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The Protect IP Act: Google’s Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

The Protect IP Act: Google’s Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

The Protect IP Act: Google's Eric Schmidt squares off against RIAA and MPAA

Protecting intellectual property sounds like such a noble cause that you’d have to be a anarchistic free-market extremist to be against the idea, right? Actually, we don’t think Google CEO Eric Schmidt is particularly extreme in any definable way, yet this past week he spoke with gusto, railing against the proposed Protect IP Act, which was designed to “prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property.” If passed into law, it would give the government the right to shut down any “Internet site dedicated to infringing activities” — “infringing activities” largely being of the sort that allows dude A to download copyrighted item B from dude C when it’s unclear whether dude C has legal rights to be distributing B in the first place.

So, you know, it’s targeting the Pirate Bay and its ilk, giving government officials greater power to sweep in and snag the domains of such sites. Schmidt calls this approach a set of “arbitrarily simple solutions to complex problems” that “sets a very bad precedent.” The precedent? That it’s okay for democratic governments to go and kill any site they don’t like, something Schmidt says would only encourage restrictive policies in countries like China. While we don’t think China really needs any sort of encouragement at all to keep on building up its Great Firewall, we tend to agree that this is a much more complicated problem than the Act makes it out to be. That said, one must admit that Schmidt’s opinions are necessarily somewhat swayed by the knowledge that any such law would also have a negative impact on the business of search engines in general.

But of course no such volley of words could go unanswered from the two shining knights of copyright protection, the MPAA and RIAA, which mounted up their corporate blogs, rode down from twin castles full of lawyers, and collectively told Schmidt he’s full of it. The MPAA spun Schmidt’s comments into some sort of act of civil disobedience, saying that “Google seems to think it’s above America’s laws.” Meanwhile, the RIAA called the statement “a confusing step backwards by one of the most influential internet companies.” Obviously it’s only going to get nastier from here, so buckle your seatbelts, place your bets, and hang on to your BitTorrent clients.

Facebook launches quirky ‘friendship pages’

It lets users load all the interaction data between them and individual friends.

Facebook today launched a feature called “Friendship Pages,” which lets users load up the interactions between themselves and individual friends, or between any two friends, on the social network. You’ll see their posts on one another’s walls, events to which both RSVP’d, photos in which both are tagged, and other interactions that you would otherwise be able to access on either friend’s profile (i.e. nothing that wouldn’t otherwise be public).

Friendship Pages are live as of Thursday but are not yet accessible to all members.

It’s another feature, like the redesigned Facebook Groups, that highlights the intimacy of real-world connections projected through Facebook, something that has been obscured as the massive social network has grown far beyond 500 million users around the world and has become a hub for everything from FarmVille crop-tending to “Which Hogwarts House Do You Belong In?” quiz results. I’m a Ravenclaw, by the way.

This is the brainchild of a single Facebook engineer, Wayne Kao, who built the feature at one of the company’s all-night “hackathons” along with a designer. “One of my favorite Facebook moments is browsing photos from friends in the News Feed after they’ve begun a new relationship, gotten engaged or gotten married,” Kao wrote in a blog post. “It gives me a fun and meaningful glimpse of the friendship between two people I know. I realized that a similarly magical experience was possible if all of the photos and posts between two friends were brought together.”

It’s cute, if a little creepy that I can now dive into the digital (albeit public) interactions between two individuals to find out when they started dating, whose Halloween keggers they attended together, or whether there is a chance that their Facebook posts to one another hint that they are in cahoots in a nefarious plan to gang up on me.

Then there’s the fact that, well, ideally our most meaningful friendships will at least have some memorable moments that happen outside of Facebook’s reach, however eye-of-Sauron its scope may be at this point.

The real utility of Facebook friendship pages for me, rather, will be to chart and catalog the long history of insults and snark that my younger brother and I fling at one another on our Facebook walls. This week he pointed me to the results of a survey that suggest being a younger sibling may make you shorter than you would be otherwise, and used my Facebook wall to sarcastically thank me for shaving inches off his height. Me: “You’re already tall enough. If you got those extra 3-4 inches you’d have trouble buying pants and a significantly more embarrassing portfolio of nicknames.”

Facebook’s Two New Security Features Introduced

Under fire for its recent disregard for user privacy, Facebook has made amends by tightening security and has now introduced two new features to enhance secure accounts – one-time passwords and remote logout.

One-time password is meant for people who access Facebook through public places like cybercafes. This is significant in a country like India where there is low PC penetration leading to a great chunk of the users accessing Internet from Internet Cafes. Unfortunately, this feature is restricted to U.S. only, but it may be extended to India as well. This feature is accessed by sending an SMS to receive a temporary password that expires after twenty minutes. Remote logout lets you, well, remotely sign off your Facebooks session. It’s useful when you log in through a friend’s computer or phone, but forget to log off.

However, if experts from IT security firm Sophos are to be believed, Facebook’s one-time password still leaves users vulnerable to security risks. According to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, “If you believe a computer might not be secure in the first place, why would you use it to access personal accounts such as Facebook? A temporary password may stop keylogging spyware, giving cybercriminals a permanent backdoor into your account, but it doesn’t stop malware from spying on your activities online, and seeing what’s happening on your screen.”

Makes perfect sense, because the first rule of security is to stay clear of any unnecessary scenario that compromises security. So there’s no real reason to log into Facebook from public computers. However, for those who have no choice – like the ones who don’t have a PC – it’s an added layer of security. Like they say, something’s better than nothing.

“Deleted” Facebook photos still not deleted: a followup

Even as Facebook makes efforts to bolster and protect the privacy of its users, there are still many things that have gone unnoticed until users have drawn attention to them. One such thing is that a photo once deleted from Facebook, remains on the server and it remains there for months.
Apparently, the photos you may have posted online in error and have deleted from your Facebook profile, are accessible even after you delete them. Facebook accepts that it keeps them accessible for a limited period, which can be as much as even 30 months! This was recently pointed out by a Facebook user, who found that photos deleted by him around 2.5 years ago were still accessible in Facebook s CDN servers. Yet another user named Fillipo had deleted this photo in April 2009 and you can still access it.
Photos uploaded to Facebook remain on the Content Distribution Network (CDN), which stores multiple copies of the photo on serves situated at different locations around the world so that you can quickly access the photo from any geographical location. When you remove the photo from your profile, it still remains on these servers and while it won t appear in your profile, it will still be accessible if you know the image’s URL.
Facebook spokesman Simon Axten said “We’re working with the CDN to reduce the amount of time that the photo remains in its cache. The fix is already in place for videos, and we hope to implement it for profile pictures and photos in the coming weeks.”
We hope that Facebook will act fast on this issue. Till then keep your fingers crossed and hope that no one knows the direct URLs of your deleted photos from Facebook.


Facebook may be making strides in some areas of privacy, but the company is still struggling when it comes to deleting user photos—or not deleting them, as the case may be.

We wrote a piece more than a year ago examining whether photos really disappear from social network servers when you delete them, and found that Facebook was one of the worst offenders when it came to leaving “deleted” photos online. We decided to revisit the issue recently when readers continued to point out that our deleted photos from that article were still online more than 16 months later. Indeed, this old photo of me remains on Facebook’s content delivery network (CDN) servers, despite being deleted on May 21, 2009.

When we originally inquired with Facebook in 2009 about this, the company tried to tell us that deleted images were inaccessible even though they were on the server (a statement that’s obviously false if you have a direct link to the image file, as we do). Simultaneously, Facebook told Ars that it was “working with” its CDN partner to “significantly reduce the amount of time that backup copies persist.”

The company, it turns out, is mostly sticking to that party line. “For all practical purposes, the photo no longer exists, and we wouldn’t be able find it if we were asked or even compelled to do so,” Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten told Ars via e-mail this week. “This is similar to what happens when you delete information from the hard drive of your computer.”

Facebook does acknowledge now that the photos are technically accessible by some people, but basically repeats the line about working with the CDN. “It’s possible that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner could still access the photo,” Axten said. “However, again, the person would have to know the URL, and the photo only exists in the CDN’s cache for a limited amount of time. We’re working with the CDN to reduce the amount of time that the photo remains in its cache.”

It seems we haven’t quite found the limits of that “limited amount of time” just yet—after all, 16 months is quite a while. The other social networks in our original report have all removed our images from their servers by now, and Facebook is the lone holdout.

We’ll keep checking up with Facebook to see if and when the situation gets improved, but in the meantime, we’re sticking with our original party line too: if you don’t want to give your enemies blackmail material, don’t upload questionable photos in the first place. If you’ve already uploaded such photos and tried to delete them, then keep your fingers crossed that no one has the direct URLs saved somewhere.

Update (Oct. 12): After widespread coverage of this particular problem, Facebook has apparently removed my “deleted” photo from its CDN server. However, as far as we’re aware, this problem is still in place for all other Facebook users who don’t have the privilege of drawing widespread attention to the problem like we do. I’ve deleted another couple of photos from my Facebook profile in order to keep watching the issue.

Update 2: Ars reader Andrew Bourke e-mailed to say that a family member uploaded a semi-nude photo of his son and then deleted it more than 2.5 years ago (we agreed not to link it directly for privacy reasons). The photo still remains on Facebook’s CDN servers today, despite repeated requests to Facebook to have the photo removed. Another reader named Filippo e-mailed to say that he deleted this photo in April of 2009, which also remains on the servers today.

Update 3: Facebook spokesperson Simon Axten checked back in with us after our latest updates above and said that the company is actively working with its CDN on this issue. “We’re currently working with the CDN on a fix that will delete photo and video content from the CDN’s cache shortly after it’s removed on Facebook,” Axten said. “The fix is already in place for videos, and we hope to implement it for profile pictures and photos in the coming weeks.”


Source: Ars Technica

FarmVille vs. Real Farms

With all those millions of Facebook and iPhone users tending to virtual crops and sharing them with friends, have you ever wondered how their toils stack up against actual real-life farmers?

How does our output of digital (and decidedly less tasty) tomatoes compare with our worldwide production of real tomatoes? And perhaps most importantly, who are these casual croppers, and are they anything like their plow-toting counterparts?

We broke it down by the numbers and put some of these FarmVille trends in perspective for you.

Go on. Harvest (Harvest) it.

FarmVille Infographic

What do you think? Does FarmVille ignite our romance with all things pastoral? Are digital crops poised to overtake real ones in terms of GDP? What does all this mean for the fate of humanity?

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