Communication Ethics

"Web tripwires" reveal 1.3% of web pages altered in transit

Will integrity issues be heating back up? ... probably not. It looks to me, based on the project page, that the vast majority of modifications come from local proxies the user is running, and the remainder is just on-the-fly image compression, which I am broadly not opposed to, as the human perception integrity is mostly maintained. (Not in favor of, mind you, but not opposed.)

Every once in a while something so very iRight-y comes along I just have to post it: DMCA author says DMCA is a failure. The biggest problem it had was attempting to legislate technology, rather than people.

Would police officers be happy having that fact tatooed across their foreheads? "Police Officer" in big letters. Leave space so "retired", "dismissed", "ex-" or "disciplined" can be added later. Would that be acceptable? Of course not. It might make certain social situations... uncomfortable. It might mean they find it harder to get jobs. It might mean they're open to being attacked on the streets... So why is it acceptable to publish personal information about everyone else?

A classic example of why legislation shouldn't involve technology, only effects: If you record MP3s off of your satellite radio, are you infringing a right belonging to the copyright owner, given a law that says it is legal to record music from a radio? That is, do one or both of the definitions of "radio" or "record" as used in the law somehow not apply in this case? You can see the technology-based arguments fly in the inevitable Slashdot article: "

So now a lawyer is trying to convince a court that a having a cached file on your hard drive doesn't constitute possession. (Slashdot article.) Good luck with that. The real problem is the "possession" isn't the real issue; it's the distribution and viewing, i.e., the human-experienced message. I wonder how long it will take us to figure out that the whole idea of possession is fatally flawed in the Internet era?

Google Accelerator Breaks The Web?

SomethingAwful is an relatively old Internet Humor site, which may not be to your tastes. That said, their complaints and article about the effects of Google Accelerator seem to be well backed up, and I haven't seen this information come through my normal channels; even some of the dedicated Google weblogs don't seem to have picked this up yet... well, at least the ones I can get through to at the moment.

Here we go again; Google "Smart Tags"

Google today launched a new version of its toolbar that employs a new feature called Autolink that turns non-linked content on Web sites into hotlinks back to Google properties and other sites.... In addition to addresses, it will also add links for ISBNs, package tracking numbers, and vehicle identification numbers. Here we go again, only this time, I have all my debate points all lined up. You want to know how I feel about this, read that.

It is often pointed out that the First Amendment does not let you force someone to listen. It is also worth pointing out that the First Amendment does not let you force someone else to speak. Which reminds me, when and if I ever get to fully revising Communication Ethics, I ought to include something about this inability to compel others. (I have also finally figured out how to handle P2P issues in the context of that essay but have not had time to write it.

On the GMail Controversy

As I define privacy, privacy only matters when another human sees the privacy-sensitive information. As long as GMail only allows their computers to scan the emails for Ad Words, there really isn't a privacy breach. To the extent they collect aggregate statistics, that is in theory a privacy breach but one so diffuse that it is not practically worth worrying about. Of course, the moment a human reads your email or personally examines you, your privacy is infringed.

HR3261 - Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act

Slashdot recently posted a panicky article about HR3261, the "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act". I read the proposed bill. Based on the Slashdot summary, especially the phrase "goes directly against the idea that nobody can own a fact", I was hoping to be able to perform a bit of judo on the legal system. If ownership of the database implied ownership of the facts within, then we could all form a corporation and give it our privacy-sensitive information (links to definition of this term) like our address and phone number, then sue people who use them against our will.