Privacy: Europe vs the USA

On a day when the likelihood is you’ve been bombarded with GDPR emails from companies you’ve done business with, or just whose websites you’ve registered with, there is no better comparison of the difference between how the European Commision and the USA are dealing with our privacy.

While the new General Data Protection Regulation comes into force tomorrow (May 25th), which isn’t as many think, a reaction to the Facebook privacy scandal, the regulation which took seven years of negotiation, and will force changes in a braod range of industries, including, but not limited to technology, advertising, medicine and banking.

Here in America, we learned this month that a company called LocationSmart is buying the real time cell phone location data obtained from the country’s largest cell giants, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

We only learned, because Securus, a prison technology company, who use the data from LocationSmart, had their website tested by a researcher who was able to access the cell phone location of anyone, without consent. Apparently, while the explicit selling of cell phone location data to the Government is banned/illegal, selling it otherwise is not. We don’t even know who they are selling it to, or what it is used for.

Big business is just about making a buck. In the same way as Facebook mostly didn’t care who got your data, and what they did with it, provided facebook got their money, that made it OK. The same has been true for decades for the cable and telephone, cell phone companies.

‘Born and raised’ Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law | theguardian.com

There are so many things wrong with this, it is hard to know where start. Yep, it’s a law that solves a problem, which for the most part doesn’t exist.

The fact it takes Eric Keniie 3-buses to get to a vital Texas state service, just shows how broken our transport system is in Austin. Here is a man, which, if as reported, seems a reasonable grasp on life, and a good approach, who makes living as a scrapper, foraging in other peoples garbage and when feeling flush, handout food to neighbors.

So much for the Texas miracle.

‘Born and raised’ Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law | US news | theguardian.com.

How to patent a steak…

Patents are a big deal in my industry, I spend a lot of time working with technology that is patented, I work in a business where people are paid for filing patents, many of which have actually never been used, and most of all I work in a business where massive companies fight over patents trade patents as weapons for defensive and offensive actions.

I myself have no patents. I fundamentally disagree with the way patents have been used ever since I first became aware of them, and that was a very long time after I first started reading the source code for IBM System Software. As far as I can remember, that IBM source code was copyright, but I don’t remember seeing long lists of patents and patent numbers in the source code. That was the late 1970’s.

Patent law for the nonlawyer: A guide for the engineer, technologist, and manager
Patent law for the nonlawyer: A guide for the engineer, technologist, and manager

The problem is, understanding patent law can be really difficult. Ironically, after working with IBM legal 10-years ago in negotiations with the European Commision, I went back to the IBM Poughkeepsie office and they were closing down the physical lending library and giving away all the books. I picked up a few, including this one.

However, today I heard the best example and explanation on patent law, the difficulties with it, and how absurd it can be, and how it can be abused. It was Episode #399 of the Planet Money podcast, How to patent a steak.