My letter to my representation regarding PIPA/SOPA

In case you haven’t heard, there is currently a pair of bills being discussed by both sides of congress that, if passed, will have a profound effect on how the Internet works and enable tools for the government to censor the Internet in profound ways.  The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill is called the “Protect-IP Act of 2011” or PIPA.  PIPA’s U.S. House counterpart is called the “Stop Online Privacy Act of 2011” or SOPA.  Watch this video (YouTube) to get an idea about the goals of these bills.  These bills are bad for the Internet and bad for free speech.  Below is the text of a letter I sent to my congressional representation encouraging them to understand the ramifications of the bills and fight against them.  I encourage you to contact your representation as well.  You can steal as much from my letter as is useful.



[Greeting and introduction].  I am concerned about a bill that is in progress in the U.S. Senate [U.S. House].  That bill is the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA [Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA]. While I understand that the stated goal of this act is to protect intellectual property, the mechanisms that this bill will enable will break the Internet’s openness and present the government with revolutionary tools to enact censorship on a platform that should be open and free.  The technology proposed to support this bill is not that different from that being used in China, North Korea, and Iran where free speech is stifled.  While the goals of this act may be different than those of oppressive governments, we should not allow our government to seize such controls for any reason.

In addition to the technical issues this bill would create, there are additional financial burdens that will be placed on businesses.  Businesses face the threat of increased costs to ensure compliance with the provisions of PIPA [SOPA].  Along with these costs are increased legal fees that could result from the frivolous lawsuits that this bill could enable.   While businesses of all sizes will be affected by this new financial burden, it will no doubt have the greatest effect on small and medium businesses, which are the backbone of the American economy and drivers of innovation.

The United States is built on the freedom of speech.  The Internet is the greatest enabler of free speech.  If choosing between protecting intellectual property and free speech, I hope that all Americans would choose free speech.  I believe that there are ways to protect intellectual property without hampering free speech.  American business is full of brilliant minds, and there is no reason we cannot find a way to solve this problem without damaging the single greatest technological innovation of our time.

I have seen too many people in your position refuse to understand the seriousness of this bill.  Many senators [congressmen and congresswomen] refuse to take time to understand the basic ideas of how the Internet works and allow this bill to move along based purely on their own ignorance.  Please don’t allow this attitude to infect you.  This is a serious matter that will have a profound effect on the Internet’s infrastructure for this and future generations.  Please take time to understand what PIPA [SOPA] really means for the freedom of speech and the Internet and use your office to oppose it.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Kevin L. Dayton

On Steve Jobs

Like many others, Steve Jobs inspired me. About a year ago, a colleague of mine and I were in Santa Clara, CA for a developers conference. On the last day, there was a long stretch between the closing keynote and our flight out, and I insisted that we take a short detour on our way to San Jose and see Apple HQ. It was only a quick stop on a nerd pilgrimage, but a small part of me thought that we’d get a look at Jobs.

It didn’t happen, but seeing 1 Infinite Loop was an opportunity to pay homage to man and a company that has inspired me greatly over the last 15 years. From the first time I used a Mac in journalism school to the iPod reinvigorating my love for music to the time spent building an iPad app at work this week, my adult life has been unmistakably marked by Jobs’s vision at Apple.

He was an inspiration and a visionary and will be missed. God rest his soul.

Google to acquire Motorola Mobility

Major news to start the week.  Google will dish out $12.5B for Motorola’s mobile phone making arm.  This signals the search giant’s first significant commitment to hardware in the mobile space.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

— Google Press Release

What does this mean for the likes of Samsung, LG, and other Android-dependent manufacturers? I guess time will tell.

via This is my next

Matt Drance on Google’s patent lamentations

From Apple Outsider:

It is a textbook example of why you don’t open your mouth before you’re ready to talk. This was a chance to set the record straight and turn the tables in this debate, and Google blew it. Most of the mistakes made were simple, avoidable failures of communication.

Like Drance, I agree with Google’s core premise that the patent system seems broken, but they failed to articulate the core issues and came off as whiny losers under the current rules of the game.

Marco Arment: “Own your identity”

The developer of Instapaper and one of the founders of Tumblr on Google+ and taking ownership of your online life:

If you care about your online presence, you must own it. I do, and that’s why my email address has always been at my own domain, not the domain of any employer or webmail service.

You might think your address will be fine indefinitely, but if I used a webmail address from the best webmail provider at the time I broke away from my university address and formed my own identity, it would have ended in And that wasn’t very long ago.

Locking your identity in won’t prevent a major social service from succeeding. Sadly, most people don’t care about giving control of their online identity to current or future advertising companies.


Privacy concerns found in Pandora’s Android app

From ThreatPost:

That free service comes at a price, Veracode found. Researchers who took apart the application and studied its code found libraries for five different ad networks embedded in the Pandora application. Those libraries collected and trasmitted a variety of different data from the Android phone and its owner. The data included both the owner’s GPS location and tidbits the owners gender, birthday and postal code information. There was evidence that the app attempted to provide continuous location monitoring – which would tell advertisers not just where the user accessed the application from, but also allow them to track that user’s movement over time.

I tend to overreact when it comes to privacy concerns, but I think this represents a legitimate concern for everyone in the era of free mobile apps. While the developer might not give up personal data maliciously or even knowingly, advertisers who offer up software packages to developers for ad placement might be slightly more nefarious.  App developers should be cautious as to what info their apps are divulging, and consumers should realize that  “free” doesn’t always mean “free”.  You might be giving up a lot more personal info than you think.

Fake ghost pictures way before Photoshop

Gizmodo on William Hope’s use of double exposure to create fake ghost images:

The results were spooky. Even knowing that they are fake, I look at them and feel the chills today. Imagine how it was back then. Even very smart people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, bought into it. When Hope was exposed as a scam artist by the Society for Psychical Research, the writer defended him.

Cool, but indeed, very spooky.

Apple Opens App Store to Third-Party Development Tools

Via MacRumors:

Apple today announced that it is making several changes to its App Store developer policies and procedures, with one of the most significant changes being an easing of its earlier move to ban third-party compilers such as Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone compiler it had built into Flash Professional CS5. Under the new policies, such third-party tools will be permitted as long as the apps generated by them do not download any code.

This is a good move that potentially opens app store development to a much larger community and should help get regulators off of Apple’s back.  I’m excited to see some of the potential tools that could arise, but I am still skeptical as to how Apple will handle this loss in control of the app development process.


Skype nixes 3G toll plan for iPhone

Today Skype released an update to their iPhone app that enables multitasking.  Along with it, they announce via their “Big Blog” that they won’t be charging for Skype-to-Skype calls over 3G as had been announced at their previous update.

At Skype, we believe that better call quality and better availability which is achieved with an app capable of multitasking and/or making calls over 3G lead to increased call frequency and longer calls. We also believe that the mobile world is in a period of significant change, for example, with some operators starting to move to tiered pricing models.

In light of that, we no longer have plans to charge a supplement to make calls over 3G. We’re delighted to make it easier for you to talk for even longer and do even more together using Skype.