Technology

Understanding motives of recent cyber attacks against US

The political and economic forces at work both in China and Iran help explain their motives for conducting offensive [and effective] hacking raids on public and private assets in the U.S.

Iran, despite sitting atop the 4th largest proven oil and 2nd largest proven natural gas reserves in the world, has devolved into a pariah nation with a cash-starved population and flailing political economy. According to January’s CRS Report for Congress, that nation saw its crude exports – which supply 70 percent of Iran’s shrinking government revenues - halve from 2011 to 2012.

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Reforming patents for innovation

Despite the reforms passed by Congress two years ago, it's no secret that our software patent framework remains out-of-step with the realities of innovation in the modern technology sector.



Patents are too easy to acquire, particularly for vague, low-quality features that the Patent & Trademark Office’s founders – luminaries like Thomas Jefferson – would never have considered “inventions” at all. It is now a fact of life that companies have to spend their resources litigating - offensively and defensively - over patents instead of on research and development.



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When content theft is hate

For Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere of New Jersey, the photo was a beautiful reminder of the day they were engaged. Instead, the iconic photo of the two men kissing was stolen by an anti-gay group and used in a political mailer to attack a Colorado state Senate’s support for gay marriage. While there is no doubt that their likeness was misappropriated and the photographer’s work was stolen, really something more happened here: Brian and Tom were the victims of hate.
 
It’s a teenager’s worst nightmare: provocative photos are stolen and posted online by classmates who want to ruin your life. Or an ex-boyfriend lets the world see a sex-video that you thought was just for you and him. It’s called “slut-shaming,” and it’s the latest and most vicious form of cyber bullying.

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We must remain steadfast on space flight safety

Ten years ago, the U.S. space program and the Nation suffered a tragedy that was a stark reminder of the challenges and risks involved in human spaceflight. On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas on its way home. Commander Rick Husband, pilot William McCool, mission specialists Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark, and David Brown, payload commander Michael Anderson, and Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, were all lost when part of Columbia’s heat-resistant surface failed to protect the Shuttle orbiter as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

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SHIELD Act will help address patent system abuses

As the country continues to endure tough economic times, policy makers play a role in aiding in America’s recovery. This begins with creating an environment for start-up companies and established businesses to grow and thrive. In an ever-growing global market, it has never been more important that companies have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Our economy is driven by innovation and therefore, the government is tasked with finding ways to ensure intellectual property protection incentivizes development of new and improved products, and isn’t used as an impediment, stifling competition.

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The real privacy issue

It is Data Privacy Day, a day organized by privacy advocates to call attention to the risks to us all from the use of personal information. The advocates don’t lack for outlets for their fears: whether it is a company developing new features based on social network data or scientists identifying anonymous individuals based on genomic data, privacy issues continue to make headlines. And accompanying these news stories are grumblings and misgivings from privacy advocates lamenting technological progress and the inevitable demise of our culture and commerce should we continue down this path unabated.

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Google antitrust settlement surprises everyone

The recent settlement by the Federal Trade Commission with Google leaves privacy advocates shocked and dismayed but smartphone manufacturers will be jubilant.

Following an investigation of Google’s business practices, the FTC’s settlement has been deemed feeble by most and even outrageous by some corporations, like Microsoft. Microsoft has contended that Google have been stifling the competition and feels that the company has been let off the hook. It is true that Google has been looking to lock consumers into its suite of services through Google+ and its acquisition of Motorola Mobility worried many smartphone developers that it would squeeze the competition. The merger saw Google acquire invaluable telecommunications patents so that it could have even more control over the development of smartphones and tablet devices, thereby relying less on third party manufacturers and become a more aggressive competitor to Apple.

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The broadband economy: A square deal all around

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt launched an era of activist government, checking the excesses of the Industrial Age with new antitrust, labor and social safety net rules. Yet the “Trust-buster” was no anti-capitalist; he also inveighed against the political left who argued that private enterprise was irredeemably corrupt.
 
“We demand that big business give the people a square deal,” Roosevelt said. “In return we must insist that when anyone engaged in big business honestly endeavors to do right, he shall himself be given a square deal.”
 
Roosevelt’s point was that the free market was the engine of unprecedented opportunity and prosperity. But, like anything else, it has flaws and breakdowns; we need the gird of government to make markets work more efficiently and fairly.
 
This balance is the kind of sensible compromise that most voters — and most economists — seem to endorse today. The breakdown of the auto, banking and health care industries were all met with activist intervention by the federal government. The jury seems to be in, at least on the auto and banking industries.

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FTC did the right thing on Google

After investigating Google’s search practices for almost two years, the Federal Trade Commission and its staff undoubtedly wanted more than the few voluntary modifications to which Google has agreed. But the Commission demonstrated its professionalism by concluding that the evidence did not support bringing an antitrust case and that no additional remedy was likely to benefit consumers.
 
The principal complaint against Google — primarily by its competitors, including specialized search and shopping services — was that its searches were “biased.” For example, Google now tries to directly answer users’ queries rather than simply referring users to other sites. When users search for travel information, Google gives them a list of the best flights to their destination in addition to links to other travel sites. Google’s primary competitor, Bing, provides similar information in its search results.

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The question at the core of the data caps debate

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly insist that data caps are a legitimate tool to ease congestion on their networks and an effective way to signal value to consumers. But, as we have argued, data caps do not resolve congestion, are confusing to consumers, and lend themselves to unfair and anticompetitive behavior. 

In light of this disagreement, it is a promising sign that a recent study published by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and co-authored by Steven S. Wildman, the new Chief Economist of the FCC, moves beyond some of the previous rhetoric and takes a significant step towards focusing the debate on real areas of conflict. 

Unfortunately, it stops short of recognizing a critical distinction in understanding the heart of the disagreement. Let’s take a look:

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