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May 21, 2008

Durbin Decries Cooperation With Chinese Internet Censorship

Senator Richard Durbin (D-ILL) held a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 20th titled "Global Internet Freedom: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law."  The witnesses included general counsel representatives from Google, Yahoo!, and Cisco, as well as various representatives from several human rights organizations.  Congress has held a dim view of many of these companies doing business in China in a way that abets local Internet censorship, or what it sees as cooperation in prosecution of dissidents.  Yahoo! in particular has taken a lot of heat for giving the Chinese government the name of the individual associated with dissident postings, leading to that person's imprisonment for a term of 10 years.  Congress particularly does not like the defense of companies having to comply with local law and legal process in order to do business in China and other "repressive" regimes.

So it is with a bit of understated irony that this story appeared in ABC News on the same day, detailing an arrangement the Chinese government had with the United States to soften up ethnic Uighur detainees in interrogation sessions at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  Sessions that may or may not be described as torture (depending on which high level government official is the decider definer of such) were allegedly carried out by Chinese personnel or by American agents on behalf of Chinese personnel:

From the article:

Buried in a Department of Justice report released Tuesday are new allegations about a 2002 arrangement between the United States and China, which allowed Chinese intelligence to visit Guantanamo and interrogate Chinese Uighurs held there.

According to the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, an FBI agent reported a detainee belonging to China's ethnic Uighur minority and a Uighur translator told him Uighur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators.

* * * *

An official authorized to speak on behalf of the Defense Department but who declined to be named confirmed it was Pentagon policy to allow officials from other countries to have access to interview their nationals at Guantanamo but declined to discuss the specifics alleged in the report.

According to Fine's report, the FBI agent said the Uighur detainee told him that the night before his interrogation by Chinese officials, "he was awakened at 15-minute intervals the entire night and into the next day." The detainee also allegedly said he was "exposed to low room temperatures for long periods of time and was deprived of at least one meal."

China is not keen on the Uighur penchant for separatism. 

Any comments Senator Durbin?

May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft Search: It's Payback Time

Microsoft's latest foray into search and advertising comes in the form of rebates if a user shops through Windows Live Search.  Certain products listed in search results will have symbols that indicate rebates from 2% to 30% if purchased through the web site.  It's win-win for Microsoft and advertisers.  Microsoft gets to increase its search market share (now in single digits compared to its competitors) and advertisers get results on ads placed with the search service.  Consumers get something as well, a small bargain and the privilege of revealing in some detail their shopping habits against a profile.  After all, one will need a Windows Live Search ID and login to get the money. 

Microsoft is counting on the tanking economy to drive people seeking online bargains.  No need to spend gas on brick and mortal purchases when that same expenditure can be built into shipping and handling charges.  Cash returns aren't immediate, as there is a 60 day period before they become finalized.  That has to do with potential product returns and other shopping issues.  Once the 60 days pass, however, the consumer can claim the money in their account.  Google will be quaking in their boots over this one.  One would think this model would have been implemented long ago in our consumer driven culture if it had legs.  A small amount of money for shopping may not be enough to get the critical mass that Microsoft seeks for its search engine.  Oh, wait, Microsoft did try something like this a while back, and yes, it boosted their online search share -- temporarily.  The Microsoft FAQ on this has more details. 

The other thing Microsoft is willing to do to make money seems to be subsidizing music for the Zune in return for turning the Zune Social experience into ad campaigns.  Microsoft's example is an hypothetical ad campaign for Doritos where that brand is prominent on an artist page.  "Free" music from that artist could be available for download from that page, along with a brief ad that appears on the Zune.  There would also be links on the page where excited users can start a viral promotion by emailing their friends.  Who know, there may even be coupons for a free bag of Doritos.  Will those potential downloads have DRM restrictions on them?  We won't know until someone actually goes live with this scheme.  Microsoft still needs to get people to buy into the Zune to get it past its niche status.   As music experiences go, this one may not rise above the competition.  More in PC World.

May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2008

More Redacted Data Blues

There's another sensitive report issued by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General that had redacted data that actually wasn't too hard to unredact.  The report concerning payments to telecoms to upgrade their switches to comply with CALEA had dollar amounts blocked.  Interesting that the blocked text could be unblocked with a simple cut and paste out of the PDF.

Wired has the story, along with a link to the NSA guide on how to protect sensitive text from appearing after the fact in public documents.  Lawyers could use that.  Remember all the snarky stuff in the "redacted" exhibits submitted by the FTC to court in the Whole Foods merger case?  Whole Foods did not appreciate their trade secrets getting out into the world.

May 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack