In this post I want to think, just a little bit, about the role of platforms and how I’m attempting to maneuver this space. This is aimed at better clarifying (for me) how this space is used, as well as to render its use more transparent (which is apparently a core facet of building successful platforms *grin*).
A few weeks ago I was linked to a blog page that discussed the role of platforms in opening up future publishing-related avenues. The principles of the post could be boiled down to the follow:
- Speak authentically;
- Speak regularly;
- Speak in an open, transparent fashion;
- Speak so that the development of ideas is clear;
- Speak so that you are demonstrating your authority.
Last year I authored a post entitled “Mobiles and Your Identity“, where I attempted to unpack some of the privacy and surveillance concerns that are associated with smart phones, such as RIM’s Blackberry and Apple’s iPhone. In particular, I focused on the dangers that were associated with the theft of a mobile device – vast swathes of both your own personal data, as well as the personal information of your colleagues and friends, can be put at risk by failing to protect your device with passwords, kill switches, and so forth.
Mark Nestmann, over at “Preserving Your Privacy and More” has a couple posts discussing the risks that smart phones pose if a government authority arrests you (in the US). He notes that, in a recent case in Kansas, police examined a suspect’s mobile phone data to collect call records. When the case was brought to the Supreme Court, the Court found that since the smart phone’s records were held in a ‘container’ (i.e. the phone itself) that the police were within their rights to search the phone records. Mark notes that this ruling does not apply to all US states – several have more sensitive privacy laws – but leaves us with the warning that because laws of analogue search are being applied to digital devices that it is best to limit the data stored on smart phones (and mobile digital devices in general).
I think about peer to peer (P2P) filesharing on a reasonably regular basis, for a variety of reasons (digital surveillance, copyright analysis and infringement, legal cases, value in efficiently mobilizing data, etc.). Something that always nags at me is the defense that P2P websites offer when they are sued by groups like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The defense goes something like this:
“We, the torrent website, are just an search engine. We don’t actually host the infringing files, we are just responsible for directing people to them. We’re no more guilty of copyright infringement than Google, Yahoo!, or Microsoft are.”
Let’s set aside the fact that Google has been sued for infringing on copyright on the basis that it scrapes information from other websites, and instead turn our attention to the difference between what are termed ‘public’ and ‘private’ trackers. ‘Public’ trackers are available to anyone with a web connection and a torrent program. These sites do not require users to upload a certain amount of data to access the website – they are public, insofar as there are few/no requirements placed on users to access the torrent search engine and associated index. Registration is rarely required. Good examples at thepiratebay.org, and mininova.org. ‘Private’ trackers require users to sign up and log into the website before they can access the search engine and associated index of .torrent files. Moreover, private trackers usually require users to maintain a particular sharing ration – they must upload a certain amount of data that equals or exceeds the amount of data that they download. Failure to maintain the correct share ratio results in users being kicked off the site – they can no longer log into it and access the engine and index.
The past couple of days have been interesting, to say the least, when looking at recent shifts and decisions in American legislatures. Specifically, the House is looking to shield bloggers from federal investigations by providing them with the same protections as reporters, and that after the telecommunication companies that ‘theoretically’ (read: actually) cooperated with NSA spying activities have refused to cooperate with Congressional investigations that they have been let off the hook. Let’s get into it.
Federal Journalists and Professional Bloggers Shielded
The US has had a long history of journalistic freedoms, but in the face of recent technological advances they have refused to extend those freedoms to users of new journalistic mediums. Bloggers, in particular, are becoming a more and more important source of information in the US – some dedicate their lives to blogging and use it for professional gain. Until recently they have (typically) been refused the same status as traditional journalists, which has made it risky for bloggers to refuse to disclose their sources if hauled into courts of law.