Opinion

The Great Debate

from Paul Smalera:

What real Internet censorship looks like

Lately Internet users in the U.S. have been worried about censorship, copyright legalities and data privacy. Between Twitter’s new censorship policy, the global protests over SOPA/PIPA and ACTA and the outrage over Apple’s iOS allowing apps like Path to access the address book without prior approval, these fears have certainly seemed warranted. But we should also remember that Internet users around the world face far more insidious limitations and intrusions on their Internet usage -- practices, in fact, that would horrify the average American.

Sadly, most of the rest of the world has come to accept censorship as a necessary evil. Although I recently argued that Twitter’s censorship policy at least had the benefit of transparency, it’s still an unfortunate cost of doing global business for a company born and bred with the freedoms of the United States, and founded by tech pioneers whose opportunities and creativity stem directly from our Constitution. Yet by the standards of dictatorial regimes, Internet users in countries like China, Syria and Iran should consider themselves lucky if Twitter’s relatively modest censorship program actually keeps those countries’ governments from shutting down the service. As we are seeing around the world, chances are, unfortunately, it won’t.

Consider the freedoms -- or lack thereof -- Internet users have in Iran. Since this past week, some 30 million Iranian users have been without Internet service thanks to that country’s blocking of the SSL protocol, right at the time of its parliamentary elections. SSL is what turns “http” -- the basic way we access the Web -- into “https”, which Gmail, your bank, your credit card company and thousands of other services use to secure data. SSL provides data encryption so that only each end point -- your browser and the Web server you’re logging into -- can decrypt and access the data contained therein.

By blocking SSL, Iran has crippled Tor, a program that enables Internet users to anonymize not just their content but their physical location as well. Tor is a very common workaround for users in totalitarian regimes to access Twitter, Gmail, Facebook and other services. It’s hard to come up with an apt analogy for Iran’s unprecedented blockage -- it’s not just that the letters you send are read by the Post Office and photocopied for their records, it’s that the Post Roads themselves have been closed off, so you can’t even send a letter in the first place. That’s the net effect of blocking SSL in Iran.

The hacking group Anonymous has brought down all kinds of websites in protest, mostly over copyright, in the U.S. and Europe. I don’t advocate their targeting any country’s servers for retribution, but where is the outrage or public demonstration or media attention over the denials of Iranians’ basic freedoms to communicate, via the Internet?

Capitalism is evolving, but into what?

This is an excerpt from Standing on the Sun: How the Explosion of Capitalism Abroad Will Change Business Everywhere, published this month by Harvard Business Review Press.

Like any “ism,” capitalism is a social construct; capitalism is only a term for what capitalists tend to believe and do. Beyond a few fundamentals—that it puts faith in markets as the best way to allocate resources, that it depends on private ownership of property, that it features mechanisms for accumulating capital to fund endeavors larger than individuals can undertake alone—very little about it is set in stone. This is why we often hear phrases suggesting different styles of capitalism: “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” for example, or “Northern European social capitalism.” No surprise, then, that capitalism is subject to change.

And what’s behind that change? Again, at the theoretical level, it’s easy to surmise. Like any adaptive system, capitalism is nested in an environment, so any substantial change in that environment alters what it takes to thrive. It’s the same basic phenomenon as in nature: when the insect population of the Galapagos moves on to new flowers with a different shape, the beaks of the finches evolve in turn.

from Paul Smalera:

Twitter’s censorship is a gray box of shame, but not for Twitter

Twitter’s announcement this week that it was going to enable country-specific censorship of posts is arousing fury around the Internet. Commentators, activists, protesters and netizens have said it’s “very bad news” and claim to be “#outraged”. Bianca Jagger, for one, asked how to go about boycotting Twitter, on Twitter, according to the New York Times. (Step one might be... well, never mind.) The critics have settled on #TwitterBlackout: all day on Saturday the 28th, they promised to not tweet, as a show of protest and solidarity with those who might be censored.

Here’s the thing: Like Twitter itself, it’s time for the Internet, and its chirping classes, to grow up. Twitter’s policy and its transparency pledge with the censorship watchdog Chilling Effects is the most thoughtful, honest and realistic policy to come out of a technology company in a long time. Even an unsympathetic reading of the new censorship policy bears that out.

To understand why, let’s unpack the policy a bit: First, Twitter has strongly implied it will not remove content under this policy. If that doesn’t sound like a crucial distinction from outright censorship, it is. Taking the new policy with existing ones, the only time Twitter says it will ever remove a tweet altogether is in response to a DMCA request. The DMCA may have its own flaws, but it is a form of censorship that lives separately from the process Twitter has outlined in this recent announcement. Where the DMCA process demands a deletion of copyright-infringing content, Twitter’s censorship policy promises no such takedown: it promises instead only to withhold censored content from the country where the content has been censored. Nothing else.

Stopping the Stop Online Piracy Act

Now that Congress has hit pause on its controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and nearly every argument about the merits and failings of the piece of copyright legislation has been made, it’s a good time to ask: what, in 2012, will it take to actually stop a bill like this?

Because despite the delay, the situation still isn’t looking so hot for those looking to bring down SOPA. Amendments to tone down the bill’s more disliked points have been routinely defeated in the House Judiciary Committee by numbers sufficient to pass the bill to the full House floor.

But, at this point in the process, numbers aren’t everything. In the wake of the Arab Spring, talk of censoring technology hits the ears differently. More important is that in SOPA’s short two-month life, opposition to it has catalyzed online and off. But to succeed, its opponents will have to both boost the volume of their public alarm and convince Congress that, in an Internet-soaked 2012, questioning SOPA needn’t be politically fatal.

Electronic medical records after Google Health’s failure

By Vineeta Vijayaraghavan and Clayton Christensen
The opinions expressed are their own.

It may seem that the viability of electronic health records looks dismal after the failure of Google Health, yet in integrated health systems around the country they have been implemented and utilized by patients. In Google’s failure we must see an opportunity to address the fragmentation of our healthcare system and take notice of those health systems that are offering innovative services that help provide better care at a lower cost.

Earlier this month, Google announced that it was closing down Google Health, its foray into personal health records, because it failed to find “a way to translate limited usage into widespread adoption in the daily health routines of millions of people.” Based on 30 years of research, we are firm believers that technology will enable disruptive innovations in healthcare – the types of innovations that will dramatically lower costs, increase quality and improve access to millions. But Google Health was doomed from the start. The obstacle standing in the way of its success was the massive fragmentation of our healthcare system, and its closure signifies the urgent need to integrate healthcare.

Google’s greatest skill – and challenge

GOOGLE/

By Jeff Jarvis
Jarvis is the author of “What Would Google Do?” and teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His next book, “Public Parts”, will be published later this year. The miracle of Google was that it could accomplish anything—let alone become the fastest growing company in the history of the world and the greatest disruptive force in business and society today—while being run by a committee, a junta, a council of the gods. In management, as in every other arena of business, technology, and media, Google broke every rule and made new ones. It should not be a shock that Eric Schmidt has stepped aside as CEO and made room for Larry Page. Schmidt was the prince regent who ruled until the boy king could take the throne while training him to do so. We knew that this would happen. We just forgot that it would. When I interviewed Schmidt a few weeks ago and asked about pressure over privacy, China, and lobbying, he said, “This is not the No. 1 crisis at Google.” What is? “Growth,” he said, “just growth.” Scale is Google’s greatest skill and greatest challenge. It scaled search (vs. quaint Yahoo, which thought it could catalogue this web thing). It scaled advertising (vs. the media companies that today don’t know how to grow, only shrink). It is scaling mobile (by giving away Android). It has tried to scale innovation (with its 20 percent rule)—but that’s the toughest. How does Google stay ahead of Facebook strategically? The war between the two of them isn’t over social. The next, great scalable opportunity and challenge is mobile, which in the end will translate into local advertising revenue. Mobile will give Google (or Facebook or Groupon or Twitter or Foursquare … we shall see) the signals needed to target content, services, search, and advertising with greater relevance, efficiency, and value than ever. As Schmidt told broadcasters in Berlin last year: “We know where you are. We know what you like.” Local is a huge, unclaimed prize. The question is how to scale sales. I have no special insight into the Googleplex. But I have to imagine that when the company’s three musketeers sat down and asked themselves what impediments could restrain their innovation and growth, they were smart enough and honest enough to finally answer, “us.” As well as their holy trinity worked setting strategy and reaching consensus—the one thing I did hear from inside Google was that nothing happened if they did not agree—it has become apparent that Google became less nimble and more clumsily uncoordinated. Google is working on two conflicting and competing operating system strategies, Android and Chrome. It bungled the launches of Buzz and Wave. It is losing talent to Facebook. It needs clearer vision and strategy and more decisive communication and execution of it. If it’s obvious to us it had to be obvious to them that that couldn’t come from Largey- plus-Eric. Google, like its founders, is growing up. It needs singular management. So let’s hope that Schmidt did his most important job well—not managing but teaching. Now we will watch to see who Larry Page really is and where his own vision will take Google. Will he give the company innovative leadership and can Sergey Brin give it leadership in innovation? I imagine we will see a new support structure for Page built from below now rather than from the side. I’m most eager to see how he will cope with speaking publicly for the company. Schmidt’s geeky sense of humor was not grokked by media. (When he set off a tempest in the news teapot saying we should all be able to change our names at age 21 and start over with youthful indiscretions left behind us, he was joking, folks. Really, he was.) Page is even less show-bizzy. As for Schmidt: I have gained tremendous respect for him as a manager, thinker, leader. His next act will likely surprise is more than today’s act. Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. His next book, Public Parts, will be published later this year.

The miracle of Google was that it could accomplish anything—let alone become the fastest growing company in the history of the world and the greatest disruptive force in business and society today—while being run by a committee, a junta, a council of the gods.

In management, as in every other arena of business, technology, and media, Google broke every rule and made new ones.

from MediaFile:

Should you trust Facebook with your email?

INTERNET-SOCIALMEDIA/PRIVACY- Michael Fertik is the CEO and Founder of ReputationDefender, the online privacy and reputation company. The views expressed are his own. -

Facebook already knows a massive amount about you.  They know your age, what you look like, what you like, what you do for fun, where you go, what you eat, whom you know, whom you know well, whom you sleep with, who your best friends and family are, and, again, how old they are, what they like, and so on.

On top of that, Facebook has a well-known history of privacy breaches or at least snafus.  Publicly they seem committed to the notion that privacy is dead.  Their CEO and Founder has said as much.

from The Great Debate UK:

Growth of mobile commerce taps touch Web users

Picture shows Steve Ives, CEO of Taptu. REUTERS/Julie Mollins

As the mobile phone industry puts more emphasis on marketing hand-held smartphones, consumers are finding ways to dodge restrictive model-compatible applications by using Web-based programs.

Unlike single-device applications, mobile touch websites run on most mobile browsers freeing users from reliance on a specific operating system.

A recent study by Taptu suggests that the mobile touch web will play an important role in expanding mobile commerce.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?

IMG01299-20100115-2004The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.

The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.

The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.

from The Great Debate UK:

The end of .com, the beginning of .yourbrand

Joe White-Joe White is chief operating officer at Gandi, an Internet domain name registration firm. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Despite the importance of domain names for companies and the extraordinary amount of money many have paid for them, the vast majority of businesses are unprepared for imminent changes to the Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international body that oversees the structure of the internet, is liberalising the market for domain name extensions – the .com or .net part of a web address – from the beginning of 2010. This means that anyone, in theory, can apply to operate an extension. So alongside .com, .net, and .org, we will see .whateveryoulike.

  •