Weekly output: Michael Chertoff on privacy, TV-streaming rate hikes

I only had four workdays this week, thanks to Monday being spent in the air on my way back from London to D.C. That said, my productivity was not as bad as this scant list would suggest, since I filed three other posts in those four days… and now I can find out how much more work edits on those posts will entail.

7/12/2018: Ex-Homeland Security chief Chertoff wants EU-style data privacy laws, Yahoo Finance

I spent about half an hour on the phone with Michael Chertoff Wednesday afternoon about his views on various privacy and security issues and came away with far more material than I could fit in this post, as well as a renewed appreciation of the time it takes to transcribe quotes from a recording of an interview.

7/15/2018: As cord-cutting prices rise, here’s what you can do to keep costs down, USA Today

No, rate hikes at such live-TV streaming services as DirecTV Now and Sling TV don’t mean that returning to the embrace of cable or satellite TV–both subject to the same inflationary pressures, both also fond of sticking you with monthly fees to return a tuner box–now makes financial sense for a lot more people.

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Weekly output: 2016 tech-policy topics, tech journalism and PR, phone theft, Tech Night Owl, no-broadband house

This was my least-scheduled week in the entire month, allowing me to start catching up on some overdue chores. Like doing my taxes.

3/24/2015: 3 Tech Arguments that the Candidates for President Will Be Debating… Endlessly, Yahoo Tech

Monday’s announcement by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) of his entrance into the 2016 presidential race gave me a reason to outline three key tech-policy issues–and some key words and phrases that indicate a candidate is either thinking seriously about them or recycling discredited dogma.

BusinessWire panel photos via Twitter3/24/2015: Media Breakfast with DC Technology Media, BusinessWire

I talked about the state of the tech-news business and news-PR interactions with the Washington Business Journal’s Kasra Kangarloo, Potomac Tech Wire publisher Paul Sherman, Politico’s Joseph Marks and my old Post colleague Hayley Tsukayama. You may have seen some of our banter tweeted out by attendees under the #BWchat hashtag.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made an early-morning trek to Tysons for a BusinessWire breakfast panel (I did the same thing in 2013), but it was the first time I could take what I like to call the Tysons Corner El instead of driving. Round-trip fare on the Silver Line: $7.05. Being able to laugh at traffic on 66 and the Beltway while answering e-mail on my laptop: priceless.

3/24/2015: Armed robbers target victims along popular trail, Fox 5 DC

After a round of robberies on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in which thieves (since arresteddemanded not just smartphones but their numeric passcodes, Fox 5’s Jennifer Davis interviewed about that tactic. I told her that you should make sure your phone’s online-backup and remote-wipe features were active. And what should you do if a robber demands your phone and its unlock code? My only suggestion (which didn’t make the spot) was to try to reset the phone, on the assumption that the criminal only wants a phone in a sellable state.

3/28/2015: March 28, 2015 — Jeff Gamet and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I talked to host Gene Steinberg about Sling TV and other new video services aimed at cord-cutters, how Apple might offer one of its own, and Google’s latest interactions with regulators on either side of the Atlantic.

3/29/2015: New home, no broadband? Prepare to negotiate, USA Today

This column started with a tweet to me during last month’s FCC vote to overturn North Carolina and Tennessee’s restrictions on municipal broadband. Untangling this Knoxville-area reader’s situation and assessing his options took weeks longer than I expected. Fortunately, he does have one broadband option at hand, with another to come should he agres to Comcast’s offer to connect his home if he commits upfront to two years of pricier-than-usual service.

Weekly output: EU vs. Google, Tech Night Owl, Sprint WiMax resellers

This has been a rotten week for journalism, courtesy of Rolling Stone’s failure to follow the newsroom mantra “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” when reporting a gruesome allegation of gang rape at the University of Virginia. My own week in journalism was better, but I’m not going to say it represented my best work.

12/2/2014: The European Union Wants to Regulate Google —Some More, Yahoo Tech

The EU’s increasingly shrill attacks on Google led to a column in which I sound suspiciously like a Republican (maybe even more than when I’m discussing San Francisco’s screwed-up housing policy). But in retrospect, I should have ended the column on a different note: By acting like the confiscatory villains in an Ayn Rand novel, the EU invites us to dismiss all of its critiques of Google, even the ones that might have a grounding in the facts.

12/6/2014: December 6, 2014 — John Martellaro and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

Host Gene Steinberg and I talked about the present and possible future of the Apple TV, net-neutrality politics, Windows 10, 4K TV and a few other things.

USAT column on Sprint Wimax resellers12/7/2014: 4G me not: WiMax isn’t LTE and is going away at Sprint resellers, USA Today

I don’t always get to write my own headlines, but my editor at USAT appreciates the help and I don’t mind making the effort–especially when this kind of wordplay pops into my head. The research involved in this  piece about companies reselling Sprint service will also play into an upcoming story about wireless broadband.

Weekly output: Apple and social media, right to be forgotten, wireless carriers, Facebook and health care, overheating laptops

Another Sunday when my brain is mostly filled with thoughts about baseball. Yes, I was at Nats Park for all 18 innings last night. No, witnessing that loss didn’t hurt nearly as much as 2012’s horrible NLDS Game 5. Yes, I still felt crummy today.

But you know what? We’re going to play another game tomorrow. Go Nats.

9/30/2014: Apple, Can We Talk?, Yahoo Tech

I revisited a longstanding frustration with Apple–its apparently allergy to public conversations with its customers in any form of social media–and found it even more obnoxious when just about every other major American corporation will talk to the people who keep it in business on multiple social networks. This also bothers me as a journalist: Doling out information to select media outlets instead of tweeting it out to its paying customers offers Apple yet another way to try to manipulate the media.

IAB RtbF panel10/1/2014: Debating the “right to be forgotten,” IAB Global Summit

I spent a few days in New York for this Interactive Advertising Bureau conference and a couple of other tech events. My contribution to IAB’s gathering was this discussion with co-panelists Townsend Feehan (CEO, IAB Europe) and Valérie Chavanne (Yahoo France general counsel and public-policy head) about how this emerging legal doctrine in the European Union is unfolding for Internet users, search engines, Web publishers, and the rest of us.

10/1/2014: The Best Wireless Carriers, The Wirecutter

I updated much of this guide to reflect iPhone 6 pricing (thanks for all the extra math, Sprint!) as well as T-Mobile’s expansion of WiFi calling and texting. So if you’ve been dying to know which carrier offers the best deal for not just one iPhone 6 with a 2-gigabyte data allotment, but four of them, look no further.

10/3/2014: Facebook and health care, WTOP

I talked about a Reuters report that Facebook will move to set up “support communities” for people with particular health issues or conditions. Note that on the air, I mentioned that Facebook raised privacy concerns when it bought the maker of an activity-tracking device;  the product in question is not hardware but software, the Moves activity-tracking app.

10/5/2014: What’s cranking up your laptop’s cooling fan?, USA Today

This week’s column covered something that’s puzzled me too often: How is it that my laptop’s cooling fan can sometimes rev up for no apparent reason? The column suggests a few apps that can report the processor’s temperature and indicate which apps are hitting it hardest–and admits that you may still be puzzled after going through those troubleshooting steps.

Weekly output: Facebook Messenger, Evernote business-card scanning, right to be forgotten, Miracast

This week allowed me to cross one tech-related item off my bucket list: operate a soldering iron without injury to myself or anybody else. More on that later…

8/5/2014:Facebook May Be Addicted to Apps, but You Don’t Have to Be, Yahoo Tech

Facebook’s decision to make Android and iPhone users of its regular app install a separate Messenger app to continue chatting with their pals is not earning many Likes. This post compared that move by Facebook to Foursquare moving check-ins to Swarm–but now that Foursquare has shipped a complete rewrite of its core app that reinvents its privacy model, I don’t mind that split as much.

8/5/2014: 3 Flops from Facebook (and 1 from Twitter), Yahoo Tech

Remember when Facebook was going to reinvent e-mail? Yeah, that was awesome. Consider this post my own penance for all the words I wrote about Facebook Messages back in 2010.

VentureBeat Evernote review8/6/2014: Here’s how Evernote’s business card scanning feature tackled 1,333 cards, VentureBeat

I had planned to use Evernote’s card-scanning feature to dispatch all the cards cluttering my desk, then decided I might as well try to sell a review of the experience. If you were wondering about the creature with the oversized eyes shown up close in the app in my photo, it’s a tarsier on the card of O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly.

8/8/2014: Can Europe Force Search Engines to Censor Information You’re Looking for on the Internet? Assessing the Right to be Forgotten, Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee

I enjoyed debating the European Union’s dubious doctrine with Internews’ Mike Godwin, Future of Privacy Forum policy counsel Joe JeromeEmma Llansó of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Intel global privacy officer David Hoffman, and moderator Michael Kubayanda. Courtesy of Congress being on recess, this was broadcast on C-SPAN–C-SPAN 1, even.

8/10/2014: Windows can do wireless displays, but watch for glitches, USA Today

Only five days after a reader asked me about this on Twitter, my column answering that query ran. Not unrelated: I’m still awaiting answers on the other topic I’d pitched to my editor, so it was this topic or nothing.

A modest proposal: How Google can weigh “right to be forgotten” requests

I took part in a panel discussion of the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” privacy directive earlier today, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to one of the thornier aspects of that rule: How is any one company, even one with the resources of Google, going to adjudicate all of those requests?

Google RtbF searchThat’s turned out to be a much bigger problem than I’d feared when I covered this issue in a Yahoo Tech column in May. At the end of July, Google reported that it had received more than 91,000 requests from EU citizens asking to have particular links not shown in response to searches for their names. And many were sketchy in a way that wasn’t immediately obvious:

… we may not become aware of relevant context that would speak in favour of preserving the accessibility of a search result. An example would be a request to remove an old article about a person being convicted of a number of crimes in their teenage years, which omits that the old article has its relevance renewed due to a recent article about that person being convicted for similar crimes as an adult. Or a requester may not disclose a role they play in public life, for which their previous reported activities or political positions are highly relevant.

At the panel, I suggested there was only one fair way to resolve this, and I’ll expand on it here.

It’s clear that Google will have to research each “RtbF” request carefully to see if it falls under the EU’s exceptions for people in public life or whose activities would otherwise involve the public’s right to know. The history of search-engine abuse shows you can’t count on everybody to act ethically about their image online–and when that kind of manipulation goes uncaught by unscrupulous individuals, innocent people suffer.

But that’s not enough. Lest Google inadvertently hide material from somebody about to launch a business or a political campaign, it would be wise to check for evidence of any upcoming ventures into the public sphere by an individual. The history of “RtbF” abuse so far leaves little other choice.

EU citizens, in turn, deserve a timely response to their right-to-be-forgotten queries. The simplest way to do that for a company with Google’s search traffic and computing capabilities would be to do some advance work: It could merge its own records with other sources to determine which EU citizens clearly qualify as being in public life, which ones rank as private citizens and which ones seem likely to cross that threshold either way. To avoid unduly burdening smaller search sites also subject to the “right to be forgotten” directive, Google could allow them access to these records as well.

And so Google would come to protect the privacy of EU citizens by maintaining a massive database about them.

An extreme solution for a problem that can be solved by easier, simpler means in the real world? Yes, that’s my point.

Weekly output: “right to be forgotten” (x2), Facebook privacy, travel bags, Pandora, Tech Night Owl, downloading Flickr and Facebook photos

Two things I’d written a while back–weeks ago in one case, last year in the other–made their appearance this week.

5/20/2014: The ‘Right to be Forgotten’: A Right to Endless Argument, Yahoo Tech

In this week’s column, I tried to untangle the logic behind a European court’s ruling that EU citizens can petition search engines to have unflattering links not be shown in queries for their names.

5/20/2014: How to See Yourself as the Web Sees You: 5 Tips, Yahoo Tech

To go with that column, I wrote a short sidebar about how to check up on the picture of you that search engines and Facebook present to strangers.

5/22/2014: Facebook privacy, WTOP

The news station interviewed me about Facebook’s unprecedented but welcome move to less-public default settings. As I said on the air: With this change, it’s definitely not throwback Thursday at Facebook HQ.

5/23/2014: Nerd Bags: How 5 Yahoo Tech Writers Keep It All Together, Yahoo Tech

Read on to see what kind of bags I and four Yahoo Tech colleagues–Rafe NeedlemanRob WalkerAlyssa Bereznak, and Dan Tynan–use when we travel for business.

Boing Boing Pandora post5/24/2014: Pandora’s “Music Genome Project” explores the cold hard facts of how we interact with music, Boing Boing

This story had an exceptionally prolonged gestation: I waited way too long to file the thing, and then my editor wanted to hold off running it until the site could launch its redesign. That redesign, in turn, took months longer than expected (I don’t know the details, nor do I want to know the details). There are a couple of references in the piece that show its age–for example, iTunes Radio is no longer an “upcoming” product–and should be fixed soon.

5/24/2014: May 24, 2014 — Dorothy Pomerantz, Daniel Eran Dilger and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I talked about the right-to-be-forgotten ruling, AT&T’s proposal to buy DirecTV, and Apple’s “never mind” settlement of a patent suit against Google on Gene Steinberg’s podcast.

5/25/2014: Grab it: Download photos in bulk from Flickr, Facebook, USA Today

I was unpleasantly surprised by the poor quality of the apps I tried for downloading multiple photos from Flickr and Facebook. (Hint: Adobe Flash is not a good middleware layer to build an app on these days.) The tip part of the column suggests that readers take another look at OS X’s Preview utility and the Paint app in Windows for basic image editing.