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Robyn T-240D CB Radio

If the Courts Do Not Recognize Technology Neutrality in the Wiretap Act, Congress Should Intervene

Yesterday the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a lawsuit against Google for illegal wiretapping could proceed.

The case involves Google’s Street View project which provides online access to panoramic views of public streets in cities around the world. To build the database of images, Google sent vehicles into cities to photograph public streets. At times, these vehicles also unintentionally recorded data that users were transmitting over unencrypted wireless networks. The central claim of the lawsuit is that this collection of unencrypted data from wireless networks is a violation of the Wiretap Act. Google argued that the case should be dismissed because the Wiretap Act exempts “electronic communications” that are “readily accessible to the general public.” In its ruling, the Court denied Google’s motion to dismiss.

The basic logic of the Wiretap Act is that if people do not take action to make their communications private, then they do not have an expectation of privacy. For example, if two individuals use unscrambled CB radios to have a conversation, then other radio users are not in violation of the Wiretap Act if they hear this conversation.

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Kenneth Parcell

A Television Addict’s Validation

Television and film fanatics around the United States: rejoice. Yesterday, the Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) stated it was changing the method it uses to calculate Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in order to better reflect the economic contributions that come from the creation of copyrighted works, like films and television. In other words, GDP now encompasses the economic activity of the culture-aholic’s favorite sector (spoiler alert: the creative one!).

Prior to this change, the economic contributions of the film and television industry were treated as current expenses — or costs of business. GDP only captured the film and television industry downstream, based on the revenue generated by Hollywood’s tangible products. It did not include the impact on the economy based on investment in film and television. The change reflects that in economic terms, films and television works are an intangible asset. Long after they’re first developed, these creations continue to retain their value and deliver residual benefits; films and TV shows are licensed and sold to different markets for years after their original release so that nerds all over the world can enjoy Game of Thrones

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Evgeny Morozov

Evgeny Morozov is Not Impressed

In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism Evgeny Morozov rails against two ideologies he labels “Internet-centrisim” and “solutionism” which he defines, respectively, as the belief that the Internet should be used to explain the world and the belief that the world needs fixing. His opposition to Internet-centrism makes him a critic of not only technology advocates like Jeff Jarvis but also detractors like Nicholas Carr. His opposition to solutionism makes him a critic of everyone else.

In particular, Morozov’s directs his disgust at those who he thinks combine these two ideologies to blindly use the Internet as a model for solving societal problems. This makes popular books like Wikinomics, What Would Google Do? and Here Comes Everybody primary targets. To use an analogy, if the Internet is a hammer, he thinks people are obsessively debating which issue should be the next nail, rather than asking the more important questions of “should we be using this hammer?” and “why are we even hammering?”

To be sure, hype over technology can be taken too far: the Internet will not single-handedly cure cancer, eliminate poverty, and end

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Price Discrimination for Copyrighted Works Post-Kirtsaeng

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 this week in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley and Sons in favor of Supap Kirtsaeng, a college student from Thailand who was challenging a copyright infringement charge for textbooks he bought overseas and resold in the United States. The publishers argued that the first-sale doctrine, which allows legally-acquired copyrighted works to be resold without the permission of the copyright owner, does not apply to goods made abroad. The heart of the case depended on the court’s interpretation of the meaning of the term “lawfully made.” Does it mean “made in the United States” (i.e. where Congress has jurisdiction) or “made according to copyright laws” (i.e. not a counterfeit copy)?  Ultimately, the majority opinion rejected the geographical interpretation put forth by the publishers and found that the first sale doctrine applies to copies of copyrighted works lawfully made abroad.

The majority opinion acknowledged potential difficulties that could arise if it ruled in favor of the publishers, such as requiring libraries to get permission to lend books that were printed overseas or requiring owners of foreign-made cars to get permission from the copyright holders of the software in

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The FTC’s Top Consumer Priority Should be Identity Theft

The past two weeks have seen two important announcements come out of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). First, Commissioner Edith Ramirez was designated to replace outgoing Commissioner Jon Leibowitz as Chairman. Second, identity theft has been reported as the top consumer complaint to the FTC for the 13th year in a row.

Why are these two announcements related? It’s simple. As Chairwoman Ramirez considers how she will lead the FTC throughout her term, it’s worth looking at where the FTC can help Americans the most, particularly in an era of limited budgets. And the most recent data from the FTC overwhelmingly shows that the top priority for the Commission should be on identity theft.

The latest data on identity theft comes from the FTC’s recently released Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for 2012. The Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) is a database of consumer complaints received by a variety of sources including the FTC, state law enforcement agencies, state attorneys general, the FBI, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Better Business Bureau. While there are limits to how the data should be used

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5 Q’s on Data Innovation with Sharon Biggar

Sharon Biggar is the CEO of Path Intelligence, a company which is bringing online analytics to the offline world by providing retailers with real-time intelligence about how people move within buildings. I asked Sharon to share with me her thoughts on how this type of data will improve offline experiences for consumers.

Castro: You have an incredibly novel product with FootPath.  Can you briefly explain what it does?

Biggar: FootPath enables retailers and malls to optimize their space to improve shopper profitability.  Until now it has been challenging for shopping centers and retailers to understand and quantify how shoppers moved through their physical spaces, but with our FootPath solution retailers and malls can understand how many shoppers there are, how long they stay and where they go within the mall or store. For example, if shoppers visit the menswear section do they also visit kids wear?  Or if they visit Gap do they also visit Sears?  What happens if the mall or store owner moves these products or stores, how do shoppers react?  Our solution helps retailers and malls to answer those questions.

Castro: What do retailers do with

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Health IT Experiments

Health IT in 2013: A Renewed Focus on Efficiency and Effectiveness

Originally posted on the Electronic Health Reporter.

Although we are only a month into it, 2013 is already shaping up to be an important year for health information technology (IT).

Two recent developments have increased pressure on the health care community to deliver results from government investments in health IT systems.  First, concerns about the federal budget are causing policymakers to take a close look at programs with a large budget. As of July 2012, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that the government has spent almost $6.6 billion in incentive payments for electronic health record (EHR) systems, and the amount of money spent on health IT will only continue to grow.

Second, policymakers are taking an extra critical look at any program that appears to be underperforming. Whether fair or not, health IT will likely fit this profile as well because of recent concerns that have been raised about the effectiveness of some of these investments. In particular, earlier this month, the RAND Corporation released a report backtracking on its earlier assertion that health IT could save the United States more than $81 billion

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5 Q’s on Data Innovation with Hudson Hollister

Hudson Hollister is founder and executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition, a trade association that is advocating for policies that will require federal agencies to publish their data online using standardized, machine-readable, non-proprietary identifiers and markup languages. I asked Hudson to give me his take on how data transparency is unfolding in the federal government.

Castro: You’ve been leading the charge in the call for more open data in government. How does data transparency improve government?

Hollister: For government, data transparency means that public information is both published online and also electronically standardized in a way that makes it searchable and useful. Data transparency allows citizens to track what their government is doing. Data transparency also allows a government to better manage itself. Since there are so many separate silos within any government, the best way to make sure that public information is available to all managers and staff who need it is simply to publish it.

Data transparency isn’t merely good for government. In a democracy, data transparency is an obligation. Public information should be recognized as a public resource. The taxpayers who paid for its

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decoder ring

Decoding the “Declaration of Internet Freedom”

Online activists have started promoting a new manifesto for the Internet. Unfortunately their message was written in code. Luckily I’ve obtained a secret decoder ring that decrypts their message. I’ve posted both the original and decoded message below. They say: “We stand for a free and open Internet.” They mean: “We want free Internet service and free content.” They say: “We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles.” They mean: “We want all views we disagree with discarded after an open and participatory process.” They say: “Expression: Don't censor the Internet.” They mean: “Don’t take down pirated content.” They say: “Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.” They mean: “Everyone should be able to quickly download pirated content.” ... Read the rest

Comcast DVR Display

The Present of Video

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is holding a hearing on the video business that will address the retransmission consent/program carriage issue. There is a legal requirement for cable and satellite companies to carry most local programming, and they pay a fee to the programming conduit for the privilege of compliance. These negotiations often become very ugly, as the local network affiliate typically values its programming much too dearly, but the cable/satellite company has no choice but to pay the asking price. The FCC is supposed to limit the price to “just and reasonable,” but in practice they never get involved at all.

People who get mad at the cable company for raising the price of service year after year invariably fail to realize that programming costs to the cable companies escalate year after year as well, so putting all the blame on the cable company is essentially shooting the messenger. One of the witnesses at the hearing is Gigi Sohn, founder of Public Knowledge, so I suppose the panel will get an earful of that sort of thing. Dish Networks has a clever little DVR that

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