Before the explosion of online communications, our world necessarily was smaller and who we came in contact with tended to people we already knew. Then our ability to reach out and communicate with others expanded dramatically and exponentially as we all started traveling at warp speed down the information superhighway.
We learned that not only could we interact with people locally, but with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks we could be communicating with people across the country and even in countries on the other side of the globe. Part of the fun was our ability to communicate anonymously, using pseudonyms.
We could be informal, we could be creative, and we could reinvent ourselves. Indeed, most of us probably remember the cartoon with a dog in front of a monitor and a keyboard that had a caption which read: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” Case law developed making clear that First Amendment protections extended to the right to speak freely and even anonymously on the Internet.
All well and good, right? Perhaps for the most part. The Internet has provided a medium that has led to many beneficial communications and interactions for personal, business, and other purposes. However, human nature is not always pure. From the beginning of human history, it seems there always have been some people intent on mischief and even violent behavior. And unfortunately, with the increased ability for people to contact others via the Internet, there also is a heightened possibility for such contacts to lead to terrible results.
Continue reading Be Afraid, Very Afraid Of Who You Meet Online?
It’s baaaack. Florida, that wacky state that brought us hanging chads and other irregularities during the 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential election, has returned full force with some new controversy.
Indeed, while the great weight of scientific evidence has persuaded the vast majority of scientists skilled in the field that global warming is real and a looming danger for the planet, government officials at the primary environmental agency in Florida have been prohibited from using the words “climate change,” according to Time.com.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an unwritten directive to not use the words “climate change” or “global warming” in official reports and communications, claims the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR).
Christopher Byrd, an attorney in the DEP’s Office of General Counsel from 2008 to 2013, informed FCIR that “[w]e were told not to use the terms climate change, global warming or sustainability,” and that “that message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel.”
Moreover, additional former DEP personnel reportedly told the FCIR that this unwritten directive was put in place after Rick Scott, who has rejected the argument that climate change has been caused by humans, took the helm as the governor of Florida in 2011. Continue reading Fla. Agency Bans the Words ‘Climate Change.’ Really?
Once upon a time, frankly not that long ago, a telephone was something that was tethered by a wire to a phone jack and that enabled people to make telephone calls — nothing more. A home had one phone line, and perhaps multiple phones for that line.
Things became just a bit more interesting later when a home had more than one phone line. That meant, for example, that a teenager could stay up all night gabbing on the teenager’s phone line without interfering with the ability of family members to make a phone call on another home line.
This still was a fairly simple situation. When we were out and about in the world, our phones did not follow us. Our communications tended to be more in-person, and perhaps we observed what was happening in the world around us with a bit more of a keen sense, without any technological distractions.
In the late 1980s, we witnessed the first “mobile” phones. These phones were behemoths. Such a phone and its battery pack literally took up a large briefcase to carry around. Other than the cachet of parading the fact of owning the behemoth mobile phone, it honestly was easier to use a pay phone when out of the home or office.
But in the 1990s and thereafter, mobile phone technology developed exponentially in terms of size, functionality, and convenience. And now, in a small device about the size of a pack of cards, or smaller, we literally have the world at our fingertips.
Continue reading Smartphones Can Do Anything, Right?
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) generally affords immunity for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with respect to content posted by users on their websites. There have been various efforts by plaintiffs in lawsuits to chip away at this immunity, most of which have failed. Now along comes Doe v. Internet Brands, in which the plaintiff sought to convince the Ninth Circuit to circumvent CDA Section 230 immunity under a “duty to warn” theory.
The anonymous plaintiff, Jane Doe, alleged that she was a model who was enticed to travel to Florida by two men. The men drugged her, raped her, and then displayed this horrid event in a pornographic video.
Doe alleged that the two men initially found her by way of the website Model Mayhem, which she’d joined as a member. She asserted that Model Mayhem is a site that profiles hundreds of thousands of models, and that the owner of the site, Internet Brands, allegedly knew of the illegal scheme by the two men but nevertheless neglected to warn her of the potential harm. Continue reading 9th Circuit Resisting Efforts to Dilute CDA Section 230 ISP Immunity?
Hack attacks have been in the news for a while. But the most recent headlines seem to indicate that hackers are far outpacing security efforts to contain them.
In the last week, we have learned that a major health insurer was compromised, possibly exposing the data of 80 million health accounts. Data relating to medical patients is very sensitive, and the number 80 million is staggering in scope. And there have been indications that other health insurers might be vulnerable, meaning that 2015 could be the year of health insurance hacks.
On top of that, we just learned that “Anonymous” hackers have attacked the website of the President of the European Parliament. So, this tells us that not only is medical information unsafe, but government officials are not able to protect themselves from hackers. Continue reading Getting Serious About Cybersecurity
Do you ever get up in the morning, feeling sluggish and just not up to the tasks that await you? For most of us, the answer is yes, at least once in a while.
And does it ever seem that your Internet connection is having a bad hair day? Specifically, does it feel like it takes forever for Web pages to download, reminding you of the days of 32k and 56k dial-up modems?
If so, do you just sit there passively and hope and pray that the connection will improve? Well, there might be something you can do to give your Internet connection that coffee jolt that it needs to step up its game.
Case in point: There I was, trying to open Web pages so that I could accomplish work tasks remotely from my home computer last week. I kid you not, everything online was taking forever! Continue reading The Need for Speed Online: Don’t Just Sit There!
While the Internet provides many obvious advantages to people in this digital age, it can also enable a dark side for those intent on mischievous and criminal online behavior. “Revenge porn” is part of that dark side.
So, what is revenge porn? It usually consists of a nude photograph or video which is publicly shared online (most frequently by an ex-lover of the nude subject) for the purpose of spiteful humiliation.
The nude photograph or video generally is recorded when the couple is in a positive relationship, and then later is shown to the world on the Internet after the relationship has crumbled, most often by the male posting nude content of his female ex.
There also are revenge porn ransom websites. Specifically, such a website posts nude photos and videos provided by ex-lovers of their former lovers, and then offers to take down the content if paid a certain amount of money. The Federal Trade Commission has been seeking to root out these types of websites.
Continue reading FTC Seeks to Thwart ‘Revenge Porn’
We live in a world in which we are bombarded with information data from many sources, and so much around us on the tech landscape is transparent. How, then, do we keep our tech love alive? Read on.
Spoiling the Surprise?
Yes, it is wonderful that we have so many interesting and creative information technology outlets. But at times we are robbed of the magic and mystique of learning about the world with surprise and personal experience.
Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with and learn about our friends. However, it becomes tiring and redundant to be notified of posts from the same people over and over again with respect to the most mundane matters.
And sure, it is wonderful to be able read online reviews of restaurants and hotels, but then when we arrive we generally find what we were expecting based on advance notice.
Of course, online trailers for movies and television shows help us to select what to watch, but so much is shown in the trailers that we know beforehand where the movies and shows will go.
When it comes to music, we have access to so much from online outlets that we can know so many more bands and songs than ever before; but at the same time it can become rare to hear new and different musical works.
In the 1970s, the band Heart sang “Keep My Love Alive.” So, how do we keep our tech love alive? Continue reading Keeping Our Tech Love Alive
When it comes to privacy, a lyric from a Joni Mitchell song seems apt: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Indeed, as technology has moved forward, it seems that practically every semblance of privacy has disappeared.
Let’s recount just a few of the ways that privacy has gone by the wayside.
From the Workplace to Cyberspace
For starters, there is very little privacy in the workplace. Most employers have employees sign policies stating that the business equipment that employees use is company property and that employers can monitor communications using that equipment. Employees are told upfront that they do not have expectations of privacy when using company phones, computers, and other devices.
In addition, practically everyone is living their life, at least to some extent, on the Internet. As a consequence, all sorts of private information is shared in cyberspace. When making online purchases, for example, credit card and home address information is shared. When making such purchases, consumers agree to the terms of service of the providers. At times, those terms of service allow for the further sharing of information provided, and can also lead to targeted advertising. Continue reading Where Has All the Privacy Gone?