Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TPP Likely To Force Canada To Repeal Local Data Protection Laws

from Techdirt has written a couple of times about European sensitivities regarding data protection, in particular when it comes to privacy rules requiring local storage of personal data. It turns out that Europe is not alone in its concern that agreements like TAFTA/TTIP and TISA could jeopardize this approach. An article in The Tyee points out that two of Canada's provinces -- British Columbia and Nova Scotia -- have requirements that sensitive personal data must be stored locally, and that they are likely to fall victim to TPP because the US insists the laws are "non-tariff barriers":
U.S. negotiators are pushing hard to eliminate national laws in TPP countries that require sensitive personal data to be stored on secure local servers, or within national borders. This goal collides with the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Act and similar regulations in Nova Scotia, which are listed as "foreign trade barriers" in a 2015 United States Trade Representative (USTR) report.

According to that report, the B.C. privacy laws "prevent public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using U.S. services when personal information could be accessed from or stored in the United States."
Irrespective of your views on whether such local storage requirements are reasonable or not, what's significant here is that TPP, ostensibly a trade agreement, may force Canada to repeal local privacy laws. That fact underlines why the secret nature of the negotiations is profoundly anti-democratic: matters are being decided behind closed doors that should rightly be debated openly. 

Data flows are just one example: TPP and other "trade" agreements like TAFTA/TTIP and TISA will have profound implications for many aspects of everyday life in signatory countries. And yet the public in those nations will be able to provide almost no input into the negotiating process, largely on the grounds that the discussions are "just" technical adjustments to trade rules. Indeed, most people aren't even aware of what is being done in their name: a recent poll suggests that three in four Canadians have never heard of TPP, so the chances that a massive wave of public outrage might yet save those local data privacy laws are pretty close to nil.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Activist group tells Google to offer ‘#RightToBeForgotten’ in USA

from It was ruled as part of the ‘right to be forgotten‘ case in Europe last year that individuals could request to have links removed from Google search results, and now another group is calling for that right to be expanded to the United States. An activist group on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that Google needs to expand the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling to the United States, arguing that users should have the right to have inaccurate links removed from search results (via The Hill).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Google's AI Bot Thinks The Purpose Of Life Is 'To Live Forever'

from This week, Google released a research paper chronicling one of its latest forays into artificial intelligence.

Researchers at the company programmed an advanced type of “chatbot” that learns how to respond in conversations based on examples from a training set of dialogue.

And the bot doesn’t just answer by spitting out canned answers in response to certain words; it can form new answers from new questions.

This means Google’s researchers could get a little creative with it, and they certainly did — they asked the bot everything from boring IT questions to the meaning of life.

The responses were alternately impressive, amusing, and unnerving.

Here are some of the most poetic interactions from the paper (sic):

Human: What is the purpose of life?
Machine: To serve the greater good.
Human: What is the purpose of living?
Machine: To live forever.
Human: Where are you now?
Machine: I’m in the middle of nowhere.
Human: What is the purpose of dying?
Machine: To have a life.
Human: What is the purpose of emotions?
Machine: I don’t know.
Human: What is moral?
Machine: What empowered humanity, what intellectual the essence is.
Human: What is immoral?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

#X37B Still Largely Unexplained

X-37B Still Largely Unexplained: "The fourth mission of the X-37B robot spaceplane is well underway. We know much of what is happening with the flight. There's a test of a Hall Effect thruster for the US Air Force and a set of materials samples provided by NASA. Beyond this, little else is known. On previous X-37B missions, there has been plenty of disclosure about the spacecraft itself, but little talk about the payloads concealed under its clamshell doors. This time, it's the reverse. We know a lot about the payloads carried on board, but not much about the X-37B itself!"

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

'Intruder Spray': Subway Restaurant Armed With Traceable Synthetic DNA Mist

from A Subway restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee is now equipped with a product known as SelectaDNA, which aims to tag anyone who breaks in with an identifying spray containing a DNA code viewable only under ultraviolet light.

The "intruder spray," as it is nicknamed, contains “a unique DNA code which can be used to uniquely mark and trace both items of property and criminals," according to its manufacturer, SelectaDNA.

The spray's US distributor, Johan Larsen, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that the product is already in use in Australia and Europe.

The newspaper's report said the spray is "traceable for weeks," and can only be viewed “with a glow under ultraviolet light.”
If not identified by ultraviolet light, a suspect's clothing, for example, could be tested to see if the spray's owner-specific synthetic DNA is a match.

Monday, May 11, 2015

#GoodNewsNextWeek: $9 Microcomputer Kickstarting a Revolution?

from What can you do with a $9 computer? Just about anything. A new microcomputer called Chip is hot on crowd-funding site Kickstarter. It promises an easy way to learn how to program with a tiny board that packs Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and internal storage -- something you don't find in another popular microcomputer, Raspberry Pi.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Metallica Sued Napster 15 Years Ago Today

...and the fight between Tech and Media has continued ever since.

from April 13th, 2000. The day the music industry and the internet became best frenemies forever.

That's the day Metallica v. Napster, Inc. was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California — a case that would come to national prominence, pave the way for Steve Jobs and Apple to create the iTunes and iPod juggernaut, and ultimately lock the tech and media industries in a battle that rages on to this day. When Taylor Swift complains about Spotify, the arguments are an echo of Metallica v. Napster. When Jay Z, BeyoncĂ©, Kanye, Rihanna, and all of their friends go on about Tidal, that's an echo of Metallica v. Napster.

The internet upended the media industry, and it's still trying to recover. Metallica v. Napster was just the first attempt.

A very short history: in 1999, a kid named Shawn Fanning created a very simple peer-to-peer music sharing application called Napster. It was essentially just a glorified file browser; the barebones interface showed you MP3 files on various computers connected to the service and allowed you to download them. By default, your files were shared in return.

This, of course, was illegal. You can't distribute copyrighted recordings, even if teenagers and music nerds have been making tapes and mixes forever. The difference was in scale; while handing out a few mixtapes to friends resulted mostly in the industry stamping "HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC" on the backs of cassettes, Napster posed a very real existential threat: if everyone was getting and sharing music for free, no one would ever buy it.

And for a band like Metallica, there were even worse repercussions: a leaked recording of the track "I Disappear" from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack made its way onto Napster, and then onto the radio before its official release. This so incensed the band that it filed suit against the fledgling company, and drummer Lars Ulrich became an outspoken defender of artists facing the disruption of free internet distribution.