June 28th, 2004 — 11:49pm
From the good people of the EFF:
Senator Orrin Hatch’s new Inducing Infringement of Copyright Act (S.2560, Induce Act) would make it a crime to aid, abet, or induce copyright infringement. He wants us all to think that the Induce Act is no big deal and that it only targets “the bad guys” while leaving “the good guys” alone. He says that it doesn’t change the law; it just clarifies it.
Right now, under the Supreme Court’s ruling in Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (the Betamax VCR case), devices like the iPod and CD burners are 100% legal — not because they aren’t sometimes used for infringement, but because they also have legitimate uses. The Court in Sony called these “substantial non-infringing uses.” This has been the rule in the technology sector for the last 20 years. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs have depended on it. Industries have blossomed under it. But the Induce Act would end that era of innovation. Don’t let this happen on your watch — tell your Senators to fight the Induce Act!
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June 22nd, 2004 — 3:02pm
Five minutes after logging into my shiny new gmail account today and sending out a hello message toa few friends, I got a taste of new technology pranksterism: an old friend sent a reply to my hello loaded with keywords for everyone’s favorite flavors of spam. Naturally, my friend had read the Gmail intro that outlines their keyword targeted ad policy, stating that one of the conditions of participating in the beta was that Google would serve up ads related to the content of my messages within the new UI.
I don’t know how aggressively Google will match ads to content, but I haven’t seen anything tied to Scranton, PA on my screen yet. As a riposte, my friend should soon see plenty of discount remedies for embarrassing medical conditions, debilitating psychological illnesses, and other matters of questionable taste.
Funny or not, I find it a bit spooky that my mail is being parsed in order to drive advertising. Yes, un-encrypted email is basically as private as a post-card — but it’s highly unlikely that the local post office is going to slip a brochure for travel agencies and package vacations into friends’ mailboxes to accompany the post-cards I send them while I’m visiting Barcelona or Tenerife.
And then there are the inevitable followup questions: what kinds of patterns is Google building on top of this? Are they using geomatching to ID clusters of themes within zip codes? Maybe creating a history of my searching behavior and the number of times I follow the links placed by the engine, to establish a baseline for how susceptible I am to advertising? Or how often people in certain networks read and reply to messages with certain kinds of content?
I don’t think paranoia is appropriate, but there is a double-edged sword in every technology — especially one like this that combines accumulating personal data with tremendous interpretive power.
And even if I did sign up for the free account knowing that Gmail use implied acceptance of this practice, privacy remains a fundamental right. You can’t create valid and binding contracts that require or permit illegal activity.
Look out for travel guides to Scranton…
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June 3rd, 2004 — 4:54pm
Some startling numbers about call center employment, from the newsletter Knowledge@Wharton:
“an estimated 3% of the U.S. workforce [is] employed in call centers“
That’s a greater share of the total than for all farm payrolls and agricultural production across the U.S.
“Call centers… typically experience a 30% annual turnover in employees.“
Not as high as some meat processing facilities, but getting there…
“In some cases the mean duration of employment is 17 days.“
Which I believe at one point was the expected lifetime of a freshly deployed infantryman for the Soviet Army on the Eastern Front during WWII…
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June 1st, 2004 — 10:33am
I’ve loved my shiny new iPod since November of last year, when I gave in to an acute case of technolust and bought the 40GB model. Six months on, despite the entry cost, the inability of Apple products to live happily in a PC universe without loads of expensive accessories, and the disconcerting set of scratches that appeared on the display almost immediately, I’d still say I was very happy.
That is until last week. Apparently, while I was running a standard firmware update (to the 4÷28÷04 release), the basic file system on my iPod became corrupted without warning, and everything on the pod was — erased. *38 GB* of all sorts of personally and professionally important files evaporated without so much as an unhappy face…
As it so happens, I was planning to wipe and rebuild anyway, so I’ve decided to look at this incident as an example of pre-emptive self-cleansing on the part of an exceptionally eager to please iPod, instead of a catastrophic file system failure.
But I’m still pissed. I have strong memories of using a Mac at a design studio in ’99, and deciding that I should wear a helmet to work because it crashed so often. This reminds me of that in a more personal and equally frustrating way.
And it’s going to cost Apple some money, to boot. I just decided that I’d replace my aging Dell laptop with a tasty new Powerbook — and now I think I’ll be buying something else. Great design and marketing don’t make up for unreliability.
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