FryUp: Gag fail

The Herald and Stuff publish suppressed names online, Tech Ed and true blue Ocker broadband

Cheers for the TUNAZ

OMG, looks like Ernie & Co gave Computerworld the Technology Media Award (sponsored by Equico) last night at the TUANZ Innovation Awards.

Jenny Keown of the Independent snagged the Telecommunications Journalist of the Year Award. Congrats to err, us, and Jenny and everyone else who won.

Gag fail

Judge Harvey’s decision this week to ban Internet news sites from publicising the names of the men accused of killing John Hapeta raised both eyebrows and an number of questions as to whether or not the gag is fair and if it would be effective.

Barrister Steven Price who specialises in media law believes Harvey’s gag order was motivated by not so much thinking that it would work, but more so a desire to raise official awareness around the issue of easy access to potentially prejudicial information that may subvert jurors’ objectivity in court cases.

Did the NZ Herald and the Dominion Post follow the gag order then? Well, sort of: as far as I can tell, they didn’t publish the names of the accused on nzherald.co.nz or www.stuff.co.nz.

However, as FryUp reader Dylan Reeve points out with screenshots, the names appear in the digital editions of the respective newspapers. You have to pay to access the Herald one, but the Dompost digital replica is available for free on a seven-day trial.

The digital editions of the Dompost and the NZH won’t be searched by Google with the stories appearing in its index, but as Harvey’s gag order says “… publication on, or by way of stored video or images on, a website or Internet server is prohibited” you have to wonder if the papers have stepped in it this time.

Ultimately, Harvey’s order is a confused attempt to deal with the online world colliding with reality. Price calls on the judges to “sort this shit out”, and I can only echo that plainly put sentiment.

Steven Price: Harvey’s online gag

Flickr

New Zealand Herald and Dominion Post digital editions

Tech Ed 2008

Microsoft New Zealand’s corporate loins have been feverishly girdled ahead of next week’s mega-geek-fest, Tech Ed 2008. It’s one big fat motha of an IT conference and should be fun and educational at the same time.

I was hoping to have my customary review of The Bag for this week’s FryUp, but it hasn’t arrived yet so you’ll get it next week instead. Apologies for that.

Microsoft Tech Ed 2008

Different approaches

It is curious to compare the New Zealand and Australian regulatory environments for telecommunications. Over here, we like to do little and take a softly-softly approach to the whole thing.

In Australia, the regulator gives the incumbent, Telstra a kick up the arse every now and then, to hurry competition along. For some reason, this has the effect of making Telstra work harder and earn record profits (and, one hopes, provide better service to customers). Telecom NZ on the other hand is hurting despite facing far less competitive pressure.

Another consequence of this is a rather retarded Digital Strategy from the NZ government. As IntarwebNZ points out, the speed targets in the DS are inadequate. In 2012, eighty per cent of internet users are supposed have 20Mbit/s connections with 10Mbit/s available to 90% of users.

Those speeds should be commonplace now, and not in four years’ time. Ten years from now, the Digital Strategy envisages fibre to the premises and 20Mbit/s or higher speeds for 90% of users. That’s a very modest goal over a long period of time.

Looking across the ditch, the Aussies are starting to worry that their billion-dollar National Broadband Network, the tender winner of which will be announced in October and which promises 12Mbit/s minimum speeds to 98% of the population will be too slow when it’s in the ground.

From 2010 and onwards, we should be looking at 60-80Mbit/s speeds to everyone, apparently, as other countries are doing just that.

It doesn’t look like we’ll be anywhere near those targets in the next decade however. Also, the NZ Digital Strategy doesn’t actually speak of “minimum speeds” the way the Australians do, and there’s no overarching network concept either, like the NBN, so goodness knows what’ll be available in a few years’ time. Not going to hold my breath.

Telstra rejects opposition calls for separation.

Broadband network to be outdated at launch

XKCD

Moving

Cartoon: www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely

Identity theft: fact, fiction, and the funny papers

Last week I wrote about the RIAA and its comic foray into warping the brains of our nation's youth via a "graphic novel" about the evils of internet Piracy. The source of the comic book was the National Center for the State Courts, a 37-year-old nonprofit org that gets a big chunk of its funding from state and federal agencies.

After speaking with NCSC's Lorri Montgomery, I no longer believe the NCSC is in cahoots with the RIAA — at least, not directly. Montgomery was even kind enough to send me the next installment in the Justice Case Files comic series, titled "The Case of Stolen Identity." After reading the second Case File I do believe that the NCSC — or the folks they hire to consult on and write these things — spend a lot of time on Planet Clueless.

In "The Case of Stolen Identity," the Garcia family is busy managing a litter of adorable puppies when Maria Garcia foolishly clicks on a phishing email and plugs her account information into a bogus website. Next thing they know, the Garcia's bank account has been drained and Maria feels like a tool. So far, so good. The comic actually does a good job of clearly explaining how phishing emails work. But then it takes a turn toward fantasy land.

First the Garcias go to the bank manager, who's extremely understanding and assures them that victims of identity theft are fully protected and they won't lose a dime. (In fact, average out-of-pocket costs for victims are now nearly $700, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.) The kindly bank manager tells them a fraud alert will be placed on their account — like that's going to protect them from now on. (A fraud alert only requires that someone proves they're you before they open a new account in your name; it doesn't do squat to protect existing accounts that have been compromised.)

Then they go to the cops, who jump on the case and immediately locate the bad guy. To wit:

"Because Mrs Garcia kept the message, we've been able to trace the electronic signature on the email to his internet service provider. And get this — the provider is only six blocks away from the police station!"

Thank god for those electronic signatures. Where would we be without them?

So they trot on over to the friendly ISP with a subpoena. Presto, they find their man. Says the police investigator:

"The suspect is a professional website designer. He fits the profile of someone who could easily create a spoof site of the bank."

Those sneaky web designers — they're simply not to be trusted.

Now for a little reality check. Identity theft is one of those low-priority crimes that almost never gets much attention from the cops. About 1 in 700 ID thieves are caught and prosecuted, according to Gartner. I've talked to easily a dozen ID theft victims; they spend most of their time trying to convince the bank and the police that they weren't in on the crime.

Phishing scams are run by organised criminals, not the guy down the street who designs websites for a living. They use botnets to deliver the phishing spam and to host the bogus websites. They're often located halfway across the globe. In fact, most ID theft happens the old fashioned way — somebody steals your wallet or a letter from your mailbox containing your name and Social Security Number. So this scenario is pure hokum.

Okay, it's a comic book. The Hardy Boys Mysteries weren't known for their gritty realism either. And it's mostly designed to show how the legal system works (at least, how it works on TV). But the NCSC could have provided some useful information about what the Garcias should do when their identity is stolen. Instead, as with the music piracy comic, it spreads misconceptions. The net effect is to scare clueless people away from the internet instead of teaching them how to use it intelligently.

My favourite part of the comic is the last panel. Justice has been served, the Garcias have recovered their fiscal health, and the puppies are still adorable. Megan — the dimwitted star of the "Internet piracy" comic — shows up to claim one of the puppies for her grandma while she's off in India "studying pharmaceuticals for six months".

Maybe she meant pharmacology. Or maybe she just plans to spend the next six months in a Oxycontin-induced haze. But that's still better than swapping music files, right?

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