Oct 26, 2000

On Privacy, One Size Doesn't Fit All
Privacy from Companies
10/26/2000; 1:52:36 PM

'Lately, a majority of the members of the Federal Trade Commission want to set a uniform code of conduct on Internet privacy. That's a bad idea, and the White House and Congress have quite properly put it on hold. Right now, the FTC's function is to make sure that when a site publishes a privacy policy, it lives up to it. Otherwise, the FTC takes legal action. But a site need not have a privacy policy at all, under current law.

'The problem with a uniform code is that one size cannot possibly fit all on the Net. Some sites, for example, offer users a trade: tell us about yourself (your address, age, income, interests, shopping habits) either directly or through our monitoring of your activity on the site, and we will give you something in return -- perhaps discounts or access to extra information on the site. As long as users understand the conditions of their engagement with a particular site, they should be free to enter into any deal they want with that site.'

Oct 26, 2000

Region Blocking as Forced Contracts
General IP Issues
10/26/2000; 1:49:51 PM

'Region blocking ties the consumer into this contract, without the consumer having any say in whether or not they accept the contract. Region blocking prevents me from having 'enjoyment' of my legal purchase if I happen to move to a different country - without me having a chance to say 'actually, I don't want to buy into this contract. Offer me another one.''

This makes sense to me; you can look at region blocking as a forced license.

Oct 25, 2000

Classical Fuzzy Thinking: Censorware
Personal Commentary
10/25/2000; 10:40:35 PM

Just a general thought as I read the Salon article Don't let McCain censor the Net: People want censorware that will perfectly screen out what they don't want to see, or don't want their children to see.  Most of the comments against using this censorware has focused on the fact that none of it is ready for prime time. I think the fact that it will never be ready for prime time is getting lost in the noise.

People won't ever be able to agree on what they want to see from a censorware program.  Some will want to filter the left, some the right, some both, some neither, and some will want to filter Communism. Everybody fuzzily imagines this magic solution in their own head that works perfectly... but if any one of these solutions was realized, it would only please the one person's solution we chose... if indeed they understand things clearly enough anyhow.

Censorware fails the human test: If a human being can't be trained in how to censor in such a way to make two people happy, how do we expect computer software to ever even come close?

This is the idea behind "parents should take responsibility for their own children"... it's not a societal cop-out, it's a recognition that the service that parents are requesting can't exist. 

(Who filters the filterers?)

Oct 25, 2000

Net Privacy Bill Called 'Trojan Horse'
Privacy from Companies
10/25/2000; 2:30:51 PM

'In May, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) proposed a law to sharply limit the sale of the identifying numbers, which often serve as hooks for electronic dossiers about the whereabouts, credit histories and lifestyles of millions of Americans.

'Then the information industry got involved. Now privacy advocates say Gregg's modified measure, part of an appropriations bill set to pass in the final days of Congress, is a "Trojan horse" that does more harm than good, because loopholes allow giant data brokers, banks, marketers and even private detectives to exchange or sell the numbers among themselves.'

If I'm reading this correctly, this bill's primary purpose is to empower privacy-invading companies to continue to do what they do legally, and to make sure we never have that power. In other words, it grants privacy-violating companies the power to violate privacy for monetary gain, but makes sure that nobody else can do it.  In yet more words, it grants a monopoly to privacy-invasion companys to invade our privacy.

Instead of granting them a monopoly, let's hold them to the provisions of the bill, too.

Oct 25, 2000

Study Suggest Net Does Not Create Isolation
Technology & Sociology
10/25/2000; 2:27:03 PM

'Nearly two-thirds of all Americans have ventured online, and the majority of them deny the Internet creates social isolation, according to a study released Wednesday by the University of California in Los Angeles....

'But the Internet has only been a popular communication tool for the past five years, cautions UCLA researcher Jeffrey Cole. Cole, the lead researcher of ''Surveying the Digital Future,'' believes the Web will have profound long-term effects that most users can't yet detect.'

Seems fairly balanced.

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