Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Your Rights: Gone with a Click

What do you give up every time you "agree" to a website's terms of service?

These online agreements are as ubiquitous as the sites that use them. In exchange for using Google to search the Web or Facebook to connect and share information with friends, we surrender much more than we think.

In his new documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply, Cullen Hoback pores over the terms of service offered by these and other online companies. Buried in the fine print that few read he finds evidence that we're living in a new age of total surveillance, one that most of us unwittingly opted into with a click.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mining China's Snapshot Memories

Story originally posted at Tumblr.

Where do old negatives go to die?

Frenchman Thomas Sauvin knows well the life-span of color film. For years he has scoured China for cast off snapshots from the local population.

But it wasn't until he saw an ad placed in a local newspaper that he found out.

Mr. Xiao Ma is a silver-nitrate recycler based in the suburbs of Beijing. Mr. Xiao places local ads offering to buy used film from Chinese citizens. The film is destined for a vat of acid, where negatives are disintegrated and separated into their base elements, one of which -- silver nitrate -- has resale value.

Sauvin buys them in bulk from Xiao instead, rescuing hundreds of thousands of Kodak "memories" from oblivion. He then painstakingly "mines" the negatives for images to be included in a series called Beijing Silvermine.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Obama's NSA Reforms Off to a Bad Start

President Barack Obama's decision late Friday to suggest reforms to the government's surveillance programs caught many data protection and free speech advocates by surprise.

Is he serious about plans to check the government's massive spying operation and uphold the rights of everyday Americans?

EFF's Rainey Reitman responded with caution: "We take Obama's promises today with a healthy dose of skepticism ... [T]he devil will be in the details when it comes to whether his proposals will be effective."

On Monday, one devilish detail emerged when the White House instructed James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, to form the "high-level group of outside experts," that President Obama had promised to Americans on Friday.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Are You Ready to Dump Cable?

As CBS and Time Warner Cable remain locked in a three-week battle over retransmission fees, you have to wonder when their millions of viewers will throw in the towel and abandon cable altogether.

This latest dispute is nothing new. Media giants often grapple over retransmission fees, which cable companies pay to broadcasters for the right to include their channels in cable offerings.

News Corp and Time Warner Cable were in a standoff over fees in 2009. In 2011, DirecTV and News Corp engaged in a similar dispute.

Retransmission fees have increased more than 13-fold over the past seven years, from $215 million in 2006 to an estimated $3 billion by the end of 2013, according to SNL Kagan. The money has given a boost to the broadcast and production companies on the dial, but cable companies don't want to foot the bill. They solve this problem by passing these fees on to their subscribers.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Obama's Four Reforms to U.S. Government Surveillance Programs

Transcribed from video of President Obama's Aug. 9 press conference:
  1. "I will work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to section 215 of the Patriot Act."
  2. "I will work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court … To build greater confidence I think we should consider additional changes to the FISC. One of the concerns that people raised is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story… assuring that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary."
  3. "We can and must be transparent. I have directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these program as is possible…. At my direction the Department for Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full time civil liberties and privacy officer, and release information that details its mission, authority and oversight."
  4. "We’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era … I am tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities particularly our surveillance technologies."