Monday, June 30, 2008

ICANN'T becomes ICANN?

While I'm here a quick comment on the big news of the week, namely ICANN's rather unexpected decision to open up the top level domain name (TLd) space to auction.

"A complete overhaul of the way in which people navigate the internet has been given the go-ahead in Paris. The net's regulator, Icann, voted unanimously to relax the strict rules on so-called "top-level" domain names, such as .com or .uk.

The decision means that companies could turn brands into web addresses, while individuals could use their names. A second proposal, to introduce domain names written in Asian, Arabic or other scripts, was also approved. "

Reaction to this is as ever on the Internet wonderfully polarised. The bloggerverse and the academics have mostly gone "whoopee!". If I want to bid to set up a .pangloss Tld and I can convince ICANN I can make money out of it by subletting the domain to my many fans :) , why not? The same attitude to internationalised domain names can be seen - not surprising as these do seem fantastically sensible given that , as Emily Taylor of Nominet puts it, ""At the moment, there are one-and-a-half billion people online and four-and-a-half billion people for whom the Roman script just means nothing."

However a rather different set of responses can be detected from lawyers responsible for policing company brands online. To them this just means that instead of buying up - say -,, .biz etc etc - and buying it in English, Cyrillic and Mandarin kanji - they now have to think of buying up unlimited nos of possible permutations, with the possibility of more coming along everyday.

Pangloss thinks the corporate lawyers need to adapt to the new world and that ICANN have got it right. We don't live in the world anymore where the fact that someone has got nike.pangloss tarnishes the brand. We do live in a world where people invariably use Google to look up brands rather than merely typing in imagined URLs (and if a brand doesn't have its legit site at the top of the Google search list then it ought to be sacking some of its brand protection team.).
Furthermore mightn't it be easier once Nike has (as they will) set up their own Tld, for the few non-Google users to to guess rather than (or .us or .org or .biz??)

Yes cybersquatting, typosquatting etc still will matter in the "established" Tlds, notably .com and the relevant national country codes. But the whole point of massively expanding the "real estate" of the domain name space should be to create more opportunity for everyone - which in itself should diminish the need for "legitimate" domain name overlap, leaving the field free for the URDP to dispose of the unabashed non-legitimate cyber squatters.

Facebook and privacy

You might be interested to know that my chapter on Facebook, social networking sites and privacy (with Ian Brown of the OII) is now available as a pre print on SSRN. This pretty much crystallises many of the talks on SNSs and facebook etc I've done in the last year or so.

Edwards, Lilian and Brown, Ian, "Data Control and Social Networking: Irreconcilable Ideas?" (June, 20 2008). Law and the Future of Data Control Available at SSRN:

THis chapter will appear in Matwyshwn A ed Harboring Data: Information Security, Law and the Corporation (Stanford University Press, 2009).

Apologies for lack of meaty comment - afraid all my efforts are currently going in to the 3rd edition of Law and the Internet which will deo volente be with you in the autumn.

Also, remeber to get in your GikIII 3 submissions!! We've already had some wonderful abstracts involving virtual worlds and games theory, Dr Who and IP rights, autonomous agents as slaves in Roman law etc etc - but we need more!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stephen Fry on the BC

Cor. Absolutely spiffing essay fromStephen Fry on the future of public sector broadcasting in a digital world.

I do rather love this introductory para on Fry's longtime affection for the BBC.

"The week before we moved, the BBC started a new drama, starring William Hartnell. An old man, whose name appeared to be Grandfather or the Doctor, had a police phone box of the kind we saw in the street all the time in those days. It turned out to be a magical and unimaginably wonderful time machine. My brother and I watched this drama in complete amazement. The first ever episode of Doctor Who. I had never been so excited in all my life. A whole week to wait to watch the next instalment. Never have seven days crawled so slowly by, for all that they involved a complicated house move from Buckinghamshire to Norfolk. A week later, in that new house, my brother and I turned on the good old television set in its new sitting room, ready to watch Episode 2. The TV had been damaged in transit and was never to work again. We missed that episode and nothing that has transpired in my life since has ever, or could ever, make up for that terrible, terrible disappointment. There is an empty space inside me that can never be filled. It is amazing neither of us were turned into psychopathic serial killers from that moment."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Norms for Social Networking :)

Rhodri Marsden of the Independent's CyberClinic has posted his own rather amusing take on Debrett's advice on the etiquette of social networking and where they get it wrong. I agree almost wholly, especially re not mixing business and pleasure (she says, looking ruefully at her Facebook profile which mixes the likes of Lessig and Zittrain with lots of skiffy weirdos and her 21 year old niece currently training to join the Israeli army. Hmmm... )

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's amazing..

.. what you see on TV these days.

The local news just had this story about a shopping mall in Portsmouth where mobile tracking technology by Path Engineering has been installed - which I have tracked to this story from the Register.

"By installing receivers around a shopping centre the company can pick up communication between handsets and base stations, enabling them to track shoppers to within a metre or two - enough to spot the order in which shops are visited. Two UK shopping centres are already using the tech, with three more deploying in the next few months."

As far as one can tell, the tracking is completely non-identifying ; the shopping centre and path both do not know personal mobile phone numbers nor corresponding user names. The TV report showed predictable reactions: why weren't we told; I don't like it; I've got nothing to hide; etc.

So what do people think? Despite the obvious knee jerk reaction, as the info is completely non attributable to identified individuals, I really can't see a problem. You could get exactly the same results (at greater cost) by posting tellers at each shop or destination in the shopping centre to do counts all day, every day - would anyone object to that on privacy grounds?

(Hmm - I suppose yes, if they could identify the shoppers. Technology actually has the privacy advantage here of being blind. Here we're pre supposing CCTV isn't used in some way to identify the mobile shoppers - which despite what El Reg suggests would be extremely difficult to arrange in real time.)

I think it's important here to seperate technophobic squeamishness from real privacy concerns. (This is also not like Phorm where anonymity had been artificially imposed and could easily be "broken". Here the mobile tracking system simply doesn't know your personal phone number or your name.)

Of course you need to seperate it too from a consent-based tracking system which can be abused by forced or mistaken consent to reval significant personal data, like Sniff. Which I'm sure everyone else has blogged enough about by now.

And completely off-topic, in the Guardian today, I nearly choked on my post-swim coffee at the ostensible discovery that gay men and heterosexual women (and straight men and lesbians)apparently have similar shaped brains. If true this could destroy several decades of careful academic work on cultural construction :)

And now Newsnight is trying to tell me that Obama will be made or broken by Internet bloggers. Possibly time to turn off the TV and write some more of the third edition of Law and the Internet instead :)