The elephant in this week's news has been Edward Snowden. While he's been quiet since ditching Hong Kong early in the week, the effects of his leaking of evidence of the NSA's spying on American citizens continue to reverberate.
Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee (insert joke here), has twisted himself into logical knots in his attempts to condemn Snowden. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NSA's former General Counsel went further and laid into the Washington Post's Bart Gellman for reporting on the NSA. Disappointingly, other journalists are lining up to smear The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald over trivialities. It makes you wonder if the FBI's undercover payroll is limited to WikiLeaks.
Despite the flagrant attempt at distraction, details continue to emerge. We finally have confirmation that the NSA has been bulk collecting email metadata. The NSA's general response has been to lie about the message and double down on messengers.
Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional, sifting massive data collections is unlikely to catch actual terrorists. Even a former East German Stasi officer recognizes the problems with the NSA's nearly limitless scope.
Fortunately, it hasn't been all bad news this week. The US Senate, at least, may have been belatedly woken to its oversight duties. In something of a surprise, the FCC has insisted that Telcos protect meta-data, which could alter the 'expectation of privacy' that we are afforded to something closer to that which we expect. Is it too much to hope that the Department of Justice will follow its own guidelines not to treat leaks as theft of government property?
Elsewhere, the Marrakech treaty managed to provide for the blind despite heavy lobbying, which seems to debunk the USTR's insistance that secrecy is necessary for treaty negotiations. The Kafkaesque No Fly List seems to have met with a skeptical judge, while across the pond the EU CoJ AG weighed in against the Orwellian "right to be forgotten." Finally, those attempts to smear Glenn Greenwald mentioned above ran into instant Internet mockery. No doubt it's his fault.
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This week's favorites are from ChurchHatesTucker, who has been contributing to the community here for many, many years, providing all sorts of useful stories and insights.
If you read Techdirt for any length of time, you start to expect certain stories: ICE is off the hook, the BSA is against Open Standards, Hollywood and the US Senate just can't quit each other, Moby thinks the record labels should just die. You know the drill. So, it's always a relief to come across the unexpected ones, good or bad.
The "Jasmine Revolution" in China didn't amount to much, but that didn't stop a surprisingly large number of sites around the world from simply recycling pictures of other events. Did they think nobody would notice?
The works of the US government are (normally) in the public domain, as they're paid for by the American public. This includes the widely regarded reports of the Congressional Resource Service. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that they're actually available. So, we're at a point where we have to petition the government to release public domain information to the public.
On the state level, Connecticut is considering a bill that would guarantee the public's right to record the police. More importantly, it would provide civil sanctions if that right is violated. Meanwhile, Florida is considering a measure to criminalize unauthorized photography of farms in order to protect the "intellectual property" of farm operations. Any interference with animal rights groups is purely coincidental.
I suppose 'wacky lawsuits' as a whole are part and parcel of Techdirt's coverage, but the individual stories never cease to amaze. Groupon, whose very name is a portmanteau of "Group Coupon," finds itself in court over charges that its offerings should be considered gift cards. Meanwhile, Facebook is being sued for one man's failure to be elected to Congress.
A continuing theme in the digital age is that companies seek to use all the advantages of digital media, while trying to impose all the disadvantages of physical media on their customers. Along those lines, HarperCollins has apparently decided that the problem with ebooks is that they last too long. To remedy that situation they've imposed a DRM-enforced license on libraries to ensure that a book can only be lent out 26 times.
In yet another example of copyright as a means of control, rather than incentive, Ubisoft has blocked an advertisement for its European "We Dare" Wii game. I'm left wondering why they don't block it in Europe.
And finally, Libyans organized protests around the country under the nose of the secret police by leaving cleverly coded messages on an online dating site. I LLLLove it.
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