The Price We Pay

For being unable to construct a meaningful dialog about privacy: UK advertising-tech fight shows complexity of privacy battle (pdf)

The opposition probably won’t stop Phorm. British officials have affirmed its legality. But the underlying story is a cautionary tale. As marketers try to pinpoint Internet advertising more effectively, Phorm’s experience indicates how deeply privacy perceptions matter.

Phorm and NebuAd have a high bar to acceptance, because their technologies sound intrusive.

Maybe — or maybe they *are* intrusive, even if they are legal in the eyes of UK law (pdf). How would *you* know?

DNA Dataveillance

U.S. to Expand Collection Of Crime Suspects’ DNA (pdf)

The U.S. government will soon begin collecting DNA samples from all citizens arrested in connection with any federal crime and from many immigrants detained by federal authorities, adding genetic identifiers from more than 1 million individuals a year to the swiftly growing federal law enforcement DNA database.

The policy will substantially expand the current practice of routinely collecting DNA samples from only those convicted of federal crimes, and it will build on a growing policy among states to collect DNA from many people who are arrested. Thirteen states do so now and turn their data over to the federal government.

[…] Although fingerprints have long been collected for virtually every arrestee, privacy advocates say the new policy expands the DNA database, run by the FBI, beyond its initial aim of storing information on the perpetrators of violent crimes.

They also worry that people could be detained erroneously and swept into the database without cause, and that DNA samples from those who are never convicted of a crime, because of acquittal or a withdrawal of charges, might nonetheless be permanently retained by the FBI.

“Innocent people don’t belong in a so-called criminal database,” said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re crossing a line.”

She said that if the samples are kept, they could one day be analyzed for sensitive information such as diseases and ancestry.

No “could” about it, really. Once the technology becomes cost-effective, you can probably bet on it.

And it’s interesting whose records get a lot of effort, and those that don’t – Record-Keeping Bill Is Criticized As ‘Anemic’ by Watchdog Group (pdf)

Citing “significant deficiencies” in the preservation of e-mail by the White House and federal agencies, House Democrats yesterday introduced legislation to strengthen and modernize electronic record-keeping requirements. But a private watchdog group called the bill inadequate and issued a report describing federal record-keeping as antiquated and chaotic.

It Names Itself

The Smart Money Watches You Watch Videos (pdf)

Knowing exactly how a video becomes popular can be critical to selling advertising associated with it. The audience for video is growing rapidly; in February, U.S. Internet users viewed more than 10 billion online videos, a 66 percent increase over the same month in 2007, according to ComScores Video Metrix service. Advertisers, meanwhile, spent $554 million on online video promotions last year, compared with $398 million in 2006, according to Jupiter Research. Still, many marketers have been reluctant to place big bets on ads paired with video, largely because it has been difficult to measure the ads effectiveness.

“When youre a manager of a brand, the idea of risking a significant amount of money to understand this new social-media world is very challenging,” said Troy Young, chief marketing officer of VideoEgg, an advertising network that places ads on video clips. A video might gain popularity because it was linked to in a blog or incorporated into a social-networking profile and circulated among friends, he said. The tracking tools can help an advertiser figure out whether the video is reaching the desired demographic and, therefore, whether it should buy ad space related to that video.

Online publishers such as CBS Interactive and advertising agencies such as Hill Holliday now use video-tracking services to help plan their ad strategies. Video creators, both amateur and professional, are starting to use these measurement tools to get a better view of which clips are most popular on which Web sites.

A Tricky Line

Consumer preferences or consumer protection? Where do you draw the line? Warning on Storage of Health Records

Under the current system, individuals can request their own health records, but it is often a cumbersome process because information is scattered across several institutions.

As part of a push toward greater individual control of health information, Microsoft and Google have recently begun offering Web-based personal health records. The journal article’s authors describe a new “personalized, health information economy” in which consumers tell physicians, hospitals and other providers what information to send into their personal records, stored by Microsoft or Google. It is the individual who decides with whom to share that information and under what terms.

But Microsoft and Google, the authors note, are not bound by the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, the main law that regulates personal data handling and patient privacy. Hipaa, enacted in 1996, did not anticipate Web-based health records systems like the ones Microsoft and Google now offer.

The authors say that consumer control of personal data under the new, unregulated Web systems could open the door to all kinds of marketing and false advertising from parties eager for valuable patient information.

Despite their warnings, Dr. Mandl and Dr. Kohane are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of Web-based personal health records, including a patient population of better-informed, more personally responsible health consumers.

Darwin Online

Darwin’s private papers get Internet launch (pdf)

The first draft of Charles Darwin’s “On The Origin Of Species” is among a wealth of papers belonging to the intensely private man who changed science being published on the Internet on Thursday for the first time.

Comprising some 20,000 items and 90,000 images, the release on http://darwin-online.org.uk is the largest in history, according to the organizers from Cambridge University Library which holds all the Darwin papers.

Comic Heroes, Creators and Compensation

Joe Simon, a Creator of Captain America, Still Fighting for Comic Book Artists at 94

For Mr. Simon and Mr. Kirby, though, the biggest blow came when they were dismissed from the series, which had been selling a million copies a month, in a dispute over royalties. The team moved to Detective Comics today DC Comics, but Captain America stayed with Timely, the forerunner of Marvel Comics.

It’s a tale worthy of its own comic and one of many inspirations for Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay”: On the frontier of a new industry, writers and artists creating scores of characters, but publishers profiting from them.

These days creators have learned from the past by self-publishing or otherwise securing the rights to their progeny. But some of the founding fathers of American superheroes are still seeking justice. […]

Anthropology and Product Development

Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?

[Jan] Chipchase is 38, a rangy native of Britain whose broad forehead and high-slung brows combine to give him the air of someone who is quick to be amazed, which in his line of work is something of an asset. For the last seven years, he has worked for the Finnish cellphone company Nokia as a “human-behavior researcher.” He’s also sometimes referred to as a “user anthropologist.” To an outsider, the job can seem decidedly oblique. His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company — to the squads of designers and technologists and marketing people who may never have set foot in a Vietnamese barbershop but who would appreciate it greatly if that barber someday were to buy a Nokia.

[…] This sort of on-the-ground intelligence-gathering is central to what’s known as human-centered design, a business-world niche that has become especially important to ultracompetitive high-tech companies trying to figure out how to write software, design laptops or build cellphones that people find useful and unintimidating and will thus spend money on. Several companies, including Intel, Motorola and Microsoft, employ trained anthropologists to study potential customers, while Nokia’s researchers, including Chipchase, more often have degrees in design. Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.

[…] This is when I voiced a careless thought about whether there might be something negative about the lightning spread of technology, whether its convenience was somehow supplanting traditional values or practices. Chipchase raised his eyebrows and laid down his spoon. He sighed, making it clear that responding to me was going to require patience. “People can think, yeah, monks with cellphones, and tsk, tsk, and what is the world coming to?” he said. “But if you wanted to take phones away from anybody in this world who has them, they’d probably say: ‘You’re going to have to fight me for it. Are you going to take my sewer and water away too?’ And maybe you can’t put communication on the same level as running water, but some people would. And I think in some contexts, it’s quite viable as a fundamental right.” He paused a beat to let this sink in, then added, with just a touch of edge, “People once believed that people in other cultures might not benefit from having books either.”

[…] As a joke, Chipchase sometimes pulls out his cellphone and pretends to shave his face with it, using a buzzing ring tone for comic effect. But there’s a deeper truth embedded here, not just for people in places like Kenya or Buduburam but for all of us. As cellphone technology grows increasingly sophisticated, it has cannibalized — for better or worse — the technologies that have come before it. Carrying a full-featured cellphone lessens your needs for other things, including a watch, an alarm clock, a camera, video camera, home stereo, television, computer or, for that matter, a newspaper. With the advent of mobile banking, cellphones have begun to replace wallets as well. That a phone might someday offer a nice close shave suddenly seems not so ridiculous after all.

See earlier posting from 2004 on a similar topic; see also The Merchants of Cool.

Digital Course Packs

Publishers Sue Georgia State on Digital Reading Matter

The lawsuit, which may be the first of its kind, raises questions about digital rights, which are confronting many media companies, but also about core issues like the future of the business model for academic publishers.

Indeed, as the printed word is put in digital form, holding onto rights seems to many like climbing up the slippery sides of a glass. The case centers on so-called course packs, compilations of reading materials from various books and journals. The lawsuit contends that in many cases, professors are providing students with multiple chapters of a given work, in violation of the “fair use” provision of copyright law. The publishers are seeking an order that the defendants secure permissions and pay licensing fees to the copyright owners.

[…] [I]n 1992, Princeton University Press and others sued Michigan Document Services, a photocopying service, which was producing course packs for University of Michigan students without permission from the copyright holders. The business was eventually found to be in copyright infringement.

“Georgia State’s activity seems identical with Michigan Document Services’ activity,” said Susan P. Crawford, a visiting professor at Yale Law School.

But she pointed out that unlike Kinko’s and Michigan Document Services, Georgia State was not making money from the electronic course packs.

Yet, she added: “It’s difficult to argue that this is a truly noncommercial use. Georgia State may be a nonprofit institution, but its students pay a lot of money for course materials, and would presumably pay money for the materials being provided to them by the university.”

Taking A Page From the RIAA?

And building her fan base: Potter fan faces Rowling in court

The author of an unofficial Harry Potter encyclopaedia broke down as he faced JK Rowling in court in a battle over the right to publish his book.

Steven Vander Ark said his only goal was to celebrate Rowling, sitting in front of him, who he called a “genius”.

Rowling had earlier told the court his plans to publish The Harry Potter Lexicon amounted to “wholesale theft”.

She is suing Mr Vander Ark and his publisher RDR Books in New York for copyright infringement.

Asked whether he still thought of himself as part of the Harry Potter fan community, Mr Vander Ark struggled to speak through tears.

The fact that this got to court suggests, of course, that there are strongly-held (and possibly reasonable differences of) opinions on both side of this question (or at least questions of both fact and law to be heard), but it’s been interesting to note that, where there are newspapers that post comments along with the article, most observers see this as a David and Goliath fight, as opposed to one of punishing a venal thief. Whether the tears are real or not, the battle for public opinion here appears to be going as well for Rowling as it has for the RIAA.

See also Sued by Harry Potter’s Creator, Lexicographer Breaks Down on the Stand

Later: this APWire article doesn’t help Rowling implores NYC judge to block publication of guide (pdf)

A three-day trial over an unauthorized Harry Potter encyclopedia ended Wednesday with a flash of anger from J.K. Rowling.

The British author returned to the witness stand and told a judge that if he allows the fan-written lexicon to be published, it will clear the way for countless rip-offs of her books, as well as those by other authors.

”I believe the floodgates will open,” Rowling said, her voice rising. ”Are we the owners of our own work?”

[…] The discussion Wednesday seemed to both delight and dismay the judge, who began the day by urging the two sides to settle out of court.

Patterson likened the trial to the story Charles Dickens told in ”Bleak House,” a novel about the pain caused by endlessly drawn-out lawsuits in the 19th century British judiciary system.

Patterson predicted a similar fate for the Potter case. He said it involved unresolved areas of American law and was almost certain to end in years of appeals.

”I think this case, with imagination, could be settled,” Patterson said.