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This Week in Tech 465
Fr. Robert Ballecer: It’s time for TWIT This Week in Tech and boy do we've got an episode for you. A lot legal stuff, anti-cyber bullying, a little bit of courtroom drama over the patent troll. Microsoft’s newest watch, oh and a lot of legal stuff. another TWIT is next.
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Fr. Robert: This is TWiT, This Week in Tech, Episode 465. Recorded Sunday July 6th 2014
Let’s Ask the Audience
This Week in Tech is brought to you by ITPROTV, are you looking to upgrade your IT skills or prepare for certification? ITPROTV offers engaging and informative tutorials, streamed to your Roku, computer or mobile device. For 30% off the lifetime of your account go to itpro.tv/twit and use the code TWIT30. And by Nature Box, order great tasting healthy snacks delivered right to your door. Forget the vending machine and get in shape with healthy delicious treats like roasted garlic pumpkin seeds. To get 50% off your first box, go to naturebox.com/twit. That's naturebox.com/twit. And by audible.com, sign up for the platinum plan and get 2 free books. Go to audible.com/twit2. Follow Audible on Twitter user ID audible_com. And by Squarespace, the all in one platform that makes it fast and easy to create your own professional website or online portfolio. For a free 2 week trial and 10% off go to squarespace.com and use the offer code TWIT. It’s time for TWIT, This Week in Tech. The show where we take the tech news of the week, load it in a mortar, shoot it up in sky and let the sparkly sparkly sprinkle down on us like the ash of yesteryear gone past. I'm Father Robert Ballecer, the digital Jesuit in for Leo Laporte the tech guy who’s currently in Hawaii. We don't know why but we assume there are wonderful things a coming. Joining me today starting on my right, Mister Harry McCrakcen from The Technologizer. Harry, are we allowed to talk about your future announcement?
Harry McCracken: Yes as of 2 weeks from tomorrow I will be technology editor for Fast Company, which I'm excited about.
Fr. Robert: You do look a lot happier right now. You've got the glow of a geek who’s had the world lifted from your shoulders.
Harry: Well I'm excited about that. I've been a fan of Fast Company since the first issue came out which I think was named Teen Years Ago. and we're talking about all kinds of cool stuff.
Fr. Robert: Nice, you know it’s always nice to be able to walk in to some place and sort of develop, build something on your own.
Harry: We're building cool stuff.
Fr. Robert: Speaking building something on your own, this man is no stranger to doing just that. We bring in Steve Kovach, the Senior Tech Editor at Business Insider. Steven thank you for joining us.
Steve Kovach: Hey, thanks for having me.
Fr. Robert: Now we were talking about this right before the show. I think I had a conversation with you way back when sometime in January. You seem to recall that we were talking about Microsoft but I remember you didn't have that really cool brick background. Did you build that just for us?
Steve: No I kind of shifted things around in my living room a little bit to get that dark stand-up comic vibe I guess. Like I'm in some sort of comedy cellar. But if I turn it around we can see the Vinyl in my apartment if you guys want to check it out.
Fr. Robert: Oh now see now you broke the fourth wall. Oooh. We we're all imagining that you were somewhere in an Ivy League dorm room.
Steve: Like a bunker or something. Nope just my apartment.
Fr. Robert: Well we’ll just have to imagine now. Well gentleman, what do you say we get down to the tech news? No that was a question.
Steve: Let’s do it.
Fr. Robert: This first one is all about Google. Now we all know that the EU broke the internet 2 months ago. At least that's what the press was saying. We were all saying that. The right to be forgotten was going to be a fundamental mistake. That it was going to destroy the way that the internet worked and we were all going to have to go back to chiseling things into tablet with rocks and whatever those chisel things are. I don't know what tools are. I use a computer. But anyways, it didn't break the internet but it did make a mess of it and it seems like Google is exacerbating the mess. Now we may remember that 2 months ago the top EU court backed the right to be forgotten as a principle right of every EU citizen. It told Google that it was responsible for deleting inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant data from its search results when requested to do so by members of the public. Now there was that public outcry. There was a lot of experts who said that this was either a good thing or a bad thing but we kind of forgot it. Well Google’s bringing it back into our mind because a lot of stuff has happened since then. The test case was first brought against Google by a Spanish citizen Mario Costeja Gonzalez, who wanted to delete links to a listing for an auction for his house which had been foreclosed because of debt. Well he said that was back in 1998, I don't have those debts anymore, I paid those debts and I don't want that to be the first thing that pops into a search result when someone types my name. The EU court agreed and told Google you got to take it down. Now simple right? Easy, done with. No, not so much. Since the ruling there has been a rush to invoke the right to be forgotten. There was a politician who no longer wanted his behavior in office to be linked with his name. there was a doctor who wanted poor reviews removed from her search. A pedophile who wanted information about his conviction deleted. An actor who wanted articles about his affair with a teenager to be unlinked. An individual who tried to murder his family who thought the public shouldn't know about that. A cyber stalker, a suspended university professor and the list goes on and on. In fact, all told since the court agreed with the right to be forgotten there have been 70,000 requests to remove more than 275 individual listings with most requests coming from France, Germany, The UK, Spain and Italy. Now I want to throw this over to you first Steve. This what kind of what we were expecting right? I mean when the EU said that yes you have a right to be forgotten, we knew there was going to be a rush for all these people who had been waiting for years and years for a way to get that stuff off the internet, to bum rush the front doors. Is this more or less what we expected?
Steve: Yeah I don't think this is a surprise especially a lot of those examples you named were people you know either charged with crimes or convicted of crimes or had some sort of nefarious shady past that they want to hide. And you know as a journalist I'm very against this. So you know I'm super pro first amendment and this does amount to censorship in effect. Yes those website still exist but you got to remember that Google is a utility, it’s the gateway to the internet for a lot of people. I mean even on my own site, we know that so much traffic comes to business insider just from people who can’t figure out how to type it into the URL bar, they go to Google and literally just type in Business Insider. So you know Google is this gateway for so many people to access information and the fact that people can essentially censor it, themselves out especially criminal and so forth you know that's harmful to just the public good in general. And so it’s not a surprise that a lot of these types of people we're seeing are coming forth you know tens of thousands of people and I feel like it’s only going to accelerate until maybe someone challenges it with some stricter standards of what can be removed.
Fr. Robert: Harry, we're seeing about 1,000 new requests a minute each day. What about that, is this censorship? I mean because I mentioned all the bad things right? Of course you've got people who want to get their bad behavior off the internet but the reason why the EU court decided that this was a fundamental right was because there is sort of a statute of limitations. I mean if I was in debt 20 years ago but I'm no longer in debt why should that be the first thing that people find when they Google my name? Or if I had a job and I did poorly at that job and there was some sort of scandal, some sort of brouhaha but now I'm in a job which has nothing to do with what I used to do, should that haunt me forever? Is it censorship or is this just prudent trimming of data?
Harry: Well there are certainly scenarios in which it’s easy to be sympathetic about the people are unhappy about having their stuff up. But this is yet another example of governments not being very good at creating laws which apply to technology. I mean it sounds like the EU is just so incredibly vague about this that all kinds of people are able to take advantage of that including people who did things which you should know about whether it’s 20 or 30 years later. I feel like if you were accused of a crime and found innocent that's one thing. I can sort of plausibly see why you might have laws relay that information. If you were convicted of a crime though I don't see how it’s Google problem if people know about it. I feel like in the old days it is true that things you did in the past sort of disappeared over time and that's just not going to be true today moving forward because of technology. Stuff is not going to disappear and I think the world sort of has to figure out how to deal with that. I think human beings should forgive people, I mean if somebody’s house was foreclosed upon 15 or 20 years ago that probably doesn't matter very much if they've had a nice record since then. But it’s up to the humans to deal with that not to the search engine.
Fr. Robert: Let me add another layer onto this because I actually doing think the idea itself is horrible. I don't think that the right to be forgotten is something that will destroy the internet. I just think it was very clumsily implemented. In fact the problem that they're fighting right now is that the EU issued such broad rules when they made this law, when they went down with this decision that essentially Google and the other search engines can do whatever they want. So right now remember what they told Google was that Google was responsible for making sure that information that was inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant could be removed from the internet on the request of the individual. But they never defined what those are. So if you don’t define what that means then that means Google is now in this position where they have to act like the censor. Steve I want to throw this back over to you. If you're told to do something but then they don't tell you exactly how to do it and it’s now up to you to decide how it works, what the criteria’s going to be, when it gets implemented, how fast it’s going to work then you have really no expectations of blame on yourself right?
Steve: Right I think you nailed it right there when you said it was overly broad and that's exactly what this is. It could be interpreted so many different ways. For example one of my colleagues, he’s going through the process, he’s in the EU right now, he’s our London Editor and he’s going through the process right now just to see what it’s like. He was mentioned in a book kind of negatively not too long ago and he’s trying get that link in Google Books removed. And again he was a critic of this company he was writing about and then this person wrote about him, hardly a bad thing it’s easy to find and so forth but it’s seems like it’s something he’ll be able to get removed because he could argue that it’s damaging to his reputation. And you know especially someone like us who make our living you know in the public. You know writing publicly and so forth. You know that's very damaging just to the public good at large and so yeah I think it’s overly broad and I think eventually we're going to have to get to a point where someone challenges this again and says to the EU courts hey let’s get a little bit more specific here and figure out exactly okay in strict terms what can and can’t be censored out of these things.
Fr. Robert: Right I think we need to clarify what you can remove too because again that's a little clumsy, they're figuring it out. But right now you can remove a link to your name. So if someone searched for Robert Ballecer and I don't like the fact that the very first search result is a picture of me holding bacon in a very strange way. I can say no Google, no get rid of this, this is not relevant people don't need to know about that. Google would be obligated, if I was in the EU to remove that link to me holding the bacon because it was a hot day, I was naked, it was strange but if someone put bacon ballecer I could still find the search result. Or someone search a different country search engine they could still find me there. So it’s not like the data is destroyed. It’s just the link is destroyed. Harry, let’s talk a little bit about that because there's been a lot of focus on well it’s not censorship because you can still find it if you know where the site is. You just won’t be able to search for it through our service.
Harry: Well almost all of us are extremely dependent on this one company search engine these days to do that. It’s a fascinating question if there was a little bit more competition in search engines how would they deal with that because right now if you can’t be found on Google then you can’t be found to a great extent. And of course I mean the definition of relevance is so incredibly big stuff that to you is irrelevant to me might be very relevant.
Fr. Robert: Right, right. Steve what about that. I mean if you can't be found in Google then you can't be found. That's actually a pervasive argument. People are saying wait a minute, if you're not giving me the ability to be searched for then I might as well not have a site. I might as well not have a presence on the internet. But is that the same thing as saying I'm censoring you?
Steve: Well that's an interesting question too because kind of like I said you know they it’s censoring in the sense that you know there is a lot of public information out there that should be known like you mentioned cases about pedophiles and so forth. That stuff is incredibly relevant to the public interest and it’s censoring in the narrow scope of people just in the EU. But like you even said you can noodle around with the searches. And also keep in mind it’s not censorship in the sense that you know those sites still exist. Google isn't just showing them to you. You know Google isn't like you know when you search Steve Kovach you only see the good stuff, that only stuff in the EU that I want you to see. So its censorship through Google and like I even said Google is such an important utility and like Harry said with very little competition that it’s the default knowledge engine for so many people. It’s what people go to to find everything from how to make spaghetti to just get information on you know the latest news and learn about people especially you know important relevant news of the day. So it’s censorship in that sense but you got to keep in mind for the rest of the world these links still do exist.
Fr. Robert: Right now let’s get a little bit away from the theoretical here because people always have a problem with oh well we haven't really seen the harm, yeah you say all these bad things are going to happen nothing’s happened. Let’s look at the things that have happened in the 2 months since the EU backed the right to be forgotten. First, an article written by a columnist Robert Preston about the 2007 Merrill Lynch sub-prime mortgage disaster was removed because the former Merrill Lynch Chairman Stan O’Neal who was the only person mentioned in the article said wait a minute I don't work for Merrill Lynch anymore, I don't want this linking to my name and they pulled it down. 6 Guardian articles were taken down including 3 by about Dougie Mcdonald who was football ref who was forced to resign after a possible match fixing scandal. And 3 newspapers including The Daily Mail had that stories pulled down by people who were mentioned in the stories but no longer wanted to be associated with whatever was in those stories. Now they're being very vague deliberately because they don't want us to see exactly what the content was but it seems to me that we're now getting real concrete information about how this is working, which is I'm sure it’s doing some good. I'm sure there's some very outdated information that being pulled down but again because there are no guidelines you've got this the law of unintended consequences where you know what it probably would be good to know that Stan O’Neal was involved with the Merrill Lynch meltdown. That's not outdated information but Google gets to make the decision. Harry what's wrong with that?
Harry: Well you know in any one case you could plausibly see Google thinking it over and coming to a rational decision but for 70,000 cases the only you could possibly deal with that is you have an enormous infrastructure and essentially like a court system to look at every instance and figure out whether it made sense or not. And of course the more it comes down to hearing about cases in which media companies had stories pulled about powerful people the more bothersome it is because I mean it really is censorship. It’s censorship for the 21st Century.
Fr. Robert: Steve I want to get your input on this. There are people who are saying that Google is deliberately doing sort of reduction ad absurdum here. They don't have to cooperate as quickly as they've been cooperating with the ruling. In fact people are saying look at Yahoo, look at Bing they're all very slow to respond so they understand how the rule works but the rule also doesn't have a timeframe so they're moving very slowly on request whereas Google has just been whipping through them. And they're saying Google is at fault because they don't have to take the ruling so literally. But it seems to me that that's not Google problem. If you make a law, they can comply with the law. It seems like they're getting a bad rub here.
Steve: It’s not Google’s fault. Yeah they are I think, you know they were put in a sticky situation and the last thing they want to do is wind up in court again but what the EU did is put them in a situation where they basically the arbiter and they get to go case by case okay do we block the link the Merrill Guy, do block the link to the pedophile, do we block the link to this guy who couldn't pay off his loans or something. And does the EU really want Google to be deciding this kind of stuff, like Harry said this court system. It puts them in such a sticky situation and it isn't their fault. I think right now if anything they're airing on the side of caution and just you know accepting all these requests as fast as they can. And they're probably getting way more requests then Bing is because they have such a large chunk of the market share in search.
Fr. Robert: Don’t worry because will actually be copying the requests that Google has so anytime that Google takes something – no let’s not go there, they don't do that anymore. Okay I want to close this out because we spent a lot of time talking about the right to be forgotten, the unintended consequences but let me ask both of you. Would something like this ever work in the United States?
Harry: We have a real different philosophy about a lot of this stuff. Like in the UK, you can slander somebody by writing something about them which is true. Totally different over here where slander by definition is saying something that's not true so I think we've always had you know way more liberal attitude on this stuff and it’s kind of hard to imagine anything this broad happening here.
Fr. Robert: Right yeah.
Harry: If it’s incorrect information maybe but stuff you just don’t like up about you because it puts you in a bad light. I don't see it happening.
Fr. Robert: Steve, what about that because we already have strong laws for slander. What does even be required in the United States, I mean if someone says something untrue about you you can actually – you have legal recourse to go against them. But if son just reports news about something I mean you shouldn't be able to take that down.
Steve: Right it’s always slander if it’s false. And so again I completely agree with Harry. This would never happen in the US just because it’s the first amendment, freedom of speech and that there are protections for people against slander and libel but again it has to be false information. so maybe if some kind of case comes through where someone wants false information taken down but even then they’d go against, go after the individual outlets. So you know that's not a problem for Google to solve. And you know I've been a journalist in both London and United States and Harry nailed it. I mean the laws are completely different over there especially in the UK, you can write something true and still get in legal trouble. And so you know we're very lucky and fortunate to live in the country that lets us, lets journalists and the freedom of speech operate the way it does. So I think we're pretty safe.
Fr. Robert: Let’s hope so.
Steve: I know that's very patriotic and July 4th and you know I actually do believe it.
Fr. Robert: Well I mean you may have the right to be forgotten in the United States but the NSA won’t forget you so.
Fr. Robert: Let’s bring that back in. No we're not going to talk about that, in fact let’s go to something a bit more fun. Coocoo for Coco Puffs, specifically sticks and stones may break your bones but Apple can't call you a troll. Like last week the US District Judge Lucy Koh, you may remember her from the Apple Samsung blockbuster case. Well she issued a no name calling rule in the Apple GP and E case. Now GP and E is a non-practicing entity, what we normally call a patent troll. It’s a corporation formed with the sole purpose of acquiring IP which they then use to go after other companies who are actually making things. That's what they do. They sort of shot gun a bunch of litigation and hopefully someone will pay up. Now in this particular case GP and E has acquired multiple patents that vaguely, very vaguely address mobile communications. For example, Chad if you have this up, US patent 7555267 which describes a central office with some form of 2 way paging. If you scroll down to the, actually it’s the link above from Gigaom, it shows you what the vision was for this and it’s essentially using a bunch of pagers with some receivers so you could have 2 way paging. They're using that as a way to claim that they own Apple’s communications technologies and Apple therefore needs to pay up. Now in any other circumstance we would call that a patent troll but in this case Lucy Koh has said not only can they not call them a patent troll during the trial but Apple can also not call them a pirate, a bounty hunter, a privateer, a bandit, a paper a patent stick up shakedown playing the lawsuit lottery, corporate shell game or corporate shell. Now Steve, I want to throw this over to you first. It sounds as if what Lucy’s trying to do is she’s trying to make sure that there's no defamatory language or there's no biased language on the court room but I mean is patent troll really all that surprising to people who might be listening to this case?
Steve: No it becomes such common vernacular and these companies like you said are designed just to look through patents and see what they can snap up and then sue for and make money. I mean it’s calling a state of spade and it’s such a common phrase these days that I don't know that they can – maybe the thing like shell corporation or pirate and so forth, maybe those are a little derogatory and shouldn't be used in the court room but you know even the White House has said patent troll. I think that's safe to say that they're pretty unbiased in a lot of these things so I'm okay with Apple calling this company a patent troll but I think Koh is right to kind of tamp down the rest of that harsh language.
Fr. Robert: That's the amazing part because the White House commission, the fact sheet that you got from the commission about patent reform they actually use the phrase patent troll. So evidently patent troll cannot be used in a court room but it’s just fine for the President of the United States. Harry I really don't understand this. Is it just because she doesn't want leaning? She doesn't want a mistrial? She doesn't want to worry about legal ramifications later on because it seems strange to remove words from the court room?
Harry: Well you know I'm reasonably sympathetic with her. They are patent trolls, they certainly don't have a problem with the White House saying so but a court room should be about decorum. I think it’s fine to say that you don't want emotionally charged words being applied because the job of the court is to determine the facts of the case and to me we are not at a point where calling somebody a patent troll is not a judgement and a form of name calling. It is a form of name calling so I don't see why it’s unreasonable for them to do that. To me it sounds a lot worse than shell game and so forth or shell entity.
Fr. Robert: It’s kind of like a bunch of kids shouting at each other and their mother says we don't use that kind of language here.
Harry: I mean judges are there partially to do that.
Fr. Robert: But I mean some of these things like a corporate shell, you can actually describe most of these non-practicing entities as a corporate shell. It’s a corporation that has nothing to in it.
Harry: That sounds more like a statement of fact to me.
Fr. Robert: Right, okay maybe patent troll, maybe I can understand patent troll because it does have some sort of negative connotation that you may not want to use inside of a court of law. But some of these like corporate shell or corporate shell game that's actually just a description. That's not really a derogatory statement. Steven are we going to see more of this because I mean patent troll lawsuits are not going to go away. Is he blazing the trail for future judges to say no you can’t call them bad people?
Steve: Yeah I think you know you can clearly see what's happening here I mean you don't need a judge or a jury to see that these companies are designed literally just to troll rich corporations like Apple. And yeah we are going to see, I mean these cases have been going on forever and they're going to continue. So yeah maybe that's her goal here. To kind of set the standard in the court room inevitably when this cases keep coming back to her and her colleagues in the system to keep it as impartial as possible. Some of those terms like you said I mean they're very literal and it’s hard to argue that they have any kind of bias towards them like a shell corporation. Troll again like I said, I still think that's okay just because it’s in the common vernacular now and people understand what that means. But yeah other stuff like pirate and so forth and maybe anything else that could be determined derogatory, I think that's good to remain impartial especially if juries are listening to this. Yeah so it’s going to keep happening and this is setting a precedent.
Fr. Robert: I'm going to miss hearing pirates. Look most legal proceedings are really boring, I want to hear at least a little bit of spicy language. Now when we come back we're going to talk a little bit about how to become the most hated man in San Francisco. Earlier on I had this titled How To Become a D-bag in just one day but I was told by the people at TWIT that we don't use words like D-bag on the stream. So instead we're going to take a break to talk about the first sponsor of this episode of This Week in Tech, and that is Itprotv. Now the other show that I do, well actually I do multiple shows but the show I do tomorrow is called This Week in Enterprise Tech. It’s all about networking, it’s all about data synergies, it’s about how the world is connected. And one of the questions we get most often is from the odd user who just wants to know how do I get in to this? How do I start learning about the technology that connects us? 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That's less than $40 per month or $399 for the entire year. That's ITPRO.tv/TWIT, ITPRO.tv/TWIT and use the code TWIT30 to receive 30% off and we thank ITPROTV for their support of This Week in Tech. Now I don't know if you've heard about this but over the weekend we had a little bit of a – I think it was a hate parade. Can we call it a hate parade in San Francisco?
Fr. Robert: Steve you heard about this right?
Steve: Oh yeah.
Fr. Robert: Table reservations, especially in holidays are kind of difficult to come by in San Francisco so you know what’s a good way to piss people off? How about if you make a bunch of fake reservations and then sell those reservations to the highest bidder. Yeah that's exactly what happened. A man by the name of Bryan Myers, a developer, a project manager, an entrepreneur in San Francisco created a new service called Reservation Hop. Now he says he did it over the week and it was just something fun that he put together. Well the way it works is that he makes reservations at the busiest times of the hottest restaurants in San Francisco under assumed names. And then he offers those reservations for sale on his site. Now once you pay he will give you the name of the reservation and the time that you're supposed to show up. Now naturally this caused a little bit of consternation. There was a lot of restauranteurs who were saying wait a minute you can’t do that, that's not cool and his excuse is well I released the reservations if no one buys it like 5 minutes before and these are popular restaurants so I'm sure they're not going to have problems filling the seats but it seems like a douchey thing to do. Harry, I mean—
Harry: It seems really sleazy and it seems like in the last few weeks there have even more really stupid ideas for start-ups like I remember there was those guys who were selling rolls of quarters for use at the Laundromat which they marked up so you paid $15 for $10 worth of quarters. There was a whole thing in San Francisco with the apps for auctioning off your parking space when you're leaving that which the city said is illegal. And like this guy who like Farhad Manjoo from the New York Times said that's he’s violating the social contract which seems fair to me.
Fr. Robert: Yeah there's an expectation that you act certain ways when you live with a lot of other people because you want them to act the same way. This seems like one of those things where no dude not cool just don't do it. Now Chad if you could bring up his website the funny thing was he sort of basking in the negativity. Actually his blog page. The negativity that is his disaster here. He’s saying well since people started tweeting about me and calling me the most horrible person on the face of the city my site traffic has gone up like 5000%. But Steve let me throw this over to you because there's actually a bigger lesson I think here. It’s not just about one person creating a really really nasty app that a lot of people are getting about, it’s this is kind of the state of innovation in San Francisco right now. If you look at some of the most recent start-ups they're all about extracting value from things that people used to think were free. And here are some of the hate tweets that he’s gotten and he like this. Is this where innovation is headed in Silicon Valley?
Steve: Yeah and I think I have a unique perspective on this from an East Coaster, a New Yorker you know looking at it from the outside. You know it seems like so many of these developers and entrepreneurs in the area, they just get lost in their own mind bubble that you know everything is ripe for disruption including reservations. And there are legitimate services that do help you make reservations. You know there's open table the most obvious answer and that's a great service that does it well and you don't need to do anything shady. They work directly with the restaurants. And so you know this is akin to someone kind of like Harry said just like finding an open parking spot and paying a guy to stand in there until someone auctions it off and bids on it and no one parks there. It’s maybe not necessarily illegal but yeah in violates the social contract. A friend of mine on Twitter said something like you know he pretended he had a start-up idea, it’s stand in front of someone in a movie theatre until they pay him to sit down. You know it’s exactly like that. That's was actually Matt Honan from Wired who said that the other night. I thought that was really funny and that's exactly what you know you seen these kids come through thinking they're really just like blowing up certain industries and they're not, there's not going to be an Uber for everything or an Airbnb for everything. And this is just you know it’s hurting local businesses, restaurants could lose potential customers by some kid just calling around and making phony reservations. And the fact that he’s bragging about it just makes it worse and maybe he’s getting more traffic on the site but I’d be shocked if he’s making any money off this.
Fr. Robert: Okay wait, so let me take the devil’s advocate position here because it’s easy to look at something like this or like the parking meter start-up that we had in San Francisco. What was that thing called?
Harry: There were a couple of them. Something monkey is one of them.
Fr. Robert: Parking Monkey, Parking Monkey the idea of let me take a free resource and I’ll give you a little bit of service and you give me profit. And people generally frown upon this because again it’s breaking the social contract. But the people in the chat room are quick to point out wait a minute what about Ticket Master? This is just another middle man scheme.
Harry: I'm not so crazy about Ticket Master either.
Fr. Robert: But that's accepted right?
Steve: Yeah but they created this platform to buy these tickets you know that's a useful tool. Yeah they charge you way too many fees but they did create a service. Seamless Web, I don't know if you guys have that out there.
Harry: Yup Grub Hub.
Steve: Seamless food delivery or Grub Hub and so forth you know. You're still paying for the same stuff but it’s this platform and it’s an actually useful tool. And they partner, keep in mind Ticket Master partners with the venues. Seamless and Grub Hub and so forth partner with the restaurants. This guy’s just going on his own and finding something free and charging people for it. And it’s kind of similar to what we saw with the Aereo case. I know we're going to get to that later but you know Aereo took these free signals and then charged people to beam them back over to the internet and Scotus said a couple of weeks ago said that's illegal.
Fr. Robert: Wait a minute isn't that the role of the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur finds things that are undervalued and makes them valuable. Isn't that innovation?
Harry: In the chat room people are talking about Stub Hub and some people have said this guy is just scalping reservations. I mean even scalpers have to pay for the tickets and they're taking a risk and if you scalp tickets to a show, the theatre will be okay because you paid for the ticket and this guy does say I believe he cancels reservations four hours before is he hasn't solved them which in theory means that the restaurant has plenty of time to find somebody to sit down but it still seems like you know it’s the restaurants decision. I feel like if this guy actually take off or if he has copycats, the way this will be solved is restaurants will force you to give a credit card number which you know some restaurants do today especially for big nights and you won’t be able to just make a reservation for free.
Fr. Robert: Now let me get deep into the devil’s advocate position because I mean understand we're saying well this doesn't agree with the social contract that I've made with my fellow city dwellers but I mean is that just a matter of time. If I were to go back 20 years and say oh by the way I'm developing a new company, what I'm going to do is I'm going to take all your personal information I'm going to make it available for people to search for it and I'm going to sell advertising against it. People will say no, no that violates the social contract that's totally uncool.
Harry: A media company said that and they work for a publication that blocked Google for a while because they felt like Google was—
Fr. Robert: Stealing their content.
Harry: Barnacle you know on our content machine.
Fr. Robert: So is it just a bad idea until people start doing it? And in that case wouldn't you want to get a little bit of hate so you could be first?
Steve: I don't think in this case. I don't think it applies to this at all again—
Fr. Robert: I don't think so either but I want to push this a little bit.
Steve: I know you're playing the devil’s advocate but it’s just hard to buy that. It’s simply destroying that social contract that we have, that reasonable expectation that anyone can call and make a reservation for free you know. It’s not a right, it’s not a legal right but it’s socially acceptable. You know I'm all for innovation and change and disrupting industries but this isn't disrupting an industry it’s pissing everyone off.
Fr. Robert: Right.
Harry: And the fact that he has to use fake names kind of tells you it’s not something people think is okay.
Fr. Robert: The fruits of the poison tree I think is—
Harry: I’d love to know what the names are though and does he use a unique name every single time?
Fr. Robert: Actually he’s been using Harry McCracken.
Harry: He said something about how it works 99% of the time. I wonder what happens in the 1% of the time when it doesn't work.
Fr. Robert: Okay I think what it’s coming down to is we believe, even if we can't express it that if someone is going to make a profit they need to have a little bit of skin in the game right. They have to work a little bit. We have no problem if someone takes a risk and gets payoff but maybe our problem with this guy is he’s not taking a risk, he’s taking advantage of a system that's there. Is that fair? Is that what we're saying? I'm confused, I don't know what I'm saying.
Harry: He’s taking advantage of the fact it runs on trust right now because you can make a reservation just by giving your name. There's trust there and he’s violating that trust.
Fr. Robert: I can't believe that people give me their personal information, they trust me with their picture. I think some famous man said that before he founded some Facebookey thing right? So let’s get back to this, okay let’s step away from this. This particular example. Let’s talk about this whole genre of innovation in particular because that's what I really want to talk about. If this is the future of innovation. Taking things that are free, making value of them and then selling them so I can make profit. A lot of companies and not just these small start-ups seem to be based around that model. Is that sustainable?
Steve: Yeah I mean look at Airbnb. I think that's really cool. They're the largest hotel service in the world right now. I think Brian Chesky tweeted yesterday or the day before they hit a record of 330,000 people staying in Airbnbs in one night. That's significant and that is actually creating a useful service. People have rooms open or you know a spare apartment or a separate vacation home or whatever and they want to rent it out and Airbnb created this excellent platform to enable that so I think that's a great example of someone who, a company, entrepreneurs who found you know some low hanging fruit that was ripe for disruption. You know I've stayed in Airbnb and it’s almost better than staying in a hotel in a lot of ways. It’s very personal and you get your own place and so on.
Fr. Robert: And you get to go through their stuff, which I love that's my favorite part.
Steve: Yeah oh yeah, you know that too.
Fr. Robert: By the way locks don’t work.
Steve: Locks don't work. Yeah that too. But you know we hear these horror stories but 99% of the time stuff like that is great. Uber is another one, you know they found wow it’s really tough to get a cab in some cities wouldn't be great if you just whip out your phone and call a cab and anyone can hop in. And it’s working, these are real businesses making real money.
Fr. Robert: Let’s go to Uber because I actually do want to talk a little bit about Uber. But before we go to Uber we do need to take a break to talk about the second sponsor of the show because actually we don't have to, I can delay it another ten minutes but I'm getting hungry and we got Nature Box. Would you like to chew on something here? I like the Santa Fe sticks but try these. The Toasted Cheddars are actually pretty good. Now Nature Box, if you haven't heard about them, if you haven't been on TWIT. Steve would you like.
Steve: Mail it to me. Drone it to me.
Fr. Robert: That one’s for you. Now if you want to get healthy snack you could to it a couple of ways. You could make your own, you could dry up some nuts maybe you throw along some honey. You know maybe grow some beets and extract the sugar out of them or you could go with something like Nature Box. Now Nature box is – well let me surprise you about something this. It’s something that you should be snacking on. That's right, we always think of snacking in a negative light. We think oh snacking leads to weight and trust me I'm kind of an expert in weight gain but Nature Box is a different kind of company. They don't want to give you the stuff that's going to taste like paper. They don't want to give you the stuff that's going to make you gain weight. They want the stuff that's going to destroy your cholesterol, make your body fall apart. They know what your body needs and what you want and they've figured out the secret in one simple box. Now Nature Box snacks have zero transfat, zero high fructose corn syrup and nothing artificial. They send great tasting snacks right to your door with free shipping anywhere in the United States which is why we can afford to get all these snacks in the Brick House in fact if you are to go back into our pantry. In fact we’ll invite our guests to go back there later on and see what we have. We have a row of chocolates, we have a row of sugars and sweets and then we've got a diminishing stack of Nature Box packages. We got a couple of hundred of these things. I think we're down to like a dozen or so because this is what the TWIT people snack on. I mean when you got something this good, this natural you don't have to care whether or not it’s good for you, that's just sort of an added bonus. Now here's how the process works. You've got to Nature box. Chad go ahead and show them the Nature Box website. And what you're going to do is you're going to choose a pack that works for you. Click on the continue button on the website and you get to choose between 3 subscription options that will determine how much you get, how often you get and what kind of packages you're going to receive inside your Nature Box. Once you're a member, you can select which snacks you'd like in that box and you can also select by your dietary need. If you're vegan, if you're soy free, gluten conscious, lactose free, nut free, non gmo or if you're like me and you just want tasty, tasty stuff you get to customize what comes in your box. You can also select by taste and actually this is important because I didn't know this but when you start designing your own package you really do want to balance between savory sweet or spicy. Previously I thought oh snacks just chocolate, everything taste like chocolate. No, now I can go buy by moods. Sometimes I want something really, really sweet. Sometimes I want something a little bit salty with a little bit of tang. And then sometimes I just want you know something that's a little bit of wholesome goodness. That's what I love about Nature Box which is it allows me to well plan my snacking. When you plan your snacking, you get much healthier snacks. So here's what we want you to do. We want you to try guilt-free snacks. Things like Coconut Date Energy Bites, Santa Fe Corn Sticks which I love, Pear Priling Crunch and over 100 more healthy choices. Go to naturebox.com/twit and get 50% off your first box. Stay full, stay strong go to naturebox.com/twit and we thank Nature Box for their support of This Week in Tech. Now seriously Harry you got to grab one of these. These are pretty good. We’ll send you one Steve.
Steve: All right.
Fr. Robert: Are you a savory, a sweet guy, what's it going to be?
Steve: I'm a savory guy.
Fr. Robert: You're a savory guy.
Steve: I think the spicy one sounds good too.
Fr. Robert: Okay actually then you're going to love the Santa Fe Corn Sticks. That's actually my favorite right now. They also have these like the spicy peas, dried peas.
Steve: Oh the wasabi peas.
Fr. Robert: Obviously most of this stuff I used to make fun of it. I'm like pfff, who’s going to eat that but it’s actually good stuff. Go figure. And you know me, if it’s food I’ll eat it. All right, yeah. Now we were just talking a little bit about how to be a D-bag in San Francisco. Let’s talk about how not to be a D-bag and extract value out of something that wasn't there before and then maybe get smack down, specifically talking about Uber and Lyft. Steve you were just talking about Uber and Lyft. Have you actually used Uber and Lyft?
Steve: Yeah I've never used Lyft. I've used Uber a lot both in New York and when I'm visiting San Francisco. And I mean it’s amazing especially here in New York, if it’s rainy or rush hour, you can't get a yellow cab. I mean Uber is always there, yes they do the search pricing thing sometime but it does guarantee you always have a car and a way to get around. I'm obsessed with it and we don't have Lyft here but I am curious to try it next time I'm out in San Francisco.
Fr. Robert: Now Harry what about you because I actually used Uber twice. The first time it was fantastic, I thought it was great. Got me to where I needed to go. I live in San Francisco so I don't like driving because I can never park. But the second time my driver got lost. We actually ended up on – and I kept telling him I don't think this is where we're supposed to be going. He’s like no, no I've lived here for 20 years. And I mean we ended up on the wrong side of the city and then he wanted to charge me for dae entire fare. And I'm thinking, no. I mean that's sort of the inconsistency that I can't abide. Harry have you been using the cars with the pink mustaches?
Harry: I've been in Lyft couple of times and then Uber a couple of time but I have lots of nightmare stories about cab drivers who have gone to the wrong side of town or won’t go where I want them to go or charge me for their mistakes so it’s not like – I mean if a taxi cabs were a great experience, Lyft and Uber would not have an opportunity.
Fr. Robert: Yeah I think that's what it comes down to because when I lived in DC it was all taxi. We didn't have a car, you have to use a taxi if you want to get somewhere that trains didn't go. And you just kind of expected it was going to be an unpleasant experience.
Harry: And in San Francisco, cabs in general I have found are particularly bad. You can't get them, you call them and they don't come. They don't know what they're doing. I once was in a cab that got into a funeral procession with me in it and a cop rode along beside us on his motorcycle screaming at the cab driver until he got out of the funeral procession. I had a cab driver who was stopped for speeding in San Francisco.
Fr. Robert: It’s funny you should mention that just 2 weeks ago I had a cab that – well I did have a cab until later. I couldn't get a cab because I was in my full priest outfit and I had a big cross and I guess that's scary at 10 o’clock at night. People were like, whoa crazy person. I should've used Uber. Okay anyways, let’s get down to the story. So what we have is a little bit of pain and a little bit of joy for Uber. In London Uber was in trouble because only the city’s black taxis are allowed by law to use meters to charge customers. That's how they work. However, the transport for London which controls all that has decide that phones on which the Uber and Lyft apps reside are not taxi meters within the meaning of the current legislation. That decision could change when another court convenes in the fall to actually decide what a meter constitutes. But the end result is that Uber can continue to operate in London along with Lyft. It’s a different thing stateside. Just this last week the Public Utilities commission of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania has issued cease and desist orders for both Uber and Lyft. Now both crowdsource transportation options must immediately cease to operate in the boundaries of Pittsburgh. Unlike London, the issue is not about the technology. It’s not about the meters but it’s about 3 issues that the PUC pointed out. The first is driver background checks, the second is proper insurance and the third is proper inspection of cars and drivers. Now I'm not going to let my bad experience color it. I want to hand it off to you. Steve you first, this you know when people are champening Uber and Lyft they say well this is really just – it’s a grab by the existing taxi cab consession years who don't another option in the city in which they operate but those are actually important things. I mean I actually started thinking about that on that second trip which is I was like does this guy have a license, does he know where he’s going. The car was kind of ratty. That's not controlled under Uber. It is kind of buyer beware right?
Steve: It is, you know so Uber has this platform again that lets anyone kind of get in and become this Uber driver as long as they meet certain standards. I think they have to have a car of a certain model year and has to be four doors and so on. But that's – and I think insured too but I'm not sure, but you know that's really all the regulation that Uber gets. You know they're not regulated in the same sense that traditional city taxis are. And think the Pittsburgh example was much more relevant in that near term than the London one just because you know in these cities you kind of hinted at this that you know there are a lot of players here. You know there are the traditional taxi and cab commissions and other block car services who are licensed and it really bothers them when someone can just come in and take their business without being regulated the way they have to be regulated. Another part of this is if you want to be a little cynical, the city government you know they want, there's taxes and fees for the drivers or Uber itself and they want to license these cars. On the other hand yes there is definitely a public safety issue and this is something Uber has to tackle you know insurance, you know we've heard the Uber horror stores I think there's one in San Francisco where a little girl got hit or it’s a little kid got hit and things like that and you know those drivers can kind of say oooh I'm not plugged into the Uber system right now. Those need to be regulated, it is a public safety issue. So I think the answer is kind of this hybrid thing where Uber yes they need to eventually start only licensing their cars for public safety reasons and then also you know the city governments you know there's too much influence from these lobbyist from the traditional car companies. There's a lot of money flowing in there and a lot of thuggish behavior going on behind the scenes that hasn't really been reported on.
Fr. Robert: The chat room is completely polarized. I don't know if either of you are watching the chat right now but it seems everyone in there either believes that Uber and Lyft are the way to go and that the Public Utilities Commission is the pockets of the unions or you got people who are saying no, no this is a safety thing man I mean seriously we have registered cabs for a reason. We have these regulations because it’s a safety issue for the public. And it doesn't seem like either of them are willing to concede any. It’s always got to be one or the other. Either Uber is awesome and we should allow it because it’s the best thing ever or Uber eventually is going to kill someone and then what happens. You know that's a weird place to be.
Harry: Well presumably licensed cab drivers occasionally kill people, not intentionally hopefully. So even if it does happen with Uber and Lyft I don't think it means that the idea is bad.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, yeah, that's actually one of the things that I think has really bothered me during this entire saga which is – a lot of people are saying this is new, this is different, this is something that the law has to adapt to. But I see I the other way which is if you're going to allow for Uber and Lyft and essentially what you're telling cab companies is you can ignore any sort of registration, you can ignore any regulation about you're industry and just go back to operating as independent cabs. And we don't want that right Steve? I don't think that's what Uber people are advocating.
Steve: No totally not and I mean, I don't think this is an either or issue. I think there needs to be a hybrid compromise going on here. There does need to be safety standard. And unfortunately it’s a city by city thing. There's no federal taxi regulator. You know it’s city by city and state by state and that's kind of the battle that Uber is fighting right now. It’s like every region and every city is totally different and operates differently than the next one and so what can fly in New York clearly can't fly in Pittsburgh.
Fr. Robert: How do you have that hybrid? And that's what I don't understand. Where would the hybrid come into because it would seem as if the die hard Uber fans are saying now all this is this is Lyft sharing. And you're tipping someone, you're helping them out for helping you out. You know it’s community based versus the taxi cab company which is very regulated, which is very regimented. We understand how it works, it’s a known quantity which it seems to be diametrically opposed to Uber. It sounds as if a hybrid compromise would either have to greatly reduce the amount of regulation that we put upon taxi companies or it would regulate Uber and Lyft to the point where it’s no longer Uber or Lyft.
Steve: Yeah but I mean it’s – well Lyft is a little bit different than Uber at least in my view in a sense that it is kind of like this hippie dippie like hey I'm going to throw a pink mustache on my Toyota Corolla and go. And they are going to run into more trouble I think Uber they do have – you got to keep in mind Uber does have licensed drivers in their network. And they do here in New York they have yellow cabs who can sign on to Uber too. And so I think one of the mis – this hybrid things I'm talking about, one of the missed opportunity is New York does have a system in place for anybody to create an Uber like app. They have all the data and so forth to pull that in but nobody’s doing it and nobody’s doing it as well as Uber. That's the thing and so yeah I do think there needs to be, these people do need to be licensed, they do need to make sure they're insured and so forth. But also there is this technology available out there for people to plug into at least in New York and so I think there is a hybrid answer.
Fr. Robert: I think we could go around in circles here. Let’s go to the audience. Let’s get a show of hands really quickly here who would feel safe putting your child and actually your future child into an Uber of Lyft car? Show of hands. Wow really, you know what you’re all going to be horrible parents. I actually shouldn't have done that, I take that back we're not going to the audience ever again. Obviously they're communists. You know what I want to break away from some of the seriousness for just a second and talk a little bit about Hardware Lust. Have you heard about the new Android Black Phone?
Fr. Robert: It’s the phone build for the paranoid, Android phone for the paranoid. Actually – and I mean this in a good way, I don't mean paranoid crazy people, I mean for people who really, really want some security the Android Black Phone is pretty incredible. Ars Technica got their hands on a release of the Black phone and from what they could see it’s the hardware is not all that great. I mean it’s decent, it’s 4.7 inch IPS screen, 1280 by 720 resolution. It’s got private OS which is a fork from Android 4.4 Kit Kat. It runs a 2GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra processor with a Tegra 4i CPU. It’s got one gigabyte of system memory. 16 gigabytes of storage plus a microsd slot. An 8 megabyte rear – 8 megapixel rear, 5 megapixel front camera. 2000 milliamp battery. Comes for about $629 unlocked. So that's the hardware which is basically what a mid-range Android phone.
Fr. Robert: Mid-range but where the magic comes in is what is built in to it. It’s got a two year subscription to Silent Circle’s secure voice and video text messaging services. It’s got three one-year subscriptions to Silent Circle that you can gift to people you want to communicate securely with. Two years of 1GB per month VPN service from disconnect. Disconnect automatic anonymous search service baked into the browser. Two years of SpiderOak secure cloud storage and sharing with 5 GB a month of transfer and some cool software including one called Kismet Smarter Wi-Fi which keeps the phone from being spoofed or connected to untrusted networks. It learns the location of your trusted networks by noding its location via the cell tower it detects and then it can’t be tricked into connecting to a rogue AP that’s trying to slurp your data. Of course encryption is built in heavy and an encryption on everything that you do on this phone and the whole idea is this is the phone you want to use if you’re tired of people looking at your data. Now Steve, would you pay $629 for this?
Steve: Uh no. I mean I’m a specs geek too so I want a more powerful phone. I mean also I think this is a very narrow audience they’re going after. Kind of like you said the paranoid folks who really think people are going to be spoofing their Wi-Fi or whatever. And then again you know it’s also how secure is it you know with that new NSA story that came out they can dig into anything it seems like. I’m no security expert but it does sound like at least the standard Android and iOS and especially iOS 8 has some really great features that provide a lot of this already out of the box. But you know certain people I think this will be a decent option. The so called paranoid folks.
Fr. Robert: I’m going back and forth wondering if, because it’s not a poorly designed phone. It looks like it’s pretty well integrated with all the security features, but I’m wondering if they’re just trying to take advantage of the security scare right now. People are so freaked out that everyone is listening to everything that you have on your phone that that’s what they’re doing. They’re just taking advantage of it. In which case I really don’t like it, but like you said Steve, a lot of these security features you could just load on your current phone. So the only reason you would get this is if you really believe that there are so many back doors into your device right now that you want a clean OS that has been forked off of the main. Harry?
Harry: I mean Steve is right I think the more interesting thing is Apple and Google and hardware makers doing some of this stuff cause that can reach far more people. And Apple is doing stuff like scrambling the Mac address when your phone reports itself out which sounds like this can be really good in terms of security and it’s going to be something that every person that has an iPhone will take advantage of whether they know it or not. I mean the Blackphone is something that you’re going to buy if you’re a hardcore privacy and security kind of person. Which most people aren’t’. Most people would rather their phone did the heavy lifting and didn’t make them have to think about this stuff.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, actually that’s a good point we do have another story about security on the Android device. Now you may remember that in the latest update to iOS, Apple changed the way that the Wi-Fi system works so that it automatically anonymizes the Mac address. Which means that someone that is trying to track you via your Mac address won’t be able to do it or at least they won’t be able to do it quite as easily. However, there was a story about the EFF has approached Google with what seems to be a pretty serious flaw in the way that Google handles Wi-Fi connections. So right now, if you take your Google phone, like this, I’ve got mine here. Even though I’m not doing anything on it, because my Wi-Fi is on and because I’m not connected to any networks in this area it’s constantly broadcasting names of networks that I’ve connected to previously. The reason why it does this it wants to be able to really quickly establish that network connection when I do turn it on. So as a result if I was listening with the right device I would see the names and Mac addresses of all the APs that your device has connected to. If I have a big enough database, means I could actually track your movements throughout the day. That’s kind of scary. That actually goes away with the Kismet Wi-Fi Manager on the Blackphone. Because the Blackphone will automatically anonymize and spoof your address so they couldn’t do that. Now would you buy it Steve?
Steve: Yeah, if I was only an Android user, that is a little troublesome and I think Apple is doing something here that Google isn’t and that is like Harry said just doing the lifting in the background for people so they don’t even have to think about it I think that is the answer. I’m not sure if buying a brand new $630 phone for people is the answer. It’s on Google and the Android developers to make sure this happens right away and I think EFF has a very good case here. And a very they raise a very legitimate concern. Now the chances that someone is tracking your movements this way, very slim. But I’d like to see Google do what Apple is doing and just err on the side of caution and do the work for users.
Fr. Robert: Well 5088 in the chatroom says look the Blackphone is all about exploiting security theatre which I actually he as a good, you know what I’m going to give the audience another chance here. We’re going to cut back to them. How many of you are concerned about being tracked on your device? You know what I got to stop going to the audience. My goodness.
Harry: You know some people say that Apple is in a better position than Google to take a lead on this. Because Google’s business is about watching what you do with your devices and monetizing it through advertising. And because Apple is a company that sells hardware they don’t have that incentive to kind of keep track of what you’re up to and for them it’s kind of an easy decision to err on the side of privacy but I would love to see them get enough kudos for that, that Google has to match what they’re doing.
Fr. Robert: Right, right. Any last words Steve? Are you further concerned or do you agree with Web5088 that this is just security theater, just another way to sell an expensive phone?
Steve: Yeah I think it’s just a way to get people to buy an expensive phone. I mean there are probably a very, and I’m sure they know this, a very small group of people who would be interested in it. But for most people your standard Samsung or HTC phone will be just fine. And then again it is on Google to really take this issue and build that into Android like Apple did.
Fr. Robert: All right. Well I was hoping people would be more paranoid and more hating of both security and Lift and Uber, but I guess I’m overruled. All right let’s move on to a little something something about New York’s anti cyber bullying law. You may have read this week that in November of 2010, Albany County enacted the nation’s toughest cyber bullying laws in response to a young man posting pictures and nasty comments of his classmates. Well they just struck it down, New York’s highest courts has come back and ruled that the ban on cyber bullying was overly broad. Now they made it clear that the law could actually be enacted. You could build anti cyber bullying legislation they just thought what Albany did which would allow for the criminalization of any form of harassment, electronic harassment, punishable by $1,000 fine or one year in jail. They thought the way that you worded it was just not right. I think this is back to that law of unintended consequences. Steve have you followed this case at all? Because two years ago this was big. When the law was first challenged, people started saying this could actually be a good case. Can you legally outlaw cyber bullying when is seems to be a constitutional fact, constitution right to be mean?
Steve: Yeah well there’s mean and then there’s threatening and we’ve heard numerous examples over the years of you know suicides from cyber bully and self-harm from cyber bullying. So it is a very real and very serious public safety issue. But I’ve been following it a little bit, I mean the law as written didn’t seem overly broad. I think it was very clear what constitutes cyber bullying. Yeah we have it up on the screen right now. I don’t know how more narrow you can get. Maybe Harry has an opinion on that. It literally describes what cyber bullying is right there and I think it’s very easy to detect, a reasonable person can detect what constitutes cyber bullying and what doesn’t. And I think that law spells it out pretty well. I’m curious to read that whole court’s opinion on why they think it’s overly broad.
Fr. Robert: That’s what had me so puzzled because I looked at the Chad was just showing you what the legislation says cyber bullying was defines as any act of communicating by mechanical or electronic means including posting statements on the internet or through a computer or email network. That disseminate embarrassing or sexually explicit photographs. Disseminate private, personal, false or sexual information that include hate mail or include information with no legitimate private, personal or public purpose with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten, abuse, taunt, intimidate, torment, humiliate, or otherwise inflict significant emotional harm on another person. So they defined what it is, they defined what’s’ included and they actually added intent. There has to be an intent to harass. It can’t just be a random posting. I mean Harry how do you get more narrow than that?
Harry: It seems pretty clear to me. Online harassment is a really serious issue and in general I err on the side of being sympathetic to the people that are being harassed. Rather than the harassers.
Fr. Robert: Yeah I just don’t know how to take this. Again the case was started back in 2011 by a young man by the name of Marquan Mackey-Meggs. Who in 2011 created a Facebook page that included pictures of his classmates and I remember probably he was righting things like slut and sleeps around. It was stuff that a 15 year old would write. It was designed to be hurtful obviously he was trying to make fun of these people. He pleaded guilty to cyber bullying which is a misdemeanor. Now he challenged on 1st Amendment grounds even after pleading guilty. Since the court of appeals has agreed 5/2 that the statute was overly broad, his conviction is now voided. Let me throw this over to you Steve. Is there no way to outlaw cyber bullying? It is on the books in over a dozen states, a dozen counties. Is there no way to say hey stop acting like a jerk?
Steve: Keep in mind this is only in New York and like you said they are probably other states and municipalities where there are laws. I think the court did say that ok we are open to having such laws it just needs to be super narrow. I don’t what else Albany can do. I don’t know how, this is really and truly baffling and like Harry said I know of kids, colleagues and colleagues who have kids and this is a very serious problem especially in that age group of 10 to let’s say 16 or whatever and there have been a lot of high profile cases and stories over the last few years of just that, cyber bullying. Pretty much people following that law and doing what’s described in that law to the letter. Even that case in New Jersey, I think it was the Rutgers student that killed himself after being cyber bullying, that was huge. Very sad story. It is an important kind of law to have. It’s just very unfortunate that the Supreme Court in New York didn’t think it was.
Fr. Robert: Well the chatroom is pretty clear, they’re all saying you can’t do anything about. It’s a thought crime, how do you police thought crimes? Others are saying kids will be kids. What strikes me is when we actually talk cyber bullying today most of the time we’re not talking about children. Remember a part of this law also applies to revenge porn. Revenge porn is a form of cyber bullying so if you live in Albany and you break up with someone you can know post graphic videos of your former without worrying about being thrown in jail. I’m not saying that, it’s kind of strange for me to talk about that.
Steve: You shouldn’t do that but you can I guess.
Fr. Robert: Yeah. Any last words on cyber bullying or are we just agreeing that people are jerks?
Harry: Had another case where no matter how well intentioned or reasonable you are it is really hard to write laws on any of this stuff. Even in cases such as you should write the laws, its’ still not easy
Fr. Robert: All right well let’s move away from cyber bullying because that’s a downer. Let’s talk about Google buying Beats. That totally didn’t happen. They bought Songza. After weeks of quiet speculation which is quite a change from what we come to expect from the acquisition of any sort of music company. Google has acquired Songza which is a Long Island based music streaming service now though the exact price of the acquisition is unknown. It’s reported to be somewhere north of $50 million. Which if I do my math, carry the one, is less than $3 billion. Here’s the interesting thing Mike Elgan, our very own Mike Elgan, wrote a very interesting piece about the acquisition in which he was saying Google just showed Apple how to do a music acquisition. Of course that title was a little bit of a link bait but let’s think it through. What Beats was, was a premium manufacturer and what Mike pointed out what that all of these music companies are looking from what’s called the 360 sell. You can’t make money off of music anymore, you make money off of the things that are attached to the music. That’s what Apple was after, you’re after the cred, you’re after the sale, you’re after for that up sell. But what Mike was saying was look Apple already had that, they had a very valuable brand they really didn’t add anything new with Beats. All they got was a music streaming service and Google just got one for 1/1000 of the price. In Songza they get something that’s different. Beats directly competes with something like Spotify, or with Pandora. But what you get with Songza is the human curated playlist which is unique that no one else does that. It is something that is different, it is something that Google can integrate into their 360, which is advertising. So Harry, I hate to use Mike because he’s’ one of own and he’s not even here, but do you think this was Beats done right?
Harry: Well I think it’s kind of apples, no pun intended, and oranges in some ways. Not the least of which because Apple got this large hardware brand which is doing extremely well selling expensive devices which you plug into other Apple devises. I think Songza is very cool. I kind of worry that this will be like a lot of other Google acquisitions. Where they kind of really wanted the talented people behind the service and they’re either going to let Songza languish or they’re going to explicitly shut it down at some point. I would like to think they see value in the idea of human curation because there are all these music services curated by algorithms and they just don’t have as much personality as they best stuff curated by a person and I was driving up here from San Francisco, I was listening to music curated by human beings rather than something like Pandora and I think I enjoyed it more and learned more about the stuff I might want to listen to because of that.
Fr. Robert: I had a very interesting conversation with some guy last night, geeks, I was doing a hang out. One of them said you know with Google buying Songza, I can totally see them integrated this into Google+, because plus is about human curation it’s all about people bringing the best stories to their groups and you imagine if they integrated Songza into G+ so that people could make playlists and those playlists could be recommend to Songza subscribers. I’m not saying that is what they’re going to do but I mean it does seem to naturally fit what Google is trying to do with human interaction. Steve thoughts?
Steve: I disagree with that.
Fr. Robert: Good
Steve: Putting Songza into Google + will just insure that no one uses Songza again. Google +, I know people are going to disagree with me on this, it is a ghost town unless you’re one of those hyper. Yeah I said it. It’s funny that all these weeks later were still talking about the Apple-Beats acquisition and trying to make sense of it all. I think you look at the Songza streaming service and you look at Beats. Songza, like Harry said, it has a unique thing. It’s curated by humans and when everyone was talking about the Beats acquisition leading up to the official announcement figuring it all out this video of Jimmy Iovine at one of the All Things D Conferences surfaced. He was talking about curation and how technology can enable curation they’re going to create this amazing product which turned out to be Beats Music that can do this curation naturally, as if a human were doing it. If you’ve used Beats, it’s not really that. It’s mostly just a Spotify and Rdio clone. Songza does just that. Songza is humans making these perfectly curated playlists and it’s awesome. If you haven’t used it you should. You really do get that cool experience of listening to songs and that perfect order just like a listening on vinyl or something like that. I think Google really did win this. If you’re going to compare the two acquisitions. Google got it. A better service, a better streaming service for way cheaper. Hopefully, they do something really good with it. I don’t want to see it implemented in Google+. I’d like to see it in Google Music or something I think that would make a lot more sense. I think that’s the next frontier in digital music, is really nailing the curation and bringing back that experience of listening to the radio and have that perfect playlist and I think Songza does that way better than Beats.
Fr. Robert: Yeah I do think that Google got a deal. That got a steal in getting Songza, for what 15-20 million? Whatever it’s going to end up being. When I was talking about The 360 business model, when I was talking about how Apple got a premium brand in Beats. I will say that some of the audience members right in front of me were nodding their heads as if they understand what that’s all about. Getting that premium hardware. Now I don’t trust the audience anymore because they’ve let me down twice. I think people, even though Songza, dollar for dollar, Google got something better. I’m not talking down to the Beats model. I think Apple made all that back off of Beats already. So pfff. Go figure. Harry, last words?
Harry: Beats does have at least a dash of human curation, as well. They do have playlists, but Songza seems to be doing it better than anybody else. I would never want to see human curation die. I would love to see the possibility that might be the next big thing and Google has the opportunity to do that if they want to make it happen.
Fr. Robert: Indeed. Let’s, when we come back were going to be talking about something I don’t know. We’re going to figure out what I want to talk about next but before we do that I thought now might be a good time to take another break to talk about the third sponsor of this episode of This Week in Tech. That’s Audible. You know them, you love them. They’re the ones who give me all the audio books I use. I drive 2 hours a day. That’s my commute, which may not be a lot to people who actually have to work in the real world for the last 20 years. For me when I’m used to living at the place I work, two hours is kind of unbearable. So most of the time I’m alone with my thoughts unless I got a decent audio book from Audible because it’s obviously become my favorite way to consume books. This Week in Tech is brought to you by Audible.com. Now we offer special benefits for This Week in Tech members of our audience, for those who need audio books you can give Audible a try and today Audible is giving you a special deal. If you go to their site, if you type in our code, if you click on our link you’ll get two audio books for free. That’s right for gratis. For nothing, just for trying the best audio book service on the planet. This gives you two free audio books, two credits to try out and two book credits per month which is a nice way of saying Audible helps you to keep reading which is what we encourage the TWiT audience. It’s also a great deal for people who enjoy listening to audio programming and as with other plans, the plan that you’ll get for signing up with Audible through our link: You’ll get a free subscription to the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times daily audio program. Now the book that I’ve been listening to, this is actually something that I’ve recommended on several of the programs that I’ve been on even when there’s not an Audible ad, is a book called the Martian by Andy Weir. Now Chad. You’ve been listening to the Martian as well
Chad: I finished it
Fr. Robert: I think I’m on my twelfth round through.
Chad: So good
Fr. Robert: So let me set the stage for, have you read the Martian?
Harry: I have not
Fr. Robert: Steve, have you heard about the Martian yet?
Steve: No I’ve never even heard of it
Fr. Robert: Ok so, here’s the setting. Mission to Mars sometime in the very near future. None of the tech is super futuristic. There are no warp drives. They’re using good old fashioned physics to get you to the red planet. There’s a snow storm. Not a snow storm. A snow storm on Mars! But this is not futuristic
Steve: Everything is so realistic!
Fr. Robert: It’s a sandstorm, a dust storm. That happens on sol 6, day 6 of the third mission. The Aries mission to Mars and they have to evacuate and as they evacuate one of the astronauts is struck by the communication dish that is torn off and flies into him. So the other five evacuate thinking that he is dead. Of course, turns out he’s not dead. He’s on the red planet and for the next, glorious 10 hours of the audio book, you get to find out if he survives. Now the nice thing, what I really like about this, this is sort of what I like about all sci-fi, smart sci-fi. Figuring out how to fix the problems and if you listen to it, he’s actually using technical means that we have available to us. I’m going to play a little something something. This kind of typifies the humor that you’ll hear from the book.
Audio Book: Everyone knew Brandon Hodge would be running missions soon. He’d risen though NASA’s ranks as fast as one could in the large inertia bound organization. He was known as a diligent worker and his skill and leadership qualities were plain to all his subordinates. Brandon was in charge of mission control from 1 am to 9 am every night. Continued excellent performance in this role would certainly net him a promotion. It had already been announced he’d be backup flight controller for Aries 4 and he had a good shot at the top job for Aries 5. But Capcom, a voice said through his headset. Go Capcom. Brandon responded. Though they were in the same room. Radio protocol was observed at all times. Unscheduled status update from Hermes. With Hermes 90 light seconds away, back and forth voice communication was impractical. Other than media relations, Hermes would communicate via text until they were much closer. Roger Brandon said. Read it out. I don’t get it flight came the confused reply no real status just a single sentence. What’s it say? Message reads Houston be advised Rich Purnell is a steely eyed missile man.
Fr. Robert: Now if you want to know who Rich Purnell is you got to get the book. Now seriously this is my favorite book since Ready Player One and I’ve really, really enjoyed Ready Player One so if you like hard fiction, if you like science, like actual science, not just stuff that’s pulled out of the air. You got to pick up the Martian by Andy Weir. You’re going to find it on Audible as one of your free downloads and yeah, that’s I think all we have to say about that. So if you want to find out what happened to our fearless astronaut, if you want to find out what the Rich Purnell Maneuver actually is, go ahead and subscribe to Audible. For more details or to get two free audio books and their platinum offer go to audible.com/twit2. That’s audible.com/twit2. Now gentlemen we got a little something something here about I don’t know, T-Mobile. The Un-carrier. Now with more bogus fees. I’m assuming that you heard about this right?
Steve: Oh yeah.
Fr. Robert: Yeah, so last Tuesday the FTC filed a claim against cell carrier T-Mobile, claiming that the 4th largest U.S. carrier was cramming. Now you may not have heard of cramming. If you’re an old timer like me and you grew up in the land, time of the landline, you know cramming because cramming was actually big back when we didn’t have cellphones. It’s a practice of loading a customer’s bill with hidden charges, for carrier and texting services and then trying to cover it up with language that purposefully obfuscates what it was for. The FTC says that T-Mobile has reaped hundreds of millions of dollars from premium texting fees that were not authorized by the customers. The premium services amount to about $9.99 per user per month and the premium services included things like Jesta Digital, which is accused of deceiving customers with antivirus scams, Wise Media specializing in horoscopes, Tattoo, which was known for celebrity gossip alerts. Now here’s the fun part, T-Mobile was charging the fee even after they were determined to be fraudulent. Pocketing about 40% of the monthly fee for themselves and forwarding the rest to the service providers. Now in November of 2013, all four of the U.S. major carriers were approached by the FTC and they agreed to stop billing for the premium text services. However, according to the FTC the practice continued at T-Mobile at least through December 2013, most likely through January 2014. Now this is one of things it just gets my goat. I’m a T-Mobile subscriber but I have a prepaid bill so they can’t charge me for these services but I just can’t imagine how easy it would be to hide $9 if you’ve got a bill of $120 or $110. That’s kind of what they were counting on right Steve? That most customers don’t want to go through the 50 pages of bills.
Steve: Yeah and you got to keep in mind this is a very deep and complex issue and it goes beyond just these premium texting services. You also got to keep in mind that it’s not just T-Mobile. Yes, the FTC is going after T-Mobile, but Verizon, Sprint and AT&T were doing it too and they all kind of decided at the same time, ok we’re going to stop our relationship with these premium texting services. So then the question becomes, ok so why is the FTC picking on T-Mobile? Well, I’ve spoken to the FTC a lot this week about this story. One reason is yes, T-Mobile said they stopped doing it, and they’re going to do their best to refund people but they want a court order, they want it on paper legally that such cramming charges, not just for the premium texting services like those ones you described but any kind of cramming cannot happen again and they also want to make sure that everyone who was affected by these practices get refunded. Which might not necessarily really happen. Right now T-Mobile is kind of you know, come to us if you think you were fraudulently charged. They want T-Mobile being more proactive in paying literally everyone. So there is a lot of to attack here, but basically the FTC this is the first time were going to hear from the FTC they’re really going against this cramming thing. These services are intensely sketchy and the way they skim your phone number and they cut these deals with the carrier, what I’d like to see is the carriers to come out and say were going to stop all 3rd party billing from 3rd party services which isn’t happening yet
Fr. Robert: Right until they do that Harry, its laughable right? T-Mobile got caught this time but they’re not the only carrier doing this. We’ve seen this from Sprint, AT&T , from Verizon that the idea of hiding charges in the bill which is why every month your bill is slightly different cost because they’ve hidden the charges a different way it’s like a time honored tradition
Harry: And the only reason they can do this is because phone bills are incomprehensible.
Fr. Robert: Yeah Chad we’ve got a picture go to that excerpt from an actual T-Mobile bill and tell me there’s a lot of people who are going to say oh this is stupid I mean if you can’t pay attention to your bill, if you can’t look and make sure that you’re paying the right amount than it’s your fault. But look this is what an actual T-Mobile bill looks like now that S9.99 is hidden as a usage charge. Now you may have paid $85 the previous month and $93 this month but you’re just thinking I don’t know it looks right. If you scroll down a little bit Chad, it’s 123 pages until you finally found out where that $9.99 charge came from so…
Harry: Even then you don’t really know
Fr. Robert: Yeah exactly. Look Shaboom media, did I buy something from Shaboom media? Is it an app? I mean is that what this is? So you know, even though, yes there is an element buyer beware, you need to do your due diligence, this is not a new phenomenon. This is something that has been happening with not just the cellphone carriers but all carriers since we had the first spam phone call.
Harry: Presumable they could do things that would help, like have some sort of system before you get billed for this stuff there’s some sort of double opt in so nobody can ever claim they weren’t aware, they were agreeing to get their horoscopes on their phone or whatever. I think in some cases people may have agreed to do it and knowing they were agreeing, and some cases they may have been confused about it. It some cases they may have been crammed on without the customer knowing about it at all
Fr. Robert: Now one of these Facebook scam, so you download a Facebook app to your phone and they offer you something for free. So supposedly it’s a way to get Facebook updates to your phone more quickly and of course there’s a ULA and go right through the ULA and click ok and in that ULA is by the way you’re going to let us charge $9.99 a month and then that charge gets forever hidden and it’s almost impossible to cancel. You have to track them down, calling the number, there’s no online forum, and in fact Xbox Live used to do this. Before you couldn’t cancel it and that’s the most maddening part. Steve, you say that we need to stop the 3rd party charges but they’d never do that right because they make way too much money from that?
Steve: No, it would be killing their revenue and that’s why the FTC is getting involved and the FCC. The FCC is seeking potentially punitive damages towards T-Mobile and in a separate case so you know it’s kind of sad that it takes dome kind of government intervention or government agency taking action to stop this practice and it’s a long battle its funny I talked to a Sprint spokesperson this week about it and she framed it as oh well we use this 3rd party billing to make it easier on the customer so they don’t have to go through a separate billing process. No its clear their skimming revenue from users whenever they can and ending this practice any kind of 3rd party billing will just put a huge ding into their revenue. And it’s also on these 3rd party services, if you’re watching comedy central late at night or something you see those weird commercials oh just text this number to get flirt tips or something. It’s very easy for someone without knowledge of the situation to fall into that trap and text that number and not know exactly what they are signing up for and reading the fine print and that’s kind of why the carriers ended their relationship with at least these texting services because a lot of them didn’t make it clear what people were signing up for simply by texting a certain number. It’s also on the carriers to be up front about how they are billing people and they not quite doing that yet.
Harry: It’s especially hard on T-Mobile’s reputation because their whole marketing message is we’re the un-carrier. AT&T and Verizon are the bad guys but we T-Mobile on this side of you the consumer.
Harry: I’m not sure how they overcome the ding to their reputation. No matter how much it’s deserved or is not deserved.
Fr. Robert: We are the un-crammer
Steve: That’s my theory now, like I said, all the carriers are doing but my hunch, and I’ve asked the FCC about this they wouldn’t say, my hunch is they’re going after T-Mobile because T-Mobile is that very loud, very noisy marketing message that we’re here and we’re on your side and we’re going to eliminate all the pain points that carriers have been giving you all this time and yet they got caught doing the exact same thing as the other carriers. So I think they are the straw man right now for the FTC even though they are not alone doing it and I’m not saying they shouldn’t go after them, they totally should but T-Mobile is the perfect choice if you’re going to sue one of the carriers. T-Mobile is the perfect choice for that right now because of that really strong marketing message. It makes a big point.
Fr. Robert: Right, it’s more damaging so therefore they want to deal with it more quickly. That makes sense. Now I am going to go out on a limb here and reach out to the audience one more time. I know I shouldn’t do this but it’s the definition of insanity. How many of you have actually gone through your phone bill to find hidden charges and then disputed them? So it’s the one guy! Except for the one guy that kind of shows our point which is this is what they’re counting on right? They’re counting on us not caring enough to go and track down the errant charge. So even if most of us, even if my regular bill is $89 a month, this month it was $100, I’m going to be thinking, I’m not going to waste 5 hours out of my life to track down $9. I’m just going to let it sit there. This is dead air. This is what we’re doing now.
Harry: It is, it’s remarkable how many things in the world are easy to sign up for and almost impossible to opt out of. I’ve spent more hours than I can think of on the phone with Comcast, and my phone carriers and all kinds of other people. Generally speaking you cannot do this stuff online. But with one click you can sign up for these services.
Fr. Robert: Oddly enough we don’t just care enough. I remember when I really used to care about being flogged and fleeced and no it’s like okay. Yeah I get it. I’m going to take it some way this is small enough. All right let’s move on. Let’s get away from because that seemed like a kind of nasty. Steve let me ask you this question, have you ever sent an email and then really quickly you realized oh my god, just as I hit the send, I hit that send button, I should not have sent that email that was a horrible horrible mistake?
Steve: I do that several times a day probably
Fr. Robert: I think so. I think everyone…
Steve: Maybe not a horrible mistake, it’s like oh man I had a typo or something that I wish I had fixed
Fr. Robert: Typo okay. Harry have you had that? Sent out an email you really didn’t want to?
Harry: Maybe once or twice
Fr. Robert: Typo or?
Harry: The thing I do occasionally when I’m sending an email about somebody, I accidentally address it to them and I’ve never done it in a way that was super embarrassing
Fr. Robert: So you know typo, maybe miss-addressing something,
Harry: Gmail does have that feature for a split second after you send it where you can take it back
Fr. Robert: Right take it back
Harry: Which I’ve taken advantage of
Fr. Robert: So those are pretty serious, typo or a wrong addressing. What if you accidentally sent a secure customer list that contains all of the secrets about your company’s security to totally random Gmail user? Yeah that’s what happened to someone from Goldman Sachs on June 23rd a Goldman Sachs contractor accidentally sent a Gmail message containing “highly confidential brokerage account information” to the wrong Gmail account. The contractor had been testing changes that the bank had made to become compliant with the requirements set forth by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The email contained the contractor’s report which he meant to send to a gs.com account but which he says his browser accidentally auto completed to gmail.com. On June 26th realizing the mistake Goldman Sachs asked Google to delete the email message from their servers. Google’s incident response team, responded that the email could not be deleted without a court order, but in compromise Google locked access to the email while Goldman Sachs sought a court order to delete the email message. Let me start with that, automatically. Goldman Sachs got a mulligan they got a do over. They got to do something that none of us can do. Which is they froze the email after it had been sent out. First impression from the panel, do we have any problems with that?
Steve: Yes, I think that’s a very slippery slope to give a mega corporation with a lot of power that kind of preferential treatment. If I contacted Google and said oh I wish I never sent my ex-girlfriend that email asking for her forgiveness, they would laugh at me. But you know the fact that this company coming through and having FEC regulation and a bunch of scary jargon I think that the preferential treatment right now is probably an innocuous email that probably contains nothing but the fact that they were given that preferential treatment makes you wonder what could happen in the future.
Fr. Robert: Yeah I think that’s what strikes me about that and Harry I want to throw this over to you. The way that they got Google to freeze the email was that they said “emergency relief is necessary to avoid the risk of conflicting a needless and massive privacy violation upon Goldman Sachs clients and to avoid the risk of unnecessary reputation damage to Goldman Sachs” but then I think wait a minute if this was a contractor who was sending a report about whether or not they complied with regulatory rules, there shouldn’t be customer information. There’s no major database here, the only thing that it could possibly be, would be embarrassing in that he’s said no you’re not compliant right now.
Harry: What is Goldman Sachs doing using an email system that can even talk to Gmail to send this kind of stuff?
Fr. Robert: Right, exactly
Harry: They should block Gmail from anything like this or not email it at all. I’m not deeply bothered by this probably maybe to the extent that Steve is, but it’s totally true if you or I had a similar request, we probably could not get Google on the phone.
Fr. Ballecer; I think what bothers me, is that it’s obvious that Goldman Sachs is talking up the concerns so that they can get this embarrassing email frozen. There’s is no customer information, there is no massive privacy violation upon Goldman Sachs clients because there is not going to be any information about Goldman Sachs clients unless this external contractor for some reason was sending back and forth a list of Goldman Sachs clients which ok they’ve got another problem which is they’ve got really bad contactors. So it’s as if corporations now have this special button that they can push this oh privacy violation and Google will do their beck and call. That really rubs me the wrong way. Steve are you like me or do you have a different reason that this is a slippery slope?
Steve: No, I’m totally with you and again, these are also the companies that were largely responsible for financial meltdown and to give them that kind of preferential treatment rubs me the wrong way. Also, it’s a little worrisome that Google has that power to tap into one’s inbox and prevent you from reading and email. The fact that they can do that because a company has requested it, I think that’s pretty bothersome too. You can think of numerous examples of how that can be abused. So it gets Google a lot of, again acting liking an arbiter, deciding case by case when they should exercise this power to stop you from reading email that goes into your inbox, that’s crazy to me.
Fr. Robert: Yeah some people in the chatroom are saying I don’t understand why this is a big problem. But Bryanw in the chatroom he actually, I think he brings forth a big issue for me which is well the reason why they can do this is it’s not your inbox, its Google’s. Right? I mean because if its Google’s inbox they can do anything they want. They can freeze the mail, the can delete it after a court order but if you believe that it’s your inbox you should be upset that Google can reach in and freeze a particular email.
Harry: It’s not your inbox to the same degree that an IMAP inbox where you can download something to your own hard drive is your own inbox. I kind of hope that whoever received this actually did download it before Google was able to tamper with the inbox. You should never think of Gmail as being the same as your own inbox because it’s just not.
Fr. Robert: I’m incensed. I’m pissed I think that this is a major breech. Ok Chad, bring up the audience again let’s give them one last chance. How many of you think that this is a gross invasion of your privacy that Google has this ability? Ok yes! Ok see! We got most of the audience to answer thank you very much. Finally the audience pulls through. I understand what you’re saying Harry but, I don’t feel like that. I do feel my mail is my mail. You don’t have a right to go through my mail without a court order. Even if Goldman Sachs says something really bad is going to happen if someone reads that email message. It doesn’t mean that they have a legal right to freeze that email message.
Harry: The good news is that Goldman Sachs looks like a total bunch of doofuses.
Fr. Robert: They do
Harry: Because this became public.
Fr. Robert: Yeah
Harry: I hope it at least as embarrassing for them as if the information had gotten out. Because they deserve it in this case.
Fr. Robert: Steve, last words?
Steve: I’m sure it’s probably nothing. The information was probably nothing, first of all, Harry is technically correct, yes, that Gmail does own the inbox and if you want to be super safe you should download it all, but we do put a lot of trust in this company and the fact that they get to play judge and jury and decide when you get to read emails sent to you or not that’s a little bothersome. Again, if you want to go into the NSA stuff and that kind of back door dealing that’s also worrisome.
Fr. Robert: Google just remember if you really want to freeze that email the only thing to do is to nuke me from orbit. The only safe way. Now when we come back were going to wrap up with a little bit of Microsoft rumors because that’s how I like to do it. But before that let’s take a little break to talk about the last sponsor of this episode of This Week in Tech. And that’s Squarespace, now do you want a single place that you can go to get everything that you need to get your creative ideas on the internet? Now, I know there a lot of people out there who like a bit more control so maybe you’re going to buy your own domain name. You’re going to buy your own hosting company, maybe you want to set up the back end and that’s fine, that’s great. We love geeks who want to do that. But there are a lot of people who don’t want that hassle, who go through that because they have to not because they want to. 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They’ve got beautiful designs, 25 custom templates for you to start with and they recently added a logo creator tool which is a basic tool for individuals and small businesses with limiting resources who want to create a unique identity for themselves. It’s also incredibly easy to use. Squarespace is always there for you when you need help they have live chat and email support 24 hours a day 7 days a week, plus there’s a completely redesigned customer help site for easier access to self-help articles and video workshops. Squarespace also offers ecommerce solutions now available for all subscription plan levels. Including the ability to accept donations which is great for nonprofits, cash wedding registries and school fund drives. That is exactly what I’ve been using it for. It’s also inexpensive. It starts at just $8 month and includes a free domain name if you sign up for a year. 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We want you to start a two week free trial with no credit card required and start building your website today. When you decide to sign up for Squarespace make sure to use the offer code TWIT to get 10% off and to show your support for This Week in Tech. We thank Squarespace for their support on This Week in Tech, a better web awaits. It starts now with your new Squarespace website. Let’s get to the rumors this is the part that I like. Unsubstantiated tech. Now Tom’s Hardware claims that they got a little sneak peak from someone in the know about Microsoft’s smart watch research and they think they know what the face of Microsoft entry is going to look like. And guess what? It’s not a watch. First and foremost Microsoft is not pitching a smart watch they’re pitching what they call a smart band. Think of it like a Nike Fuel Band but just a little bit wider. Now it will reportedly have 11 sensors, cross platform support so it will work on Windows phone, Android, or iOS. It’s got a slim band design that is more akin to again that Nike Fuel Band, then to a Pebble or a Google watch doesn’t actually look like a banded watch. It has open API so you can program for it quite easily. A screen, this is what I really like, that is inside the wrist not on the top of the wrist. So it’s here rather than here and it will launch sometime after October. Now Steve, I got to say if these rumors turn out to be true, the thing that most excites me is not the API, not the sensors, it’s that the screen is on the inside I mean for me that makes a whole lot more sense than having to do this. This we don’t do anymore because we don’t wear watches. This feels perfectly normal because this is also how I use my phone. What are your thoughts?
Steve: When I heard that rumor the first thing that came to mind was I don’t if you’re familiar with the Samsung Gear Fit but it had a curved screen that goes on the top and it was super awkward to look at like this. If it was on the inside of your wrist it would have been so much better. This kind of makes me think that it’s going to be like a curved screen similar to that but its more natural to look at on the inside so that probably why they made the design choice. What excited me the most I think is I’ve been using Android Wear, well I stopped using it after our review of it but I was using it for like 4, 5, or 6 days and that thing just drove me crazy because it was constantly sending me notifications, constantly buzzing my wrist with every tweet and email I got. I didn’t really find it useful because it just mimicked everything that was already happening on my smartphone. Here it sounds like Microsoft is taking a smarter approach and focusing on fitness which is really important and this fitness tracker as we know is like Jawbone and very popular and very useful. What I assume is very limited notification on that screen. I feel like that would create a much better product than smart watches and smart bands or whatever you want to call them that we are already seeing. It also sounds a lot like the iWatch you hear rumors of 10 or 11 different sensors that’s the same thing we’re hearing about the iWatch it’s going to be able to track everything from your hydration levels to glucose and so on. If Microsoft is doing the same thing and making it cross platform and they do it well, that can be really huge.
Fr. Robert: Harry do you care about smart watches, smart bands, smart devices on your wrist?
Harry: Well I’m wearing Android Wear right now. Actually, yesterday night I was at the movies, and it kept going off it was really bright and I actually rotated it around an put it on the other side of my wrist just so I could kind of go like this so the idea of somebody intentionally designing a device like that sort of makes sense to me.
Fr. Robert: He’s Harry McCracken and the smart band was his idea.
Harry: I do worry a little bit about Microsoft doing this because they have so many major fish to fry and problems to solve its kind of hard to imagine a Microsoft band being an enormous product that saves the company.
Fr. Robert: See I don’t need an enormous product that saves the company what I like is it’s actually something different. The last 15 years I’ve always felt as if Microsoft/Intel were a step behind. I mean they had the tech they had some decent design but it always was like ok well that’s popular let’s make one of those. This is finally something where they’re saying look a watch is stupid were not going to build you a watch, no one wants a watch, but would you take a band that has a different kind of screen? It’s not like one of these big clunky screens. It will be super, super thin and it’s not designed to operate like a watch it’s designed to operate like an extension of your phone. That I kind of like that. I like forward thinking, even if it doesn’t come through at least they are trying something that is not what Apple or Google did.
Harry: It would be a great story if the Microsoft smart band at least competed on the same level as the iWatch
Fr. Robert: How awesome would it be if it outsold?
Harry: Microsoft keeps saying that it’s a company about supporting multiple platforms, it’s nice to see them putting their money where their mouth is and building something that can be used with your Windows phone. Of course they have every incentive to support Android and iOS in this case but if it did only work with your Windows phone the market would be very small.
Fr. Robert: Absolutely. Steve what about it? Are you going to get both the iWatch, the next Google watch, and the Microsoft watch, I mean you probably will right?
Steve: That’s a big to wait and see, the best example I can think of, I wear this, the Jawbone Up and I’m obsessed with it. Because it does a few things, and it does it very well. It tracks my steps, it tracks my sleep and I can type in and track when I go to the gym and track my workout. That’s amazing and it adds value in today’s current smart watches don’t add any value they’re just a $200 thing you slap on your wrist that does the same thing as your smartphone. The reports, there are so many reports and rumors about the iWatch and the Microsoft band or whatever you want to call it, its sounds like they are taking a much better, much more intelligent approach to this wearable device category then we’ve seen Google and Samsung and Pebble do and that’s what excites me. I’m not saying it’s going to save Microsoft or be the next big computing pot for them but if this is going to be a popular category I think the approach that Microsoft and Apple are reportedly taking that’s the right approach
Fr. Robert: Yeah I do like that. I think I agree with you. Now one last bit before we say goodbye just because I was really into the World Cup. I didn’t think we were going to use this but I think we are going to use it now. We all know that defacing is bad. Graffiti is bad. Tagging is bad. But something happened to Wikipedia last week right after the United States lost to Belgium in the World Cup. That is the Wikipedia page for the United States Secretary of Defense was changed. Chad if you can go ahead and bring that up. The Wikipedia entry was changed from the current incumbent, Chuck Hagel to Tim Howard. Now though Wikipedia does not tolerate any defacement of entries for any reason even Wikipedia mastermind admitted that the prank was quite exquisite. That does it for this episode of This Week in Tech. I want to thank our panelists for joining us, Harry McCracken, can we officially say that, oh I’m sorry Chad is pointing at me. Does that mean that we have a week ahead?
Chad: Yeah, we have the past week. We have a promo
Fr. Robert: Oh okay, hit that.
Chad: You ready to roll it, here we go
Previously on TWiT
Fr. Robert: We’re not going to light up like 40 of them at the same time, that is such a bad idea. You did what? You are insane.
To keep things simple buffers are always larger than the maximum space we need.
Fr. Robert: The company should just say insert hack here
Fr. Robert: Were going to teach you how to turn this into something like this. This is just Chad getting revenge. It’s alive! And brake, wow!
There’s also going to be a pro version of the fitness band. Shackles
Fr. Robert: I like how your makeup looks
Shannon: I like how your makeup looks too
Fr. Robert: Its fudge, I was eating chocolate
This Week in Enterprise Tech
Fr. Robert: Off to your left you can look in there but I wouldn’t. They see me trolling
If you missed TWiT this week, you missed a lot of padre.
Fr. Robert: Ow ow ow.
Harry: Do you ever sleep?
Fr. Robert: This is, I guess, we did this to Chad a while back and I guess this is sort of his revenge.
Chad: When Leo is away at least one of us will play and this week it was Padre.
Fr. Robert: My goodness, that’s what I get, hey Steve if you ever work for a network like TWiT just make sure you never put yourself out there. Okay, because you’re going to get stepped on. I do want to thank the two of you, now can I talk about them?
Chad: Yeah, go ahead
Fr. Robert: Ok, Harry McCracken Technoligizer, but no now were saying you’re working for…
Harry: Fast Company, Technoligizer is going to be a place where I have fun on the side, but I’ll mainly be Fast Company starting two weeks from tomorrow.
Fr. Robert: and of course they are going to find you at Fast Company but where else can they find you if they want to check out your work?
Harry: On Twitter for sure. @HarryMcCracken on Google+ sort of, on Facebook kind of, although it’s supposed to be the same stuff I put on Twitter. Fast Company, than Twitter, then Technoligizer.
Fr. Robert: All right, we have got you all planned out, also planned out is Mr. Steve Kovach, thank you so much for coming in, I know you’re busy and I thank you for coming in on a July 4th weekend. Same to you Harry. Where can people find you?
Steve: You can read on my stuff businessinsider.com/sai that’s the tech section and then follow me on Twitter @stevekovach and yeah that’s the best way.
Fr. Robert: Nice thank you. And you’ll probably find him on future episodes of Tech News Today and Tech News Tonight. We keep going back to the well. That is Steve Kovach. Don’t forget that you can always find us live every Sunday at 3 pm that’s 6 pm Eastern or 2200 UTC. You want to find us live go to live.twit.tv and as long as you’re watching us live why not jump into our chatroom at irc.twit.tv it’s a fun part of TWiT where you get to interact with the host in fact we you’ve hear me call out to the chat room, it’s that kind of relationship. Also you find our shows at twit.tv/twit, go and drop by you’ll see not just all of our episodes but also the show notes. If there’s a story that you really want to read up on you’re going to find it at twit.tv/twit. Also, did you know that I’m actually on this network but more than just TWiT. Actually I guess you do because Chad decided to play that video. You can find me Mondays at 2:30 pm Pacific time for This Week in Enterprise Tech, we get to talk about technology we get to talk about network we get to talk about data centers. On Thursday, you’ll find be both at 11 o’clock for Know How which is a show about makers about DIY and at 1:30 for Coding 101 which is all about bringing you into the world of the code monkey. And finally on Friday its unofficial show, but stop by at 7 pm Pacific for Padre’s Corner. We get to jib jab about all the tech news that slipped through the cracks. Until next time I’m Father Robert Ballecer the digital Jesuit, in for Leo Laporte the tech guy and another TWiT is in the can!