Of Interest


    The August 2017 edition of Retrospect is now available.
    This edition brings news about the recognition of the fundamental right to privacy in India, efforts in Europe to counter terrorism online, the approval of regulations determining the adoption of real name policies in China, Facebook's new measures against misinformation, and more.
  • "Tool Without a Handle: Metaphors of Gender"

    It’s difficult to recall an internal memo gone viral that has sparked as much commentary as James Damore’s statement on gender and engineering at Google.  This post is not about that memo, although the volume of commentary on it did prompt the thoughts that follow.  Nor is this post about workplace diversity, at least not directly.  Instead, like many other “Tool Without a Handle” posts, it is about metaphor.

    In particular, I wanted to test whether, in preferring the metaphor of “a tool you use” as distinct from “a place you go,” I’d unduly limited my thinking to an “androcentric” view of networked information technologies.  In other words, is “tool” a masculine metaphor, implying a gendered orientation towards my preferred approach to thinking about technology?  

    I conclude the answer is “no,” in part because metaphor differs from gender, and in part because metaphor is a feature of language, while gender is a feature of persons. Moreover, I identify a general objection to dichotomizing and to gender metaphors.

  • Fair use in the digital house of mirrors . . .

    In today's highly digitized world, copyright infringement actions, among others, are often brought against alleged infringers using information culled from Internet service provider addresses. While fair use defenses may exist against such suits, particularly when one is doing a music mash up, a preliminary question is whether the initial source evidence is accurate.

  • If an AI creates a work of art, who owns the rights to it?

    Date published: 
    August 15, 2017

    "As it stands, AIs in the US cannot be awarded copyright for something they have created. The current policy of the US Copyright Office is to reject claims made for works not authored by humans, but the policy is poorly codified. According to Annemarie Bridy, a professor of law at the University of Idaho and an affiliate scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, there’s no actual requirement for human authorship in the US Copyright Act. Nevertheless, the “courts have always assumed that authorship is a human phenomenon,” she says."

  • The Daily Stormer, Online Speech, and Internet Registrars

    Most people I talk to think that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies should take down ugly-but-legal user speech. Platforms are generally applauded for taking down racist posts from the White Nationalist demonstrators in Charlottesville, for example. I see plenty of disagreement about exactly what user-generated content should come down -- breastfeeding images? Passages from Lolita? Passages from Mein Kampf? But few really oppose the basic predicate of these removals: that private companies can and should be arbiters of permissible speech on their platforms.*

  • Why is the Internet Like a Cell Phone? Carpenter v. U.S

    If your cell phone is on, your location is known, tracked and recorded, whether you are in your home or in public. As you move around, your location history is created and stored by the carrier, numerous applications on the device, and potentially even the manufacturer of the device or operating system provider. Your consent to capture this information, whether rough location or very granular,  may be tacit, inherent in the application’s usage, or freely given when you activate, install or operate the device.

  • Should web-hosting companies restrict who's on their platforms?

    Date published: 
    August 14, 2017

    ""Legally, they don't have any responsibility around this, unless it's a federal crime [such as child pornography] or intellectual property," Daphne Keller, the director of intermediary liability at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, told CNN Tech."

  • More U.S. companies push back on foreign must-store-data-here rule

    Date published: 
    August 12, 2017

    "“Part of what made the Internet always great and the reason why it’s blossomed is because it was always decentralized and not subject to heavy-handed regulations,” says Omer Tene, vice president of research and education at International Association of Privacy Professionals. "The concern is that the Internet will be splintered into islands.”"

  • What Does the New CDA-Buster Legislation Actually Say?

    Alarm bells are sounding around the Internet about proposed changes to one of the US’s core Intermediary Liability laws, Communications Decency Act Section 230 (CDA 230). CDA 230 broadly immunizes Internet platforms against legal claims based on speech posted by their users. It has been credited as a key protection for both online expression and Internet innovation in the US. CDA 230 immunities have limits, though. Platforms are not protected from intellectual property claims (mostly handled under the DMCA) or federal criminal claims.

  • The Crypto-Circus comes to town -- again

    As part of it's 50th anniversary celebrations, the Australian university where I did graduate work recently interviewed me on a range of cybersecurity topics. At the time of our chat, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull had just proclaimed that "the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that.


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