Ed Foster introduces the Lexmark car:
"Printer manufacturer Lexmark is proud to announce it will enter the automotive market with a line of cars featuring its exclusive Aftermarket Product Integrity Guarantee (A-PIG) technology.
'Lexmark's innovative edge has been in finding bold new ways of protecting its intellectual property,' said Sue Moore, newly appointed CEO of Lexmark Motors. 'We believe our experience applying the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and shrinkwrap licenses to hard goods will serve us well in this new venture.' [...]
Fred writes below that player pianos were the peer-to-peer file-sharing systems of their day; they spurred copyright holders to lobby Congress for what amounts to a monopoly over all machines capable of reproducing sound. Luckily for us, observes Fred, they failed -- and the modern-day recording industry was born.
We're still figuring that out.
As you've no doubt heard, Google's new Gmail beta email service is raising concerns (reg. req.) about privacy. How much concern? Well, let's just say that it's not often that a new email service is widely misinterpreted as an April Fool's joke.
The basic idea: Google will offer you a gigabyte's worth of email storage capacity -- by one count, up to 500 times that offered by its competitors. But it also plans to scan the contents of your email messages in order to display advertisements relevant to your online conversations.
In a victory for due process, a Pennsylvania judge has reaffirmed his previous finding requiring that record companies that seek to sue filesharers bring individual cases against the defendants, rather than lumping them all together.
Our favorite part of the ruling (PDF): when Judge Newcomer lists ways that the individuals named could be innocent: "Comcast subscriber John Doe 1 could be an innocent parent whose Internet access was abused by her minor child, while John Doe 2 might share a computer with a roommate who infringed Plaintiffs' works."
Reuters: "'This is not just 'buyer beware.' Consumers should be aware that there's a vast violation of European law occurring here,' said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, a citizens' group with offices in Britain and the United States. [...]
Privacy groups said they were also concerned about Google's ability to link a user's personal details, supplied in the Gmail registration process, to Web-surfing behaviour through the use of a single cookie for its search and mail services.
'This linkage provides the most comprehensive understanding to date of a person's life,' said Davies, adding governments would be tempted to access that information."
An attorney lets his 10 year-old install a computer game. Here's what happens:
So my 10 year-old took the lead and started installing the software. When he got to the license agreement, he quipped, "Let's see, it says I have to click 'accept' to continue. Well DUH! It's not like I have any CHOICE! They've already got my money! OK, I'm clicking 'accept.'"
Now why has this blindingly obvious insight eluded so many judges in cases involving software license agreements? Mark my words, fighting back against unreasonable, non-negotiable license agreements on everything we buy will be the defining digital consumer-rights issue of this decade.
Today, we filed comments (PDF) with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to warn against overbroad interpretation of the CAN-SPAM Act -- new federal legislation aimed at stemming the current tidal wave of spam. We are pessimistic that the law will be effective in that respect, and argue in our comments that it could also hurt legitimate email -- especially noncommercial email mailing lists.
Google's announcement last week of its new Gmail email service sparked widespread speculation about the possible impact it would have on users' privacy. Among the questions EFF has been asking: What information would Google pull from email? Would it log this information? For how long? Could your Gmail address or any other personal identifier be linked to those logs -- or to your Google search history?
This week, we sat down with Google and got some preliminary answers; click on "More" for details:
~ How Google Scans Your Email
As we noted last week, Google has introduced a new beta email service called "Gmail" that raises a number of privacy concerns.
While the media has largely focused on the fact that Gmail will scan the contents of your email messages in order to target ads, the more serious problem from a privacy perspective is Google's ability to link your Gmail account information with your Google web searches. By linking your complete Google search history - tagged with your name and personal details - to your email records, Google can create a highly nuanced picture of you as a reader and as a person. Such pictures present irresistible targets for government investigators, civil lawsuit plaintiffs, and even identity thieves. A single attack or disclosure could release deeply sensitive details about your life to the world without your knowledge or consent.
danah boyd has a long and worthwhile post offering her vision of what civil rights activists should do about the development of very cool technologies that nevertheless leave users vulnerable to privacy violations:
"Let me dig out of this hole and return to the civil rights activists. As people's concerns lower, they're willing to tolerate much more invasive access to data because they only see the incentives and they don't see the consequences. This is rational. We tend to operate on local, not meta levels in everyday life. The role of the civil rights activist is to go meta and deal with first point #2 - can any rational abuse of data be expected? Their role is to look at the larger picture and protect people from engaging in localized decisions that might harm the larger picture.
Security Focus (hyperlinks, mine): "A one-time enforcer in DirecTV's anti-piracy campaign is suing his ex-employer for wrongful discharge, after he allegedly resigned rather than continue to prosecute the company's controversial war against buyers of hacker-friendly smart card equipment.
John Fisher, a former police officer, alleges in a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Court late last month that he joined DirecTV as a senior investigator in July, 2002, expecting to serve a legitimate investigative role tracking signal pirates. He wound up instead 'as little better than a "bag man for the mob,"' the lawsuit claims. He's seeking unspecified damages, and an end to DirecTV's tactics."
Just over a year ago, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued a policy statement condemning government-mandated technical protection measures for digital content.
"The imposition of technical mandates is not the best way to serve the long-term interests of record companies, technology companies, and consumers," read the statement. "The role of the government, if needed at all, should be limited to forcing compliance with voluntarily developed functional specifications reflecting consensus among affected interests."
You read that right, folks: for a moment, there, the RIAA agreed with EFF.
The RIAA has finally seen the light with regard to its "Clean Slate" program, which offered false amnesty, or shamnesty, to people who admitted to file sharing. Citing the success of its "education" campaign, the group has abruptly cancelled the program.
"Clean Slate" promised that in exchange for a confession, you could gain meaningful protection from lawsuits for copyright infringement. In fact, the program left you vulnerable to lawsuits by record companies and music publishers, as well as bands like Metallica that retain independent control of music rights.
CNET's Declan McCullagh this week picked apart the misguided Gmail bill (PDF) introduced before the California legislature by State Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Freemont). The upshot? The bill is so broadly written, it would do things like "make it illegal for a California technology company to offer a 'family friendly' email service that discards messages with sexually explicit jokes," and "prohibit reviewing incoming messages to make clickable hyperlinks out of text phrases like 'www.news.com.'" And those are only two examples.
EFF Board Chairman Brad Templeton, meanwhile, offered his observations about the situation, concluding (in part) that:
Declan McCullagh rightly points out in his latest CNET piece on Gmail that EFF opposes California Senator Liz Figueroa's (D-Freemont) poorly conceived anti-Gmail bill (PDF) -- but not because we oppose any and all legislation to address the privacy concerns raised by new technology.
A bill to target a single new email service or technology indicates misdiagnosis of the disease; the problem isn't specific to one company or service. It's a systemic problem, and it should be addressed as such.
"Much of the problem lies not with Google or any of the other companies that offer free email, but with the fractured, inconsistent and often incoherent nature of privacy law in the U.S and the fact that few of us take advantage of technical protections such as encryption," says EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn.
On Good Friday evening, after everyone, including its own spokespeople, had gone home, American Airlines quietly admitted that in 2002, it secretly transferred passenger data to government contractors. Specifically, the airline provided 1.2 million passenger records to contractors developing prototypes for the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) controversial CAPPS II air passenger-profiling system. These records contain detailed personal information, such your name, address, phone number, travel itinerary -- even your credit card data.
American admitted to the transfer only after several months of official denials by TSA, which repeatedly claimed that it never used real passenger data for CAPPS II testing.
Our conclusion: Either TSA has been lying to us about CAPPS II, or its officers are incompetent.
Congratulations and best of luck to our friends at the ACLU in their new lawsuit challenging the government's use of "National Security Letters" (NSLs). Authorized under the USA PATRIOT Act, NSLs are secret legal demands for your private records that are issued directly by the Justice Department to your communications provider -- demands that the government can issue without ever having to show probable cause to suspect you of a crime, and without waiting for court review or approval.
Of course, all the juiciest facts in the case, such as the identity of the ACLU's co-plaintiff -- presumably an Internet services provider that has received an NSL -- are under seal. But reading between the redacted lines, it looks like ACLU has the goods for a successful challenge. Way to go, guys.
As Kim Weatherall notes, Australia has been undergoing two separate but not entirely equal deliberations over its national copyright law at roughly the same time: a review of the 2000 Digital Agenda Act, and negotiations with the U.S. over a free-trade agreement (FTA) that predictably exports DMCA-style copyright restrictions.