SOPA explained in plain langugae

19 01 2012

A number of important sites voluntarily went dark yesterday (BoingBoing, Wired, Wikipedia, etc.) to protest SOPA/PIPA legislation in the United States. There are many places to read about this legislation, but if you want a plain language summary of the implications of the legislation, check out Khan Academy’s explanation:


SOPA opera

16 11 2011

The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) is set to be debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives – and it’s bound to be an interesting discussion. The proposed legislation would give new powers to content producers and copyright owners as they battle against online piracy. One side of the debate features major content producers like the music and film industries, who obviously want more control over how their content is consumed. If this legislation passes as is, then they will be able to seek court orders to make ISPs, search engines and payment processors block access to sites linked to online piracy. The other side of the debate features Internet heavyweights (Google, Twitter, eBay, etc.) who claim that this legislation will wreck the Internet as we know it. Allowing content providers to have this kind of authority in matters of piracy means that some content will be unfairly censored and this practice may stifle longer-term innovation.

Let the lobbying begin (well, let it continue…)

Read a brief update from the BBC here.


R & D Decline

14 11 2011

The CBC has an interesting story on the reduction in R&D spending for Canadian firms. Apparently, companies aren’t investing in research and development like they used to – although if you remove a few of the anomalies (e.g. Nortel) the picture isn’t quite as bad as the headline suggests. The article contends that universities and governments (at all levels) in Canada are doing their part to push the innovation agenda and now it’s time for the corporations to step up. When you look at the companies who are investing in R&D, Research In Motion (RIM) out invests everyone by a long shot. Although RIM has had some rough times recently, they still remain one of this country’s most important companies – especially when it comes to the government’s much vaunted innovation-agenda.

Read the full story here.

Cooking the books: Search engine style

23 09 2011

Google has come under fire recently for being a “monopoly.” This position, as the accusation goes, allows the company to favour its own products in search results (and, more nefariously, bury its competitors’ products). The company recently addressed this issue at a Congressional hearing in Washington where the chairman (Eric Schmidt) claimed that they were not “cooking” results. But they’re not out of the woods yet – both the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission continue to investigate such anti-trust issues. Hmm… this sounds a lot like Microsoft a few years back… and the cycle repeats.

Read more from the BBC.

Government surveillance continues

12 09 2011

With the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 you don’t have to look far to find stories about how the world has changed in the last decade. Every major news outlet has some angle on the event that defined a generation. Here’s one story from Ryan Singel at Wired about the U.S. government’s domestic surveillance program that’s worth a read. It can be easy to forget that governments around the world (including our own) have a distinct incentive to monitor online behaviour – even if such programs aren’t particularly effective at catching terrorists.

Read the summary of government surveillance activity since 9/11 from Wired.

Time Theft

11 09 2011

Here’s an interesting story about a guy who was fired from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration for spending more than half of his working days surfing sports and news sites (and downloading some porn). He was charged with “time theft.” Franklin Andrews appealed his termination (he had worked for the government for 27 years), claiming that he just wasn’t given enough work. Apparently, he never had a negative performance review and time theft was difficult to prove – so his termination was overturned. Of course, the government wasn’t pleased with the ruling… and the reputation of civil servants continues to suffer.

Read the full story from the Globe and Mail.

Twitter and Egypt

26 01 2011

Apparently, Twitter, the popular social messaging service, was shut down in Egypt yesterday by the government. While social media has played a role in other disputes between a government and its people (notably Iran), it is difficult to determine the extent that Twitter (or Facebook or YouTube) are actually employed to organize social protests – especially in more volatile political climates. Certainly these technologies cannot be ignored, but are they as significant as we tend to claim? Time will tell.

Read more from the threat level blog at Wired.