Palin have to hide in her Yahoo emails?

Some adolescent criminal (in mentality if not age) yesterday hacked into a Yahoo account used by Sarah Palin for both personal and business email, and various sites — including Gawker — posted some of the emails online. [...]

[I]t’s really a wondrous, and repugnant, sight to behold the Bush-following lynch mobs on the Right melodramatically defend the Virtues of Privacy and the Rule of Law. These, of course, are the same authoritarians who have cheered on every last expansion of the Lawless Surveillance State of the last eight years — put their fists in the air with glee as the Federal Government seized the power to listen to innocent Americans’ telephone calls; read our emails; obtain our banking, credit card, and library records; and create vast data bases of every call we make and receive and every prescription we fill and every instance of travel and other vast categories of information that remain largely unknown — all without warrants or oversight of any kind and often in clear violation of the law.

The same political faction which today is prancing around in full-throated fits of melodramatic hysteria and Victim mode (their absolute favorite state of being) over the sanctity of Sarah Palin’s privacy are the same ones who scoffed with indifference as it was revealed during the Bush era that the FBI systematically abused its Patriot Act powers to gather and store private information on thousands of innocent Americans; that Homeland Security officials illegally infiltrated and monitored peaceful, law-abiding left-wing groups devoted to peace activism, civil liberties and other political agendas disliked by the state; and that the telephone calls of journalists and lawyers have been illegally and repeatedly monitored.

And the same Surveillance State Worshipper leading today’s screeching — Michelle Makin — spent the last several years attacking those who objected to the President’s illegal spying program as “privacy crusaders” and “constitutional absolutists” and “civil liberties absolutists”.

Shouldn’t these same people be standing today up and insisting that if Sarah Palin has done nothing wrong, then she should have nothing to hide? [...]

[...] Last night, O’Reilly angrily lamented that “we have no privacy left in this country anymore.” That’s the very same Bill O’Reilly who went on television last October to gravely warn that John Edwards was a “Far Leftist” and detailed all the dark things that would happen if Edwards were elected President:

Would you support President John Edwards? Remember, no coerced interrogation, civilian lawyers in courts for captured overseas terrorists, no branding the Iranian guards terrorists, and no phone surveillance without a specific warrant.

Nice to see him having so much fun with this — I just don’t know if irony is really a workable political advocacy strategy. But it would be nice to see some of the proponents for the surveillance state squirm, even a little bit.

More info: Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account hacked

See also Hacking Sarah Palin from Slate and Hackers leak e-mails from Palin account (pdf), both of which go into more detail into the interesting issue surrounding the decision by Alaskan officials to use private email accounts to conduct state business, rather than using the accounts supplied by the state for business use. Also Hackers Access Palin’s Personal E-Mail, Post Some Online (pdf)

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September 15, 2008

A Privacy Decision Facing An Uphill Fight [9:42 am]

Judge Limits Searches Using Cellphone Data (pdf)

The government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause of criminal activity before directing a wireless provider to turn over records that show where customers used their cellphones, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, in the first opinion by a federal district court on the issue.

Judge Terrence F. McVerry of the Western District of Pennsylvania rejected the government’s argument that historical cellphone tower location data did not require probable cause.

The ruling could begin to establish the standard for such requests, which industry lawyers say are routine as more people carry cellphones that reveal their locations. Around the country, magistrate judges, who handle matters such as search warrants, have expressed concern about the lack of guidance.

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[9:31 am]

The Washington Post has a two article series based on Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, focusing on his role in leading the surveillance program

  • Conflict Over Spying Led White House to Brink (pdf)

  • Cheney Shielded Bush From Crisis (pdf)

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Exporting Rights [8:14 am]

A story that’s been written up many places, but a succinct presentation of another kind of “chilling effect:” ‘Libel Tourism’ - When Freedom of Speech Takes a Holiday

The lawsuit is a case of what legal experts are calling “libel tourism.” Ms. Ehrenfeld is an American, and “Funding Evil” was never published in Britain. But at least 23 copies of the book were sold online, opening the door for the lawsuit. When Ms. Ehrenfeld decided not to defend the suit in Britain, Mr. bin Mahfouz won a default judgment and is now free to sue to collect in the United States.

The upshot is a First Amendment loophole. In the Internet age, almost every American book can be bought in Britain. That means American authors are subject to being sued under British libel law, which in some cases puts the initial burden on the defendant to prove the truth of what she has written. British libel law is so tilted against writers that the United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized it last month for discouraging discussion of important matters of public interest.

Why it’s not just called “jurisdiction shopping” is beyond me.

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Facebook? MySpace? Why Not Go All Out! [8:07 am]

Spit Parties for Folks Who Want to Break Their Own DNA Code

COMPREHENSIVE DNA tests may one day be a normal part of medical care, but right now 23andMe’s efforts to make genetic testing an impulse buy disturbs many researchers.

“People think if you have money to spend on this, why not buy a test instead of a model train for Christmas,” said Dr. Alan Guttmacher, acting director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health. “It can be neat and fun, but it can also have deep psychological implications, both for how you view yourself and how others view you, depending on who else has access to the information.”

Ms. Wojcicki and Linda Avey, the company’s other founder, say their chief goal is to advance science by compiling a database of genetic information that medical researchers can tap (while protecting customers’ anonymity). Customers cannot opt out of having their information anonymously shared, but they can refuse to participate in surveys focusing on specific traits.

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OT: Technologies and Evidence [8:03 am]

A bizarre one: India’s Novel Use of Brain Scans in Courts Is Debated

Now, well before any consensus on the technology’s readiness, India has become the first country to convict someone of a crime relying on evidence from this controversial machine: a brain scanner that produces images of the human mind in action and is said to reveal signs that a suspect remembers details of the crime in question.

For years, scientists have peered into the brain and sought to identify deception. They have shot infrared beams through liars’ heads, placed them in giant magnetic resonance imaging machines and used scanners to track their eyeballs. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has plowed money into brain-based lie detection in the hope of producing more fruitful counterterrorism investigations.

The technologies, generally regarded as promising but unproved, have yet to be widely accepted as evidence — except in India, where in recent years judges have begun to admit brain scans. [...]

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