FTC Final Privacy Report Draws a Map to Meaningful Privacy Protection in the Online World | Electronic Frontier Foundation

 

FTC Final Privacy Report Draws a Map to Meaningful Privacy Protection in the Online World

 

Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its final report on digital consumer privacy issues after more than 450 companies, advocacy groups and individuals commented on the December 2010 draft report. The final report creates strong guidelines for protecting consumer privacy choices in the online world. The guidelines include supporting the Do Not Track browser header, advocating federal privacy legislation, and tackling the issue of online data brokers.

 

 

Facebook asserts trademark on word “book” in new user agreement

Facebook is trying to expand its trademark rights over the word “book” by adding the claim to a newly revised version of its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” the agreement all users implicitly consent to by using or accessing Facebook.

You may recall that Facebook has launched multiple lawsuits against websites incorporating the word “book” into their names. Facebook, as far as we can tell, doesn’t have a registered trademark on “book.” But trademark rights can be asserted based on use of a term, even if the trademark isn’t registered, and adding the claim to Facebook’s user agreement could boost the company’s standing in future lawsuits filed against sites that use the word.

Apple’s press conference showed a brand unraveling

<blockquote class=’posterous_long_quote’><p>Last time Apple was without Jobs, it came out with a lineup of duds. Do you remember Apple’s digital cameras, speakers, or video game consoles? Or how about the company’s Newton PDA? While Apple was cranking out those dogs, Jobs came up with Next (later to become the foundation of OS X) and Pixar.</p><p>Today, we saw the first cracks in what will eventually become a wholesale break with the past.&nbsp; What happens next will depend largely on the company’s ability to lead itself now that its founding leader is gone.</p></blockquote>

Interesting take on the recent iPad release event. I find the branding of the iPad as “the New iPad” particularly bad design — when the next “new iPad” comes out, bloggers and forum posters will suddenly have no way to succinctly distinguish them. Forum posts regarding the 2012 model will likewise be instantly made outdated. There’s a certain psychological impact to buying the “new” product, but it seems outweighed by the absurdity of having an “old” product that’s been out for just one year.

The House GOP Plan To Gut The FCC

Today, as phone, video, and broadcast services have become merely bits passing over a wire, Congress’s intentions embodied in the 1996 Act have been completely subverted. Through a wave of mergers and years of litigation (helped along by some gymnastic labeling fiestas by the FCC), new companies have found it almost impossible to compete.

We have Ma Cell instead of Ma Bell, with just two companies — AT&T and Verizon — utterly dominant, their vast spectrum holdings, control over handset manufacturing, and provision of backhaul adding up to moats around their businesses that Sprint and T-Mobile can’t cross. We have a handful of cable incumbents — chiefly Comcast and Time Warner — controlling high-speed wired access to everything at whatever prices they want to charge.

Given this context, and its direct impact on consumers’ pocketbooks and innovation in America, you’d think that Congress would want to have an empowered regulator able to do something to protect the country from the rational, profit-seeking depredations of our new generation of monopolists.

Instead, the House Republicans are going in exactly the opposite direction. They’re lining up big-company support to push legislation early next week on the floor of the House that would gut the FCC. The bill, H.R. 3309, is called the “FCC Process Reform Act of 2011.”

The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center via @wiredmag

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.

In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools.

Interesting milestone for humanity, when information is not only more accessible through digital mediums, but increasingly, only available in digital mediums.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs via NYTimes.com

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money.

Heartfelt and inspiring piece by one of Goldman Sachs’ prominent veterans, putting a magnifying glass to the politics and internal culture of one of the world’s most influential investment firms, revealing the widespread corruption and greed at work.

While the bravery in quitting his job and coming forward to attack what he sees as wrong is inspiring, the heart of the piece leaves me more than a little pessimistic about the financial sector.

A Patent Lie: How Yahoo Weaponized My Work via Wired.com

Every Yahoo employee was encouraged to participate in their “Patent Incentive Program,” with sizable bonuses issued to everyone who took the time to apply.

Now, I’ve always hated the idea of software patents. But Yahoo assured us that their patent portfolio was a precautionary measure, to defend against patent trolls and others who might try to attack Yahoo with their own holdings. It was a cold war, stockpiling patents instead of nuclear arms, and every company in the valley had a bunker full of them.

Against my better judgement, I sat in a conference room with my co-founders and a couple of patent attorneys and told them what we’d created. They took notes and created nonsensical documents that I still can’t make sense of. In all, I helped Yahoo file eight patent applications.

Years after I left I discovered to my dismay that four of them were granted by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office.

I thought I was giving them a shield, but turns out I gave them a missile with my name permanently engraved on it.

I was naive. Even if the original intention was truly defensive, a patent portfolio can easily change hands, and a company can even more easily change its mind. Since I left in 2007, Yahoo has had three CEOs and a board overhaul.

The scary part is that even the most innocuous patent can be used to crush another’s creativity. One of the patents I co-invented is so abstract, it could not only cover Facebook’s News Feed, but virtually any activity feed. It puts into very sharp focus the trouble with software patents: Purposefully vague wording invites broad interpretation.

In their complaint, Yahoo alleges that Facebook’s News Feed violates “Dynamic page generator,” a patent filed in 1997 by their former CTO related to the launch of My Yahoo, one of the first personalized websites. Every web application, from Twitter to Pinterest, could be said to violate this patent. This is chaos.

Patents and the intellectual arms race over owning creativity. This is NOT the protection for creatives the creators of copyright law had in mind – for huge corporations to buy them up en masse, to be wielded like enormous clubs to browbeat your competition and crush innovation.

And for every politician who claims these laws preserve American ingenuity, there are 10 actual inventors clamoring away for free in their basements, simply for the love of the work. It’s the money-grubbing corporate barons who really want this state of affairs to continue, not the average man it’s meant to protect.

SXSW In A Nutshell: Homeless People As Hotspots [Not a joke!] via @RWW

South By Southwest 2012 can be summarized thusly: An impossibly-named marketing company called Bartle Bogle Hegarty is doing a little human science experiment called Homeless Hotspots. It gives out 4G hotspots to homeless people along with a promotional t-shirt. The shirt doesn’t say, “I have a 4G hotspot.” It says, “I am a 4G hotspot.

You can guess what happens next. You pay these homeless, human hotspots whatever you like, and then I guess you sit next to them and check your email and whatnot. The digital divide has never hit us over the head with a more blunt display of unselfconscious gall.

Creative, and extremely uncomfortable. Oh SXSW, you paramour of Internet fueled excess!

HBO Deals Keep Fox, Universal Out of New iCloud Movie Service

As widely predicted, Apple has updated its Apple TV accessory. This isn’t an overhaul but an update: The new box offers better resolution and software upgrades.

The new device will support video in 1080p, and Apple will now allow users to redownload movies they’ve already purchased from iTunes, like they’ve already been able to do with TV shows, via Apple’s iCloud service.

AppleTV in 1080p! The best solution for streaming media is still a Mac Mini running Plex, however.