Saturday, October 14, 2006

Report: Agency loss of personal information widespread

By Daniel Pulliam October 13, 2006

The loss of personal data is a common occurrence across government, largely because of poor physical security and portable computers and disks that go missing, according to a new report from the House Government Reform Committee.

In many cases, agencies did not know precisely what information has been lost or how many people could be affected by a particular data breach, the report said. Many of the reported breaches were the responsibility of government contractors.

Only a small number described to the committee were caused by online hackers, according to the report.

The review came in response to the May 2006 Veterans Affairs Department data breach, in which a computer containing the personal information of about 26.5 million veterans and active duty military members was stolen from the home of an agency employee. It later was recovered.

More than a dozen other agencies have since revealed security breaches. On July 10, the Government Reform Committee asked agencies to provide details about each incident since 2003 involving the loss or compromise of any sensitive personal information they or their contractors held.

The report details nearly 50 incidents since Jan. 1, 2003, each with a brief summary, including the date, the circumstances of the breach, the information that was lost or compromised and the number of people affected. In total, agencies reported more than 700 incidents.

Agencies described a wide range of situations, including data loss or theft, privacy breaches and security incidents. Their responses to data losses also varied -- some notified all potentially affected individuals and others failed to make any notification.

Under legislation proposed by House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., agencies would be required to notify the public if sensitive personal information was compromised.

The language passed the House as part of a measure that would substantially alter the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act and the Veterans Affairs Department's technology management structure. The measure is awaiting Senate action that would have to come in a November lame duck session after the elections.

In a separate development, Davis is asking agencies to submit summaries of how their Internet policies are enforced. The request came in response to a September report from the Interior Department's inspector general on the personal use of the Internet by agency employees. The IG found the agency's controls were ineffective and employees were accessing sexually explicit, gambling and auction Web sites.

[From the report: All 19 Departments and agencies reported at least one loss of personally identifiable information since January 2003. ]

Hey! It worked against Google! (This is one way to Balkinize your country... You can learn more about other countries than you can about your own!)

Update: MSN is latest target of Belgian copyright complaint

After Google win, Belgian publishers pursue MSN over the rights to publish content

By James Niccolai, IDG News Service October 13, 2006

Looking to avoid the kind of legal tangle that Google has found itself in, Microsoft's MSN division in Belgium is in talks with a group newspaper publishers over the rights to publish their content on its Web site.

The newspaper group, called Copiepresse, wrote a letter to MSN Belgium earlier this week, asking it to stop posting Belgian newspaper articles to its Web site without permission, said Margaret Boribon, the group's secretary general.

Copiepresse argues that search engine companies are profiting unfairly by posting content from its members' newspapers on their sites, where they often sell advertising. The search sites, such as Google News, typically post the first paragraph or two from the newspaper article and then a link to the publication's own Web site.

Copiepresse took Google to court over the matter. In September it won a ruling that required Google to remove the French and German language newspapers published in Belgium from its Web sites. Google complied, but has also appealed the ruling and is set to argue its case Nov. 24.

MSN is being more cooperative than Google, [perhaps letting Google fight their battle for them? Bob] according to Boribon. Representatives from MSN Belgium met with a lawyer from Copiepresse this week to discuss a compromise that would allow MSN to keep publishing the Belgian newspaper content, she said.

"MSN doesn't want to have a court case, that's for sure," she said. "We have met with them and they understand our point of view. We have to find a compromise ... that is a win-win situation for both sides."

Copiepresse has asked MSN to come up with some proposals for a compromise and will meet with the company again next week, Boribon said. Meanwhile, MSN has started to remove some Belgian newspaper content from its site, she said.

Nothing has been decided, but one possible solution would be for MSN Belgium to share a portion of its advertising revenue with the publishers. [Think of this as the equivalent of asking Rand-McNally to pay you if they put your street on their maps! (Can we get the patent on that?) Bob] "That is one option we are hoping for," Boribon said.

MSN, through its public relations agency in Europe, confirmed that it received a "cease and desist" letter from Copiepresse, which it is in the process of reviewing. It said it could not comment further on the matter.

The group, which represents some of Belgium's best known newspapers, including Le Soir and Le Libre, has been gathering more support for its cause. It was joined this week by separate groups that represent Belgian photographers, journalists, scientific authors and multimedia publishers, who plan to back its efforts.

Meanwhile, Copiepresse complains that Google is not complying fully with the court's order. Some stories by the Belgian publications still appear in cached pages of its Web site, Boribon said.

Google countered that it has complied fully with the court's order, going as far as to remove the Belgian newspaper stories from its Google News site worldwide, not just in Belgium. Google News does not have a separate cache, and the Google search engine will not provide links to cached pages if they have been removed from its search results, said a spokeswoman for Google in the U.K.

The moves by Copiepresse have been closely watched because of the wider implication they may have for the ability of Web sites to aggregate content from third parties. Critics have noted that search engines publish only a small portion of the publishers' contents, and that Google can help to drive substantial traffic to Web sites.

"That's true, and what we intend to do is to remain on Google and other search engines," Boribon said. "But it must be done in a way that is fair." [Sounds like every teenager, “That's not fair!” Bob]

Turns Out Bully Isn't A Public Nuisance After All...

from the no-one's-shooting-up-schools-because-of-it dept

Yesterday we wrote about how a Miami judge ordered Take Two to run through their new game Bully to see if it was "a public nuisance", as claimed by Jack Thompson. Apparently, it didn't take long to realize that (as every single reviewer has stated), the game is just a fun, amusing social satire, rather than anything really violent. With that in mind, the game has been cleared for release. Thompson is not happy. Even though he had said that if it turned out that the game really wasn't bad he would admit he was wrong, he's apparently now complaining that he didn't get enough of a chance to see the game himself. Either way, it looks like Jack Thompson continues to do his work at Take Two's best marketing executive. The game is getting plenty of publicity heading into its US release date on Tuesday.

Better reporting from the gamers...

Jack Thompson Ruling!

by DickMcVengeance on Oct 13, 2006 (-3348 seconds ago)

While Niero is at the courthouse, he’s asked me to blog this for you, so that we can get the information out as soon as humanly possible.

At 1:51, Niero called, saying that the judge will not prohibit the the sale of Bully. In the time that he played the game, the judge said that he did not see anything so violent that would require the game to be held from being shipped. The judge and Take Two employee used a cheat code in order to skip around in the game.

According to Niero, the courthouse got pretty heated, and at one point, the judge had to ask Mr. Thompson to sit down. Also, Mr. Thompson silenced his “expert witness” when he was going to say something.

That’s the immediate answer. Keep refreshing for updates.

Nothing in this article gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling of security.

Online brokerage account scams worry SEC

Fri Oct 13, 2006 2:47 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - High-tech crooks are hijacking online brokerage accounts using spyware and operating from remote locations, sometimes in Eastern Europe, U.S. market regulators said on Friday.

The computer "incursions" are a growing problem, said Walter Ricciardi, deputy enforcement director at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"It's something we're very concerned about," he said in remarks at a legal conference in Washington.

About 25 percent of U.S. retail stock trades are made by online investors through roughly 10 million online accounts, according to brokerages regulator NASD.

Crooks will load a victim's computer or a public PC with a spy program to monitor a user's activities and capture vital information, such as account numbers and passwords.

The program then e-mails the stolen information back to the thief, who can use it to open victim accounts.

Once inside, the thief may sell off an account's portfolio and take the proceeds. Or electronically hijacked accounts may be used for "pump-and-dump" schemes to manipulate stock prices for profit, Ricciardi said.

Public computers in such places as Internet cafes and hotel rooms are especially vulnerable to incursions. But home computers may also be hit as spyware can be imported simply by opening an e-mail attachment, said John Stark, chief of the SEC's Office of Internet Enforcement.

Incursion scams under SEC investigation are far-flung. "We're seeing these frauds in offshore entities and persons, including those located in Eastern Europe," Stark said.

The SEC is working to track down the hackers and to educate online investors, he said.

Steps to fight incursions include securing an online account by changing passwords frequently and never using an unfamiliar computer to enter an account number or password.

To fight a similar problem, U.S. banks are exploring new online banking security technologies since a study showed identity theft via online banking is a fast-growing crime.

Teen Questioned for Online Bush Threats

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer Oct 14, 6:44 AM EDT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Upset by the war in Iraq, Julia Wilson vented her frustrations with President Bush last spring on her Web page on She posted a picture of the president, scrawled "Kill Bush" across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense.

It was too late.

Federal authorities had found the page and placed Wilson on their checklist. They finally reached her this week in her molecular biology class.

The 14-year-old freshman was taken out of class Wednesday and questioned for about 15 minutes by two Secret Service agents. The incident has upset her parents, who said the agents should have included them when they questioned their daughter. [Were they included in the posting? Bob]

On Friday, the teenager said the agents' questioning led her to tears.

"I wasn't dangerous. I mean, look at what's (stenciled) on my backpack - it's a heart. I'm a very peace-loving person," said Wilson, an honor student who describes herself as politically passionate. "I'm against the war in Iraq. I'm not going to kill the president."

Her mother, Kirstie Wilson, said two agents showed up at the family's home Wednesday afternoon, questioned her and promised to return once her daughter was home from school.

After they left, Kirstie Wilson sent a text message to her daughter's cell phone, telling her to come straight home: "There are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush."

"Are you serious!?!? omg. Am I in a lot of trouble?" her daughter responded.

Moments later, Kirstie Wilson received another text message from her daughter saying agents had pulled her out of class.

Julia Wilson said the agents threatened her by saying she could be sent to juvenile hall for making the threat.

"They yelled at me a lot," she said. "They were unnecessarily mean."

Spokesmen for the Secret Service in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said they could not comment on the case.

Wilson and her parents said the agents were justified in questioning her over her posting. But they said they believe agents went too far by not waiting until she was out of school.

They also said the agents should have more quickly figured out they weren't dealing with a real danger. Ultimately, the agents told the teen they would delete her investigation file. [Clearly not gonna happen. Bob]

EFF - miniLinks for 2006-10-13.

miniLinks for 2006-10-13.

I suppose what he's asking is, “Has anyone figured out how to beat the rap?”

Floyd Landis Tries The Wikipedia Defense

from the wikis-against-doping dept

In his ongoing bid to retain his Tour De France title, alleged doper Floyd Landis has taken to the web. Earlier this week, he announced he would put his complete defense online for all to see and mull over. But simply posting some documents online isn't in itself all that impressive. What's interesting is that in addition to this, Landis has been engaging with online communities and message boards comprised of people who are interested in the case. These include avid cyclists, as well as people who are experts in forensic chemistry, law, statistics, and other fields that might relate. It's his hope that the internet will provide a mechanism for people with disparate knowledge to craft and articulate a strong defense for him. Landis himself calls it the "Wikipedia defense". Obviously, executing the Wikipedia defense might have some challenges, and online message boards might not be the best way for people to work together (perhaps he should actually put up a wiki). But it'll be an interesting experiment nonetheless into how an argument or legal defense can be a developed by a loose-knit group with a common interest.

No One Ever Would Have Planned To Put Voice, Video And Data On A Single Network Without A Patent

from the who-would-have-thought-of-that? dept

Another day, another incredibly broad and obvious patent claim. Broadband Reports points us to a patent awarded to Cisco earlier this year for a System and method for providing integrated voice, video and data to customer premises over a single network. Yes, that sounds like the commonly accepted definition of the "triple play," which until now no one had suggested was such a unique and non-obvious concept that it deserved a patent. Now, you might say that they could be explaining a very specific and non-obvious way of accomplishing this, but as the folks at Light Reading point out, the actual patent seems broadly worded to cover just about all triple play deployments. Once again, this highlights the need for an "obviousness" test, rather than just a prior art test. It may be true that there were no triple play offerings available in 2000, when the patent was filed, but that doesn't mean people weren't thinking about it. In fact, the bottleneck wasn't that people didn't know how to offer voice, video and data over a single network, but that the bandwidth just wasn't available yet.

The world continues to change... When do you suppose the last hitching post was removed from the streets of Denver?

Email Killing Off The Postal Service's Blue Street-Corner Mailboxes

from the the-decline-and-fall dept

For years, we've been hearing stories about how the rise of the mobile phone has helped kill off telephone booths. It seems that technology may be putting the hurt on another street corner icon: the blue post office mailbox. Apparently, with all this email stuff going on, the US Postal Service is removing thousands of the recognizable boxes (apparently they own a copyright on the design). Some have been removed out of worries over being terrorist targets, but most of the 42,000 boxes that have been removed have been due to lack of use. If a mailbox gets less than 25 pieces of mail per day, it's a candidate for removal. Of course, you have to give the Postal Service some credit, as they seem quite sensitive to the anger that removing these boxes seems to cause. They post a public notice, and it sounds like if enough people protest, they leave the box. While this may seem to conflict with recent stories that talk about how the internet has saved the Postal Service, that's a different situation. It's definitely built up the Postal Service's business in shipping packages. But, the street-corner mailboxes aren't used for packages -- but just first class envelope-mail. So, no more phone booths, and no more mailboxes. What's next to disappear from our sidewalks and street-corners?

I'm not a gamer. Is this kind of thing really useful?

vNES: play Nintendo games in your internet browser

posted by soulxtc in gaming

There's a great site called "vNES" that allows you to play NES Games from the comfort of your favorite internet browser. There's no need for pesky emulators or NES download packages, simply select the game from the scrollbar on the left hand side of your browser and then get ready to "lock and load."


This is interesting...

Geek to Live: Roll your own timeline

... So today I'll go over how to visualize a series of events using the open source dynamic widget called Timeline.

Why Timeline?

There are tons of ways to create a timeline - from a text file to an Excel spreadsheet to a weblog to a hosted webapp. While Timeline is more difficult to use than those other options, I chose it for a few reasons:

* It separates data from presentation. Timeline's event data is stored in an XML document that the view loads and renders. Unlike a spreadsheet or regular web page, the data is in an independent format that could very easily be used to create any number of different timeline formats.

Monkey Bites by Michael Calore Friday, 13 October 2006

Why Internet Explorer 7 Will Break the Web

Topic: browsers

Microsoft's next generation browser is due to arrive in a week or two (October 18 is the word on the street), so you'd better prepare yourself for the inevitable meltdown.

... The governing body of the web, the W3C (of which Microsoft is a member), dictates the standards that browsers must adhere to. That way, web developers can build their sites to comply with those standards and guarantee that any browser visiting their site will render the pages properly.

Of course, Microsoft has a history of dictating their own standards, and they have the power to do so because their browser is used by somewhere around 80-85% of the world's web surfing audience.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 Readiness Toolkit offers "testing guidance and tips for isolating and identifying a particular compatibility problem." Identifying compatibility problems should be Microsoft's task, not the web developers' task.

To be fair, Internet Explorer 7 offers more support for web standards than previous versions.

Is Sony dying?

Sony's 3Ds: Downgraded, Delayed and Disrupted --What Went Wrong?

Sony Corp. was the great innovator in consumer electronics for 30 years, but you'd never know it reading the latest headlines or watching the stock:

Friday, October 13, 2006

It must be Friday!

Hackers steal personal information from Brock University computers

Last Updated: Thursday, October 12, 2006 8:34 AM ET The Canadian Press

The personal information — including some credit card and bank account numbers — of about 70,000 people who gave money to Brock University [But never will again... Bob]has been stolen from the school's computers by a hacker.

Terry Boak, Brock's vice-president academic, said the digital intruder had the secret passwords needed to access the file listing of possibly every individual to ever donate to the university.

"It wasn't just someone who hacked in by playing around with it," Boak said. "So, you start thinking about how these passwords were obtained."

Boak said the hacker tapped into the system on Sept. 22 at 5:27 p.m. ET, taking only four minutes to make off with the file containing thousands of names, birthdates and e-mail addresses.

About 90 credit card numbers and some 270 bank account details were also in the file.

Boak said those people were called within 24 hours, while the remaining thousands received a letter in the mail explaining what had happened.

He said the school didn't see the "value" in issuing a public announcement or news release about the breach because all those directly affected had already been notified. [So how did it leak? Bob]

Niagara Regional Police are investigating.

Something about horses and barn doors comes to mind... (Would you like this job after what happened to the previous owner?)

HP hires ethics and compliance officer

Jon Hoak to work with outside counsel on independent assessment of HP's investigative practices

By Robert Mullins, IDG News Service October 12, 2006

Hewlett-Packard Co. is hiring a chief ethics and compliance officer to make sure its businesses practices sullied by a boardroom spying scandal, remain on the straight and narrow.

HP Thursday announced the appointment of Jon Hoak, a former legal counsel for NCR Corp., to the ethics post, which is a vice presidency. Hoak will report to chief executive officer (CEO), president and chairman Mark Hurd, until a new HP general counsel is named. Hurd was CEO of NCR before being hired by HP in March 2005.

Hoak, 57, will be responsible for HP’s adherence to its Standards of Business Conduct and will work with Bart Schwartz, an outside counsel who was hired last month, in the wake of the scandal, to perform an independent assessment of HP's current investigative practices and develop future best practices, the technology company stated in a news release.

... Also Thursday, Forrester Research Inc. released a survey of chief information officers (CIOs) that showed little impact of the scandal on their willingness to do business with HP. [Why would CIOs care? Bob]

What are the odds in Los Vegas?

United States vs. Google

October 12, 2006

... With Google this week taking over YouTube, it seems like an opportune time to look forward to the prospect - entirely speculative, of course - of what could be the defining antitrust case of the Internet era: United States vs. Google.

... And yet, however pure its intentions, Google already has managed to seize a remarkable degree of control over the Internet. According to recent ComScore figures, it already holds a dominant 44 percent share of the web search market, more than its next two competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft, combined, and its share rises to 50% if you include AOL searches, which are subcontracted to Google. An RBC Capital Markets analyst recently predicted that Google's share will reach 70 percent. "The question, really," he wrote, "comes down to, 'How long could it take?'"

Google's AdSense ad-serving system, tightly integrated with the search engine, is even more dominant. It accounts for 62 percent of the market for search-based ads. That gives the company substantial control over the money flows throughout the vast non-retailing sector of the commercial internet.

With the YouTube buy, Google seizes a commanding 43 percent share of the web’s crowded and burgeoning video market.

“Hey Mom & Dad, look what I have for you! A subpoena!”

School Official Sues Over MySpace Page

Posted by kdawson on Thursday October 12, @04:45PM from the their-kids'-keeper dept. The Internet The Courts

SoCal writes, "How much legal liability do parents have for what their kids do online? A lawsuit filed in Texas by a high-school assistant principal may give some answers. Some students she had disciplined set up a fake MySpace page in her name depicting her as a lesbian (which she happens not to be). In its coverage, Ars Technica notes that 'What sets this case apart from many other lawsuits filed over the content of blogs is that it doesn't target only the teenagers who created the site. It also argues that the parents were guilty of negligence by failing to supervise their children, and that they bear some of the responsibility for the defaming site.'"

The article links the Media Law Resource Center's resource tracking more than 50 cases now in the courts nationwide, in which bloggers have been sued for libel and related claims.

Another reason to sue Sony?

Just As Gas Prices Are Coming Down, It Might Get Harder To Fuel Your Laptop

from the fill-up dept

This year has seen more than its fair share of laptop battery recalls and explosions, the fallout from which has hit computer manufacturers, business travellers and of course the battery makers themselves. The lack of breakthroughs in battery power had already been a major drag on computing, particularly mobile computing, so the whole thing has been rather fitting. It looks like the problem may compound itself as some manufacturers are warning of a laptop battery shortage to continue through the rest of the year and into next summer. Sony's massive recall is causing customers to wait an additional two months for orders to arrive, while competitors have no spare capacity to build more. [Now that's interesting... Bob] Eventually, things will get worked out, and the situation might even prompt more R&D into batteries. But in the meantime, if you see big lines at the Apple store, it might not be due to popularity of the new iPod, but rather an old fashioned buying panic.

France, Italy And Austria May Get In Trouble For Banning Online Gambling

from the different-continents,-different-rules dept

While the US is going out of its way to ban online gambling, it appears that some European countries aren't going to have it that easy. The European Commission is threatening legal action against France, Italy and Austria for their own efforts to stop online gambling. Similar to the situation in the US where some online gambling executives have been arrested recently, France apparently arrested some online gambling execs as well. However, the European Commission charges that some of these activities may go against certain EU-wide laws that mandate open access to services throughout the EU. The specific problem here is that it appears these countries have state monopolies on gambling. So, they allow it, but only if they're the ones running it -- and that policy is what's causing the problems. In other words, the problem here isn't necessarily having to do with any sense of morality or protecting people, but more about who gets to profit from the gambling (though, of course, some would argue that's really what's at work here in the US as well).

I want one! How can you not smile when someone does something so strange! (You may as well ignore the translation...)

Portable typewriter laptop

digitalgopher submitted by digitalgopher 15 hours 19 minutes ago (via )

This really is a bizarra mod. It's a typewriter crossed with a laptop + a morse code keypad of sorts. [via make]

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Perhaps the Courts don't understand the Internet?

ICANN: We can't shut down Spamhaus

Jaikumar Vijayan and Linda Rosencrance

October 11, 2006 (Computerworld) The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said in a statement today that it does not have the ability or authority to comply with a proposed court order that it suspend the Internet service of The Spamhaus Project Ltd. Spamhaus is a volunteer-run antispam service.

In a proposed order last Friday, Judge Charles Kocoras of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois called on the organizations responsible for registering the Internet address to suspend the organization's Internet service. Both ICANN -- the nonprofit organization set up to manage the domain name system of the Internet -- and Toronto-based Tucows Inc., the registrar, are named in the order.

... Spamhaus, based in London, issued a statement yesterday saying that it ignored the judgment because it can't be enforced in the U.K.

Privacy groups rap DHS plan to limit access to clearance information

By Jonathan Marino October 10, 2006

Privacy advocates have voiced strong opposition to the Homeland Security Department's proposal to scale back the amount of information that security clearance applicants can access about government investigations of their background.

"It needs to be thoroughly revised," Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said of DHS' proposed rule change. Members of the public have until Oct. 12 to submit comments on the draft regulation.

DHS argued in its proposal that more information that comes up during background checks -- central to employment in many positions at the department -- must be kept secret to avoid compromising national security or revealing that an individual is being investigated.

Dixon responded with a four-page letter, in which she argued that DHS' move to "commingle" systems of records that come up during investigations -- including those on terrorism-related inquiries and criminal investigations -- and then exempt them from the 1974 Privacy Act creates an overly broad category of documents that are unavailable to applicants. Provisions in the Privacy Act currently give applicants the right to view their materials.

"The commingling of the records in a single system will only result in confusion on the part of DHS staff and -- especially -- on the part of individuals who are subject of the records in the system," she wrote. "That confusion may result in the denial of rights that the Privacy Act ... was intended to grant."

The result, Dixon said in an interview, could make as much as half of the information included in any clearance applicant's file exempt from the Privacy Act, and therefore unavailable to that person.

"They will have to undo this one," she said.

The World Privacy Forum is the only privacy advocacy group that has submitted comments thus far, but it is not the only one likely to oppose the proposed rule change.

"I was shocked," to see the proposed regulation, said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Rotenberg said one staffer is working nearly full-time researching the regulation, though he would not say whether EPIC will file a formal comment in opposition.

The proposed regulation lists Hugo Teufel, DHS' chief privacy officer, as one of two contacts. When approached by a Government Executive reporter at a recent hearing of DHS' Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee, Teufel declined to comment on the issue. DHS also did not return repeated calls for comment.

Parents prepare to sue fingerprint grabbers

By Mark Ballard Published Friday 6th October 2006 11:47 GMT

Parents are preparing a legal challenge to schools that have fingerprinted their children without their consent.

Janine Fletcher, a solicitor and concerned parent who instigated the legal response, said she became concerned when she learned that 70 schools in her home county of Cumbria had taken childrens' fingerprints without seeking parental consent.

"It's a breach of human rights," she said. "Lots of parents are willing to take legal action. There's a clear case."

"We are trying to get a list of distressed parents together who are prepared to take group action," she said. "Every child has a right to privacy."

Richard Furlong, a barrister who has advised the campaign group Leave Them Kids Alone (, which is co-ordinating the action, said: "Once the kids fingerprints are taken, the schools are obliged in law to disclose the fingerprint to the police if they are investigating a crime. All of a sudden, police have a huge database to query. But the police only usually have access to your fingerprints when you are arrested."

"All of a sudden they've got this great database and in twenty years time they'll have everyone's fingerprints through the back door," he said.

"People say, 'if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear', I always say, well how much do you earn then?" he added.

Many schools put their fingerprint systems in over the school holidays and informed parents by letter on the first day of term, said Fletcher. Parents weren't being given enough time to disagree with the scheme, let alone think through the ramifications of their children being fingerprinted.

The group are preparing to take a test case against a school that has fingerprinted children without parental consent.

Best Privacy Policy Ever?

October 04, 2006

Cory over at Boing Boing blogged last week about an online service that helps you manage bills and informal cash flows with your roommates and friends. The service, called BillMonk, is interesting, but what's even more interesting is BillMonk's privacy policy, which is the shortest, clearest, and most substantively protective policy we've read in a long while.

Disney Sees Piracy As Competing Business Model

Date Wednesday, October 11 @ 16:06:06

Giving the Keynote address at Mipcom, Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney has broken with studio convention and recognised piracy as a business model to compete with, as opposed to simply an illegal threat to be battled.

Sweeney's pragmatic conversion came after seing - within 15 minutes of the ABC network premiere of Despearate Housewives - a high-quality, ad-free version that had appeared on P2P networks.

We understand now that piracy is a business model,” said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood's most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. “It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability. We we don’t like the model but we realise it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.”

... Sweeney's address also pointed out:

- Eighty-four percent of those that used the on-demand service said that it was a “good deal” to get a free episode in return for watching an ad and, significantly for advertisers, 87 percent of those could recall the advertiser that sponsored the programme.

How would you prove that an identity thief got your information from Acxiom (or any specific source)?

Class action suit over ID theft tossed out

By Declan McCullagh Story last modified Thu Oct 12 04:24:24 PDT 2006

A federal judge in Arkansas has thrown out a class action lawsuit against Acxiom, which exposed massive amounts of Americans' personal information in a high-profile Internet security snafu three years ago.

Even though a spammer had downloaded more than one billion records from the company, U.S. District Judge William Wilson ruled that there was no evidence that Acxiom's purloined database had been used to send junk e-mail or postal mail.

Because the class action attorneys could not prove that anyone's information had actually been misused, Wilson dismissed the case and the request for damages on the grounds that any harm would be entirely speculative. "Because plaintiff has not alleged that she has suffered any concrete damages, she does not have standing under the case-or-controversy requirement," he wrote.

The decision (PDF), published on Oct. 3, could prove influential in other identity fraud cases where breaches have exposed personal information such as home addresses and Social Security numbers, but there's no proof that the information has been misused.

"If this case is not the first, it's certainly one of the first to deal with these issues," said David Kramer, a partner at the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who represents Acxiom.

It's not entirely clear what information was downloaded from Acxiom. It provides databases for direct marketers, including InfoBase, described by the company as "the largest collection of U.S. consumer and telephone data in one source," and Personicx, which features the "specific consumer and demographic characteristics" of tens of millions of American households. Acxiom also provides information to law enforcement agencies, and once counted former presidential candidate Wesley Clark as a board member.

The class action lawsuit arose out of a security breach at Acxiom in 2003 in which the company did not adequately protect a server used for file transfers (FTP). Earlier this year, Scott Levine was sentenced to eight years in prison after a federal jury convicted him of 120 counts of unauthorized access to Acxiom's computers.

Levine is a native of Boca Raton, Fla. and former chief executive of a bulk e-mail company called, which had been dubbed a spammer by the Spamhaus Project. But federal prosecutors said there was no evidence that Levine used the downloaded data for identity fraud.

According to court documents, Levine and others broke into an Acxiom server used for file transfers and downloaded an encrypted password file called "ftpsam.txt" in early 2003. Then they ran a cracking utility on the ftpsam.txt file, prosecutors said, discovered 40 percent of the passwords, and used those accounts to download even more sensitive information.

The revelations raised eyebrows, in part because Acxiom Chairman Charles Morgan had offered public assurances about the company's security, including in testimony click here for PDF) to the Federal Trade Commission. Morgan said that his company takes "exceptional security measures to protect the information we maintain for our own information ensure that information will not be made available to any unauthorized person."

No decision about an appeal

An attorney who is co-counsel on the lawsuit against Acxiom said on Wednesday that the plaintiffs have not yet decided whether to appeal. "We're going to consider what our potential avenues are over the coming week or so, and then make a decision," said Scott Poynter of the firm Emerson Poynter in Little Rock, Ark.

Emerson Poynter describes itself as a firm that has "specialized in class action litigation for over 15 years" and says all of those cases are handled on a contingency-fee basis. It has filed class-action lawsuits against companies including AOL Time Warner, Nortel Networks and Coca-Cola, typically alleging securities fraud. It has indicated it will target companies that are accused of stock option backdating as well.

"Our client tried to find out from Acxiom if her information was compromised, and they wouldn't tell her," [They probably would not know. Not part of their business model. Do they have an ethical responsibility here? Bob] Poynter said. "We think the consumers that have their private information stored by a company should have that right...But maybe the law needs to catch up with the Internet and the way people's privacy is being invaded today."

In the lawsuit that Emerson Poynter and a second law firm filed against Acxiom in April, they raised two vague arguments: That the data-broker was negligent, and that its actions "caused an unreasonable intrusion on the privacy" of people whose records were exposed. Those legal claims require someone to have suffered actual harm beyond a possibly increased risk of identity theft, Judge Wilson concluded. (The lawyers asked for "compensatory and punitive damages" and attorneys' fees of an unspecified amount.)

"This may lead attorneys looking to bring these sorts of claims to ensure their clients have suffered actual harm rather than speculative injury before filing suit," said Kramer, Acxiom's attorney.

But Chris Hoofnagle, a senior fellow at the University of California at Berkeley's law school who has been critical of Acxiom, thinks that the outcome might have been different if the attorneys had filed the suit in California. State law (AB1950) requires businesses that own or license personal information about Californians to "implement and maintain reasonable security procedures."

"I would hope that one could think of more causes of action other than identity theft and negligence," Hoofnagle said.

Levine's was not the first prosecution to stem from the security practices on Acxiom's FTP server. An Ohio man named Daniel Baas previously pleaded guilty to illegally entering Acxiom's FTP site. That investigation led federal police--including the FBI and Secret Service--to Levine, according to the Justice Department.

October 10, 2006

Guidelines for State Trial Courts Regarding Discovery of Electronically-Stored Information

Guidelines for State Trial Courts Regarding Discovery of Electronically-Stored Information, Conference of Chief Justices, Approved August 2006.

Is this the first government blog? I doubt it, but they can't be that common yet...

October 11, 2006

FTC Launches Blog in Advance of Upcoming Tech-Ade Hearings

Press release: "The Federal Trade Commission is hosting a blog to provide information and a forum for feedback about its public hearings on "Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-ade," to be held November 6-8, 2006, in Washington, DC. The public hearings will examine how evolving technology will shape and change the habits, opportunities and challenges of consumers and businesses in the coming decade, and will feature experts from the business, government and technology sectors, consumer advocates, academicians, and law enforcement officials."


October 11, 2006

New Coalition Website Takes Aim Against Cybercrime

Launched today, the Take a Byte Out of Cybercrime website: "Led by the beloved McGruff character, the National Crime Prevention Council, the CMO Council and FAME have joined forces to bring together one of the largest and most influential coalitions of private and public companies whose primary goal is to teach millions of consumers how to identify, report and protect themselves against cyber crime." [download the tip sheets]

I think this points out a potentially serious problem. How can government get by network filters to inform us of danger? (“There is a man with a gun in your building...”) Similar to “reverse-911” calls

When You Can't Tell The Phishing Emails From The Legit Ones, Just Ignore Them All

from the smart-security dept

Phishing is a common way for criminals to try and steal people's passwords or other personal information, and it depends on phishers crafting emails and fake sites that look enough like the real thing that people will willingly surrender their information. Banks and authorities are obviously aware of phishing, but that doesn't stop them from undermining their online security efforts, as well as their online products, by sending out legit emails that look like phishing attempts. The latest instance sees some British cybercrime police attempting to notify more than 2,000 people in the country that their personal information, including credit card numbers had been stolen. They get an A for effort, but an F for execution, since they're letting people know by sending them an email, and asking them to get in touch -- which plenty of people aren't doing, because it sounds an awful lot like a phishing scam. The rise of phishing has made consumers loathe to trust anyone they don't know from whom they receive emails asking for contact or personal information -- and rightly so. But if banks and authorities are going to tell people that's the right thing to do, they shouldn't be at all surprised when their emails go ignored as well.

Another tool for displaying your expertise?

Announcing The Techdirt Insight Community -- Bringing Together The Smartest Bloggers Around To Provide Their Insight To Businesses

from the something-new dept

We may be a bit slow in posting today, as we're at the Office 2.0 conference to announce our new Techdirt Insight Community. Over the past few years, we've seen an amazing growth in smart, insightful bloggers, who really know their market, and provide great opinions and analysis about a variety of topics on their blogs. At the same time, through our Techdirt Corporate Intelligence service, we've heard about how companies are really looking for good, fast and honest insight and analysis, while also trying to get a better grasp on what the blogosphere has to say about things. However, rather than just monitoring them or bombarding them with press releases, we believe there's an opportunity to bring together the smart bloggers into a community to help provide directed, confidential insight to companies.

Companies sign up to engage the Techdirt Insight Community to raise issues, get feedback, test ideas, review products, make strategy suggestions, help with purchasing decisions or any number of other services that require a dedicated group of experts. We take those issues and alert a group of qualified bloggers, who then can respond within our system. Techdirt analysts then review the responses, and deliver them back to the company. So, rather than setting up a focus group or hiring an expensive analyst firm for their input, companies get a wide variety of perspectives and insights very quickly, and can act on it. The company can also open up the discussion among those bloggers to get second and third-level analysis as they each respond to each other's analysis. In order to focus on honest responses, initially communication uses a double-blind anonymous system, so that people feel they can speak honestly and openly, and companies get the feedback they need to hear. There will, however, be additional opportunities to get like-minded bloggers together on various projects for companies. The service is already in beta testing with a variety of customers and bloggers, and you can see case studies with VeriSign and SAP here. If you are a blogger who regularly blogs about certain industries or technologies, please sign up to be considered for the community. If you represent a company that wants to get the perspectives of a group of very smart bloggers, please contact us to see about joining our beta program. Or you can just read more at the Techdirt Insight Community website.

What a great idea! (That's sarcasm people.)

New Surveillance Technology Monitors The Invisible

from the detection dept

There's little doubt that surveillance cameras are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and that there's really no such thing as privacy in public. But monitoring images visible to the naked eye may one day look quaint compared to the next generation of surveillance technologies. One company is developing a new technology that uses UV rays to detect trace amounts of illegal substances on objects, like door handles. So, a cop walking through the hallway of an apartment building could quickly zap each door handle to get an idea of who might be in possession of illegal narcotics. You can probably imagine many different applications of this technology, like streetlights that can tell what drivers had alcohol touch their lips that night. The question isn't whether this technology is bad or good, it's whether it can be used without being abused. At the moment, the courts have ruled against the use of drug-monitoring technology without a warrant, but it's not like nobody ever ignored the law before. And please, don't bother with the argument "If you have no drug residue on your door handle, then you have nothing to hide."

I'm sure someone (perhaps the French?) will try this. Think of it as techno-balkanization.

The Internet Is The Internet Because Of The Inter Part

from the just-saying dept

The original idea of the internet is that it connected all of these networks. Hence the "inter-" part. However, as it's grown up, and we've seen things like China's "Great Firewall" and other countries trying to limit aspects of the internet, there's an increasing fear that the internet will get broken up into a series of separate networks, often country-based. It's certainly possible (if not likely), but it's not clear that it should really be a huge concern. Cutting yourself off from the larger internet seems like a strategy that's destined to cause problems long-term for those who choose to separate themselves from the larger network. Just like globalization is a pretty much unstoppable trend, so is a connected internet. You can cut yourself off from the world, but it doesn't make much sense to actually do so. It does a lot more damage to those who cut themselves off than to the rest of the network -- and should eventually lead to pressure to reconnect to the larger internet. Countries smart enough to recognize that they need to trade with the rest of the world, should also realize that communications networks are a part of that process and are unlikely to completely cut themselves off.

Imagine how long it would take to review all possible features of an operating system or to play every possible chess game.

Judge And Jack Thompson To Play Bully -- Will It Convince Them To Shoot Up A School?

from the just-wondering dept

As lawyer Jack Thompson continues his mission against video games, it was never clear why he felt the Take Two Interactive/Rockstar Games were required to give him early access to their latest game, Bully. However, he seems to have convinced a Florida judge, who has required that the game be played in its entirety in front of her and Thompson, so they can determine if it violates public nuisance laws. How a video game that is played in private can violate public nuisance laws is not entirely clear -- but apparently the judge will determine that over the next few days. Of course, every single review notes that the game is more social satire/humor than anything really violent -- but Thompson refuses to believe that's possible. However, if Thompson is so convinced that these games inspire people to go shoot up schools, shouldn't we be worried that he'll be inspired by the game to shoot up a school himself?

Clearly Google will replace schools in the next few years. Why go to school when you can stay home an play on the computer?

Teacher's helper

10/11/2006 10:33:00 AM Posted by Cristin Frodella, Product Marketing Manager

Create picture collages of famous Americans with Picasa. Find out what Virginia newspapers had to say about the Civil War in 1862 with Google News Archive Search. Check out the pyramids in Egypt with Google Earth, and then build your own with SketchUp.

We’ve been hearing about some pretty cool assignments from classrooms across the U.S. where teachers at all grade levels are using Google products to bring history lessons to life, illuminate new sources of information, and encourage sharing and collaboration. What we’ve also heard loud and clear is that teachers want more information about using Google products, and more connections to other educators who are using the web creatively. This is why we’ve launched a set of resources for K-12 educators today at the new Google for Educators site. Here you'll find teachers’ guides for 12 Google products, including basic information about each, examples of how educators are using them, plus lesson ideas. We’re also offering some additional multimedia content, including lesson plans and videos from Discovery Education that use Google Earth and SketchUp, and a series of podcasts at Infinite Thinking Machine on innovative ways to use the web in the classroom.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is it possible that Sony never considered heat in any of their products? What if these game boxes burst into flame like the laptop batteries?

CONFIRMED! Sony is Worried About Overheating!

* CigDangle * Tue 10th October 2006, 2:10 pm

[Well, not flammable, but damn hot!] Just as PS3 pre-orders are selling out nationwide at EB Games/GameStop stores, Generation: Gamerz has received information implying that Sony is worried about PlayStation 3 heat issues, contrary to recent reports.

In addition to the 3 crashes witnessed by many at the TGS show, at least one company that manufactures the store kiosks has been asked to implement last minute design changes to the displays: additional cooling is being implemented. Although our source reports that they have been unable to overheat the unit in house, they are to continue with the installation of a cooling fan in the display.

Seems as though Sony is experiencing many of the same problems Microsoft has. Let`s hope Sony provides a longer warranty.

Something fishy about this article...

Police probe personal data theft from 2,300 U.K. computers

Posted on : 2006-10-11 Author : Alan Cross

LONDON: Credit card details and passwords stolen from thousands of computers users in the U.K. have found its way to a computer in the U.S. and British law enforcing agencies are investigating the circumstances that led to the theft of these confidential information and trying to find out the perpetrators.

According to the Metropolitan Police's Computer Crime Unit, which is investigating the incident, data found in the U.S. computer was apparently stolen from more than 2,300 U.K. computers using a virus. The unit said some 83,000 files in the U.K. computers were targeted by the hackers, but there could be more such instances around the world.

It added that the information was stolen using a malicious code named "backdoor." Email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers and other confidential information could have been stolen by the hackers.

The police have alerted banks and other financial institutions, which offer online services.

A spokesperson for the Met said the department has emailed known victims and they should immediately contact the Computer Crime Unit on the contact number provided.

The spokesperson said it is too early to establish how the computers have been infected. The department would also not say at this juncture whether the compromised information has been used in fraud.

The Met did not reveal the circumstances under which the U.S. computer was seized, saying investigations are going on. It is confident of cracking down on the criminals.

Improving Open Source Speech Recognition

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday October 10, @04:10PM Announcements Linux

kmaclean writes, "VoxForge collects free GPL Transcribed Speech Audio that can be used in the creation of Acoustic Models for use with Open Source Speech Recognition Engines. We are essentially creating a user-submitted repository of the 'source' speech audio for the creation of Acoustic Models to be used by Speech Recognition Engines. The Speech Audio files will then be 'compiled' into Acoustic Models for use with Open Source Speech Recognition engines such as Sphinx, HTK, CAVS and Julius."

Read on for why we need free GPL speech audio.,71928-0.html?tw=rss.index

Politics Get Caught in the Web

By Jennifer Granick 01:00 AM Oct, 11, 2006

In the quest for political office, modern campaigners deal in the currency of the moment, information. Information is power, and campaigns trade fiercely in it, exhaustively researching their opponents' past, [Take care! Dis-information could be planted... Bob] scrutinizing the moods of the elusive swing voter and spewing (or leaking) favorable information about their own candidate.

Of course, politicians try to harness the power of the internet, but some campaigns look more like they are stumbling than steering through cyberspace.

In August, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman's campaign accused the office of his opponent, Ned Lamont, of coordinating a human, distributed denial-of-service attack on Lieberman's Joe2006 website. Lamont denied the allegation. Lieberman critics said various error messages suggested the campaign did not buy enough bandwidth to handle normal traffic.

Then, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger accused challenger Phil Angelides' campaign of breaking into a password-protected computer to obtain an embarrassing audio file of Schwarzenegger referring to a Latino state representative's "hot" blood. Investigation by the Angelides people showed that the governor's campaign had included audio recordings of private meetings with recordings of speeches and press conferences on a public, unsecured web server.

In mid-September, the Minnesota Senate campaign for Democrat Amy Klobuchar reported to the FBI that their communications director had viewed an unaired TV attack ad commissioned by their opponent, Mark Kennedy. A blogger sent the communications director a link to the ad. While the specific link was not password-protected, the blogger said he found the link after guessing the password to the website. Uncertain whether the blogger had discovered the ad illegally, the campaign felt compelled to report the incident to the authorities. [Wow! Ethics! Bob]

About a week later, two liberal bloggers traced comments on Democratic candidate Paul Hodes' webpage to the policy director for Hodes' opponent, Rep. Charles Bass (R-New Hampshire). The policy director, Tad Furtado, was "sock puppeting," pretending to be a Hodes supporter arguing that Bass held such a large lead in polls that like-minded New Hampshire Democrats should focus their campaign efforts on more competitive races in New York or Connecticut.

Last Thursday, Rick Bolanos, the Democratic candidate for Congress in San Antonio, Texas, filed a lawsuit alleging Rep. Henry Bonilla's campaign was cybersquatting on a dozen domain names Bolanos would normally use for his campaign's website.

Why are so many campaigns tripping over the internet?

Campaigns are about collecting, controlling and disseminating information. The internet has a lot of rules about information transfer. These rules include complicated "unauthorized access" statutes, copyright law, trademark law and domain-name regulations.

Campaigns are down-and-dirty struggles for power. Leaking favorable information and researching your opponent are fundamental tools in the contest. The internet provides a wealth of new outlets and sources of information, but the ethics of internet use are in flux, if only because it is still relatively new and does not always match up well with the ethics of campaigns, or of the rest of society.

Where law and ethics are unclear, there's risk, and where there's risk, there are traps for the most aggressive users of the internet, including campaigns.

Furtado resigned for pretending to be someone he was not. But on the internet, it is accepted to go by a false name. [On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog! Bob] California's governor accused his opponent of "hacking", but the information was not password-protected. It was secure only by virtue of the fact that no one had stumbled on it yet. In the real world, if you stumble upon juicy information, you are allowed to publicize it. In cyberspace, you might run afoul of computer-trespass laws.

The federal law, and every state, has a "computer trespass" statute that prohibits access to computers without authorization or without permission. Mostly, we use the internet assuming that we have permission to connect to this or that web server unless there is some indication to the contrary. After all, the owner intentionally hooked the machine to the public network.

The law is much less clear. Some cases suggest that a user needs explicit permission before connecting. Other cases hold that using a networked computer in a way that's contrary to the owner's interests is trespassing.

In a campaign, every time a candidate's team searches for the opponents' latest speeches and press releases, they are acting against the opponent's interests. Perhaps Klobuchar's former communications director could have known she was on Kennedy's media consultant's website looking at an unreleased ad. But without password-protecting it, is she supposed to look away just because her viewing it is contrary to what Kennedy's team would have preferred?

This uncertainty applies outside of campaigns as well.

When students found an archive of e-mails documenting that Diebold electronic voting machines were insecure, the company initially argued that an unidentified hacker had stolen the e-mails and thus no one should redistribute them. When former AT&T employee Mark Klein disclosed to the Electronic Frontier Foundation internal documents showing the company was diverting all telephone and internet communications to a secret room for National Security Agency surveillance, the company (unsuccessfully) argued that EFF should have to return the documents.

Where there's legal uncertainty, you want to be the good guy, rather than a bad actor. [What a concept... Bob] That way, even if you technically broke the law, prosecutors will be reluctant to charge and juries reluctant to convict. Campaigns have a particularly tough time mitigating legal uncertainty. It's difficult to look like a good guy when you're trying to bloody the opponent's nose to gain power for yourself. And with the internet, reasonable people differ on what an ethical choice would be.

As more politicians start to use the internet, and as Election Day nears, we'll see more cases of campaigns making embarrassing security mistakes, violating various internet regulations and transgressing an equally complicated web of ethical constraints. [Count on it! Bob]

Campaigns need to learn how the internet works and how to secure their data and protect their information from attack. Internet law needs to accommodate the fact that real life is messy, and hard-fought campaigns are even messier.

At the same time, there has to be enough cyberspace for the Rick Bolanoses of the world to get their message out. In the meanwhile, a lot of computer-savvy aides are going to be resigning.

- - - Jennifer Granick is executive director of the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, and teaches the Cyberlaw Clinic.

For example:

October 10, 2006

Center Posts State Legislators' Personal Financial Disclosures

"Effective October 6, 2006 financial disclosure statements filed across the country in 2006 in most states will be available online at the Center for Public Integrity's Web a state at and, under the "Documents & Databases" section, click "Legislator Personal Financial Disclosures." The Center has collected these documents since 2000 — more than six thousand filings each year — and posted them online. These documents can shed light on what personal interests might influence lawmakers' votes and legislation."

Students of Constitutional Law might find this video amusing. Remember, you have no right to view this video!

Olbermann: “Why does habeas corpus hate America”

By: Jamie Holly on Tuesday, October 10th, 2006 at 6:04 PM - PDT


Keith did a great report tonight on what the recently passed Military Commissions Act of 2006 means to America and our Constitution.

Video - WMV Video - QT

... Transcript available below the fold.

GooTube: Match made in heaven

Posted Oct 10th 2006 8:07AM by Randall Bennett
Filed under: Trends, Business, The Little Guy, Web, Online, Editorial

There's no denying the success of YouTube... Alexa puts it as the 10th most visited website on the internet. [in case you're wondering, DV Guru is about 13,000]. With all that success, many pundits around the web said YouTube was Web2.0 Napster and would likely see the same fate, but they've come through and proved all the naysayers wrong. Now that they're nearly legit, with only a regulatory hurdle away, the $1.65 Billion company isn't being sued into oblivion, but instead striking content deals with big media companies.

While the site was worth $1.6 Billion to Google, and the big media companies feel like they've got a place to distribute their content online to the masses, what does the deal mean for indies? The impending sale doesn't affect independent content creators as much as it does big media, but there are defininite advantages for the independent content producer. Read on after the break for a breakdown of today's transaction.

YouTube isn't technologically different than a host of other companies offering online video. DVG broke down the differences between ten different online video sharing services earlier this year, and other than popularity, what does YouTube really have going for it? They broke new ground (some reactions are here). Their major differentiating factor plays off of another Web2.0 breakout: MySpace. YouTube allowed users to leech their bandwidth, and syndicate content on MySpace pages, blogs and any form of web site. That alone opened up the distribution channel. Millions of internet users knew the name YouTube and knew it was the place to find free movies on the web. With clips like "Juggernaut, Bitch!" and Ok Go's "Here it goes again" among a smattering of fart jokes, men getting hit in the crotch, and other random home movies, YouTube became the place to go for video on the web.

Google and YouTube is the only scenario that works in YouTube being purchased. If a traditional media company purchased YouTube, their competitors would remove their copyrighted content thereby limiting YouTube's effectiveness. Google, being the internet zen garden for smart internet startups (although some would argue YouTube isn't necessarily a smart startup), had their own solution, Google Video, failing to gain traction. Ultimately, Google is the only company that could be a neutral third-party that traditional content creators could trust to distribute their content.

Now that you're up on the history of the site, let's talk about the future, post-Google buyout. The house that Sergey built says they're planning on leaving YouTube as its own entity, and now that they've got a sugar daddy, YouTube's employees will get paid, no more worrying about astronomical bandwidth charges and Google will be taking the cease and desist letters, as well as the deep pockets for lawsuits.

As for Google, they've essentially taken the lead in online video with this move. $1.6 Billion may seem like a huge amount, but Google just purchased a huge catalog of content that they can slap AdSense on. Since YouTube will stick around, one can safely assume Google Video's destiny lies in the trash heap. The Google Video programmers will likely keep their jobs, and relocate to YouTube, adding great new features. While we'll have to see whether Google scraps Google Video in favor of YouTube.

Independent content creators can (mildly) rejoice, since the leader in syndicated web video will stick around for a while. The most obvious benefits are added stability: videos already uploaded will continue to work in spite of lawsuits. That, and as Jason Calacanis pointed out, Google is the sort of media company that will be unlikely to put pre-roll advertisements in front of other people's video content.

That's the obvious route, but what other benefits might we see as independent producers? A direction I'm certain Google is thinking of would be dynamic ads for video content. Their AdSense for Video program hasn't been incredibly well received, but with the YouTube acquisition, dynamically placed revenue sharing advertisements could be coming to a video near you. Videobloggers have longed for a solution that leverages the power of the web with the ease of drop-in spot advertising. Perhaps the GooTube alliance will see some traction towards monetized videoblogs, and for that matter monetized home videos.

One feature Google video has that YouTube hasn't touched yet is selling videos for download. The new GooTube conglomeration has the potential to offer indpenedent content creators the ability to reach a wide audience, and even make money off of potential direct sales. Time will tell if they end up implementing this with YouTube, but regardless, there's definate potential.

GooTube is really in it's infancy, and we'll have to see where it goes. There's one thing for certain though, YouTube is going to stick around, and we'll all be watching.