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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