Monthly Archives: February 2013


As technology increases and people get smarter, there will always be a new technology or service that pushes the limits of what is “acceptable” in society. Today, I was reading an article about an new app called Koozoo. Basically, it allows people to stream live video from a phone to anyone using the Koozoo app. Other people can also “tune in” to a video feed to watch what is being broadcasted. Sounds intriguing, right? The creator of Koozoo based this app upon an old website that had a live video stream of a bar in Michigan that people could log onto in order to see if the bar was busy that day or something. Koozoo seeks to be similar, but less complicated doing so. They want you to take an old smartphone (“There are billions of dollars of smartphones sitting in sock drawers all over the world”), download the app, and set up a live stream of whatever using that phone. It could be a stream of a city intersection, the outside of a library, whatever. They just want it to be a stream of a public place.

The cool thing about Koozoo is that a 24/7 feed is not actually being streamed, but your phone is actually taking a picture every few minutes to use as a thumbnail, then takes a live feed once someone “tunes in.” The stream is geo-tagged so people know where it originates from. Also, no audio is streamed, only the video itself. However, I believe that Koozoo is already doomed to privacy struggles. In Koozoo’s terms of service it states that only public spaces can be streamed. Koozoo’s founders said “unless a front yard is obscured in some way, it is visible to the general public.” According to this rule, if people can see my backyard from the street, they can stream me swimming.. This would be considered a public spot, and could be streamed. Koozoo says that they are going to be working hard to make sure that only acceptable content is streamed, but how successful will they be? Already, it sounds like privacy can be infringed here and Koozoo will not have a problem with it. What do you think? Is Koozoo a bad idea that will cause privacy concerns, or will it be a beneficial app?

Don’t Get Scroogled

Reading Google’s privacy policy reminded me of Microsoft’s recent ad campaign “Don’t Get Scroogled” trying to get people switch to using privacy as a selling point.

The campaign includes newspaper ads, billboards and videos ranging from creepy,very creepy, and sometimes funny, very funny (or as funny as an ad made by Microsoft can get).

As part of the ad campaign Microsoft has a petitioned to get Google to stop reading email to sell ads which has gotten over 100,000+ people sign it.

Microsoft has comment on the ad campain saying

“Privacy of email services is a fair subject for a petition, and 6,000 people have said so in just a few days. Over 500,000 people have visited our website and tens of thousands have tried It is a serious public policy issue a lot of people care about.”

In Microsoft press release on their “educational campaign”

“ believes your privacy is not for sale,” Weitz said. “We believe people should have choice and control over their private email messages, whether they are sharing banking information or pictures of their family or discussing their medical history.”

Weitz added, “ does not scan the contents of your personal email to sell ads. is an email service that prioritizes your own and your family’s privacy. You wouldn’t let the post office look inside your mail, so why would you let Google?”

The irony is Microsoft is using target ads to get it message across that Gmail reads your email to generate targeted ads. Also both Outlook and gmail  “read” your email to filter out spam anyway.

Raytheon’s RIOT

I came across this article about two weeks ago (it surfaced when President Obama signed his secret executive order effectively enacting CISPA), but haven’t had time to post about it. It is certainly relevant to our current discussion topic of privacy – especially digital privacy. Essentially, this order “will allow for the voluntary sharing of Internet traffic between private companies and the government.” It allows the CAS, which Glenn just posted about. Accompanying this newly obtained governmental power is an algorithm designed by Raytheon, a defense contractor, that essentially can find out everything about a person – and it’s available to the public. I highly encourage everyone to view the video.

The software allows a user to track every checkin, photgraph, or whatever on a list of social media sites. It will compile a schedule of when/how often the person you’re searching for is at a certain place, allowing you to track their wherabouts pretty effectively. The demonstration in the video starts with just a name, getting all of the person’s – Nick’s – media sites, then finds all the locations that he’s been while connected to social media, and then finds photos of him. Very quickly, the demonstrator finds where Nick’s been and what he looks like. Then he begins to predict where Nick will be. The demonstrator finds that the best time to find Nick is a 6AM on Monday in the gym. Finally, he finds all of Nick’s associations. All the people he has communicated with on his social media sites as well as phone numbers of many of those people!

There are obvious privacy issues – not to mention constitutional legality issues – associated with this technology. I believe that the 4th Amendment entitles you to privacy from not only the government, but the general public. Being able to warrantlessly access the information RIOT does without any legal backing is extremely disturbing to me. Most of the privacy topics we have been discussing in class are dear to people – seemingly – because he or she is afraid of who is judging him or her. My biggest issue is that I don’t like people that I can’t see being able to obtain information about me when I don’t know who or even that they are in fact accessing my information! This tool just stiffens my paranoia that stuff like that actually happens for reasons beyond advertising…

Copyright Alerts System

The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is coming to the US next week.

AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon have come together and created a 6 strike system where every time it detect “pirated content” being download on your internet connection it sends you an email/telephone message, makes you watch an education video/view anti-piracy material, slow down your internet connection, demote you to lower tier of service, and/or disconnect you from the internet completely until you complete an anti-pirating class. All depending on how many strikes your have.

CAS does this by scanning your internet packets, a violation of 4th amendment rights (assuming we still have have it at this point). After all if your ISP is already scanning your internet packets I *doubt* the CIA, FBI etc. will ask to see then. Also who knows how much of a bottleneck the scanning process will slow down the internet. (Think TSA in an airport)

The company making the CAS software MarkMoniter has already had many false positives problems accusing of pirating HBO content. The CAS scanning system would also wouldn’t be able to identity “fair use” cases like sharing a family video with music in the background.

The only way to appeal strikes to is pay $35 to have your case heard in front of the American Arbitration Association (not a court of law).

This quote sums up CAS perfectly.

So, basically, it’s an unelected body of industry-connected officials who get to police the Internet?

Read more about CAS here: Primer GuideUnintended Consequence.

Fair Use and YouTube

Finally getting around to posting this on here after a few of us talked about it after class last week:

YouTube tends to be kind of strict when it comes to copyrights on music used in the background of videos. I used to make a lot of videos with Call of Duty and different games, and YouTube started disabling the audio from my videos completely because it contained “copy-written  material”.

I don’t remember how I found it, but I ended up finding this paragraph about fair use:

~FAIR USE~ Copyright Disclaimer
Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

If you post that in the dispute form for audio being disabled, most of the time they’ll put it back up for you. I’m not really sure which specific part of it would be the part applicable. Maybe the non-profit or personal use part?

Owen wanted me to post a link to one of the videos I used Fair Use to dispute, so here’s a link to one. Any Battlefield 3 fans? 😛

Anyways, I always thought it was pretty cool. Normally when I think of copyright laws I don’t think of anything that would really be too applicable to stuff I used to do in my spare time.


RIAA and Google

The RIAA has released a report stating that Google’s efforts to limit the rankings of serial offenders of digital piracy has not been very effective at all. The RIAA says that 98% of the time popular pirating websites show up well in the top 10 with Amazon anchoring the end of this list around half the time.

The RIAA began their research in December limiting their searches to the name of the artist, the name of the track followed by either mp3 or download. The study finds that less than half of the top ten websites that pop up have recieved more than 1,000 copyright removal requests by January. In conclusion the RIAA is saying that Google has not demoted (or effectively demoted) any of the top pirating websites that frequently popped up during the RIAA research.

The article goes on to say that Google needs to try to work out deals with record producers and other content producers in order to stock up on its Google Play storefront, but says that if these companies aren’t comfortable with the efforts that Google is taking to limiting the search results of pirating websites (or limit pirated material currently on its own YouTube), they may have a hard time gathering this content.

So what does this mean for the future of search engines and the way we look for content in our everyday lives? What will this mean for Google in the long run?

Creating effective algorithms to search and demote websites that violate copyright law doesn’t seem to be working. Could this lead to changing the way Google does business in the long run?

I’m sure there are companies that will limit your online presence for a fee, and if there aren’t any that could be a big money making business in the future. Could these types of organizations sprout up to fight against websites that promote illegal material?

Here is the link to the article on Slashdot.

The Pirate Bay Database-Why it’s impossible to stop piracy

Recently released an article about The Pirate Bay’s database file. For those of you who don’t know, The Pirate Bay (TPB) used to be a search engine to search torrents that were hosted on TPB’s servers, usually that contained copyrighted content. Nowadays, TBP has removed all torrents from their search engine and only link to magnet links. The difference is that a magnet link is just a link to a file, rather than the actual file. TPB did this so that they could claim less liability in any court cases. In addition to this, there was another positive effect for the site’s users. The so-called “pirates” could now download the entire contents of TBP at once, and it only took up a tiny 50 megabytes. 50 megabytes to link to millions of files. Their newest release of their database is 75 megabytes and links to over 2 million magnet links. Even if/when TPB is shut down, there will be no way for the government to prevent people from accessing and downloading the magnet links. As soon as one website is shut down, another opens its doors. The pirate community is amazingly resilient. Even when the Swedish government was pressured by the US to raid TPB, all their servers were taken and they were only offline for 2 days. Presumably access to the database of TPB’s magnet links will allow piracy to occur even if TPB goes offline for good. What sort of unintended effects do you think this will have on piracy? Do you think the government is aware of this problem and thinking of ways to stop it?

Blizzard vs. Valve: Intellectual Property

I know there have to be some gamers amongst us. Here is a topic that tackles an interesting legal battle. I will link a few passages at the end of this explanation which sheds greater detail on the nature of the legal debate.

Blizzard Entertainment has always been very interactive with its community. With the release of Starcraft, they also included a extremely intuitive map editor which all members of the community could use. There was mixed success in the endeavors that programmers and enthusiasts took in creating these map mods. It was not until the release of Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos and the expansion The Frozen throne that these map modifications took on a whole new life of their own. With the help of others, a programmer dubbed Icefrog created one of the first MOBA games (trolls will say that the SC1 map AoS, or Aeon of Strife was the original genre), Defense of the Ancients (Or DotA). This map became a huge success and even spawned worldwide invitationals. Another gaming powerhouse, Valve, later hired Icefrog to oversee a ‘sequel’ to DotA, aptly named Dota 2. In the creation of this game, Valve took legal action to trademark ‘DotA’, ‘Defense of the Ancients,’ etc. The end-user agreement for Warcraft III stated that no one could profit from any map editor creations. They, however, did not follow their own guidelines as a company, by holding profitable tournaments surrounding a mod they did not own. Does Blizzard have more of a claim than Valve to this trademark though? Here is the more important question:

Should a mod that a user creates be owned by the original game developer?

Blizzard vs. Valve

DOTA: Wikipedia

A Deal is Reached

Unit 61398

Was listening to NPR this morning and found this little gem.

A military unit from the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) known as Unit 61398 or “Comment Crew” has been hacking into U.S and other foreign firms to gather intellectual property, infrastructural data and other information that could be useful to the Chinese Government.

This hacking unit has been effectively gathering such information since as early as 2006 and has been using the intellectual property int order for China to be able to keep with the same corporations that the information is being taken from.

A group called Mandiant were the ones who traced the data back to Shanghai China and into a building which houses the military unit.

Another issue comes from the data retrieved about electrical grids and gas lines. Such data could be used to a very harmful degree.

I know that we discussed in class that intellectual property could not be stolen and that this would be considered to be found information by the “Comment Crew”, but I could see how this could in fact be considered stolen and creates a huge advantage to competing companies abroad.

Could these companies IPs be considered stolen? What about the trade secrets that were probably found as well? Would this have been viewed differently if a U.S based company was hacking competitors in order to gain an upper hand?

Obama administration defends $222,000 file sharing verdict

In our book, it mentions a single, Minnesota mother of four who was found guilty of a massive file-sharing verdict. Her name is Jammie Thomas-Rasset and she was accused and found guilty of violating copyright laws for 24 songs she downloaded from Kazaa. Recently, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court NOT to review her case, which would allow the penalty of $222,000 to stand. This Wikipedia article can bring you up to speed on the past statuses of the case, as the amount of damages has rangedfrom $54,000 to the absurd amount of $1,920,000. Currently the damages are at $222,000 dollars, or $9,250 per song. The Obama administration has tried to set this case as a precedence to give the music industry more power to prosecute and strike fear into would-be copyright violators. A quote from the Arstechnica article, found here, is “The feds don’t buy the woman’s argument that the massive size of the award makes it unconstitutional.”
Using this rationale, isn’t the 8th Amendment to the Constitution null? The whole point of the 8th Amendment is to make sure the punishment matches the crime. The government is essentially saying that they understand the song costs $1.00 or $1.29, but they are going to charge you for thousands of dollars per song. Since the music industry likes to draw parallels between physical objects and the intellectual property that is a song, let’s do the same. Say you steal a pair of sunglasses from Walmart that cost $5.00. The Wal-mart doesn’t look at the cost that went into creating the sunglasses, they just go after you for the value of the sunglasses. By the music industry’s logic, you should have to pay for all the worker’s salaries that made the sunglasses, and the machinery that created the sunglasses! Now doesn’t that just sound ridiculous.

What do you guys think about this? Is it complete garbage? I think so.

Moral Luck

When I saw this article, I instantly thought of moral luck.  In addition to moral luck, the article brings up a few moral issues.

Succinctly, this article describes how a ski resort started to use sewage to create their fake snow.  However, when the snow was made, it came out yellow.  The resort’s manager claimed that the discoloration was cause by rust residue in the pipes used, but everyone has their doubts.  Additionally, the snow contains hormones, chemicals, and etc.

As a result, the moral issue is whether or not it was morally right or wrong for the resort to make snow that contains possible dangerous chemicals?Personally, I believe this action is morally wrong because it puts people’s health at risk. So by the moral rights theory, this action is morally wrong because it infringes on people’s right to life/health.


While perusing hacker news I came upon this blog post BBC Attacks the Open Web. In a quick summary, the web was created with open ideals, HTML is the leading example.  Companies, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and the BBC,  who have publicly stated similar goals along the lines of promoting of creativity and the sharing of information are attacking their own ideals in search of profits. The BBC in 2010 tried to support DRM for their online HD broadcasts because the license-holders of the content threatened to disallow BBC from using their content. So they are not entirely to blame. Their full submission can be seen here.

I think this relates directly with our classroom discussions. This API, Encrypted Media Extensions, would allow web content to be distributed in a controlled manner. As we have discussed, creators need to be rewarded for their creations, but in order to continue improving, access to this material needs to be relatively unrestricted. As we also discussed, DRM does not expire. Even the ludicrous American copyright law, expiration 75 years after death, does mean there’s an eventual end to the restrictions.

What would this mean for the future of the web? If content could be easily encrypted and people had to start paying for the majority of internet content, I think it could get really ugly. I know I would be out of a job if I couldn’t find free quality content with a quick Google search. If I had to pay for most everything on the web I would never make any money.

Bionic people?

This is just a small post about something awesome i found. the first BIONIC EYEBALL. How awesome is that? Apparently it has a small camera on a set of glasses that records video, then sends those images to a small chip implanted in the blind eye that sends electronic signals into your brain. Since I’m blind in my right eye, this seems as cool as it gets when it comes to the medical field and computers. Is anyone else excited for bionic people? I personally want giant metal arms like Jax from mortal combat Annihilation.

An answer to software patent trolls?

We all know the internet is full of bad things and bad people that were created in some awful dark corner of the planet. This being a school blog, I wont bring those up here. But its odd that this class has introduced me to a completely new kind of low and pathetic. By low and pathetic I of course mean patent trolls. From what I have learned so far, patent trolls are a premium example of how to get rich by doing nothing. I hate the idea of a patent troll, someone who buys the right to others work and gets money from what they did while doing nothing themselves. It seems to go against how I was raised. Being from a small farm town I have a more blue color view of the world than some I guess. But that is why i was very happy to find this article which could be an answer to the trolls.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation or EFF has proposed a way to stop or at least slow down the trolls. By forcing them to submit code with there patents and if the patent is granted then it should just be limited to the invention claimed. At the very least making patents have code attached would force trolls to do a little more work. But at its best, this idea could stop trolls from just suing everyone. As described in the article directly from EFF, if you make them attach a solution to the patent, they cant sue anyone under the sun for coming up with a similar solution that is created in a different way. EFF does a better job than describing this than I do so I hope you read there article also.

Does anyone see a positive of a patent troll? Or how they are useful to society? Or do you see flaws in the EFF’s proposal?

Are drones cool or do they frighten you?

Recently an article that appeared in CNN caught my attention about drones. They are unmanned killing machines armed with missiles, controlled from thousands of miles away, as they stalk and then destroy supposed terrorist targets in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Last Thursday the Senate Intelligence Committee received a classified document, which gives legal justifications for the administration’s use of drones. According to CBS news, controversial drones are the weapons of choice in a semi-secret war that was dragged into the spotlight this past week, during confirmation hearings for John Brennan as CIA Director. He says: “The people that were standing up here today, I think they really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government,” said Brennan of protesters. “We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there is no alternative taking an action that will mitigate such a threat.”
The question is, is this legal? The government claims that the drones are only used to save lives or stop terrorist actions even though statistics show that 98 percent of those killed by drones have not been high-level targets.
Most of the drones that so far the military has been using for reconnaissance are small planes that are equipped with small special-purpose cameras.
The police of North Dakota are using the drones in demonstrations in hostile situations. It now seems that the drones are already spreading throughout our own country. Now you can order online a drone kit for a couple of hundred dollars. At least eleven states have pending legislation or restrictions that would allow the drones.

I think there is clearly a privacy issue. Everyone has the right to privacy in their home and that includes the backyard. The fence that divides the yard of your home from the rest of the world is an imaginary vertical fence that cannot be violated by any drone. With the use of drones carrying cameras, anyone can film you being in your backyard and immediately put it on the Internet. It would not surprise me that some paparazzi are already using this technology to get their news.
I am not against the police and the task of maintaining order, but I have always been a person who likes to be in accordance with the law. However, in this case, I think they are taking the issue of security so far away that it violates our basic right to privacy. Everyone has the right to have a private space, and this should not be violated.