28 Aug

NYTimes.com – Man Accused of Stalking via Twitter Claims Free Speech

They certainly rattled Alyce Zeoli, a Buddhist leader based in Maryland. Using an ever-changing series of pseudonyms, the authorities say, Mr. Cassidy published thousands of Twitter posts about Ms. Zeoli. Some were weird horror-movie descriptions of what would befall her; others were more along these lines: “Do the world a favor and go kill yourself. P.S. Have a nice day.”

Those relentless tweets landed Mr. Cassidy in jail on charges of online stalking and placed him at the center of an unusual federal case that asks the question: Is posting a public message on Twitter akin to speaking from an old-fashioned soapbox, or can it also be regarded as a means of direct personal communication, like a letter or phone call?

via NYTimes.com – Man Accused of Stalking via Twitter Claims Free Speech. It’s an interesting case because while Twitter itself is a public medium, the person is directing their messages to a particular person. The better analogy may be while in the pulpit pointing to a particular person and speaking. At that point are you still creating a public message or is it a message directed at one person?

02 Aug

This American Life – When Patents Attack!

Why would a company rent an office in a tiny town in East Texas, put a nameplate on the door, and leave it completely empty for a year? The answer involves a controversial billionaire physicist in Seattle, a 40 pound cookbook, and a war waging right now, all across the software and tech industries.

via This American Life – When Patents Attack!. Not upset enough about patents, spend an hour and you’ll get even more upset.

01 Aug

The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity

At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation, but actively impedes innovation. We rarely directly confront the effects of this immense waste of resources and brainpower and the attendant retardation of the pace of discovery, but it affect us all the same. It makes us all poorer and helps keep us stuck in the great stagnation.

via The Economist – Intellectual property: Patents against prosperity. Yet another in a long line of articles decrying the patent system.

26 Jul

Techdirt – How Should Law Enforcement Handle Being Filmed? Officer Lyons Provides The Perfect Example

As Techdirt readers are aware, the general attitude of law enforcement tends to worsen quickly once the cameras come out. From holding citizens at gunpoint until they destroy their cameras to pressing charges against bystanders filming from their own property, hardly a week goes by without another uploaded video demonstrating that, for the most part, the easiest way to get on a cop’s bad side is to whip out a phone or a camera.

Fortunately, there are exceptions. Reason Hit & Run directs our attention to Officer Matthew J. Lyons of the Oceanside, California police department. Lyons runs into a few issues that usually send other officers scrambling for their handguns and threats: an openly-carried weapon and a camera.

However, Lyons handles the situation in a professional, cordial manner, even as the person filming the encounter declines to show him any ID or provide a last name. Even better, he commends him for exercising his rights.

via Techdirt – How Should Law Enforcement Handle Being Filmed? Officer Lyons Provides The Perfect Example. Seriously good job.

17 Jul

guardian.co.uk – Networks are not always revolutionary

My corollary to O’Reilly’s "piracy/obscurity" quote is "fame won’t make you a success on its own, but no artist ever got rich on obscurity". That is, being widely loved isn’t sufficient for attaining fortune, but it is necessary to it.

By the same token, a global network that allows loosely coordinated groups of people to discover each other and act in concert while exposing their cause to the whole planet (especially its richest, most privileged residents) is not enough to overthrow a dictator — but I’m sure I wouldn’t want to try to stage a revolution without such a network.

via guardian.co.uk – Networks are not always revolutionary. Fair point I think, having the network or having fame isn’t enough to guarantee success but it does help.

13 Jul

BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker

More than 25,000 security breaches have occurred at US airports since November 2001, a congressional panel has heard.

Jason Chaffetz cited government figures showing the airports were still vulnerable to terror attacks, despite billions invested in security.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of luggage breached security screening.

But the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said the number of breaches represented a fraction of the 5.5bn people screened since 2001.

The TSA said the definition of a security breach was broad, and could represent a range of different situations.

Mr Chaffetz, chairman of a House of Representatives subcommittee, told the panel that more than 14,000 people were able to access sensitive areas of US airports since 2001.

Some 6,000 passengers and pieces of carry-on luggage were able to make it past government checkpoints without proper scrutiny.

via BBC News – US airports still vulnerable to attacks, says lawmaker. The TSA is so effective it’s ineffective.

06 Jul

LATimes – Implanted bombs: TSA warns of possible terrorist threat of bombs implanted in people

The government has warned airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into people in an attempt to circumvent screening procedures, according to U.S. officials.

There is no indication of an immediate plot, but the new information could lead to additional screening procedures at the nation’s airports. Existing scanners would not necessarily detect bombs implanted under a person’s skin, experts said.

via LATimes – Implanted bombs: TSA warns of possible terrorist threat of bombs implanted in people. The threats will continue to magically appear until we all fear everything and give up every sense of privacy and self-respect to the TSA to implement rules and procedures that do nothing to solve the real problem.

28 Jun

Grist – The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme

What we have found is that the underlying financing mechanisms of the suburban era — our post-World War II pattern of development — operates like a classic Ponzi scheme, with ever-increasing rates of growth necessary to sustain long-term liabilities.

via Grist – The American suburbs are a giant Ponzi scheme. I can’t say I agree with this, but it fits my perception of America’s infrastructure.

27 Jun

Electronic Frontier Foundation – Know Your Rights!

Your computer, your phone, and your other digital devices hold vast amounts of personal information about you and your family. This is sensitive data that’s worth protecting from prying eyes – including those of the government.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from unreasonable government searches and seizures, and this protection extends to your computer and portable devices. But how does this work in the real world? What should you do if the police or other law enforcement officers show up at your door and want to search your computer?

EFF has designed this guide to help you understand your rights if officers try to search the data stored on your computer or portable electronic device, or seize it for further examination somewhere else.

Because anything you say can be used against you in a criminal or civil case, before speaking to any law enforcement official, you should consult with an attorney.

via Electronic Frontier Foundation – Know Your Rights!. EFF has a brief overview of rights that you have with your technology.

23 Jun

BBC News – Netherlands makes net neutrality a law

The Dutch may become the first in Europe to use Skype and other web-based services on smartphones for no extra charge.

On 22 June, the Dutch Parliament passed a law stopping mobile operators from blocking or charging extra for voice calling done via the net.

The bill must now pass through the Dutch senate, but its passage is expected to be a formality.

The move may prove crucial in Europe’s on-going debate over net neutrality.

Net neutrality is controversial around the world, with heated discussions on the subject taking place in the United States, Europe and many other regions.

The idea it enshrines is that all internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of its type – be it video, audio, e-mail, or the text of a web page.

via BBC News – Netherlands makes net neutrality a law. The Netherlands of course makes the right call.