Lawmakers Want to Bar Sites that Post Leaked Documents

According to Wired, this move comes from Republican legislators in the wake of a leak of a TSA operations manual.

In their letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (.pdf) on Wednesday, Reps. Peter T. King (R – New York), Charles Dent (R – Pennsylvania) and Gus Bilirakis (R – Florida) asked, “How has the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration addressed the repeated reposting of this security manual to other websites, and what legal action, if any, can be taken to compel its removal?”

The TSA workers believed to have been involved in the leak were already put on leave. I suspect that internally, DHS and TSA are reviewing and tightening procedures. I think that is the scope of an appropriate response.

I am intensely wary of any sort of legislation like this as I strongly doubt that it would do anything to curtail the impact of such leaks and definitely would rob us of our critical 1st Amendment rights.

Verizon Changes Acceptable Use Policy to Bar Off-Topic Posts

What the fuck? There it is, in paragraph 2:

(e) post off-topic information on message boards, chat rooms or social networking sites;

What do you think the original thought was that led to this bit of stupidity? The other lettered clauses are clearly itemized abuses about which someone has no doubt complained or were pursued with such zeal by some subscriber as to become self evident to Verizon’s network monitors.

But in what circumstance does off-topic posting rank with defamatory speech, breaking the law, or abusing shared resources?

FTC Rules for Endorsements by Bloggers Go into Effect Today

Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post notes the new rules start today. She has plenty of links to the educational resources that the FTC has been producing to help make the update to their existing rules around advertising and endorsement more clear.

I looked through one of the documents. It definitely had plenty of helpful examples about what is and is not an endorsement. Few of them directly involved blogs though, let alone social messaging or podcasts. The question for which I couldn’t find a simple, clear answer remains: does this apply to every last blogger on the planet no matter how small or only ones doing so in some sort of commercial context?

Is Anonymous Gossip on Campus Really a Problem?

On cursory inspection, I’d be inclined to lump this bit of sensationalism in with the hullabaloo over cyber bullying. As the article actually notes, this sort of speech was happening already, the difference is that posting it on a web site makes it arguable easier to find and definitely makes it more persistent.

There are several key considerations to bear in mind, though. Defamation and other harms are still limits on this or any other speech online. Whereas a bathroom scrawl would effectively be resistant to efforts to identify the speaker in the presence of harm, with a web site, there is at least a reasonable possibility, setting aside privacy concerns for the moment.

The article I think gets the CDA’s interaction here slightly but critically wrong. A site operator is only shielded from liability if they act in good faith in the presence of a takedown request. The one site operator the article discusses in detail clearly does not, picking and choosing which complaints to address. Further if it turns out he took even slight action to support certain kinds of speech, he may lose his safe harbor protections and be made liable after all. The article does clarify that defamation claims against the original authors are possible if more difficult when the speech is in print.

Other than the immature attitude of the operator profiled, I don’t see how this is substantially different than any other discussion of online free speech. If there is a provable harm, there is a course of action. Otherwise, this is one of the consequences of having a right to free speech. It may be unpalatable, but it is one of the costs if we want to be able to engage in more noble and enlightened forms of controversial speech.

Assessing Voting Machine Security, Threatened Voices, and More

  • State of the courts on protecting email privacy
    The EFF has posted a nice survey of the state of several recent rulings in a couple of federal circuits. It is a nice backgrounder for the story I linked to yesterday, where a judge ruled that execution of a warrant need not include notification if the email being searched was stored on a third party server.
  • Act now on two critical bills facing committee vote
    The EFF has posted an action alert to contact your Congress critters on a Patriot Act reform bill as well as a states secret reform act. The committee vote for both is schedule for tomorrow, so act now.
  • First hand account of unsecured machines prior to election day
    Professor Felten took an informal survey of his local polling places. He did so in the few days leading up to election day as this has been when many researchers have been able to show windows of opportunity for attack. The results are not good, with only a small minority of an admittedly small sample of locations having the machines adequately locked away.
  • EU softens on open formats for public services
    Ryan Paul has the story at Ars based on a leaked draft of a document previous versions of which showed much stronger promise. In addition to a general dilution of the language around open-ness in this present version, Paul points out a troubling rationalization, emphasizing interoperability over open-ness and using that to advance homogeneity as a now more preferred means to that end.
  • Brazilian sets up adversarial testing of its voting systems
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out that not only is that country’s government setting up this testing that US vendors have roundly resisted, but has also put forward a bounty to whichever research team that successfully hacks the machine.
  • Latest moral panic from Hollywood over net neutrality
    At Techdirt, Mike Masnick has an unusually lengthy and detailed analysis of an FCC filing from the MPAA on the net neutrality rule making currently underway. A lot of this rhetoric is consistent with big content’s panics of the past so it’s not surprising that Masnick concludes that this is all there is to the filing.
  • Map of threatened bloggers around the world
    Ethan Zuckerman of the Berkman Center has a good write up of a solid bit of hacktivism on his blog. Threatened Voices is consistent with several efforts in that it will be an ongoing, of necessity incomplete effort and hopefully a necessary prelude, that of gathering collective knowledge, to further action.

Programs Fixing Programs, Grand Unified Microblogging, and More

  • Petition to Obama to disclose ACTA negotiations
    KEI who also were instrumental in getting the list of folks who did see the draft under NDA now is organizing a petition to the president. I first saw this when Professor Lessig tweeted about his own signature. Cory shares further details about the petition on Boing Boing.
  • MIT research on program to fix bugs in other programs
    I am pretty sure I’ve read about similar efforts and the appeal of this is obvious. In reading through the linked MIT Technology Review article, I did have a thought in the back of my mind about theory of mind in humans and that this sort of modeling of software’s behavior by software seems to me at least to be eerily similar if incredibly limited.
  • Grand unified theory of microblogging
    Glyn Moody points to this OStatic piece about a D-Bus library, Microfeed, that could make aggregation of social messaging easier for desktops that use that particular inter process messaging system, like most of the Linux desktops. I don’t see the value of running multiple clients as the article suggests but I do see a possible acceleration in features on clients which is even more worthwhile in my view if it gets us to better categorization and management of messages.
  • AZ judge rules metadata on public records are also public records
    The case in question was one brought by a police officer trying to investigate his suspicions about reasons for his demotion. In this Ars piece, Jon Stokes not only relates the excellent news, at least for activists and investigators in Arizona, but puts it into context discussing how metadata has helped and hurt other efforts in public debates.
  • FCC considering more control over electronic media
    This is potentially troubling news and I think signifies an unfortunate expansion of outmoded thinking. Past media regulations were predicated on scarcity, starting with broadcast spectrum. Digital media are antithetical to that, representing abundance based models. This also makes me think of the EFF’s criticisms of the FCC’s move to regulate the internet, the examples of sub-optimal regulations of speech and access they’ve made in the past based on specious assumptions about availability and vague notions of decency.
  • A taxonomy of online security and privacy threats
    The Technology Liberation Points to this useful table put together by PFF. In the preamble, they explain they developed this grid to help balance the discussion around privacy risks, to broaden the focus of potential regulations beyond just behavioral advertising. I still wonder if we can come up with a less prescriptive listing and a more descriptive and predictive model, as challenging as that may be to achieve.

Another Book Scaning Project, Whether New Technology Should Have New Patent Rules, and More

  • HP’s, UMich’s book scanning collaboration
    Jon Stokes has the details at Ars of a project that may be similar in spirit to Google’s original Books project but rather different in the details. While it will be making digital versions from the university’s rare books collection available online, for free, HP is also offering a novel print-on-demand offering designed to work with high resolution scans that otherwise are not suitable for your run of the mill PoD service.
  • Another online, anonymous speech case
    Jacqui Cheung at Ars describes the latest in an developing trend of cases testing the limits of online, anonymous free speech. A final ruling on unmasking an anonymous commenter is still pending and if granted could set precedents that contract anonymous speech. Here’s hoping the proceeding uncovers clear and indisputable facts so the ruling can be more of a bright line, either defending the commenter as reporting the truth or clearly committing defamation.
  • New comment system goes live at the FCC
    At Ars, Matthew Lasar points out a lot to like about the new online system. In particular, the I am hoping the enhanced transparency will make it easier for activists and advocates to keep pressure on the issues, rather than comments getting lost in the tubes. Lasar points out one procedural concern, about which comments will be tallied as formal comments. I think that slots into a larger concern about whether the much more usable system will result in better attention to the public discourse from the FCC.
  • More details on Canadian net neutrality ruling
    Professor Geist provides some excellent analysis of what the CRTC has committed to, especially in the realm of network management. This expands on the story as I picked it up last week, filling in much clearer detail on the further ramifications of this policy making. Geist also dwells on the remaining challenges in this area that he feels need regulatory attention.
  • New bill seeks to change patent rules for new technology
    The bill in question is apparently motivated by the market realities of much higher costs to develop biotechnology. One of the problems I have with this is whether it is reasonable enough to assume that the cost will remain high, hence worthwhile to ossify a response into law. I leave the parallel concerns for software patents to the reader.
  • More details on Mozilla’s Raindrop
    Ryan Paul at Ars gives a good walking tour of this project that was announced last week. His findings are pretty consistent with my own quick experimentation over the weekend.

Doctorow’s DIY Experiment, Asking Oracle to Let MySQL Go, and More

  • Hiccup over indexing, searching Google Voice messages
    The original story has been updated to clarify. The messages in question had been shared or posted publicly in some way by the account holders, this is not a breach of voice messages more generally. Google has responded by changing the crawler not to index these messages, leaving it to site owners to opt-in to have them indexed and available in searches.
  • New auto glass standard could affect wireless devices
    From the net neutrality squad mailing list, an inadvertent clash between environmental concerns and the ability to enjoy cell phones and satellite radio. So far, this metallicized glass is being considered in California but could see adoption in other Southern latitude states is successful.
  • Author’s thoughts on his free content work being re-published
    Via Gnat’s four short links post for today at O’Reilly. Mark Pilgrim explains very clearly that re-publishing without his explicit permission is a large part of the point in him choosing not only an open but a free as in free software license for his book. Important to note that this competitive version only came after his publisher, APress, already had many years to profit from their version alone.
  • Cory’s DIY experiment, a print-on-demand short fiction anthology
    I will admit to some insider knowledge of Cory’s plans and relief that he is finally publicizing parts of what is a very ambition business plan. There is much here that should be familiar by now due to similar experiments by other creatives, most notably Trent Reznor. I would expect Cory to also share what hard date he is able to collect after the fact to give us as complete a case study as possible. Oh and I must start saving my pennies for one of the hand bound editions.
  • Monty urges Oracle to free MySQL
    At Ars, Ryan Paul explains not only Monty’s remarks but urging by the EC for Oracle to sell of the open source database. I tend to agree more with Matt Asay in this instance, that forcing the divestment may chill corporate backing and ownership of open source projects. I think there is a more common third way, partnerships through foundations, that Asay doesn’t consider. But I take his meaning and thing it is a sound bit of caution when thinking through this story.
  • Big content backs down on anti-spyware provisions
    Professor Geist has the good news following on from his earlier posting about rights holders proposing exceptions to the tabled anti-spyware, anti-spam bill that would largely dilute its effectiveness.
  • AP amends its countersuit against Shepard Fairey
    Xeni follows up on BoingBoing with what I think we can all agree is inevitable. Again, while the fair use merits may be salvageable in the case, the extra liability he has invited may erode his will and ability to see those remaining positive aspects through.
  • Barnes and Noble e-book reader launches today
    RWW has the pertinent details, as do many other sites. It seems to be an improvement over the Kindle, in terms of consumer freedoms, but still largely hobbled. Personally, I won’t touch it as long as AT&T is the carrier but also a worry is that B&N still uses cumbersome DRM. They do support more open and standard formats, though, most notably ePub but these do not appear to be the formats used for their commercial offerings.

Wikileaks Protecting Sources and the Free Press, Nobel Prize Research on the Commons, and More

  • User data destroying bug in Snow Leopard
    I’ve seen this story covered several places including The Register which is fairly temperate in its remarks. The issue seems to stem from a glitch in the special handling of user data for the Guest account. Apple has finally acknowledged the issue and is promising a fix. Given how the Guest account works, I’d recommend permanently disabling it if you can.
  • Government ambassadors for citizen engagement
    Mark Drapeau shares a provocative suggestion on O’Reilly Radar. Clearly describing how informed citizens filter information through their conversational networks, what he then suggests isn’t too far removed from other notions of community outreach and building online.
  • The Guardian barred from freedom of press, info leaks anyway
    Mike Masnick has both a pretty clear description on Techdirt of the original story as it broke and the consequences of the UK trying to suppress coverage. There is also a Wikileaks story explaining the story and linking to a key report at its heart.
  • Wikileaks partner program is about protecting sources
    I guess I didn’t read the original story closely enough because I missed the key angle Mike Masnick of Techdirt points out. Namely that the distributed channels the site is looking to set up are to give journalists advanced access to leaks, access that Wikileaks will work to protect by acting as a buffer between journalists and sources.
  • Nobel prize winner for economics worked commons models
    Mike Linksvayer at the Creative Commons has an excellent write up of the work done by co-prize winner, Ostrom, that relates to latter thinking on non-rivalrous commons and some of her own work in that vein. He links to one of her papers that especially looks worth giving a read.
  • EFF warns TI to leave homebrew calculator hackers alone
    The EFF points out that this is not just an instance where they are seeking to protect owner override, but under the current DMCA exemptions, this sort of reverse engineering is explicitly allowed. Further, it looks like TI tried to base their claim solely on online discussions, not actual evidence of infringement.

Shorter Copyright Terms, Chilling and Warming Effects, and More

  • Why we need shorter copyright terms
    Glyn Moody provides a strong, well reasoned case for shorter terms bolstering creativity. As an author, he has skin in the game and bases much of his argument on his own, first hand experience.
  • UK border agency suspends DNA profiling
    This Register piece offers a bit more explanation of the agency’s rational. As such, it seems like a narrow case, to me, not worth the unintended consequences and the inevitable high cost in terms of eroded civil liberties.
  • EU claiming head start on net neutrality
    Nate Anderson at Ars discusses remarks by EC Viviane Reding. Her target largely seems to be the de-regulatory approach of the US, contending what I have believed for some time, that removing requirements around whole sale provisions is decreasing competition for access.
  • Japanese court overturns secondary liability for infringement
    Cory has the link and an explanation at BB. The ruling on appeal seems to have hinged on the software author’s intent. It also defies the common stance in other countries, increasing pushes for strict liability, even liability for inducement.
  • EFF on new FTC rules for social media and ads
    The EFF got an answer from the FTC’s Cleland who claims that traditional media has rules around endorsements and review products so doesn’t need these new rules. This has a high bogosity quotient and the EFF is looking to press the issue as part of its larger initiative on blogger’s rights.
  • Chilling and warming effects in spat between BB and Ralph Lauren
    Wendy Seltzer has an excellent teaching moment type of post on Freedom to Tinker. It recaps the DMCA claim and ultimate, warming effect resolution between the clothier and the copyfighting culture blog.
  • Google starts fixing issues with access to Usenet archives
    Wired has a good follow up to what appears to be a direct response to their earlier criticism of Google’s curation of the Usenet archives it acquired a while ago. Google is optimistic that there is a single specific bug responsible for the poor search Poulsen described in his first post.
  • Amendment would deny protections to bloggers
    The EFF has news of another bit of legislation selectively curtailing protections for online speech. One of the senators responsible apparently claims the amendment to be a procedural gambit but this seems like an awful dangerous waiver if it doesn’t pay off for the greater good.
  • Wikileaks looking to embed submission form
    Dana Oshiro at RWW has the details of the info warehouse site’s plans to partner up with high profile sites to help with its collection of interesting data.