Touring the digital through type

Year: 2011 (Page 4 of 8)

Review of The Googlization of Everything

Googlizationcover_0Siva Vaidhyanathan’s The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry) is a challenging, if flawed, book. Vaidhyanathan’s central premise is that we should work to influence or regulate search systems like Google (and, presumably, Yahoo! and Bing) to take responsibility for how the Web delivers knowledge to us, the citizens of the world. In addition to pursuing this premise, the book tries to deflate the hyperbole around contemporary technical systems by arguing against notions of technological determinism/utopianism.

As I will discuss, the book largely succeeds in pointing to reasons why regulation is an important policy instrument to keep available. The book also attempts to situate itself within the science and technology studies field, and here it is less successful. Ultimately, while Vaidhyanathan offers insight into Google itself – its processes, products, and implications of using the company’s systems – he is less successful in digging into the nature of technology, Google, culture, and society at a theoretical level. This leaves the reader with an empirical understanding of the topic matter without significant analytic resources to unpack the theoretical significance of their newfound empirical understandings.

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Google Analytics, Privacy, and Legalese

Google Logo in Building43Google Analytics have become an almost ever-present part of the contemporary Internet. Large, small, and medium-sized sites alike track their website visitors using Google’s free tools to identify where visitors are coming from, what they’re looking at (and for how long), where they subsequently navigate to, what keywords bring people to websites, and whether internal metrics are in line with advertising campaign goals. As of 2010, roughly 52% of all websites used Google’s analytics system, and it accounted for 81.4% of the traffic analysis tools market. As of this writing, Google’s system is used by roughly 58% of the top 10,000 websites, 57% of the top 100,000 websites, and 41.5% of the top million sites. In short, Google is providing analytics services to a considerable number of the world’s most commonly frequented websites.

In this short post I want to discuss the terms of using Google analytics. Based on conversations I’ve had over the past several months, it seems like many of the medium and small business owners are unaware of the conditions that Google places on using their tool. Further, independent bloggers are using analytics engines – either intentionally or by the default of their website host/creator – and are ignorant of what they must do to legitimately use them. After outlining the brief bits of legalese that are required by Google – and suggesting what Google should do to ensure terms of service compliance – I’ll suggest a business model/addition that could simultaneously assist in privacy compliance while netting an enterprising company/individual a few extra dollars in revenue.

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Review of The Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy, and Reputation

9780674050891-lgThe Offensive Internet: Speech, Privacy, and Reputation is an essential addition to academic, legal, and professional literatures on the prospective harms raised by Web 2.0 and social networking sites more specifically. Levmore and Nussbaum (eds.) have drawn together high profile legal scholars, philosophers, and lawyers to trace the dimensions of how the Internet can cause harm, with a focus on the United States’ legal code to understand what enables harm and how to mitigate harm in the future. The editors have divided the book into four sections – ‘The Internet and Its Problems’, ‘Reputation’, ‘Speech’, and ‘Privacy’ – and included a total of thirteen contributions. On the whole, the collection is strong (even if I happen to disagree with many of the policy and legal changes that many authors call for).

In this review I want to cover the particularly notable elements of the book and then move to a meta-critique of the book. Specifically, I critique how some authors perceive the Internet as an ‘extra’ that lacks significant difference from earlier modes of disseminating information, as well as the position that the Internet is a somehow a less real/authentic environment for people to work, play, and communicate within. If you read no further, leave with this: this is an excellent, well crafted, edited volume and I highly recommend it.

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Publication: Is Your ISP Snooping On You?

Internet_TreeI’m happy to let my readers know that Marita Moll’s and Leslie Shade’s (eds.) The Internet Tree: The State of Telecom Policy in Canada 3.0 is now available for purchase. The book interrogates how Canada’s digital future does, and should, look in coming days by discussing present policies and proposing policies to enhance Canada’s position in the digitally connected world. The editors have done an excellent job in contacting academics, advocates, and solicitors from around Canada to develop an exciting and accessible edited collection on Internet and broadband in Canada. It includes scholars such as Dwayne Winseck, Michael Geist, Catherine Middleton, and Richard Smith, along with contributions from Steve Anderson (Open Media), Michael Janigan (PIAC), and a host of graduate students and researchers.

The book is published through the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The publisher and editors describe that book as a collection in which:

… committed public interest advocates and academics present primers on provocative digital policy issues: broadband access, copyright, net neutrality, privacy, and security, along with a consideration of structures of participation in policy-making and communication rights.

Contributors to The Internet Tree argue for a digital economy strategy that casts a winning vote for openness, broadband as an essential service, and community engagement and inclusion.

The Internet Tree is available for just $14.95 and is supportive of digital economy strategies that are guided by the principles of openness, broadband as an essential service, community engagement and inclusion, national sovereignty, and digital literacy programs. My own contribution (“Is Your ISP Snooping On You?”) explains the technical and social concerns raised by deep packet inspection to someone who doesn’t know a coaxial cable from a fibre node, with other authors similarly working to explain issues to the layman while offering suggestions to alleviate, mediate, or overcome the challenges facing Canada’s digital ecosystem. It’s got a great set of authors and I’d highly recommend it as a complement to Open Media’s recently published report on digital networks in Canada.

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