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"Gagging librarians is horrendous." The Internet V. FBI: Net Wins

By - May 08, 2008

Patriot-Tm

Great news for democracy:

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has withdrawn a secret demand that the Internet Archive, an online library, provide the agency with a user’s personal information after the Web site challenged the records request in court.

The FBI sent a national security letter, or NSL, to the Internet Archive in November and included a gag order barring site founder Brewster Kahle from talking to anyone other than his lawyers about the request. Kahle, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit to challenge the subpoena, arguing that the NSL program is unconstitutional, and the FBI withdrew the NSL on April 22.

The settlement between the FBI and the Internet Archive allowed Kahle to break the gag order, a standard part of an NSL request. The Internet Archive’s challenge of the NSL is only the third case that the ACLU is aware of in which an NSL has been challenged in court, said Melissa Goodman an attorney for the civil liberties group’s National Security Project.

“The NSLs basically allow the FBI to demand extremely sensitive personal information about innocent people without any prior court approval, often in total secrecy,” Goodman said Wednesday.

I’ve covered this here, here, in my book, and a lot of other places (87 posts, according to Google. I must be on some list somewhere in the National Security offices).

In a news conference, Kahle had this to say:

“We see this as an unqualified success…The goal here was to help other recipients of NSLs … understand that you can push back on these….Gags don’t seem to be necessar. Gagging librarians is horrendous.”

Danny also covers it here.

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On Health Records

By - April 17, 2008

Health

The Times reports on a New England Journal of Medicine article that raises some important questions:

In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, two leading researchers warn that the entry of big companies like Microsoft and Google into the field of personal health records could drastically alter the practice of clinical research and raise new challenges to the privacy of patient records.

….But their concern, stated in the article published Wednesday and in an interview, is that the medical profession and policy makers have not begun to grapple with the implications of companies like Microsoft and Google becoming the hosts for vast stores of patient information.

The issue is this:

Microsoft and Google, the authors note, are not bound by the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, the main law that regulates personal data handling and patient privacy. Hipaa, enacted in 1996, did not anticipate Web-based health records systems like the ones Microsoft and Google now offer.

The authors say that consumer control of personal data under the new, unregulated Web systems could open the door to all kinds of marketing and false advertising from parties eager for valuable patient information.

Microsoft responds saying it’s wary of government regulation. Google is not quoted as responding. I wonder what its response is to this issue?

(thanks, Marc)

Google Gamed the 700 Mhz Auction? No!

By - April 16, 2008

Republican lawmakers are crying foul:

Google Inc. manipulated a U.S. government spectrum auction by bidding just enough to trigger rules that will open a nationwide set of airwaves to any device and then walking away, Republican lawmakers said.

The so-called open-access requirements, also backed by consumer groups, may have shortchanged taxpayers by discouraging more companies from bidding, Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said today at a hearing.

“Google was successful in gaming the system,” Upton said. The rules were a “social engineering” experiment by the Federal Communications Commission that prevented the spectrum swath, known as the C-block, from raising billions of dollars more, he said.

But they should not be surprised, this was Google’s stated intent all along.

Yahoo, Google, MySpace Launch NotFaceBook Coalition

By - March 25, 2008

Customlogo

Er…I mean the OpenSocial Foundation. This marks Yahoo’s formal joining up. Expect Facebook to join too. Wire coverage.

From a release sent to me by Yahoo:

Yahoo! supports OpenSocial; Yahoo!, MySpace and Google to form non-profit OpenSocial Foundation

Community organization to assure neutrality and longevity of specification for building social applications across the web

SUNNYVALE/LOS ANGELES/MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. (March 25, 2008)—Yahoo!, MySpace, and Google today announced they have agreed to form the OpenSocial Foundation to ensure the neutrality and longevity of OpenSocial as an open, community-governed specification for building social applications across the web. Yahoo!’s support of OpenSocial and role as a founding member of the new foundation are landmarks for the rapidly growing specification which will now offer developers the potential to connect with more than 500 million people worldwide.

The OpenSocial Foundation will be an independent non-profit entity with a formal intellectual property and governance framework; related assets will be assigned to the new organization by July 1, 2008. The foundation will provide transparency and operational guidelines around technology, documentation, intellectual property, and other issues related to the evolution of the OpenSocial platform, while also ensuring all stakeholders share influence over its future direction.

Trust.

By - March 23, 2008

And the lack thereof. We’re all living in the world of the Database of Intentions, except, apparently, the White House.

Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005….

… the White House disclosed in January that it recycled its computer backup tapes before October 2003. Recycling — taping over existing data — raises the possibility that any missing e-mails may not be recoverable.

Gee. I am sure this was not intentional.

Can't Lose For Winning: Google on Spectrum

By - March 21, 2008

Love the spin here from the AP, with which I do agree:

Losing the battle for a prized piece of the airwaves isn’t necessarily a setback for Google Inc.1

If anything, Thursday’s news that Verizon Wireless had won the government-run auction for a pivotal swath of spectrum may even have been the ideal outcome for Google.

That’s because investors no longer have to fret about Google straying from its main business of Internet search to spend more than $10 billion buying and building a wireless network.

Yet Google still positioned itself to profit from the newly available airwaves by ensuring the bids for the so-called “C block” escalated to $4.6 billion. Reaching that price triggered a provision that requires the new wireless network to accommodate all mobile devices, including equipment using a software package called “Android” that is supposed to give Google a better opportunity to sell more advertising.