YouTube Privacy Deal?

How good a deal remains to be seen. There’s anonymized data and then there’s really anonymized data: Lawyers in YouTube lawsuit reach user privacy deal (pdf)

Defendants and plaintiffs in two related copyright infringement lawsuits against YouTube have reached a deal to protect the privacy of millions of YouTube watchers during evidence discovery, a spokesman for Google Inc said on Monday.

Earlier in July, a New York federal judge ordered Google to turn over YouTube user data to Viacom Inc and other plaintiffs to help them to prepare a confidential study of what they argue are vast piracy violations on the video-sharing site.

Google said it had now agreed to provide plaintiffs’ attorneys for Viacom and a class action group led by the Football Association of England a version of a massive viewership database that blanks out YouTube username and Internet address data that could be used to identify individual video watchers.

“We have reached agreement with Viacom and the class action group,” Google spokesman Ricardo Reyes said. “They have agreed to let us anonymize YouTube user data,” he said.

iPod Touch and iPhone 2.0 Software

I had been hesitant about investing in another upgrade for my Touch software, particularly after the January upgrade was mysteriously expunged from iTunes a while ago, making it impossible to “Restore” my Touch following a sync problem, but I had become far too reliant upon the email tool to really pass up a $10 (re)purchase.

But I have been stunned by the new Map tool. Not that it generates maps, of course. Rather, it’s the spooky way that my Touch can locate itself on those maps. The techniques for geolocation using cellphone towers are pretty much a CSI staple these days, but as far as I know, the Touch doesn’t use those towers (I’m not an AT&T cell user, for example). So, all it has to go on is the IP address of the wifi station it connects to, right?

The fact that it locates me at MIT is a little spooky, but not too much so. MIT has class A address block, so once you know that the first number in the address is 18, you know that you’re at MIT. Moreover, the second number of the IP address roughly corresponds to a building, so the fact that it located me in E40 and in the Au Bon Pain around the corner is not too amazing a feat.

But, last night I tried it at my home, where I have Verizon DSL — with a DHCP-assigned address that changes over time (I haven’t sprung for the business account, which fixes the address). Despite that, the Touch Map application located me on the map with a precision equal to what Google Earth will do given a street address — meaning that, in some way, the Map application gets Verizon to query its DHCP logs and then associate my IP address with my billing address! (Unless it’s delegated that association to Apple/Yahoo!)

Spooky — and a little scary. More testing required, of course, but I clearly need to learn more….

Trademark and the Internet

Court Clears eBay in Suit Over Sale of Counterfeit Goods

In a long-awaited decision in a four-year-old trademark lawsuit against eBay brought by the jeweler Tiffany & Company, Judge Richard J. Sullivan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled that the online retailer does not have a legal responsibility to prevent its users from selling counterfeit items on its online marketplace.

The verdict reaffirms that Internet companies do not have to actively filter their sites for trademarked material. Rather, they can rely on intellectual property holders to monitor their sites, as long as they promptly remove material when rights holders complain.

Why I’ve Been In Such A Bad Mood Since Wednesday

Glenn Greenwald’s Torture and the rule of law, albeit a little long, explains it really well.

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer, one of the country’s handful of truly excellent investigative journalists over the last seven years, has written a new book — “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals” — which reveals several extraordinary though unsurprising facts regarding America’s torture regime. […]

This is what a country becomes when it decides that it will not live under the rule of law, when it communicates to its political leaders that they are free to do whatever they want — including breaking our laws — and there will be no consequences. There are two choices and only two choices for every country — live under the rule of law or live under the rule of men. We’ve collectively decided that our most powerful political leaders are not bound by our laws — that when they break the law, there will be no consequences. We’ve thus become a country which lives under the proverbial “rule of men” — that is literally true, with no hyperbole needed — and Mayer’s revelations are nothing more than the inevitable by-product of that choice.

[…] That’s the inevitable outcome when a country’s political establishment decrees itself exempt from the rule of law. If the rule of law doesn’t constrain the actions of government officials, then nothing will. Continuous revelations of serious government lawbreaking have led not to investigations or punishment but to retroactive immunity and concealment of the crimes. Judicial findings of illegal government behavior have led to Congressional action to protect the lawbreakers. The Detainee Treatment Act. The Military Commissions Act. The Protect America Act. The FISA Amendments Act. They’re all rooted in the same premise: that our highest government leaders have the power to ignore our laws with impunity, and when they’re caught, they should be immunized and protected, not punished.

When our political and media elite aren’t defending the Bush administration’s lawbreaking, they’re dismissing its importance. […]

[…] That warped mentality — as much as the most lawless elements of the Bush administration — is what is responsible for the destruction of our fundamental national character over the last seven years. “Laws” and “crimes” are only for the common people and for other countries. We’re too magisterial a country, our political leaders are too Important and too Good, to subject them to punishment when they break our laws. That’s the mentality that has created the climate of Lawlessness that defines who we are.

[…] It will never stop being jarring that Pulitzer-Prize-winning revelations from the New York Times that the President and the telecom industry were committing felonies for years culminated in the full-scale protection of the lawbreakers and retroactive legalization of the criminality by the “opposition party” which controls the Congress.

Kevin Martin Didn’t Get The Memo?!

It’s up to the market to deal with net neutrality, right? People who are worried about a limitation should just switch service providers — oh, right. FCC chief says Comcast violated Internet rules (pdf)

The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Thursday he will recommend that the nation’s largest cable company be punished for violating agency principles that guarantee customers open access to the Internet.

You Suck At Photoshop

In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a fact that had not emerged before the photo appeared on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com and many other major news Web sites.

If you haven’t seen the series (which, happily, has recently seen the release of a new episode), take some time and check them out as soon as you can — You Suck At Photoshopepisode #3, if no other

Fair Use?

Isn’t it interesting that, once we accept the fact that the US Government tortures people, we can have serious discussions of process? The banality of evil, indeed. Barney the purple torturer? (pdf)

Some months ago, Mother Jones magazine put together what it called a “torture playlist” of songs that American interrogators have used in their sessions with detainees during the last few years. “Torture’s Top 10” was what one newspaper called it.

I have no idea whether the list is accurate. It includes mostly the kinds of songs you might expect — by Metallica, Drowning Pool, Deicide, Eminem. The top song on the list included an extremely obscene reference to the religion of others.

But I must admit I was surprised to see that one of the songs supposedly used to break the will of terrorist suspects and cause them to confess to crimes against humanity was the well-known “I Love You” from the “Barney” TV series. That’s a song that I produced and arranged in the 1990s (to the tune of “This Old Man”). And this is certainly not a use I ever would have dreamed of for it.

[…] Ultimately, the real issue here does not have to do with the morality of the music being played but with the morality of the people who are playing it. And there’s not a thing that I or any other composer or songwriter can do about that.

A Nice Summation

Why is YouTube hoarding data? (pdf)

Stanton’s order is a reminder that websites shouldn’t retain personally identifiable data any longer than the law or their services require. Google argues that the data enable it to improve its services, combat fraud and personalize offerings. Its approach, though, reflects an engineer’s habit of hoarding information for the sake of as-yet-unimagined features, not the cautious practices of a privacy-conscious company. If YouTube really needs to keep months’ worth of data about what users do, the least it can do is remove the links to who’s doing it. In the meantime, users should remove the links themselves by following instructions on the site for erasing their viewing histories.

Also there’s the AP piece: Privacy protections disappear with a judge’s order (pdf)

The NYT Finds A New Windmill To Tilt At

After yesterday, who really expects anyone in the US Government to act as if electronic privacy merits protection? The Government and Your Laptop

The Department of Homeland Security is routinely searching laptops at airports when Americans re-enter the United States from abroad. The government then pores over or copies the laptop’s contents — including financial records, medical data and e-mail messages. These out-of-control searches trample the privacy rights of Americans, and Congress should rein them in.

[…] Congress should pass a law that allows the government to look at data on laptops and other portable electronic devices only when it has a reasonable suspicion about the specific person being searched — something the law does not currently require. To copy data or seize devices, the government should be required to show probable cause, an even higher standard.

Congress should force the government to spell out the rules governing its searches and report on how many it conducts. The law should also require the government to destroy data that does not lead to criminal charges.

At this point, the only hope is the Judicial branch, it appears. And we know what’s been going on there for the past couple of decades. Orwell would be mightily shocked that his predictive abilities were so good, and that his warnings have been so completely ignored.