Facebook Business Model 2.0: Infringe Now, Ask Questions Later – by “Thad D”

Well This Zucks...

Welcome to the new business model: infringe on your privacy first, ask questions later.  Now before I fully delve into the issue of Facebook’s new user privacy settings, I should note that I have always been a proponent of Facebook’s right to pursue what it feels is a profitable and satisfying business model.   Capitalism at its finest.  I have defended Facebook using what I have termed “The McDonald’s Defense”.  Often, consumers demand that businesses comply with outrageous orders.  For example, consider the following conversation:

McDonald’s Employee: Welcome to McDonald’s, may I take your order?

Customer:  Yes, hi.  I would like to order, uhm, a large double unsaturated soy mocha float, and two uncooked vegan tofu gluten-free eggs.

McDonald’s Employee:  Uh, sir, we don’t sell those-

Customer:  Oh and could those eggs be fried in omega-3 monopolyunsaturated fats from a Komodo dragon?

McDonald’s Employee:  **Confused Look**  May I help the next customer?

Of course, such a scenario seems ridiculous, but I use it to illustrate the fact that McDonald’s (i.e. Facebook) has the right to refuse service based on what it offers.  If you don’t like the way Facebook organizes its privacy controls, or any of its other features, go to Burger King (maybe, MySpace?).

But, what happened to me the other day was not a matter of asking for unreasonable privacy controls, but rather having my privacy infringed upon with a deceptive “opt-out” system.  Facebook now has a new “Instant Personalization” feature that allows partner websites to access personal information stored on Facebook’s servers without you knowing.  That’s right: FACEBOOK GAVE NO NOTICE OF THIS SERVICE, the only “warning” they gave was a small blue box at the top of each person’s home page that said privacy settings had changed.  Only after clicking “Learn More…” and digging to the very last section did I discover the feature.  Then, when I tried to disable it, I was confronted with the following confirmation page:

The More You Share, The More You Care (For Facebook's Wallet?)

Note that, although I have some of the strictest privacy settings on Facebook (no public search and the only things people who aren’t my friends can do are message me or add me as a friend), I was automatically opted into this Instant Personalization module.

So Facebook, where does that leave us?  You’re probably right, the “richness of the social interaction” from these new features is probably worth the hassle of a slight loss of anonymity because they provide so much convenience.  But why make it so hard to opt out?  Why not notify us about these changes?  WHAT INFORMATION ARE YOU GLEANING FROM THESE PROGRAMS THAT MAKE YOU WANT US TO PARTICIPATE SO BADLY?  WHAT IS “THE MAN” PAYING YOU?

Please, Mark Zuckerberg, get back to me on that.  You know how to reach me: just add “Thaddeus Diamond” as a friend, and click “Share”!

Free as in Software: An Exploration of Free Open Source Software – by “Michael W”

Free Open Source Software has played a critical role in the emergence of the digital age. For my final project I decided to examine this phenomenon from a few different angles. First, I built a website using only free open source software. This was, not surprisingly, exceedingly easy. The widespread availability of open source software and the vibrant health of online programming communities have contributed immensely to the explosion of innovation on the web. Next, I captured this precise point (inadvertently, I should add), by stumbling into a situation in which I needed to ping the FOSS community for help, and they ultimately answered beyond my expectations. I used Facebook and its pending FOSS alternative Diaspora to illustrate the subtle differences between “free” versus “free software” versus “freeware.” And finally, I wrapped up with some thoughts about the future of free open source, as it applies to software and perhaps even beyond. You can view the project at FreeAsInSoftware.com.

Free As in Software
FreeAsInSoftware.com

Walking on Eggshells: Borrowing Culture in the Remix Age – by “Ryan B”

“Walking on Eggshells” is a 24-minute documentary about appropriation, creative influence, re-use and intellectual property in the remix age. It is a conversation among various musicians, visual artists, writers and lawyers, all sharing their views on why and how we use and create culture, and how intellectual property law, originally designed to provide people with incentives to create, sometimes hinders creative production far more than it enhances it.

Watch the full film as a Youtube playlist here: WALKING ON EGGSHELLS

OR click HERE to view the film in its entirety on Vimeo!

(Make sure to switch to view in HD once each clip starts!)

DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY:

JACOB ALBERT
RYAN BEAUCHAMP
BRENDAN SCHLAGEL

INTERVIEWS WITH (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):

ECLECTIC METHOD
DJ EARWORM (JORDAN ROSEMAN)
JOY GARNETT
MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
DUDLEY ANDREW
DJ RIPLEY (LARISA MANN)
JONATHAN LETHEM
E. MICHAEL HARRINGTON
EDGAR GARCIA

Creative Commons License
Walking on Eggshells by Jacob Albert, Ryan Beauchamp, Brendan Schlagel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

-Brendan, Jacob, and Ryan

Privacy Matters; will it always? – by “Ben L”

In recent history, we have seen a plethora of companies arise based on the aggregation and selling of personal information. Spokeo, ChoicePoint, Intellius, ZabaSearch, Acxiom are just a few. Spokeo, the most recent one however, provides the most information for free, and the cheapest price if you do decide to pay. The concern is that since all of these sites use essentially the same underlying information, there is no way for the user to prevent dissemination. This has led to a number of cries for congressional restriction. A good start might be to extend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to other kinds of data collection and sale.

In the meantime, what does this mean for society? Are we going to undergo a privacy based cultural revolution? I do not think this will happen anytime soon. Currently, the information available on the websites is horribly inaccurate. Generally, you only know if the person you’ve found is correct based on name and address, and many people are not searchable. Once you have found the correct person, further information is generally not helpful. Spokeo says my father, the only family member who shows up, as having several interests and lifestyle facts, “has children” and “enjoys entertainment.” Now I wonder who doesn’t enjoy entertainment. The rest, while inaccurate, do reveal the potential for extensive information: the only reason I can think of for them to suspect my Dad enjoys home decorating and home improvement is the time we spent remodeling, which was thoroughly not enjoyed by anyone at all. Does that mean that Spokeo has some way of knowing what we are buying? It is not getting Dad’s interesting from linked facebook pages, though I don’t doubt website will soon be mining that, so where is it coming from? Spokeo hasn’t disclosed its sources, so it will be interesting to find out. Spokeo also claims my Dad is not intersted in Politics, when in actuality he votes in and follows every election. He does not run a home business as advertised. There are also personality descriptions like “self-driven,” which, without knowing the sources, and given the general inaccuracy, seem  dubious.

I haven’t found any sites or testimonials claiming these aggregators are particularly useful or accurate. Given that, it seems hard to believe they represent a real disruption. Even if they are somewhat right, what good is that to a stranger, who cannot tell whether a particular fact goes in the wrong category or the right one? It seems to me that if privacy deteriorates for the majority, it will have nothing to do with people invading it, but rather information being freely disclosed, or allowed to be easily accessed. The current generation is growing more accustomed to sharing everything with everyone. This class in general knows more about facebook and internet privacy than a few handfuls of people. Yet how many of us keep facebook? More than that, how many people keep “likeing,” things, and forming public “connections,” which describe ourselves and our tastes? If everyone is going to keep doing this, then one of two things will happen: people will either get used to presenting their “public face,” on the internet, or we will learn not to care so much whether another’s interests (supposed, self disclosed, reported, whatever) disagree with our own. The inaccuracy of current databases will contribute to a distrust and dismissal of information found online. When it does get more accurate, we will be so used to not caring that we won’t start.

There have been a number of criminal investigation based on wrong information, where it is especially dangerous in law enforcement. Governments should not be trusting these sites to do their investigation for them, and rather than pass laws mandating higher accountability the solution is for criminal investigations to be investigatory rather than a matter of buying the information. It is and should be the responsibility of the police to find and apprehend the correct person. If we do pass laws mandating that information databases be more transparent and correct, this will hasten the future in which we are more tolerant. but there is no sign of this happening amongst the current crises.

Lastly, I leave you with an illustrative graphic of the progression in disclosure. How long before other websites share information like facebook does, or are all connected, or these stop being the default settings and become the only one? Will we really give up our social networks?

Final Project: Technology Policies at Yale – by “Paul R”

Despite the rising influence of intellectual property and other technology policies on students’ lives, the majority of students at Yale remain unaware of many of these important issues. To help solve this problem, our group has created a set of educational resources that would help Yale students better understand how complex university policies surrounding copyright, fair use, torrents, and other issues affect their lives.

Our website with the full set of information can be found at: http://yale.freeculture.org/yale-policies/

Below are short summaries of some of our findings, organized by topic:

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Bittorrent at Yale

What happens if I’m caught torrenting copyrighted material @ Yale?

Under the 1998 DIgital Millennium Copyright Act, Yale is designated as an Internet Service Provider (ISP), thus is obligated to takedown or disable the infringing content on its network. Yale has a 3 strikes policy based on how many notices you’ve received …. (read more on bittorrent).

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Example: A Yale DMCA Takedown Notice

The following is a sample DMCA takedown notification sent to Yale University and subsequently forwarded to the student and his/her respective dean and master.

DMCA Copyright Agent
Information Security Office
25 Science Park
Fax: 203.436.5342
April 19, 2010

Dear XXXXXX (NetID  XXXXX, EHA XXXXXXXXXXXX):

Yale University has received a complaint from Warner Bros. regarding the distribution and/or availability of a title they believe to be their intellectual property being distributed on the Yale network (and the Internet). The complaint reports that the computer with IP address XXX.XX.XXX.XXXX (Internet Protocol network address) was and/or is unlawfully making available digitized copies of copyrighted materials. Our records show that this roaming IP address is presently registered to your NetID, or was used by your NetID at the time noted in the complaint. You therefore may be in violation of both Federal copyright law and the University’s Information Technology Appropriate Use Policy (ITAUP), section 1607.1.C.6, “Use in violation of law”” (read more on takedowns).

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More topics including fair use at Yale, Gmail at Yale, internet privacy, and student perceptions of copyright after the jump! Continue reading “Final Project: Technology Policies at Yale – by “Paul R””

Utility Repurposed – by “Heather R”

The Internet is so useful at disseminating art, it is sometimes overlooked as a medium in and of itself.  There are artists that work exclusively online, but there are many more artists that use websites simply to display their projects.  This is an issue that presents itself whenever a medium originates as a technology for mass communication.

Long before printmaking was embraced as an artistic medium it was used to reproduce paintings, images of architecture, and distribute text-based information.  Printmaking was developed as a method of cheaply mass producing and distributing information.  Only when it became technologically obsolete was it fully embraced by fine art, but it has since thrived in that context.

It’s hard to imagine a point in time when the Internet will be obsolete, but it may come someday.  If the Internet ceased to be the most efficient way to transfer information, it might evolve to serve other less utilitarian purposes.

For my project I created a website that functions like a print.  Just as nobody needs the plate used to create a print, nobody needs the actual image file.  They just need a link to it.  The Internet is obviously superior technology because it can create infinite copies, but it’s roughly analogous.

The print on my website is about net neutrality, which came to mind when I was thinking about how and when the Internet could ever become obsolete.  A loss of net neutrality might not make the Internet obsolete, but it would certain reduce its utility.  Maybe if the damage was great enough the Internet would join printmaking as a novel but irrelevant technology.

www.netneutralitymatters.com

Student Perceptions of Copyright – by “Kate H”

n order to most effectively direct instructional information towards the student body, I surveyed and interviewed a variety of students on their attitudes about copyright and the ethics of illegally copying copyrighted materials.

The effort was a two-part one.

First, I sent a survey to a diverse selection of the student body. I aimed to reach both genders, people of each grade level, and students with a range of knowledge about technology and intellectual property issues. I received 69 responses. Below is a summary of the more interesting results.

Survey Results

Plagiarism vs. Illegal Downloading

Plagiarism vs. Downloading

Whereas 88 percent of the students that responded claimed to very familiar or moderately familiar with Yale’s policies on plagiarism, only 19 percent reported that they were very familiar with Yale’s policies on downloading copyrighted content without permission, and 42 percent responded that they were not at all familiar with the policies. These results indicate that Yale should provide incoming freshmen with training on these issues during freshman orientation, and needs to make resources available to all grades.

Switch to Google

Gmail Switch

I asked questions about Yale’s switch to use Google for email services. 90 percent of responders had heard about the plan, and only 3% of responders were against it.

Behavior On Campus vs. Off of Campus Networks

On Campus vs. Off Campus

Of the responders, 48 percent said they felt safer downloading copyrighted content without permission off of Yale’s networks. The reasons given for and against downloading at Yale were varied.
Students who felt more comfortable at Yale gave responses like,
-“Yale at the very least can filter the RIAA’s cease and desist demands should they arise, instead of them coming directly for you as they would if you were on your own home network.”
-“Because I know my activity is not being monitored.”
-“Because I have never heard of Yale enforcing illegal downloading policies.”

Students who were more wary on campus networks responded,
-“Because I got reprimanded by Yale for using Limewire, and don’t imagine this would happen elsewhere.”
-“I know for a fact that RIAA and MPAA monitors watch Yale’s network VERY closely. If the file in question is for content they are paying attention to, then five minutes of seeding is enough to attract the **AA’s attention.”

Variety of Copyrighted Material

I was interested in exploring whether student opinions were dependent on the type of content being downloaded without permission.

Indie vs. Madonna

35 percent of students surveyed thought it was more unethical to download music from an indie band without permission. Their reasons were as follows…
-“Indie artists need the money! Sean Paul’s loaded.”
-“The percentage of profit lost to the big name/big label act is in the drop-in-the-bucket range, whereas the indie band doesn’t have the enormous crowd backing for their income. Moreover, the big label act only gets a few cents on the dollar per song after the label is paid, while the indie act is more likely to be releasing their album themselves, and therefore stands to receive more profit directly, which they can convert to further music-making.”
-“I feel less bad about stealing the music of people who have tons and tons of money anyway.”

Many students thought it made no difference.
-“Intellectual property is the same thing whether we’re dealing with Madonna or Bearbot.”
-“I download all my music, I don’t think it’s wrong, and I think that the record companies need to accept the way things are now and stop slapping lawsuits on everyone.”
-“All these bands should be making money from their super-lucrative concert tours.”
-“Either way you are taking money from an artist.”

Movie vs. Music

I then asked whether downloading a movie without permission was more or less unethical than downloading music without permission.

The people who found downloading movies more unethical gave these reasons:
-“Movies cost more so you are taking something more valuable.”
-“Movies involve the contributions of hundreds and hundreds of people who are already underpaid. As far as I know, recording an album requires significantly fewer people.”
-“My dad is a movie theatre manager. In light of this, I grew up hearing about how when people download movies, it takes away from the commissions of the theatres. I don’t know that there’s really a comparable issue in music because people still go to concerts, buy merchandise from the stores, and things of that nature.”
-“Movies are long.”

Half of responders said it made no difference, and gave these reasons:
-“You’re taking money away from both companies.”
-“They’re both under copyright.”

Interviews and Short Films

Second, I conducted and filmed a series of twelve individual interviews with a similarly diverse group of students. I aimed to cover freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior opinions with a range of opinions and academic background. I asked questions to gauge the extent of their knowledge about broader intellectual property concepts, then posed ethical scenarios, such as “To what extent do you think ripping a library disc is unethical?” and “Do you think downloading a copyrighted movie without permission is more or less ethical than downloading a copyrighted song without permission?” These surveys and interviews not only provided information about the ideas of the general Yale population, but served as convenient ways to initiate conversations about the issues and stimulate dialogue. After each interview, I informed my interview subject about Yale’s policies, and about our group’s website.

I edited these interviews together with the intent of posing a complicated question, providing a range of student opinions, and directing the viewer to the group’s website. I aimed to keep these movies short and tightly-edited in order to keep the viewer’s attention online. Since the object of our project is to inform the Yale community, I distributed the films to many different groups on Yale’s campus.

1. How unethical is it to download copyrighted content without permission?

2. Do you feel safer downloading copyrighted content without permission on Yale’s networks or off of campus networks?

3. Is it more unethical to download copyrighted content without permission from an established artist or an up-and-coming one?

4. How ethical is it to borrow a cd or a dvd from the library and rip it to your computer?

For more information, visit http://yale.freeculture.org/yale-resources/.