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**** CONFERENCES ****
44TH IP LAW CONFERENCE, November 9-10, 2006, in Plano, Texas, by the Institute for Law & Technology of the Center for American and International Law. Program information at http://www.cailaw.org/ilt/ILT_IP_LAW_06_Details.html.
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EMERGING TRENDS IN INFORMATION SECURITY AND THE LAW: “PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY IS DEAD”, November 9-10, 2006, in Washington, D.C., by Georgetown University Law Center and the Information Systems Security Association. CEOs, CIOs, CISOs and legal professionals need to understand the developments in regulations and statutes that have led to convergence of issues between information security and in-house and outside counsel. Business planning must consider the business drivers of the legal and security factors to be successful. This two-day conference is designed for CxOs and legal counsel together with a combination of panels, presentations and interactive sessions to highlight key success strategies for the transparency required for business integrity, security and compliance. For more information or to register, please visit https://www.law.georgetown.edu/cle/showEventDetail.cfm?ID=145 or call (202) 662-9890.
CYBERWEEK 2006: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ODR AND ONLINE JUSTICE, September 25-29, 2006, online, by the University of Massachusetts Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution and the InternetBar.org. Cyberweek 2006 will consist of many different kinds of content, from Skypecasts to meetings in virtual worlds to Podcasts to discussion forums and more. Cyberweek is a free all-online conference. Program information at http://www.odr.info/cyberweek2006/index.php; registration information at http://www.katsh.org/forms/use/cyberweekregistration/form1.html
**** NEWS ****
COURT RULING: OFFICIALS’ PERSONAL E-MAILS NOT PUBLIC RECORDS (Tucson Citizen, 9 August 2006) -- Government officials’ personal e-mails don’t have to be disclosed under Arizona’s public records law even if kept on a taxpayer-supported computer, a state court has ruled. Previous Arizona court rulings have found that Arizona’s public records law generally requires disclosure of material that documents official activities, with exemptions for confidentiality, privacy and the best interests of the state. The new ruling by the state Court of Appeals notes that the Arizona public records law was enacted in 1975, long before e-mail systems became prevalent in public offices. The court said e-mails are often the equivalent of telephone calls, not printed paper documents. “Because of their transitory nature, the content of telephone calls generally would not be considered a public record,” a three-judge panel in Tucson said in a unanimous ruling Friday. “In our view, it defies logic to believe the Legislature intended to require every state officer or employee, for purposes of disclosure on a public records request, to record the content of all of his or her personal telephone calls or to create and maintain documentation of all activities, whether business-related or strictly personal, in which he or she engages on the job. “It would be just as illogical to infer any such intent with respect to electronic forms of communication that are purely personal in nature, even though e-mails are essentially self-documenting and easily retained.” The state supreme courts of Florida and Colorado have issued similar rulings, the Arizona court noted. http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/21980
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE STUDY URGES OPEN SOURCE ADOPTION (ArsTechnica, 20 August 2006) -- The Open Technology Development road map, a recently authored government report, advises Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Sue Payton to integrate a comprehensive open source strategy into defense department procurement and development policies. Written by consultants for Advanced Systems & Concepts in collaboration with major technology companies and the Open Source Software Institute, the 79-page report advocates adoption of open technologies, support for and adherence to open standards, and discusses topics like licensing and software project governance. In addition to promoting open technology, the authors of the report feel that the DoD can improve interoperability while increasing efficiency and productivity by creating standard policies for internal redistribution of code developed by contractors. The report states that “by not enabling internal distribution, DoD creates an arbitrary scarcity of its own software code, which increases the development and maintenance costs of information technology across the Department.” http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060820-7545.html
ECHOSTAR LOSES COURT RULING ON SOME TV TRANSMISSIONS (Washington Post, 23 August 2006) -- Hundreds of thousands of Dish Network subscribers could lose access to shows on traditional television networks as early as today after a Supreme Court justice’s decision yesterday that brings an end to lawsuits that have been tied up in court for more than eight years. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas yesterday let stand a May ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that ordered EchoStar Communications Corp., the parent company of Dish Network, to stop transmitting network programming to 800,000 subscribers -- those who live in mostly rural areas too far to receive local stations with regular antennas. The decision stemmed from lawsuits filed by News Corp.’s Fox Network and stations affiliated with the four major networks, all claiming that EchoStar has been illegally offering distant-network signals to customers who are capable of receiving television signals from nearby cities. Rural customers who live within the reach of a local television broadcast are not eligible to receive network programming from a satellite TV company, which usually offers transmissions from stations in large cities, such as New York or Los Angeles. For more than eight years, Englewood, Colo.-based EchoStar has been battling broadcast networks that say the satellite provider is illegally encroaching on their markets and taking a chunk out of their audiences. EchoStar has frequently settled with local stations to maintain its presence in rural markets. This time, analysts said, the satellite company may be required to halt service to all subscribers who receive the network transmissions, even if the subscriptions are legal. “It looks like the company is running out of legal options and it’s going to have to take some drastic steps to appease customers who are losing access to these signals, whether it be lowering rates or helping them find access to other channels,” said Thomas W. Eagan, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. “The subscription television marketplace has become very saturated and people are looking to be compensated,” he said. “This could send customers straight to DirecTV or cable.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/22/AR2006082201283.html
FTC CHIEF CRITIQUES NET NEUTRALITY (CNET, 21 August 2006) -- The head of the Federal Trade Commission on Monday expressed sharp skepticism toward proposed laws that would levy extensive Net neutrality regulations on broadband providers. Deborah Platt Majoras, the FTC’s Republican chairman, said extensive Net neutrality legislation currently pending in the U.S. Senate is unnecessary because there has been no demonstrated harm to consumers, that normal market forces would likely prevent any problems, and that new laws would cause more problems than they solve. “I ask myself whether consumers will stand for an Internet that suddenly imposes restrictions on their ability to freely explore the Internet or does not provide for the choices they want,” Majoras told a luncheon audience at the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s annual conference here. Majoras’ comments come as the Senate is considering a massive legislative proposal to rewrite telecommunications laws. In June, a Senate panel narrowly rejected an amendment that would have slapped strict regulations on broadband providers. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has said he’ll try to block a floor vote on the measure unless that amendment is adopted. The concept of network neutrality, which generally means that all Internet sites must be treated equally, has drawn a list of high-profile backers, from actress Alyssa Milano to Vint Cerf, one of the technical pioneers of the Internet. It has also led to a political rift between big Internet companies--such as Google and Yahoo that back it--and telecom companies that oppose what they view as onerous new federal regulations. In the last few months, it has become a partisan issue, with Republicans siding with broadband providers. (All the Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee voted for the unsuccessful amendment in June). Because the FTC shares enforcement authority with the Federal Communications Commission over certain types of deceptive practices by broadband providers, Majoras’ remarks could nudge some senators who have been cautious supporters of Net neutrality to a more laissez-faire position. http://news.com.com/2100-1028_3-6107913.html
VERIZON IMPOSES NEW DSL SURCHARGE AS GOVERNMENT FEES REMOVED (SilliconValley.com, 21 August 2006) -- Verizon Communications Inc. is imposing a new surcharge on high-speed Internet service just as customers were set to receive lower bills thanks to a decision last year to deregulate the service. In a recent notice to customers, the telecommunications company said it would begin imposing the surcharge for all new digital-subscriber line customers, and on current DSL customers with monthly plans. Customers on an annual plan will start paying when their plan expires. The surcharge will initially be $1.20 a month for customers with service up to 768 kilobits per second and $2.70 per month for customers with faster DSL service, according to the company. The fee comes as a government fee on DSL customers for the Universal Service Fund is being phased out. For customers with service up to 768 kpbs, the fee was $1.25 a month, and for customers with service of up to 3 Mbps, the fee was $2.83 a month, according to Verizon. Customers will no longer pay such charges effective Aug. 14, New York-based Verizon said. Bobby Henson, a Verizon spokeswoman, cited ``new costs that we’ve developed over the past year as we’ve been developing and delivering this standalone DSL service. That service doesn’t have the benefit of the revenue that was coming in from voice.” http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/news/editorial/15327454.htm
AT&T SAYS COOPERATION WITH NSA COULD BE LEGAL (CNET, 22 August 2006) -- An AT&T executive on Tuesday offered a glimpse into how a company could be required to cooperate with a federal entity such as the National Security Agency. James Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, said there are “very specific federal statutes that prescribe means, in black and white law, for provision of information to the government under certain circumstances.” “We have stringently complied with those laws,” Cicconi said. “It’s pretty obvious, you know, as far as the court case is going, that they’ve not reached a different conclusion.” That’s a slightly more detailed explanation than AT&T has publicly offered so far. In February, AT&T declined to answer related questions from CNET News.com. In May, an AT&T spokesman told News.com: “Without commenting on or confirming the existence of the program, we can say that when the government asks for our help in protecting national security, and the request is within the law, we will provide that assistance.” Because Cicconi was AT&T’s general counsel before the merger with SBC Communications, he would have been responsible for reviewing the legality of cooperating with the NSA. A longtime Republican, Cicconi worked as deputy chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush and as an assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He’s recently served as co-chairman of Progress for America, a prominent group devoted to electing Republican politicians. Cicconi’s remarks--in response to a question at the Progress and Freedom Foundation’s annual summit here--seem to indicate that AT&T received formal authorization from the U.S. Department of Justice to authorize the program. The existence of such a letter has never been confirmed. Cicconi may have been referring to an obscure section of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2511, which permits a telecommunications company to provide “information” and “facilities” to the federal government as long as the attorney general authorizes it. The authorization must come in the form of “certification in writing by...the Attorney General of the United States that no warrant or court order is required by law.” If a letter of certification exists, AT&T could be off the hook in its lawsuits. Federal law says that a “good faith” reliance on a letter of certification “is a complete defense to any civil or criminal” lawsuit, including one brought against the company by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Other officials, including the deputy attorney general and state attorneys general, also are authorized to write these letters.) http://news.com.com/2100-1030_3-6108386.html
NOW PLAYING ON THE NET: WAR PROPAGANDA (CNET, 22 August 2006) -- Amid the home videos of dancing teens and sporting events on YouTube, a well-crafted, nine-minute video makes a direct appeal to Americans to oust the Bush administration. “People of America, we wish to share with you our thoughts on the events we experienced,” says the narrator of “Iraq--the truth?” The narrator claims to represent those opposing the U.S. in Iraq. “Despite the madness we have endured we see no harm in presenting you with the criminal nature of your newly elected emperor.” It’s impossible to say for certain who created the video, but it’s no doubt part of a growing and surprising trend at video-sharing sites. The democratization of online video through sites such as YouTube, Metacafe and Ogrish.com is allowing combatants on both sides of the battlefield to make their version of events public. The Web offers any individual with Internet access the means to reach out to vast audiences with little or no regard for geographical borders. The number of people watching the propaganda videos is still small: About 14,000 people have viewed the “Iraq – the truth?” video, which was posted in May. By comparison, the most popular video currently on YouTube is “Tila Tequila,” which has been watched more than 800,000 times. But experts say such material could be a harbinger of the future. “The enemy is taking propaganda straight to the American people,” said Nancy Snow, associate professor at California State University at Fullerton and author of “Propaganda Inc.” “You have to give them credit for utilizing the power of this new medium. They’re using cheap technology, but today anybody with a video camera can make his own movie and broadcast it.” Bush administration officials have noticed. In a speech last February, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said al-Qaida and other extremist groups have adapted faster than the U.S. to fighting information wars on the Web. http://news.com.com/Now+playing+on+the+Net+War+propaganda/2100-1038_3-6108004.html?tag=nefd.lede
ONLINE VOLUNTEERS ROLL UP THEIR SLEEVES (CNN, 23 August 2006) -- When it comes to volunteering, Caitrin Murphy finds satisfaction in spending 10 months helping Tijuana orphans or a Saturday building low-income homes outside Washington, D.C. But onsite projects aren’t always feasible, so Murphy instead turned to the Internet and, with two co-workers, remotely created a Web site for an organization that helps farmers in the West African country of Cameroon. “It’s an adequate alternative,” Murphy said. “I would prefer a hands-on, physical experience at the site. At the same time, ... by doing a project virtually we could affect the lives of people we would never think of meeting.” Online volunteering is growing as Internet access improves worldwide, particularly among African and Latin American organizations needing assistance. VolunteerMatch, a San Francisco group that helps volunteers learn about onsite and online projects, said 14 percent of its volunteer opportunities last year were virtual, compared with 1 percent in 1998. Instead of building homes, volunteers like Murphy can build Web sites. Or translate documents. Or prepare training manuals. Or mentor teens. All from a computer hundreds or thousands of miles away. http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/internet/08/23/online.volunteering.ap/index.html [Editor: the ABA’s Commission on Second Season of Service will be using a web portal/wiki/community site to match volunteers with needs. Second Season general information at http://www.abanet.org/initiatives/secondseason/about.shtml. Contact me to learn more.]
LAPTOP WITH DATA ON 28,000 HOME CARE PATIENTS STOLEN IN DETROIT (ComputerWorld, 23 August 2006) -- A laptop containing home care information on 28,000 patients has been stolen from the car of a nurse who works for Royal Oak, Mich.-based Beaumont Hospitals, according to a statement from the hospital. The laptop was in the nurse’s car, which was stolen in Detroit on Aug. 5 after the nurse had finished seeing patients. The vehicle was later recovered, but the laptop was missing. The computer contained personal and health information of Home Care patients who had received care over the previous three years, the hospital said. The Home Care staff uses laptops to document patient care; The data on the stolen laptop -- a Dell Latitude model -- includes patient names, addresses, birth dates, medical insurance information, Social Security numbers and personal health information relating to their home care services. The computer does not include information on services received at the Beaumont Hospitals or other Beaumont outpatient services, the hospital said. While Home Care laptops are encrypted and password protected, the nurse’s ID access code and password were with the stolen computer. http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9002685
PERSPECTIVE: CONFIDENTIAL DATA REALLY IS AT RISK (CNET, 23 August 2006) -- We have long heard about how confidential data can be at risk. Now, a new U.S. survey by the Ponemon Institute drives home the point with hard data. An astonishing 81 percent of companies and governmental entities report having lost or misplaced one or more laptops containing confidential business information within the last 12 months. The survey, sponsored by data-protection specialist Vontu and aptly titled “Confidential Data at Risk,” concludes that a main reason for corporate data security breaches is that many companies simply don’t know where their sensitive or confidential business information resides. The survey goes on to summarize that “this lack of knowledge coupled with insufficient controls over data stores” poses “a serious threat to both business and governmental organizations.” The survey queried 484 information technology departments within U.S.-based corporate and governmental organizations. The answers to the survey questions paint a fairly bleak current picture. Only 10 percent of the respondents say their laptops had not been stolen. (Another 9 percent did not know.) The corporate and governmental respondents generally agreed that electronic storage devices contain sensitive or confidential information that is unprotected, with 60 percent stating this to be the case for PDAs and other mobile devices, 59 percent for laptops, 53 percent for USB flash drives, 36 percent for desktops, and 35 percent for shared-file servers. http://news.com.com/2010-1029_3-6108603.html
GOOGLE WRESTLES WITH BRAZIL’S REQUESTS FOR USER DATA ON AMERICAN SERVERS (Internet Week, 24 August 2006) -- A recent lawsuit filed by Brazilian prosecutors seeks information from Google Brazil about Orkut users for investigations involving hate crime, pornography, and child pornography. Earlier this week, Google filed a petition with Brazilian courts to appoint an independent expert to verify that information about users of Google’s social networking site Orkut resides on servers in the U.S. and not in Brazil. This is not to say that Google is refusing to cooperate, as the company did when the U.S. Department of Justice asked for user search data to resuscitate the controversial Child Online Protection Act. Rather Google wants Brazilian authorities to seek information through proper legal channels. “It is and always has been our intention to be as cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as we possibly can, while being careful to balance the interests of our users, our business and the request from the authorities,” Google said in a statement. “We have and will continue to provide Brazilian authorities with information on users who abuse the Orkut service, if their requests are reasonable and follow an appropriate legal process. In fact, we have already produced data in response to criminal court orders issued by Brazilian courts that are addressed to Google Inc. and served on its counsel in Brazil.” Since April, Google has supplied information to Brazilian authorities in response to at least 15 criminal court orders and has retained user data in more than 70 others, according to a Google spokesperson. Two weeks ago, Google said that since June, it had provided information 8 different investigations and had retained user data in 60 cases. Assuming this rate of legal inquiry continues throughout the year, Google has to be dealing with hundreds data requests annually in Brazil alone. http://news.yahoo.com/s/cmp/20060825/tc_cmp/192300052
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GOOGLE ORDERED TO PROVIDE BRAZIL INFO (Houston Chronicle, 31 August 2006) -- A judge on Thursday ordered the Brazilian subsidiary of Google Inc. to turn over information on users of the company’s social networking service Orkut or face daily fines of $23 million. Federal Judge Jose Marcos Lunardelli gave Google Brazil 15 days to release information needed to identify individuals accused of using Orkut to spread child pornography and engage in hate speech against blacks, Jews and homosexuals. Lunardelli [wrote] in his decision that “it is not relevant that the data are stored in the United States, since all the photographs and messages being investigated were published by Brazilians, through Internet connection in national territory.” http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/4155909.html
U. OF CALIFORNIA WILL PROVIDE UP TO 3,000 BOOKS A DAY TO GOOGLE FOR SCANNING, CONTRACT STATES (Chronicle of Higher Education, 25 August 2006) -- A mere two months after the University of California begins its book-digitization project with Google, the university may provide the search company with a whopping 3,000 books a day for scanning. That nugget, and many others, can be found in a confidential contract that allowed California to join Harvard and Stanford Universities, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the University of Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library, in the search-engine company’s elaborate and controversial library-digitization effort. The contract was released in part as a response to an open-records request from The Chronicle. According to the document, the university will provide at least 2.5 million volumes to Google for scanning, starting with 600 books a day and ratcheting up over time to 3,000 volumes a day. Materials pulled for scanning will be back on the shelves of their libraries within 15 days. Both the university and Google will get digital copies of the scanned works, but there are some restrictions on how the university can use its copies. The university can offer the digital copy, whole or in parts, “as part of services offered to the university library patrons.” But the university must prevent users from downloading portions of the digital copies and stop automated scanning of the copies by, for example, other search engines. http://chronicle.com/free/2006/08/2006082501t.htm Contract at http://www.cdlib.org/news/ucgoogle_cooperative_agreement.pdf
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PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOKS, READY FOR YOUR IPOD (New York Times, 25 August 2006) -- Kara Shallenberg and her 10-year-old son, Henry, exhausted the audiobook collection at their library in Oceanside, Calif., five years ago. With Henry’s appetite for listening still strong, Ms. Shallenberg began to record herself reading his favorite books. Eventually she upgraded from a using a tape deck to burning CD’s on her laptop computer. Last fall she took her hobby to a wider audience. Kara Shallenberg and her son, Henry, who have joined the effort to record and distribute their book readings for LibriVo. xMs. Shallenberg’s recordings of “The Secret Garden,” “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and other works are now available, free, to anyone with an Internet connection and basic audio software. She is part of a core group of volunteers who give their voices and spare time to LibriVox, a project that produces audiobooks of works in the public domain. LibriVox is the largest of several emerging collectives that offer free or inexpensive audiobooks of works whose copyrights have expired, from Plato to “The Wind in the Willows.” (In the United States, this generally means anything published or registered for copyright before 1923.) The results range from solo readings done by amateurs in makeshift home studios to high-quality recordings read by actors or professional voice talent. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/25/books/25audi.html?ex=1314158400&en=f2d510a47d9ff6fa&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
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GOOGLE: THESE BOOKS ARE FREE (CNET, 30 August 2006) -- Google Book Search now offers PDF files of scanned books that can be downloaded and printed for free, Google announced on Wednesday. Readers can find the books by choosing the “Full view books” option on the Google Book Search home page before they activate their search. Once they have chosen a book from the results page, a download button is clearly visible on the top-right corner of the page. The PDFs are offered only for those books that fall into the public domain and are intended for personal use. “We use very conservative rules to comply with international copyright laws,” Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb said. A book’s availability depends on the country from which the user is accessing the site. Google blocks users from works that are not yet in the public domain for their country, Lamb said. A carefully worded note on usage from Google, included as the first page of each downloaded PDF file, explains what “public domain” means and how it can vary by country. Google also notes that users are responsible for following their own country’s copyright laws. “Make noncommercial use of the file. Refrain from automated querying. Maintain attribution. Keep it legal,” Google lists as usage guidelines. The bottom-right corner of every PDF book page contains a “Digitized by Google” watermark. [Editor: I downloaded a copy of “Great Expectations”.] http://news.com.com/Google+These+books+are+free/2100-1032_3-6110950.html?tag=nefd.top
AFRICAN LANGUAGES GROW AS A WIKIPEDIA PRESENCE (New York Times, 26 August 2006) -- At the second annual Wikimania conference, held this year at Harvard Law School, there was what might be considered a quintessential Wikipedian moment: as Martin Benjamin, a researcher at Yale University, gave a talk about the Swahili dictionary he is creating online, Ndesanjo Macha was simultaneously sitting in the audience using a Wi-Fi connection and laptop to put the finishing touches on his Wikipedia entry, “Martin Benjamin,” in Swahili. It was just the 1,025th article written for the Swahili version of Wikipedia (sw.wikipedia.org), the online, open-source encyclopedia founded five years ago by Jimmy Wales, and the fifth Mr. Macha had written that weekend in Cambridge, Mass. In founding Wikipedia, Mr. Wales has said, he aimed to create “a free encyclopedia for every person on the planet in their own language,” a goal he has defined as having 250,000 entries in every language spoken by more than a million people. But while larger Wikipedias, like those written in English (1,377,015 entries and counting) and French (348,243 entries), wrestle with questions of accuracy and vandalism, as well as the imposition of limits on who can create and edit entries, smaller Wikipedias face more basic questions: How do you create an online encyclopedia when few native speakers have access to the Internet? What use is an encyclopedia when literacy rates among a language’s speakers can approach zero? (This is not a problem for Swahili.) And who should control the content of an encyclopedia in a local language if not enough native speakers are moved, or able, to contribute? http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/26/arts/26wiki.html?ex=1314244800&en=f100f432a921ef1d&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
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INTERNET SEARCH GETS WEB 2.0 STYLE (CNET, 24 August 2006) -- In an acknowledgement that some questions may be better answered by a human than a search engine algorithm, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are embracing so-called social search. Social search generally refers to a Web site or service that relies on the participation of a community to come up with answers to specific questions or to provide links to Web sites or other resources of common interest. Don’t bet on social search usurping the algorithm, say experts. But it’s likely social-search answers will provide a strong second option to mathematical results. “Ultimately, it’s likely that a combination of algorithmic search and the various types of social-search systems will fuse into a hybrid that will work really well for satisfying a wide variety of information needs,” Search Engine Watch Executive Editor Chris Sherman concluded in a recent blog posting titled “What’s the Big Deal With Social Search?” No doubt, social search has its shortcomings. A site’s network of users has to be big enough and include people who are sufficiently competent to maintain quality. Also, skeptics say, companies have toyed with the idea of social search for years, and most efforts have been a disappointment. Advocates argue that people are now much more comfortable interacting on the Web. The say social search has its place, particularly in subjective arguments, like what’s the best place to eat a steak in downtown Chicago. And they say a new generation of Web 2.0 companies, whose business models revolve around information exchange, have gained acceptance, particularly among younger Web surfers, making social-search results more reliable. http://news.com.com/Internet+search+gets+Web+2.0+style/2100-1038_3-6108962.html?tag=nefd.lede
TEXAN FOILS BURGLARY IN BRITAIN VIA BEATLES WEBCAM (Reuters, 25 August 2006) -- An American helped foil a burglary in northern England whilst watching a Beatles-related webcam over the Internet, police said on Friday. The man from Dallas was using a live camera link to look at Mathew Street, an area of Liverpool synonymous with the Beatles and home to the Cavern Club where the band regularly played. He saw intruders apparently breaking into a sports store and alerted local police. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060825/wr_nm/britain_burglary_dc_2
WIKI SITE AIMS TO BOOST PATENT REVIEW PROCESS (CNET, 28 August 2006) -- The U.S. patent system is supposed to ensure that the latest wireless e-mail technique or crustless peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich granted protection is truly one of a kind. But even the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office acknowledged recently that such judgments are no small feat. In a draft five-year strategic plan released last week, officials solidified their intention to develop a “peer review mechanism” that would enlist volunteers from the public to weigh in on applications and ease the burden on its own staff. Responding to that call for collaboration, a patent attorney and an accountant based in Salt Lake City on Monday launched WikiPatents.com. Sporting a star-based rating system reminiscent of those used for movie criticism, it’s designed in part to help patent examiners, attorneys, litigants, would-be investors, inventors and other interested outsiders decide whether already-issued patents deserve such a designation. Searching for a particular patent number returns a page that allows users to, among other things, rewrite a patent’s description in laypersons’ terms, rate the technical accuracy of a patent, vote on a reasonable royalty value, and divulge information about its availability for licensing. Eventually, such commentary will extend to pending patent applications as well. Each dedicated patent page also allows users to nominate and describe the pieces of prior art that they feel are most relevant to the patent in question. http://news.com.com/2100-1030_3-6110257.html
IN DELAWARE, PRIVACY FOR BIG PAYCHECKS (New York Times, 27 August 2006) -- Bankruptcy court is supposed to be a place where facts remain out in the open. But that seems to be changing in Delaware, one of the largest homes for corporate bankruptcy cases. The Werner Company, a maker of ladders, filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in June; its bankruptcy is being overseen by Judge Kevin J. Carey of United States bankruptcy court in Delaware. Earlier this month, Judge Carey agreed to seal documents detailing bonuses that will be paid to nine Werner executives. The move came after company lawyers argued that the pay disclosures “may create low morale and an unhealthy work environment” at Werner. The judge also shut out the public from the Aug. 17 hearing on the pay. Lynn M. LoPucki, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “The big picture here is compensation of public-company executives during a bankruptcy case being kept secret, which if you believe in open courts is not a good thing.” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/27/business/yourmoney/27suits.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1156684025-fe14+1d8OwJ+CZa9F2ynPg
BANK TO PAY $50 MILLION FOR BUYING PERSONAL DATA (Information Week, 29 August 2006) -- A bank has been ordered to pay a $50 million settlement for buying more than 650,000 names and addresses from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed an amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs, announced the decision this week. EPIC said Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust bought 656,600 names and addresses for use in direct marketing and the purchase violated the Drivers Privacy Protection Act. The federal law was enacted in 1994, before a vast number of “find people” sites were popular on the Internet. It aims to protect drivers from having their personal information distributed because stalkers and other criminals had used motor vehicle records to locate victims. The death of actress Rebecca Schaeffer prompted a California law that became a model for the federal legislation. Schaeffer was killed outside her home in 1989 by an obsessed fan who had paid an investigator to find her address. Other crimes “ including a series of home robberies targeting people who drove expensive cars and harassment of women who had been to reproductive clinics “ motivated legislators to pass the federal law. From 2000 to 2003, Fidelity purchased data containing personal information of hundreds of thousands of drivers living in Palm Beach, as well as Martin and Broward counties for only $5,656, according to papers filed in Kehoe v. Fidelity Federal Bank and Trust. The bank sought the information for car loan solicitations, according to papers filed in the class-action lawsuit. In 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that James Kehoe had to demonstrate actual damages before obtaining monetary compensation under the Drivers Privacy Protection Act. Kehoe appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned that ruling. EPIC joined the suit and stated that the case represents a step in trying to address the collective threat that the data trade poses to privacy. “While Kehoe involves just a single bank using data for marketing, thousands of other businesses are trading in your personal information, resulting in a society that is losing autonomy and control over personal data,” the organization stated on its Web site. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC, said during an interview Tuesday that the organization joined the suit to push for damage awards when privacy laws are violated. He said that is critical to ensuring the laws are effective. http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=192500171
MAN POSTS BAIL IN HEZBOLLAH TV CASE (New York Times, 29 August 2006) -- A Staten Island man charged with trying to transmit broadcasts from an Arabic television station controlled by Hezbollah was released on bail yesterday, the law firm representing him said. On Thursday, Mr. Iqbal was charged with one count of conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, a federal law that allows the president to regulate commercial and financial transactions in response to a threat to national security or foreign policy. The government said Mr. Iqbal sought to provide customers services that included satellite broadcasts of the television station, Al Manar. That is a violation of federal law, since the station — which is controlled by the Lebanese group Hezbollah — was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States Treasury Department in March. In May, Mr. Iqbal went to Lebanon and other destinations and was interviewed upon his return to the United States, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case. Mr. Iqbal said the purpose of his trip was “to meet media companies in Lebanon and Qatar in order to solicit business to broadcast their transmission to Arab communities in the United States,” the affidavit said. Mr. Iqbal said that he met with representatives of the Arabic television network in Beirut but was unsuccessful in conducting any business deals there, the affidavit said.
NYT MOVE TO BLOCK WEB TO BRITONS RAISES QUESTIONS (Reuters, 30 August 2006) -- A New York Times decision to block British online readers from seeing a story about London terrorism suspects raises new questions on restricting the flow of information in the Internet age, legal and media experts say. The New York Times said on Tuesday it had blocked British Internet readers from seeing a story detailing elements of the investigation into a suspected plot to blow up airliners between Britain and the United States. The story was published in Monday’s paper. Under British laws, courts will punish media organizations that publish material that judges feel may influence jurors and prevent suspects receiving a fair trial. “There has not been a prosecution for contempt over anybody publishing outside this jurisdiction (Britain), but logically there is no reason why there should not be,” said Caroline Kean, partner at UK media law firm Wiggin. While restricting what British media can report has been effective in the past, the Internet has made it far harder to stop information published by foreign outlets, which may breach Britain’s laws, from being seen by UK readers. “On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial,” the notice said. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060830/wr_nm/media_nytimes_dc_2
BEWARE, YOUR CELL PHONE COULD BETRAY YOU (Houston Chronicle, 30 August 2006) -- The married man’s girlfriend sent a text message to his cell phone: His wife was getting suspicious. Perhaps they should cool it for a few days. “So,” she wrote, “I’ll talk to u next week.” Later, the married man bought a new phone. He sold his old one on eBay, at Internet auction, for $290. The guys who bought it now know his secret. The married man had followed the directions in his phone’s manual to erase all his information, including lurid exchanges with his lover. But it wasn’t enough. Selling your old phone once you upgrade to a fancier model can be like handing over your diaries. All sorts of sensitive information pile up inside our cell phones, and deleting it may be more difficult than you think. A popular practice among sellers, resetting the phone, often means sensitive information appears to have been erased. But it can be resurrected using specialized yet inexpensive software found on the Internet. A company, Trust Digital of McLean, Va., bought 10 different phones on eBay this summer to test phone-security tools it sells for businesses. The phones all were fairly sophisticated models capable of working with corporate e-mail systems. Curious software experts at Trust Digital resurrected information on nearly all the used phones, including the racy exchanges between guarded lovers. The other phones contained: —One company’s plans to win a multimillion-dollar federal transportation contract. —E-mails about another firm’s $50,000 payment for a software license. —Bank accounts and passwords. —Details of prescriptions and receipts for one worker’s utility payments. The recovered information was equal to 27,000 pages — a stack of printouts 8 feet high. “We found just a mountain of personal and corporate data,” said Nick Magliato, Trust Digital’s chief executive. Many of the phones were owned personally by the sellers but crammed with sensitive corporate information, underscoring the blurring of work and home. “They don’t come with a warning label that says, ‘Be careful.’ The data on these phones is very important,” Magliato said. One phone surrendered the secrets of a chief executive at a small technology company in Silicon Valley. It included details of a pending deal with Adobe Systems Inc., and e-mail proposals from a potential Japanese partner. All the phones stored information on “flash” memory chips, the same technology found in digital cameras and some music players. Flash memory is inexpensive and durable. But it is slow to erase information in ways that make it impossible to recover. So manufacturers compensate with methods that erase data less completely but don’t make a phone seem sluggish. Phone manufacturers usually provide instructions for safely deleting a customer’s information, but it’s not always convenient or easy to find. Research in Motion Ltd. has built into newer Blackberry phones an easy-to-use wipe program. Palm Inc., which makes the popular Treo phones, puts directions deep within its Web site for what it calls a “zero out reset.” It involves holding down three buttons simultaneously while pressing a fourth tiny button on the back of the phone. But it’s so awkward to do that even Palm says it may take two people. A Palm executive, Joe Fabris, said the company made the process deliberately clumsy because it doesn’t want customers accidentally erasing their information. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4151275.html
HARVARD OFFERS VIRTUAL CLASS IN SECOND LIFE (Edupage, 30 August 2006) -- This fall, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson will coteach a course on argument with his daughter, Harvard Extension School instructor Rebecca Nesson, that will take place in the Second Life virtual world. In Second Life, users create avatars that they control, using them to move around the virtual environment and interact with others and with the virtual physical space. A number of other colleges and universities have used Second Life as a component of certain courses. For this new course at Harvard, Nesson and Nesson will teach students--entirely through the virtual environment--how to use blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other electronic tools to make effective arguments. The class, which is open to the public through Harvard’s extension school, will take place in an online replica of the university’s Ames Courtroom. Rebecca Nesson will hold office hours in Second Life; Charles Nesson’s office hours will be in his actual office. Chronicle of Higher Education, 30 August 2006 (sub. req’d) http://chronicle.com/daily/2006/08/2006083001t.htm Course information at http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/cyberone/
NIST RELEASES GUIDELINES FOR SANITIZING FILES (FCW, 30 August 2006) -- The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a new publication that provides guidance on disposing of files. Special Publication 800-88, “Guidelines for Media Sanitization,” gives agencies assistance to ensure that deleted or disposed files are unrecoverable. http://www.fcw.com/article95849-08-30-06-Web&RSS=yes NIST publication at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-88/SP800-88_Aug2006.pdf
TEXAS ATTORNEYS CAN PARTICIPATE IN ONLINE LEGAL MATCHING SERVICE (National Law Journal, 31 August 2006) -- Lawyers can pay a fee to participate in an online service that matches subscribing lawyers with potential clients, as long as the service exercises no discretion in those match ups, the Professional Ethics Committee for the State Bar of Texas has determined. Opinion 573, issued in July, revisits an issue that the 11-member committee considered a year ago. In August 2005, the committee indicated in Opinion 561 that Texas lawyers cannot participate in a privately sponsored Internet site that obtains information about potential clients’ legal problems and forwards the information to one or more lawyers who subscribe to the service. The committee concluded in 2005 that participating in such a legal matching service would violate the anti-solicitation provisions of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct 7.03(b) and 7.04. But Peter Kennedy, attorney for San Francisco-based LegalMatch Inc., which asked the committee in December 2005 to take another look at the issue, says committee members did not do an about-face. “They distinguished their earlier opinion on a key fact, that the service doesn’t use discretion in forwarding information to attorneys,” says Kennedy, a shareholder in Austin’s Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody. “Rather than some human being saying this kind of case sounds right for this kind of lawyer, the software behind the Web site does the matching.” http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1156943795457
IS EMPLOYEE ACCESS TO A COMPANY COMPUTER A LICENSE TO STEAL?
(Steptoe & Johnson’s E-Commerce Law Week, 31 August 2006) -- If an employee walks off with sensitive company data downloaded from the corporate network, can the company sue him under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030? So far, the courts are split. Several district courts and the Seventh Circuit (International Airport Centers, L.L.C. v. Citrin, 440 F.3d 418, 420-21 (7th Cir. 2006)) have ruled that such employees have exceeded their authorized access to the company computers and thus can be held liable under the CFAA. But earlier this month, a district court in Florida reached the opposite conclusion. In Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Speed, the court ruled that employees who used their access to corporate computers to download trade secrets and then share them with the company’s competitors cannot be said to have accessed this proprietary information “without authorization” or in excess of their authorization for purposes of the CFAA. The court also found that an employee’s subsequent misuse of corporate data has no bearing on whether the employee’s access was authorized. Given the continuing uncertainty over the meaning of “authorization,” companies may want to protect themselves by setting clearer limits on employees’ use of company computers. http://www.steptoe.com/publications-3531.html
EDUCATION DEPT. SHARED STUDENT DATA WITH F.B.I. (New York Times, 1 Sept 2006) -- The Federal Education Department shared personal information on hundreds of student loan applicants with the Federal Bureau of Investigation across a five-year period that began after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the agencies said yesterday. Under the program, called Project Strikeback, the Education Department received names from the F.B.I. and checked them against its student aid database, forwarding information. Each year, the Education Department collects information from 14 million applications for federal student aid. Neither agency would say whether any investigations resulted. The agencies said the program had been closed. The effort was reported yesterday by a graduate student, Laura McGann, at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, as part of a reporting project that focused on national security and civil liberties. In a statement, Mary Mitchelson, counsel to the inspector general of the Education Department, said, “Using names provided by the bureau, we examined the Department of Education’s student financial aid databases to determine if the individuals received or applied for federal student financial assistance.” Information collected on federal financial aid applications includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, incomes and, for some students, information on parents’ incomes and educational backgrounds. Generally, only United States citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply for federal student financial aid. Ms. McGann, the journalism student who reported on the program, said she saw data sharing mentioned, but not described, in a report by the Government Accountability Office that she reviewed in the spring as part of a research project after a seminar on investigative reporting. “I thought that was pretty unexpected for the Department of Education,” said Ms. McGann, 24, who graduated this year from Medill. “So I decided I would try to look into that a little more.” She said she found another mention of the program in a report from the inspector general’s office in the department. In June, Ms. McGann went directly to the Education Department. “Eventually, I did an on-camera interview with a deputy inspector general there who did comment on the program,” she said. “After that,” Ms. McGann added, “I decided I should file a Freedom of Information Act request.” Last month, she received documents in response to her request that were heavily redacted, she said. Among them were Education Department memorandums describing F.B.I. requests for information on specific people whose names were blocked out and an internal memorandum dated June 16, 10 days after her interview, stating that the data sharing program had terminated. The name of the author of that memorandum was also redacted, she added. “I learned that getting information from a federal agency you need to be persistent,” Ms. McGann said. “And I learned that public documents are really a wealth of stories.” She said she had accepted a position at Dow Jones Newswires in Washington. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/01/washington/01educ.html?ex=1314763200&en=89bfd87864b33173&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
INTIMATE CONFESSIONS POUR OUT ON CHURCH’S WEB SITE (New York Times, 1 Sept 2006) -- On a Web site called mysecret.tv, there is the writer who was molested years ago by her baby sitter and who still cannot forgive herself for failing to protect her younger siblings from the same abuse. There is the happy father, businessman and churchgoer who is having a sexual relationship with another man in his church. There is the young woman who shot an abusive boyfriend when she was high on methamphetamine. About a month ago, LifeChurch, an evangelical network with nine locations and based in Edmond, Okla., set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet. The LifeChurch founder, the Rev. Craig Groeschel, said that after 16 years in the ministry he knew that the smiles and eager handshakes that greeted him each week often masked a lot of pain. But the accounts of anguish and guilt that have poured into mysecret.tv have stunned him, Mr. Groeschel said, and affirmed his belief in the need for confession. “We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” Mr. Groeschel said. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.” mysecret.tv represents the first time the church has had an interactive Web site tied to its sermons, in this case a series that Mr. Groeschel began last month on the need for confession. The Internet already offers many places to confess, from the dry menu of sins at www.absolution-online.com to the raunchy exhibitionism at sites like www.confessionjunkie.com and www.grouphug.us. It is impossible to know whether these stories, like much on the Internet, are sincere or pure fiction. One of the best-known sites is postsecret.blogspot.com, an extension of an art project in which people write their secrets on postcards and mail them to an address in Germantown, Md. Mysecret.tv may be singular because it gives people at LifeChurch an easy opportunity to act on the sermons, said Scott L. Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/01/us/01confession.html?ex=1314763200&en=43e8edc62ec43d46&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
MYSPACE MOVES INTO DIGITAL MUSIC BUSINESS (Reuters, 2 Sept 2006) -- MySpace, the wildly popular online teen hangout, said on Friday it will make its first move into the digital music business by selling songs from nearly 3 million unsigned bands. MySpace is the latest company to try to take on Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store, but unlike many other start-up rivals, it already boasts 106 million users, as well as the backing of parent company News Corp. “The goal is to be one of the biggest digital music stores out there,” MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe told Reuters. “Everyone we’ve spoken to definitely wants an alternative to iTunes and the iPod. MySpace could be that alternative.” In the past year, MySpace.com has become the single most visited Internet address among U.S. Web users, according to Hitwise, with mainly teenagers and young adults using the site to socialize, share music and photographs. Before the end of 2006, De Wolfe said MySpace will offer independent bands that have not signed with a record label a chance to sell their music on the site. MySpace says it has nearly 3 million bands showcasing their music. Songs can be sold on the bands’ MySpace pages and on fan pages, in non-copyright-protected MP3 digital file format, which works on most digital players including Apple’s market-dominating iPod. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060902/wr_nm/myspace_dc_1
HELP DESK HELL (New York Times, 2 Sept 2006) -- Half of corporate information technology managers in Britain have so much contempt for their users that they deliberately sabotage them, according to SkillSoft, an online training firm. Those systems managers admitted to being “unhelpful and/or obstructive” to their users, according to a study commissioned by SkillSoft (pcauthority.com). Not surprisingly, the same share — 50 percent — of I.T. managers are actively looking for other jobs. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/02/business/02online.html?ex=1314849600&en=1da73ee0c06c1f35&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
NEW WEB SITES SEEKING PROFIT IN WIKI MODEL (New York Times, 4 Sept 2006) -- Every day, millions of people find answers on Wikipedia to questions both trivial and serious. Jack Herrick found his business model there. In 2004, Mr. Herrick acquired the how-to guide eHow.com, which featured articles written by paid freelance writers. Although the business made a profit, he realized that the revenue brought in by selling advertising would not support the extensive site he had in mind. “If the page were about how to get a mortgage, it would work,” he said. “But the idea was to be the how-to guide to everything.” So in January 2005 he started wikiHow, a how-to guide built on the same open-source software as Wikipedia, which lets anyone write and edit entries in a collaborative system. To his surprise he found that many of the entries generated by Internet users — free — were more informative than those written by freelancers. “Wikipedia proved you could get there with another method,” Mr. Herrick said. Several months ago he sold eHow to focus on the new site, which now has 10,000 entries in English, Spanish and German. Mr. Herrick is hardly the only entrepreneur inspired by the efficiency and low cost of what has become known as the wiki model. Although Wikipedia is operated by a nonprofit foundation, ideas for advertising-based wiki sites are beginning to take their place alongside blogs and social networking sites as a staple of Silicon Valley business plans. In addition to Wikia, a site devoted to topics judged too esoteric for the online encyclopedia, there is ShopWiki, for product reviews, and Wikitravel, for tourism advice. Several start-ups allow users to operate their own wiki sites. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/04/technology/04wiki.html?ex=1315022400&en=e8bcc22f01ba8c4c&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss [Editor: This month’s Atlantic Magazine has a terrific article about the evolution and operation of wikipedia.org – article at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200609/wikipedia.]
GOOGLE TO OFFER PRINT-ARCHIVES SEARCHES (New York Times, 6 Sept 2006) -- Google plans to announce on Wednesday that it is offering a service that will permit Internet users to search through the archives of newspapers, magazines and other publications and uncover material that in some cases dates back more than 200 years. The new feature, to be named Google News Archive Search, will direct Google searchers to both paid and free digital content on publishers’ Web sites, but will not directly generate revenue for Google. Google would not state how many publishers were taking part in the new service, for which Google has independently indexed material from online databases and will display the results both as part of standard searches and through a new archive search page (news.google.com/archivesearch). However, it announced a number of partners including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, Guardian Unlimited, Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, HighBeam Research and Thomson Gale. In contrast to Google’s book scanning project, which has led to legal skirmishes with some publishers over copyright issues, some of the partners involved with the new service said they had been pressing Google to offer access to their archives for several years. The databases included in the service are part of what some have called the “dark Web” because they cannot be “spidered,” or indexed, by standard search engines and so have not been accessible through them. “We have been asking Google and other search engines to please spider our content for some time,” said Patrick Spain, chief executive of HighBeam Research, a digital content library based in Chicago. Some of HighBeam’s 3,300 publications and 40 million documents will be available free, while in other cases users will see just the headline and the first 600 characters of a document. To see the whole thing, users must be subscribers to the firm’s service, which costs either $20 a month or a $100 annual fee. “This symbolizes a major moment,” said Allen Weiner, a research director at Gartner, a market research firm. Google has reached an accommodation with the content companies that will benefit both sides, he said. In a number of cases the entire archive of publications like Time and The Washington Post will be reachable via a Google search. Time’s entire database is already freely available and supported by advertising. The magazine made its archive, consisting of 4,300 issues and 300,000 articles dating back to 1923, available free through www.time.com last month. With some publications, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, searchers will be sent to Web sites where they will be able to buy individual articles. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/06/business/media/06google.html?ex=1315195200&en=1acad04a9a69837e&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss
HP SPIED ON OWN DIRECTORS (Wired, 6 Sept 2006) -- Hewlett-Packard admitted in a securities filing Wednesday that it used a technique known as “pretexting” to obtain private phone records of its own company directors, but added that an internal review concluded the tactic “was not generally unlawful” at the time of the investigation. The company sought the records to determine who had leaked information to the press. The filing revealed George Keyworth as the source of the media leak and announced that Keyworth will not be re-nominated to the board. In addition, HP said that it has been contacted “informally” by the California attorney general in regard to the matter. The filing disclosed the details of the resignation in May of board member Tom Perkins, one of the founders of Silicon Valley venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caufield, who left the company over a dispute about how it handled the leak investigation. As previously reported by Wired News, Perkins resigned after learning that HP consultants posed as Perkins and other board members to obtain their confidential telecommunications records from phone companies – a practice known as pretexting. The investigation was intended to uncover the source of a CNET News.com article published in January describing a confidential planning session among board members that took place over several days at a California resort spa. Pretexting is common among private investigators, but it has only recently sparked a backlash and a string of lawsuits. Privacy advocates testified before Congress in February about the problem, and AT&T last month filed suit against 25 data brokers alleging they had engaged in pretexting their customers to gain access to account information. Although HP said it believes it did not break the law, the filing did not conclusively confirm its third party investigators followed the law in all aspects of their work. According to the filing, after Perkins complained about the manner of its investigation, the company consulted with an outside counsel who told officials “the use of pretexting at the time of the investigation was not generally unlawful (except with respect to financial institutions), but such counsel could not confirm that the techniques employed by the outside consulting firm and the party retained by that firm complied in all respects with applicable law.” http://www.wired.com/news/technology/security/0,71730-0.html?tw=rss.index
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HEWLETT-PACKARD SPIED ON WRITERS IN LEAKS (New York Times, 8 Sept 2006) -- The California attorney general’s investigation into the purloining of private phone records by agents of Hewlett-Packard has revealed that the monitoring effort began earlier than previously indicated and included journalists as targets. The targets included nine journalists who have covered Hewlett-Packard, including one from The New York Times, the company said. The company said this week that its board had hired private investigators to identify directors leaking information to the press and that those investigators had posed as board members — a technique known as pretexting — to gain access to their personal phone records. In an interview Thursday about the state’s criminal investigation of the Hewlett-Packard matter, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said, “A crime was committed.” But he added: “It is unclear how strong the case is. Who is charged and for what is still an open question.” Mr. Lockyer said search warrants would be issued to obtain the records of Internet service providers in an attempt to trace the identities of the imposters. He said Hewlett-Packard was cooperating with the investigation into what he said was the first California case of a major corporation using such methods to obtain phone records. An investigator with direct knowledge of the state’s inquiry characterized the list of targets as “extensive,” though that person would not elaborate. It could contain people other than journalists or directors. Travis Dodd, general attorney with AT&T Services in San Antonio, who is working with the California prosecutors, said the records of John Markoff, a reporter for The Times in San Francisco, were a “target of the pretexting” in 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/technology/08hp.html?ex=1315368000&en=9a0c6a279635c06b&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss [Editor: Whether crime or no, lawyers involved might also examine Formal Opinion 06-439 of the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which interprets Model Rule 4.1-Truthfulness in Statements to Others. There’s a fine line here, and lawyers ought err on the side of truthfulness. Actually, shouldn’t everybody? Formal Opinion at http://tinyurl.com/jfnke]
FACEBOOK FEATURE DRAWS PRIVACY CONCERNS (SiliconValley.com, 7 Sept 2006) -- The operators of the online hangout Facebook wanted to help users save time by highlighting changes their friends make to their personal profile pages. Instead, the new feature has drawn complaints from thousands of its users and even threats of a boycott. The backlash is over Facebook’s decision this week to deliver automated, customized alerts known as News Feeds about a user’s closest friends, classmates and colleagues. Users who log on might instantly find out that someone they know has joined a new social group, posted more photos or begun dating their best friend. A protest group created on the site, Students against Facebook News Feeds, had more than 600,000 members by Thursday, and more than 80,000 people had electronically endorsed a petition against the feature. A Web journal has even been set up calling for users to boycott the site on Tuesday, a week after the feature’s debut. Facebook has long prided itself on privacy. A user’s profile details, including contact information, relationship status and hobbies, are generally hidden from others unless they are already part of that user’s network of friends or institution, such as a college. In addition, users have the option of hiding specific details from certain users, even ones already designated as friends - choosing, for instance, to show photos to college buddies but not to co-workers. All of the information [newly] presented had been available before, but a person had to visit a friend’s profile page and make note of any changes - for example, noticing that the friend now has 103 friends instead of 102, and identifying which one got added. [Facebook CEO] Zuckerberg said people “can literally spend 10 to 20 minutes going through all the information in individual profiles.” The new feature, he said, was meant to “surface the most interesting changes” made by a user’s closest friends. http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/news/editorial/15462497.htm
1. The Filter, a publication of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu.
2. Edupage, http://www.educause.edu/pub/edupage/edupage.html.
3. SANS Newsbites, firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. NewsScan and Innovation, http://www.newsscan.com.
5. Internet Law & Policy Forum, http://www.ilpf.org.
6. BNA’s Internet Law News, http://ecommercecenter.bna.com.
7. Crypto-Gram, http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram.html.
8. McGuire Wood’s Technology & Business Articles of Note, http://www.ggtech.com
9. Steptoe & Johnson’s E-Commerce Law Week, www.steptoe.com
10. Readers’ submissions, and the editor’s discoveries.
PRIVACY NOTICE: E-mail addresses of individuals who subscribe to this periodic e-newsletter by sending email to Vince Polley with “MIRLN” in the subject line are kept by Vince Polley; this listing will not be provided to any other persons.