When The Government Comes A'Calling

Industry has been the biggest source of news this week, what with the never-ending brouhaha over Microsoft & Yahoo and all the other enterprise ups and downs. Industry isn't the only player, though, and this afternoon we're focusing on what happens when the government gets into the technoplay.

First up is the ever-beloved U.S. government, which appears to have gotten caught in a real-life episode of Punk'd. Apparently, a 2006 cyber-wargame took an unexpected turn when the carefully selected group of hackers tasked with simulating a devastating attack on U.S. technology centers turned on the game itself. According to documents obtained by the AP, the participants decided to hack the computers controlling the simulation, and had to be shooed away by agitated organizers. If only the real thing was as simple as hacking the controls...

In other news, one of the U.S. military's top men believes soldiers should be allowed to blog freely and post videos to YouTube. The only roadblock to implementing the plan is the Pentagon, which feels that allowing show and tell would compromise security. Just what is so awful about YouTube — which is banned on military networks — isn't exactly clear, but apparently it's important to keep our troops away from lonelygirl15.

Moving across the pond, the Danish government has taken steps to curtail mega-directory The Pirate Bay, ordering one of the country's biggest ISPs to block access to the site. The Swedish government dealt the site a major blow last week, announcing that four of the site's founders would be brought up on criminal charges over copyright violations.

Meanwhile, the Italian government appears to have given file sharing the greenlight, with a new law that decriminalizes file sharing for non-profit scientific or educational use, provided the files are low resolution or "degraded." Experts are arguing that the law — which doesn't specifically mention MP3s — applies to the format because an MP3 is by default a degraded version of the original track. The Italian version of the RIAA says it isn't worried, because they expect the government to regulate what qualifies as scientific and educational use.

Finishing off in the UK, the latest news has it that the tax collectors will soon be able to poke about in citizens' internet traffic. Under a law initially intended to help with anti-terrorism efforts — the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act or Ripa — the royal revenuers can now require ISPs to turn over information about a user's traffic, reportedly because of a rise in tax evasion by organized crime. What this may mean for taxes on certain "subscriptions" we do not know.

And that is what Big Brother has to say about that.

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