Weekly output: credit checks for wireless service, Carpenter v. U.S., Safari security, Facebook listening patent

The second quarter of the year is in the books. Or to put this in less financial terms: Happy almost Fourth of July! Please take a moment during this holiday to remember that democracy is not a spectator sport.

6/25/2018: Sprint’s $15 unlimited data plan required a ‘hard pull’ credit report, and it’s not the only one, USA Today

The Collision conference gets an assist here for introducing me to CreditKarma co-founder Nichole Mustard, who on short notice provided a concise explanation of different levels of credit inquiries.

6/25/2018: Four things to note about the Supreme Court’s location privacy ruling, The Parallax

I applaud the Supreme Court ruling that the government has to get a search warrant to see my location history as tracked by my wireless carrier. But it also left many things unclear, like the validity of the “third-party doctrine” that originally allowed warrantless access to that location data.

6/29/2018: Apple’s Safari has dropped the ball on security, Yahoo Finance

News that Twitter would finally support two-step verification based on cryptographically-signed “U2F” USB keys gave me a timely peg for a piece recounting how Apple’s browser has been late to implement many security advances–even as Safari has led the industry in adding privacy protection.

6/30/2018: Facebook’s listening patent, Al Jazeera

I got a call from a producer as I was walking to Metro to meet friends for brunch, asking if I could talk about recent reports of Facebook obtaining a patent that appears to describe turning on a phone’s microphone when an ad broadcasts a special, inaudible-to-humans tone. I said this patent only showed that Facebook has aggressive patent lawyers. Why? See Nilay Patel’s debunking of this allegation in the Verge, based on a close reading of the claims in the actual patent.

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History moves fast sometimes

I spent four years studying history in college, and the big takeaway was that progress is a slow game that requires the ability to get up after getting knocked down, over and over.

A slightly worn American flag flutters in a spring breeze.

The exceptions to that rule are rare and delightful. My freshman year, we watched Communism crumble across Eastern Europe so fast that one professor told us to put aside the assigned textbooks and instead read the paper each morning and come prepared to discuss the latest news from Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest and beyond.

The past week in America has felt like that. Within a few days, the vile cruelty of the Charleston shootings finally awakened many Southern whites to the reality that the Confederate battle flag is far too stained by hate to deserve a place of honor on the people’s property. It and other salutes to the Confederacy’s war against the United States now look set to vanish from government facilities as fast as statues of Lenin in the Warsaw Pact’s client states.

(Note to Virginia: Now would be a swell time to rename the Jefferson Davis Highway. I’ve already e-mailed my state senator and delegate to say as much.)

And then on Friday, less than two years after throwing out the insultingly ill-named “Defense of Marriage Act,” the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law. This case of justice arriving like a thunderbolt, as President Obama said, could not have happened without decades of effort.

And yet: It came less than 11 years after Karl Rove made ballot initiatives against gay marriage part of a winning Republican strategy. It was nine years since a Virginia constitutional amendment banning any state recognition of same-sex unions passed the commonwealth by a large margin. It happened seven years after Obama stated his opposition to gay marriage during the 2008 campaign, and people like me didn’t think that was a huge problem. Not even a year and a half ago, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (who refused to defend the gay-marriage ban he’d voted for in 2006) defeated his opponent Mark Obenshain (who had not changed his mind about that now-defunct law) by only 907 votes.

Thinking about all that, I sent a celebratory e-mail to my wife with a single-character subject line: “=”

Weekly output: Facebook experiment (x2), Supreme Court, best tech, Tech Night Owl, extra e-mail addresses

I sure wish July 4 would fall on a Friday more often–although I can deal with it landing on a Thursday too.

BBC WHYS page6/30/2014: Has Facebook done anything wrong?, World Have Your Say

This BBC program (er, programme) had me on via Skype to discuss Facebook’s 2012 experiment in making about 690,000 users’ News Feeds slightly happier or sadder to see how they’d react. The restrained tenor of the conversation had me thinking this story would not be kicking around six days later; that was a mistake.

7/1/2014: Aereo and Cellphone Searches: High Court Goes in Opposite Directions on Two Key Cases, Yahoo Tech

The Supreme Court released its Aereo ruling at about the worst possible time for me–the day after last week’s column ran, and right before the Google I/O keynote. But waiting until this Tuesday to opine allowed me to cover some subsequent developments and develop a comparison of that case with the court’s far more thoughtful treatment of a different tech-policy issue–whether police need a warrant to search the contents of your phone.

7/1/2014: Yahoo Tech’s Absolute Favorite Tech Stuff of 2014 (So Far), Yahoo Tech

I contributed a couple of nominations to this listicle.

7/1/2014: Facebook experiment, Al Jazeera

The news network’s Arabic-language channel had me on to talk about Facebook’s “emotional contagion” study. If you had a chance to watch it (sorry, I don’t think the clip is available online), did the live translation make me sound any smarter?

7/5/2014: July 5, 2014 — Kirk McElhearn and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

Shockingly enough, host Gene Steinberg and I did not discuss the Facebook experiment on this week’s episode of his podcast.

7/6/2014: Mail it in: Get a second address for your main account, USA Today

An exchange on the Internet Press Guild mailing list taught me this one weird trick with e-mail that had somehow escaped my attention until now, then led to this how-to column. As I type this, my link to the column from my public Facebook page has gotten vastly more engagement than anything else I’ve posted there lately, and I have no idea why. If only I could conduct some sort of study about people’s emotional responses to Facebook…

Weekly output: Android fragmentation, first-sale doctrine, transparency reports, This Week In Law, iPhoto corruption, geotagging

This time of year can bring the potential for serious college-hoops distraction–but not for me, since I was relieved of that worry Friday night. No, I’m not bitter…

3/18/2013: With so much fragmenting, is Android still a single OS?, IT Knowledge Exchange

My friend Ron Miller quoted me at some length in a post about the state of the Android union. Does the linguistic metaphor I chose to describe things work for you?

DisCo Kirtsaeng post3/20/2013: Kirtsaeng Dissent Reminds Us Of The Risks Of Foreign Entanglements In Copyright Policy, Disruptive Competition Project

The Supreme Court said the first-sale doctrine–the idea that once you buy a copy of a copyrighted work, you actually own that copy and can loan it, sell it or donate it as you wish–doesn’t evaporate if the copy in question was published overseas. I liked that ruling; in this post, I argued that the dissent to it unintentionally exposed some non-trivial flaws in how we construct copyright policy. I enjoyed this rare chance to dust off my Georgetown education in international relations and law.

3/22/2013: Forget Your Annual Report, Where’s Your Transparency Report?, Disruptive Competition Project

I thought Microsoft was smart to follow Google’s lead in documenting how many inquiries about its users it gets from law enforcement around the world–and that other tech companies should learn from this example.

3/22/2013: #203: Power Hour Pounding, This Week In Law

I was back on this podcast for the first time since last July, and this time the chatter focused heavily on drinking. I assure you that there were serious intellectual-property dimensions to that part of the conversation I had with fellow guest Ali Spagnola and TWiL hosts Denise Howell and Evan Brown.

(Fun fact: Until writing this, I didn’t realize that my phone includes ringtones by Spagnola.)

3/24/2013: Tip: Repair mode in iPhoto will restore thumbnail icons, USA Today

I was a little worried that my Q&A about dealing with iPhoto database corruption was a little esoteric, but then a reader commented on my Facebook page about her substantially-worse experience: “My entire database was corrupted [….] I had masters and edited pics existing in different places.” There’s also a reminder about not letting a phone’s geotagging function expose where you live.

On Sulia, I quoted approvingly from the Supreme Court’s Kirtsaeng ruling, explained why I’m not too interested in Google Keep, gave some early praise to Microsoft’s transparency report (that item got a mention on Slashdot), and commented on the fallacy of complaining about “taxing Internet sales”