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Facebook owns YOU!

If you're anything like me, and I guess 99.9% of internet users out there, you never bother checking those long and boring terms of service that you have to confirm you've 'read and understood'.

Recently, I decided not to accept Google Desktop tracking all my searches to 'give me better service', and although I have a gmail account (which I use for throwaway registrations and the like) I don't much like the idea of everything being scanned for advertising purposes. There are a number of issues, but basically it seems to revolve around Google storing loads of data for ages, and not giving you much/any control over what happens to it. Wikipedia, CNET and Google Watch comment on this.

"2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google" (Gmail Terms of Service)
does this mean minors cannot get a Gmail account?

This is a scary one:
"11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services." (Gmail Terms of Service)

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Jumping on the Facebook wagon

There’s been a lot of discussion about Facebook recently, most notably surrounding danah boyd’s exploratory essay discussing class and social network sites (SNS) Facebook and MySpace. At home, also, my spouse has become an avid ‘Facebooker’: she has been able to connect with numerous friends, as well as others who have not been in touch for a while. It’s been interesting to watch the dynamics of the whole thing – one thing that struck me is that, compared to blogs, Facebook provides one with an ‘instant network’. Blogs are also used as a way to keep in contact with friends, to accumulate a certain amount of social capital, but there’s a lot more work involved there – you have to understand a little html code to do your blogroll, search out other blogs and links, etc. With Facebook, it’s all there in an instant, and you don’t have to spend time writing posts either.

I’ve been avoiding joining, mainly because I can see it taking up more time, I don’t really see the point of being registered with yet another online service; also, I am one efficient procrastinator and don’t need any more excuses. But I have finally given in… I joined the Media Anthropology Network, and was told that other members are on Facebook, with details of their profiles and what they’re working on. This was the final straw: the Association of Internet Researchers’ email list (recommended, by the way) had also recently mentioned forming a Facebook network, and a friend recently joined and told me about other long-disappeared-off-the-map friends who are on it too.

This is what greets you when on the first page of Facebook. It’s interesting to look at the meaning of "the people around you", it could be read in a utopian, or dystopian way: a dystopian would ask: why do you need an online service to connect with people ‘around you’? This draws up images of people communicating via Facebook rather than talking face-to-face. The utopian would read ‘around you’ as meaning you now have the world as your clamshell, so to speak – i.e. wherever you are, as long as you have access to Facebook, everyone is ‘around’ you.

What is the more realistic likelihood? Well, my guess, much inspired by danah boyd and related discussions, is that the people ‘around’ you are probably the people ‘like’ you – i.e. similar social, economic, ethnic, etc, background.

Blogin Hood

A recent article in The Star noted the arrest of an "'Untouchable' crime kingpin" (pdf of the article here).

From the point of view of blogs, what was interesting about that article was one sentence:
"The suspect, who is also widely mentioned in a blog, has since been taken to an undisclosed location in the country to assist in investigations." (my emphasis)

One wonders what is the point of that statement.

Maybe mentioning the blog is a way of indirectly revealing the name of the person arrested? I assume the blog in question is Malaysia Today, which reproduces the article with some links to relevant previous posts (here), and if you read through them a number of names do get mentioned. However, to work out who exactly may have been arrested is impossible, given the number of names mentioned, and secondly, one would have to be somewhat familiar with the Malaysian blogosphere to guess that it was Malaysia Today which was being implied...

Not to dismiss the many efforts of Raja Petra Kamaruddin (RPK) to expose links between organised crime and senior police and/or government officials, I honestly don't think his blog is the direct cause of the arrest.

Some of his readers do though (comments from the above-linked post):

And how do you think they caught this untouchable?

And why are they cracking sydicate crimes?

All because RPK exposed them and they were made to look like fools. So to salvage whatever reputation they have as cops, they had to do this.

Johorians owe all this to RPK. Malaysia owes this to RPK. (Anon 05/08 10:49:51)

Who is running to police force? IGP pr RPK? Looks like RPK because he is the one who has been exposing the culprits. (Asamboi)
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Fencing the internet

It’s fortunate that this year the ICAS conference is being held in KL, and I have the time to attend, seeing as not much else is happening to me right now. I always enjoy going to such conferences, and getting the chance to see experts impart their detailed knowledge.

There are an extraordinary amount of panels going on: 23 rooms with normally four sessions each per day – 92 in all! Which may explain why some of them had very poor attendance. Or maybe it was just the ones I attended? Whatever, although there is not much about the internet, I was lucky enough to catch a couple of interesting ones.

One by Terry Johal, a Singaporean who talked about the role of the legislative and the judiciary in the Singaporean reaction to blogs, and online media in general. He noted how the MSM has an increased coverage of blogs since 2005; commented on the various scandals (SPG’s nude photos, “sensitive army photos” being published; the ‘handicapped toilet’ debacle that led to Malaysian bloggers being drawn in too; and some others). Actually he said an awful lot of stuff, and I can’t put it all here, but the gist of it was that the Singaporean government relies heavily on “common law” and precedence as a way of inferring that what is not specifically allowed is prohibited, and also uses “drift net legislation”, such as the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (1990) that makes it illegal to “cause ill-feelings between religious groups” – this is quite imprecise, and therefore can be used to cover many types of situations. He also pointed out that although the Internet Code of Practice could have been used in certain situations with bloggers, instead defamation laws or the above-mentioned Religious Harmony Act were used – because this would have less impact in an international sense.

In relation to the last point, he described how when there was some issue with Mr. Brown (I think), the fact that the MSM took it on, and the government weighed in, what was a “non-event in internet time” (i.e. it would have died out in a couple of days) became a big issue in the local and then international media – attracting unwanted negative publicity for Singapore.

Also, finally, he mentioned an Australian court case where it was decided that the place of publishing is where it is downloaded (discussion here). To take a topical case:

“For all intents and purposes, Malaysia Today is a foreign website and not a Malaysian website. We therefore do not come under Malaysian laws.” (Raja Petra Kamarudin)

According to the principle set in Australia (which doesn’t have to apply here, that’s up to the Malaysian court) even if RPK’s server is not in Malaysia, the fact that people read his blog here in Malaysia means that a Malaysian court can rule on it.

Another very interesting talk was by a Korean, Yeon Ok-Lee, entitled “The Internet Real-Name System and Privacy Trade-Off in Korea” – but I don’t have time to blog about that now. Will do in future. Google the title and you'll see what it is about.

Tunnel vision

"There isn't a doubt, I think, that Iran constitutes the single most important, single-country challenge to... US interests in the Middle East and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see." US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice

Well that says it all, really. The USA continues on its unilateral path, and wonders why people still don’t like them…

What about the kind of Middle East those who live there want to see? And frankly, why should we give a s**t about US interests? All the reckless pursuit of their interests have led us to so far is continuing mayhem in Iraq, continuing recruitment of murderous jihadists, and – in fact – the increase of Iran’s influence in the Middle East.

They say you can tell a person by their friends, and so why not a government by its allies: who are they selling arms to (thus contributing to a heightening of tensions and playing right into the hands of bin Laden et al.)?

Israel: a country that has illegally occupied the Palestinian lands since 1967, already has nuclear weapons, and is responsible for a whole number of other reprehensible acts – for example papering over the killing of a 13-year old girl.

Saudi Arabia: recently accused by the US Ambassador to the United States of “pursuing destabilising policies” with regards to Iraq, and of course no stranger to torture, discrimination against women, etc. (Amnesty International Report).
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