Facebook Should Go Public With Privacy Practices

Posted by andrew on May 18th, 2012

FacebookIf Facebook’s May 18 initial public offering succeeds in achieving a $90 billion valuation for the social network, each of Facebook’s 900 million users can take pride in contributing $100 toward the company’s fortunes. If you’re a user, Facebook’s founder and 28 per cent owner Mark Zuckerberg should consider you his friend. How many of your Facebook friends have enriched you by as much as $28?

Facebook users would also be well advised to think of Zuckerberg as a Facebook friend. No matter how closely users may choose to guard their profiles and postings, they have no choice but to allow Facebook to access and store every piece of information they put on the site. Facebook has the access privileges enjoyed by their best friends, and then some.

Zuckerberg undoubtedly has better things to do with his time than spy on Facebook’s users. But users should be aware that they’re sharing information with a friend whose prime directive is to use that information to generate as much wealth for Facebook's shareholders as he can.

=> Read more!


Roman Smolensky, 1960-1995

Posted by andrew on February 28th, 2010

I just learned that Roman Smolensky passed away in 1995, at age 35. His paper on "Algebraic methods in the theory of lower bounds for Boolean circuit complexity" is a classic; it was one of the ten most important papers I read in preparing my own D.Phil. thesis.

I got to meet Roman at the Durham symposium on Boolean function complexity in 1990, which turned out to be a watershed event for the field. I was as amazed by the elegance and power of Roman's work in person as on paper. (In the photo, Roman and I are both in the back row; Roman is standing directly under the "1961" date marker, and I'm three people to the right of him in the green shirt.)

Allan Borodin (with Leonid Charny) wrote a tribute to Roman in the journal Computational Complexity in 1997. He recalls Roman as "the most gentle, friendly and unimposing person" who "radiated a sense of internal peace and warm, positive and creative energy," words that perfectly match my now twenty-year-old recollections. Having left the theoretical computer science community for public policy and law in 1994, however, I could not help but find the following passage personally chastening:

"Finally in November 1994, Marek Karpinski was able to obtain a long-term position for Roman with his group in Bonn. This was a time when jobs in theoretical computer science were getting more difficult to obtain and many individuals were trying to redirect their work (or at least dress up their work) so as to be more 'practical.' This thought never entered Roman's considerations....

"Curiosity was the main motivation for Roman's research, so neither fashion nor practical considerations of job hunting were able to shift his interests from theoretical computer science to more 'practical' things."

Alamo Bay

Posted by andrew on January 17th, 2010

Playing on Encore this month is Louis Malle's 1985 film Alamo Bay, about which Roger Ebert wrote:

What am I asking for in "Alamo Bay"? I don't think I require one side to be clearly heroic and the other side clearly evil. The situation doesn't permit that. I do wish, though, that the filmmakers had steered wide of clichés like the Ku Klux Klan and the final shoot-out, and stayed closer to the real strength of their film, which is its authentic portrait of everyday lives.

Sorry, Mr. Ebert, but if you had done your research, you would have known that the KKK's violent harassment of Vietnamese American shrimpers along the Gulf Coast wasn't just a movie cliche.

"Flat Net" Notions Live On

Posted by andrew on June 20th, 2009

Jammie Thomas-RassetThis is enough to warrant coming out of hibernation. Months after suspending its litigation campaign against individual file-sharers, a jury Friday awarded the RIAA $1.92 million against a 32-year-old Minnesota woman, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa. Toward the end of the Associated Press story on the verdict, Tom Sydnor, director of the Progress and Freedom Foundation's Center for the Study of Digital Property, was heard to say:

Legally acquiring a license to give copies of a song to potentially millions of Kazaa users might well have cost $80,000 per song.

If you still believe that the Internet's worldwide reach implies that every Jane Q. Public has effective access to millions of users, I have some dotcom business plans from 1998 to sell you.

=> Read more!


Posted by andrew on October 8th, 2008

Today is Google's 10th birthday. In celebration, the site has made the 2001 version of its search engine available. And so we can present here, in full, Sarah Palin's Google presence in 2001, five years into her tenure as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (click to enlarge):

=> Read more!

Sen. McCain, Meet the Patent System

Posted by andrew on June 24th, 2008

We've known for months now that John McCain doesn't know how to use a computer, so it should come as no surprise that he talks about innovation policy as if it's an entirely new concept. We want a more efficient hybrid car battery, so let's pull a number out of the air -- $1 per U.S. citizen sounds good -- and award it as a prize to the person who invents one:

“I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people,” Mr. McCain said, “by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.”

He said the winner should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs. “That’s one dollar, one dollar, for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency,” he said.

And shame on Sen. Barbara Boxer for calling this a "gimmick." It's not like the federal government provides any form of ex post incentive for technological innovation already, does it?

The National Review loves the idea, of course. Conservatives just love it when government gets into the business of picking winners and losers in the competition for innovation. (Then again, maybe not.)


Fantasy Baseball is Safe at the Plate

Posted by andrew on June 3rd, 2008

Supreme Court denials of cert shouldn't be such big news, but the media has been all over yesterday's dismissal of CBC Marketing v. Major League Baseball, on appeal from the Eighth Circuit. My comments on the district court decision are here.


The First Asian American President?

Posted by andrew on February 28th, 2008

Barack Obama in traditional Somalian costumeWe're starting to see some of the first glimpses of the GOP strategy against Obama for the November election, and it isn't pretty. As Talking Points Memo summarizes (Youtube video -- relevant section starts at about 2:30 in), the real attack is going to focus on four falsehoods:

-- Obama is a Black nationalist
-- Obama is a crypto-Muslim
-- Obama has ties to terrorists
-- Obama is anti-American

Socially conscious Asian Americans should find this litany very familiar. For "Black nationalist," read "clannish and cliquish." For "crypto-Muslim" read "dog-eating, foot-binding male chauvinists." For "ties to terrorists" read "spies for communist China." For "anti-American" read "perpetual foreigners who can never be real Americans."

Obama may have succeeded in downplaying racial issues thus far in the campaign, but this summer and fall, he will be up against nothing less than the full arsenal of racial animus and oppression that constrains the Asian American experience. Our experience should warn us about just how durable and insidious these attacks can be. Let's hope he overcomes, and in doing so, shows us all the way forward.

Addendum (10/1): Jeff Yang has similar thoughts.

:: Next Page >>

An examination of the legal and technological structures that keep almost all of us voiceless, by Prof. Andrew Chin (who?) at the University of North Carolina School of Law and Prof. Jay Kesan at the University of Illinois College of Law

voiceless is a new blog. If you like what you've seen so far, please consider making voiceless a little less voiceless by adding a link to it from your blogroll!

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