Thursday, June 30, 2011

Internet company(s) face fines for allowing ads for illegal products; not good for the "Internet business model" (CNN AC360 breaking story)

I am not one to snap at the hand that feeds me, but I must, for completeness, give the visitor a link to a CNN AC360 story tonight about huge financial setaside for possible fines regarding illegal online ads for pharmaceuticals, which normally require prescriptions that in turn normally require a personal medical  visit to a prescribing physician, or at least a history of visits with legal refills.  The link is (website url) here

It was discussed on the AC360 program tonight by Sanjay Gupta, with an appearance by Joseph Califano.

Of course, the disturbing implication would concern the business model upon which free entry to Internet self-promotion and self-publishing is based:  ultimately, advertising revenue.  And Internet service companies and search engines do tend to follow, pragmatically, a “hear no evil, see no evil” or “don’t ask don’t tell” policy sometimes on the legality of the products advertised.  It’s not good for anyone if these are predicated too much on illegal products.

The report noted a correlation between prescription drug abuse among young people and high speed Internet access, which sounded bizarre. 

However, this problem has been known since early May and did not affect securities prices on Wall Street today.

Picture: apparent small tornado damage near Gettysburg, PA early this spring (unrelated to story)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Should parents require kids to "give up" things for family bonding?

Occasionally, at various mainstream churches, I hear mention of scheduled periods of family bonding and sacrifice.  Sometimes this takes the form of something like a 30-hour fast for the young people. Other times (as has been mentioned on Oprah), it’s a week without access to electronics or the outside world. It may take the form of a week roughing in the wilderness as a family with no modern conveniences.  (I think something like this happens in the upcoming movie "The Future" judging from the previews.)

Is this a “good idea”?  Is it different strokes for different folks?

I’ve never done anything like this, but I can imagine doing this with “my family” if I had one, and if I had the “basic life skills” to see it through.

What are the reasons?  They overlap, but there are a few areas:

(1)    Our “civilization” is being shown to be more vulnerable that we had thought. Maybe we’re just more aware of it now, but certainly, since 9/11 (and in the wake of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, possible pandemics, and the talk about the possibility of long term massive power outages because of solar storms or even deliberate attacks), there’s a lot more talk of integrated family preparedness than there had been fifteen years ago.  A major shock to our civilization could force many people to find new ways to make themselves relevant locally, whatever their talents in a globalized world

(2)    Technology seems to give people independence, but it requires doing more for “yourself” too.  How many people can change their own oil now?

(3)    Demographic and political changes make us question the premises of the hyperindividualism of recent decades. We’ve penalized parenting and made it hard for reasonably affluent populations to replace themselves. People are living longer, but can continue doing so without ruinous public expenses and debt only if families re-establish more solidarity and do more to take care of their own, and this includes those who did not have their own children.

It’s apparent in the writings of many “social conservatives” and the “natural family” crowd, that many people see married parents as having both the power and responsibility for making their children into social creatures, responsive to the extended family and community, as well as individuals.  (They may, for example, expect their kids to learn to take care of younger siblings or to be prepared to raise siblings’ children after tragedy – a theme often explored in Hollywood.) This may seem to contradict the idea that a parent wants to turn loose into the world confident individual young adults.  But some parents may find this prerogative and expectation as essential to making their marriages last, although not necessarily so for triggering the romance that leads to the marriage.  Same-sex relationships seem problematic to some people in this mindset because there is some separation in one’s most intimate moments from openness to serving the purposes of the family one cane from (by extending it with procreation).  It seems a bit of a paradox that one would need to be open to serving the purposes of others in one’s most personal moments and thoughts in order to become an individual.  Perhaps the balance between individual and community and family is much more subtle in difficult in a democratic society that must ultimately value each person within the family unit than in an authoritarian society where there is (always) some set of “moral postulates” (not always religious) to rationalize the way people are measured and sometimes separated and where there is support for moral self-righteousness.   It’s interesting to me that most extraterrestrial  societies depicted in science fiction are quite authoritarian or even totalitarian.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This day, 23 years ago, the same day of the week, a sad moment before relocation

Today is Tuesday, June 28, and 23 years ago, on the same day of the week, I left my condo in the Pleasant Grove section of Dallas, TX to drive “home” back to Arlington VA, and leave a life I had enjoyed for 9-1/2 years.

My employer was being bought out, after struggling with a “leveraged buyout”, in the era of hostile takeovers. These were the days Texas was reeling from the Savings and Loan crisis and oil surplus. I knew that the company’s operation in Dallas would eventually be shut down and merged. Yes, I could play for the “incentive to stay” and big severance, but I chose to take a less-than-perfect job offer in Washington DC, and move closer to my widowed mother.

I remember the sad moment of locking up the condo, around 2:15 PM CDT in the afternoon; it would soon be rented, and driving away on I-635 and getting onto I-20 and heading through east Texas. I’d spend the first night in eastern Arkansas, and the second in the Tennessee mountains. I’d pass through Memphis and Nashville, places I haven’t visited often.   But it is a down time to gradually shut down a life you have treasured.

A new period in my life would start, difficult at times; but eventually it would set up the circumstances leading to the authorship of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book and another move to Minneapolis nine years later, in 1997. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reputation Management company questions Section 230 protections for ISP's, conflates with DMCA Safe Harbor; can you "copyright" your face?

On Friday June 24,  Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of “Reputation Defender,” appeared on the ABC 20-20 show and suggested that the law needed to look more closely at downstream liability for service providers in order to protect ordinary people from online defamation by others.

I wrote a review of the 20-20 broadcast Saturday (June 25, 2011) on my TV Reviews blog.  I looked further into it this morning.

Fertik said on Friday that someone harmed by online gossip or compromising photos might win a legal judgment for defamation (libel, if false) or invasion of privacy (sometimes), but still be unable to force the service provider to remove the offending material.  He suggested that the DMCA Safe Harbor provision (a bone of controversy for years, but recently of contrapostitional interest in the Righthaven cases)  should be used with a twist involving images. Use the copyright law to force the service provider to take down the offending and reputation-harming images.

Can this work?  I found a link on Yahoo! answers: “Can you copyright your face?”  There used to be a site called “” but it’s gone; the best answer seems to be, “your face is not a creative work, but a photo of one is.” You can copyright your own photo of your face, but not someone else’s.  Mark Zuckerberg can’t copyright Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” photo of his face. Think about it: it is taken in a focused away to create some transformative artistic expression.  Here’s the Yahoo! link

There is an enormous practical problem, though. The law puts a lot of pressure on credit reporting companies to correct incorrect information because the law knows that employers as well as lenders use them to judge the suitability of a potential client or employee.  But there is no easy way for the law to put similar pressure on service providers as opposed to content providers (the Section 230 issue, in force as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act) regarding defamatory, privacy-invading or embarrassing posts about specific people.

This begs another question: why are employers so slipshod in conducting “background investigations” with search engines never intended to be used for such a purpose?  It’s all too easy to get the wrong person, and it seems silly to believe everything someone posts about someone on the Web.  (“I read it on the Internet, so it must be so!”) It’s as if employers believe everyone is responsible for his own reputation and for whatever anyone else says about him or her in public, obviously beyond one’s control.  Yet some people, such as some teachers, are obviously vulnerable to reputation damage – even if a photo showing them drinking in a bar appears.  And the possibility of third-party tagging recently announced by Facebook will only complicate the issue.  We wind up seeing the Internet become an instrument for forcing social conformity. Welcome back to the world of Frances Farmer!

As for me, I try to stay to the issues. I don’t see any good done by spreading personal rumors about individual people on the web.

If service providers had to review everything that users put up for possible defamation or invasion of privacy, the “free entry” system for Internet self-expression would go away, and publication would become the domain of big business again, as in the past.   But Section 230 is surely bound to come under more attack.

Picture: That's me, at DC Pride, 2011.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tennessee passes dangerously vague law on publishing images of others; also a law on sharing logons

Tennessee  (“The Volunteer State”), the past home of libertarian presidential candidate and author the late Harry Browne, has not been behaving in a very libertarianesque manner recently. Some time back, the legislature passed a law making it illegal to share logons to entertainment services, on the theory that entertainment companies don’t get paid (RIAA wanted this one). Here’s the Techdirt article.  

Now Tennessee plays the implicit content card, which had been mentioned a few years ago in the COPA trial, and which I have discussed with respect to an incident of my own when a substitute teacher (in Virginia).   The PDF for the law is here. Now,  the governor signs this law criminalizing to publish on the Web (as on a social networking site or blog or flat site) an image (or video) that could “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to a potential target or "a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities” unless – and here is where implicit content comes in, there is a “reasonable purpose”. 

California law professor Eugene Volokh publishes some rather humorous analysis of the law’s nonsense on his “Volokh Conpiracy” site (website url) hereIt’s obvious that a law like this is “overbroad” and open to almost any interpretation at all.   The supposed “victim” doesn’t have to even see it – just some third party.  Could a photo of dirty dancing at a gay disco be seen as “intimidating” when it is an extract of a common ritual?

Despite the overbreadth, it may be possible to say that the law is really directed at cyberbullying.

Tennessee is located in the Sixth Circuit, which held recently in (federal) Warshak v. United States that a government must have probable cause and a search warrant to seize messages held by ISP’s.  This law probably won’t last long, constitutionally speaking.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EFF defends first sale doctrine before Supreme Court; Righthaven client Frederick caught with hand in cookie jar

There’s more news on the “first sale” doctrine, as EFF argues before the Supreme Court on Vernor v. Autodesk, after the Ninth Circuit rules that a vendor could write a license agreement preventing the “reselling” of individual licenses of software products (on the theory that future consumers should come to the original vendor).  EFF’s brief before the Supreme Court is here.

And while Righthaven reels from a recent (June 14) decision in Las Vegas that it has no standing to sue (June 15 posting here), original instigator (of sorts) Sherman Frederick with the Las Vegas Journal Review gets “caught” copying content from Blogger, site GameTimeIP (website urllink) (according to Righthaven Victims posting story website post here).  Practice what thou preacheth. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Zakaria asks viewers to suggest US constitutional amendments (or rewrites): a good idea?

Fareed Zakaria, on his “Global Public Square” program on CNN today, asked readers to submit proposals to answer his question “Is it time to update the U.S. Constitution”? His Wordpress blog entry on the matter is here.  The question was motivated by recent history in Iceland.

OK, there are plenty of amendments to the Constitution, starting with the Bill of Rights.  In my 1997 “screed book” (“Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back”) I proposed a long amendment that I thought could form the basis of a “Bill of Rights 2”.

Some excerpts (these occur in Chapter 6 of my book):

"Section 1.
In the following sections, “covered jurisdiction” means the United States, any state, or any other subordinate jurisdiction.

 Section 2.
No covered jurisdiction may pass any legislation defining any conduct occurring in privately-owned space as criminal when there is no reasonable chain of events that could lead to an actor's actual conviction of the (specific occurrence of the) crime. Obtaining witness testimony in consideration for immunity will be considered a legitimate method of obtaining conviction for a crime when (1) the witness is victimized by the crime, or (2) there is immediate threat of injury or death to persons.

 Section 3.

No covered jurisdiction may pass any legislation which criminalizes private, consensual, non-fraternal intimate conduct between adults, unless a specific occurrence of the conduct results in provable infliction of injury upon or transmission of disease to a person.

No covered jurisdiction may pass any legislation or administrative rules whose only purpose is to “stigmatize” persons based on a perception of their participation in the intimate conduct as just defined.

In this provision, "fraternal" refers to persons related by blood, by military rank, or by a similar reporting relationship in government employment.

Section 4.

 No covered jurisdiction may pass any legislation which criminalizes or otherwise prohibits cohabitation between any consenting adults, except for reasonable requirements for per-person living space.
 Section 5.

 Nothing in Sections 1, 2 and 3 requires any covered jurisdiction to recognize any group of individuals as a "suspect class" (requiring “heightened scrutiny” or “disparate impact” consideration) according to their preferred forms of adult intimate behavior. Nothing in these sections requires Congress or any state or subordinate jurisdiction  to recognize any particular intimate relationship as a legal marriage. 

 Section 7.
 The United States recognizes property as an important component of personal privacy and expression and, therefore as a fundamental right. No covered jurisdiction may seize property under tort and hold it without trial for more than a brief period necessary to ensure public health and safety. Property may be withheld permanently only after civil trial or as part of a sentence for a criminal conviction.

Section 8.

 No covered jurisdiction may require involuntary servitude, even with pay, of anyone.

Section 13.

The United States shall honor reasonable and proper procedural due process in all administrative actions against its employees or against members of the Armed Forces."

I had called this a "Right to Privacy Amendment" when I was writing the book in 1996 and 1997.  Douglas Ohmen, at a national Libertarian Party caucus in Washington in 1996, had simply suggested "The right to privacy shall not be infringed" as an amendment text.   One problem is that there has been, in the past, a legal tradition that if some particular behavior seems to have no legitimate purpose (in majoritarian culture), the "propensity" for the behavior can become the target of legal sanction, overriding due process; that point was somewhat retired in 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas. Such an idea also lay underneath the military gay ban, even before "don't ask don't tell".

I didn’t excerpt all of it here, as some parts of the book’s proposal I would change.  Things change with time.  Some of these (as above) were related to specific issues that I took up in the book (gays in the military, the draft, and the way “the right to privacy” is related to due process. I might add a right to self-defense within one’s own home, explicitly construing the Second Amendment as an individual right. I would not include “social rights” (such as the right to health care) because they can be procured only at the expense of others. Yes, we should debate universal health care, but not on a constitutional level (although FDR incorporated social rights in his “four freedoms”).  In fact, Virginia and some other states may be right in saying the Constitution would prohibit the federal government from requiring people to purchase anything (it’s indirectly related to servitude).

Another area that could use some work is in the First Amendment, clarifying whether there is any distinction in the level of protection for "group speech" (as with assembly, petition, or even the press) with individual speech, particularly when self-published in the rather revolutionary "free entry" environment. 

I don’t think many reasonable people right now really want the federal Constitution to define marriage. But it might be reasonable to say that the Full Faith and Credit Clause doesn’t require states to honor marriages in other states that could not have occurred in their own.  From a practical viewpoint, the best chance for progress in acceptance of same-sex marriage is at the state and local level, with gradualism.

As I noted, FDR had proposed "a second Bill of Rights", although at a constitutional level it's hard to guarantee economic goods as "social rights". 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Digital Media Conference in VA for 2011 focuses on privacy, copyright, and business model issues

I attended the Digital Media Conference (from Potomac Tech Wire) at the Renaissance Marriot Hotel in Crystal City (near Reagan airport) in Arlington VA today June 17, 2011.

Steve Case, cofounder of AOL, recalled the early days of the WWW when a lot of people didn’t see where it was headed.  He was interviewed by Paul Sherman, Potomac Tech Wire.  He discussed Startup America, which sounds like it could become a mentorship opportunity for high school and college students (and minorities) learning hHe said that AOL had been primarily an East Coast company in the 90s, before Silicon Valley took off. But he did have accolades for Mark Zuckerberg. (Going right to CA at age 20 was the right thing.)  Remember Steve’s kindly advice in the mid 90s on “Terms of Service” and “Rules of the Road”?

The John Trimble from Pandora Media spoke. No relation to Pandora of Avatar, maybe (other than setting up media on other planets?). He spoke on “The Power of Pesonalization”. The company puts on 100000 mobile users a day. The company helps find and aggregate copyright licenses. 

The panel on “The State of Online Advertising” featured Hoorman Radfar (Clearspring), Alex Vetter (, Jim Bankoff (SB Nation), Michael Winter (Initiative), and moderator Colin Gillis (BCG). The gist was still to emphasize targeting consumers with specific offers, even to the point that sometimes ads from competing brands at the same time. They also talked about “low quality publishers” with unpaid content. Some vendors say that display advertising is actually bad from branding. There was a general agreement that pressure on the industry to standardize privacy practice and opting from tracking could be a good thing in the long run.

The  panel “Social Marketing: Techniques, ROI & Developments” presented Leslie Bradshaw (COO), Vyque White (USO), Joe Chernov (Eloqua), Matt Spielman (Eventful), Sonny Ganguly (Wedding Wire), moderated by Elizabeth Shea, SpeakerBox Communications.  Yes, to some employers, the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers seems to matter.

Before lunch, we watched a Gannett video, followed by a keynote interview of Grarcia Mattore. She said that newspapers were only one of the platforms of media companies, but 40% of Americans read newspapers and their companion sites regularly, and some papers have actually increased Sunday home delivery. The panel mentioned the importance of social media reputation in many jobs.

Comcast presented interactive overlay videos for Brut (“there’s my manhood”), Nike(leading to a short film about the Black Mamba).

Matthew Diamond of  Alloy Media gave a keynote speech about producing content targeted toward the Digital Natives. He discussed the progression from the guided web to the searchable web to the social web.  Alloy partners with Summit Entertainment, Warner Brothers and CWTV, and a few other studios . Matt mentioned that he is the father of a three-year-old, not a teen yet.

The “après-midi” continued with the Digital Copyright Debatem with Sandra Aistars (Copyright Alliance), Michale Huppe (Sound Exchange), Michael Petricone (Consumer Electronics Association), Joe Sabia (Whirled), Chris Israel (American Continental), and moderator Jim Griffin (OneHouse LLC).   There is a bill (Kobechar?) that would treat illegal streaming more harshly, as copyright infringement. There was strong support of the need for copyright and collective licensing, there was concern that Protect IP was overly broad and could invite abuse by its private action clauses. There was mention that ICE has taken down about 120 sites (but it does not have authority to take down offshore domains or those ending in ".tv" or other less standard tld's).  The panel  didn’t mention the carelessness of the takedowns in a few cases of music mixing sites.

“Content in the Cloud” featured David Dudas (Sorenson), Sean Jennings (Solutions Architecture), Jonathan King (Joyent), Kshitij Kumar (Concurrent), Charles Worthington (Altman Vilandrie), Sean Sullivan (Verizon)m David Steinberg (SnappCloud), Mike West (GenosTV), moderated by Marty Lafferty, DCIA.  Storage and distribution of content from the cloud can raise new copyright licensing issues, as well as quality of mobile broadband access. 

The last session was “Data Privacy and Advertising: Balancing Innovation with Regulation”, with Ronald London, Davis Wright Termaine LLP, Daniel Sepulveda, Office of Se. John Kerry, Jules Polonetskym Future of Privacy Forum, Elizabeth Frazee, TwinLogic Strategies, moderated by Jon Potter, RPG Strategies.   One interesting point is that advertisers actually require that individual sites (even blogs) that they display on have privacy policies, but no federal law requires it (although that was proposed in the 90s). There is an ethical and legal point that individuals have a right to determine their own level of privacy when consumers of commerce. Sepulveda says that publishers and advertisers should agree to a “basic code of conduct” if they can be depended on to self-regulate.

The Kerry bill (S 799) requires disclosure of information collection and offers individual participation in collection of information, and requires a “purpose”. Kerry's bill is called the "Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act", with Open Congress link here

Privacy concerns would span over the issue of collection of data (or “tracking”) of website visitors, but it could also incorporate publication issues, such as the publication by third parties of images and subsequent tagging of images by others, possibly now with the help of facial recognition software.  There is also a debate about “the right to be forgotten”, particularly in Europe. If something is true and published, should the individual have any right to eventual redaction (as for minors)?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Federal judge in Nevada deals Righthaven a body blow, says, no standing to sue, because of SAA wording

A federal judge, Roger Hunt, in Nevada has dismissed Righthaven’s suit against the Democratic Underground and ruled that Righthaven has no standing to sue. The ruling would obviously affect most or all of the other suits brought by the “copyright troll” in Nevada.

Stephen Green has the major story June 14 in Las Vegas Inc, here

The ruling, however, seems based on a technical point. The SAA (Strategic Alliance Agreement) between Stephens Media and Righthaven was worded in a way that left Stephens in control of copyrights and publication rights. Therefore, according to the way US Copyright law is to be interpreted, Righthaven has no standing to sue.

The ruling would not compromise the concept of “property rights” as libertarians and “Cato thinking” scholars see it. In ordinary circumstances (such as with my concerns over my “right” to publish my own writings when there could occur “political” conflicts of interest), the content originator still controls the right to distribute.

From an intellectual perspective, the ruling could leave open the question whether the SAA could be worded differently to confer standing. But Righthaven would then probably have to be in the business of actively publishing and distributing content. An interesting question could follow, could it have to be potentially profitable as just a content enterprise?  The question falls back to the newspaper business itself. 

But Judge Hunt has threatened other sanctions against Righthaven for misrepresentation that could lead to dismissal of all current litigation in Nevada, and support counterclaims from defendants.  US Copyright law does sometimes allow countersuits for frivolous litigation, but they tend to proceed slowly and are difficult to enforce.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a similar story by Kurt Opsahl June 14, and a PDF of the judge’s order here.

In South Carolina, Dana Eiser has filed a counter complaint against Righthaven for unfair trade practices and “tortious interference” (a term famous from the 2002 film “The Insider”), in state court, also claiming that Righthaven breaks South Carolina law against barratry (effectively, champerty)., scribd link here

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

FBI gives itself more powers for incidental surveillance

Many major news organizations are reporting that the F.B.I. is giving its agents new powers to browse databases (or personal websites and social networking feeds) and even go through trash of parties that have somehow attracted their attention. Charlie Savage has a typical detailed story in the New York Times Monday (paywall subscription needed) here

It’s hard to say what significance this could have for “ordinary people”, even activists.  Probably not much.  Although I could cross-relate this to the way the FCPS school system behaved when it apparently found something authored by me online that scared it back in 2005 (explained here July 27, 2007).  I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about this soon. The ACLU has a blog entry June 13 “FBI lowers the surveillance bar again” here.   The ACLU is also lobbying heavily against a worldwide war bill today (my International Issues blog, today).

I suppose in my old “coming of age” days that the FBI looked in on the People’s Party of New Jersey (1972, maybe a problem), and later the Ninth Street Center (around 1974, no conceivable problem).  They could drop in with hippie disguise and no one would know (except for quietude and awkward body language).   David Mixner (a Clinton supporter in the 1990s) reported in his book “Stranger Among Friends” how the FBI set him up for anti-gay spying in 1969.

In fact, The Washington Post has a front page story by Peter Wallsten on an FBI terrorism probe in Illinois that some think target Obama’s former opponents, here

Nothing real obvious about this in The Washington Times yet, but I would expect to see it reported there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Small "conservative" newspaper scoops can "keep 'em honest"; how our heroes can have clay feet

Washington DC struggled to get its own major league baseball team back in 33 years, and it certainly has borne its share of injuries and bad luck. In 2011, it has a minor league lineup, about to get better when Ryan Zimmerman returns, and apparently almost World Series pitching.

But the club’s players and management have been involved in some questionable or "bad appearing" behavior. There is the Marquis “suspension”, which may be unjust. There was the unprofessional rainout call in May for the convenience of the pitching rotation, when there was threatening weather but no actual storm.

But the most serious problem could be accusations surfacing about veteran pitcher Livan Hernandez, as a possible “straw buyer” for a drug ring in Puerto Rico.  The team and MLB have been able to play it down, hoping it will go away – after all, there is a long way to an actual indictment against Livan himself, let alone a conviction. But upstart conservative newspapers like The Washington Times see their opportunity to make a splash.  Monday, The Washington Times ran a major scoop by Nathan Fenno (and others), link here.   

There was a Parker Brother’s board game in the 50s called “Star Reporter”, and TWT seems to remember how it was played.  You make the effort to go to the source of the original stories.  Okay, that’s what the small newspapers in Nevada and Colorado are claiming they’re defending in the copyright trolling cases. 
None of this sounds good for the Nationals or for MLB, which has had to deal with bigger problems, like PED’s that make all its recent records suspect. It’s a shame, too. Young people really need to see athletes and other performers set good examples for character.  I know that I hate to be disappointed by people.  

The Washington Times appears to be resetting itself again, lowering its newsstand price to a reasonable level, and covering more local news and sports again, with a little less preoccupation with ideology. The strategy may well pay off.  I wish the paper would restore its Oct. 12, 2005 editorial "Suffocating the First Amendment" online, or write a new version of it.  The paper knows it was tangentially involved in a major incident in the FCPS school syste, then. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Facebook's enhanced use of facial recognition and unseen tagging -- a new online reputation risk?

On the heels of reports (documented on my COPA blog now) that lawmakers are looking again at protecting minors – especially their privacy – using social networking sites, Facebook has recently announced it is implementing a new grade of facial recognition technology, so it can encourage more tagging. Some of this is already in place, although many Facebook users may not know it.

One of the leading articles appeared June 8 in PCWorld, “Why Facebook’s Facial Recognition is Creepy”, by Sarah Jacobsson Purewal, link here.  

You can opt out of involvement in this exposure – an many critics say that “opt out” is too much work – we’ve seen this with the “do not track” debate already .  The “Tech Savvy” column by Jessica Guynn in the Los Angeles Times explains how to opt out, here.  

Information Week has a blog posting that Facebook’s “fy” attitude toward privacy may fly with home users but not with businesses and enterprises that are helping provide Facebook with so much of its revenue (indirectly) here

It used to be that consumers and “ordinary people” were appropriately sensitive about being photographed in public, except in an incidental manner. That was a big concern in the gay community where people feared being seen “accidentally” on television at gay pride events (this is Pride Weekend in Washington DC) or even at gay churches.  Warning signs used to be posted at gay events about media photography possibilities (and sometimes still are).  Until recently, it could have been a big problem for members of the military (under the way “don’t ask don’t tell” was sometimes enforced).

That’s one reason why it surprises me that Facebook acts so blasé about facial recognition.

We hear a lot about the technology in security areas – even with the TSA. It’s hard for me to believe it can be that reliable. It’s amazing easy to mix people up if they look a bit alike (how many look-a-likes came forward to copy Bill Clinton?) and incidental photos of people on the web, taken at some distance, can be hard to identify.

The possibility of being tagged from social appearances (especially in bars) without knowledge could pose online reputation problems for some people in certain areas (like teachers), building on the concerns about employee blogging policies that I’ve already presented here. It could give Michael Fertik and Reputation Defender plenty of new business. 

First picture: the "portrait" is mine, taken by my request. But other faces appear in the background. Could any of this really get tagged? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

As Father's Day approaches: Dad is very likely a geek, now, just like any "king of the world"

Not only may your boss be a geek, or may “the King of the World” may be a geek, so may your dad, at least according to Tech Republic’s Jason Hiner,  with a little missive, “Six Things Geeks Dads Really Want for Father’s Day”, link here
Don’t expect him to clean up your own computer, or remove your latest virus; and kids, don’t drop your geek toys. 

Bill Gates became a dad, eventually, remember.  (Mark Z., we haven’t heard anything, yet.) And so was the super-hero of “The Event”, a computer hacker and game designer who saves the world from aliens before finding out he is a dad to one himelf, and therefore is one of them himself. 

There is something else in all this as we rethink our family values, even to invite in LGBT people to become parents (which they have been for years).  That old machismo role model for Dad, shown by Brad Pitt’s character in “The Tree of Life” is hopefully receding, to a kinder, gentler paradigm for father.  Let’s hope so.
 One other thing -- yes, the picture above may have fit into "Sophie's Choice", but the next one shows real progress, finally, in rebuilding from 9/11.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Legal ambiguities about the "standing" of Righthaven and other copyright trolls may be settled by July; newspapers raise questions about reader diversion

On May 2, 2011, The New York Times published a story by Dan Frosch on Righthaven, “Enforcing Copyrights Online, for a Profit”, link (url) here. The really big newspapers have been slow to report on this matter, possibly because they fear committing themselves too early on how far they will have to go to address their own hard times.

The article leaves the impression that the law is most unsettled on the question of the standing of a proxy company like Righthaven to sue.  This hadn’t happened before on this scale, but it could happen in other areas (there is already some patent trolling going on, as reported on my trademark blog). Fundamental questions about property rights, even as a libertarian place like Cato would see the concept, arise.

There is also a question about “reader diversion”. It’s true, bloggers can divert traffic as well as major corporate web publishers, which is one reason why “amateurism” on the web is controversial as to future business models based on journalism. For example, someone like me can gain disproportionate attention to his approach to solving an issue like how to end “don’t ask don’t tell”, whereas corporate, government and even NGO’s, however well-meaning, are locked up by bureaucracy.  The question is complicated further by the way social media work, when they wander into publishing as well as personal networking functions.

On May 24, Law Med Consultants wrote a piece about the suit filed against it, while it waits for a process server to show up with papers. (Actually, people can be served a number of ways, including registered mail.  Even apartment rental offices find themselves taking papers for tenants.)  The link is here

 It warns the public that it has the resources to fight frivolous complaints, and scolds the practice of legal terrorism, shaking down people who haven’t succeeding in competing for a “legitimate place” in the media food chain, to keep them silent. (That’s how authoritarian power structures work, which makes the use of the term “property rights” so double edged, when it is a proxy for social or political power.)

Chris Crum, on Web Prone News, has a story April 22, reporting that Righthaven is trying to seize hardware and software used in infringement, as well as domain names, link here.  However, EFF and other attorneys have said that such demands are not supported by copyright law.  Such a demand would raise the question as to whether the aim is to silence a “mom and pop” speaker and make them agree not to self-publish on the web again as part of a settlement “offer”.  Presumably, anyone with means would just replace his computer, but what about all his other data and other, unrelated work that was on the original computer?  

Righthaven Victims is reporting that a number of cases in Las Vegas and Denver are in a holding pattern, with more decisions likely by about July 1.

Some newspapers have been strengthening their "paywall" concept by now refusing to show the link to an article before one subscribes.  (I noticed this with the Minneapolis Star Tribune when I sought to find the link to a valuable story about violence in "clubland", near discos and perhaps gay bars.) Bloggers can otherwise find and display links without needing to subscribe themselves and without encouraging visitors to get to know the papers; but that question, about deep linking, had been settled ten years ago. It is not copyright infringement in and of itself.

Here is an interest YouTube video by USWGO talking about the idea that Righthaven’s minions wants to stop others from becoming “big people”, threatening the “new world order”.  I’m a little surprised by the comments of ties the former Clinton Administration. Enjoy your bilgerburgers.


Monday, June 06, 2011

The GOP, Ayn Rand, "conservatism", and openness to "sacrifice"

Stephen Prothero has an interesting column in USA Today Monday morning (yup, history pop quiz time in high school) – “You can’t reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ”.  

He goes on to discuss Paul Ryan (R-WI) and objectivism and his attachment to Rand, and could make the same comment about Ron Paul.    Ayn Rand is the new darling of the GOP, he says. And Ayn Rand is farther away from Christianity than Karl Marx. 

Real Christianity – real faith in any reasonable religious system, including Islam and Judaism both – involves acceptance of uncertainty and the need for sacrifice.  Prothero says this about true conservatism (but I would wonder about libertarianism in this context).  A lawyer once said to me, “you land where you land”.  That happens sometimes.  Lives are reset (maybe like Internet connections) because of the needs of the larger community. There can exist no sustainable freedom without accepting that.  

I can wonder how this comports with libertarianism and my friends at the Cato Institute.

Prothero’s column is here  and is syndicated today in many newspapers.
Second picture: from a weekend trip to Minnesota, this the iron range country.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

NRLB splits a "double header" in cases involving employee use of personal social media; Tech Republic asks "how many times do we have to tell you?"

Now Toni Bowers of Tech Republic has a story about firing of employees over the way they use their own Facebook or Twitter accounts. Two stories, and a doubleheader split with the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) the home team. A non-profit in Buffalo is getting heat from the NLRB  over firing employees who complained on their own social media accounts, but on the other hand the NLRB upheld the firing of a newspaper reporter in Arizona for behaving unprofessionally on his own social media posts. 

The title of her article is “Employees using social media: how many times do we have to tell you?”, link here
Let’s see Donald Trump do an Apprentice firing over social media!

The real conundrum comes with teachers, as I found out the hard way.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Sen. Wyden places hold on Protect-IP (or PIPA); passes Judiciary committee with questionable revisions

Senator Ron Wyden or Oregon (D) has, effective May 26, placed a hold on the Protect IP act, S968 (PIPA), even though it passed the Senate Judiciary with some changes.

Senator Wyden’s press release is here

Some of his language is:

" I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective.  At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet."

Abigail Phillips has an analysis of the minimal changes to Protect IP so far, on EFF, here, with a link to the text of the revised bill. 

One concern is that private litigants (maybe even like Righthaven) could sue “en rem” without sufficient due process notification of defendants (the DMCA safe harbor would be only a small piece of this discussion).

The revisions did remove a provision requiring registrars to block access to domain names “dedicated to infringing activities”, but still contains dangerous overbreadth in this definition.

“The term ‘domain name system server’ means a server or other mechanism used to provide the Internet protocol address associated with a domain name”

This bill needs to be watched closely, to say the very least.