Thursday, August 30, 2012

Can bloggers realistically charge for their content?

There are packages out there that would allow bloggers to charge selectively for access to content.
There is, for instance, Wordpress-member (or wp-member), which says it does not block out a whole site, but can be applied selectively.  The link is here.

There’s a 2011 article on “four ways to charge for content” which is more like, “four questions to ask yourself before charging for content”,  (website url) here.  

And from Social Mouths, in March 2011, there is a blog post saying that “free is boring” but you can still make your free content “remarkable”, on the way to deeper goals, link

It’s pretty unlikely that “ordinary blogs” could make a go of charging. But it sounds like the “paywall” model is working for some newspapers, especially the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Once a journalist, no more partisan employment (and no more hucksterism)

Recently, I’ve noticed an interesting, if torn, poster near my UPS store pickup, “Campaign Jobs”, offering “full time career positions” and saying “work for clean air”.  The organization was the League of Conservation Voters, link here

At first glance, the site would appear to be quite partisan.

And that brings up a sore point for me.  After “what I did with my life” in the 90s and 00’s, it’s really not feasible for me to become a paid employee selling any particular cause.

I used to think this was OK if I were just a paean, as I was calling for contributions to the Minnesota Orchestra when I worked there in 2002-2003 after my “career ending” layoff at ING at the end of 2001.
But, I became a (self-appointed) journalist, perhaps a “know it all” – and it’s surprisingly hard to help other people in a more direct way, particularly if it is paid.

It really strikes me now how the apparent self-sufficiency offered by the Internet (it's all "do it yourself" online) is breaking down social capital, and making old-fashioned community fundraising calls unwelcome. 

Although, by way of comparison, I guess Anderson Cooper “paid his dues” when he started his own career (which I admire).

Another little photo from my recent excursions “out and about” was a trademark sign on the back of a utility truck for a contractor named “Handyman”.

That’s interesting to me, perhaps because of coincidence.  In my novel, there is an “Academy” in West Texas set up to retrain laid off workers, set up by a rightwing group under the umbrella or penumbra of a company named “Handyman” – with a tagline, “There is no ‘they’”.  It’s the old “we won, they lost” paradigm.

I also propose several other sequestered communities (sometimes called “intentional communities”).  One of them, south of Charlottesville VA, is indeed a low-tech intentional community adjacent to an abandoned estate run by the CIA, to conduct “remote viewing” experiments to contact “the” extraterrestrials (or angels).  But the participants have to remain earthy and unplugged.  There’s also a religious ashram in Montana, and a test facility in Arizona, near the old “Understanding” saucer-house community. And finally, at a reclaimed “mountaintop removal” site, there is a landing strip for the saucers. 

I’ve got to put all these pieces together.

I shot the following micro-video in an “extratropical storm” in Williamsburg (Saturday).  The point of it will become clearer later. But it’s no “Sunday in the Park with George”.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A road trip to Mars, and then on to Titan (no long losing streaks, please)

I made a visit to the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton, on the tip of the Peninsula, Friday.  I was intrigued by the possibility that the “interplanetary” exhibits might be more detailed than those at the National Air and Space Museum with the Smithsonian in Washington.

The main attraction, on the second level, was probably the simulated trip to Mars, which then opens up onto a “walkthrough” of the Mars surface. 

Would social media be available to settlers on the Moon, or Mars, in the future?  It would take light only a bit more than a second to reach the Moon, so response to tweets and Facebook posts and “likes” wouldn’t be so challenging.   For Mars, light would take perhaps a half hour, depending on the orbital position.  One major challenge would be that advertisers would not be able to sell much to settlers.

There was a station, where you could weigh yourself on all the other planets, and there were photographic dioramas, rather small, of the surfaces (as imagined by artists) or Mercury, Venus, Mars, Europa, and Titan.  I don’t recall seeing the Titan surface being shown at the museum in DC.  But why not have a diorama based on the Cassini probe photos from 2005? The same ought to be dome for Io, Europa, and Triton.

There was a panel that explained how the gas giant planets are constructed, but what would be interesting would be an animated video showing what the hydrogen would “look like” as it changes gradually from gas to liquid and then to metal under tremendous pressure.

There were artist’s renditions of possible extrasolar planets, but nothing about a planet that is tidally locked.  However. There is a diorama showing the space museum in a “termination zone” that could be interpreted as an environment on a tidally locked planet.

In one of my screenplays, “69 Minutes to Titan” (based on the length of time light might take to reach Titan, the largest and most “alive” moon of Saturn), angels are recruiting people to go live on their base on Titan and become angels themselves. 

There is a computer game where you design a “solar system” and then watch the planets collide or fly out because what you design isn’t stable.

If you go, you park at the Crown Plaza hotel (free only if you stay at the hotel). 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Does Facebook present the penultimate challenge for monetizing "free" content?

The Washington Post has a front page story Wednesday Aug. 22 about quick decline of Facebook’s stock price (FB), with a very handsome portrait online (hoodie included) of founder Mark Zuckerberg. 

I’ve said before, I think it’s his creation; but I did not bite (although my own financial planner at Wells Fargo actually rather liked it before the IPO).  I share one trait: a liking of building recognition and global public presence before worrying about monetization. 

The story, by Craig Timberg, has link here.

Note the FB finance page on Yahoo! here

The hooker seems to be “free content”.  Broadcast channels had to wrestle with this as they went online, and a few newspapers have found they can sustain themselves by actually charging for it online (I subscribe to both WSJ and New York Tmes; it works economically if you get both online and print).  Companies that started as search engines (Google) benefit from the fact that many visitors actually are looking for services or products (for example, as I do, before going on the road to a particular city).  But readers of content (about politics – gay rights, free speech, Arab spring, etc)  often feel  intruded upon by ads.  (I can’t say whether I saw my Ford Focus online at a Washington Post site before I bought it in 2009 – I think I did.)

Facebook’s advantage may be the chance to monetize and sell “Likes”, but it’s going to be hard to do that within acceptable practices of privacy.  The scariest part of its plans may be those dealing with facial recognition.

Over time, the expectation of users to have content for free without intrusion or loss of privacy could become a serious business model problem for all service providers.  Those who provide free content with little income (to gain visibility) are riding on the backs of those who make money, perhaps.  That can’t be sustained forever.   Or can it?  It’s like saying credit card holders who pay off full balances every month freeload on those who pay interest. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Nationals v. Braves: a baseball "morality play"

Last night, I got to see a bit of (major league) baseball’s morality play, as I went to a Nationals game and saw them reach 30 games over .500.  Columnist George Will would have loved this game.

Baseball seems the test laboratory for balancing the idea of individual performance against team play. Last night proved the point. The walk-off winning run scored in the bottom of the 13th  inning when pinch hitter Chad Tracey hit an ordinary ground ball to second baseman Dan Uggla.  On first was utility catcher Kurt Suzuki, who had reached on a Baltimore chop base hit, and Danny Espinosa had raced to third.  (Power hitter Ramos, the normal catcher, is out for the year with a knee injury.)  On Tracey’s grounder, Espinosa broke for the plate. Uggla’s brain froze, first wondering if he could get Espinosa (he could have with a perfect throw), or should try for the double play? But, twenty feet from  first base, Suzuki  stopped and froze, making Uggla take another half-second to make up his mind. Suzuki’s quiet distracting maneuver was as deadly as getting the opposition in a Chess endgame.  He made Uggla, in zugzwang, do something.  Uggla’s normal biologically conditioned reflexes were short-circuited, and  he dropped the ball trying to get out of his glove. There was no play at all.  Original reports of an error were incorrect, as Uggla wasn’t even charged with an error. (Watch the MLB video here.)
This may have seemed like a game where home-field advantage and walk-off were critical.  Perhaps so. But earlier this year, the Yankees had won a game here with a similar stunt on the bases on a potential double play ball, leading to a four-run inning.  Good teams win games with the little things as much as with slugging and homers.  Good teams get opposing teams to commit more errors, both physical and mental.
The game had been delayed by 56 minutes, with only a sprinkle.  The Nationals didn’t want their pitchers distracted by delays, and management is getting more careful about how wet grounds can lead to injuries.  As it turned out, Jordan Zimmerann (the “John the Baptist” of Tommy John patients) was ineffective, being taken out after five innings, his pitches staying too high.  Braves ace Tim Hudson survived shaky first and was mowing the Nats down.  The Nats would have to get him out of the game.  The Braves had the advantage of having used fewer players and pitchers in the extra innings – again, a teamwork thing.  But this one defensive “mistake”, induced by clever base running, changed everything.

We saw some more “teamwork” earlier when Bryce Harper (no more “clown questions,” please, about underage drinking) tried to beat out a bunt, just after Hudson came out.  He even gave notice. 

I’m thinking of returning to some occasional competitive chess.  I’m impressed by how much World Senor Master talks about teamwork among connected pawns and multiple minor pieces (especially the “two bishops”) in assessing the chances in a position in his new book on chess openings (Books blog July 3, 2012).

Update: Aug. 28:

No, baby, Adam LaRoche's fly ball off the top of the scoreboard railing Sunday in Philadelphia PA was not a homer.  Jayson Werth, of all people, should have known better. Surely, all of these players experienced "ground rule" issues playing neighborhood ball as boys.  As kids, when we made our back yards into "stadiums", we argued over ground rules all the time.  Some kids didn't realize that a ball caught on a carom off the wall  (like the brick side of a house) without hitting the ground is not an out.  We often used shrubbery hedges as outfield fences.  Was a ball that grazed the top of a hedge a homer or a ground rule double?

Last picture: Minor league ballpark in Richmond, VA.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Facedeals", despite requiring signup and consent, could raise concerns about public photography in general

There’s a new facial recognition app being beta tested, called Facedeals.

The idea is that the shopper is recognized by a Facedeal camera when “out and about” and subsequently offered bargains and deals.

Given the rather superficially obvious concerns about privacy, one wonders how many people would sing up for it. 

There is a story about it on Popai, here

Facedeals has a vimeo video “Check in with your face”

There are various local television stories on the product, such as this one from KPLR in St. Louis, link
The biggest concern is indirect: even though the service cannot be used without a person’s signing up (and it’s being tested only in three states so far), it will make a lot of people more skittish about their activity in public, and the possibility that employers or spouses could see them where they don’t want to be seen.
As for Facebook, yes, it’s Mark’s “baby” and he should keep running it.  Sink or swim.  I wouldn’t moan losing half of a $40 billion fortune on stock prices.  (“Facebook” is his, just like “Doaskdotell” is mine; it’s all about orders of magnitude in the numbers -- exponents in Algebra I.)  But it’s hard to see how much money there can be in mobile advertising.  But the television networks went through all of this 60 years ago, when I was just growing up.  I remember “friendly sponsors” only too well.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Former Michigan assistant attorney general assessed damages for defamation in blog; was this a "conflict of interest"?

A federal jury in Detroit has ordered a former Michigan assistant attorney general, Andrew Shirvell, to pay $4.5 million in damages to recent University of Michigan graduate Chris Armstrong, for several torts: defamation (libel), invasion of privacy, stalking, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (that last one is open to abuse in my thinking). 

Shirvell had written the defamatory comments about the student (who was president of the student body and openly gay) in a blog, and had been interviewed by Anderson Cooper on AC360.  Shirvell would subsequently be fired from the attorney general’s office.

Of course Shievell’s conduct was boorish (to say the least), but in my mind, the real question is whether it is appropriate for someone in public office and having powers to make decisions about others, to rant about his views on anything in public forums. 

One could ask the same question about the behavior of  the “Chick Fil A” CEO, given the presumption that his company is part of the American mainstream.  (Maybe it isn’t.)

When I was working for a company that sold life insurance to military officers, back in the 1990s, we all felt that a transfer to an acquiring company (and away from a possible “conflict of interest”) would be a good idea, although some of the discussion was “under the table”.  But even so, I had not in a position with direct reports (subordinates), or with the ability to make underwriting decisions about customers (which the company had said could be a real legal or ethical concern).

 The CNN news story on the Shirvell civil judgment is here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Internet freedom issues seem unlikely to become partisan

The "rag" US News has a story about the partisan implications of “Internet freedom” issues.  A story by Jason Koebler is titled “Democrats consider officially supporting Internet freedom; GOP to ‘discuss” issue”, link here

Yet, according to the piece, some companies in Silicon Valley (including Facebook) have given more to GOP candidates than Democrats, despite the generally “liberal” nature of the political views of most executives in the business.  They are likely to believe that the GOP may be less intrusive with surveillance laws and will listen a little less to “liberal” Hollywood in the wars over piracy.

The article also linked to another US News story reviewing the goings-on a few months ago with SOPA and PIPA. The writer believes that many politicians were awakened by the one-day Wikipedia protest blackout.
GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had backed away last January from supporting SOPA, originally introduced by a Republican, Lamar Smith (CNET story here).

Here’s an interesting fact (maybe a good subject for a “Millionaire” question of the day) from a site called “vice”: Lamar Smith apparently had violated copyright law himself on his own site before introducing SOPA, as in this analysis by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, link

Also, late Friday night, ABC NIghtline covered Customs sting operations to catch counterfeit goods, which have sometimes caused a few websites to be shut down, as covered here previously. 

Fareed Zakaria's "accidental" copying illustrates challenges for professional journalists

CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria, who hosts “Global Public Square” and is well known for sensible, generally moderate policy views on issues like health care, has fought off an accidental “plagiarism scandal” himself, according to a “Media Decoder” story in the New York Times Friday, p. B2, by Christine Haughney, link here

Zakaria, in a long article for Time on gun control (timely given the Colorado and Wisconsin incidents) apparently copied sections from an article by Jill Lapore (of Harvard) for the New Yorker, and forgot to give attribution.  A smaller blog post for CNN had the same problem ( website url link).

Zakaria, 48, has apologized and says the error was unintentional.

Lapore’s article “Battleground America: One nation, under the gun”, from April 23, 2012 in the New Yorker, is here
Newspaper ombudsmen often discuss plagiarism problems with readers, and also other issues such as pressures on reporters to have stories “cleared” by political candidates (July 29). Bloggers don't have to deal with readers' ombudsmen.  Should they?

The story reports that Time and CNN have reinstated Zakaria after brief suspensions, and the Washington Post, while reviewing Zakaria’s work, is not likely to take any adverse action.

Professional journalists are under considerable scrutiny with regard to the accuracy of their work, avoidance of factual errors or misstatements, and unintentional simulations of “plagiarism”.  If I were ever invited to join forces with any such group, I would be subjected to the same scrutiny. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Facebook mistakenly rejected "political speech" ad on marijuana law reform; don't make too much of the end of "lock-up" on shares

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a brief story about Facebook’s reversing itself and accepting ads that, while on the face supporting legalization of marijuana use (perhaps beyond medical purposes), merely said (directly) that citizens should register to vote and support drug law reform. The ad did not actually promote or facilitate marijuana use. Facebook (as does many services) does have a policy prohibiting ads for tobacco or similar products themselves.  But it was a little surprising to see cognitive confusion on the actual substance of an ad wrongfully prohibited.

The EFF story is here

Analysts are saying not to make too much of the end of the “lock-up” on Facebook Thursday. Most of the problems with its share price have to do with fundamental questions on how to monetize mobile use of the site.  That’s ironic, because mobile use (rather than content-centric use on conventional PC’s) really is closer to the meaning of “social networking” anyway. The Yahoo! link for the story byChris Ciaccia of “The Street” is here.

No, I do not have any Facebook shares, yet.  Don't know if I'm even eligible. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Once you're a blogger journalist, it's hard to trump for other people's causes, or to act partisan

I heard part of President Obama’s speech from Chicago last night.  He did ask “ordinary people” to call Biblical neighbors, to raise money, to get out the vote, for “all of us”.

Since I present myself as an independent blogger journalist, can I reasonably wear a second cap and hit other people for money for specific causes?

Even though I am journalist by self-appointment, I would say, generally no. And I certainly can't behave is an partisan way.  And, no, I can't run for office and get other people to raise money for me!  (I almost did so in 2000 in Minneapolis, however.)

Having entered the world of self-publishing the way I did in the late 90s and painting with such a wide brush, I kind of took myself out of the game for anyone else’s specific cause. I can’t “always be closing” (and I don’t have a 100 Mile Rule, even for just men).  Even the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”, which I think I played a critical part in, grew as a concentric issue to swallow up everything, as if a moral sinkhole (and not just in Louisiana or Florida).

I get lots of calls daily for specific, narrow causes and I really don’t have the time for each one of them.  No one is more important than all the others, unless it matches one specific aspect of my life (by talent or social connection) and I’m in an unusual position to address it. 

It’s a shame, perhaps. We all used to be a lot more sociable.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Do media companies really have an incentive to solve the "piracy problem"?

I have to note this op-ed on Aug 5 by Nick Bilton of the New York Times, “Internet pirates will always win”, link here.

One of Bilton’s most important points is that material not available legally online is indeed more likely to be pirated.  But big media companies make so much more money from cable operators that they have little practical incentive to offer the material legally in other forms.

I might disagree somewhat with Bilton’s observation.  I like to watch major series on a big plasma screen the night they air.  The night of the crushing finale of ABC’s “Revenge”, I was in an airplane.  So I played it, legally, at the ABC website on my computer the next day.  Not as satisfying personally, but a satisfactory way to see it.  (It’s not practical to set up shows to record on long road trips, because equipment should be unplugged.)  Most networks allow most of their episodes to air afterwards online, although the replays are punctuated by long commercials, which apparently pay for the service.  And film distributors have become more pro-active about having YouTube rent many films for $3.99 or so for a 24-hour viewing window.

Bilton describes in detail the way some “thieves”, especially Pirate Bay, have “retaliated” against attempts (as through ICE) to shut them down. 

Is it that young people, who can’t afford to pay full cable price on their own, are clever enough to figure out all the ways to steal the stuff – with programming skills that should make them employable? The people who “can” afford to pay for cable are paying for everyone else.  Sounds like socialism!

For myself, I can’t see the point of watching a “Dark Knight Rises” in any environment less than the way it was intended to be seen.  As Regal says, “go big or go home”. 

Solar storm, EMP risks: lack of preparedness threatens basis of individualism

Recently, on my Books blog, I’ve reviewed a “future history” novel about the possible aftermath of a huge EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack on the United States, and yesterday I reviewed a National Academy of Sciences booklet on the danger from solar storms.

The NAS makes the strong point that our economy is based on short-term profitability, and that businesses and individuals generally do not take into account preparedness for rare but “high consequence” events.  Even now, the conventional property insurance industry is having trouble coping with unpredictable asymmetric risks as well as a gradual upscaling of losses that may well accompany climate change.

Although there is a lot of talk of family disaster preparedness, which is taken seriously in parts of the country regularly exposed to torndoes and hurricanes, many people would find fielding the effort to be prepared for everything as too distracting from the focus they need on their own priorities in their own individual lives.

Despite the grim scenarios suggested by the books mentioned above, a large but still largely regional catastrophe is much more likely (in practice) to happen than the total destruction of the entire country’s power and technology grid.  For example, solar storms would probably affect northern latitudes more and do the most damage in the population centers of the northeast and perhaps Great Lakes area.  Government policy makers would face unprecedented issues in handling the very unequal burdens faced by different parts of the country, on the scale of perhaps ten Katrinas.
How would the infrastructure for the commercial Internet as we know it function if there were major regional damage to the power grid?  Many large companies, like Facebook and Google, say that have built redundancies into multiple server farms all over the country.  Many of the newer servers tend to be located farther south, like in North Carolina or nearby in Ashburn, VA, which may make them a bit less vulnerable specifically to the solar storm risk.

Still, the banking system would be challenged to continue operating properly.  And Silicon Valley companies, predicated on media streaming and user-generated content, could be unable to continue supporting their “free services”.  The whole paradigm of UGC could change, and eventually new legal challenges (like to downstream liability exemptions) could arise.

Individual content generators  need to think about specific ways they can prepare to safeguard their work.  Optical storage (CD’s) is safer than thumb drives or the “Cloud” in guarding against any EMP risk.

There is something to be said by having some investment in the “bricks and mortar” world.  Maybe authors would do well to maintain an inventory of their published works in print form, and the idea of “just in time” production should not be carried too far.  Maybe we have gone too far in investing in instant gratification technologies that are rather trivial in long-term importance.  The dot-com bust proved that once, and the concept of electronic social networking may have been taken so far already as to become essentially a way to feed compulsions.

For many people, today’s culture supports the idea of “proving yourself” on your own before offering yourself in a committed relationship with someone and starting or maintaining a family. It also supports being choosy or “selective” about the relationships you expect (or allow). All of that is predicated on a stable public infrastructure that has been hardened or made robust against sudden stresses, even though short-term economic thinking often undercuts making the investment it takes to protect infrastructure from rare or improbable risks.  It’s also predicated on the notion that stability will enable one to purse one’s own particular talents, and not be burdened with adaptive demands requiring rarely-used real world skills.  Yet in most cultures, where privacy expectations are less or not possible to meet, people accept the idea that they need to accept people into their lives and need others in a practical way to survive, and need to be open to the idea of possible sacrifices so that others (usually lineage) can carry on after them.  Today, to some people, like me, such an idea seems humiliating.

See related post July 17.  

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Anderson guest touches on public photos of people; are Facebook "Likes" really a form of "speech"?

Tuesday, Aug. 7, there were a couple of incidental points about Internet web effectiveness made on Anderson Cooper’s daytime show, although not as magnified as in an earlier episode in March regarding online reputation extortion” (Marc 12).

The little couple “Jennifer and Bill” made a point about photography of people drinking in bars.  Yes, when the pictures wind up online, it could cause some people to lose or not to get jobs, Jennifer said.  It needs to stop.   Indeed, there were cases a few years ago where people were excluded or teachers fired when pictures of drinking showed up on Facebook, sometimes taken by others. Sometimes the focus was specifically on underage drinking.  (That issue caused National’s teenage outfielder Bryce Harper to chide a reporter for asking a “clown question” in Toronto.) 

On the other hand, people have been taking photos at discos for years, particularly since cameras became standard features of cell and smart phones.  But the issue has become more sensitive in the last eighteen months or so with the attention the media has placed on Facebook tagging and possibly on facial recognition software.  In New York City, in March, the “Black Party” required customers to check in cell phones before entering the space.

Things have come a long way since it was a big deal for people to walk in front of TV cameras at gay pride events (a contractor co-worker in Dallas was freaked out when I did so in 1980), or when Metropolitan Community Church would set up no-TV areas for congregations, particularly for AIDS information forums.  People who work for so-called “Christian” employers (much worse than Chick-Fil-A – say, Cracker Barrel restaurants back in the early 1990s) have been fired for accidental media appearances at gay spots.  That doesn’t seem to happen much any more.

Anderson also covered the idea of an Internet blog going viral – the restaurant reviews by 85-year-old Marilyn from Grand Forks, ND.  And yes, she understands “Google hacking”.

There’s another issue brewing, which I covered on my “IT jobs blog” yesterday in an employment case, whether “Likes” on Facebook or YouTube constitute protected speech. “Likes” may have commercial value (almost as a kind of bit coin or currency), but one can make the case that “Likes” are more like social chatter than real “content”.  But they do bear on reputation and popularity, and can be relevant in politically sensitive employment situations.

Update: Aug. 11

The matter is now before the Fourth Circuit in Richmond (it has a reputation as a conservative circuit).  On CNN on Saturday, Richard Herman noted that a simple "like" (or dislike) doesn't make a substantive statement of public concern, often the standard applied in free speech cases. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Is Congress going too far with the Intellligence Authorization Act?

Now, civil libertarians are warning against the new Intelligence Authorization Act, which. Among other things, is supposed to keep classified information away from the press.

The heart of the bill seems to live in the idea that only a very small cadre of government officials would be able to discuss sensitive information with the press, and the lines between legally classified and merely sensitive information seem blurred.

The New York Times ran a major editorial against the bill Aug. 2 (website url), here

The bill appears to be S 3454 (or HR 5743) with govtrack link here

The bill should not be confused with S3414, which has to do with cybersecurity (Aug. 1). 

Most of the major media concerns over the bill seem to focus on whistleblowing by government officials who may suspect things are going wrong with domestic surveillance, such as with Jane Mayer’s story about Thomas Drake, “The Secret Sharer”, May 11, 2011, in the New Yorker here.

 I wondered what would happen if a blogger repeated information that was “leaked” in violation with the act.  Could the government go after parties that republish protected information, or only the sources of the original leak?

There have been a very small number of situations where information has come to me that I have not republished, but in a couple of cases I have actually called authorities.  I use my own judgment.  There are some things one sees that should not be published indiscriminately.
On the other hand, I had no compunction about embedding a Wikileaks video (from Bradley Manning?) of friendly fire in Iraq (the CF blog,  April 7, 2010; the YouTube still works.)  Am I violating an anti-espionage law? 

I found a PC World story by Nancy Gohring, reprinted in the Washington Post, May 1, 2007, about how a major ISP Verio had cut off service to Cryptome after repeated complaints from intelligence services (especially Britain), and found supporting the customer too risky or costly, link here

This older story suggests that even western democratic governments can manipulate major corporate webhosts into not supporting "nuisance" customers who threaten to publish leaks.  Yet Cryptome is "out there" now.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Silicon Valley "Minority Report": Technology (plus asymmetry) can make us vulnerable

Silicon Valley companies “collectively” already operate a “Singularity University”, which could probably be called an “Asymmetry University”.  Marc Goodman is the Chair of Policy, Law and Ethics at this university, as well as founder of the “Future Crimes Institute”, a group that sounds like it comes out of the movie “Minority Report.”  And, no, Marc doesn’t particularly resemble Tom Cruise.

He has an opinion piece on the CNN Ideas Series, “How technology makes us vulnerable”, today, link here. There is an accompanying video which is particularly chilling, regarding the way “operations centers” and simple searches were used by the attackers in the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India.

The article gives several important links, including a 16 minute video by Avi Rubin, “All of your devices can be hacked”, on Ted.

There are two big problems, it seems.  One is our increasing dependence on technology, especially solid-state – there has been a lot of discussion in the media about vulnerability to solar storms and even deliberate EMP attacks, although there is a lot that can be done to harden our technology (even in the chip design itself) that we haven’t made the commitment to doing yet.  Another is the way hyper-individualism, originally (and still somewhat correctly) viewed as an antidote to cronyism and organizational corruption, works psychologically and exacerbates the dangerous potential of asymmetric actors.  As a result, basic questions in our culture – about equality, individual rights, narrow personal responsibility, and rationalism as put against belief, relational commitments, generativity, sustainability, and “karmic fairness” –could be up for grabs, some day, and maybe sooner than we would want.  We could backtrack to the mentality of the 50s.  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Senate lets Cybersecurity Act die, but better privacy protections likely in future bills

The US Senate effectively “killed” the Cyber-Security Act of 2012 when it mustered only a 52-46 simple majority Thursday. The bill, S3414 before the 112th Congress, would have needed 60 votes to pass.

WebPro has a story by Zach Walton on the vote here

This means that there probably won’t be a similar bill this session.

The bill, however, might have entertained amendments that would have allowed a lot more consumer privacy protection, according to Walton. There might have been provisions added to stop warrantless GPS tracking, some kinds of ISP surveillance, and interference with video sharing.

Electronic Frontier Foundation had strongly opposed the bill.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

With user-generated content, service providers need reliable due process; a Twitter case

One sensitive topic in the “user generated content” world is “due process” by service providers when deactivating accounts after complaints, perceived TOS violations, or perhaps automated spam detection procedures.  Because of the huge numbers of users and content items, appeals and due process procedures themselves are very automated and proprietary, and sometimes things can fall through the cracks.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has a position paper on the issue, authors Erica Newland, Caroline Nolan, Cynthia Wong, and Jillian York, bridge link to PDF here
The paper suggests, for example, that when other visitors report abuse, they should have to cite specific policy reasons.  Another is to provide a vehicle for data export or liberation.

The existence of due process can be an important issue for users who may want to package their content for business deals with other media outlets.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article yesterday by Jillian C. York, arguing specifically that Twitter needs to have an appeals process.  The specific incident has to do with the deactivation of the account of Guy Adams for publishing an email address of an NBC executive, when it had been available for over a year.  The Deeplinks story is here.