Week in Review for 4/19/2009

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  • Wikileaks reveals ACTA doc on practices, enforcement
    Prof. Geist calls attention to what is new and noteworthy in this draft. He also points out that some of the documents that inform the draft are being shared publicly by the Canadian government. That little bit of transparency does little to blunt the threat of this treaty.
  • Google opens source to updater
    Unlike other moves to open the source of formerly proprietary projects, here Google appears to be motivated by some genuine concerns. In their announcement, they concede that opening the source is the best way to address concerns about privacy and security.
  • Podcast of lecture by Prof. Boyle
    Prof. Boyle was also recently on the CBC podcast, Spark. He is an excellent speaker and I am glad to see him working to promote his latest book and his larger idea of a sort of environmentalism for the public commons.
  • Gaze tracking CCTV camera operators
    I have no doubt the system described in the New Scientist article to which Boing Boing links is effective but it just seems to me to be bandaging a public safety system that isn’t really that effective or necessarily in the best interests of the public. I like that the linked piece includes a suggestion that even this “patch” isn’t necessarily any more effective than CC surveillance alone.
  • Survey finds college Facebook users have lower grades
    The study’s author emphasizes that this is a preliminary finding, really just suggest it is an area worth further exploration. This is a case where correlation isn’t necessarily causation, there may be other factors at play that make the role of Facebook more of a symptom.
  • Study suggest Twitter leads to immorality
    RWW’s Sarah Perez has the details, including some commentary from Manuel Castells. Like she explains about the Facebook study, I think there are some unfounded leaps on logic, here. The study deals with volume and speed of info, from all media not just social ones, and the time required for emotional response and decision making. I suspect any effect, in practice, is going to be negligible, that people are savvy enough to allow themselves time to ponder before acting in a potentially less moral way.
  • Stanford’s president on stimulus package
    Jon Stokes of Ars went to Stanford on the supposition that a school so heavily involved in past innovation might have some good ideas about spending the stimulus package. In addition to the expected discussion of innovation and IP reform, they also discuss Stanford’s research into parallel computing.
  • Some of the odder items from human interaction conference
    CHI is one of the higher, if not highest, profile conferences on the topic. The inventions in the Tech Review piece explore using unusual physical sensations and phenomenon to novel effects.
  • Some iPhone apps may be phoning home
    The tracking is apparently a function of a library that some apps use, Pinch Media. It looks to be collecting usage statistics and the folks at Pinch Media claim it is not personally identifying. The risks aren’t tied to the original author, of course, this data could be used by others despite such assurances to enable attacks or other nefarious uses.
  • Vendor response to claims about iPhone stats tracking
    BB’s Joel Johnson posts the more comprehensive response from Pinch Media. Joel also cuts to the quick of comparisons between web site tracking and tracking in a closed eco systems like the iPhone, that is how much more difficult it is to detect and analyze the latter by its very closed nature.
  • OpenSecrets site opens its data for the first time
    The group behind the site, Centre for Responsive Politics, has been publishing this data privately for a considerable span of time. They’ve invested heavily in accuracy and integrity so their decision to release 2M records under a CC license is huge in terms of how much more high quality data is available to the public for analysis.
  • Law to ban broadband caps moves forward
    Techdirt’s Masnick I think correctly identifies the issue with this draft, that it is trying to characterize the issue as one of free speech. I also agree that the legislative emphasis shouldn’t be on limiting the harms to consumers but encouraging greater competition so consumers can reward and punish good and bad ideas more freely.
  • Time Warner tells FCC to stop discussing net neutrality
    Ars’ Lasar points out that this may be procedurally correct, that comments on neutrality may not be appropriate at this specific point on processing the stimulus package. Unfortunately, the cable operator doesn’t seem to be putting that fine a point on it to those not looking as closely as Ars has.
  • Hit and miss info on Amazon blocking spreads on Twitter
    Some interesting after the fact analysis by the NYT. The takeaway is that the AmazonFail hacker didn’t so much hack Amazon as he claimed, but hacked Twitter to build credibility around his bogus claims. Twitter is hardly unique in its acceleration of information and potential for magnifying misinformation, though.
  • Cops characterize command line usage as hiding illegal activity
    As Techdirt’s Masnick suggest, this really sounds like a blatant fishing expedition on the most flimsy of pretenses. I am surprised these claims passed muster to the point of action. Surely someone tech savvy in the department could and should have derailed them.
  • Latest RIAA appointment to the DoJ
    PK’s Gigi Sohn formerly espoused giving these RIAA lawyers the benefit of the doubt. She’s now calling for them to recuse themselves of their former affiliations as well as the DoJ to take other measures to balance out consumer interests. I think the real issue is that these lawyers shouldn’t be involved in anyway in pressing suits against individual infringers, that’s the real mismatch of interests and abilities.
  • Proxy use leading to stiffer penalties rolled back
    The basis of the notional legislation was that use of proxies that hide information about the user indicates some sophistication. Thankfully, due to the testimony of EFF’s Schoen and others, they sentencing commission was convinced that this was a bogus idea, that proxies require little detailed technical knowledge to effectively utilize.
  • Time Warner scraps caps in wake of protests
    Originally it looked like they were scrapping the idea in just one test market, now across the board. According to this Engadget piece the operator is claim they need to spend more time on customer education first, including distributing tools for consumers to measure their own utilization. Sounds like a deferment to me.
  • Research OS that allows variable CPU power per application
    The Stanford researchers are writing this new OS, Cinder, from scratch to be better suited to mobile devices. They cite security and power consumption as their top priorities. The idea of smart budget of power is compelling on devices with limited batteries. It is obvious that not all applications need as much CPU and hence as much of that limited power supply.
  • Evidence suggesting closing newspapers will affect local politics
    Techdirt’s Masnick discusses the narrow findings of a research paper for one locality. It does suggest that the closing of papers may impact local politics to some extent but generally seems to debunk some of the grander claims about the erosion of democracy more generally.
  • European Parliament voting on copyright extension next week
    The Open Rights Group has the details, including the revival of a specious paper that the extension’s proponents are using to try to persuade legislators. ORG also has a link to take action if you are a potentially affected constituent.
  • Exception driven development
    This is a reasonable idea, especially Atwood’s suggestion that centralizing and automatically triaging errors allows developers to stay a step ahead of customer complaints. A capable logging systems could do much the same in terms of filtering out errors from general chatter and making them analyzable for frequency and severity.
  • Lobby groups ramping up on C-61 again
    Most telling are lobbying records showing an uptick in meetings with key officials. Like the scrapping of NZ’s section 92a draft, any given defeat is specific to that effort, not any indication that legislators are thinking better of lobbied laws and rules that serve rights holders at the expense of the public.
  • Exploiting spammers to solve hard AI problems
    Not surprisingly New Scientist reports this idea coming from CMU which developed the CAPTCHA in the first place and the crowd intelligence based reCAPTCHA. I still think distributed human based systems are a loop hole worth discussing. It is possible that any benefit to AI may be foiled by the economics of just getting anonymous users to solve CAPTCHAs and similar puzzles.

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