While technically true, I find it very upsetting that the government can offer legal immunity to a private entity if it "voluntarily" acts to enforce a law, and then claim that such enforcement is not subject to Constitutional oversight. I'm not sure the matter has actually been decided in court - if you know of such a case, please post it for us. I would hope that the courts would show the same skepticism.
Re: Re: Not every lawsuit against the TSA is valid
The defense would like to offer three counterarguments, any one of which should exculpate him:
1) Typos are common in online fora. Typos are particularly common on TechDirt, which does not allow editing of material once submitted. This should not be considered any more meaningful.
2) Notwithstanding the validity of (1), names are not a foolproof indicator of gender. Many common names are unisex, and many names commonly associated with a given gender are nonetheless held by people of the opposite gender. "Joan" could easily be male.
3) Notwithstanding the validity of (1) or (2), the defendant may not have bothered to read the judges name, and instead focus on his (or her) legal order.
So basically, despite a law saying they have to pony up certain information when requested to do so, they actually don't...
I'm guessing you haven't actually read the FOIA? It says they have to give you the information, unless it falls under one of the listed exceptions.
For example, classified documents are an exception. This is why I can't request all documents relating to the US nuclear arsenal. I think you'd agree that those documents really really should be exempt from the FOIA?
The TSA invoked one of the exceptions. That's what the whole "SSI" thing is about. This judge can't rule on their SSI claim - it's outside her jurisdiction - and correctly tossed this case.
Look, I dislike the TSA as much as the next guy who isn't feeding from their trough. But that doesn't mean that every lawsuit against them is valid and deserves to succeed. Here's some interesting points you may have missed:
1) This lawsuit was filed 'pro se', meaning the guy is his own lawyer. That's a bad sign, especially considering how many free law services (like the ACLU) exist who would love to take the down TSA.
2) The original civil claims were dismissed in a previous order. What's left is a bunch of whining about how annoying their FOIA response is. Certainly the TSA treats FOIA requests with the same respect it gives a disabled traveler (i.e. none), but they have to really screw up to be liable in court. Given that Corbett did get the documents and footage, eventually, there's not much left to do.
3) The TSA was not sued for claiming video footage didn't exist. The county aviation department was, and they did so on orders from the TSA. This is an important detail. The county was following orders, and is clearly not liable. The TSA might be, except they reversed position and allowed the release a few weeks later.
Ultimately, this boils down to the TSA's authority to withhold arbitrary information via the magic "SSI" stamp. If they have that authority, then they're allowed to claim something doesn't exist, because the existence of information is itself information (or as the NSA would call it, "metadata"). As the judge correctly points out, he doesn't have jurisdiction over SSI issues. He can't override an SSI label.
The TSA is a sucking money pit that I can only tolerate because I'm lucky enough to be healthy, white, and middle-class. But this lawsuit is garbage, and does not deserve any publicity.
I don't think you understand what a 'widget' is. It's a traditional economic term for an arbitrary item that is produced and sold, follows supply and demand, etc. They are very much physical objects. In fact, the classic "pirate" products are clearly not widgets, because they don't obey classic economic principles.
In other words, take a course in basic economics. You'll be a much better person for it, and less likely to make an argument about someone else's use of a term you don't understand.
P.S. As a simple homework exercise, estimate the cost of the "physical object" of a book. Compare that to the publisher's desired sale price. Explain the relationship, or lack thereof.
Google isn't saying the video did something bad by being popular. Rather, they said that it was getting lots of traffic from robots, in addition to (or instead of) the actual human traffic.
From Google's point of view, robots watching videos is fraud of the worst kind. They make money off ads, and some of that is "impressions" (views). If robots are viewing things, then they're charging advertisers for human eyeballs that were never really there. In addition to the obvious problems (Google is now overcharging the advertisers), this messes up their ranking/auction system, which can actually cost them money as well (by tricking them into showing poor-quality or mistargeted ads).
Part of the reason Google is so tight-lipped about this is that there are people out there trying to trick them with fake views, for a variety of reasons. If Google says, "we've banned you for robot traffic, which we detected because of X, Y, and Z", then they're telling the world "we detect robot traffic by looking for X, Y, and Z". So then the bad guys know not to do that. But if Google just says, "we've banned you", then the bad guys don't get any information. They might not even know that X, Y, and Z exist.
I hope there is enough of an outcry to cause Google to reconsider.
I wouldn't hold your breath.
Look, Google doesn't "owe" you anything. I know you didn't say that, and I'm sort of putting words in your mouth, but that's the impression I get whenever someone says "If only I yell about this loudly enough, surely I'll get my way!".
Google is a business. They are kind of quirky, and they sometimes do things "for the users" instead of "for the money", but at the end of the day they're a business. And they make mostly rational decisions, just like everyone else. So if they cancel a product, it means (1) it's not making a profit, (2) it's not going to make a profit, and (3) these are still true if you count "goodwill" on the balance sheet.
Look, Google didn't kill Reader because they hate you, or they hate RSS, or whatever. They did it because they don't want to spend 3-5 full time employees on a product that has a tiny (if dedicated) userbase and zero revenue.
Now there probably weren't 3-5 people working full-time on Reader, by the end. But you add up all the background services they use, the guys working on BigTable and GFS and so on, the hardware teams, the administration... It adds up.
Google-scale products have staggering complexity; you don't keep them running on a whim.
As usual, lots of nerds are missing the point. Think of the average user - your parents, say. Would this change create more work for them to access their email? Remember, to do this right you need to make sure Google can't read the messages. (If they can, you're just one super-secret-national-security court order away from having your mail read.)
If you want to encrypt your emails, you can do that now. But if you do that, you probably aren't using Gmail in the first place. People use Gmail because it's dead simple and so easy your grandma can do it. And you want to complicated that with local private keys, that the user has to manage herself? I don't think so.
I don't think Google makes enough money from Gmail ads to even keep the servers on. And before you cry "but then why would they provide a mail service at all", let me remind you of the dozen other services they offer that don't even have ads.