Category: Government/Law/Politics

U.S. Refuses To Sign Treaty On Net Regulation; Fears Legally-Binding Rules In Future

 

The United States has said it will refuse to sign an updated communications treaty set to be ratified by the United Nations, because it veers too far into agreements to regulate the Internet.

For the last two weeks, delegates from more than 190 countries have been discussing the UN treaty at a conference for the International Telecommunications Union in Dubai. Countries such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia have pushed for proposals that include allowing nations to regulate global Internet companies and online content that is perceived as being “spam.”

The treaty is not legally binding, and does not come into effect until January 2015, but Ambassador Terry Kramer, who headed the U.S. delegation Dubai, said it was important to make sure that countries did not eventually agree to a more binding set of global agreements that they could use to justify acts of censorship online.

Read the complete article at Forbes.

U.S. Government Will Launch a Dynamic Airwave-Sharing Scheme

Aiming to boost wireless bandwidth and innovation, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is poised to recommend the biggest regulatory change in decades: one that allows a newly available chunk of wireless spectrum to be leased by different companies at different times and places, rather than being auctioned off to one high bidder.

The step “is a critical milestone,” said David Tennenhouse, Microsoft’s vice president of technology policy, adding that it will not only release more spectrum but also enable “dynamic spectrum sharing that is particularly well suited for absorbing growing wireless data traffic.”

Cisco Systems estimates that mobile data traffic will grow by a factor of 18 by 2016, and Bell Labs predicts it will increase by a factor of 25. Many more airwaves could eventually be shared with the help of cognitive radios, which sense available frequencies and shift between them.

The move will open up a piece of spectrum in the 3.550 to 3.650 gigahertz band now used by radar systems. The move in effect allocates spectrum for another Wi-Fi—a technology that has had tremendous impact. But it is the sharing approach that represents a dramatic change in unleashing bandwidth.

Read the complete article at Technology Review.

Supreme Court review sought of $222K verdict in music piracy case

 

A woman ordered to pay $222,000 for pirating 24 copyrighted songs has taken her fight against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a petition filed Monday, lawyers for Minnesota native Jammie Thomas-Rasset urged the nation’s highest court to review both the fairness and the constitutionality of the fine.

The petition contends that the damages awarded against Thomas-Rasset violated her due process rights and was not tied to any actual injury suffered by the recording companies as the result of her piracy. Instead, by securing such a large verdict against her, the RIAA was hoping to send a message to other copyright infringers.

“Thomas-Rasset cannot be punished for the harm inflicted on the recording industry by file sharing in general,” the petition notes. “While that would no doubt help accomplish the industry’s and Congress’s goal of deterring copyright infringement, singling out and punishing an individual in a civil case to a degree entirely out of proportion with her individual offense is not a constitutional means of achieving that goal.”

Read the complete article at Computer World.

Julian Assange’s book an exercise in dystopian musings

Julian Assange‘s new book is not a manifesto, he writes in its introduction – “There is no time for that”. Instead the short volume, entitled Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet and published on Monday, is intended to be what the Wikileaks founder calls “a watchman’s shout in the night”, warning of an imminent threat to all civilisation from “the most dangerous facilitator of totalitarianism we have ever seen” – the web.

Assange announced in October his intention to publish the book, based largely on the transcript of an interview conducted earlier in the year with three fellow “cutting-edge thinkers” on the web, and broadcast on the Russian state-controlled TV channel RT.

But in his introduction, written from the small room in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to which he has been confined for more than five months, the Australian has described for the first time how he views the context for its publication.

Read the complete article at The Guardian.

 

Court Rules — Wrongly — That Google Is A Publisher

An Australian court made a huge mistake Monday. It ruled that Google can be treated as a publisher for the content of its search results — and therefore be found guilty of libel. If the ruling stands, Google will owe $200,000 to music promoter Milorad Trkulja, who sued Google because content on other websites linked him to criminal activity, and Google’s algorithm displayed those sites in search results for him.

According to a report in the Guardian, the offending materials suggested that Trkulja was a criminal and that rivals had hired a hitman to kill him. Though he had been shot in a restaurant in 2004, Trkulja has never been convicted of any criminal activity. But people said otherwise on the Web, and they published images as well, so Google did its job and indexed those search results.

Whose Fault Is It?

Trkulja’s lawyers began contacting Google in 2009 asking for these search results to be removed, but Google told them to take it up with the publishers of the content instead. That’s how this Internet thing works. If someone publishes lies about you, it’s their fault – not the fault of the people and companies who read those lies and link to them.

Read the complete article at ReadWriteWeb.

Government Surveillance Is on the Rise, Says Google

Google released its sixth Transparency Report on Tuesday, showing what it believes is a clear trend: around the world, government requests for user data is on the upswing.

“As you can see from the graph below, government demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report,” wrote Dorothy Chou, senior policy analyst at Google, in a blog post. “In the first half of 2012, there were 20,938 inquiries from government entities around the world. Those requests were for information about 34,614 accounts.”

Read the complete article at Mashable.

How Technology Will Fare In President Obama’s Second Term

The long 18-month U.S. presidential election is finally over, and after the dust has settled, President Barack Obama has been elected to serve a second term in the highest office in the land.

The President will have a lot on his plate: dealing with the so-called fiscal cliff; keeping economic growth on track; working with the ever-complicated world outside U.S. borders; and tackling the problems surrounding the U.S. education system for starters.

But ReadWrite wants to know just what President Obama will do about the technology sector once he is sworn in again on January 20, 2013. In his victory speech early Wednesday morning, Obama reiterated the importance of technology… of being “A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation. With all the new jobs and new businesses that follow.” Beginning with this brief mention and based on his past actions and statements, we can make some reasonable guesses at what a second Obama administration may do for technology and telecommunications.

Based largely on what he did during his first term in office, here’s what to expect Obama to do about technology, beyond hanging on to his beloved BlackBerry.

Read the complete article at ReadWriteWeb.

Election Night’s Big Winner: Television

According to Twitter, there were 31 million tweets on Election Day, with the site hitting a peak of 327,452 tweets-per-minute the moment TV networks called the race for President Obama. That was a record pace for the micro-blogging network, and the company considers it a point of pride that Twitter never once went down during the surge. As Twitter design chief Doug Bowman noted, “RIP, Fail Whale.”

Yet if you wanted to keep close tabs on who was winning Tuesday night, Twitter failed you. The same goes for much of the rest of the Web. The best way to figure out what was going on was to go old-school: Turn on the news, sit back, and relax.

TV’s best election geeks—especially CNN’s John King and NBC’s Chuck Todd—were faster, more accurate, and more thoughtful than most sources you could find online. Throughout the night, they told you where Obama was doing well, where Mitt Romney was weak, what was going on with congressional races, and why specific returns in specific swing counties across the nation mattered. With King’s “Magic Wall”—the data-spewing touchscreen map that he operated with the facility of a tweaked-out gamer—and with its live, exclusive reports on the vote count from important polling places in battleground states, CNN became something like a televised version of polling maestro Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. If you were watching TV without the aid of the Web, you would have known pretty early last night that Romney was in trouble, and you would have known exactly why.

Read the complete article at Slate.

Why We Need New Rights to Privacy

Thanks to the real state website Zillow, it’s now super easy to profit from your neighbor’s suffering. With a few easy clicks, you can find out “if a homeowner has defaulted on the mortgage and by how much, whether a house has been taken back by the lender, and what a house might sell for in foreclosure,” as the Los Angeles Times recently reported. After using the service, you can stop by the Johnsons’ to make them a low-ball offer, perhaps sweetening the exploitation with a plate of cookies.

Maybe that’s not fair. Zillow doesn’t let people opt-out, but the company omits borrowers’ names, has a process for correcting mistakes, and uploads only legal information that was previously—albeit inconveniently—available.

Zillow is cutting the cord of time-consuming real estate bureaucracy, but it’s just part of a larger story presciently described in a 2007 SMU Law Review article by University of Colorado Law School professor Harry Surden. According to Surden, big data networks persistently chip away at privacy interests and expand the surveillance society’s reach—and we’re about to see a lot more of it. Surden argues that privacy is safeguarded by barriers that make it hard for others to thwart our interest in limiting access to information. Bring down these walls—which Surden calls constraints—and prying eyes can capitalize on newfound vulnerability. Accordingly, we need to reassess how we think about our privacy rights, and what personal information should be included in that class.

Read the complete article at Slate.

Why You Can’t Vote Online Tuesday

A decade and a half into the web revolution, we do much of our banking and shopping online. So why can’t we vote over the Internet? The answer is that voting presents specific kinds of very hard problems.

Even though some countries do it and there have been trial runs in some precincts in the United States, computer security experts at a Princeton symposium last week made clear that online voting cannot be verifiably secure, and invites disaster in a close, contentious race.

“Vendors may come and they may say they’ve solved the Internet voting problem for you, but I think that, by and large, they are misleading you, and misleading themselves as well,” Ron Rivest, the MIT computer scientist and cryptography pioneer, said at the symposium. “If they’ve really solved the Internet security and cybersecurity problem, what are they doing implementing voting systems? They should be working with the Department of Defense or financial industry. These are not solved problems there.”

Read the complete article at Mashable.