Homeland Security is once again drawing criticism, this time over a newly disclosed policy that has apparently existed for some time. According to the Washington Post, U.S. agents have (and have had) the authority to seize and retain laptops indefinitely, which as resulted in some travelers reporting not getting them back. And not just laptops, but all kinds of electronic devices, like cell phones, music players, portable hard drives, and more.
While the policy isn't new, it's only now being stated publicly and the contents of the DHS document has civil rights activists and lawmakers up in arms. Not only does it appear that government officials have the power to seize electronic devices, but according to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, customs agents are allowed to analyze the contents of laptops without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
"The policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming," Feingold wrote in a statement.
From smart displays capable of identifying its viewers to a recent push for more rich media ads, privacy seems to be taking a backseat to ad revenue. But while companies toy with ways to make more money through online ads, at least one person in Congress wants to make sure your rights aren't getting trampled in the process.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) has seen enough and believes online monitoring services working on behalf of the advertising community should make their intentions clear and be required to obtain approval before tracking your online activities. He's not talking about innocent cookies, but deep packet inspection (DPI) technologies.
"First, there is a distinction in the detail, type, and amount of data collected," Markey said. "As opposed to individual websites that know certain information about visitors to its websites and affiliates, deep packet inspection technologies can indicate every website a user visits and much more about a person's web use," he said.
Not everyone shares Markey's same concerns. Robert Dykes, CEO of NebuAd, claims his company doesn't run afoul of privacy rights and translates visitor's IP addresses it gathers into anonymous identifiers. Furthermore, Dykes claims an opt-in program would cause "major harm" to the current infrastructure of the internet, which thrives on advertising revenue.
Does Dkyes have a point, or is markey right on the money?
Lest there was any doubt, two telemarketing companies that sell Dish Network Corp.'s satellite TV service have found out the FTC means business and have agreed to pay fines of $95,000 for ignoring the federal Do-Not-Call list. Planet Earth Satellite Inc. and its president must pay $20,000 for allegedly calling customers who listed their phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry, while Star Satellite receives the bigger fine of $75,000 for allegedly making telemarketing calls that failed to connect customers to a live telemarketer within two seconds after consumers answered the phone.
As it applies to Star Satellite's violation, the FTC said it implemented the two-second rule in response to some consumers, particularly the elderly, thinking they were being stalked when they picked up the phone and no one answered. But instead of a creepy anonymous admirerer on the other end of the line, the caller is a potential salesman. Playing the numbers game, telemarketing companies often make several automated calls at once and then route the first consumers who answer to a live representative.
So there you have it - the list actually works. And not only does it work, but the FTC has collected over $16 million in civil penalties for 46 cases since the registry began in 2003. Has your experience been different? Post below.
It seems that either Viacom came to their senses about making Google turn over user data on YouTube, or they didn’t like the bad press that their suit was generating. They have reached a deal to protect the privacy YouTube watchers everywhere and will allow Google to anonymize YouTube user data.
Previously Viacom succeeded in getting Judge Louis Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to order Google to turn over as evidence a database what videos users watch, the users' computer addresses, and their usernames. Many groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation argued that the order "threatens to expose deeply private information" and violated the Video Privacy Protection Act. Whether the Act, created when VCRs were high tech, could be applied to YouTube was debatable. Viacom and Google’s deal avoids the legal snarl all together.
If you are into deciphering legalese (and we can assume you are into self flagellation too) you can read the details here.
The battle between Adobe's Flash format and Microsoft's competing Silverlight software to deliver rich internet applications (RIAs, not to be confused with the RIAA, an entirely different beast in every sense of the word) to your browser may come down to which technology search engines are better able to index. Adobe recently announced a new initiative with Google and Yahoo towards making the Flash file format (SWF) more easily visible to each site's respective spiders, leaving Microsoft noticeably missing from the group pow-wow.
But one company is taking notice of Microsoft. Find out who it is and what they want after the jump.
If Silicon Valley were to color code the tech industry's legal climate the way Homeland Security labels the threat level, then we'd all be seeing red. This week alone we've seen Steve Jobs sued for securities fraud, Google ordered to turn over YouTube viewing data, four Chinese companies fined for selling fake NEC keyboards, a convicted BitTorrent seed farmer stare at a 10 year prision sentence, a fired CEO taking his former employer to court for allegedly snooping his personal Yahoo account, and more. If that's not enough content to keep Law and Order: Silicon Valley up and running during the next writer's strike, then just wait another week or two and you might be able to fill an entire season's worth.
The latest legal drama involves high level espionage between HP and IBM, one of the few remaining scandals not yet covered in recent news. Specifically, HP's former VP is being indicted for allegedly leaking trade secrets from his former employer IBM to HP executives. According to court documents, Atul Malhotra, who was the director of IBM global printer sales between 1997 and 2006, requested and received a multi-page confidential memo from IBM, which authorites claim he emailed to an HP senior vice president two months later after being hired by HP. The subject line read "For Your Eyes Only."
To find out how he got caught, click through the jump.
Forget about buying fake Guccis and knockoff Louis Vuittons, and take a look at your keyboard instead. Are you sure it's genuine? It most likely is, as the effort and risk would surely outweigh the rewards in trying to sell a fake high-end keyboard, and lower end boards would hardly make the illegal venture worthwhile. Nevertheless, four Chinese companies apparently thought it made good business sense to make and sell counterfeit NEC keyboards, a move which has earned them a court ordered fine of CNY1.15 million. In U.S. dollars, that only equates to roughly $167,000, which only serves to highlight the bad business decision. It's believed the four counterfeiters profited at least CNY1 million in the venture, or about $36,000 USD after a four way split.
While NEC keyboards may seem like a quirky target, counterfeit computer goods can add up. In a joint operation earlier this year, officials from the US and European Union seized over 360,000 computer components worth a whopping $1.3 billion over a two week period. Some of the over forty different trademarked brands included Intel, Cisco, and Phillips.
Have you ever been bamboozled by fake goods, PC or otherwise? Post your experience(s) below.
In today's legal climate surrounding copyright infringement, one thing's becoming clear, and that's to take the plea bargain. Jammie Thomas, accused of illegally sharing 24 copyrighted songs, may wish she had if she can't get a retrial and remains liable for the original $220,000 verdict levied against her. Now it's 26-year-old Daniel Dove who's finding his legal wings clipped in court.
Dove, a former administrator of the now defunct EliteTorrents.com website, opted to plead 'not guilty' to felony copyright infringement and conspiracy charges, but failed to win favor from a federal jury and now faces up to 10 years in prision. Meanwhile, Scott McCausland and Grant Stanley, the two other administrators involved in the suit, each pleaded 'guilty' in 2006 and have already served their respective 5 month sentences.
The Department of Justice accused Daniel Dove of being in charge of a small group of 'Uploaders' tasked with recruiting members to seed illegal content to EliteTorrents' users. Much of the evidence used to convict Dove was supplied by the MPAA, and with another successful high profile conviction notched into the recording industry's belt, we can expect this trend to continue.
Score one for the little guy, or more specifically, score $108K for Tanya Anderson. That's how much a federal judge is awarding Anderson, who successfully defended herself against allegations of copyright infringement, prompting the RIAA to drop its suit against her. Though few would scoff at a six figure verdict, Anderson doesn't appear to be finished dipping into the RIAA's pockets.
To find out how much is Anderson seeking, and if the tables are finally turning, click through the jump.