Archive for August 2010

Just one clause, and I’m out of there


A contact of mine kindly sent me an invitation to a Chinese business networking site, called Ushi. All seemed well till I looked at the terms and conditions, which have, inter alia:

You agree to abide by any and all the related Chinese laws and regulations of the Contract Law of the People’s Republic of China, Copyright Law of the People’s Republic of China and its implementing regulations, Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Preserving Computer Network Security (“Security Decision of the National People’s Congress”), Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets, the Telecommunication Statute of the People’s Republic of China (“the Telecommunication Statute”), the Computer Information Security Protection System Regulations of PRC, INTERIM PROVISIONS GOVERNING THE MANAGEMENT OF THE COMPUTER INFORMATION NETWORKS IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA CONNECTING TO THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK and measures for implementation, Administration of the Maintenance of Secrets in the International Networking of Computer Information Systems, Administration of Internet Information Services Procedures, MEASURES FOR SECURITY PROTECTION ADMINISTRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORKING OF COMPUTER INFORMATION NETWORKS, Administration of Internet Electronic Messaging Services Provisions (“Electronic Messaging Provisions”). You also agree to be fully responsible for any behaviors and the any possible result due to the misuse of your account and password in this or that way. Any violation of Security Decision of the National People’s Congress may constitute a crime and you might be prosecuted for the crime. According to the Telecommunication Statute, telecommunication users assume liability for message contents and result transmitted via a communication network. In any case, should have reasons to conclude that any of your behaviors, including but not limited to any of your words and other behaviors, have violated or may violate any of the above mentioned laws and regulations, the service offered by will be immediately terminated at any time without prior notice.

   Mainland China has an awful lot of laws relating to the internet—not very Confucian.
   This scares me off, big time. I’m cool with contract law and copyright law, and I have the basics there when it comes to the PRC. The rest: I really don’t have time to look up the legislation and procedures.
   It is so tempting to accept the invitation, given the way the business world is heading, but until the People’s Republic can do something about cleaning up its legislative framework, it’s a no to Ushi.
   I’m sure that when browsing other Chinese sites, I have not been confronted with quite this much. Or maybe I just haven’t browsed enough in the dot-cn space?

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I found a new search engine (after Google signed me up to another mystery service)


I’ve a bit more reason to moan about Google of late, after a few more dodgy happenings on the site.
   But before I do, some good news: I found a very good search engine. And it’s not Bing.
   Ironically, one of the alternatives to Google search that I liked was Yahoo!, but even that company now has switched to Bing. However, it still has some search tools that others can tap in to.
   From what I know, Duck Duck Go (or, to use the site’s own convention, DuckDuckGo) takes some of those data and supplements its own. It’s surprisingly comprehensive and accurate—something I could not call Cuil, which once saw itself as a Google-killer.
   I got a similar feeling in 1998 when I first saw Google. ‘Wow, this is much better than AltaVista!’ Now with Google doing more evil, Duck Duck Go is a breath of fresh air. None of that ‘supplemental index’ BS, either. It also promises that it won’t store your private information. That, too, feels revolutionary in 2010.
   I liked Google better, too, when it just delivered good services, and didn’t bother with who I am or tried to pretend it was a social network.
   Here’s the real kicker: the founder of Duck Duck Go, Gabriel Weinberg, emailed me after I sent in a compliment. I remember when either Jerry or David did that back in 1994 or thereabouts on Yahoo!. You’ll be lucky to get that now.
Now, as promised, Google-dissing time.
   You’d think I’d have got most of it out of my system earlier this year with the privacy flaws I discovered around the time of the Google Buzz débâcle.
   But you’d also think that Google would have learned from that mistake. Apparently not.
   First up, here’s a screen shot of my old Google profile. I had deleted it once post-Buzz, but reinstated it because, ironically, it was the only way to remove Buzz. (Deleting my profile did not, as Google would have you believe, remove Buzz when the service was forced on me back in February.)
   I found an option in my profile (which had not been there prior to February) that claimed to prevent my name being found, if I unchecked it. It also said that by unchecking that option, one could not use Buzz and Latitude.
   I should also point out that I do not have a Gmail account.

I don’t know what that says to you, but I would have thought that that meant I would never get Buzz.

   What part of ensuring that my name could not be found did Google not understand? What other US laws has it violated this time?
   It’s pretty rich for a company that did not have, the last time I looked, a privacy policy for Buzz.
   So, I went and deleted my profile again. This time, it did kill Buzz, though I still have 777 connections in my Social Search. How does it know, if I am no longer supplying data for that?

I also really don’t want to know the 285 friends-of-friends’ searching habits and Tweets. (It still insists I have four blogs with them—the actual number is zero. I wouldn’t trust Google to be able to do arithmetic correctly.)
   But here’s one big down side to not having a Google profile. Google suggests you can be contacted through the company by not signing up to a profile with them! In your Google account, there is now this:

You can’t have that box unchecked without creating a Google profile. What sort of a con is that?
   Some of you may remember when I whinged about Google saying I was signed up to a bunch of services I never knew about. Google goes one better now: it preempts new services and forces them into your account:

You are now a member of something that hasn’t even been invented yet! This is probably how, after all, it got all those Buzz users earlier this year. Google has “pre-consent”!
   Clicking on ‘New Service’ results in a 404. I don’t know what game Google is playing, but something is rotten in Mountain View.
   I can moan all I want, but I have acted and have drafted a letter asking Google to remove the unwanted services from my account. I would delete the whole account, but for a couple of services where colleagues have asked me to set things up (notably Analytics for the Medinge Group website—contrary to Google’s own claims, I cannot remove myself as an administrator).
   So why whinge? Hopefully it’ll have you checking your own Google accounts to make sure there aren’t unwanted things there.

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Making free wifi pay—at no cost to ratepayers


Victoria Street billboard backs Jack

With the first billboard going up in town, I’ve been asked about whether my free wifi programme will cost ratepayers.
   In a word, no. The wifi programme will be supported by selling the space on the home page.
   Upkeep of such a service, and I am looking at several alternatives, is in the low five figures, though considering the benefits to Wellington’s GDP is measured in the millions, it’s a sound investment.
   Where it could wind up costing Council is in the expansion of such a network. However, there are low-cost ways of doing that. The high figure is NZ$250,000 to roll it out to different areas, but lower figures have been proposed.
   I would like to roll out free wifi to more than the central city, targeting neighbourhoods that could benefit from the educational uses of the internet. Newtown and Johnsonville seem to be communities that could benefit most greatly.
   I’d do this after the central city programme was successful and I think the figures will support my intentionally conservative estimates. There will be rates’ gains to Wellington City thanks to productivity, improved businesses, and new businesses. If all indicators look good, then the rollout will continue to cost ratepayers the grand sum of zero dollars.
   There are other ways, too, to make free wifi pay. Last week, two of my supporters sent me an article on Starbucks’ plans to capitalize on its free wifi service.
   In Starbucks’ case, it’s launching a network that has premium content in news, entertainment, wellness, business and careers, and ‘My Neighborhood’.
   No money is changing hands: instead, the companies, such as Apple, are paying Starbucks for the opportunity to get new business.
   And if Starbucks can do it, why can’t Wellington City? The idea of opening up the home page to advertisers (incidentally, there is already interest, and we haven’t even launched) is the same principle, albeit in a limited way. Expanding it during year one to include premium content from Kiwi creatives can only be a good thing for how we see our city.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, technology, USA, Wellington | 5 Comments »