MediaFile

from Paul Smalera:

The piracy of online privacy

Online privacy doesn’t exist. It was lost years ago. And not only was it taken, we’ve all already gotten used to it. Loss of privacy is a fundamental tradeoff at the very core of social networking. Our privacy has been taken in service of the social tools we so crave and suddenly cannot live without. If not for the piracy of privacy, Facebook wouldn’t exist. Nor would Twitter. Nor even would Gmail, Foursquare, Groupon, Zynga, etc.

And yet people keep fretting about losing what’s already gone. This week, like most others of the past decade, has brought fresh new outrages for privacy advocates. Google, which a few weeks ago changed its privacy policy to allow the company to share your personal data across as many as 60 of its products, was again castigated this week for the changes. Except this time, the shouts came in the form of a lawsuit. The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the FTC to compel it to block Google’s changes, saying they violated a privacy agreement Google signed less than a year ago.

Elsewhere, social photography app Path was caught storing users’ entire iPhone address books on their servers and have issued a red-faced apology. (The lesser-known app Hipster committed the same sin and also offered a mea culpa.) And Facebook’s IPO has brought fresh concerns that Mark Zuckerberg will find creative new ways to leverage user data into ever more desirable revenue-generating products.

This is the way we’re private now. It’s ludicrous for anyone who loves the Internet to expect otherwise. How else are these services supposed to exist -- let alone make any money? Theft or misuse of private user data is a crime, certainly. But no social web app -- not one -- can work without intense analytics performed on the huge data sets that users provide to them voluntarily (you did read the terms of service agreement...right?).

And the issue compounds when people connect one site to another. By linking their Twitter to their Facebook to their Google+ to their Foursquare to their Zynga to their Instagram to their iOS, users are consolidating their lives, and in the process making them more attractive to marketers. While Facebook, Twitter and other services have made attempts to warn users about hitting the “connect” button, many of us hit that button with reckless abandon, without a thought of who’s slavering on the other side.

Stop SOPA banners might morph in future protests

Getting people to add “STOP SOPA” banners to their Twitter and Facebook profile photos was more than just a message about pending legislation.

The banners, which swept the Internet in recent days, allowed people to quickly signal opposition to the antipiracy bills known as PIPA and SOPA, which many critics say are too broad. They are the brainchild of Greg Hochmuth, an engineer at photo site Instagram, and former Google product manager Hunter Walk, who created the site blackoutsopa.org.

“Profile pictures are becoming more and more omnipresent in our interface-heavy lives,” Hochmuth told Reuters in an email. “We thought: why not let people take more ownership of these pixels?” He envisions people using similar banners in the future, to get out all kinds of messages.

SOPA: So much to hate, so little time to stop it

(Updated 12/16/11 4 pm ET)

It may seem that Congress is getting exactly nothing done these days, with the game of chicken over the payroll tax and the possibility for what seems like the 537th time this year that the U.S. government may run out of money.

So you may be excused for not noticing that a full serious assault on the Internet is being considered by the House, and that it might actually see the light of day through the flotsam and jetsom of bigger business.

SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — is the latest ill-considered attempt by some in Congress to solve a legitimate problem by creating an even bigger, totally unnecessary problem.

Tech wrap: New effort underway in Internet piracy fight

Can slower Internet speeds convince consumers to stop pirating copyrighted material online? That’s the assumption behind a new anti-piracy effort launched this week by a coalition of Internet service providers and groups representing movie studios and record labels.

Under the new initiative,  AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon have agreed to send customers email or pop-up alerts if it is suspected that their account is being used to download or share copyrighted material illegally. Should suspected illegal activity persist, providers might temporarily slow Internet speeds or redirect their browser to a specific Web page until the customer contacts the company.  Time’s Techland blog calls the effort “fairly reasonable” but points out that “it’s only a matter of time before someone is falsely accused of copyright infringement and throttled accordingly.” Users accused can seek an independent review of whether they acted illegally.

A major hedge fund dumped its stake in Yahoo after an ownership dispute earlier this year cut the value of the Internet giant’s China holdings. Back in May, Yahoo revealed that Alibaba Group, its Chinese unit, had transferred ownership of its valuable online payments business Alipay to a company owned by Jack Ma, Alipay’s CEO. “This isn’t what we signed up for,” Greenlight Capital’s head David Einhorn wrote in a letter to investors. “We exited with a modest loss.”

Virgin, Universal give away music, fight pirates

Can Virgin Media crack the scourge of piracy with a new music download service?

The cable provider plans to offer customers unlimited streaming and downloading of MP3 music files in conjunction with the world’s largest music company, Universal, home to artists ranging from U2 to Lady Gaga and Willie Nelson. The service, which may be launched by the end of the year, could eventually include music from other major labels.

The idea is to drive back the tidal wave of online piracy, which could appeal to parents worried that their children are downloading contraband music. More than a decade after Napster made a splash by making it easy for users to download music for free, other systems still exist that give Web surfers the same power. Many of those illegally acquired songs are downloaded over cable providers’ systems.

So would you pay $16 to $24, about the cost of two new albums, for a month of unlimited access to music?

from Fan Fare:

Piracy sinks Fox columnist Roger Friedman

hugh-jackmanIn the high stakes battle over piracy in Hollywood, a Fox News columnist lost his job on Monday after he reviewed a pirated copy of the upcoming movie "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Roger Friedman is a big name in Hollywood entertainment news, but media reports say that fact did not protect his job when his corporate colleagues at 20th Century Fox called for his head, nor did it help that Friedman wrote a positive review of the movie (which has since been removed from the Fox website).

The New York Daily News reports that an estimated 75,000 people have downloaded the free, illegal copy of "Wolverine," which stars Hugh Jackman, and the studio is concerned that the high interest in the film online could slash its box office appeal. But no one is saying that Friedman leaked the movie, he just reviewed it. In that sense, was his punishment too harsh?

The case is interesting because it illustrates how high the stakes are for piracy in Hollywood. As in past piracy cases, the studio has enlisted the help of the FBI, which is investigating the leak. This comes as federal lawmakers consider ratcheting up the pressure on movie pirates. On Monday in Los Angeles, members of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing in Los Angeles, where eager entertainment industry executives and filmmakers called for harsher penalties to prevent piracy, trade paper Variety reported. "Che" director Steven Soderbergh told the congressional committee that showbiz types like himself should be "deputized" to track down pirates on their own. What would socialist revolutionary Che Guevara think?