The Bolen Report The Intersection of Politics and Technology Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:48:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 After 7 Years, Viacom & Google Settle YouTube Copyright Lawsuit /after-7-years-viacom-google-settle-youtube-copyright-lawsuit/ /after-7-years-viacom-google-settle-youtube-copyright-lawsuit/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:48:04 +0000 /?p=66 No Money Changes Hands in Settlement

Seven years after filing a $1 billion lawsuit against Google, in which Viacom accused the internet search giant of posting Viacom’s content without regard to copyright, the two sides reached a settlement on Tuesday, 18 March 2014, in which no money changed hands.

Filed in 2007, the litigation drew attention from the music, movie, and internet industries, and tested the reach of federal copyright laws. The lawsuit accused Google of illegally broadcasting nearly 80,000 copyrighted videos on the popular video website between 2005 and 2008, including clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park, and other programs, all of which had been uploaded by YouTube users.

Viacom may have ultimately sought to bring an end to the suit on the best terms possible—in 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled that responsibility for finding the allegedly unlawfully uploaded videos fell on Viacom’s shoulders, not Google’s or, by extension, YouTube’s. Stanton concluded that YouTube and Google’s only responsibility in the matter is to remove such videos after receiving demands from copyright owners.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 made it illegal to produce technology to circumvent anti-piracy measures, but limited the liability of online service providers for copyright infringements by their users. Stanton ruled that YouTube did not interact with users who uploaded content closely enough to have engaged in infringing activity.

A Sign of Changing Times?

In a joint statement, Google and Viacom said, “This settlement reflects the growing collaborative dialogue between our two companies on important opportunities, and we look forward to working more closely together.”

When the lawsuit was filed, YouTube wasn’t nearly the advertising revenue giant it is now. At the time, the entire online video advertising industry generated approximately $580 million, a fraction of what Viacom itself made through its media advertising efforts. In 2014, however, video advertising is projected to bring in up to sixteen times the 2007 total—over $9.2 billion. And Google is working to create feasible alternatives to traditional television advertising to drive those totals up even higher.

To that end, Viacom reached an agreement with Sony last summer to stream its programming, and in April 2012, Google announced a licensing agreement with Paramount—which is owned by Viacom—to bring nearly 500 movies to YouTube and Google Play stores.

For Further Information:

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Energy Efficient Water Softeners /energy-efficient-water-softeners/ /energy-efficient-water-softeners/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 18:27:30 +0000 /?p=62 Fighting Corporations through Energy Efficiency

A couple weeks ago I wrote an article on industrial water softeners and water politics in general. This has been a topic of considerable interest for me, especially as corporations continue to buy up water and land in overseas markets. It should come as no shock that like with fossil fuels, water is a non-renewable resource, and corporations, with their relentless drive for profits, see this and will soon start charging consumers for the privilege of fresh, clean, soft water. Privatization is already happening around the world and a vicious debate is already beginning to form.

Now, more than ever, it is important to have an energy efficient water softener. Because of the rising cost of energy, a customer is potentially paying double for their water. One needs to pay for the water costs and then the energy required to soften that water. In large businesses, energy efficiency is even more important because of the volume at which they use water.

Robert B. Hill, a company which makes custom industrial water softeners, is on the forefront of this energy saving movement. Their custom water softeners can end up paying for themselves with the money they will save. This cost savings will become even more apparent as energy and water costs skyrocket. Personally, I’m feeling the sting of these costs at home and cannot imagine how I would feel if I was moving water at an industrial or commercial scale.

The other reason that these water softener systems can help save money is that by removing iron, calcium, and magnesium, it extends the life of other commercial systems throughout a factory. This especially matters in poorer countries where the first world dumps its garbage. If everyone could extend the life of existing systems and machinery, then there would be less waste and less pollution. Often times a machine that a water softener can preserve has components that, when disintegrating, can hurt the environment or poison the water supply.

Another reason that hillwater industrial water softener systems are good is because they integrate the boiler feed right with the cooling tower. Unlike other water softeners, this allows businesses to have a non-stop supply of soft water. This prolongs the life of other equipment.

It goes without saying that a water softener is not going to save the world. But with the privatization and rising costs of water an energy, it can make a small difference. That small difference, when replicated on a large scale can make a big difference. I think that is an important mantra and one that I always abide by when thinking of how technology can change the world.

 

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Farhad Manjoo Quits WST, Moves to NYT /farhad-manjoo-quits-wst-moves-to-nyt/ /farhad-manjoo-quits-wst-moves-to-nyt/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 21:01:38 +0000 /?p=57 Can’t Keep this Man Down

After only four months at the Wall Street Journal,  Farhad Manjoo has jumped ship to the New York Times. After leaving Slate, where he worked for 5 years, he will take over David Pogue’s former position at the Times. Pogue left the NYT for  Yahoo.

For those of us who follow consumer electronics, this is a sad day. While Manjoo is a fine writer, he doubles as a pitchman for some of the of the country’s most despised companies. It was last year that he wrote a long form piece for Fast Company magazine extolling the virtues of Wal-Mart’s move into the digital arena. Wal-Mart, really?, how much did they pay the magazine, and in turn Manjoo to write that dump of an article. After that, I became suspicious of Manjoo, and read his articles with a grain of salt.

Last week, my suspicions were confirmed when Manjoo decided to pitch Comcast’s internet bundles and deride “cord cutting.” First Wal-Mart and now Comcast! Who is this guy, a pitchman for the country’s most repressive companies? Those companies that would eliminate net neutrality and only allow content to the highest bidder.

Additionally, the timing of this article could not be more beneficial for Comcast. This article comes as Comcast is attempting to buy Time Warner cable* and is [rightly] running in anti-trust issues with the feds. It makes sense that Manjoo is such hot commodity, after all, how much does one have to pay to catch a little sympathy from the old gray lady? [Answer: A lot]. If everything he writes can be sold to the highest bidders, than he can essentially mint his own money, or as the NYT sees it, mint money for the paper.

*As a side note, is it not absolutely crazy that Comcast bought TimeWarner for $45B and Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19B. TimeWarner is a fully monetized cable company with a real product and WhatsApp’s essential feature, and appeal to customers, is its complete lack of revenue model. Heck, it doesn’t even collect your data.

 

 

 

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Hey Chaps, Check Those Apps (Lest NSA Does It for You) /hey-chaps-check-those-apps-lest-nsa-does-it-for-you/ /hey-chaps-check-those-apps-lest-nsa-does-it-for-you/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 15:19:04 +0000 /?p=50 NSA Tracking User Information Through Smartphone Applications

Remember Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor turned whistleblower? His still-unfolding saga is in the news on a regular basis, so of course you do. Well, among other things, the latest documents he published state that American and British spies have been mining information on intelligence targets from smart phone apps. And, since you likely have a smart phone of your own, and said smart phone likely has a pantload of apps on it (because why have a smart phone otherwise?), the NSA may well be checking in on you, too.

Mobile apps are a pretty perfect venue for NSA-types to gather info from, as apps are widely known to have less-than-sterling security records. It is not uncommon for apps to transmit identifying information about their users, their location, etc. to outside parties—and most of them that do this do so without users’ knowledge, and, one can deduce, without their permission.

Ever notice how when you upload a photo from your smart phone straight to your stupid Facebook page, it automatically has the location tagged with it? Well, the NSA noticed that, too. I’m not saying that these cyberspooks are keeping tabs on exactly where you are and what you’re doing right now by tracking the info that your smart phone is automagically pooping out, because maybe you’re not on their list (whatever said list may be). But I’m also not saying that the NSA isn’t keeping tabs on you, whether you’re on whatever list or not, because maybe they have fudge all else to do.

What to do about this? The first option is to not have a smart phone. It may not be the most attractive of the bunch, because everybody wants (not needs) a smart phone nowadays, but it is the only foolproof option. No smart phone, no apps; no apps, no info to secretly track.

A second option is to—*gasp*—pay attention to what you’re downloading to your smart phone. From what I’ve seen, most apps give you some sort of “Security Terms & Conditions” spiel before they install on your phone, so maybe actually read that before you click “OK”. It may tell you that, yeah, sorry, we will be transmitting your info and there’s nothing you can do about it (except not install the app). Others may point out how to prevent them from doing so—it usually takes no more than a few adjustments in the settings.

The third and final option is probably my favorite. Simply register everything about your smart phone—from the calling/data plan you get from your provider to your email to your apps—under a pseudonym. That way, the NSA can track you all they want and you’ll still be a step ahead of them. I recommend “Edward S. Nowden”—they’ll never suspect a thing.

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Google Will Now Control the Weather, (At Least in Your Home) /google-will-now-control-the-weather-at-least-in-your-home/ /google-will-now-control-the-weather-at-least-in-your-home/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 16:22:39 +0000 /?p=46 Google to Buy Nest for $3.2B

Continues its slow slither into every aspect of our lives

Google has found a way to wriggle into yet another corner of all our lives with its $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest. Nest, if you’re unaware, are the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Protect smoke/carbon monoxide detector, products created to save energy and the consumer’s money (in the long run, of course—one of their thermostats costs 250 bucks off the shelf), and to make homes safer, respectively.

And, as “connected devices,” Nest’s thermostats and smoke detectors are designed to interface with smart phones, making it possible for users to adjust the heat in their home from anywhere in the world or to receive alerts that their house might just be on fire. When you call this kind of thing “home automation,” it sounds like a good idea. When you use the term “the internet of things,” it sounds like a load of hooey. And, to me, suspicious hooey.

Google has made some well-known (and generally poorly-received) forays into the home market in the past, most notably Google TV, the Nexus Q, and their aborted PowerMeter project, which seems remarkably similar to Nest’s Learning Thermostat. By suddenly buying up a familiar, best-selling product and the company behind it, Google has finally found a way to successfully infiltrate people’s home.

You’re Being Monitored

More than that, they’ve found a way to get more people to willingly connect even more devices, even those that don’t really need to be connected at all—how dang hard is it to manage your thermostat? And, in the end, these connected devices all feed information back to Google. Information about you and your life that you didn’t know was important, but that the G-men can use to further inundate you with ads you didn’t know you wanted to see (because you didn’t) for products you didn’t know you wanted to buy (because you don’t).

Furthermore, it gives Google the ability to track yet more of your moves in the world beyond the internet. Google has long been known to keep tabs on users’ internet searches and activity in order to “bring them the best experience possible”—and if you believe that’s all that Google keeps track of that info for, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

If some of you clowns are comfortable with having one of the most major of all major corporations tracking your every move, then by all means go ahead and hook your house up to their seemingly innocuous surveillance technology. Maybe having Google not-so-secretly spy on you is not as bad as the NSA doing it secretly.

Or maybe its worse because it’s disguised as convenience.

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Calling All Hax0rs: Google offers $2.7M for Chrome OS Hacks /calling-all-hax0rs-google-offers-2-7m-for-chrome-os-hacks/ /calling-all-hax0rs-google-offers-2-7m-for-chrome-os-hacks/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 16:01:18 +0000 /?p=42 Pwnium 2014

In an announcement that sounds like it somehow came out of the Wild West via The Matrix, Google is offering a $2.71828 million bounty for Chrome OS hackers. But call off the posse, Tex—the bounty is not on the heads of the hackers themselves. Instead, the reward will be given to any computer security expert who can hack Google’s browser-based Chrome OS at the upcoming Pwnium 4 hacking contest.

For hackers to qualify for a part or all of the bounty, they must provide a functional exploit code able to consistently compromise a Hewlett-Packard- or Acer-built Google Chromebook (i.e., a code that leaves the device in the hacker’s control even after a reboot), as well as details on the vulnerabilities put into play. A similar contest was held at last year’s Pwnium, at which $40,000 was awarded to a hacker who created a partial exploit of an Intel-powered Chromebook.

This is Crazy?

To me, this seems counterintuitive. Why would a major tech company want people to hack their operating system? (We aren’t all crypto-anarchists after all!) I know at least part of the reason is to help said company find any security vulnerabilities in their products, but it also looks an awful lot like these companies are promoting potentially illegal and damaging activities. After the recent news that Target and various other major companies were hacked—exposing millions of customers’ bank account information and other vital details—doesn’t encouraging hackers seem a bit misguided?

It’s a bit like asking bank robbers to rob your bank, telling them they can keep the money if they succeed, and thanking them for it, all while doing nothing to stop them. This whole mess is the exact opposite of what Google should be doing.

Here’s my idea of how it should go down: Google hosts this “contest,” with all contestants in a single locked room to “prevent leaks” or whatever—they probably legitimately don’t want these hackers’ secrets to get out, so that part’s not too hard to swallow. Then, when the first of the hackers makes some kind of breakthrough, the Google team checks it out, sees what he did, logs it, etc. The contest is not over, though, so the rest of the hackers keep on hacking as the first “winner” is given his prize, then lead out of the room.

At this point, I have two different thoughts on how it should continue. One: the hacker is taken away and locked in a tiny cell at Google HQ, made to hack for rest of his days to help Google further improve their security. The other hackers in the contest would meet similar fates—they hack something but good, get their “reward,” and never seen the sky again except on Google Maps Street View.

Or, option two: The winner is lead out of the room and shot, the sound being completely audible to the rest of the competitors. They’d likely shrug it off the first time—“That wasn’t a gunshot, was it? Must’ve been something else”—and keep hacking. But after the second or third hacker is done away with, the rest of them in the room start to think: “Maybe I should stop. If I keep hacking, they’ll kill me.” The Google goons facilitating the contest could make it seem like everything’s okay, but subtly suggest that, yeah, keep hacking and you’re finished. And now Google has a bunch of information on you and knows where you live. So maybe don’t be a hacker any more, ever. Scare ‘em straight, if you will.

I have no doubt that Google has the money and the power to successfully pull off either scenario. They’ll either have a bunch of talented hackers to do their security testing for them, for free, in perpetuity; or they’ll have eliminated a bunch of troublemakers—or scared them off hacking—who knew how to expose the weaknesses in their product. Either way, it’s a win for Google. Talk about pwned.

Pwnium 4 is scheduled to take place on March 12, 2014, at the 14th annual CanSecWest conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Crypto-Anarchy /crypto-anarchy/ /crypto-anarchy/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:44:06 +0000 /?p=16  Let’s all become Crypto Anarchists!

Crypto-anarchy is the realization of anarchism in the cyber-spatial realm (a.k.a. via computer networks). Using cryptographic software designed to help them evade potential prosecution, crypto-anarchists send and receive information with the goal of protecting their and others’ privacy and political freedom. An overarching ideology of crypto-anarchism is the creation and deployment of infrastructure that, by design, does not and cannot comply with authoritarian requests to divulge the identity of participating individuals.

The use of cryptographic software makes it very difficult to associate a crypto-anarchist user’s or organization’s true identity with the online pseudonym they use. Among other things, this practice makes it possible for the user or organization to circumvent applicable country-specific laws, as the location of the participant is, by intent, unknown.

A common motive of crypto-anarchy is the defense against unwanted surveillance on computer network communications. Eschewing political action, many crypto-anarchists consider the development and use of cryptography to be the only effective defense against government mass surveillance.

Hyperspace overdrive

Lightspeed Ahead!

The evasion of censorship on the grounds of freedom of expression, and in particular internet censorship, is another key concern of the crypto-anarchist movement. Crypto-anarchist programs are often designed to make possible the anonymous publishing and reading of information from the internet or other computer networks. Numerous computer networks and software have been created to allow for anonymous, hidden web pages that can only be accessed by users of these networks or programs. Other projects are designed to enable anonymous messaging as a substitute for “traditional” email.

Counter economics is a third common motive of crypto-anarchism. Networks such as the now-defunct Silk Road and the continuing growth of currencies like Bitcoin make the anonymous trade of goods and services possible, with little to no interference from governmental or law enforcement agencies.

Some computer programs have joined the crypto-anarchy movement strictly  for the technical challenge provided by the development of effective cryptographic systems. Often, these programmers do not participate in other crypto-anarchist activities beyond the development of secure software and programming.

It is argued that messages, personal information, and many other aspects of private life would be seriously damaged without encryption abilities. Crypto-anarchists argue that a ban on cryptography equates to the elimination of secrecy of correspondence, and that cryptography would only be banned by governments acting as police-states.

That said, the use of cryptography is already illegal in a number of countries, while others have restrictive export laws. Violations of anti-cryptography laws can result in imprisonment or worse, even without evidence of other criminal activity.

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Canada’s Electronic Frontier & Digital Copyright Forum /canadas-electronic-frontier-digital-copyright-forum/ /canadas-electronic-frontier-digital-copyright-forum/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:40:44 +0000 /?p=13 Electronic Frontier Canada

Founded in early 1994, Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC) is a Canadian-based, online civil rights organization. EFC is dedicated to ensuring that the principles of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms remain protected in the Information Age as new computing, communications, and information technologies grow throughout Canadian society.

The EFC mandate is to conduct research into issues and promote public awareness regarding the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to new technologies. EFC aims to protect the right to privacy and freedom of expression on the internet. Recently, Electronic Frontier Canada has taken action regarding the Canadian government’s Lawful Access proposals, which include internet service provider wiretapping legislation reforms.

EFC is not formally affiliated with the San Francisco, California-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), though the two share many of the same goals. While Electronic Frontier Canada focuses on issues as they relate to Canadians, EFF addresses American concerns.

Big brother

Everywhere big brother is watching

Electronic Frontier Canada became incorporated under the Canada Corporations Act as a non-profit corporation, recorded January 18, 1995. EFC has been largely inactive since 2004, and has been effectively replaced by Online Right Canada.

Digital Copyright Canada Forum

In 2001, Russell McOrmond started the Digital Copyright Canada forum to allow for public response to Canada’s copyright revision processes. Though Digital Copyright Canada (DCC) focuses primarily on digital copyrights, it also addresses other related issues such as patents, trademarks (PCT), non-digital copyrights, and other sui generis protections.

Many participants in DCC are advocates of commons-based peer production methodologies that have come into practice since the start of the Information Age. These include FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software), Creative Commons, and other related practices and organizations.

Participation in Digital Copyright Canada by both creators and users of these technologies is encouraged. Instead of copyright infringement, many creators feel that the greatest threat to their rights is, in fact, excessive control by past creators. This level of control is thought to stifle creativity that builds upon the past, as almost all digital innovation does in modern society.

DCC hosts countless discussion forums and maintains an active online presence through blogs and other means. DCC is also responsible for two important petitions relating to digital copyrights: The Petition for Users Rights and the Petition to Protect Information Technology Property Rights.

In 2005, members of the Digital Copyright Canada forum and members of Canada’s House of Commons met to discuss digital copyright and related issues. DCC hoped to convince these elected officials to take their concerns into consideration with regard to proposed bills such as the publicly-opposed Bill C-60, which sought to amend the Canadian Copyright Act.

 

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The Politics of Water /the-politics-of-water/ /the-politics-of-water/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:27:44 +0000 /?p=10 How Industrial Water Softeners Will Shape Our Future

Water politics, in general, are concerned with the availability of water and water resources, and their necessity to all life on our planet. However, it should be noted that, in many regions, it is not a lack of water that is of concern, but rather a lack of clean water. Therefore, it seems more apt to discuss the politics of water treatment, rather than just water itself.

Fresh water is a critical resource, and a fundamental requirement of all living organisms. In 2001, then-Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan stated that “Access to safe water is a fundamental human need, and, therefore, a basic human right. Contaminated water jeopardizes both the physical and the social health of all people.”

Often times it is large corporations who create this contaminated water. They do it either through gross negligence, or not having a proper industrial water softener to purify the water. Commercial water softeners prevent corporations from having to use more labor intensive processes to soften the water, like reverse osmosis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every human being on Earth requires a bare minimum of 20 liters of fresh water per day for basic hygiene (roughly 7.3 cubic meters of water per year). In countries where widely available water treatment systems and programs are in place, this “bare minimum” is often greatly exceeded. In the United States, for example, average water use per person per year is approximately 2,000 cubic meters, the world’s highest per capita. Also, through the use of industrial water softeners, like the ones made by Robert B. Hill Co., the water in the United States is soft, which makes it easier on the body and skin.

Precipitation from the atmosphere, part of our planet’s ever-active water cycle, is our primary source of fresh water. Though the majority of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only three percent of this water is fresh water (and of that three percent, over two thirds is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps). This leaves all of humanity, over seven billion people, to share a very scarce resource.

Water Softener

Insane piping systems of Industrial Water Softeners

The one-third of Earth’s fresh water that is not locked in glaciers or polar ice caps exists as ground water or surface water. Both of these sources require extensive filtration and other treatment processes before they’re fit for human consumption. Industrial water softeners play a large roll in the treatment of water. Additionally, a significant portion of the world’s supply of clean water is used in industries such as forestry, agriculture, mining, and manufacturing. Ironically, in addition to depleting the supply of fresh water, many of these processes also lead to increased water pollution.

Rivers and lakes are a primary source of surface water. As they often flow through or border several countries, the supply, allocation, control, and use of their water can be of great importance. Control of its water resources is essential to a nation’s survival, and competition for these shared water resources have often caused or been additive factors to political conflicts between countries.

Sources:

World Health Organization

Wikipedia on Water Politics

How Stuff Works – Water Softeners

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What Really Irks Me /hello-world/ /hello-world/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2013 16:37:59 +0000 /?p=1 These are the things that really get me going!

-Calling people a ludite just because they are afraid of technology

-Texting while driving

-Texting when I’m Talking to you

-Texting

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