California first to get electronic license plates? Easier to track?

The California State Senate approves a bill that would allow for a pilot program to test digital license plates. Will it involve tracking?

by Chris Matyszczyk

California is the home of everything that's new, exciting, and, well, accidentally nefarious.

It's a delight, therefore, to hear that we here in the Golden State might be the first to get electronic license plates.

Yes, the young and the restless of tech will be able to have their new "TE$LA1" plate beamed directly to their car.

What could be more moving? I am beaming at Ars Technica for discovering that a bill has passed the California State Senate, allowing for a pilot program to launch the scheme.



Corporations Are People, My Friend. But, IP Addresses Are Not.

When a judge makes a good decision, it shouldn't be news. But, in this case, it's very good news indeed.  This week New York Magistrate Judge Gary Brown for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York filed a 26-page ruling pointing out that the person listed as an Internet account holder is often not the person using the account.

"It is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function–here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film–than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call," Brown said in his Order & Report & Recommendation, filed May 1.

"An IP address merely identifies the location where a certain activity occurred", Brown noted. A computer in a household is usually shared, which means a child, a boyfriend, or any other visitor, is just as likely to be using the computer. Brown also noted that many households now have a wireless network. If the network is not secured, many people, including neighbors and strangers, can be sharing that IP address without the original account holder's knowledge.

"Considering the weak relationship between an IP address and personal identity, it's likely copyright holders were accusing the wrong people of violating copyright", Brown noted. Mass-BitTorrent lawsuits relying entirely on IP addresses to identify copyright infringers were a "waste of judicial resources," he wrote.

VIA: http://securitywatch.pcmag.com/security/297475-ip-address-not-a-person-judge-says-in-copyright-lawsuit


Social Networking Bill of Rights

BackgroundCheck.org has developed an interesting infographic seaks to address your rights as a social network user. (Click below for a larger view.)

Via: http://www.backgroundcheck.org/social-networking-bill-of-rights/


Apple’s New Low Cost Gaming Console

First, I AM NOT a fanboy. My phone is an Android. Even when the iPhone was introduced, I steadfastly held onto my WindowsMobile phone, waiting for Palm to introduce something better. I have a Windows7 PC, laptop, AND netbook. When the iPad was first released, I thought it was gorgeous, but lacking. And, it was. Apple introduced an improved model a few months later, and a thinner, even more improved model less than a year later. Admittedly, I bought that one. And I love it. But I owned two Windows tablets well before the iPad was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye. So I was predisposed, even before Jobs said it was the Next Big Thing.

Today at E3 in Los Angeles Nintendo showed the world the Wii U. Which looks and sounds like the birth-child of an Apple iPad and a LeapFrog LeapPad. (Yes, we own a LeapPad.) This, on the heels of Apple's WWDC where they emphasized major changes to Game Center that make it more XBox Live than Yahoo Games. At the same time, quietly and without any significant emphasis, Apple announced AirPlay Mirroring. Which, at first blush, sounds like someone accidentally left a slide in the Keynote deck from last year's WWDC. But, in reality, mated to a $99 Apple TV 2, it turns the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch into an accelerometer-equipped wireless TV gaming console (minus the console).

But, I'm not buying each of my kids a $499 iPad, when I already spent $249 on the Wii 4 years ago. And then I spent $179 each for two DSi's a couple years later. Plus, each one of the Wii game disks cost me between $30-$50, and then each one of my kids' DSi cartridges cost me another $20-30. And, if they want to play each other, I have to buy two of the same game! Worse yet, once they've conquered a particular game, it's useless.

Do the math. If I'm lucky, I'm only into it for a grand, or so. Now Apple's going to try to get in on the game? Apple has been focusing more recently on price, but their products are not what I'd call the "budget option."

Even if I just bought each of the kids the cheapest iPod Touch, that would still be $210 a piece. Plus every game is going to be another $0.99 to $5.99. And then there's the Apple TV 2 for another $99. That would be close to $500, just to replace what they already have.

On the other hand, that is half what I spent on Nintendo products. And it means that every game they purchased could be played on or off the TV. Going forward, they could purchase anywhere from as little as 3 to as many as 40 times the number of games for the same money as a single cartridge or disk. Of course, the AppStore only has a little over 60,000 to choose from, compared to around 2000 total Wii and DSi titles. And, there's another 35,000 or so iOS educational apps. Each of which could never be lost or damaged -- even if the whole device was lost or damaged. And, by purchasing the apps from the same account, everyone in the house can play the same game, at the same time, together or apart, for just one single purchase.  It doesn't hurt either that the iTouch does more than play games. My son, for instance, could use the calendar for scheduling. And both my kids would love to have an MP3 player. Which, again, would allow them to share music under the same account. There are dictionary and thesaurus, flash cards, SAT prep, and other good apps. Plus, the Apple TV 2 also has a few tricks, other than being a slave to iPad, iTouch, and iPhone. It's certainly a competent media player and Netflix tuner (even before jailbreaking).

Until yesterday, I might have been worried that they'd fight over a computer to sync. But, come Fall, not only will that be unnecessary, but -- with the addition of a Bluetooth keyboard and the Apple TV -- each practically becomes its OWN computer, portable and home video and MP3 player (also capable of wirelessly streaming from my iTunes library), handheld game machine, gaming console, PDA, and videoconferencing device. To do it up right: $210 iTouch, $99 ATV, add a nice screen for less than $200, and a $69 Bluetooth keyboard. Effectively, the same price as purchasing each of them a desktop computer, but one that fits in their pockets. Even the Apple TV 2 is pocket-sized.

Fine! I take back what I said about the "budget option."


Filed Under “Things You Thought You Could Take for Granted”: Court Holds there is a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy in the Contents of Emails

Show of hands: How many people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when you send an email? It turns out, as late as December 2010, you may have had no reasonable expectation of privacy when it came to your email correspondence -- at least that was the opinion of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). And, between your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) Terms of Service (TOS), and the 1986 Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2712), you may not have under various circumstances.

M. Scott Koller, of McKennon | Schindler in Newport Beach, CA has written a very comprehensive overview of the decision, why it was ever in doubt, and the 1986 act that got us here in the first place.

Read more at http://www.reasonableexpectation.com/2011/01/09/stored-email-protected-by-the-4th-amendment/


Obama Looks to Silicon Valley to Solve Identity Crisis

The federal government thinks identity and passwords need to be fixed to keep the internet healthy, but is declining, thankfully, to try to fix it themselves. Instead, they are pushing internet entrepreneurs to build something robust and open.

Read full article at http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/3Uts2JG5xFc/


OT: Verizon — Oh no you di’nt!

It's rare that I clap for [watch] TV commercials. But Verizon just took AT&T to the mat -- er, map.

Technically, this is off-topic, but I think I can apply a little broad discretion when it comes to bad data -- That is, the data that every U.S. cell phone company uses to claim to be the best.

I know I spend a lot of time picking on Apple -- especially the the iPhone. But when something falls just short of great, it leaves room for criticism. That, however, doesn't describe Apple's choice of service partner. Verizon customers love their coverage. T-Mobile customers love their customer service. Sprint customers love their features (and free 3G roaming to Verizon). AT&T customers love their iPhones, and tolerate their service. Now Verizon is taking them to the map.

Watch and see what I mean.


Search & Seizure: 9th Cir. Appeals calls “foul” on broad computer searches

When searching a spreadsheet containing the drug test results of 104 professional baseball players federal prosecutors went too far, says the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

After lawfully executing a warrant on a Long Beach, CA drug testing lab for the test results of 10 players, agents uncovered a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with results of every player that was tested in the program. The government argued that 94 of those results were in "plain sight".

In a 9-2 decision, the court ruled:

"The government should, in future warrant applications, forswear reliance on the plain view doctrine or any similar doctrine that would allow it to retain data to which it has gained access only because it was required to segregate seizable from non-seizable data. If the government doesn’t consent to such a waiver, the magistrate judge should order that the seizable and non-seizable data be separated by an independent third party under the supervision of the court, or deny the warrant altogether." ... CONTINUE READING »


Hey Twit, get ready to Feed your Face!

"FaceFeed"? Via Cloudwave

Normally, tech industry news is a huge unhealthy personal interest of mine, but just left of my professional purview. (E.g., a waste of time, better spent earning a living.) So, I had to dig real deep to figure out how to get in on the Facebook-Friendfeed news before it hits the TV networks, and 90% of the first-world population utters a simultaneous, "What's Friendfeed?", over morning coffee.

The other ten percent of us are aware that Friendfeed is, in so many ways, technologically and mechanically superior to both Twitter and Facebook, yet not nearly as hip, cool, or demographically desirable (I think the male-female user ratio is worse than Alaska's) in so many other ways. Then again, maybe only five percent of us might agree with that assessment. There's probably another five who know exactly what Friendfeed is, and would sooner drink bleach than cede any advantages to Friendfeed over Twitter. But, most of those people don't have anything nice to say about Facebook either.

From a practical standpoint, it doesn't matter. Most of the free world has already aligned themselves with either Facebook, Twitter, or both. And, thanks in part to services like Ping.fm and Posterous.com, a few of us have managed to keep at least one toe in Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Plurk, Linkedin, Tumblr, Identi.ca, Brightkite, Plaxo, Bebo, and Hi5--but won't admit to ever having used MySpace. (Yes, I have 11 toes--Get over it!)

So, here's my spin: The Facebook-Friendfeed marriage ("Facefeed"?) is arguably the biggest merger in the online social space since AOL bought ICQ back in good ol' 1998. (Again, 90% say, "ICQ?") With it, Facebook will be acquiring various bits of personally-identifiable information from over 1,000,000 active and inactive Friendfeed users. Granted, next to Facebook's exhaustive, and arguably invasive (creepy?), profile settings, Friendfeed doesn't even allow for more than four pieces of information: a full name, user name, password, and an email address. But, Friendfeed does encourage users to scan their various email accounts and social networks for other users, and, like other social networks, it stores whatever the user puts into it. While Friendfeed encourages it's users to make their feeds public, similar to most Twitter feeds, it does have a "private feed" option. Presumably, this information has been purchased along with the public feeds. Though Friendfeed's numbers might pale in comparison to Facebook's quarter of a Billion users, it serves as a reminder, lest some even bigger fish (say Google) might one day swallow Facebook. And, one million people might still want to know what's going to happen with their data.

Read more @ Cloud Ave (http://www.cloudave.com/link/facefeed-no-surprises-here)


911 — Black Hawk down with SMS

Black Hawk County, Iowa has become the first in the nation to start accepting text messages sent to 911.

For now, the service only works for T-Mobile customers, and only those in the Black Hawk County area. Also, the physical hardware and software does not allow emergency operators to automatically locate callers, like they can using the E-911 (Enhanced-911) capabilities of most cellular and POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines--so dial-access is still the way to go for most people, in most circumstances. But, for those with physical impairments (all-thumbs?), or even temporary physical restraints (think hiding under a desk during an armed robbery), this could literally be a life-saver.

"Texting" has another advantage: it tends work where and when voice calls often can't, and requires very little battery life. Even stranded outside coverage area with a near-depleted battery, a text message is far more likely to "connect" than a voice call, and doesn't require a sustained signal to get the point across. Which, coincidentally, makes T-Mobile customers good candidates for the service.

Unfortunately, it's probably not going to do anything for response times, or T-Mobile's subscriber numbers. But, if it saves just one subscriber's life, that could make it all worthwhile--at least for T-Mobiles stockholders.

Via AP (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jQRysLdp0it9uIqDi_ytuMGxpotAD99ST5RG1)


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