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by msmolly

Over Easy: Are Privacy Concerns Generational?

4:00 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

On Monday I came across a post at Techdirt about the reaction to Apple putting a U2 album in iCloud users’ storage space. The post described how after a backlash, Apple created a bit of code that would allow iPhone users to delete the unwanted freebie.

A bit of background: On September 9th, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the mega-band U2 decided to release its latest album free on iTunes.

U2 surprised the world today by releasing Songs of Innocence, their first album in five years, as a gift from Apple, available for free immediately to anyone with iTunes. The band made the announcement with Apple CEO Tim Cook at a Cupertino press conference for the new iPhone 6, capping the event with a performance of the album’s first single, “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone).”

A free gift might not be a “gift” at all for people who never asked for or wanted (or knew about) this promo but suddenly found the band’s album in their iTunes cloud account. After I read the Techdirt item, I promptly loaded the “music” app on my iPhone and scrolled through the albums, and voilá, Songs of Innocence appeared with the little iCloud icon beside it, indicating that it was available for me to download. As Techdirt put it,

The problem wasn’t that the album was free, but that the album appeared unbidden in the repository for a service that feels quite personal to the consumer. These were our cloud accounts that Apple invaded to leave their free stuff. You know what it’s called when someone leaves you something you didn’t want for free in your domain? It’s called litter. And, in this case, it was litter that you couldn’t even clean up.

So in response to the backlash, Apple wrote code to enable its customers to delete the “gift,” which, until that happened, was unremovable, though you could hide it.

I look at Facebook briefly once or twice a day (if that), just to see what my family or friends might have posted, and I rarely post anything myself other than an occasional comment on someone else’s post. But I posted an item about the Apple/U2 unwanted album, and was a bit surprised by the reaction.

My daughter’s (age 45) first comment was,

Oh the crime! A free album! So terrible!

When I pointed out that it was “my” iCloud space and I felt “invaded” by this unwanted deposit, a techie friend (former co-worker, in his 30s) chimed in,

It’s not your cloud space. It’s on iTunes server. If you want it, go claim it, if not then don’t. At best, it’s like having a receipt for something someone else bought you. It’s not in your space. It’s not taking up any space, it’s just a link to download it. That’s all. They gave you a link to download it if you want. (and a way to delete the link if you don’t want to see it.) I’m just trying to remain factually accurate here.

My daughter, again,

To me this iCloud thing is like getting one of the many free apps that come with the iPhone. The difference is that is already on my phone when I buy it and very often there is no way to delete it off the device, even if I don’t want it. This album at least I had the option. I don’t care if it was in my purchased list – it was free. And since I share an iTunes account with my husband and kids, there are lots of things in my purchased list that I don’t like/want. I don’t have to download them so no worries here! And I love U2 so of course I downloaded it

The reason for including the foregoing extended conversation is to ask a question of the assembled “dinerzens” this morning. Is my unhappiness at this “free gift” and my feeling of having my personal space and privacy infringed a generational thing? My mid-40s daughter and my mid-30s former co-worker didn’t seem to see any problem at all. Would this bother you? Or am I just an old(er) woman out in her yard yelling at iClouds? Opinions welcome!

by msmolly

Over Easy: Understanding Net Neutrality

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Neutrality-3-largeWednesday was Internet Slowdown Day—a digital day of action intended to call attention to the perils of an internet without net neutrality. A lot of people hear the term “net neutrality” and think it sounds vaguely like a good thing, but most people don’t really understand what it is — or what it can mean to us.

The short answer (without getting into the technical weeds) is whether the internet will be an open and free platform (neutral), or fragmented into virtual fiefdoms and constrained such that only the richest players can fully participate. “Net neutrality” has been redefined and convoluted over time in various ways, but the basic concept is whether or not your Internet Service Provider (ISP) — the cable or DSL or fiber company that you pay for your internet access — can pick winners and losers by requiring some companies to pay the ISP extra fees just to be available at all, or available in a “better” (i.e., faster) way.

Internet Slowdown Day was conceived to inspire more people to offer public comment against the Federal Communication Commission’s proposed guidelines for Internet Service Providers before the public comment period ends on September 15.

The FCC’s proposed rules were published in mid May, and allow for potential paid prioritization on internet traffic. This means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) could charge content companies (like Netflix, for example) for faster content delivery on the internet “superhighway” to the ISP’s paying customers, creating “fast lanes” for large companies’ websites, and “slow lanes” for the small players. But ISPs claim that service providers, like Netflix and Google, are getting a “free ride” on their networks, since those services are popular with their users. ISPs would like to force those popular and very successful companies to pay more.

Techdirt explains:

Everyone already pays for their own bandwidth. You pay your access provider, and the big internet companies pay for their bandwidth as well. And what you pay for is your ability to reach all those sites on the internet. What the internet access providers are trying to do is to get everyone to pay twice. That is, you pay for your bandwidth, and then they want, say, Netflix, to pay again for the bandwidth you already paid for, so that Netflix can reach you. This is under the false belief that when you buy internet service from your internet access provider, you haven’t bought with it the ability to reach sites on the internet. The big telcos and cable companies want to pretend you’ve only bought access to the edge of their network, and then internet sites should have to pay extra to become available to you.

Many net neutrality advocates are asking the FCC to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, which would make broadband providers “common carriers.” If this happened, the FCC would have more power over them and would have a bigger mandate to enforce regulations to stop broadband services from selecting winners and losers from internet-based content companies (e.g., Netflix), depending on whether these companies paid extra. (Netflix is a convenient illustrative example, but there are many others.)

A decade ago, there was discussion about whether cable broadband providers are technically “telecommunications” services (classified as common carriers under Title II) or if they provide an “information service” that does not fall under Title II and therefore are not common carriers. After relentless lobbying from the cable companies, the FCC decided that cable modem service should be exempt from Title II regulations. When this decision was challenged, the Supreme Court agreed with the cable companies and the FCC that cable broadband was not a telecommunications service under Title II. Subsequently, people proposed that this would also apply to DSL lines (like AT&T, for example), and the FCC reclassified DSL outside of Title II as well.

If the FCC reclassifies broadband as a telecommunications service, which will help protect an open and neutral internet, some fear that it will have to enforce the entire set of rules that were developed for telephone service, such as rules about rate schedules, telephone operator services, carrier reporting requirements, etc., that would lead to a a lot of new problems if incorrectly imposed on the internet. “Forbearance” about enforcement is written into the statutes, and helps ensure that the FCC does only what is necessary, and nothing more.

So, how successful was the Internet Slowdown Day? According to Fight for the Future, it was incredibly successful!

Calls made to Congress: 303,099
Emails sent to Congress: 2,167,092
Comments filed at the FCC: 722,364
Calls per minute to Congress (during peak hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.): 1,000
Participating websites: more than 10,000
Facebook shares of spinning icon: more than 1,120,000

According to Executive Director David Segal of Demand Progress,

The Internet Slowdown was the biggest day of online activism since the Internet Blackout of 2012, when people rejected the SOPA and PIPA copyright bills. As the FCC decision on Net Neutrality approaches, Internet users will continue to speak out in numbers and with a message that will be impossible to ignore.

It’s not too late to sign the letter to Congress!

by msmolly

Over Easy: Who Invented Email?

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

You've got mail

You’ve got mail!

Let’s take a break from the sad and depressing news of the past week and look at an amusing controversy involving a Huffington Post multi-part series about the “history” (scare quotes intentional) of email. As Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers are fond of proclaiming, “Boooogus!”

Back in 2012, The Washington Post and other media outlets were all over a claim by V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai that he had “invented email” in 1978. That claim was totally false, and was based on misconceptions about email, software and copyright law. The WaPo reported at the time that,

The Smithsonian has acquired the tapes, documentation, copyrights, and over 50,000 lines of code that chronicle the invention of ‘EMAIL,’ a program created by V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai when he was a 14 year-old high-school student in New Jersey.

But this isn’t remotely true. Ayyadurai was responsible for inventing an email management system that he named “EMAIL” but this happened long after email itself, which has had multiple contributors over many years. The Washington Post eventually offered this “clarification” (my emphasis):

Clarification: A number of readers have accurately pointed out that electronic messaging predates V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai’s work in 1978. However, Ayyadurai holds the copyright to the computer program called ‘email,’ establishing him as the creator of the ‘computer program for [an] electronic mail system’ with that name, according to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Except … that “clarification” confuses copyright with patents. Copyright is only over a specific copyrightable work, in this case the specific code Ayyadurai used. Copyright does not establish Ayyadurai as the creator of the electronic mail system, merely an electronic mail system, and certainly not the first one.

A profile of Ayyadurai in Time Magazine called him “the man who invented email,” which is probably why the Smithsonian got interested. But even the Time article states right at the beginning that Ayyadurai actually just holds a copyright on “EMAIL” rather than email more generically.

In the intervening years, Ayyadurai’s claim that he invented email has been debunked six ways from Sunday. But apparently Huffington Post can’t read or do research, because it has been running a multi-part series on Ayyadurai’s “invention” of email. And when confronted by the facts, HuffPo doubled down.

Techdirt (one of my favorite techie blogs) has posted three separate articles on Huffington Post’s series. Techdirt explains:

The problems are that (1) email was invented long before 1978, (2) the copyright is merely on the specific software code, not the idea of email, and (3) while Ayyadurai may have independently recreated the basics of email (and even added a nice feature), none of his work was even remotely related to what later became the standards of email. What’s most sickening about this is that as part of this new PR campaign, Ayyadurai is ridiculously arguing that the reason no one believes him isn’t because he’s simply wrong, but because they can’t stand to believe that ‘a dark-skinned immigrant kid, 14 years old,’ invented email, and that it was done in ‘one of the poorest cities in the US’ rather than at a famous university.

The entire series of articles is well worth reading if you are at all interested in the history of email and the controversy. Techdirt asks Why Is Huffington Post Running A Multi-Part Series To Promote The Lies Of A Guy Who Pretended To Invent Email?

They conclude,

It’s unclear why Huffington Post is publishing this ludicrous and disproven narrative. It’s unclear why one of the biggest names in PR [Larry Weber, who led off the series] is involved in all of this, though you can take some guesses. But there are facts, and they include that ‘electronic mail’ existed long before V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai wrote his program as a precocious teenager. Huffington Post is either not disclosing a paid-for series of posts (which would be a massive ethical breach) or they’ve been taken for a ride. Neither option speaks well of HuffPo and its journalistic integrity.

Yesterday Techdirt posted Huffington Post Finally Responds, Stands By Its Completely Bogus, Totally Debunked ‘History Of Email’ Series.

Basically, no matter where you start to dig in, nearly everything about Ayyadurai’s claims is incredibly sketchy, or outright disproven and debunked widely. It’s incredible that Huffington Post has decided to stand by this and merely repeat debunked claims.
[snip]
[T]he folks over at Huffington Post (the ones who still believe in journalistic integrity) might want to take a closer look at what’s going on over there.

This controversy isn’t over yet. It may call for popcorn. Pass the butter!

LATE UPDATE (3:35 p.m. EDT):
Huffington Post And The View From Bogustan: Standing Behind Blatantly False Claims Isn’t Journalism

by msmolly

Over Easy

9:33 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Crane-Station isn’t available this morning, so I am opening the Diner doors for Wednesday conversation. Any topic welcome. Rants encouraged. Good news also highly encouraged!

Pour a cup of your favorite morning beverage and join in!

An update to my theme from last Friday’s Over Easy, concerning how our locations are tracked using a technology known as a stingray, comes this news:
Law Enforcement Agencies Scramble For Pricey Cell Tower Spoofer Upgrades As Older Networks Are Shut Down

From ArsTechnica:

Documents released last week by the City of Oakland reveal that it is one of a handful of American jurisdictions attempting to upgrade an existing cellular surveillance system, commonly known as a stingray.

The Oakland Police Department, the nearby Fremont Police Department, and the Alameda County District Attorney jointly applied for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to “obtain a state-of-the-art cell phone tracking system,” the records show.

Read the rest of this entry →

by msmolly

Over Easy: Your Location For Sale

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Map symbol-pinOn Sunday, the Washington Post published a startling report that described how private companies who sell surveillance systems are marketing them to governments around the world, providing the means to track the movements of anyone who carries a cell phone — here or abroad.

A set of network protocols known as Signaling System No. 7 (SS7) allows cell phone carriers to collect location information from cell phone towers and share it with each other. So a US carrier can find a customer even if he or she travels to another country. From Wikipedia, 

Inasmuch as SS7 was not designed with security in mind, surveillance technology within the capabilities of non-state actors can be used to track the movements of cell phone users from virtually anywhere in the world with a success rate of approximately 70%

The Washington Post article says that marketers of surveillance systems also now have access to SS7, so that purchasers of these systems can home in on cell phone users’ locations as precisely as within a couple of city blocks (or in rural areas, a couple of miles). These systems can even detect how fast a person on a city street is walking, or the speed a person’s car is traveling!

According to Mother Jones, the carriers’ privacy policies aren’t protecting us very much, if at all.

Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T each promise their customers that their location is protected (with exceptions for emergencies and complying with court orders). AT&T’s privacy policy states, “We’ll give you prior notice and ask for your consent when your location is used or shared.” Verizon’s reads, “Verizon Wireless services that use mobile device location data provide you with notice about the collection and use of this data.” Sprint and T-Mobile make similar promises, although some of these companies include the caveat that they cannot protect data that is collected by third parties while a customer’s phone is roaming.

But telecommunications networks have become so complex that it would cost billions to install new security measures to defend against these surveillance systems, and these measures might negatively impact functioning of basic services like routing calls, text messages, and Internet access to customers.

The tracking systems use queries sent over the SS7 network to ask carriers what cell tower a customer has used most recently. Carriers configure their systems to transmit such information only to trusted companies that need it to direct calls or other telecommunications services to customers. But the protections against unintended access are weak and easily defeated, said Engel and other researchers.

By repeatedly collecting this location data, the tracking systems can show whether a person is walking down a city street or driving down a highway, or whether the person has recently taken a flight to a new city or country.

An anonymous industry representative reveals that dozens of countries have either bought or leased this technology in recent years, demonstrating clearly how the surveillance industry has made super-spying technology available around the world. Needless to say, it is a very profitable industry these days, and it could easily be in use by some pretty bad actors — or it already is. NSA, I’m looking in your direction!

Companies that market SS7 tracking systems recommend using them paired with International Mobile Security Identity (IMSI) catchers, surveillance devices that use signals collected directly from the air to intercept calls and Internet traffic, send fake texts, install spyware — and determine precise locations. (IMSI is a unique identifying code on each cellular phone.) IMSI catchers are often called by a trade name, “Stingray,” and are produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world. From WaPo:

The FCC recently created an internal task force to study misuse of IMSI catchers by criminal gangs and foreign intelligence agencies, which reportedly have used the systems to spy on American citizens, businesses and diplomats.

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with questions about the vulnerability of cellular networks to interception and hacking, prompted by news reports in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology [PDF].

“Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their communications, and in information about where they go and with whom they communicate,” Grayson wrote to Wheeler in July. “It is extremely troubling to learn that cellular communications are so poorly secured, and that it is so easy to intercept calls and track people’s phones.”

Gee, ya think?

LATE UPDATE! CHECK THIS OUT!!
Stingray Tracking Devices: Who’s Got Them?

by msmolly

Over Easy: Chemical Weapons in the War on Protest

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Tear gas is banned in warfare.

Tear gas is technically banned for use in warfare as a chemical weapon. But as the Washington Post (and other publications) point out, Ferguson police shoot it at protesters rather freely.

From Wikipedia

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymatory agent or lachrymator (from lacrima meaning ‘tear’ in Latin), is a chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain, vomiting, and even blindness. Common lachrymators include pepper spray (OC gas), CS gas, CR gas, CN gas (phenacyl chloride), nonivamide, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, syn-propanethial-S-oxide (from onions), and Mace (a branded mixture).

Lachrymatory agents are commonly used for riot control. Their use as chemical warfare agents is prohibited by various international treaties. [My emphasis]

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention doesn’t apply to domestic law enforcement.

Because the U.S. was concerned that the C.W. Convention could be interpreted to prohibit lethal injection, we were a vocal supporter of this exemption (my emphasis below):

1. ‘Chemical Weapons’ means the following, together or separately:
(a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;

9. ‘Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention’s if means:
[snip]
(d) Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.

The most common lacrimator used for riot control is a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, or CS, which is a powder that when mixed with smoke creates an airborne agent with frightening, although not usually lethal, results. But do notice the foregoing Wikipedia list of common lachrymators also includes pepper spray, which Lt. John Pike used as a chemical weapon against peaceful protestors at U. C. Davis in 2011.

Why Isn’t Tear Gas Illegal?

When deployed in open spaces, the effects of tear gas are indeed temporary. Victims may experience crying, uncontrollable blinking, burning in the throat, sneezing, coughing, retching, and sometimes temporary blindness—but all that should subside within hours. In enclosed spaces, however, the chemical agent can have much more serious effects.

According to Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke University scientist who researches tear gas, speaking with Vox’s Sarah Kliff,

The way these gases work, and this is what we do research on, is that they activate pain receptors — the pain sensing nerves in our body. The cornea is densely covered with these receptors. When tear gas activates these pain receptors, that leads to body reflexes like profuse tear secretion and a muscle cramp in the eyelid that causes them to close. These are all protective responses that the body has to pain, and with the gas they become extremely exaggerated.

There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous.

[snip]

Tear gas can also lead to profuse mucus production, and that can lead to the feeling of suffocation. That’s especially true if it’s used in closed environments, like what you saw in Cairo. That’s not the case here in Ferguson.

Jordt concludes,

I’m very concerned that, as use has increased, tear gas has been normalized. The attitude now is like, this is safe and we can use it as much as we want.

Regardless of the lengths to which law enforcement will go to justify it, the fact remains that police in the United States – in many cases with inadequate oversight or control – use a chemical banned for use in war, in a domestic “war” on protesters.

And courtesy of Vox, here’s a look at how we would cover events in Ferguson if they happened in another country (satire, maybe, but…). Read the rest of this entry →

by msmolly

Over Easy: Al Gore Is Still Fat (Part 2)

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Scientists are as sure man made climate change is real as they are that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer. The statistical likelihood that climate change is not man made is miniscule, as low as 0.1%.

A recent survey of 1,860 climate scientists published in Environmental Science and Technology confirms that more than 90% of the scientists agree that climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it. Previous similar surveys of climate science publications have shown the agreement among scientists may be as high as 97%.

But climate change skepticism–or outright denial–persists among the public, and although it can seem that way sometimes, not all of the public is made up of Faux Nooze-viewing right wingers.

So then, where is the disconnect?

The published survey suggests that the public’s skepticism may be the media’s fault. The survey found that the very small number of climate scientists who are skeptical of climate change were contacted by the media much more often for comment on the subject than were the vast majority of those scientists who concur that human activities are causing this change. It is supposedly the media’s responsibility to report facts. When the media instead provides a pulpit from which climate change deniers can preach their peculiar religion, they aren’t meeting this responsibility.

What the media reports about climate change (or just about any other topic) becomes what people know about the subject. The general public is unlikely to read the latest complex and jargon-filled scientific paper on greenhouse gas emissions or the effect of methane released from Arctic ice.

Obviously there will be scientists who disagree about any scientific subject, but in this case their influence on the public beliefs is increased by lots of money from the fossil fuels industry, coupled with a well-oiled PR machine. Highlighting climate change deniers’ opinions, giving them a platform, is a dangerous game that both boosts business interests and obfuscates what the overwhelming majority of climate scientists regard as settled fact.

In their pursuit of “fair and balanced” reporting, some journalists instead are promoting a clearly untrue narrative. In media terms, this is known as false equivalency, and it’s a serious problem in climate science reporting. As Paul Krugman has commented sarcastically on this false equivalency, “Opinions differ on the shape of the planet.”

But climate change is not a matter of opinion. Some publications, for instance the L.A. Times, have recently adopted a policy of refusing to print climate change denial letters. Reddit’s science section has banned climate change deniers from its forum. But not all major publications are on board with the L.A. Times or Reddit. In other words, they think “opinions differ on the shape of the planet” after all.

The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that climate change is a cold (or hot), hard fact. To create doubt, about something where there is no doubt, is a huge disservice to the public, and ultimately a huge detriment to our warming planet.

by msmolly

Over Easy: Al Gore Is Still Fat

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

I’m sitting in the host chair for Crane-Station this morning. Almost every day at Over Easy we’ve been discussing the summer weather, or in some cases the lack thereof. With stifling heat and drought in the west and south, rain and cool temps in the Midwest, it has been an unusual summer in much of the country. As I write this, it is 61º — on an August afternoon. How can the planet be warming when it is so cool outside?

Do look at the photos here:
27 Powerful Photos That Show The Reality Of Climate Change Today

We all know Al Gore is fat so that must mean his climate change predictions are a hoax.

Maybe Michael Mann, the climate scientist, is fat too?

[Mann] was a central figure in the trumped-up “climategate” scandal, accused with other scientists of fraud by conservative bloggers and pundits before being vindicated by eight separate independent investigations (my emphasis).

Michael Mann wants you to know 6 things about global warming.

And do read about Mann’s summer vacation! Fire and Ice: What I Did On My Summer Vacation

If you Google “Michael Mann climate change” a lot of the top hits are the deniers. While charges and counter-charges are flung, climate change marches inexorably onward. Small consolation that the deniers are going to cook right along with the rest of us.

by msmolly

Over Easy: The Monkey Selfie

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Self portrait taken by a Macaca Monkey

Now smile for the camera!

There’s a controversy brewing over a photo that made the rounds in 2011, one of several photos taken by a Macaque nigra (crested black Macaque) monkey. David Slater, an award-winning nature photographer, was in a national park in Indonesia, and left his camera unattended, and apparently a Macaque monkey wandered over and took this hilarious self-portrait. There were several different photos, mostly of grass or sky, and one has gotten a lot of attention. The photographer insists that he owns the copyright to this photo because it was taken with his camera — but in most cases whoever makes the actual art owns the copyright. For example, if you hand your camera to a stranger to take your photo (we’ve probably all done that), technically that stranger holds the copyright on the photo, even though it is a picture of you taken with your camera.

Slater has said that the monkeys were playing with the shiny objects and when one pushed the shutter, they became interested in the noise and kept pressing the button. It would be hard to make a case that Slater made any creative contribution that supports holding a copyright. The monkeys — who might have the best case for copyright on these photos, if there is one, obviously have not licensed the photos.

According to laws in the U.S., and in the UK where David Slater lives, and in Indonesia, where the Macaque took the picture, the image is almost certainly in the public domain. An animal cannot hold a copyright. Under all three countries’ laws, the work must done by a person, not a monkey. Slater, however, claims that because the camera is his, it’s his copyright. Although many people think that’s what copyright law says, it really doesn’t say any such thing.

Section 503.03 of the current Compendium of Copyright Office Practices (published by The U.S. Copyright Office) is very clear:

503.03 Works not capable of supporting a copyright claim.
Claims to copyright in the following works cannot be registered in the Copyright Office:

503.03(a) Works-not originated by a human author.
In order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable. Thus, a linoleum floor covering featuring a multicolored pebble design which was produced by a mechanical process in unrepeatable, random patterns, is not registrable. Similarly, a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable; thus, for example, a piece of driftwood even if polished and mounted is not registrable.

But now, three years later, things have gotten interesting again.

The latest is that Slater is apparently still considering legal action against Wikimedia for refusing to take down the image from Wikimedia Commons.

The Gloucestershire-based photographer now claims that the decision is jeopardising his income as anyone can take the image and publish it for free, without having to pay him a royalty. He complained To Wikimedia that he owned the copyright of the image, but a recent transparency report from the group, which details all the removal requests it has received, reveals that editors decided that the monkey itself actually owned the copyright because it was the one that pressed the shutter button.

Mr Slater now faces an estimated £10,000 legal bill to take the matter to court.

The “monkey owned the copyright” statement is probably an error by the author of the Telegraph article linked above. The person who uploaded the photo to Wikimedia has stated that there was no copyright claim (i.e., it is in the public domain) because there was no human author.

Why is this an issue again at all? It is at least partly Wikimedia’s fault, because they just released a transparency report, which discusses the monkey photo in a case study, and refuse to take it down.

But for the laugh of the week, please read how Wikipedia’s monkey selfie ruling is a travesty for the world’s monkey artists.

The ‘monkey selfie’ in question is a diamond in the mud: a truly remarkable portrait, perfectly focused and strategically positioned to capture a mischievous yet vulnerable smile. If that macaque had an Instagram account she’d have, like, a million followers.

But she doesn’t, and the sorry state of our copyright law – as interpreted by the Copyright Office and exploited by Wikipedia – is to blame. Due to the backwards treatment of animal creators everywhere, monkey art (and monkey photography in particular) continues to languish. How is an aspiring monkey photographer supposed to make it if she can’t stop the rampant internet piracy of monkey works?

by msmolly

Over Easy: Watching You, Watching Me!

7:45 am in Uncategorized by msmolly

Flickr - law keven - Watching you...watching me....

Watching you…watching me…

I’ve posted here at Over Easy about companies that track our travels on the Web to display ads customized to our interests. They often use cookies, so if you price out an upscale cruise or golf club on one site, ads for cruises or golf clubs follow you around the Web. There are other tracking tools, too, and it is a running battle to stay ahead of them. They’re getting even more intrusive and personal, and it is unsettling to comprehend their reach.

More and more online marketers attempt to track us offline too, by collecting data about our daily lives and habits. According to a fascinating Wall Street Journal investigation, one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet is the business of spying on consumers. NOTE: To avoid the paywall to the WSJ article, Google “The Web’s New Gold Mine” and click on the link to the article, which should be the top hit. (Also see the note at the end of this post.) LATE DAY UPDATE: The article no longer can be accessed via Google as I described. It is now thoroughly locked down. Sorry!

Here’s but one way this works — there are many others as the technology gets more sophisticated.

  • A retailer collects the email addresses of its customers. It’s why stores keep asking for our email, and sometimes offer a small freebie to entice us to provide it. They especially like to get email addresses of their big spending customers.
  • A digital marketing firm locates customers online when they use their email address to log into a website that has a relationship with the marketing firm. This website allows the firm to put a tracker — a long string of letters and numbers — on the the customer’s computer.
  • When the customer goes online to the retailer’s website, they see a customized version of the site that shows offerings especially tailored for their (high-spending) interests.

Tracking people using their real names is known as “onboarding,” and it’s not used only for retail activity. (“Onboarding” is more commonly a term for integrating a newly hired employee into a work environment. In this context it is data onboarding.) According to LiveRamp, a major provider of data onboarding recently purchased by our old friend Acxiom (remember them??),

Our customers send us large ‘offline’ datasets of user records for us to deliver anonymized versions of these records to an ‘online’ destination, such as an ad network or data management platform. By ‘online,’ we mean that the data record is anonymized and associated with a browser or device, enabling the customer to run ad campaigns that retarget their audience, or to measure offline conversions in response to an online campaign.

In 2012, ProPublica documented how Microsoft and Yahoo sell politicians access to us. Back then, Google and Facebook told ProPublica they don’t offer these political matching services. But since then, Facebook and Twitter started offering onboarding services that allow advertisers (presumably including politicians) to find their customers online.

Another firm in the “onboarding” space is Lotame. According to the WSJ investigation, this is how it works:

Hidden inside Ashley Hayes-Beaty’s computer, a tiny file helps gather personal details about her, all to be put up for sale for a tenth of a penny.

The file consists of a single code— 4c812db292272995e5416a323e79bd37—that secretly identifies her as a 26-year-old female in Nashville, Tenn.

The code knows that her favorite movies include ‘The Princess Bride,’ ’50 First Dates’ and ’10 Things I Hate About You.’ It knows she enjoys the ‘Sex and the City’ series. It knows she browses entertainment news and likes to take quizzes. [snip] Lotame uses sophisticated software called a ‘beacon’ to capture what people are typing on a website—their comments on movies, say, or their interest in parenting and pregnancy. Lotame packages that data into profiles about individuals, without determining a person’s name, and sells the profiles to companies seeking customers.

The WSJ’s investigation revealed that:

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