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Sep 20, 2000

Apple's "1-click" deal leaves a sour taste
Patents9/20/2000; 2:32:23 PM 'By accepting the "1-click" patent as valid, Apple has for all practical purposes closed the debate about the patent's very legitimacy.'I have been waiting for an article, like this one from Salon, that covers what I didn't have time to cover: Apple's license legitimatizes the patent in the eyes of a lot of people, and will stifle debate.I wish they had stood up to Amazon, but it's just never worth it for one company to stand up alone, I suppose.


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Sep 20, 2000

Expert: Go Easy on Privacy Regulations
Privacy from Companies9/20/2000; 11:38:10 AM 'Say what you will about Richard Epstein, but don't call him a privacy zealot. 'The erudite University of Chicago law professor said Tuesday that instead of staking out extreme positions on both sides of the topic, advocates instead should consider the likely outcome of government regulations....'This is very true, and a Wired article from later today turns out to provide the perfect example to that. In An Ordeal: Copin' with COPPA, we see

...Therrien has come to believe that the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act is a flawed piece of legislation, and has decided it's easier to help his kids forge their ages to set up email accounts than it is to submit his credit card number, as at least one free email service (Hotmail) is demanding. "Maybe I'm admitting to a crime there, but I had a philosophical problem with giving them that kind of information," he said. "I don't want to give up credit card numbers where all I'm trying to do is set up an email account for my kids."
I'm sure COPPA gave our Congress-people lots of warm fuzzy feelings, but COPPA isn't working out all that well, because I don't think Congress ever stopped to think about side-effects. Designing privacy protection systems has all the legal complication that passing any law entails, and all the technical complications of system design, multiplied together. Few people understand both sides of the problem... perhaps nobody.Going back to the "expert" in the Wired article, I don't agree with him 100% but I do understand and agree with his call for thinking before we leap. There is one thing he said that I'd particularly like to take issue with, though:'Cox said that the benefits of exchanging personal information -- such as lower costs and greater customization -- exceeded the privacy costs.'Says who? Perhaps he's only talking about giving information away to a certain site for customization purposes, and it probably is true that the benefits of doing that outweight the costs... but it's not what we privacy advocates have a problem with! In those cases, you can simply refuse to divulge your information and nothing catastrophic occurs.The bad thing is the culture of selling, buying, aggregating, and selling again. If you want to order something online, you have to tell them where to ship it. In order to allow Userland to host this site, I had to tell them my e-mail address. Certain "breaches" of privacy are necessary, but that doesn't mean that the info necessarily must be sold, or else lower the value of our economy. When info is sold, company-to-company, there's often (nearly always) no real benefit to the consumer, regardless of what the focused advertising(/annoyance) proponents say. This info sharing is not necessary for our economy to survive. The critical point, though, is that we believe the decision of whether information is shared, whether customer-to-company or company-to-company, belongs to us, the consumer, not 'experts', and certainly not the companies! That is the 'extreme position' we privacy advocates take. I guess it's your call on just how 'extreme' that is.ps: This all begs the question of how valuable your privacy is. Some people seem to place it near zero, others quite high. Look at it as a supply-demand cost issue: Right now, the supply of privacy is high (or perceived to be high) so many people are having a hard time assigning significant value to it. What would this same expert say if the supply was low?


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Sep 20, 2000

Security firm tests FBI limits with e-mail surveillance tool
Surveillance and Privacy from Government9/20/2000; 11:08:00 AM 'A security company has designed an open and free alternative to the FBI's Carnivore e-mail surveillance tool that it hopes will provide a more palatable choice to wary Internet service providers and privacy advocates....'While the FBI refuses to comment on specific products, spokeswoman Chris Watney confirmed that the information is all the bureau is interested in. How they get it, as long as it's legal and complete, doesn't matter, she said.'This will probably push that issue to see how true that is.'Graham hopes that making the technology less of a mystery will cause everyone to focus more on the privacy and legality questions about Carnivore, which Congress has been attempting to deal with through legislation. '"We founded this company in order to protect peoples' privacy," Graham said. "By showing the source code for Altivore, we're narrowing the debate to the true issues."'And that can't hurt. I'm glad they've done this, and I hope it works as they hope.


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Sep 20, 2000

Linking In Germany... good guys win first roung
Country Watch: Germany
9/20/2000; 9:21:43 AM Jan-Willem Swane points to Spicy Noodle's excellent coverage of the linking issue in Germany, including the best English description of the issue I've seen.

Spicy Noodles also links to Tim Berners-Lee's comments on what linking means. (TBL is the inventor of the web, in case you're wondering.) Commentary on Web Architecture - Links and Law and Links and Law: Myths are critical reading for all involved in the Web.


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Sep 19, 2000

The Right to Link in Germany
Country Watch: Germany9/19/2000; 4:13:26 PM I'm fuzzy on the details, but Jan-William has brought to my attention that there is a legal scuffle in Germany regarding linking. 'Symicron accuses Müntz, author of the html-helpsite SELFHTML, of an illegal link to the American software FTP-explorer. The reason: Symicron has the German trademark for the word Explorer.'Protests are ensuing. I don't read German so the news article doesn't do me much good.Update: Thanks, Andrea, for the link to a good page in English describing the problem at Freedom for Links.


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