Summing Up Open Source, Sticking it to The Man, and Who Isn't on Facebook?
This morning we continue in our quest to flesh out all the weekend's news in order to see that you are suitably prepared for the week ahead. In that spirit, we bring you the last and latest of the noteworthy news.
First up is internet legend and Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig, who led the charge against the Federal Communications Commission at an open hearing held at Stanford University last Thursday. The hearing, an extension of the FCC's investigation into potentially-unlawful filtering of internet traffic by major internet service providers, saw Professor Lessig — one of the most recognized experts on technology law — place blame for the current state of internet service squarely on the FCC, while its five commissioners seated behind him. Other speakers echoed Lessig's comments, pointing to the censorship potential inherent in filtering, complete with allusions to the Associated Press experiment that set off the hearings, which involved a BitTorrent download of the public-domain King James Bible being filtered by Comcast. Commissioner Deborah Taylor attempted to deflect the criticism by painting anti-filtering efforts as likely to encumber investigations of child pornography — a shining example of argumentum in terrorem — but received only enthusiastic booing from the audience in return.
Moving right along, the internet is full of news, and for some reason, a lot of it seems to involve Facebook. The social networking site is apparently quite popular amongst law-and-order types, particularly in the UK. According to the Daily Telegraph, the police in Manchester like Facebook so much they've developed their own extension to allow citizens to report crimes and share information about questionable activities. In exchange, users are provided easy access to department news, as well as YouTube videos of court proceedings. Now, the next time you hop on Facebook to check up on who did what over the weekend only to discover something shady, you can conveniently turn it over to the fuzz with a few quick clicks.
Criminals aren't the only ones getting nailed through Facebook, however. Apparently, Oxford University has a nasty problem with graduating students getting out of control after finishing their exams, and they set on Facebook as the best way to snare the misbehaving matriculants. The plan seems to have worked, as nine months worth of scouring student profiles have resulted in over £10,000 ($20,000) in fines, though it's also resulted in a bit of student unrest. According to one proctor, the number of outraged students alone indicates the university was right, however, some of those students are shouting phrases like "privacy intrusion" — an allegation that, if pressed in court, could land the world's oldest [English-speaking] university in hot water.
As if all that trouble weren't enough, movie mega-retailer Blockbuster has been sued by a Texas woman over information leaked to Facebook via the disastrous Beacon advertising program. According to the complaint, Cathryn Harris charges Blockbuster with breaching the federal Video Privacy Protection Act — enacted after the borked Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, whose rather uninteresting video rental history was leaked to the press — by passing information about her rental habits to Facebook's Beacon advertising program without her consent. Additionally, the complaint alleges that user's information is still being passed to Beacon, regardless of whether the user is opted in to the program or not, though it is not immediately clear if the allegation relates to information gathered after Beacon became an opt-in program.
Finally, speaking of opt-in programs, OpenLogic's Open Source Census, which we first told you about in December, is now up and running and is seeking enterprise partners willing to share information about the Open Source software in use on their systems. The project hopes to provide hard numbers on Open Source adoption, an area which up till now has relied primarily on educated guesswork. The survey is only open to enterprise users — as they're looking for information on corporate adoption — and promises participants free detailed, though anonymized, information about Open Source usage in their own and similar companies. Potential participants can find more information on OpenLogic's OSS Discovery site.
That's all for now, don't forget to join us here tomorrow for another rousing edition of Breaking News.