Piracy, Privacy, and Big Brother

As an initial aside: Linux betas really are betas, nothing like the relatively polished (in comparison) betas that Redmond released.

Piracy or ‘Avast Me Mateys!’

I don’t spend a lot of time talking about software or music piracy, largely because I think that there are alternate sources that more effectively aggregate and deliver news about it. That said, I couldn’t resist commenting on Jennifer Pariser’s (head of litigation for Sony BMG) statements surrounding digital technologies. When under oath, Pariser responded to Richard Gabriel’s (the lead counsel for record labels) question of whether it was wrong for consumers to make copies of music they have purchased, stating,

When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’ (source).

Her comments directly point to why fair use is under such duress. More importantly, however, even when we apply the principle of charity to her general position, her comments seem to defy the public’s position on the matter. I don’t want to suggest that because people generally believe something that the law should reflect their beliefs – if that was the case then racial segregation would be more prominent than it is – but that when extensive public discourse has been undertaken and a common position is held by the deliberative participants, that their shared consensus should operate as the basis for developing legitimated law. I think that this discourse has, and continues to, occur in North America.

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Who the Hell is Digital Privacy About?!?

This may sound absurd to some of you that either speak with me on a regular basis, or that have been reading this blog or others that I frequent on a regular basis: I sometimes struggle to offer a concise, clear, sound answer to this post’s topic.

I don’t necessarily see this as a failure, but (perhaps as a self-defence mechanism) more as proof that I need to work on condensing my ideas into ‘bite-sized’ fragments that I can then build the big picture from. I know, it sounds silly easy but I often have problems condensing problems to make them immediately approachable to other. So, you ask me, why do I persistently worry about privacy in the digital space? Common reasons why individuals aren’t concerned with their privacy follow (in no particular order, and not a comprehensive list):

  1. If it means that business can make things cheaper than me, then who cares?
  2. If it means that my children are safer, or that criminals are more effectively prosecuted, then who cares?
  3. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my daily life, then who cares?
  4. If I have nothing to hide, then what do I care?
  5. If it safeguards me from terrorism, then who cares?
  6. If it only affects people in other nations, then who cares (more of an American position, but it’s important to deal with)?

I can’t spend too much time on these, but I want to address most of them, in part so that I can steal from this post in the coming weeks.

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Global Privacy and the Particular Body Politic

Different countries have different privacy laws, and different attitudes towards what should be counted as private information. As Peter Fleischer rightly notes, this often means that citizens of various nation-states are often confused about their digital privacy protections – in part because of the influx of foreign culture (and the presumed privacy standards in those media) – and consequently are unaware of their nation’s privacy resources, or lack thereof.

Google Corporation has recently begun to suggest that a global data protection system has to be implemented. In his private blog (which isn’t necessarily associated with his work with Google) Fleischer notes that,

…citizens lose out because they are unsure about what rights they have given the patchwork of competing regimes, and the cost of compliance for businesses risks chilling economic activity. Governments often struggle to find any clear internationally recognised standards on which to build their privacy legislation.

The ultimate goal should be to create minimum standards of privacy protection that meet the expectations and demands of consumers, businesses and governments. Such standards should be relevant today yet flexible enough to meet the needs of an ever changing world. Such standards must also respect the value of privacy as an innate dimension of the individual . . . we should work together to devise a set of standards that reflects the needs of a truly globalised world. That gives each citizen certainty about the rules affecting their data, and the ability to manage their privacy according to their needs. That gives businesses the ability to work within one framework rather than dozens. And that gives governments clear direction about internationally recognised standards, and how they should be applied. (Source)

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Doubleclick + Adblock = I’m a Moral Monster?

I’m back to Linux after spending time in Windows to work on my thesis (it’s in the .docx format that I railed about previously, before I knew much about the format and, because of the importance of the document, I’m loathe to transfer it to another format), which means that I have access to all of the links that I’ve been gradually storehousing over the past few months. I have a lot to talk about, but one of the most pressing surrounds ‘moral’ arguments directed towards blocking online ads.

The Background

If you use the Mozilla Firefox web browser, then you have access to some of the most potent ad-blocking software that is currently available to you. If you install the Adblock Plus extension, easily 98% of the ads that you’d normally see online go away – it’s wonderful. You can hit up websites, get content, and not be distracted by ads.

In related news, Google Corporation recently bought Doubleclick. Doubleclick is a massive online advertising company, one that buys ‘banner spaces’ and sells them to interested parties. Doubleclick logs the IP addresses (the number associated with your computer’s online activities) when you click an ad. Google is currently facing a barrage of challenges from the EU in light of their purchase because their internal database, combined with Doubleclick’s, will allow Google to effectively target discrete individuals because of the substantial digital dossiers they will be able to covertly collect.

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Reading, Reviewing, and Recording

I want to toss up a few links that I’ve found particularly interesting/helpful over the past couple of months. I’ll begin with a way to read, move to a review of the newest tool for electronic education, and conclude with an article concerning the commercialization of the core platforms electronic resources are accessed from.

Reading 102

We’ve all heard of data-mining; the FBI has been doing it, the NSA has been caught doing it, and corporations are well known for it. Citizens are getting increasingly upset that their personal information is scaped together without their consent, and for good reasons.

What if those citizens used data-mining principles to prepare and filter their reading? Donal Latumahina has eight processes that you can use to get the most out of the books that you’re reading, processes that are guided by the objective to get the greatest possible amount of useful information from the text. It’s amazing what happens when you objectively structure your reading, rather than just letting yourself be carried along by it.

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