Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Do Not Track" is not holding traction in administration, Congress

Craig Timberg has an update on the debate on “do not track” on p. A14 of The Washington Post on Wednesday November 28, 2012, “’Do Not Track’ push for web privacy hits a virtual wall; Data-protection effort lags after early signs of momentum”, and online “’Do Not Track’ Internet privacy initiative struggles to keep momentum”, link (website url) here

Meetings on the issue are reported to have turned “acrimonious” and a “deal” (in the administration and maybe Congress) is months away.

Privacy advocates claim that most users cannot take the trouble to use the opt-in methods.  Web companies have experienced little use of it so far.  But Microsoft’s default setting for its latest Internet Explorer has yet to take hold, possibly because IE is not as popular as other browsers, and the whole question of mobile tracking remains.

The article discusses the potential opportunity of a site “Your ad choices”, link.  But it’s pretty hard for me (at least)  to imagine consumers going to the “trouble” of using it. 

On most major sites, I can tell that I am tracked heavily from what is displayed to me. I haven’t tried to use the non-tracking settings in browsers yet.  But, I am a soloist.   

And there may be other issues that are turning out to have a bigger bearing on privacy, like photography. 

Update: Nov. 29

The New York Times reported today, on p. A2, in a story by Natasha Singer, that the WWC has appointed Peter Swire as a mediator in "do not track" talks, link here. In the absence of global standards, some advertisers don't honor DNT browser flags today. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social Media Outlook for 2013 from Potomac Tech Wire; little concern shown about "do not track"

Today I attended the Social Media Outlook 2013 symposium at the Gannett headquarters at Tsyons Corner, VA.
I’ll list as dot points the points that were made. Generally, most attendees were more interested in practical monetization than policy debates (like “do not track”) or social issues.
The keynote speaker was Rohit  Bhargava author of “Likeonomics,”  (Wiley) teaches at Georgetown, “7 Social Media Trends for 2013”, first time announced before publication.
Social trend reports are self-serving and lack credibility.
Important trends are (1) efficient or optimized shopping, especially when in the store,, as with (1a) integrate devices with Dashlane  (1b) cross checking prescriptions(1c) flexible renting instead of buying (Zipcar); (2) Partnership publishing (or cooperative publishing, as compared to simplified print-on-demand), also called DIT “Do it together, examples such as (2a) Netminds (typically needs team members for an author) (2b) Domino Project (2c) Paper lantern; (3) Humanbanking or community banking, using plain language, with a new kind of credit card called “Founders Card”, tailored toward entrepreneurs; (4) Me Funding as a variation of Crowd Funding or Kickstarter;  one example is a girl raising money to go overseas for a charity trip;  (4a) another example is Indiegogo; (5) Very local commerce, such as the idea that “all news is local” (5a) Goodzer, local shopping (5b) Shopify; (6) Friend-Sourced travel; (7) Degree-free lending, like creatvieLIve (it’s not easy to teach music composition this way because “it takes a long term to become a good composer”).
The Full 15 Trends Report will be published at his site,  the report to be available Dec. 3. 
Someone asked about trends for “public relations practioners”, and “content as an aspect of marketing”.
The panel comprised Dan Berger (Social Tables) (replaced by Sashi Bellamkonda), Jodi Gersh (Gannett), Leigh George (R2Integrated).
Facebook and Twitter are losing their “cool” or mojo with youngest people, gaining with older adults. Sponsored ads as part of a timeline are seen as intrusive by visitors. Facebook’s tracking algorithm may be overly tuning a visitor’s newsfeed, excluding some things he or she actually would want to see.  Facebook is an “easy publishing platform” but it doesn’t reach everyone.  The single SignOn of Facebook still drives a lot of modern Web interaction experience.  Not many people keep track of all of their contact information off of Facebook (but I do!, in an off-line directory  -- am I still a 90’s person?). Lower income people use mobile apps related to Facebook because they don’t have desktops and laptops!  The mobile smartphone has become much more essential that even a traditional home “family” computer.
Twitter is locking down the ability of other sites to use their feeds (not sure on Facebook). Myspace may be coming back (to the horror of Dr.Phil) because it was highly visual(and had a robust blogging platform which I recall Ashton Kutcher using heavily).  Amazon will dominate retail because of convenience.  Google+ has mixed outlook (“ghost town”??) , but it enriches the notion of SEO (search engine optimization).  Local retail outlets need a Google+ page to get higher ranking for searches. There is also “Google Now”.
There was an Atlantic article on “dark social” that said that about half of the links we go to don’t come from original content (but goes to emails and reworked lists). I was “drafted” in 1968 bit escaped deployment because of “too much education”. 
Social media sharing of links, as well as the substance of original content, does help advertisers even without using tracking.  With the tracking that users will accept, tracking codes are important.
Online social media and e-commerce should reduce shopping rushes like “Black Friday”.
After break, the second panel was “Social Media Intelligence” by Wendy Moe (a statistician) at the University of Maryland, link. Companies have moved from typical broadcast media and public relations firms to social media (example, Cincinnati’s Procter and Gamble).  Can social media data replicate traditional market research? We need to measure what matters. She talked about the Twitter mentions of the GOP candidates, and the leader was Rick Santorum because of his controversial stands on social issues. Blogcasted opinions tend to be more positive than forum opinions.
Mark  Amtower spoke about “LinkedIn for GovCon: The Time Is Now!”  The government market is on LinkedIn but not Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Myths: government doesn’t use social media, LinkedIn is just for job hunters.  LI is for “business” (Trump), all the time. Post your skills, not your resume. Use targeted groups. Add value where you participate.
Another tip: carry business cards.  I have to start doing that.
Shashi Bellamkonda talked about SCNR (Society of New Media Communications and Research). He said that social media provides a better way to learn about a company than a company website (no matter how well it programs with XSL!)  Still, many CEO’s don’t consider social media much in making decisions. Companies have also been remiss in following their Wikipedia pages.
I asked the panel from the audience about the photography issue(yesterday’s post).  They felt that laws would change only very slowly, but that media photographers should start behaving with more care, courtesy(“ask”) and sensitivity than they have in the past, because the online reputation concerns of individuals are real.
During the breakfast networking, I asked about “do not track”.  The general feeling was that companies would program or find other clever strategies to work around it.  It really didn’t seem to have been thought through as a policy problem.
I have to say it was amusing to see a woman programming  (in the stadium row below) in Microsoft .NET (in Visual Basic or C#) on a laptop, as if pressured by a work deadline later that day!

(Note the spelling of the book title above: "o", not "a"; I picked up a copy and will review later). 

Monday, November 26, 2012

More on photography of people in the Age of Facebook

I’ve already addressed (Aug. 8. 2012) the growing public discomfort and disconnect over photography of other individuals in public places, given the reality that the world has changed at it is possible or conceivable for others to track someone on the Internet based on photos taken without consent.

I thought I would introduce a couple more links on the topic.  One is in Lifehacker, here

Another is in Popular Mechanics, here.

I have to take this optimistic presentation (from the viewpoint of the blogger or citizen journalist)  with a grain of table salt. In practice, most retail businesses do not permit photography of employees or other customers on their premises (or of products) without permission. Airlines won’t let you photograph except views outside the windows.   Generally, major stage plays or larger music concerts don’t permit photography, at least during the performance (sometimes it’s OK during the applause), and movie theaters are very strict about prohibiting photography of films in progress, to prevent piracy. 

I discussed the issue with respect to the gay community, since in the past, a few decades ago, some people could not afford to be seen at “gay events”, and that could have been an issue for members of the military until the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”. 

It is common for people to take cell phone pictures in bars and discos.   It’s generally acceptable in these places to photograph drag queens or other performers  like karaoke singers (unlike the case with legitimate stage).  There has always been a certain amount of unwritten etiquette inherent in the way people gather for photos taken by people they know.  It’s always possible for bystanders to be included accidentally or more distantly.  Until the middle of 2011, moreover, it seemed that most patrons in establishments  large enough for dancing there was very little concern among customers about showing up in photographs made by strangers (which could wind up on websites, blogs, or Facebook).  That has changed a lot in the past 18 months, no doubt in large part due to media coverage of “online reputation” issues (some of it ironically on my own blogs).  This today are not “OK” the way they used to be. 

Most establishments have not yet, to my knowledge, announced any policy changes.  They might in the future.  In New York City in March 2012, the pricey Saint and Black Party in New York City required all customers to check in cell phones and cameras, whereas at a free party two blocks away in Hells Kitchen, everything was as usual.  More likely, establishments could come up with rules of etiquette and post them on websites. A few often fog their dancefloors, to make customers hard to see.  

My idea right now is this.  If a patron is  behaving in a public accommodation in a way as to intentionally attract attention from others in plain sight, photography should be OK.  If you’re an amateur performer , it should be OK.  (Some establishments and some cities or states don’t allow photography of nude dancers.)  If you’re “intimate” in a relatively secluded, hard-to-see or dark area – or just there and doing nothing, then it’s not all right.   It’s more likely to be OK on elevated stages in larger places, when people are in costumes (as for Halloween), are participating in contests, or otherwise make themselves conspicuous.  It is likely not to be all right to post significant videos including DJ music, because that’s normally copyright protected, and rather strictly.  By the way, I don’t think it’s normally OK to hunt for or photo people smoking, snorting, etc. or doing anything in an outdoor area. It certainly isn’t interesting or newsworthy.  

We still hear reports of people being “fired” for photos of them showing up on Facebook or other sites. 

 Recently, someone was fired for a tasteless photo taken of her at Arlington Cemetery, but she was apparently on work time when it happened (story).

There’s other news to report soon, including the shutdown of dozens of sites Nov. 26 for selling counterfeit goods.  I’ll check into this.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

What happens when a webmaster or digital account holder is out of reach? More follow-up needed

A notice I go by automated email from an ISP (Verio) recently, with updated terms of service, underscored a couple of points I have been concerned about before. 

One issue is what happens if a webmaster or account holder is unavailable (because of hospitalization or international travel, among other things) or passes away.  I discussed the issue at some length here on July 3, 2012.

The updated TOS mentioned that an account can be closed if the accountholder fails to respond to a contact request (email) within fifteen days, which may be business days.  This is probably representative of  industry practice.  (However, the last time I looked, I couldn't find this issue on Google or Blogger TOS.)  While the likelihood is remote of a contact attempt, it might happen because of some unusual complaint or change in security policy (such as a  new requirement to use stronger passwords).  The likelihood of such a need is reduced by Section 230 protections for the provider, as well as the provider’s capabilities under DMCA Safe Harbor.  (It might well have increased had SOPA passed.)  The TOS also mentioned the idea of indemnification.  Should the normal downstream liability protections in the law somehow fail, the account holder could be held liable for damages claimed on the service provider.  Book publishers also require such clauses with authors.  The probability that it would actually be invoked for an “average  user” is extremely low and remote, but could have increased under SOPA.  This could be more of an issue overseas. 

Service providers will, of course, terminate upon non-payment of renewal (credit card expiration), although some will retain backups with restore capability for a time thereafter. 

ICANN, as noted, requires that registrars check once a year with domain owners for accuracy of contact information.

I mentioned (on July 3, 2012) a blog called “Digital Passing” by Jim Lamm.  I urge visitors to try to read the blog in detail, although it could take some time and effort.    The blog entries deal with the problems that estate executors may face in gaining access to a deceased person’s digital “property”, particularly with respect to the way the courts have interpreted the 1986 Stored Communications Act, especially the Ninth Circuit.  There are many twists, turns and paradoxes in this issue. 

Generally, it’s a good idea for anyone to lay out in his will exactly what he or she wants done with digital property (by a "digital executor").  It’s a good idea to save contents (like backups of blogs, photos, videos, book manuscripts) on flash drivers or, even better, CD’s or DVD’s (optical storage) and hold them in a safe-deposit box with instructions.  Service providers  (including Facebook) may be very reluctant (because of the vagueness of the law and the quixotic treatment by the courts so far) to allow executors to get access to the accounts. It may or may not be legal for executors to gain access to accounts with passwords given to them – that is controversial right now, and courts seem to struggle with it.

Service providers, including social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.)  would do well to think through the possibility of facilitating executor access or substitute access by an authorized person in case of incapacity, sequestration, or extended travel. In a slightly different legal environment (were some form of SOPA to pass some day) it might even become legally necessary (and ethically necessary) for account holders to facilitate response should they be unreachable.  To do so, companies would need to come to a consensus on the privacy requirements in the law and might need to form a trade group to arrive at such a professional legal consensus.

Users may want to read the paper “A User’s Guide to the Stored Communications Act, and a Legislator’s Guide to Amending It” (2004), by Orin S. Kerr of the George Washington University Law School, link here.

It's probably prudent for account holders to make sure that they sign on to all their accounts at least once every two weeks if possible, check payment status, statistics (like Urchin or Analytics) and bandwidth use, and moderate comments.  

Let me note something else on “friending” and “following” (no, not "stalking").  On both Facebook and Twitter, it has become more common recently than it was two years ago for members to allow only friends or followers to see most posted content.   Generally, I will follow or friend new persons to learn of professional output (that is music, film, books, fiction, screenplays, software, computer security products, inventions,  public performances, etc.), not to follow strictly personal matters (like who someone is “dating”).  So this is not a matter for sitcoms.  At 69, given “competitive reality”,  I’m too old for “gossip”, although I do enjoy reading widecracks and viral humor on social media.  I think it’s a good idea to have separate “professional” and  “strictly personal” id’s and hashtags for social media, although Facebook policy (of only one “true identity”) might not allow this (Facebook does allow entities to register as companies and organizations, which I presume proprietors could use.) 

Update: Dec. 4:

On Sunday, December 2, Michelle Singletary has a column in the Washington Post, "A Promise to a Friend", about leaving affairs in order, physically, link here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ABC covers Yelp sting on "paid reviews"

On Monday, November 19, 2012, ABC World News presented a story on its own investigation of fake "phony" reviews on Yelp. Apparently Yelp has been running a sting to nab fake reviewers by posting ads on Craigslist for them.  The practice occurs when companies pay people to write favorable reviews, a practice supposedly illegal under FTC rules. 

The link for the story (with video) is here

One San Francisco retail business owner, a young male, was unapologetic about getting caught. To him, it was just business.

Angie’s List, on the other hand, says emphatically that you can’t pay to be reviewed on the list. 
I do get review copies of movie DVD’s from companies (or book publishers, especially self-publishers) sometimes, and I note that I have a review copy when I write the review.  But  I do not favor films or books just because I got a “free” copy.  Most of my reviews concern the issues underneath the story in a film or book.  I generally don’t assign “star counts”.  I do apply stars on Netflix (not visible) and sometimes Amazon, but I am not influenced by how I received the material.  Sometimes it is easier to review a movie “fairly” from a DVD because of the interviews and other extras on a DVD.  But then there is the saying from Regal Cinemas, “Go big or go home”.  And, by the way, for theatrically viewed films, I often comment on the technical presentation at the venue and on the audience size and reaction.

Maybe you can write an Argo-style fake review of a fake hit movie!

Here is a video by Luis Estrada about “paid blogging networks” such as “pay to blog”. 

I haven’t gone as far down this path as he suggests.  That’s because I want to keep the freedom to write about exactly what I think needs to be covered. – the “existential issues”.  I’ll get into more about how this came to be soon.

One can make a living, if good enough, reviewing technical products, ethically.  I recall one time a review called "printer therapy", way back in the good old 90s.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

GOP group disseminates, then pulls paper proposing "sensible" copyright law reforms

Ars Technica, in an article by Timothy B. Lee (November 18), reports that an influential group of House Republicans published and then pulled an article proposing "shockingly sensible" copyright reforms.  EFF tweeted the story today.

The paper would have reduced maximum infringement damages, copyright terms, penalties for frivolous copyright infringement claims and trolling (like Righthaven) and expanded ideas of fair use. 

The link for the story is here.

The American Conservative has an article (by Jordan Bloom, Nov. 16) that includes an embedded PDF from Scribd of the proposal (about 8 pages) as well as the brief memo pulling it back (in boldface).  The article asks is this an “anti-IP turn for the GOP?”. This is the link

Generally, the "pelican brief" GOP memo was critical of the continuing strategy of some large media companies to try to maintain monopoly over meaningful content distribution and sales, as if they feared low-cost competition much more than outright piracy.

Early Sunday afternoon, I did see a poor-looking person trying to sell pirated CD’s or DVD’s to people caught in a traffic jam near New York Avenue in Washington DC.  That could be a security problem in other ways.  I’ve also seen this take place on NYC subways.  If I was a rich media mogul, I wouldn’t be worried about poor people buying cheap (and probably technically deficient) imitation copies of my work.  If my work reaches more people, so much the better.  (Maybe I would be worried if I had a union or guild job in the business.)  But it is this crude kind of piracy that leads movie theaters to have zero tolerance to photography within their auditoriums.  (See the story of an arrest on my Movies blog, Aug 3, 2007).  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Campus speech codes are stopping real debate -- and inspire a new book

Here’s another piece on campus speech codes, with some discussion of the work of Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Equal Rights in Education and author of “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate”, from Encounter Books (2012).

There are all kinds of anecdotes, such as a censure at Fordham University for inviting Anne Coulter to speak, and a ban on showing the Danish cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed at an event at New York University.

The piece in the Wall Street Journal, by Sohran Ahmari, Saturday November 17 2012, “How free speech died on campus”, is here.

Alan Charles Kors discusses campus speech codes on Reason TV:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Rebuilding NYC, NJ coasts could challenge ideas about volunteerism

There has been a surge in volunteerism among more affluent New Yorkers, but their involvement in helping hurricane victims has sometimes been spotty or voyeuristic, sometimes judgmental, and sometimes brings back Maoist ideas of class justice.  At least, that seems to come out of the article “Helping Hands Also Expose a New York Divide”, in the New York Times Saturday November 17, 2012 m by Sarah Maslin Nir, link here.

In one case, a manager in a financial firm wanted his Ivy League yuppies to get their hands dirty and take their turns with manual labor, according to the article.  That sounds like the way my father used to preach.
In another case, a woman wanted to get poorer women help in lactation. 

However, it seems as though many New Yorkers had been largely oblivious of life in the projects, or in the blue collar coastal areas like the Rockaways. 

When I lived in NYC from 1974-1978, I used to take the A Train to the end of the line, and ride a bus through a Rockaway community about a mile to Riis Park.  I went to Staten Island a few times.  But I never really thought about the danger from hurricanes or severe coastal storms. 

But upscale New Yorkers in some luxury high rises in lower Manhattan are still displaced because of severe damage to infrastructure.  Surely a lot can be done to prevent such damage in the future. 

But will personal volunteerism -- "karma yoga" -- really get these seaside communities rebuilt?  Will church groups and Habitat for Humanity get together to rebuild homes?  Would I go on such a trip later?  How would I stay connected if I did (and that can be a big upcoming problem to talk about soon). 
It does seem to me that building codes in seaside will have to be made much stricter.  This would be a job for professionals, and engineers – maybe a source of first jobs for some engineering college graduates.   Large construction and home building companies, needing work, can probably be much more efficient at rebuilding with new codes than can ad hoc volunteers (who can do these things for social capital).  That could result in a lot of premanufactured home pieces and standardization, but it will help people.  And unfortunately it’s going to be a stress on the federal and state governments over and above what insurance companies can do.  Maybe, this is an area for national service (as could be power restoration), a shocking thought.
Again – it’s all about infrastructure.
And it is, in a broad sense, about social justice.  And all that presents a challenge to modern ideas about individualism, which social structures and shared goals seem more important than ever for sustainability.

It seems that only a few years ago we were all in lockstep with the typical "libertarian" solution: tell people not to live too close to the ocean (or in earthquake zones or in wildfire-prone areas); tell people not to have families and babies until they can make enough money to support them, tell people not to borrow more money for a house than they can afford.  Get it?
Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo showing area power outages Nov. 1 

Update: Monday November 19:

Some students from an evangelical high school in Colorado traveled to Toms River NJ (10 miles from the ocean) on their homecoming weekend to help residents.  The girls tore down drywall, the boys cut trees.  Any concern about building codes yet?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Friday, November 16, 2012

Copyright Alert System to go into effect soon

Once again, there are reports that the Copyright Alert System (CAS) should go into effect before the end of 2012.

The system, with the “six step program” leading to possible “mitigation measures” is described by the Center for Copyright Information here. Now CAS claims that no essential Internet service would be completely cut off.

Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that there are potentially troubling conflicts of interest in the way the “oversight” committee is staffed.  It points out that lobbyists must file reports on who they have worked for, to reported online for public inspection at “Open Secrets”, like here.  

That concerns Stroz Friedberg, who has written a heavily redacted report on how the oversight will work.
It’s unclear that a lot of lawful use of P2P won’t cause many home users or small businesses to fall under the radar screen and get warnings.

The EFF article by Mitch Stoltz, “U.S. Copyright surveillance machine about to be switched on, promises of transparency already broken,” link here  

Slate explains all this in a brief video:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

New York Times covers new NAS report on the long-lasting hardships that could come from even "smaller" attacks on the power grid

I’ve talked a lot lately about how a stable infrastructure is crucial for the expressive individualism that most of us expect, but which can become difficult to sustain indefinitely. 

Today (Thursday, November 15, 2012), Matthew L. Wald reported (on p. A23 of The New York Times) on a just-released National Academy of Sciences paper that maintains that smaller-scale terrorist attacks could be devastating to the US power grid.  The title of the article is “Terrorist attack on power grid could cause broad hardship, report says”, link here

I discussed the details in a review of the paper on my Books blog today. 

In addition to what is detailed in the paper, review and NYTImes article, I would wonder how Israel hardens its power grid (again, Gaza and the West Bank are back in the news tonight).  It would seem as if the US power industry needs to take some lessons from that well-prepared country in how to make its infrastructure much more robust.

It seems that our power industry has indeed, been allowed (through short-term profit taking) to drift into a state where it is not prepared for some really huge threats that can happen, including solar storms, EMP attacks (still considered very remote by the defense mainstream but not  ignored by Newt Gingrich and some other conservatives), but also smaller, more conventional attacks that can do more damage than we had thought (although the issue has been widely debated  [in homeland security circles] specifically for nuclear plants, but not in a way that addresses the transformer replacement problem). 

In my own thinking, it is contemplation of my own stake in a possible disaster that sends me back into understanding old-fashioned socially conservative thought.  A huge calamity, whether brought about by war (and enemy, whether a rogue totalitarian state or an asymmetric entity) or overwhelming natural disaster (like a solar superstorm), removes a lot of the value and “personal power” of money and puts everyone in the same boat (a dangerous idea that incites revolutions, as in the NBC series). Calamity, if big and universal enough, is the great equalizer, and weak social capital becomes itself a secondary security risk - a compound notion that helped inspire the Maoist Cultural Revolution in the 1960s). People are forced to relate to others whom they had originally deemed unworthy of personal attention.  It’s a bad thing especially for socially isolated people, who suddenly find they are of no use in a world where everything they were good at has been taken away from them.  No wonder there is this idea of not trusting treasures on earth! Ultimately, it redirects ideas about marriage and family or community responsibility as something that people must share regardless of choice and tends to encourage authoritarian control of sexual morality, as a matter of community or tribal survival.  We see this now in many parts of the world.  It can happen here. The Amish may be on to something. 

Yet, all of this can be avoided, I hope, if we take better care of our infrastructure. "Folks", this is the most pressing national security issue that we have.  It's only a matter of time before it crushes it if we don't fix this. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wrongful conviction in VA case (based on a child's accusation) reminds me of a past controversy with web content

The Washington Post, on Wednesday November 14, 2012,has an editorial with some ramifications for Internet users and, well, everybody.  In print, it is titled “In Va., a travesty of justice: Gov. McDonnell must act – immediately – to release a wrongfully imprisoned man”, and online it is called “a wrongly imprisoned man in Virginia”, with link here.

The history concerns Jonathan Montgomery, now 26, serving a 7-1.2 year sentence in prison in Virginia since 2008. In 2007, a 16-year-old girl Elizabeth Paige accused him of having had  inappropriate contact with her in 2001, when he was 14 and she was 10. 

Apparently she made the story up as a diversion when her parents caught her looking at explicit materials on the Internet.  (In this  case, active parental supervision, so widely touted on my COPA blog, with the court opinion in 2007, backfired.)  She chose Montgomery because he had moved out of state, and thought nothing would happen. That was wrong.  He, having no idea of what could happen to him out of the blue, was extradited back to Virginia after a surprise arrest. 

I once went through a voir dire for a jury case in Dallas in 1980 regarding abuse, and was asked if, as a juror, I could believe the testimony of a minor.  I said OK.  But here it’s hard to believe that the testimony of a child was accepted as proof with no physical or corroborating evidence.  It could shed some light on the whole Sandusky affair – except that there were so many witnesses in that case.  There was a movie made in 2001 about this problem – “Just Ask the Children”.

I know about another such case in Texas, from rumors and bits of information; an incarceration resulted, and I can only say that it sounds like there is a need for more hard facts.

It’s chilling that this case was triggered indirectly by Internet “porn”.  But the case also calls to mind an incident back in 2005 regarding my own web content (detailed July 27, 2007).  In that case, I had posted a fictitious screenplay (on my own site, with my own capital) where a male substitute teacher is “tricked” by a precocious high school student and later imprisoned.  Apparently, at one school where I had often subbed, there was a fear that the protagonist resembled me too much and that it could incite someone into actually imitating the scenario of the screenplay.  It became perceived, as I noted then, as a kind of “self-libel” and brought up the issue of implicit content.  There has actually been an unrelated incident at that school while I was there, and sometimes it is hard to see that coincidence really does happen.  But the prevalence of incidents and false prosecutions makes something like this nothing to play with.

I’m actually using this incident in another script now – but it is safely layered into the back-story in a manner similar to that of “Cloud Atlas”.  I guess the concept of a “cloud” has a double meaning now.  

Update, Nov. 17:  The Washington Post is reporting on the arrest of an elderly man (now a substitute teacher in Maryland) based on accusations made by a former student about his conduct in the late 1960s!.  Can such accusations be proven?  Testimony under oath is considered proof.  But the Fairfax County police did investigate for over a year before making an arrest.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Worldwide, search and take-down requests of users by governments and large corporations grow exponentially (not logarithmically)

Arstechnica  has an important stpry by Timothy B. Lee today (Tuesday November 13, 2012) about surveillance and takedown requests (both copyright related and other causes) sent to Google by governments and large corporate interests. The title is “US gets more Google user data than all other countries combined”, link here

The requests for copyright-related takedowns from all over the world have grown from 100000 URLs per week in mid 2011 to almost two million today.  This appears to include YouTube videos and blog postings and removals from search engine results.  When an excessive number of credible copyright complaints against a user have occurred on YouTube, typically all the user’s videos are removed.  I often encounter this with videos that I have embedded;  typically, the complaint was against the user for videos other than one I used.  It does not appear that users are being penalized for embedding videos that are later taken down.

Takedowns for other reasons, such as libel and religious insult, are much less frequent, but do happen, especially outside the US (where there is no Section 230 protection).  Sometimes content is blocked only in specific countries, as with the recent anti-Islamic video controversy.

Governments around the world requested information from over 34000 Google users in 2012, up 36% over 2011.  User information may well feed into the recent Petraeus scandal, which seems to become a more complicated example of government and private snooping by the hour.  

There is a video by Jonathan Bailey of Twitter's takedown requests. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Do techies and geeks need to learn to lobby as a group (and therefore, espouse "solidarity")?

I have to recommend the article in the November 2012 issue of “Fast Company”, “Don’t play pitchfork politics”, by Sasha Issenberg. The online title is “Four lessons for tech activists hoping to influence politics”.

 The link is here

The article notes that geeks are often loners, want to send their own individualized messages, and do not like to support the causes of others if it means any compromise of (often libertarian) beliefs.  Yet, the article notes that geeks should be “taught to donate”, use tact, join and form lobbying and trade organizations (the old social capital idea, again), and “have a Plan B”. 

In the print version, Issenberg discusses the experience of Michael Hendrix, head of “Precise Agency”  (link   – and yes, I’d like to “fly to Mars”).

The article also notes that some SOPA supporters are still in Congress, particularly from LA (and Tinseltown) area.  SOPA, remember, was an existential threat to the whole capacity of ordinary people to self-publish their own content, if had required service providers to prescreen them for possible copyright problems (DMCA Safe Harbor notwithstanding).  There are people in Hollywood who probably fear low or no-cost competition as much as they fear piracy.  At least one Hollywood executive has said that to me.

This all sounds like the debate on "arrange marriages" in other cultures. Eusociality is not for geeks.

Friday, November 09, 2012

EFF goes after frivolous DMCA takedown demands by big media companies

Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting some DMCA takedown notices that border on the absurd, or at least frivolous.

Universal sent a notice to YouTube to take down a 29-second video by Stephanie Linz of her toddler dancing in a crib to a Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy”.  EFF sued Universal in her behalf, in a story with link here

The DMCA Safe Harbor mechanism apparently does not penalize copyright owners for “frivolous” takedowns that later get reversed.  EFF says that the use of the Prince music is incidental, and would not affect the ability of the music to earn royalty revenue in a normal manner.

Political blogger Michelle Malkin also fought a takedown notice successfully.

I’m not able to find Linz’s video on YouTube at this time.
I generally don’t post videos with copyrighted background music (such as videos of people dancing at discos to presumably copyrighted music), except sometimes at outdoor political protests or fundraisers. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

With cable viewer monitoring, did the Obama campaign violate the spirit of "do not track"?

Scott Wilson and Phili[ Rucker have a front-page story in the Washington Post Wed. Nov. 7,  “Victory begins with a strong ground game and ends with a perfect storm”, which details how the Obama campaign tracked voter media (cable television) viewing habits in order to place cable ads and also to even keep tabs on individual voters.  This rather disturbing discussion appears in print on p. A44 in the second newspaper column. The story link is here.  

Doesn’t this violate the spirit of “do not track”?  Apparently the Obama campaign bought voter data from cable providers. Is this legal?  Could it do this with Internet search and surfing habits? 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Unwanted or incorrect attribution can lead to online reputation issues

A column by one David Kaiser on p. 11 of the New York Times Review Sunday (Nov. 4), “I didn’t write that”, shows a flip side of the plagiarism issue and its workings with online reputation.  Kaiser was given unwanted credit for a conspiracy-theory-type essay of the president and the Federal Reserve, and started getting emails and tweets about it – and then found that “another” Kaiser wasn’t the author either.  Then, he had to ask somebody to take attribution (with photo) of him off another web site. 

The link is here
Back in 2001, someone circulated a letter about supposed anti-gay discrimination by a retail chain in the upper Midwest.  I ran it on my “” site (the name I used at that time, when I was in Minneapolis), but then cut it down myself when I found some possible factual errors (I guess that was still OK under Section 230 as long as I didn’t change the “meaning”).  But in June 2003 I received an email from him asking me to remove it entirely.  I did so.  I had another incident in December,  2001 where someone didn’t want his name mentioned as having attended a certain political meaning – but these sorts of incidents have been very rare.

By the way, voting today was easy, only about twenty or so in line at 2:30 PM this afternoon in Arlington VA.  

Update: 11:30 PM:  Did anybody notice that NBC called Ohio and then the election for Obama 15 minutes before anyone else? 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

We're not prepared for a big solar storm; Internet services could crumble or shrink; more on hospitality

Although a lot has been written about the ability of utilities, particularly Con-Ed, to prepare for hurricanes and protect generating stations in coastal areas, and much has been written about the safety of nuclear plants in earthquake or even tsunami-exposed areas, much more attention needs to be paid to the ability of the domestic power grid to protect itself against large solar geomagnetic storms, conceivably one on the scale of the 1859 “Carrington Event”.  I’ve reviewed booklets on this problem on my Book reviews blog  (Aug. 9, 2012 by National Academy of Sciences, Oct. 20, 2012 by Oak Ridge National Laboratory).

It would appear that in many cases the world would have about three days’ notice that a crippling magnetic pulse was going to occur.  Worst case estimates, according to Oak Ridge, suggest that up to 70% of the United States would be affected, with some areas taking several months to recover.

How would the media (especially the weather channels and 24 hour news stations like CNN) hype an event like this?
Elsewhere I’ve also documented sources that discuss the possibility of a terrorist electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack  (Books blog, July 20).  Although this provides a good reason to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of Iran, the full scale scenario (as in the book “One Second After” reviewed in July) is much less likely that an extreme solar storm.  However, EMP events in small areas could be triggered by certain non-nuclear devices now in possession of the military only.

Although, after Sandy, the country probably will return to “normal” in most areas of the Northeast in a couple weeks (maybe not in the most exposed coastal areas), it could not do so after an extreme solar event. 

It’s hard to believe that the big Internet companies to which we are accustomed could continue operating as they have after such an event, at least in many affected areas.  And even once power were restored everywhere, business models might be so badly affected that the predication on user-generated content might no longer exist.  Parties might not be able to publish and connect in an unsupervised, low revenue manner as they have in the past.  Downstream liability concepts might become stricter.

Public policy ought to place a lot of emphasis on hardening the power grid against magnetic damage now.  Neither Romney nor Obama has said anything about it.  Obama has often talked about general spending on infrastructure, whereas Romney has discussed only specific opportunities (like oil and gas pipelines).  Moderators of debates have not brought this up. 

It’s also not clear which candidate is the most sympathetic to spontaneous free speech on the web.  The Obama administration seemed to want to hide behind blaming an anti-Muslim video for attacks in Libya and elsewhere for a while, and the GOP quite properly spoke out for free speech.  Both parties have been concerned that Facebook’s opposition to anonymity could hinder legitimate protest movements  around the world.  But all of this becomes secondary if the global power grid has massive prolonged disruptions because of space weather we are not prepared for.

Much has been written about citizen preparedness for survival.  There’s also a “social cohesion” issue. In most disasters, families want to stay as close to home as possible.  In a few cases, where there is total destruction, an area might not be rebuilt for a long time.  After Katrina, many people never came back to New Orleans.  The willingness of others in neighboring states to personally house people actually became an issue, as many families went to Texas, and a few came to this areas.  That sort of issue could occur again.  

There’s a good question as to how quickly the corporate building industry can respond in replacing homes with manufactured housing, since this can be more efficient than having volunteers from local groups and churches work.  I know of volunteer groups that went down to New Orleans to work and were not allowed to do so because of mold.  The  LDS Church (Mitt Romney) was unusually effective in helping with the Katrina recovery because of its own internal welfare program. 
I recall, back in 1980, there was a call for people in Dallas (particularly the LGBT community) to be willing to house some of the Cuban refugees.   This did not work out very well, as few people had any grip on what could be involved in expecting this kind of "radical hospitality" (see Oct. 30).  I’ve had only one experience with housing someone, and that was in Dallas in 1980, someone local, and that did not go particularly well.  

Is this a call for "survivalism" or more social capital?  I hope it's a warning to take protecting our infrastructure much more seriously.  It's the most important policy issue we have. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

More on Megaupload: Government says that cloud data is not an individual's "property"

Cindy Cohn and Julie Samuels have a frightening op-ed on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site regarding the Justice Department’s behavior in the Megaupload prosecution, and its attempts to block Kyle 

Goodwin’s efforts to recover his data.  Goodwin, recall, was not accused of any counterfeiting or piracy, but the government still wanted to rife through his material to look for more possible excuses for additional prosecution or litigation against Megaupload customers or users.

It sounds as though the government is taking the position that any user of a service whose other users have committed crimes must share the guilt.  As I said with SOPA, it’s the “everybody gets detention” argument, well known from middle school days. It’s not just “know thy customer”, but “know thy neighbor”.  Time for Sunday School.

Worse, the DOJ is claiming that data stored in the “Cloud” is no longer one’s own “property”.  Would that mean that my Carbonite backups of my own private (unpublished) manuscripts (as I have many) are no longer my property, and maybe even the originals are no longer mine?  Could it mean that I no longer can claim intellectual property ownership of my posts on Blogger?  Of my music composition score on my own doaskdotell site?  Would that mean something to music composers (whether classical or rock)? 

The link for the EFF story is here   It’s scary.

It would be a good question as to which party would behave better on this matter.  Both Romney and Obama ought to be quizzed on how they would balance Internet free speech with piracy concerns.  No one seems to have asked them yet. 
The best video on Goodwin’s case seems to be in Spanish.  Hopefully, it’s close enough in language to make sense. YouTube does have a translate option.