Tag Archives: legal

Daniel Ellsberg: Crowd Funding the Right to Know

“A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” — Judge Murray Gurfein, Pentagon Papers case, June 17, 1971

When a government becomes invisible, it becomes unaccountable. To expose its lies, errors, and illegal acts is not treason, it is a moral responsibility. Leaks become the lifeblood of the Republic.

Whatever one’s opinion of WikiLeaks, every American should be offended that two elected officials, merely by putting pressure on corporations, could financially strangle necessary expression without ever going to court. What happened to WikiLeaks is completely unacceptable in a democracy that values free speech and due process.

via huffingtonpost.com

These people are doing great work. In an era of unparalleled person-to-person communication, it’s simply unacceptable that much of our government is invisible to the average person.

Instagram says it now has the right to sell your photos

Under the new policy, Facebook claims the perpetual right to license all public Instagram photos to companies or any other organization, including for advertising purposes, which would effectively transform the Web site into the world’s largest stock photo agency. One irked Twitter user quipped that “Instagram is now the new iStockPhoto, except they won’t have to pay you anything to use your images.”

via news.cnet.com

Incredibly creepy policy shift from the recently-acquired Facebook subsidiary, Instagram.

When armies become media: Israel live-blogs and tweets an attack on Hamas — Tech News and Analysis

For decades — perhaps even centuries — journalists have been the primary witnesses to and chroniclers of war, piecing together news reports from eyewitnesses and military briefings. But what if the armies or military forces who were engaged in a conflict took on the role of publishers themselves, distributing their own live reports while the battle was being fought? That idea is no longer science fiction: it became reality when the Israeli Defense Forces started live-blogging and live-tweeting an attack on Hamas guerillas in the Gaza strip and uploading video of their rocket blasts to YouTube.

Social media, once thought of as a tool for bored nerds and marketing gurus, has taken on a whole new role it seems — one that could stand to change the face of modern warfare forever. As BuzzFeed notes in its round-up of Twitter posts from the Israeli army (a sentence I never would have imagined typing even a few years ago), the IDF actually warned Hamas guerillas not to show themselves on the Gaza strip or risk being killed in the attacks that began Wednesday morning, and the official Hamas account responded:

In the hours that followed, videos of rocket attacks on Hamas strongholds were uploaded to YouTube, and the IDF blog carried a minute-by-minute breakdown of what was happening — how many Hamas rockets it intercepted, a strike by the Israeli Navy, and so on. It looked very much like the New York Times live-blog The Lede, except that it was being published by a military force: the front of the website even looks like a traditional news blog or breaking news site, complete with the usual social-media buttons for sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and other networks.

via gigaom.com

FBI’s New Facial Recognition Program Leaves No Place to Hide

The FBI has announced a plan to spend $1 billion to build a new type of facial recognition database that will allow the agency to identify suspects and people of interest using security footage from public cameras.

Technically, the Next-Generation Identification program (NGI) is an update to the FBI’s national fingerprint database. Government agencies will now start using a person’s face, along with other biometric data like DNA analysis, iris scans, and voice identification, to determine a person’s identity. In other words, if you have a criminal record, the police will no longer simply take your fingerprints and snap a mugshot; they’ll keep a record accurate enough to let them pick you out of crowd anywhere you go.

via mashable.com

The FBI’s New Unit Can Spy on Skype and Wireless Communications

<blockquote class=’posterous_long_quote’><p>Four years and $54 million later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is finally ready to launch a surveillance unit capable of spying on Skype conversations and other Internet communications.</p><p>The Domestic Communications Assistance Center (DCAC) is a collaborative effort between the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. All three agencies will build&nbsp;customized hardware to enable wiretapping on wireless and Internet conversations per court order requests.</p></blockquote>

CREEPY.

What Google’s Acquisition of Motorola Means for Android

In many, many ways, the best thing to ever happen to Android will be Google’s acquisition of Motorola. Google can now defend its mobile operating system with Motorola’s patents and create dynamic devices with Motorola’s hardware. At the same time, the E.U. and U.S. have put in measures concerning litigation around essential patents and China has ensured that Android will remain open and free. There will be losers in the Android ecosystem, among them several mobile manufacturers and maybe mobile carriers, depending on how much control Google can exercise over the sale of the devices. 

When the Motorola deal was announced last August and Page said that Google wanted to “supercharge” Android, he was not being facetious. Google has a tremendous opportunity in front of it. The path is paved with daggers but the benefit to the entire ecosystem at this point outweighs the risks. 

via readwriteweb.com

Shareholders Sue Facebook, Zuckerberg and Banks Over Botched IPO

In a lawsuit seeking class action status, filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Facebook shareholders are suing the company, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and several banks including lead underwriter Morgan Stanley.

The lawsuit claims shareholders were duped by the hiding of Facebook’s weakened growth forecasts.

Write Reuters’ Dan Levine and Jonathan Stempel:

The defendants were accused of concealing from investors during the IPO marketing process “a severe and pronounced reduction” in Facebook revenue growth forecasts, resulting from increased use of its app or website through mobile devices.

via thenextweb.com

Viacom so devastated by piracy that CEO gets $50 million raise

Last year, Viacom, whose Paramount subsidiary is an MPAA member, told the Wall Street Journal that “a new wave of digital piracy could threaten the US media business” if it lost its copyright infringement case against YouTube. Similarly, the MPAA has argued that “when profits are reduced, the studios have fewer dollars to invest in movies, and when there is less money to invest they make fewer movies and the diversity and variety of films we love become more limited.”

 

So we were interested in this CNN story on the 20 biggest CEO pay raises. The winner? Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. He got a raise of $50.5 million in 2010. That represents an impressive 149 percent pay increase from his 2009 compensation of $34 million.

Iit makes us wonder about the merits of spending even more taxpayer dollars (and trampling civil liberties) to better protect Viacom copyrights. Making movies seems pretty profitable as it is. And it seems a bit counterintuitive for a company that says its business is threatened by piracy to be so lavish with executive compensation. Neither the MPAA nor Viacom were willing to comment on this story.

 

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.

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.