Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Used Smartphones and PDAs for Sale on eBay Reveal Massive Volume of Sensitive Data

Not unlike computers, deleting info from cell phones and PDAs is not as easy as it seems. A study released by Trust Digital, Inc details:
Trust Digital engineers recovered nearly 27,000 pages of personal, corporate, and device data from nine of 10 mobile devices purchased through eBay for the project, including a smartphone sold by an employee of a major corporation. The salvaged data included personal banking and tax information, corporate sales activity notes, corporate client records, product roadmaps, contact address books, phone and Web logs, calendar records, personal and business correspondence, computer passwords, user medication information, and other private, competitive or potentially damaging material.
Tipped to this by an almost lighthearted -- but worth reading -- AP article here.

Sweden's Pirate Party manifesto

Mick sez, "On August 28, the Pirate Party of Sweden made their election program official. An introduction stating the ideas and ideology behind their program."

The development of technology has made sure Sweden and Europe stand before a fork in the road. The new technology offers fantastic possibilities to spread culture and knowledge all over the world with almost no costs. But it also makes way for the building of a society monitored at a level unheard of up until now.

In no time, the monitoring state has advanced its positions strongly in Sweden. This development threatens equality and safety before the law, and nothing indicates that it even adds to security. The Pirate Party believes this is the wrong way to go.

The right to privacy is a corner stone in an open and democratic society. Each and everyone has the right to respect for one’s own private and family life, one’s home and one’s correspondence. If the constitutional freedom of information is to be more than empty words on a paper, we much defend the right for protected private communication.


(Thanks, Mick!)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Amazing Slashdot discussion about DRM and the future of entertainment products

Slashdot, a voluminous nerd news-site, just ran one of its regular "Ask Slashdot" columns, this time about DRM and copyright:

"In a few weeks, our school will be hosting a panel on DRM with several respected individuals. In advance of the panel, I have been doing some research on the topic and thinking about it in my free time. In economics, we learn that the price of a product is determined essentially by supply and demand. Without a DRM in place, we are capable of making as many copies of a piece of content as we want and seeding it onto the net. How do you create a market for a product, and make money of a product that has a huge initial creative investment, but then no manufacturing cost, and is in infinite supply?"

The discussion that follows is erudite, exhilerating, frustrating and funny. Highly recommended.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Record label that puts fans and artists first

Wired has a great article on Nettwerk, a Canadian label that puts out stars like Avril Lavigne, which has taken a fans-and-artists-first approach to the business that has them making tracks available from remix, fighting to defend fans who are being sued by other labels, and delivering unheard-of sweet deals to the artists they publish:

Terry McBride has an idea. Another idea. A good – no, a great idea. McBride, CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, is sitting in his Vancouver, British Columbia, office with his local marketing staff discussing strategy for the release of a new album by Barenaked Ladies. The marketing departments in three other cities are conferenced in. The conversation ping-pongs from Nascar promotions to placement in a Sims videogame. McBride is on a roll.

"This one's a real wingdinger," he says, leaning into the speakerphone so New York, Denver, and Los Angeles won't miss a word. "Let's give away the ProTools files on MySpace. Vocals, guitars, drums, and bass. We'll let the fans make their own mixes." The room falls quiet. Musicians usually record their instruments and vocals on separate tracks; the producer and mixer combine those tracks into a finished product. McBride wants to make the individual files available so that amateur DJs can use them like Lego bricks to create something all their own. The record industry likes control. McBride is proposing unfettered chaos.

A voice from LA breaks the silence: "For the single, you mean, right?" McBride's features screw up in concentration, then quickly expand into a grin. "What I'm proposing," he says, "is that we make all 29 songs available as ProTools files. In two weeks." The Internet marketers in Vancouver look worried. "But," he adds, "we'll get the files from the single up on MySpace by Monday." Libby White, a member of the department, shoots McBride a skeptical look. Can they make it? McBride asks. White sighs. "We'll make it," she says.


More on Microsoft, high-def and anti-trust; Swiss DRM laws

Princeton's Ed Felten has written some great analysis of yesterday's post on Microsoft opting to leave high-def support out of the 32-bit flavor of Windows, looking at the potential reasons for this inanity:

The stupidity-ball explanation is always a contender in cases like this, but I wouldn’t rule out A or B either. Yes, the studios have tech consultants, but they had equally good consultants when they chose the horribly misdesigned CSS as the encryption scheme for first-gen DVDs, which suggests that they don’t always listen to the consultants.

There’s an interesting connection to antitrust policy here. Microsoft’s business strategy is apparently to tie Media Player to Windows. Antitrust authorities, in Europe at least, didn’t like this, and so Microsoft is claiming that Media Player is an Integral Part of Windows and not just a nice application that is designed to work well with Windows. (Recall that they tried the same argument for Internet Explorer in the U.S. antitrust case, and the U.S. courts didn’t buy it.)

This may affect the DVD cartel’s decisionmaking in at least two ways. First, if they fell for the line that Media Player is not just another pretty app, they may have concluded that it made sense to hold Media Player accountable for the Windows “bug” of allowing unsigned drivers. This makes no sense from a content security standpoint, but remember that these are the same people who thought CSS was a good idea.

Another possibility is that the DVD cartel is implementing its own antitrust policy, encouraging competition in the market for Windows-compatible DVD players by neutralizing Microsoft’s tying strategy. Having acquired quasi-governmental power to regulate the design of DVD players and the structure of DVD-related markets, the cartel would naturally want to prevent any player vendor from accumulating market power.

In that same post, Ed links to fascinating testimony on the Swiss DRM bill, which apparently takes a much more sensible approach:

...I would like to point to some of the characteristics of the bill that I find particularly commendable:

* The bill only prohibits the circumvention of effective technological protection measures aimed at protecting copyrighted materials.

* The bill includes a definition of the effectiveness criterion.

* The ban cannot be enforced against individuals who circumvent TPMs in order to make use of the work in a way that is traditionally permitted by the copyright act (e.g. making a private copy).

* In contrast to the EUCD, all the exceptions and limitations also apply to on-demand services.

* Although the bill creates civil and criminal liability, it adheres to the principle of proportionality with regard to sanctions and penalties. In the context of criminal sanctions in the case of circumvention of TPMs, intent (”Absicht”) is required.

Universities put Hollywood ahead of students

Draconian, indiscriminate measures against file-share are par for the course at USC, as is the black-hole treatment for people who get snared in the dragnet. Aram Sinnreich, a USC grad student studying file sharing, who was an expert witness at the Grokster court case, was censured for using BitTorrent, and never received a response to his letter, either.

USC's arch-rival UCLA is a somewhat better steward of its students' interests in the copyright wars, as reported by Cindy Mosqueda at Metroblogging LA, who notes that UCLA's approach is mostly one of warning students about the crazies down the raod in Hollywood and their willingness to destroy your life to prop up their business model, but does not extend to actively policing students on their behalf. This is affirmed in last spring's letter to students from the Dean and Archchancellor.

At the University of Michigan, the policy is not far off from USC's, but at least they've got the good sense not to describe the school's mission as "is to promote and foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property," as USC did.

Australia's Queensland University of Technology, touted as Brisbane's answer to MIT, has sent out a completely bizarre letter to students warning them that even if you buy your music from iTunes, you can't play it on a university computer, thanks to Australia's out-of-date copyright laws (soon to be replaced with an even more out-of-date regime, thanks to the dumb Free Trade Deal the loathsome John Howard signed into law).

One thing that's becoming increasingly clear from these factors is that students often need as much protection from their universities as they do from the entertainment industry's slipshod copyright enforcer thugs. It might be time for activists to start delivering anonymous file-sharing tools that help students evade the campus cops so they can get their research done.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Muni WiFi Censorship in Metro L.A.

Culver City is one of many municipalities in metro Los Angeles offering some form of free wifi network. Culver City's system has been thought of as the first, city-owned free system and other cities including Burbank, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood followed suit by providing free public wireless access in localized areas, primarily to promote tourism and the business districts.

But it turns out Free wireless access doesn't exactly mean "free access."

Culver City, which, incidentally, is home to no fewer than three motion picture studios (including -- yup -- Sony), has implemented filtering that blocks users on its municipal wifi network from accessing p2p sites, porn, and other "questionable content." The incriminating "nannyware" in this instance is CopySense.

Mack at LAVoice has a bit more on this here.

And Sacha Meinrath at warns:
While the telecommunications battle of 2006 has been all about Network Neutrality, a storm is gathering for 2007-8 to be the war over Digital Rights Management.

Kiddie-Leashes: Is This What GPS is For?

GPS-enabled devices (Global Positioning Systems) are huge these days and the technology can be found packaged with everything from SUVs to PSPs.

Before long it will be possible to simply download your Google Earth placemarks to your TREO or CrackBerry (already been done w/ Samsung's Q1 UMPC) and keep your world in your shirt-pocket.

My infatuation with the cool factor of GPS hit a wall when I stumbled upon a Yahoo! Tech post titled: "GPS is Available on Cell Phones for Older Kids, Too."

I know this is nothing new but its shocking that its to the point where the average person apparently isn't even aware of the numerous practical uses of GPS.

(Take, for example, the GPS-arming of pigeons earlier this month in San Francisco. The birds are conducting pollution tests that are instantly registered on this Google Maps mashup via SMS).

With the unveiling of products such as Whereifone (by Wherify Wireless), the entire concept and functionality of GPS-enabled devices is taken out of context. Perhaps my reaction is extreme, but to me these devices represent another exploitation of emerging technology to encourage consumers to buy out of fear and a fabricated need for security.

The Whereifone, or electronic leash, takes little stock in promoting the utilitarian qualities of a GPS-enabled cellphone, instead touting its "homeland security" uses and the ability of THEIR network to help kids not get lost or kidnapped and even if they do, Wherify can trace all evil with its FACES digital facial featuring imaging composite technology.

Now, while your at home cooking dinner, or watching CNN (and hoping you don't know next young , Caucasian runaway or abductee on Nancy Grace), you can always locate your loved ones.

More: The UK-based World-Tracker which was profiled earlier this year in an article in the Guardian titled "How I Stalked My Girlfriend."

If you've gotta tag and track your sig. other, allow me to recommend a deserted island, a well-stocked iPod and a V-Girl -- she'll never leave your shirt-pocket. - Mobile Tracking Devices on Trial
CNET - Big Boss is Watching
LegalAffairs - Your Cell Phone is a Homing Device

Microsoft throws out high-def video for DRM

The 32-bit-compatible version of Vista, the next version of Windows, won't play back high-def video because they can't get the DRM right. However, it will play back high-def video if, instead of buying HD DVDs, you just download copies of them off the Internet -- talk about a perverse incentive.

"Any next-generation high definition content will not play in x32 at all," said Riley.

"This is a decision that the Media Player folks made because there are just too many ways right now for unsigned kernel mode code [to compromise content protection]. The media companies asked us to do this and said they don't want any of their high definition content to play in x32 at all, because of all of the unsigned malware that runs in kernel mode can get around content protection, so we had to do this," he said.


(via /.)

USC's bizarre, objectionable copyright policy

USC Deputy Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Student Affairs have emailed students a Copyright Compliance message that purports to inform students about the contours and boundaries of copyright, but actually presents a collection of scare-tactic half-truths and astonishing statements about the purpose of the university.

In the letter, USC's officers promise to spend students' tuition on policing them on behalf of the entertainment industry, but make no comparable promise to protect them from the thousands of automated, baseless accusations generated by the RIAA, MPAA and BSA.

Worse, the letter completely mis-states the relationship between copyright and scholarship, omitting any mention of fair use and the other user rights in copyright (especially important in an institution like USC with excellent arts programs, where students are apt to making daily unauthorized uses of copyrighted works for the purpose of criticism and study), and making the extraordinary statement that "USC's purpose is to promote and
foster the creation and lawful use of intellectual property."

Here's my annotations to the email from USC. It would be interesting to compare USC's policies on this to those at competing schools like UCLA and produce a ranking chart showing which schools side with scholarship and academic integrity, and which ones take USC's approach of putting non-legal notions of copyright ahead of its students' education.

Update: Aram sez, "I got busted for using BitTorrent on the USC network last year. Here's a link to the (unanswered) letter I wrote back to the university's CIO:

3. File sharing is my area of study and expertise.

Although I admit to downloading content I wish to view for entertainment purposes (i.e. [TV show]), my primary purpose in using file sharing networks is research, not entertainment. I am an "expert" in the field of online file sharing, with a paper trail to prove it. I have published both corporate and academic research on the subject, and served as a public voice in the media and at conferences regarding file sharing since the phenomenon first emerged six years ago. In fact, I was an expert witness for the defense in the recent lawsuit MGM vs. Grokster, which was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. Before I am referred to Student Conduct, I would ask that you consider my research and pedagogical purposes for file sharing, and even consider granting me permission to continue file sharing for these purposes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Steal This Film: Sweden's Piracy movement

Steal This Film is a spectacular documentary on Sweden's piracy movmeent -- The Pirate Bay BitTorrent site, The Pirate Bureau think-tank and The Pirate Party, a political party. Steal This Film ingeniously combines Hollywood footage, scare-interviews with Hollywood execs, Hollywood anti-piracy PSAs and footage of interviews with Swedish pirates, politicians and people on the street.

I was really interested to hear how deep a chord the MPAA-ordered police raid on The Pirate Bay's Swedish servers struck in the heart of Swedes, who quite rightly view threats of trade sanctions and US corporate intervention in their national laws as a serious incursion on their national self-determination.

It's a kind of macrocosm for the way that industry customers feel when they find themselves frustrated by DRM: I bought this DVD, I own it, I want to use it in my house in the way that I want. Who is Hollywood to take away my autonomy and impose their policies on me from a distance?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Class blog

This is a world-readable blog for the class research from the University of Southern California Center for Public Diplomacy seminar, Set-Top Cop (PUBD510). Here, students are encouraged to blog running notes from class, analysis of articles, and ongoing work on Wikipedia edits. The public is invited to participate on the comment sections for each post.