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May 08, 2001

EU Data Protection Could Clamp Data Flows
Privacy from Companies
5/8/2001; 2:43:06 PM

Pointing to this Financial Times article, an unnamed reader excerpts: "'The wide-ranging directive aims to protect data about EU citizens against misuse worldwide. It is backed by the power to cut off data flows to countries that the EU judges not to have adequate data protection rules and enforcement.'"


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May 08, 2001

A Case of Free Speech Boundaries
Free Speech5/8/2001; 2:07:42 PM 'A pending libel suit in New York now stands to test -- and potentially redraw -- some of the boundaries of journalistic free speech on the Internet. 'The case concerns Roberto Hernandez Ramirez, general director and majority owner of the National Bank of Mexico, also known as Banamex. In 1997, this prominent Mexican billionaire and Salinista investor was the subject of a series of 15 investigative reports in the Merida, Mexico daily newspaper Por Esto that fingered him as a major narcotics trafficker between Colombia and the United States....'"You have a Mexican business -- (in) this case the Bank of Mexico, very much a Mexican business -- suing for stories concerning activities that took place in Mexico," said Thomas Lesser, a First Amendment attorney in Northampton, Mass. "And they're suing a website that emanates in Mexico -- in New York."'This must be thrown out on lack of jurisdiction grounds, or the jurisdiction system as we know it is dead. I'm sure some of the stuff on this site is prosecutable in other countries; what about you?


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May 08, 2001

Google Information for ETP.com
Personal Notes5/8/2001; 1:52:59 PM LATER UPDATE: Sheesh, people, Google's de-indexing was worth doing something about, it was worth discussing what actions to take, but it wasn't worth a flaming shit-fest. Let's have a sense of scale, here, please.UPDATE: I was incorrect. See this post on Andrea's site. (Thanks to Seth Dillingham.)I wanted to pass this on, since many ETP'ers who read this site may not have seen this. You may have noticed recently that your referers list recently got much shorter, because our Google hits have disappeared. It looks like techInterview has the answer:'after more debugging I realized that the editthispage.com domain would have been scanned around April 5th, the date on the cached copy of www.scripting.com that Google has. i looked back and realized i don't have any puzzles around then because on April 3rd, all the editthispage.com sites were down for a week. so guess we'll just have to wait a month to get back into Google.'I hope that's it. I do like Google's listing...


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May 07, 2001

Defending the cookie monster
Privacy from Companies
5/7/2001; 5:20:53 PM I've been thinking about cookies lately because here at Salon, our new Premium program relies on them in order to work properly, and we've corresponded with a small but vocal group of readers who feel strongly that All Cookies Must Be Destroyed. And though I am normally a diehard on issues of Web privacy, I have to report that cookies have been unfairly maligned.


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May 07, 2001

AOL's New Filter on the Block
Censorship5/7/2001; 11:43:28 AM 'America Online has begun using new filtering technology to power its "parental control" options for kids, young teens and older teens. The automated technology -- provided by filtering company RuleSpace -- recognizes eight languages and can analyze the content of 47 million webpages per day.''Because patents are pending on the context recognition technology, details are fuzzy. But the basic idea is that, rather than searching for objectionable keywords, it analyzes text and assigns it to a category of similar kinds of text. In this way, the program can supposedly distinguish between a lurid tale and a clinical discussion of STDs.''"This happens every year," said Chris Hunter, a civil liberties expert at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy center. "They say they've found new artificial intelligence that will be effective. Then it gets tested and the examples of over-blocking come out."'I've seen what constitutes "state of the art" in text recognition; I just took the final exam in that class . Believe me, it was not hard to do better then the previous generation, which was typified by the most naive approach to the problem possible. Even the most untrained of computer users know that filtering on the simple presence of key words won't work. Duh! (Yet the filter makers made millions.)Now someone's finally commercializing techniques that have been developed in the last decade for text recognition, and yes, it's a lot better at automated classification. The problem is, while many distinct techniques for such classification have been developed, they all tend to plateau at the same level of accuracy. Accuracy depends on domain, of course, but we're usually talking around 80-90% accurate, hitting 95% if you're lucky... that's as many as one in five documents incorrectly classified.Even if we assume a groundbreaking, earth-shaking, award-winning accuracy of 95%, that's an inaccuracy rate of one out of twenty, and I don't know of any system that's ever come close to doing better, except of course a human. Of course, the line between "indecent" and "decent" is one of the fuzzier ones, even by purely human standards, which makes it even harder. I'm sure the demo of the product went just swimmingly but automated classification is still not the answer.To put it simply, the status quo remains. A lot of things will slip through, and a lot of things will be incorrectly banned. It still doesn't address one of my main concerns, which is the amount of power we're handing a corporation.But worst of all, this system will be defeatable, if it becomes common enough to make it worthwhile for anybody. Put the phrases "safe sex" and "condom safety" a few times on your page, and you'll probably be able to pass anything through this filter. Humans who run these websites are smart, as humans tend to be.


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