Archive for the ‘Privacy’ Category

itunes_roundJust days before the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where legendary musicians and the buzz of new product introductions will showcase how consumers manage and enjoy their digital media “everywhere”, the Washington Post is reporting that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has a federal case against Jeffrey Howell, an AZ, man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer.  RIAA maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.  

Huh?  It’s illegal to transfer CDs to a computer?  I thought court rulings over the last 20 years have found no violation of copyright law in the use of VCRs and other devices to time-shift TV programs; that is, to make personal copies for the purpose of making portable a legally obtained recording?

Who is RIAA?  It’s an organization that represents the major recording labels in the USA. These labels pay multi-millions of dollars for this representation and since RIAA is based in Washington, DC., they act as an industry lobbyist, literally.  They often urge, cajole or otherwise influence Congress to take their side in the “battle” against “music piracy.”  I’m not sure who would visit, but the RIAA even ran a Holiday Anti-Piracy Campaign message streaming across its web site offering tips on “avoiding pirate products.”

And northwest news the Oregon State Attorney General and the University of Oregon are being assaulted by RIAA’s tactics.  RIAA subpoenaed the University asking it to turn over the names of students that it suspected of making copyrighted material available to file sharers.  Note the keyword here is suspected.  While no one would disagree that it’s appropriate for victims of copyright infringement to pursue statutory remedies, shouldn’t that pursuit be tempered by basic rights of privacy and due process?

Typically RIAA harassment comes in the form of a pre-litigation letter to “suspects” they believe are guilty file sharers. There is even a credit card payment link – p2plawsuits.com where these so called “suspects” that receive the pre-litigation letters can drop off a quick $3000 to stop the RIAA from suing them.  Maybe next up is payroll deduction options?!  Good grief!

But that’s not good enough.  RIAA is now running around with deep- pocket teams of lawyers saying that even making a personal copy on your computer is a violation.  This hard-line position is clear. RIAA wants to roll back time to pre-internet days of vinyl albums.  If you make copies of copyrighted music recordings – even on cassette tape – you’re stealing.  You’re breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.

The RIAA’s legal crusade against consumers (its customers) is a text-book example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed.

UPDATE: The Washington Post left out a couple of facts that are now being reported for the people who need to read all the details.  Turns out the article was misleading in that the RIAA was not only going after Howell for ripping his CD’s, but for also putting those ripped files into a shared Kazaa folder.  I disagree that because he put them in a shared folder its infringement, but its a different claim than the original one of just ripping them to his PC.  It will be interesting to watch…

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SafeLike the famous book “Give A Mouse A Cookie…” by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Illustrator Felicia Bond, “cookies” are often used by advertisers and Web analytic firms on most all web sites.   They place “tracking cookies” on your computer.  And like the book, the mouse will “ask for a glass of milk…” you can sure bet those web advertisers and analytic firms will be asking you for something. 

In most cases they don’t even let you know that they’ve ask!  Let me explain.  On the web, a “cookie” is a small text file that contains a string of alphanumeric characters. The tracking cookies tell companies what you are doing online, even though they don’t typically record your name or other personably identifiable information. The cookies are used by companies to try and match ads to a user’s interests or in the above mouse example they will “ask for a glass of milk”. 

There are two types of cookies used on most websites: a persistent cookie and a session cookie. A persistent cookie gets entered by your Web browser into the “Cookies” folder on your computer and remains in this “Cookies” folder after you close your browser. Persistent cookies may be used by your browser on subsequent visits to the site. A session cookie is held temporarily in your computer’s memory and disappears after you close your browser or shut off your computer. There are websites that use Web beacons (also called “clear GIFs” or “pixel tags”) in conjunction with cookies. Web beacons are small strings of code that are placed in a Web page. For example, if you arrive at website by clicking on a banner ad for a product or service, a session cookie may be used. This cookie will contain an identification number for the ad that you clicked on, or will contain an identification number for the site that you were visiting when you clicked on the banner ad. 

Most web sites tell you nothing upfront about tracking cookies, or how to get rid of these tracking cookies assuming that you want too.  Cookies are used all over the Web, but in most cases, their presence is only disclosed deep inside privacy policies.  When was the last time you read a privacy policy? 

Some of the more reputable web sites want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies or opt out of the cookies set by any ad-placement or analytic contractor they might use and will provide the information.  For example, here is a link to a page where you can opt out of the cookies set by an ad-placement or analytics contractor of Omniture

 I’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as I know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one yet and not enough consumers have complained about tracking cookies to make an impact for the industry to change. If you want to clean out all tracking cookies from all your Web sites the following links take you where you can download three programs that can help clean out tracking cookies: 

 I’ve used some of these applications and been satisfied with the results, but give them a try and let me know your results. You can also change the preferences or settings in your Web browser to control cookies. In some cases, you can choose to accept cookies from the primary site, but block them from third parties. In others, you can block cookies from specific advertisers, or clear out all cookies. 

Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Like a lot of Web sites, they may place cookies on your computer, in addition to any placed by advertisers. But they aren’t “tracking cookies.” They merely do things like save your registration information, if you choose to register. They do not tell the companies what you do or where you go online. 

I’ll take warm milk with my cookies, thank you.

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When it comes to real estate technology, you are helped out by mashups everyday and may not even realize it. What’s a mashup? Basically, it’s a combination of Web applications that are “mashed” together to do something totally different. In the real estate industry, mashups are most prominent in map form, such as integrating housing databases and MLS listings with maps. One of the original examples of this in the real estate industry is HousingMaps.com.

Real estate mashups not only make agents more attractive to clients, but they can also help your business, allowing to streamline functions and work more efficiently. Now comes mashups with social networks like Facebook.

* Adds over 100,000 users per day
* Currently >1130 discrete apps on the F8 Platform which was release in May 2007 (~95 apps a week!).
* Current user base over 24 Million (growing at a rate of 3% per week since opening network to the public in fall 2006)
* Expected to reach 50 Million active users by end of 2007
* 50% of users not in college, by end of year estimated to be 75% not in college
* 25 and older is the fastest growing demographic
* 50% of users use Facebook everyday (including yours truly)
* Recently passed eBay in daily traffic, and working on passing Google
* Number one photo sharing application on the ‘Net despite lacking features of others like Photobucket
* Facebook’s Events application more used than Evite
* Significant growth, but as yet has not rolled out a serious monetization model beyond simple ads-page.

If you’re in the real estate biz you look at this “pool” of potential candidates and drool because some of those 24M active users are likely interested in renting, buying or selling a home, right? With the new F8 platform Facebook opened up an opportunity for developers to take advantage of powerful social media and the software distribution model of the social network.

The first Real Estate application called Neighborhoods byPoint2 NLS just released a new application that allows you to identify the neighborhood you live in and see others that live around you. You can also upload community announcements and photos of your area and see all of the Point2 listings in your neighborhood, city or area.

Who is Point2 Technologies Inc.? They create software for the heavy equipment and real estate industries. They operate the internet real estate listing marketplace organized by neighborhood, Point2 Homes. They’ve developed applications that help real estate agents use the web effectively to solicit, sell and buy property in your neighborhood.

The Point2 Neighborhoods application shows you who lives close to you, what they’re up to, and what is happening in your neighborhood. In scary detail I might add so, make sure you’ve got our privacy settings appropriately set and get to know your neighbors.

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Logic Puzzles

American Flag

It’s closing in on Independence Day, my elected representatives are on vacation and I have some thoughts on Logic Puzzles…yeah, I need a day off work!

Many of the leading nonprofits leverage the internet to mobilize us and advocate on important public policy issues. Literacy-tests to vote were abolished long ago, but members of Congress don’t want you to contact them now without taking a quiz!

What’s a Logic Puzzle? Example: If x is 1 and y is 2. What is x? Which of the following numbers is largest: 53, 52 or 05? Get the answer wrong three times in a row and you’re blocked from sending an email to your elected government representative!

You may not be aware, but there are an alarming number of Congressional offices implementing technology that adds a step to the process for you (constituents) who want to communicate with your state or federal legislators. The new technology, commonly known as a logic puzzle, requires human interaction and is intended to prevent automated and repeated mass use of Web site functions such as sending emails — actions not initiated by real people. You may have seen similar puzzles on other Web sites, particularly when creating a new account or email address.

What’s behind Congressional adoption of logic puzzles? It’s the result of several factors: growing use of email by advocacy organizations and their constituents; lack of adequate Congressional staff to handle rising email volumes; and pervasive distrust of form letters on Capitol Hill. Access is everything in politics. The Internet, especially email, provides the average Joe the access to our elected representatives and the ability to reach politicians. We often use “form” communications to reach Congress — letters with identical content, but from different senders. Form letters are, very efficient for nonprofits or activist groups conducting advocacy campaigns and it’s also convenient for us.

Not surprisingly, in the last 10 years individual communications to Congress increased four-fold (300 million messages/year) due to electronic communications, according to a study by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps Congress become more productive and effective through better management. However, Congressional office staffing has not grown at a pace to support, and the study states that approximately 3/4 of all Congressional offices do not trust the legitimacy of form letters.

Where do you sit on this debate? Is it reasonable to ask, in this age of mass communication, that a real human be behind the letters that your representatives receive? Do you care if this means that nonprofits or activists are going to have to do a little more work? Does copying a six- or eight-digit number or answering a question bother you, or do you see this as just another step of the “overhead” process in the new digital democracy?

Happy 4th of July America.

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Need I say more?!!
We should all do this to our TV!!

Photo Courtesy of TELPortfolio

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I’m sure you’ve heard about Justin — and Justin.tv — he’s 23 and been wearing a video camera and webcasting his life live on the web for the past couple months. Everything he does is broadcast live — similar to the Hollywood movie The Truman Show.

Justin’s 24/7 reality online TV show has turned into a bit of a mini-phenomenon. His apartment was raided by the police, and they were later evicted by their landlord. They were on the Today Show. Justin was hanging out with famous rappers. A month ago, he was apparently on a date — the camera is stuffed into the curly locks of some blond. Everyone was wondering if this is the girl from the other night that some are thinking he “got lucky” with. This is “spicy” stuff! It all seems intimate and after wearing the camera gear for six months in prep for the go live web site, he likely doesn’t even think that the camera is there. The site is way successful.

Justin has big plans. He wants a lot of people doing the same thing in the future — so you could essentially flip through “life channels” of various people across the planet. Perfect for the bored at work generation…I could see people letting each other know what’s going on in “so and so” life at any moment.

Admit it…you’ve always wanted to start your own real-life television show? Now you can because Justin.tv is launching its own network to allow users to create and publish their own shows. Or, if you prefer just sit back and snoop/peek into other people’s lives — as they stream themselves live on the web.

Here is the ultimate Ustream.tv mash-up. Your computer screen will be turned into the security room of a local K-Mart or a Las Vegas Casino with all these live cameras.

Enjoy peeping…

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Imagine every man, woman and child in the U.S. with a cell phone — now imagine they all ring at the same time!! Its possible now that China Mobile, the worlds largest mobile operator, recently announced that its subscriber base grew to 301 Million, surpassing the total population of the United States.

Now that we’ve establish that everyone in the U.S. could have a cell phone…there are some real abuses of wireless technology being perpetrated all around us, and the time has come to create some social order out of this cell phone chaos. Can we have a moment of silence from all the Snoop Doggy Dog, melodies, and listen up – paaha..leaseee!

I thought about generating a top 10 list on how not to use your cell phone. We’ve all seen etiquette blunders and most of these seem like common sense rules to me, but they get broken every day. So, I have just 2 Big Daddy rules:

1. You can’t speak louder on your cell phone than you would on any other phone. Especially on Airplanes. These things have sensitive microphones, and it’s gotten to the point where I can tell if someone is calling me from a cell because of the way they are *SHOUTING*, not how it sounds. If your everywhere unlimited signal cuts out, speaking louder won’t help, unless the person is actually standing next to you.

2. Don’t attempt to impress anyone with your cell phone ring or number of blueteeth (plural Bluetooth?) enable devices attached to your Batman-esque utility belts or purses. Not only is using a cell phone no longer impressive in any way shape or form (unless it’s one of those really cool iPhones months before it ships), when it is used for that reason, you will be immediately identified as a communication poseur.

2 rules 2 remember. Simple.

I say, let’s talk less and invent ways to use cell phones that don’t involve that distasteful habit of synthesized ring tones or actually talking on them! For example, Jaxtr, a service that lets you take calls, texts, or voicemail from anyone on the web, without handing them your phone number.

Now that’s less conspicuous!

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Coming at you from my new stealth blog haus here in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, specifically on Nassau/Paradise Island. I have all the latest in technologies. For example, my mobile laptop has an automatic popup umbrella and sand shield for added protection.

I didn’t want to admit it before, but now that I’m in a safe harbor, I am NOT the father of Anna Nicole’s daughter. I just assumed someone would get the millions and I’d go on with my boring life. However, after learning about the FBI’s familial searches on DNA databases, my thinking is problematic.

Everyone knows that Familial searching, is the search of DNA databases for near misses that might be indicative of a family relationship between a known sample in a database and an unknown sample from a crime scene. Those pesky scientist’s examine the feasibility of using kinship analysis to accurately identify family relationships in a very, very large database. My conclusion: familial searching may well produce a new lead and I have a rather large and extended family of second cousins.

All of the data being collected out there…i.e., information about my distant relatives might provide insight about me and who I am connected too?

So, if one of Anna Nicole’s former bed pals DNA is a not-so-perfect match then the odds are overwhelming that the perpetrator must be in my family. Oh right. I’d pay child support, but NOT get the baby.

I want my boring life back! I’m truly an imposter and this genetic surveillance is invading my privacy!

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