Saturday, July 31, 2010

One Open Step for One Agreeable Future

I have often wondered how the law can adapt to the ever-changing nature of information and communications technology (ICT). I find it difficult to accept the fact that the law will always be behind ICT, and that its role can never be anticipative nor preventive, only remedial. One significant factor that sent me thinking about alternatives was the ideal flexible social role of law in adjusting to the future circumstances of society.

The two alternatives that I have come up so far are: 1) to make the provisions in ICT-related laws to be open-ended or malleable enough to accommodate foreseeable changes in technology, and 2) to delegate the functions of determining the specific technical details of implementing the law to a competent authority. These two alternatives not only allow flexibility of the laws in the days ahead, but also consistency in the authority of their implementation. By keeping them in mind, I fairly state that the future ICT-related laws will not only be responsible. They will also be more agreeable to the stakeholders concerned.

-Michelle P. M. Sabitsana

Friday, July 30, 2010

Some Rights Reserved


I was looking for cases over Lawphil when I accidentally hit right-click and this appeared:

I already had an idea what Creative Commons is, but I wasn’t familiar with the different licenses they had. Upon researching, I found out that Creative Commons licenses allow one to choose certain conditions upon which to make their work available.

Attribution (by) allows others to copy, distribute, display, and perform copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way the copyright holders requested. Share Alike (sa) allows others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. Non-Commercial (nc) allows others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but for non-commercial purposes only. No Derivative Works (nd) allows others to copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of the original work, not derivative works based upon it. (http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses)

From the four abovementioned conditions, Creative Commons has six main licenses: Attribution (cc by), Attribution Share Alike (cc by-sa), Attribution No Derivatives
(cc by-nd), Attribution Non-Commercial (cc by-nc), Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (cc by-nc-sa), and Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (cc by-nc-nd). (http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses)

The Lawphil Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 license, therefore, allows users to copy, distribute and transmit the work, as well as, to adapt the work, under the condition that the user must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse user’s use of the work). (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

The different licenses offered by Creative Commons allow copyright holders looking to share their works on the one hand, and still wanting to protect certain rights, to choose which “some rights reserved” license works for them. This fosters not only generosity on the part of the copyright holder, by allowing others to use or build on his work, but also (legal) creativity on the part of the public. Certain concessions are given by the artists to the public, but not to the extent that the public might unjustly enrich themselves using the works of the artists, nor to the extent that the public might pass their works of as theirs.

Licenses such as Creative Commons is the way to go in terms of copyright protection. There is really no way to fully protect one’s works as long as they are available online. Technology allows unbridled sharing, remixing, and copying, so copyright holders really cannot effectively disallow such, and be able to enforce such disallowance. The only thing they can do is to regulate their work’s use.

IMHO: People should prioritize customizing privacy settings but should create their own "About me" site

There has a lot of talk about Facebook and its privacy settings. With more than 500 million friends now connected through what we call FB, there is a lot of potential through this in either building a person's image and reputation or totally wrecking it. As Robert Greene said,

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation. Guard it with your Life.
Once you lose some of your reputation you are on a slippery slope. Protect your reputation while, at the same time, destroying your enemies' reputations.
But.

The action doesn't stop there. Instead of reacting to all attacks to your privacy, one should also consider making their own "about me" site or a source of information about themselves. Although you don't want the public to get some specific information about you, you don't want to the public to get also WRONG information about you.

Point is: In my humble opinion, you can control to a certain substantial extent the information you want the public to know about you.

Case in point: During the SONA forum at the UP College of Law, our Public Affairs Committee volunteers researched for the credentials of our speakers. Although one may argue that it is best that we just ask from the speakers these information, you cannot also discount the fact that some people will resort to just searching information about you on the net.

Result: Professor Hilbay's credentials that were found were 7 years obsolete while Representative Walden Bellos' credentials were at least 5 years obsolete. This goes without saying that the committee involved in the forum knows better next time to ask straight from the resource speaker what information they want to disclose. But this only proves my point here in this blog that people should consider what the internet says about who they are.


Credit: Thanks to my partner who has been very determined in organizing my virtual life (not only in terms of privacy settings but in terms of content and quantity as well). Although I still have to track all the social networking sites that I have, wittingly or unwittingly, subscribed to, it really makes me feel empowered and more secured to be able to, in a sense, "control" to an extent what strangers can get about me.

I need to check again how one applies for a credit card and see whether the information needed there are available in the net, say for example, from links derived from my name in the search engine. In the process, I need to know whether the information that is said about me in the net is something that I want the public to know.

Paulyn Duman
Blog #8

Privacy Policy


I've just blogged about spies on Facebook and now we have this: "the existence of a[n electronic] document that details the names, URLs, and unique Facebook IDs of 100 million of the site’s users" which is currently being shared as a Torrent file. According to the news artcle, only those accounts which are publicly searchable were included in the said file.

Another article points out that the said existence of such a file does not necessarily mean a bad thing provided that you have not shared to "everyone" (1) personal information that you wish to remain "private" or (2) those information that might be used against you.

Facebook, on the other hand, points out that the said data was already publicly available, given that they are readily available through search engines and their privacy policy have clearly set forth that:


Information set to “everyone” is publicly available information, just like your
name, profile picture, and connections. Such information may, for example, be
accessed by everyone on the Internet (including people not logged into
Facebook), be indexed by third party search engines, and be imported, exported,
distributed, and redistributed by us and others without privacy limitations.

In the end, it is the user's obligation to protect information he wants to protect by making use of the Facebook's privacy settings. But, since a lot of people do not read privacy policies and terms of agreement, they are still those who are left to learn their lessons the hard way.

As what has been pointed out in class several times, "What has been uploaded into the Internet remains there forever." It is, therefore, our own responsibility to protect our own trails. Self-censor if you must.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Intersection 07: Jailbroken

This I do understand: When one buys something, it becomes a property of that person, who can then exercise any of the rights of ownership over that something. Basket of rights. Me gets.

This I don’t understand: When one buys a mobile phone, it becomes property of that person, who can then exercise any of the rights of ownership over that mobile phone, subject to the restrictions that may be imposed by the producer or even by law. Me no gets.

In the US, the Copyright Office just ruled, among other things, that jailbreaking a mobile phone—allowing the use of a software not approved by the phone seller—is perfectly legal. According to Dan Gillmor of Salon.com, the ruling also renewed a prior exception to US federal copyright law that allows unlocking a phone for use with other networks. While Gillmor hailed these as triumphs, he also opined that these are minor wins in a war being waged in an “unbalanced” and “copyright holder”-biased legal system.

This I do understand: Similar devices may have compatibility issues, which explain why stuff that works in one does not work with another. Can’t play a PC game disc in an Xbox 360 console (God, I miss gaming…). Me gets.

This I don’t understand: Similar devices may not have compatibility issues, but stuff that works in one device will not work in another because the seller, or, in some instances in certain jurisdictions, the law says so.

Mobile technology these days greatly facilitates communication. The irony is that some of these technological advancements only communicate with each other. Some cellular phones are SIM-locked, which can limit the use of the same. For instance, going abroad on business with a SIM-locked phone is undeniably more expensive (Gillmor concurred with this, as do most of you I presume) than with an unlocked phone using a local SIM. I had one of my postpaid lines cut because it racked up a huge bill… which took quite some time to fully settle.

This I do understand: Any device purchased comes with a warranty. Seller says to buyer, “good condition”; buyer takes seller’s word for it. The deal: should the device fail to work, under normal or regular use, seller replaces it or repairs it for free. Me gets.

This I don’t understand: Rulemaking body says jailbreaking and unlocking mobile phones are perfectly legal. In fact, as Gillmor reported, such acts were regarded by the Copyright Office as “innocuous at worst and beneficial at best.” But phone sellers say that could void the warranty. Me no gets.

Oh, wait, I do understand that: Greed.

-- William G. Ragamat

Random Thoughts on Internet Usage


  • The "Online Communities Map," courtesy of XKCD, is no longer accurate. To be fair, it's now almost 3 years old -- practically a century of Internet time.
  • Replace that big territory of "MySpace" with "Facebook," and it's nearly updated.

  • This blue-and-white infographic is more boring, but more recent, and thus more accurate. However, it doesn't give us which particular websites are being used.
  • But read in relation to the "Online Communities Map," we can see that xkcd.com is still more or less on the right track -- the proportions of the "landmasses" still concur with the latest data as seen here in the infographic.
  • A "landmass" of users the size of Russia and China, use the web for social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Multiply, and the whole lot.
  • But I have to agree with the infographic that a larger percentage of net users use the same for simple search tasks. Movie schedules, addresses of establishments, full texts of court cases, you name it.
  • IMHO, the web is more useful and actually used more that way. And along these lines, various companies are beginning to make their forays into augmented reality.
  • So, back to the "Online Communities Map," Google, Wolfram, and other search engines would occupy a large part of the oceans.
In conclusion, it is reassuring to see that the Internet, for more than 40 years after its inception, has remained to be an authentic purveyor of information, rather than just another platform for commercial interests as experts have predicted.

Keeping it that way for another 40 years is another issue altogether.

Hoping For A $35 "iPad"

India recently came out with a prototype for “an iPad-like touch-screen laptop” with a price tag of $35. However, the laptop is still in its initial stage of development and the Indian government is still looking for manufacturers to produce the device. When I heard this news, it got me thinking: how come a technology that can be made for as little as $35 be sold for $499 (which is the price of an Apple iPad)?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that the prototype is just…a prototype so it may still cost significantly higher when it goes into production. And I am also aware that a substantial part of the price tag of an iPad includes other costs aside from the production expense. However, when we look at it, $35 is still a far cry from $499. I think that this is an important issue to consider. Any technology which has the potential to provides an avenue to access information, which would not have been available to people otherwise, should be made obtainable to as broad an audience as possible. The iPad has the capacity to do this. Had an iPad cost cheaper, it could significantly help students in developing countries (like the Philippines) bridge the information divide that exist between people who have access to the Internet and those that doesn’t. But because of the steep cost, people who could have been helped by such technology are made to wait for a cheaper alternative (which may or may not come).

Hopefully, the $35 prototype will ultimately be made available for mass production. Until then there is nothing left to do but wait and continue praying that the iPad lowers its price.

P-p-poke her face and you'll land in jail

I am very excited because this is my first post using my own account woot woot!

Well after reading this news article from Tennessee, I decided to poke back at every person who has poked me out of vengeance in Facebook and even poking some people I want to poke just because, prior to being issued a restraining order because this lady, Shannon D. Jackson of Hendersonville, Tennessee landed in jail after poking someone; and we are not talking about being poked like “that hurt you moron” kind of poke we are talking about a virtual poke having legal implications. Shannon was given an order by the court in the following tenor: “no telephoning, contacting or otherwise communicating with the petitioner” which she broke by poking the petitioner on Facebook, after the poke was established Shannon was arrested and her bail bond was set at $1,500! If she is found guilty she’s possibly facing 29 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500! It was alleged that the virtual poking is an act of communication no matter how minor it might seem. With the thriving utilization of ICT, it has become necessary for the intrusion of the State and the imposition of certain restrictions to safeguard certain freedoms that its people are enjoying. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become part of our culture and at the start, there were no issues at to what a person can post or do in using these sites but now there seems to be a plethora of legal issues facing users of such sites like what happened to Shannon. One time when my aunt was watching this showbiz gossip show I heard some celebrity threatening to sue someone because such person posted a malicious statement against her in the latter's Facebook status. All these news about arrests being made or threats to sue being made because of something that happened in Facebook would really make you think twice about what you would be posting in these sites and this necessarily curtails your freedom to post whatever you want because of that danger that what you are doing could be punishable by law.

A Peek in Philippine Piracy


When I was in college, my groupmates and I did a study for one of our psychology classes on the motivation behind the buying and selling of pirated VCD’s and DVD’s in the Philippines. We interviewed people who were making their living from selling pirated VCD’s and DVD’s. We also interviewed and gave out questionnaires to those who were buying the pirated copies.

I’d like to share one of the interviews we conducted, in hope that we might be able to understand better those people who engage in the business of selling pirated VCD’s and DVD’s.

After a brief introduction of ourselves, I asked him why does it seem that most people who sell the pirated discs are Muslims. He said that it has become a trend because of the rumors spreading in Mindanao that selling pirated DVD’s in Manila makes a lot of money. That’s why a lot of them come here, he explained. I then asked him where they get the pirated VCD’s and DVD’s. He told me that the discs come from Malaysia and China. I asked him if he knows that there are laws prohibiting people from selling and buying the pirated discs. He said he knows that it is prohibited but he doesn’t think that what he is doing is wrong. He reasoned out that even Catholics, professionals, and well-to-do people buy pirated VCD’s and DVD’s. As far as he was concerned, he was just making a living – an honest business as he was not fooling anyone nor stealing anything.
He shared to me his story during one of the raids. All his discs have been confiscated during the raid. A couple of days after the raid, someone went to him, selling pirated VCD’s and DVD’s at an extremely low price. Because he had lost all his discs, he had no choice but to buy the said VCD’s and DVD’s on bargain so that he could start his business again. When he opened the discs, he noticed the markings on them and he realized that those were actually the discs he was selling –the exact ones which have been confiscated during the raid. He said it was disheartening. And although he had lost a lot of money, he said that would still continue selling pirated discs. He was still hopeful on his business. Smiling, he told me, “Makakabawi rin naman siguro ako. Sapat na sa akin na kahit papaano nakakakain ako araw-araw at may pangsigarilyo pa paminsan-minsan.”

Global Internet Speeds Revealed

Every quarter network giant Akamai releases a report entitled "State of the Internet", where the utilization of the net in terms of traffic, broadband speeds, and efficiency among others are measured and ranked by region and city.

The most recent report states that the average global speed is 1.7 Mbps. South Korea topped the regional ranking with an average of 12 Mbps (which is still relatively slow, considering that there is an available speed of 100 Mbps). Asian countries are notably leading the statistic, with South Korea joined by Hong Kong and Japan at the top.

Where's the Philippines in all this? The average speed as advertised by broadband providers is 512 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps, probably the rate at off-peak hours. This particular range is ideal for basic uses such as e-mail, browsing simple websites, and streaming music and low-quality videos. For most of us, movie and music files can still be downloaded--we just need to leave the computer on the whole night (or day if need be).

Countries with high speeds however can do far more than e-mail and surf. Telemedicine, educational services, standard and high-definition video, high-quality telepresence, high-definition surveillance, and smart or intelligent building control are possible.

Is it possible for Filipinos to exceed the 1 Mbps barrier? I believe it is, given the developments in infrastructure. However, the cost of availing such services is a different matter. Of course, the faster the connection, the more expensive. The high fixed cost of installing cables may be offset by distribution to a considerable number of users, and if possible, subsidy or support from the government. But as discussed in class, who's to stop giant networks and internet providers from dictating the cost of services?

Are we only as good as our internet speed? Hopefully not. In the meantime, the latest torrents would have to wait until tomorrow morning.

To learn more, please visit:


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Internet Kill Switch

Seven people from around the globe now “hold the power to restarting” the internet in the event of a “catastrophic event.” It is unclear what the phrase “catastrophic event” means, but one can assume that in case of an emergency, such as a major security breach or a terrorist attack, these people would be called upon to restart the web using a DNSSEC (domain name system security) root key. Each of the seven persons has been given a “key,” or a smart card, which contains only a portion of said root key.

The keys were distributed to seven individuals, from the UK, the US, Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, China, and the Czech Republic, presumably to prevent a single person from having the absolute power to shut down the internet. It is not known how these people were chosen, or what qualifications they have to be given such a huge responsibility. And since most of the data we find on the internet comes from privately owned servers, it is uncertain how exactly the reboot is supposed to work, if any data will be lost at all.

There is something vaguely dramatic about the whole situation. PopSci has taken to calling the group the “Order of Seven Global Cyber-Guardians.” This isn't some epic fantasy tale, but it is amusing to imagine the seven keyholders, flanked by members of the US Secret Service, being transported to a top secret military base, while a soaring Ennio Morricone score plays in the background.

Almost Famous.


“Look me up, I’m actually famous.” – Random Stranger

How often do you meet someone who claims they're that well-known, I could Google them and definitely find something worthwhile?

Well, it happened to me once. I was in another country, all alone, travelling from one city to another with all my belongings in tow. This middle-aged guy walks up to me, and offers to help get my things off the train. Perhaps sensing my hesitation, he hurriedly introduces himself. He seemed harmless, I was desperate, WWJD? :)

Anyway, it made me wonder – who’s famous, who’s not? What would warrant a claim to fame, regardless of the industry you’re in?

I did look him up (www.vincentbove.com) and… This person may not be famous all over but he has done enough to warrant recognition. He turns out to be an acclaimed authority for preventing school and workplace violence. Wow. Impressive.

I do not doubt this person’s credibility because I’ve talked to him (at length) in person and we actually correspond now. But. It’s freaky how relatively easy it is to create bogus websites and present false information about one’s self. Or about anything. Check out the following sites.

Fame can definitely be fabricated.

Entry No. 07

Rachelle Mayuga


Living the Dream

My friend is living the dream through information technology. Straight out of college, she focused on her online business selling accessories and clothes. She has always been a creative individual, not just with her fashion sense but also with respect to her business sense. With her skills and patience, what started out as a hobby has turned into a very lucrative business, which has given her the luxury of being her own boss.

My friend knows that it is not just the quality of the goods that attracts customers, but also the initial impression her website makes. Because of this, she invests in good designs and photographers to increase interest. What first started as a simple Multiply page has now expanded to an more comprehensive and user-friendly online store. Also, she would invite buyers, models and phtographers just by advertising over social networking sites or blogs. She would keep updated with the bazaar scene all online. She's never been afraid to use the internet to her advantage and to try out all possible means to increase awareness of her brand. All in all, her business started out and continues to thrive because of the internet and her connections there.

Building a business over the internet is not all that easy, after all there are site glitches, scammers and fake-buyers and even issues of payments and taxes to deal with. But for those like my friend who get it right, the payoff could be amazing. Recently she has been offered a job at a big fashion magazine, but she turned it down all because infotech has allowed her not to “work” a day in her life.

The Mac or the PC?

A professor of this College has simple words to say about the immortal debate, which, for tech-enthusiasts anyway, rival the rhetorical question surrounding the age-old chicken and her egg: “Mars, once you go Mac, you never go back.” A recent convert of Apple’s growing cult, he excitedly slips into a discussion about its comparative ease of use, its architecture, and how he no longer has to concern himself with viruses. To hear him describe the experience, it would seem that Apple has heralded the dawn of tech civilization - a far cry from clunky, old-fashioned Windows with its once prominent ‘blue screen of death.’ I sit in the room amazed at how his assessment mimicked my own thoughts not too long ago when I first unboxed, held, and experienced the beauty obviously inherent in the Mac. The PC, I declared then, was a relic of an Age gone by. It was now Friendster of today’s Facebook. The girlfriend, a staunch devotee of the Cult, casually refers to Windows as “the dark side” of the Force. Though I find myself reassessing that statement today (for reasons which will require a separate paper altogether), I surprise myself in recommending the public sector’s wide-spread adoption of the Mac for the very reason that I’m starting to shy away from it.

As an underlying philosophy, the Mac favors the use of its own internal applications and discourages the user’s attempt at tinkering behind its custom-built operating system. As opposed to the PC’s open (even challenging) question of “What do you prefer?”, the Mac calmly says: “Use this. Look, it’s pretty. Don’t worry about anything else. See? It just works.” The PC, to use Justice Cardozo’s words, is simply “delegation running riot.” Considering that Juan de la Cruz has been using Windows since grade school, that he cares not a whit for government-owned property under his temporary stewardship (see the tragedy of the commons), and that there is an unrivaled selection of third-party applications in the PC ecosystem with its troubling deluge of viruses and malware, I posit that giving the public sector employee a PC is akin to giving him Pandora’s box.

In sum, the PC is open, the Mac is “closed.” The potential for harm, mismanagement and loss, therefore is more potent in the former rather than in the latter. I find it heartening then that Apple is making some headway in the mainstream with customers like my professor. Though the suggestion that the public sector utilize these for everyday tasks doesn’t seem likely considering the present state of government coffers, my opinion is that the eventual use of a custom-built system, one resembling Apple’s walled garden, would be best for government information systems. Until then, however, Steve Jobs will have to settle for ready and willing customers -people like the girlfriend and the professor who adore the simple intricacies of something that "just works."

Love and Technology

"Life is hard. Love is harder." - Allen Shore, Boston Legal

The pursuit of happiness is everyone's goal in life. Happiness, however, comes in various forms. For many, this means finding someone whom they can share their lives.

Of course, to find something is to look for it - love is no exception.

Most people nowadays prefer the "modern approach". By modern, it simply just means using the Internet and joining websites which may be an avenue. To the general public, there's Facebook and other similar sites. For gamers, virtual social networking games are their means of looking for partners. To the daring ones, they resort to dating websites. I know some who actually go out on these dates. In fact, I have a high school classmate who met her husband on-line. 

So, what drives them? Mystery - that's what a friend once told me. There is that atmosphere of intrigue built upon a conversation with someone you haven't actually met in the real world. Ultimately, this reaches a tipping point where both want to see each other in person - to know if he/she is for real. If everything checks, they end up hitting it off and possibly getting married.

I find the whole thing interesting. However, I prefer to be "traditional". I still believe that it is by knowing the diffculty of acquiring something that we learn its true worth. The harder it is, the more valuable it is.

Online Official Gazette (http://www.gov.ph/)

The Official Gazette publishes legislative acts, executive orders, judicial decision, and all other acts required by law to be published. And based on Article 2 of the Civil Code ,"Laws shall take effect after fifteen days following the completion of their publication in the Official Gazette". After such publication notice to the people is deemed made, and hence, "Ignorance of the law, excuses no one."

But how effective is the Official Gazette? How many lawyers have a subscription with the National Printing Office? And better yet, how many Filipinos have actually seen at least one issue? In fact, due to its ineffectivity, President Cory Aquino gave the alternative of 15 days from publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

With the first State of the Nation Address of the 15th President of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the Online Official Gazette was launched. The online version supposedly seeks to cure the limitations of the printed version: extreme length of time in compiling, limited print, and the fact that it is only by subscription. And to be more interactive, and perhaps so that people can be easily reached, it is also linked to Twitter.

Being a law student, I’ve seen how ineffective the Official Gazette has been. And hopefully, the Online version could achieve at least what its initial purpose really is, and hopefully it can also be an avenue for transparency and accountability to the people.

But one has to ask now, when does the law become effective? 15 days from publication in the online gazette? And even worse, is online publication even considered publication? We have yet to see how the Supreme Court will rule on this matter.

Globe Postpaid Hell

I cannot fathom how and why my phone bill shot up to more than P12000 for the third time in one year. The first time it happened, they blamed my phone's automatic internet connect feature (which I have been using for months already before that P10000+ bill). If their quote was correct, I was supposedly online for almost 24 hours a day. They waived the P10000 because of my threat to move all our accounts to Smart, but still made me pay the remaining balance. Now I'm faced with the same problem after asking them to deactivate my GPRS because the first incident. They also disconnected my line twice in a month because of a glitch in their auto-charge banking system. There's no word to describe it other than panggagago. I have been a postpaid subscriber since high school. And with all the new and much cheaper features being offered to prepaid and new subscribers, it's really unfair to pay a lot more and yet get cheated in the end. For example, those with Globe Duos only have to pay 499 for unlimited calls. But if postpaid subscribers want to avail of it, they have to pay the 499 on top of their plan (which usually costs a couple of thousands). Calls are more expensive too! I know there's something unlawful in all of this, but I don't know how to file a complaint. The call center just says they have noted the issue and will get back to me. What irks me most is how they encourage more people to go postpaid, when it may be just a ploy to collect more money because of the lack of monitoring by the subscriber. This is the greatest problem with the telecommunications industry - the lack of accountability and regulation. Because they have so many customers, they are not afraid to abuse them, knowing that cellphones are now considered as necessities. If anyone has ideas on how to go about this, please let me know. I'm so bothered. I seriously need help.

Internet Censorship

“Walang facebook sa buong Vietnam ate!!!”

That was my sister’s panicked email right after she arrived in Vietnam last Saturday. Her second message contained the explanation, “inaaral pa daw ng authorities dito ang dangers ng social networking sites. Hmph.”

Vietnam is listed as one of the countries in the world that heavily employs Internet censorship. OpenNet Initiative categorizes Vietnam’s level of online censorship to be “pervasive” which means that the filtering being employed is both by depth and breadth. Depth filtering is restricting access to a large portion of a targeted content in a given category while Breadth filtering includes filtering in several categories in a given theme. OpenNet Initiative concludes that aside from the technical blocking of sites, Vietnam’s filtering mechanisms include threats of legal liability, monitoring of users’ online activities, and informal pressures like supervision of computer use in workplaces and cybercaf├ęs. While these actions have been justified as means to protect national security and block obscene content, OpenNet Initiative reports that Vietnam actually blocks access to sites which fall within the definition of political opposition. Among these websites are international human rights organizations and those that are critical of the Vietnamese government.

Vietnam ranks as no. 6 in the Reporters without Borders’ list of “internet enemies.” The Committee to Protect Journalists also reports that as of 2009, bloggers in Vietnam continue to face harassment and detention while 300 cybercaf├ęs have already been equipped with software tracking visits to banned websites.

MenuPad

It's not a laptop, not a netbook, not a smartphone. It's not an iPod, it's not an iPhone. It can only be the iPad.

Classifying this gadget still escapes me. Many skeptics (including Hitler) considered this as the latest Apple craze's downfall. It's larger than a cellphone but not big enough for a laptop/netbook bag. It poses like a netbook but cannot multitask nor operate Flash. In other words, it's alanganin.

But apparently, this is of no concern for entrepreneur-owners of Australian restaurant Mundo Global Tapas in North Sydney Ridges Hotel, who've found perfect use for the iPad.
Instead of using traditional paper menus for their customers, the restaurant boasts of 15 iPads with a custom-built application which "contains pictures of how a particular dish will look like.
The customers can select how they want the meat to be cooked. Order is taken on the iPad itself by selecting the desired item/dish on the screen," reports i-pad-site.net. According to another report, the menu application has a feature which helps the customer decide what to order depending on their mood and the current weather.

There are other interesting stories about the iPad being used in the medical field for surgery, or for patients with difficulty in communicating. It appears there is a lot of use for this gadget we still fail to classify, as its use precedes its class. Any suggestions?


-Leo Rafael L. Quesada, Entry #7

Virtual E-Mail Shredder 3: The Flaw

Using self-deleting emails via Bigstring.com may seem promising for those who wish to ensure privacy and security of their emails. But, the skeptic in me isn’t too sure about it. Hence, this question:

Are self-deleting emails REALLY self-deleting?

A Senior Judicial Education Attorney at the Federal Judicial Center in Washington DC named Kenneth Withers had something to say to this. In his 2000 article, “Self-Deleting E-mail: A Self-Delusion?”, he stated, “All of these ‘self-deleting’ e-mail programs share a fatal technical flaw: they don’t actually delete the messages at all. They encrypt the message, and perhaps avoid the network server in sending the message, but the messages still exist on the senders’, recipients’, and perhaps other peoples’ computers. The only things that are deleted are the encryption keys.”

I am no computer genius. I can’t prove Withers wrong. (Besides, looking into this guy’s credentials, he seems to know what he is talking.) So assuming that he’s right, what happens if the encryption keys are deleted? Wouldn’t this mean that the content of the self-deleting email can no longer be revealed? It seems so. Then, doesn’t this mean that self-deleting emails actually do their job – that is, to delete themselves and bring themselves into inexistence? Not exactly, because these emails leave trails.

Even if the message itself is destroyed, the fact that such message was sent may be established. Also, it may be uncovered who the sender and the recipient were, and when it was sent. It is not far from possible that the sender will be pressured to explain why his message needed to be handled in such a manner and what exactly it contained. These little pieces of information, when put together with other relevant matters, may do harm to the sender and ultimately compromise what was initially sought to be protected: his privacy and security.

In the end, I guess the choice to send self-deleting emails (for hopefully good reasons) is a personal one. We just have to weigh the advantages and the risks of the same, seeing for ourselves if using it will suit our purposes.

PIRATA

http://vnmedia.ign.com/witchervault.ign.com/wiki/7/7d/Pirate.png

When I was younger, maybe when I was in elementary, the word pirate would conjure for me images of characters like Captain Hook sailing in them wooden ships. These days, when you say pirate all I imagine are stacks and stacks of DVD's and terabytes of downloaded watchamacallits.

The lecture of our guest speaker last meeting gave stark insight to what already is a pervading reality not only here in our country but globally. That the war against piracy is a failure here in the Philippines is obvious. Quiapo, Divisoria, Metrowalk, Greenhills and similar places provide a convenient venue where people can regularly and openly shop for bootleg games, movies and gadgets. This is obviously illegal, and yet we openly partake in this buying and selling of pirated material. While sales in video and music stores plummet, these pirate dens proliferate like termite hives. Raids by the PNP, NBI and the Optical Media Board scare off vendors for a bit of time. Go back after a month or less, and there they are again, ready to cater to your piracy needs.

I agree that instead of fighting piracy as our institutions have been doing, it's time to redefine our whole approach to Copyright. What does this mean, really? Should we give up on copyright entirely and surrender to the fact that no matter what we do our work would always be prone to copying and ripping off? Does this mean musicians and moviemakers are going to lose more money if officials stop pursuing infringers?

The outcome is difficult to imagine. I think this whole affair is analagous to having marijuana legalized in the Philippines. Admittedly, I'm also not sure how the legal system will eventually adapt and I'm curious how technology may be developed to protect a creator's work. But administrators and lawmakers ought to snap awake to the fact that traditional methods of protecting copyright have failed or is failing. Artists and Producers are now caught up in a torrent of change where they have to redefine their own concept of distribution and profit from their creations. I think this is a part where we do an intellectual somersault.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We're all (not just) journalists now

No doubt Prof. Lessig’s call for a rethinking of copyright and intellectual property laws so as to enable creativity to flourish is a much apt approach to the wave of developments ushered in by the information revolution. But the emphasis on ‘relaxing for purposes of creativity’ (if I may use this simplistic redaction) has gotten me to consider the flipside and the equally valid need to ensure that the novel opportunities made possible by information technology are not so unfettered as to wreak havoc on other things worth preserving and advancing. Simply put, the freedom to create and express is one thing, accountability for what one creates and expresses is another.

Scott Gant, a Washington DC law partner and counsel to The New Republic declares: We’re all journalists now. As Gant puts it, journalism should no longer be considered a profession – exclusive to those who are equipped with ‘what it takes’ to practice it – but an activity open for citizen journalists to undertake. But therein lies the difficulty, for journalism is not just about describing scenes or recording events; it is not just about relaying happenings. The task of informing the citizenry is an undertaking that must conform to standards as to quality, ethics and reliability, among others. Indeed, that the press is referred to as the fourth estate speaks volumes of the complexities that communicating with the public entails.

Today we see dozens of bloggers with equally myriad takes on everything from the mundane to the exceptional, each convinced as to the veracity and validity of his assertions. A blogger friend could not have put his sentiments any more clearly; confronted as to statements that our other friends found offensive, he bannered on his blog: “This is my space and I can say what I want”. While some Facebook and Twitter users may have opened accounts solely for maintaining ties with friends, others have used social networking to frame issues, advocate their views and spark discussions. But what to them may be an enlightening effort to frame issues via trending may, to others, simply be unsolicited flooding; what to them may be the simple espousal of views may, to others, be hardline stances that tend to alienate rather than include; what to them may be efforts to discuss and debate, may, to others, be nothing more than outright aggression. And even these examples seem innocuous, paling in comparison to the patently defamatory, offensive, and abrasive purposes for which others have used the internet.

These concerns thus call to mind a concept frequently invoked when, in constitutional law, we speak of freedoms: balancing of interests. By way of a rudimentary enumeration, involved here are property rights in respect of those whose works are made available online; free speech and expression in respect of those who create, whether originally or by transforming (what Prof. Lessig calls remixing); the privacy of those who may be objects of what is made available online; and even the people’s right to be informed as to matters of public interest – a myriad of interests that only serve to underscore that grand task that law must accomplish. Prof. Lessig’s call for adjusting regulations that constrict rather than empower is much welcome. But legal inventiveness should also guard against excesses, even as it provides opportunities for the exercise of liberties.

LUIS JOSE F. GERONIMO
Entry No. 7

THERE’S WRITING AND THERE’S "WRITING"

I’ve always thought that I wrote better than I spoke. I felt that I could express myself better in writing than in speaking. I'd like to think that I'm still that way.

One day, I was cleaning my room and I cam across a few boxes in a chest. When I opened them, I found piles and piles of old letters, some dating back to when I was still in grade school. Reading a few, I realized how personal these letters were. Maybe it had something to do with the fact they were handwritten, I don’t know. But I felt that the person put something of himself or herself in it.

People correspond through email and text messages nowadays. And for me, it’s always been difficult to gauge one’s feelings through these media. Despite the emoticons that you can input in the message, it does not really display the true feelings. But somehow, if something is handwritten, you can feel something. I miss this feeling. People are too “tamad” nowadays to properly convey their feelings. I guess with the way things are in the world, people seem to be more protective of their feelings coz everything else is pretty much out in the open, or can be out in the open. Their feelings are the only thing that they have any control over.

While I see the advantages to using these electronic means, it doesn’t quite have the same panache as the handwritten means. I guess I’m still a traditional girl in this sense. I prefer handwritten letters to emails. I prefer real books to e-books. Somehow, I feel that a written work loses something in its translation into an electronic version.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Live Tweeting on SONA day

Tomorrow will be Pres. Noynoy Aquino's first State of the Nation Address.

Tomorrow will also be my ninth SONA march to Batasan.

What makes tomorrow different the last eight SONA marches will be my use of technology to cover the events in the ground during the People's SONA along Commonwealth Avenue.

Using my Blackberry and its Twitter application, I will be constantly updating everyone through Twitter and Facebook as to the status of the People's SONA and the topics and issues being discussed by the speakers from different marginalized sectors.

The People's SONA will be different from GMA's past SONAs because no effigy will be burnt, no President is sought to be ousted from power. Instead, all speeches shall present the different challenges and issues faced by the sectors til this day, and which they hope P-Noy would address.

So there, I'd tweet asap if I've been truncheoned or what. Hehe. Follow me at @terryridon, or follow #SONA2010 for all other updates.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

IMHO: People should stop blaming the internet

I read an article on The art of slow reading and laughed when I saw this:


Funny because I didn't even read the first line of the article and jumped straight to the comments.

Slow Reading vs Speed Reading

I enrolled in a class on Speed Reading before I entered law school. It taught me how to read fast and answer multiple choice questions afterward. What is the price of learning how to speed read? A relaxed eye muscle and a great way to address my attention deficit (disorder). Why does speed reading work for me? Because I learn through second reading which will not happen if I don't finish the whole thing first. When I read slowly, I get stuck at a word or a phrase and almost never finish anything. When I allow my finger or pen to guide my eyes, I finish the whole thing and when I re-read it, this time with my colorful highlights on the page, I see how useless those highlighted phrases are and note on the side that they are useless. But what really is the price of speed reading (without second reading)? Missing some very very specific details. And when they say the devil is in the detail, they were really being truthful.

The article mentioned that two researches concluded that "many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion." I find myself skipping paragraphs of the SCRA and read only relevant paragraphs to the topic to which the case falls under. When the article said we don't have the concentration to reach the conclusion, I realized I don't read the cases' fallo very often.
Do I blame (sweepingly) the internet for this?

Blaming the Internet

And I quote the article:

Which all means that although, because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion" (emphasis supplied).
No, I don't blame the internet. That's quite unfair. It has given me a new sense of home, where I can connect to people I care about and things that interest me. I feel like people who are 10,000 km away from me are just my neighbors. I say partly yes to this:

Hitchings does agree that the internet is part of the problem. "It accustoms us to new ways of reading and looking and consuming," Hitchings says, "and it fragments our attention span in a way that's not ideal if you want to read, for instance, Clarissa." He also argues that "the real issue with the internet may be that it erodes, slowly, one's sense of self, one's capacity for the kind of pleasure in isolation that reading has, since printed books became common, been standard".

In my humble opinion, the internet is not a problem. It is not even part of the issue. It is just one of those facts of life that one has to manage. It is a statement of fact: There is a tool called the internet.

Manage the users and the tool

Freedom is a computer application that locks you away from the internet on Mac or Windows computers for up to eight hours at a time. Freedom frees you from distractions, allowing you time to write, analyze, code or create. At the end of the offline period, Freedom allows you back on the internet. But paying $10 for it is discouraging. Discipline now has a price!
Before I reached this part of this entry, I clicked on at least 10 other links and post things on Facebook and read the news at Inquirer.net. No, I am not complaining. Not even blaming these sites.

So really, what or who is the problem? It is everything but the users.

Paulyn Duman
Blog #7