The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'rights'
In today's paranoid age, controlling parents have ever-increasing options for monitoring everything their children do:
The SnoopStick looks like a memory stick. You plug it into your teenager's computer when they are not around, and it installs stealth software on to the machine. Then you plug it into your own computer and can sit back at your leisure and observe, in real time, exactly what your child is doing online - what websites they are visiting, the full conversations they are having on the instant messenger (IM) service, and who they are sending emails to. It is as if you are sitting and invisibly spying over their shoulder.
Significantly, the £37.50 device comes with the warning that, if you use it to monitor an employee's computer without notifying them, you may well be in breach of employment laws. But install it secretively on the computer of your teenager, who has absolutely no rights at all, and no one can touch you. The moral argument doesn't come into it.
The following devices, please note, are not just being marketed to private detectives to catch errant spouses; they are being targeted at parents of teenagers. You can get clothes with tracking devices fitted into them. You can fit such devices covertly into mobile phones. For $149 you can purchase a mobile spy data extractor, which reads deleted text messages from a SIM card. For $79 you can buy a semen detection kit, to test your teenage daughter's clothing. And for $99, if you really want to ape the mad ex-Marine father in American Beauty, you can buy a drug identification kit which can detect up to 12 different illegal drugs.
The SnoopStick symbolises the modern obsession with control. The American psychologist Robert Epstein, who wrote the controversial book The Case Against Adolescence, estimates that young Americans are now ten times more restricted than adults, and twice as restricted as convicted criminals. He says teenagers are infantilised and deprived of human rights. As well as the obvious legal bar to prevent them smoking, drinking, marrying, voting and gambling, teenagers have no privacy rights, no property rights, no right to sign contracts or make decisions regarding their own medical or psychiatric treatment.
Apparently Microsoft have promised to release the full specifications of their legacy binary Office document formats, making them available for direct downloading from their web site without the need to sign any agreements. Not only that, but to develop a reference application for translating them into a neutral format and release it under the BSD license. Cue a million Slashdot penguinheads trying to outdo themselves at saying "Hell has frozen over" in the wittiest way possible.
NLnet, a Dutch foundation supporting open standards and open source, has called on Microsoft to release their old, no longer supported, document file formats into the public domain, allowing users to make their own tool for accessing data locked in these formats (which is becoming increasingly important as Microsoft's own software drops support for them).
The issue of data portability, or who owns your personal information and friend lists online, has entered the news recently as Facebook deleted the account of blogger Robert Scoble for using a script to automatically fetch his contact list, in violation the site's terms of service (which prohibit scripts, as they can be used for spamming and such). Scoble's account has been reinstated, on the proviso that he doesn't do it again, but not before raising an outcry on his high-profile blog.
Arising from the question of "why doesn't the UK have an EFF?", there is now a proposal to create a British digital-rights campaign group. This has taken the form of a PledgeBank pledge for people to sign, pledging to set up a standing order for £5 a month to fund such a body. The target is to have 1,000 people sign the pledge; so far, 493 have signed it.
Reasons to avoid using AOL Instant Messenger: according to their most recent terms of service, AOL have the right to do whatever they like with any text messages you send through their system, and you have no right to privacy and no say in things at all.
Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.
So if AOL decide that they can monetise that steamy chat you had with hot_bi_babe_18f, or the story/screenplay/song ideas you've been bouncing around with your collaborator on the other side of the world, you're SOL.
Oddly enough, AOL's other service, ICQ, doesn't seem to have anything similarly nasty in its terms of service. (via Alec Muffett)
Owen Williams proposes that hardware reviews should add a rating for "openness", or how unrestrictive and flexible the technology used is. At one end, you'd get things that use cryptography to keep the user on a short leash, and that you can do very little with, such as the DivX video player and major-label online music-rental services; at the other end, you get completely hackable devices, like commodity PC hardware. For example, MP3 players which act like USB/FireWire disks (like the iPod or MP3 keyrings) would get a higher Openness score than ones which require special software to "check in" files (like the Dell Jukebox). (I imagine that devices like the Archos Jukebox would get the highest rating, because they not only act as standard USB disks, but allow you to install your own firmware and hack the hardware to your heart's content; which is how things should be.) (via bOING bOING)
France stands up to EMI; a French court orders EMI to issue refunds to customers whose "Copy Controlled" CDs didn't play in their car CD players or computers. Contrast this with the Vegemite-Eating Surrender Monkeys' capitulation to the Recording Racket on the same issue.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's campaigns against DVD region coding has become somewhat of an uphill battle, with the studios not returning their calls. Perhaps they're waiting for Fels' Howard-administration-appointed successor to come in and drop the case, or failing that, for a US-Australian "free trade" agreement which promises to criminalise DVD player modification and enforce region coding in the interests of "free trade":
"The rise in international cartels is a serious matter in the global economy," [Fels] said. "Free trade paradoxically has given rise to cartel behaviour which has required regulatory action. "When you deregulate markets, people are very aware that the way to make money is to create some restriction."
No doubt about it, Fels will be missed. The Australian people will have lost a great advocate. Let's hope that his successor's not a total corporate simp. (via Rocknerd)
A Republican initiative that went unopposed by congressional Democrats, the revised Bill of Rights provides citizens with a "more manageable" set of privacy and due-process rights by eliminating four amendments and condensing and/or restructuring five others. The Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms, was the only article left unchanged.
"We're not taking away personal rights; we're increasing personal security," Ashcroft said. "By allowing for greater government control over the particulars of individual liberties, the Bill of Rights will now offer expanded personal freedoms whenever they are deemed appropriate and unobtrusive to the activities necessary to effective operation of the federal government."
(via The Onion)