"The letters from third-party groups raised eyebrows at government agencies and on the Hill, where people began wondering why groups with no obvious ties to broadband were writing in. News reports emerged showing that many of the groups had financial ties to AT&T. Then there were the ads that staff members at the FCC said they couldn't avoid when they opened a newspaper, fired up their iPads or watched TV — all touting the merger's ability to put thousands of Americans to work. But who had ever heard of a big company merger creating rather than destroying jobs?"The Post noted that instead of all this noise and fury helping to get approval, it actually caused regulators to take a closer look at claims where otherwise they wouldn't have. The sheer volume of nonsense coming from AT&T actually worked to amplify media and political pressure where it might not have existed otherwise. The end result was regulators actually doing their jobs and digging into the promises more deeply, only to find AT&T's arguments lacking:
"AT&T's blitzkrieg of ads, which claimed that the promised expansion of broadband would create 100,000 jobs, wasn't helping either. A deal's impact on jobs is not typically part of an evaluation by antitrust officials, but this time regulators thought AT&T's campaign had forced them to take a closer look. They found holes. For one, the company refused to divulge how many jobs it would eliminate in the merger."Enter Comcast, who is busy trying to get regulators to approve their $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Renata Hesse, who was the lead FCC antitrust official during the AT&T T-Mobile deal, will be overseeing the Comcast review at the DOJ. While Comcast is using many of the very same strategies AT&T employed (like paying minority groups to parrot merger support, and throwing money at everyone and everything) they seem to have learned a few lessons from the AT&T T-Mobile deal, and have dialed back the volume on their nonsense just enough so that it vaguely-resembles subtlety:
"Industry lobbyists familiar with both deals say they observe Comcast approaching this merger in a much quieter, more subtle way than AT&T did. Many of Comcas's lobbyists are staying silent about the deal altogether, and not just around reporters. Even at social gatherings and business functions where it might seem obvious to mention the deal to lawmakers or administration officials as a way of smoothing the way forward, Comcast's lobbyists have, in many instances, made nary a peep about it, according to sources. "The way Comcast is approaching this is very interesting,” said a veteran telecom lobbyist. "Everybody's writing the easy story about how many lobbyists Comcast has, but the way they're lobbying this, they're being very inside baseball, very surgical."That's not to say Comcast isn't paying a ton of other people to make stupid, loud arguments for them, but they're pretty clearly trying to tone down the rhetoric the public sees as having come from Comcast itself. Comcast's steering clear of unsubstantiated job claims, and seems intent on keeping any promises they do make vague (like arguing the deal is simply "pro consumer"). Will a tiny bit of subtlety let Comcast fly under the regulatory M&A skepticism meter? Maybe. Comcast has proven pretty good at getting regulators to push for meaningless merger conditions (though AT&T was pretty good at that too). I'm going to bet you see deal approval; not because the deal is necessarily good, but primarily because AT&T taught Comcast an important lesson on the limits of bullshit.
"Here's the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it's mostly work related). He has his designated “snitches” and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the “designees” in a really awkward position; plus, we're all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented."The tension created by having an overly nosy boss has resulted, the employee claims, in workplace efficiency problems and a growing lack of trust in the establishment:
"We used to be able to joke around a little or talk about our favorite “Idol” contestant to break the tension, but now we're getting more and more skittish about even the most mundane general conversations (“Did you have a good weekend?”). This was once a very open, cooperative group who worked well together. Now we're more suspicious of each other and teamwork is becoming harder. Do you think this was the goal?Zelda is quite-amusingly shocked by the boss's behavior inside of an agency of spies:
"Wow, that takes “intelligence collection” in a whole new – and inappropriate – direction. …. We work in an Agency of secrets, but this kind of secrecy begets more secrecy and it becomes a downward spiral that destroys teamwork. What if you put an end to all the secrecy by bringing it out in the open?"So spying over-broadly on people you don't think should be spied upon destroys teamwork, fosters distrust and erodes overall efficiency, huh? Gosh, what if you took that concept and applied it to an entire planet? As Maass notes, at no point while giving advice on spying inside the NSA does Zelda seem to have awareness of the possible lessons that could be applied to spying going on outside the NSA (at least that we get to see):
"Her response to “Silenced in SID” does not acknowledge the irony – or hypocrisy – of an employee at a spy agency complaining about being spied on. But Zelda directly addresses the long-lasting effects of inappropriate surveillance. “Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken,” she observes. “Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice is discontinued."So remember, dear readers: inappropriate surveillance erodes trust, destroys teamwork, damages the overall community, and creates a general downward spiral that's bad for everybody involved. Unless we're doing it to the general public, in which case -- who cares? Now get back to work!
It is odd but true that the significance of commercial fair use is often lost in the copyright conversation. A recent House Judiciary hearing on fair use underrepresented the significance of fair use to business, and just this week I sat through a policy event where a speaker confidently declared U.S. trade policy need not address fair use because fair use deals only with “non-commercial” use — blissfully unaware, it would seem, that a unanimous Court thought otherwise. The most recent numbers available suggest that about 17% of U.S. GDP was produced by industries benefiting from fair use and other exceptions to copyright, and that the same industries (increasingly, high-value services) now lead export growth. As a result, other jurisdictions have realized that U.S. copyright law’s hospitality to basic, essential Internet functions like search is a national competitive advantage.And this is an issue that is only going to become more important. As more and more things move online, there are ever greater questions about fair use in the context of internet services. The fact that this ruling helped cement the importance of transformative use, and made it clear that commercial use can be fair use, is a key part of why the internet can function today without all sorts of cloud and internet services being sued out of existence.
New Social Networking Site (And Likely Hoax) Will Only Let You Enter If You're Drunk (Too Much Free Time)
"What Happens on LIVR Stays on LIVR It's 4 AM. You've posted uncensored selfies. Flirted with Drunk Dial. Racked up Truth or Dare points. But you don't want your boss to see. Just hit the Blackout Button and all record of your night is permanently cleared. Relax. Be yourself. Your secret's safe with LIVR."Right. Except the Internet generally doesn't work that way, and there's really no such thing as privacy online. The potential for abuse seems somewhat high for law enforcement, the NSA, stalkers, and in generally encouraging people to get the highest score when it comes to their BAC. Not that people don't generally do this stuff without the help of an app, but you have to imagine LIVR, if it's even actually real, is going to need some decent lawyers on retainer for the flood of lawsuits headed their way.
"LIVR isn't just another tired social network. It's an online party at all times… guaranteed. No baby photos. No puppies. Mom isn't here. Just a global network of similarly buzzed people looking to have a good time."Yes an endless virtual "party" where half of the people are incoherently arguing over who is the most drunk, and the other half are busy pretending they're drunk by using mouthwash to trick the BAC meter. Who would possibly get tired of that? I still think it's likely a hoax ("Avery Platz," for example, has a strangely-nonexistent digital footprint outside of the LIVR announcement for a Brooklyn developer that likes to drink and talk), but it's still a pretty damn good one.
This "discussion" about the whole "security vs. privacy" thing the administration claims it has "welcomed" since the Snowden leaks began? Yeah. Still not happening. As Cal Borchers at BetaBoston reports, government reps at an MIT event focused on "big data and privacy" couldn't have appeared less interested in discussing any of the implications of widespread domestic surveillance.
The kicker came during an afternoon panel discussion, when John DeLong, the National Security Agency's director of compliance, should have been awarded an honorary degree in tongue biting. DeLong sat right next to Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, yet refused to engage when she made pointed comments, like this one: "Everything's being done in secret. But for Edward Snowden, we wouldn't even be having this conversation."This is nothing new for DeLong. Back in August of last year, he gave the Washington Post permission to quote him "by name and title" after holding a 90-minute interview with the paper, after the White House routed all press queries to him directly. When the paper refused to edit quotes after the government's "internal review" of the interview draft, the administration and the NSA then informed the Washington Post that nothing DeLong said could be used. All of his input was replaced with a bland, prepared statement.
DeLong would look down and away (perhaps there was an interesting piece of metatada on the floor of Wong Auditorium), waiting silently for another panelist to move the discussion away from his agency.
Before DeLong's group took the floor, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker made a brief speech in which she barely touched on the subject of privacy, then exited quickly without fielding questions.As Borchers points out, there was plenty of discussion about private companies and privacy, but when it came to the biggest "company" of all, the US government, no one had much to say. White House counselor John Podesta somehow even managed to "phone in" his phoned-in statement (Borchers describes Podesta's contribution as "bland remarks") to open the event.
Someone seated near me, in one of those fake whispers that's really meant to be heard by a lot of people, summed things up nicely: "No questions? Why have a real discussion, right?"
Snickers rippled a few rows in every direction.