China defends screening software

June 9, 2009

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The Great Firewall of China just got an upgrade…
– FlashAddict

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By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

China has defended the use of new screening software that has to be installed on all computers.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the software would filter out pornographic or violent material.

Critics have complained that it could also be used to stop Chinese internet users searching for politically sensitive information.

But Mr Qin, speaking at a regular press briefing, said China promoted the healthy development of the internet.

All computers sold in China – even those that are imported – will have to be pre-installed with the “Green Dam Youth Escort” software.

‘Poisoned minds’

The news came in a directive from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the new regulations will come into force on 1 July.

The directive says the newest version of the software has to be pre-installed on Chinese-made computers before they leave the factory.

Imported computers must contain the software before they are sold.

The aim is to build a healthy and harmonious online environment that does not poison young people’s minds, according to the directive.

Mr Qin defended the move on Tuesday: “The purpose of this is to effectively manage harmful material for the public and prevent it from being spread,” he said.

“The Chinese government pushes forward the healthy development of the internet. But it lawfully manages the internet,” he added.

The Chinese government regularly restricts access to certain internet sites and information it deems sensitive.

The BBC’s Chinese language website and video sharing website Youtube are currently inaccessible in Beijing.

Critics fear this new software could be used by the government to enhance its internet censorship system, known as the Great Firewall of China.

But a spokesman for one of the companies that developed the software, Jinhui Computer System Engineering, rejected this accusation.

“It’s a sheer commercial activity, having nothing to do with the government,” Zhang Chenmin, the company’s general manager, told the state-approved Global Times newspaper.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8091044.stm


Judge dismisses Google lawsuit

February 19, 2009

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Hello everyone, it’s Reading Week break here at Emily Carr, so I have been taking some time off from my blog and been relaxing a bit – although relaxing probably isn’t the best way to describe yesterday as I went to CrossFit and got my ass and abs kicked by the workout! But here is an interesting read about Google Streets that I thought you guys would like to check out…
– FlashAddict

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By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Street View car, PA

Google’s Street View has been criticised on several occasions

A legal claim by a Pittsburgh couple that Google’s Street View feature violated their privacy has been thrown out by a federal judge.

Christine and Aaron Boring sued the search giant after photos of their home appeared on the free mapping program.

The couple accused Google of privacy violation, negligence, trespassing and unjust enrichment.

In her ruling, Judge Amy Reynolds Hay said the Borings “failed to state a claim under any count”.

“We are pleased the judge agreed the suit was without merit,” said Google in a statement to the BBC.

Street View displays street level, 360-degree photographs of areas taken by specially equipped Google vehicles.

Failure

The photographs at the centre of the lawsuit, launched last year, were taken at the foot of Mr and Mrs Boring’s driveway and shows their house, a pool area and detached garage. Signs marked the road as private.

The suit alleged that Google’s Street View had caused Mr and Mrs Boring “mental suffering” and diluted the value of their home.

Google conference

Google removed the offending pictures after the lawsuit was filed

“While it is easy to imagine that many whose property appears on Google’s virtual maps resent the privacy implications, it is hard to believe that any – other than the most exquisitely sensitive – would suffer shame or humiliation,” Judge Amy Reynolds Hay of US District Court for Western Pennsylvania wrote in her 12-page decision.

The judge also suggested that the Borings’ lawsuit made it possible for more people than ever to view the picture of their home.

“The Borings do not dispute that they have allowed the relevant images to remain on Google Street View, despite the availability of a procedure for having them removed from view,” wrote Judge Reynolds Hay.

“Furthermore, they have failed to bar others’ access to the images by eliminating their address from the pleadings, or by filing this action under seal,” she said.

The publicity has actually perpetuated dissemination of the Borings’ name and location, and resulted in frequent re-publication of the Street View images, the judge concluded.

“The plaintiffs’ failure to take readily available steps to protect their own privacy and mitigate their alleged pain suggests to the Court that the intrusion and that their suffering were less severe than they contend,” wrote Judge Reynolds Hay.

The Borings had sought $25,000 (£17,700) in damages.

‘Removal tools’

Google said the company respects individual privacy and provides ways for that privacy to be maintained.

“We blur identifiable faces and licence plates in Street View and we offer easy-to-use removal tools so users can decided for themselves whether or not they want a given image to appear.

Street View

Photos of real world locations are tied to maps

“It is unfortunate the parties involved decided to pursue litigation instead of making use of these tools,” said Google in its statement.

Privacy concerns following the launch of Street View in 2007 prompted Google to start blurring faces of people caught in the photographs.

The company had argued earlier in response to the lawsuit that “today’s satellite-image technology means that even in today’s desert complete privacy does not exist.”

“Privacy claims are not easy to prove,” said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

“One of the challenges is showing what’s the damage, what’s the harm. But Google is more at risk here because there is always the possibility someone might prevail in one of these cases, so I don’t think the issue is resolved in terms of Google.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7898407.stm


Google turns map tool into people tracker

February 4, 2009

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It will be very interesting to see how things will unfold with this new technology and what implications it may have on personal rights and freedoms…
– FlashAddict

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With an upgrade to its mobile maps, Google Inc. hopes to prove it can track people on the go as effectively as it searches for information on the internet.

The new software to be released Wednesday will enable people with mobile phones and other wireless devices to automatically share their whereabouts with family and friends.

The feature, dubbed “Latitude,” expands upon a tool introduced in 2007 to allow mobile phone users to check their own location on a Google map with the press of a button.

“This adds a social flavour to Google maps and makes it more fun,” said Steve Lee, a Google product manager.

It could also raise privacy concerns, but Google is doing its best to avoid a backlash by requiring each user to manually turn on the tracking software and making it easy to turn off or limit access to the service.

Google also is promising not to retain any information about its users’ movements. Only the last location picked up by the tracking service will be stored on Google’s computers, Lee said.

The software plots a user’s location — marked by a personal picture on Google’s map — by relying on cellphone towers, global positioning systems or a Wi-Fi connection to deduce their location. The system can follow people’s travels in Canada, the United States and 25 other countries.

It’s left up to each user to decide who can monitor their location.

Also in the Loopt

The social mapping approach is similar to a service already offered by Loopt Inc., a three-year-old company near Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

Loopt’s service already is compatible with more than 100 types of mobile phones.

To start out, Google Latitude will work on Research In Motion Ltd.’s Blackberry and devices running on Symbian software or Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Mobile. It will also operate on some T-1 Mobile phones running on Google’s Android software and eventually will work on Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iTouch.

To widen the software’s appeal, Google is offering a version that can be installed on personal computers as well.

The PC access is designed for people who don’t have a mobile phone but still may want to keep tabs on their children or someone else special, Lee said. People using the PC version can also be watched if they are connected to the internet through Wi-Fi.

Google can plot a person’s location within a few yards if it’s using GPS or might be off by several miles if it’s relying on transmission from cellphone towers. People who don’t want to be precise about their whereabouts can choose to display just the city instead of a specific neighbourhood.

There are no current plans to sell any advertising alongside Google’s tracking service, although analysts believe knowing a person’s location eventually will unleash new marketing opportunities.

Google has been investing heavily in the mobile market during the past two years in an attempt to make its services more useful to people when they’re away from their office or home computers.

http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2009/02/04/google-latitude.html


Yes, he must: coughing up Canadian-made BlackBerry a bitter pill for Obama

January 13, 2009

This is definitely a perplexing notion – how does one exist in the world today without being able to use email?!?!?
– FlashAddict

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By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON – He’s been seen cradling it and gazing upon it almost as frequently as he’s cooed at babies and promised to bring change to Washington.

Barack Obama has a deep and abiding affection for his made-in-Canada BlackBerry, and yet the gods are conspiring against him – despite his best efforts, Obama will almost certainly be forced to dump his beloved Berry after his inauguration on Tuesday.

It’s a breakup the president-elect has long been dreading.

“I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” he said in a recent interview with CNBC. “They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”

Canada’s Research in Motion (TSX:RIM), the inventor and manufacturer of the BlackBerry, is adamant that its devices and security network protect all data passing through them. Officials for the company won’t comment on Obama’s fondness for their device – or his impending heartache.

But most technology experts say that no security systems – either at RIM or any other company – can ever be entirely safe from hackers, spies, snoops and trouble-makers, and point out that allowing Obama to keep his BlackBerry could pose a serious security risk.

White House security agencies and lawyers have not only insisted Obama abandon the BlackBerry, but email in general as well.

In addition to the security risk, they say, all presidential communications can be made public due to the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records Act of 1978 – something that makes political strategists queasy.

Nonetheless, the notion of having to forego email and hand-held devices might seem inhumane and unimaginable to anyone under the age of 50, for whom emailing and texting has evolved into a primary mode of communication over the past 15 years.

The idea of an offline president seems equally bizarre.

“It just doesn’t seem right to me,” said Karen Daniel, a television producer from Knoxville, Tenn., who nurses her own hard-core Berry addiction. “He’s a man of his generation and this is how his generation communicates.”

Daniel’s not alone, according to the results of a survey conducted this week by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The newspaper asked its readers: “Should president-elect Barack Obama have to give up his BlackBerry?”

As of midday Tuesday, 50 per cent or respondents had said no, while only 18 per cent – clearly unfamiliar with how ubiquitous electronic communications have become – said he’ll be too busy with other matters to bother with checking email.

Nine per cent, however, said Obama should give up the BlackBerry to avoid creating a record of presidential doings, while 24 per cent argued the very opposite: he should keep it in order to create a record of presidential doings.

Daniel said she agrees that holding onto his BlackBerry will only help to keep Obama honest.

“It makes him more transparent,” said Daniel, who recently went through withdrawal symptoms of her own when her Berry went on the blink for days, leaving her in a communications no-man’s land while vacationing in New York.

“If he doesn’t mind that people will be able to read his exchanges in years to come, then why can’t he hold onto it?”

Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, who delivered a luncheon speech Tuesday in Toronto as part of an international speaking tour, agreed that losing the BlackBerry would be more than just an inconvenience for his one-time boss.

“It’s an important way for him to operate with his colleagues, but also it’s very important for him to stay in touch with … his friends and his family,” Plouffe said.

“It’s something he’s really struggling with.”

Obama’s not the first president to have to give up the conveniences of modern communication.

While Bill Clinton sent only two email messages as president and has reportedly never warmed to the habit, George W. Bush expressed sadness when he was forced to stop emailing in January 2001.

He even said recently he’s looking forward to emailing “my buddies” when he returns to Texas from Washington.

But for Obama, losing his Berry is a particularly bitter irony considering his historic campaign for the presidency was largely launched on technological battle fronts – on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter and via emails and text messages.

He emailed friends and family and even actress Scarlett Johansson with the device. He kept his eye on it while attending his daughters’ soccer games in Chicago. He was ridiculed for carrying it in a holster on his belt – something of a fashion faux pas among technology snobs.

“It’s not just the flow of information,” a mournful Obama said last week.

“What it has to do with is having mechanisms where you are interacting with people who are outside of the White House in a meaningful way. And I’ve got to look for every opportunity to do that – ways that aren’t scripted, ways that aren’t controlled … ways of staying grounded.”

There might be a solution on the horizon for Obama, however.

Some hand-held devices have been approved as secure enough to handle even classified documents, email and Web browsing, raising the possibility that perhaps Obama might be allowed some sort of Berry-ish gadget.

The General Dynamics’ Sectera Edge is a combination phone-PDA that retails for a pricey US$3,350. It’s been certified by the National Security Agency as being acceptable for top secret voice communications, e-mail and Web sites, and it’s sturdy – able to withstand numerous four-foot drops onto concrete.

There was no immediate word from Obama’s transition team about whether the phone might be an option for the president-elect.

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/090113/world/inauguration_obama_blackberry