Friday, June 27, 2014

Some retail businesses get threats of spammed negative reviews, unless they pay up in bitcoins; ABC offers advise to people using Yelp and Angie's List


The latest twist in the “negative review” problem is businesses (like restaurants) reporting receiving “notice of extortion” letters, demanding payment in bitcoins to prevent assaults by negative reviews (especially on Yelp, it seems) and various other threats that don’t need to be repeated.  A little bit of the Mafia seems to getting into the bad-review business.  Sounds like soap-opera stuff, maybe a future plot thread for “Days of our Lives” (with Theresa as villain). 
   
Webroot wrote a story about it on its blog, with an entry, “2014: The Year that Extortion Went Mainstream”, link here.  Not to mention, I don’t pay much attention to online reviews on these sites myself, because I know a lot of them are bogus – that is, until I run into a problem with a particular business’s customer service (like warranty or repair service).  Typically, I’ll be skeptical of a review if it doesn’t seem to be factual or well written.    If I was in the dating game, maybe restaurant reviews would matter more.  (Oh, that brings to mind the days of heterosexual dating back in 1971, and we didn’t go Dutch.)
  
Darren Paul has a story about the problem on the UK Register here. It seems that there is an element that wants to do this “because we can”, just like in crime films.  You would think the public would wake up and not believe “spam” reviews.  
   
In another story on the online review issue, ABC World News Tonight broadcast a brief report on how to avoid getting sued if you review businesses on Yelp or Angie’s List.  Make sure that you emphasize that these are your opinions (“I believe that …).   Stick to verifiable facts, with proof (like photos or receipts).  I wasn’t able to find the link for this story online. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

The "Don't call me, I'll call you" problem (especially for marketeers)


I thought I would provide an update on “how I work”.  I’m still evaluating all of my screenplays (scripts and treatments) and novel manuscripts, to see what is the most sellable.   I’ve summarized most of my efforts over the years (going all the way back to my 1969 manuscript “The Proles”) on my Wordpress sites.   What remains is two very large projects:  the “best” of the novel manuscripts, called “Angel’s Brothers” (singular or plural, I could argue for either), which embeds many plot threads and characters from earlier manuscripts, and a “Do Ask, Do Tell” screenplay treatment that incorporates my own personal story threads into an “interview” situation that seems to be located on a space station, perhaps on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. 

The other main content projects on my plate are “big” “autobiographical” video (probably a series of ten minutes segments), and getting some of my piano music performed, especially the 1962-1974-2012 piano sonata (or at least some “pieces” from it).

When I’m engaged in developing content, I do have to spend a lot of uninterrupted time alone.  I also go to events or on trips, and I have to get to specific destinations on time. 

I get a lot of phone calls, and more or less more legitimate emails, from  parties who can wonder why I’m not more responsive.  But it doesn’t take many of these calls and contacts to eat up a lot of time. 

When working on content, I’m not much in the mindset of figuring out how to do “deals” to push retail volumes of anything.  It’s an entire mix of media centered around a body of content, not just one item. 
Nor do I like to be recruited to pimp “other people’s causes.” 

There is something disturbing about all this.  The Internet has indeed allowed us to remain “alone together”.  We often feel we don’t need others the way we used to.  It also seems that, even though I entered the world of punditry through the “gays in the military” issue because of a most ironic connection to my own life, I have branched out into so many areas, which intersect and affect each other, that I have to keep some personal distance from everything, almost like an alien anthropologist. Having done what I decided to do with the second half of my life (back in the 90s), I can’t just drop everything and take care of other people’s lives (like by preparing their tax returns, or setting up their life insurance policies).   I am quite far out on some thick limbs.

After I get through the next two manuscripts (hopefully by the first week of July), I’ll give a lot more attention to how I can work with others more than I have.  There are some projects around which I believe I have something in common with. 

We used to have a culture where we accepted being contacted by others selling things to us.  Many people are employed trying to sell this way, and people like me probably make it harder.  Maybe it’s bad karma;  back in 2002-2003, I had a job calling for the Minnesota Orchestra. 

I’ve talked about volunteerism before.   There’s something about service, taking one’s turn filling in to do it, that may communicate the idea that others get a fair shake (what Elizabeth Warren calls a “Fight Chance:, Books blog June 3) .  It doesn’t have to get that personal to let others know that sometimes you will walk in their shoes.  If you were outside the emotional world of most people, you have to start where you are. 
Some arts groups, like gay film festivals, may need more help.  Some of them may not be doing as well as they used to, because so many people have withdrawn back into their own worlds. 



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Supreme Court supports need for search warrant to search cell phone contents; a cell phone is like a computer, or a closet


Privacy advocates are pleased with a Supreme Court ruling that police need a search warrant to seize and search your phone, just as it would your computer.  Because, as Matthew Yglesias wrote today in Vox, your iPhone (or Droid or whatever) is essentially a computer.  It’s not just a phone. It’s more.  It’s like, well, your attic, or extra space storage.  The Vox piece is here. The slip opinion for Riley v. California is here.  It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that the same logic could apply to NSA snooping, much of which is already admittedly illegal and which has the attention of Congress.
  
The Court said that a smart phone is a lot more than a wallet or briefcase. 
   
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to imagine how a record of your Internet searches and accesses, even though themselves legal, set up a pattern which can easily lead police on fishing expeditions and which could prove incriminating, even leading to someone’s being framed.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vox Media may be leading the world in content management with its own Chorus platform


Tech Crunch has a write-up, dating back to May 2012, of Chorus, a content management system which apparently has been developed by Vox Media itself, with the location here.  The tool seems to have a wealth of automation features for managing comments (making them into posts when appropriate), assigning and tracking work among bloggers, cross referencing by many layers of subject matter specificity, and most of all simplifying the entry and editing process.  Apparently it automates formatting hyperlinks correctly, and can even check images (and perhaps videos and music, hopefully) for licensing to see if they can be used directly.  
  
There’s a lot to masticate and digest here.  Since my own work is spread among a few sites created at different eras with different technologies, the cross referencing would be a godsend.  So would the editing. I like to work offline first, but Word, when copied into any blogging panel, generates a lot of unnecessary XML code (line span commands) that creates bugs.  
     
On the image issue, I’ll mention something specific.  It appears that images from Google maps cannot be used legally.  I was going to submit an outdoor image of my own soon near some specific location and see if I can direct that my image stay in the public domain, so others can use it.  It ought to be possible. 
     
It’s hard for me to digest how I can use all this quickly, in my own writing practice.  Vox has its own product blog here. I’ve noticed, since starting on Wordpress, that the latter pushes its own tips in a series here,  and it attracts a lot of comments, for English 101.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

CNN legal analyst points out that anti-bullying legislation (especially for the Internet) could bring out prosecutorial overreack


Danny Cevallos, a young CNN legal analyst, has written an op-ed today outlining what he sees as wrong with a lot of proposed anti-bullying legislation.  In short, vagueness.  The link for the piece is here. He says he is “anti anti-bullying legislation”.

  
The Supreme Court has ruled that schools have more leeway in regulating student speech (even from home computers on social media) than government would normally have with adult speech.  Still, verbal online bullying is a little bit like obscenity.  It’s hard to define prospectively, but you know it when you see it.
It would seem that Cevallos’s piece should be contemplated in relation to another case before the Supreme Court for the next fall term, when hyperbole or parody on the Internet morphs into making a threat illegally.  

It’s also true that there is a risk of prosecutorial overreach (a concept known form the Aaron Swartz tragedy – “The Internet’s Own Boy”), as with trying to make major felonies out of behavior that is normally handled administratively (like terms of service violations, which was made the basis of prosecution in a 2006 case where Myspace bullying resulted in a suicide in Missouri).




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Case in British Columbia ("Equustek v. Jack") ignore common sense solutions to problems where plaintiffs want damaging links removed




There is a recent case in Canada, Equustek Solutions v. Jack, for which the Supreme Court of British Columbia, a province, ordered Google to remove a defendant’s websites from it search results worldwide.  I wrote a brief story Friday June 20 on my International Issues blog, giving the reference from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (based on another story, by Michael Geist, here June 17), and considered the idea that one county’s judicial rulings can not be imposed on other countries.  That seems rather obvious.  I can’t imagine that Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) could be required to take down links to LGBT sites (including mine) because of an order from a court in Russia, Nigeria or Uganda.  Would the nature of the diplomatic relations between the countries matter?  It should not, but this might be a good question for the media to ask Secretary of State John Kerry on an interview show. It's significant that the court mentioned the European "right to be forgotten" case as if it were precedential, even though from overseas (and Canada is not part of the EU).  
   
There’s another aspect to this case that seems to go unnoticed.  Suppose this case had happened within the US.  It would seem natural for the court to order the defendant to remove its websites, if in fact the defendant had committed certain torts or crimes.  The normal experience is that, once a domain is removed, it automatically disappears from search engine results within a few weeks.   So had the Canadian court simply stopped at that, the defendant’s sites would disappear in time anyway.  But if the plaintiff believes it is damaged by the links, it could petition the court to require that the defendant arrange with the search engine companies to remove the links (and cached copies of content) now.  But the responsibility would be put first on the defendant. 
  
I would wonder how a ruling like this could apply to inside-book searches.  

There's no question that the Canadian decision, like that in Spain, reflects a view that search engine companies are facilitating amateurism, and a belief that self-placed broacast, without gatekeepers, can create disruptions on normal competitive businesses (employing people) that didn't use to exist.  The "negative review" problem is similar in that regard. 
At the end of 2001, someone asked me to remove his name from a particular story on the old hppub site.  The circumstances were unusual, but I did so, and as I recall I did submit a request to remove just that one file (along with a Hometown AOL image) from search results.  That’s the only time I’ve ever done this with a search result.  Search engine companies do offer mechanisms to do this, although available only to the creator of the file.  They generally take about 24 hours to work. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Media reports that major changes in YouTube could affect some independent content creators, but picture is murky


Several media reports indicate that YouTube is changing its program and requiring content providers, at least established companies trying to become program partners, to accept new terms of service or find their material removed. 

It is not immediately clear whether this measure could affect ordinary posters.   The most concerned seemed to be composers of music videos.  The CNET story raised this possibility and indicate there was no real information as to this point. The Guardian examined a number of scenarios.  But Forbes came out and stated baldly that independent artists who did not agree to new agreements would soon have their videos removed. I'm not sure what the term "indie labels" means in these news stories.  Am I an "indie label"?
   
It is common for videos to be removed for copyright infringement under DMCA Safe Harbor, and for some videos to be excluded by an automated procedure than can detect some infringement. It’s also common for users to remove their own videos, or for videos to become private. Occasionally videos that I have embedded on blogs become unavailable (the embed looks blank) and sometimes when clicked YouTube will return “video does not exist.” 

There seemed to be some concerns over videos that somehow are monetized without requiring the visitor to watch sponsoring ads.
  
YouTube has its own current rules(for participation in the Partner Program) at this linkYou have to own all the rights to a video’s content (including music) to have monetization approved.  Today, I posted some videos and was invited to look at these links.  



I have not yet tried to monetize any videos.  Most of my videos are very short clips taken at demonstrations or at QA sessions after film screenings, and these don’t seem appropriate.  But I expect to be creating larger documentary videos soon, and these would probably be appropriate.
  
This is an issue where comments from someone who knows the actual facts in detail would help. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

End-to-end encryption can reduce the availability of free Internet services


The offer by Google of end-to-end encryption to Gmail users has been praised as a forward step in protecting user privacy, from less scrupulous advertisers, hackers, and government surveillance.  But Zach Miners, in PC World, is questioning whether the offering comports with the business models of most Internet service providers (social media and publishing services, as well as email) today, story here.  Google says that it is intended for users with unusual sensitivities, and that it doesn’t expect everyone to need it.  
  
Maybe.  But it’s easy to image the family issues:  older teens will want to use it to stop parents or schools from prying, and maybe some grownups will imagine they need to keep employers and insurers at bay, too.  

Miners points out that companies will not be able to target ads effectively if they can’t see the contents of emails.  Perhaps.  I’ve noticed when I travel that I see a heavy proportion of ads based on the city in which I am staying – on my PC as well as my iPhone, even as I use the same Verizon iPad for a hot spot (which of course knows where I am).   But these ads are based more on surfing and what I post in my blogs and tweets, not so much email.  (I see ads for “No-No” all too often.)  Nevertheless, the offering of services for free will likely diminish.   Maybe “Reid Rainbow” can make another “it’s free” video, specifically on what should be free online.   

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hillary Clinton talks about service and "walking in the shoes of others" at Newseum Town Hall


Hillary Clinton held a Town Hall in CNN tonight (at the Newseum) discussing her book “Hard Choices”. Yes, it’s easier to sell book instances (copies) if you are already a celebrity by competing normally.

Someone asked Hillary about whether she favored mandatory national service or a draft.  She said she doesn’t favor resuming conscription because the volunteer military system works, but she noted that in the days we had a draft, men (not so much backgrounds) from different cultures and backgrounds had to learn to communicate with one another and walk in the shoes of others.

She did note that about one percent of the population makes the “sacrifices” associated with military service, and these sacrifices leave them isolated from others.

She said she thought we could achieve the same idea – a reduce social tensions that may contribute to crime – with national service, but we would have to find ways to make it practical.  Although it sounds reasonable to combine national service with some sort of program to relieve student debt or provide scholarships. 

In fact, volunteer service overseas outside of the military is becoming more difficult and dangerous because political stability has deteriorated in many countries, and anti-gay attitudes have gotten worse.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Facebook will gather browsing, app history from advertisers; why we should learn to use TOR


Facebook is poised to start accumulating member browsing and app-usage history, especially that submitted by advertisers from their own cookie mechanisms, as part of its advertising program, despite saying in 2011 that it wouldn’t.  Oh, there is a complicated opt-out.  All of this is laid out in recent media stories, such as Kashmir Hill’s missive for Forbes, here. The writer gives an interesting example of how this would work with singer Beyonce.  

  
I’m not into automating all of my life on smartphones enough to feel very much affected.  But I noticed with some interesting this morning an Electronic Frontier Foundations story maintaining that everyone should learn to use TOR, and that “TOR is for everyone” (link).   EFF gives an example where a user needs to keep medical or mental health issue browsing out of the hands of anyone else.   I think the practical risks to me are remote.  Maybe there’s always the outside risk of being framed.  But imagine in a family, a teenager doesn’t want his parents to see unusual ads based on her browsing.  


Friday, June 13, 2014

11th Circuit makes mixed ruling in cellphone metadata case; what about crime deterrence?


A federal appeals court, the 11th Circuit in Miami, in the case of U.S. v. Quartavious Davis, has ruled that police departments and law enforcement agencies need probable cause warrants from judges to get cellphone location data from telecommunications carriers when tracking possible suspects.  The link for the opinion is here.   As the New York Times points out, the Court did not overturn the conviction.  The NYT calls its stand “A good ruling on privacy: Cellphone tracking cannot trample the Fourth Amendment”.  What’s confounding is that indeed, it seems that tracking of cell phone locations and license plates (which the LAPD is so good at) can be very effective in quick apprehensive of perpetrators of both street and property crimes, providing in time some deterrence.  How would this ruling play out in the Washington DC area, particularly in newly gentrified areas (like around Capitol Hill and in some of NE) where brazenness of crime seems, at least according to media reports, to increase.  You always have to wonder where the greatest dangers to your own life come from, in practice.   







Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Forking in software development can lead to tricky licensing situations (WordPress story)


While getting ready to do some more Wordpress blogging, I came across a few critical terms.  I won’t restate all the arguments here, but it’s important to know what a GPL (Global Public License) is, and what is is not, as explained by Lawrence Rosen on Sitepoint here. This is related to a practice in software development called “forking”, explained in Wikipedia here.  All of this came out of some WordPress (“WP Tavern”) news about a DMCA Takedown notice associated with WordPress Database Migrate Plugin by Brad Touesnard, of a Github page hosting the plugin (story ).  Apparently the Plugin had used a copyrighted documentation (README) file without permission, in a way that did not affect the product. 
   
   
All of this is pretty complicated, and will make software developers wary. 



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Snowden exposed practices that might affect ordinary Americans -- should he be pardoned?


Vox Media, in a posting by Timothy B. Lee, leading to one of the Vox “card conversations” about the whole NSA scandal, makes a case for the complete pardoning of Edward Snowden, link here. Yes, Snowden exposed surveillance practices that have the potential to affect ordinary Americans, although the practical risk to most people is rather remote. 
    
I don’t need to repeat the entire line of reasoning, now covered so well by many media outlets.  It does seem that the NSA has often exceeded the legal authority, to go through FISA and the like, has collected data (privileged content) illegally on ordinary citizens even in the US, and has apparently hacked computers, which could affect homes and small businesses.

Of particular concern is that NSA-related malware might make small business or home computers more vulnerable to real hackers or terrorists, or might set them up to be framed.  So far, it does not seem that has happened to “ordinary” Americans in the US, unless they have some kind of “unusual” associations, but that itself is a dangerously subjective idea. 


The interesting thing is that advanced technology associated with surveillance and intelligence services does help law enforcement catch “real” criminals, even ordinary burglars.  One example is a system that can track the location of any vehicle by license plate (in heavy use especially in California).  It’s easy to imagine extensions.  Law enforcement could monitor “cloud” backups of home or business computers for child pornography (to the extent that some images are watermarked or tagged), or could try to interpret text files for plots and plans in some cases.  It isn’t hard to imagine how this could be abused, and lead to real challenges of the “probable cause” concept. 


Update: June 11

Ellen Nakashima is reporting in the Washington Post that Microsoft is resisting efforts to get it to reveal email contents stored in overseas servers, link here. The upshot is that major companies know that the government (and not just the NSA) can peruse cloud data (supposedly private and unpublished) already. 

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Supreme Court may take up two cases involving hyperbolic "threats" made online


The Supreme Court is being asked to consider two cases involving free speech and “implicit content”, that is, cases where some persons believe that speech intended as fantasy, fiction or hyperbole are taken as threats by others, possibly because the speech doesn’t seem to have any other purpose.  The Supreme Court could decide as soon as Monday, June 9, 2014 whether to take either or both of these cases.

Sam Hananel has an Associated Press column June 7, 2014, “Free speech or illegal threats? Justices could say”, link here. I saw the story on my cell phone yesterday on the ABCNews site as I had dinner outside along the Washington DC Capital Pride route.

Both cases involved defendants who were convicted under federal laws involving making threats online.

One case involves a Pennsylvania man who ranted online in rap lyrics about his estranged wife and then apparently about bombing an amusement park where he worked.  The defendant was Anthony Elonis, whose story is shown in a Pennsylvania paper here.  He was convicted at a trial in 2011.  Elonis had made an unsuccessful appeal to the Third Circuit.  Apparently this involved more than one post.

Another case involved a woman who wrote an email to a conservative radio talk show host about guns and hinted that she would “do something big” to a Broward County, FL government facility. There is a detailed story in a Fort Lauderdale newspaper (the Sun Sentinel) here.  Apparently she had intended to mock the pro 2nd-amendment rhetoric of conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman, but a school lockdown resulted.  
  
Defense attorneys note that social media invite ordinary people to become more inventive in the content they post, but others who read it (especially employers or law enforcement authorities) may misinterpret such posts out of context.

It's not clear here that the Court has two different appellate rulings to settle. 

My own case, where a school at where I had worked as a substitute teacher, became concerned after administrators found (or were told about) a screenplay I had posted online in which a character (“the Sub”) resembling me becomes vulnerable to the advances of a precocious but legally underage male character (post here July 27, 2007, or on WordPress here, posted March 6, 2014.  Again, my own story shows how short a fuse school officials have if a staff member (or a student) makes a public statement that can even reasonably be misinterpreted as a “threat” or as casting needless doubt on a teacher’s (even a sub’s) fitness.  



Update: June 16, 2014

The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the Pennsylvania case.  News accounts mention the infusion of rap lyrics into the speech making it a kind of parody,  The Morning Call has a story here.  It's not clear whether it will also consider the Florida case, too,  

Saturday, June 07, 2014

OK to photo Obama working out; more on downstream liability, police surveillance of drivers


Was it OK for people to film president Obama working out in a gym in Poland while on a trip?  Was the president entitled to some privacy during such a more personal setting?

In fact, many gyms don’t permit photography of customers or employees under normal circumstances.  But perhaps this one did allow it.  If so, the president was in a public place, and unless there was some unusual issue of intimacy, I think it was OK to film him.  And, because he is the leader of the Free World, he is a public figure.  So what if it makes him look fallible when compared to Putin?  I think that analogy was rather silly. It's OK to photograph Obama at Ben's Chili Bowl, isn't it? The Secret Service doesn't seem to mind. 
  

There’s still another issue roaming around, whether the site “CreepyPasta”, by facilitation of the telling of horror stories with addictive characters (like “SlenderMan”) has some responsibility for the behavior of vulnerable and unstable tweens, in fact two twelve year old girls who chillingly premeditated the attack on their “friend”.  I think the answer is probably no, but the idea is surely coming up for debate.  A world that allows people to self-broadcast without gatekeepers (or with less stringent gatekeepning) does put the vulnerable at risk.  I talked about this on my COPA blog (June 3).


Today, CNN is covering an LAPD system that automatically reads the license plates of every car any police officers passes, and feeds the data into a system called Palantir, funded in part by the CIA and NSA.  The LAPD says that the system solves burglaries, auto thefts, street crimes, and foils terror plots.  How will this fit into the NSA surveillance debate? 


Thursday, June 05, 2014

Do pundit bloggers exacerbate the "bad review" problem?


Tuesday, I posted still another story about a local service business maintaining that its reputation had been harmed by a single bad online review, and which led it to litigate against the person making the post.  As I noted, although truth is a defense to libel, in practice businesses are concerned that a single customer could put them out of business because of the ease with which Internet content spreads, whereas posters are concerned that they cannot afford the costs of litigation even if they’re right.  And generally, Section 230 protects the sites that facilitate the postings. 

I’ve even wondered if my posting of the stories is like more fuel to the fire, simply distributing the allegations about a business further, under the guise of links.  Technically, someone who links to a libelous story could also be found responsible for libel, although this rarely happens.  Linking to a news story from a reputable media source would not normally pose a practical litigation writ risk to a blogger.  But still, there is a bigger question.  What is the motive of the blogger, particularly if the income from the blog (as from advertising or possibly subscription) does not pay for the “blog’s way”?  Is it “fame”?  Is it personal visibility or satisfaction or “feeling important”?  I guess that’s true.  I do have a “context” that comes when all the blog posts are compared in aggregation (as by using blogger labels to follow the history of an issue or to find similar other stories).  I can imagine amplifying the “context” by linking to summary “conversations” or “all you need to know about”-style explanations, like Vox media does.  I think that adds something.  But people will ask, why should you be the one doing it?  And I ask, why not?

The pressure I get, for example, to become more aggressive in selling book copies or selling ad space, suggests the idea that a speaker should only remain visible if he or she’s work pays its own way (not if the speaker has income or assets from other sources).  The pundit speaker should have the same stake in having to raise families or provide for dependents that “real people” (or “others”) have.  A daycare center operator, carpet cleaner, or home remodeling contractor has a “real business” that has to face “real problems” to support a “real family”.  And a pundit, just out of vanity, can magnify the business’s venial sins to the point that the business fails.  This does sound related to “the right to be forgotten” in Europe.

I make this particular post to convey how I process these things, that can prove to be existential challenges, that I hear.  It does sound like “would’a, should’a, could’a”.  There is a chicken and egg problem.  I don’t have (and didn’t have in the past) more responsibility for children because I don’t have sexual intercourse with women, because that prospect doesn’t make me tick.  I don’t share a lot of other people’s emotions and don’t like to be recruited to “other people’s causes”.  The Internet has given me the opportunity to have a reputation as a distant observer, watching everything, and curiously at the same time makes please for togetherness and solidarity that were unknown during the time I was growing up.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Woman sued over negative review on Yelp of a day care-preschool center in northern Virginia, as a trend of vendors fighting back continues


Another case involving a negative Yelp review has surfaced in northern Virginia.
   
The Horizon Child Development Center has sued a woman, Rebecca Gonzalez,  for $75000, after the woman posted a negative review of the day care center and preschool (in Fairfax VA) when her child apparently sustained a very minor injury there.  NBC Washington has a complete story and video here in a story by David Culver. 
  
The husband and wife who own the school say that just one negative review can destroy a business that it took years to build.  That seems to be more the practical issue than the literal truth of the mother’s posting – although truth is a defense to libel.  Perhaps the comment blew a very minor matter out of proportion, and it would be hard to say how that could affect a libel case.  There is, in defamation law, what we call an “opinion rule”, but it has to be clear that a statement of opinion is just that.   The plaintiffs say they asked the woman to take the post down, but she modified it and kept it up.
  
The woman’s attorney will ask a judge to dismiss the case.  
  
The case follows a trend of other cases in northern Virginia involving a carpet cleaner and a home improvement contractor.

According to NBC4, the plaintiffs say they were denied a bank loan because of a bad review.  That does sound hard to believe. 
I don’t write consumer reviews on Yelp or Angie’s List, although I do (beside on my own sites) write some movie and book reviews on Amazon.  Some medical providers have tried to enforce a “gag rule” before giving treatment, but I have never run into that practice personally. I am a “member” of Angie’s List and sometimes do look at it to find contractors.  Angie’s List heavily promotes its service by email (to me, at least). 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

NSA ia gathering a facial recognition database from snooping, social media; most of us are on it


The month of June, 2014 opens with a story about the NSA’s collection and analysis of facial images, from intercepted communications and probably social media (including mine), in a front page New York Times story by Laura Poitras (a documentary filmmaker) and James Risen, link here


Personally, I think that facial recognition is tricky.  It’s common for faces to look almost alike.  Remember the look-a-likes for Bill Clinton?
 

The controversy is likely to make some people even more sensitive about winding up in photographs taken in public places, especially bars and discos.  I would venture to say that not even one of the many handsome faces that I have captured over the years, at festivals, events and discos, would actually be on the NSA’s radar screen.