FryUp: TiVo ructions

TiVo ructions and some heavy hitters get their coats

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TiVo ructions

Things are very different indeed in TV land these days. Old allegiances, principles, concepts and thoughts are out of the window, replaced by new ones. Who’d have thought that TVNZ would get into bed with privately held Seven in Australia, and SkyTV here, to launch that hoary old TiVo technology? TV3 certainly didn’t see that public-private partnership coming, and is now feeling left out. You can understand why the Flower Street Crew is upset: TVNZ is busy telling advertisers there’s now regionally targeted advertising on offer, as well as the national variety. In high-def, over satellite and UHF, reaching each nook and cranny of the country, including SkyTV viewers; that’s two million eyeballs all in all, apparently. What everyone’s curious about now is who the ISP partner for the TiVo service is, or maybe even who they are. Realistically, the only one who can provide nationwide broadband coverage with no or huge data caps for TiVo movie downloads is Telecom. So it’s consolidation really, on the back of entertainment. We’ll see if anyone can afford a TiVo box though in these straitened times. TiVo comes to NZ TVNZ resumes regional advertising via SkyTV deal MediaWorks rebels; threatens TiVo launch

Heavy hitters heave-ho

InternetNZ saw some upset this week too, with its executive board decamping due to the confused lines of reporting it caused under the new governance structure (see? I should become an executive bureaucrat too — job offers to fryup@computerworld.co.nz please). It’s probably a good thing to have a simpler, clearer structure at InternetNZ, but isn’t there a sizeable loss of prestige here? We’re talking about former minister Paul Swain, Telecom head honcho Miki Szikszai, June McCabe (ex Westpac) and Judy Speight. They’re not nobodies, and you’d think InternetNZ would try a bit harder to hang onto them. Oh, and in a first for New Zealand, David Farrar of Kiwiblog fame declined to comment. No really! He didn’t want to say anything. Hope he’s all right. InternetNZ board resigns en masse

XKCD No pun intended

Cartoon: http://www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely Strip searches, laptop seizures, and other crimes against humanity

What does a case involving a strip search at a middle school have to do with you? More than you realise. Cringe has the skinny. Monday's New York Times has a doozy of a story about Savana Redding, a 19-year-old college student in Arizona whose case is coming before the Supreme Court on April 21. The outcome of that hearing could determine a lot about your privacy rights, or lack thereof. Six years ago, then-13-year-old Savana was strip searched by officials at her middle school. What were they looking for? Automatic weapons? Switchblades? Bindles of cocaine? Internet porn? No. She was strip searched because somebody was convinced she was trying to sneak in a bottle of Ibuprophen. Redding did not have a drug problem (or an Advil addiction). She had no record of troublemaking whatsoever. But the strip search so humiliated her that she didn't return to school for two months and finally transferred to another school. And it so angered her parents that they sued. So far, the courts have agreed with them, and the school district has appealed. That's why her case is now headed up to the nine craggy old cranks in billowy black robes. Here's the money quote, the one that still burns me every time I read it. The school district does not contest that Ms Redding had no disciplinary record, but says that is irrelevant.

“Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules,” the district said of Ms Redding in a brief, “only that she was never caught.” So, in other words, you're guilty until proven guilty. Now drop your knickers and bend over. What does this have to do with technology? In a literal sense nothing; in a general way, everything. It's less about the specifics of Savana's case and more about the attitude that caused it. This is the same mind-set that allows TSA officials to rummage and/or confiscate your laptops and smartphones when you enter the country. "We know you've got something bad on here, just give us a second to find it." It's the same mind-set that causes the DOJ to demand months' worth of search histories from AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Google (and only Google had the cojones to say no to that). It's the one that wants ISPs to maintain a years' worth of search and browser histories for every subscriber. It's probably the same mind-set of your employer. I recently asked a well-respected security wonk who's worked for some of the biggest companies and government institutions in the United States how many of them read their employees' email and/or snoop on their web browsing. His answer? All of them. Not that they read everyone's email all the time, but if your name comes into suspicion, you can expect somebody is reading over your shoulder (though odds are you won't know about it until well after the fact). He also says in three out of four cases someone gets disciplined or fired; the other 25% turn out to be clean. I am not a lawyer, for which the American Bar Association should be offering Hosannas on high, but the legality of most privacy violations in this country are based on the question of whether someone in that situation has "a reasonable expectation of privacy". At most workplaces, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That's why you probably pass under the watchful eyes of security cameras when you enter and leave the cubefarm. But even this has limits. When a trucking company in California tried to put cameras in its bathrooms because it thought employees were doing blow in the toilet, it got flushed by the courts. (The National Workrights Institute catalogues a dozen other similar examples.) Even at work, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the crapper. If you've done nothing wrong, I think you should have a reasonable expectation that the private contents of your laptop remain private, regardless of what border crossing you happen to be at. I believe when you use the web, you should have a reasonable expectation your search histories won't end up on a server at the DOJ or the NSA. And I certainly believe when you send your daughter to school, you have a reasonable expectation she won't get strip searched and humiliated for no reason. Let's hope the Supes agree. Otherwise, better start wearing clean underwear — you won't know when you might be asked to drop your trousers.

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