Too much information: Links for week ending 24 February 2012

SABAM vs Netlog – another important ruling for fundamental rights
Last week, in a case brought by the Belgian collecting society SABAM, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that social networking sites “cannot be obliged to install a general filtering system, covering all its users, in order to prevent the unlawful use of musical and audio-visual work”. European Digital Rights calls the decision “a new win for fundamental freedoms” and provides answers to frequently asked questions about the case and the meaning of its outcome.

US lobbying waters down EU data protection reform
Euractiv reports that, following “intense lobbying” from authorities and firms in the US, “the overhaul of data protection rules proposed by Viviane Reding, the European Commission vice president in charge of fundamental rights, was substantially modified before it was published”.

India: Government to track locations of all mobile users
The Indian Express reports on changes being made to mobile network operating licenses that require mobile network operators to provide the Indian Department of Telecommunications with real-time details of users’ locations: “Documents obtained by The Indian Express show that details shall initially be provided for mobile numbers specified by the government. Within three years, service providers will have to provide information on locations of all users.”

MIT launches free online course – with accreditation
The BBC reports that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will begin offering an electronics course in March, its first free course which can be studied and assessed completely online: “In this prototype stage, the online assessment will depend on an “honour code” in which home students will commit to honest behaviour. But in future, the university says, there will be mechanisms for checking identity and verifying work.”

“ACTA is part of a multi-decade, worldwide copyright campaign”
Based on an interview with Michael Geist, this feature for Ars Technica explains why intellectual property enforcement provisions that go beyond internationally agreed norms are being drafted in secretive trade negotiations: “Rather than making their arguments at the World Intellectual Property Organization, where they would be subject to serious public scrutiny, the US and other supporters of more restrictive copyright law have increasingly focused on pushing their agenda in alternative venues, such as pending trade deals, where negotiations are secret and critics are excluded.

Africa: Beyond the Frontiers of Science Fiction
In this short piece, Jonathan Dotse shares his experience growing up as a science fiction fan in Accra, and makes a compelling case for why today’s best science fiction writers are increasingly setting their work in the developing world: “Youths from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa represent the single largest subgroup of the human population, and with the aid of advanced technology they will go on to shape the geopolitical destiny of our civilization”.

How Target knew my daughter was pregnant before I did
This long feature for the New York Times examines how large retail companies use detailed purchasing data to influence their customers’ habits, and why they’re not keen to talk about how they do it.

Internet freedom fighters build a shadow web
This (paywalled) feature for Scientific American provides a surprisingly good overview of the resurgence of interest in wireless mesh networking and the issues and challenges that face grassroots enthusiasts for re-instating the internet’s original, distributed architecture.

Does the NSA think Anonymous is the new Al Qaida?
Alexis Madrigal examines the rhetoric about Anonymous that is increasingly being used by US intelligence officials, and warns what it might mean in this piece for the Atlantic.

What we don’t know, and why, about incentives to stimulate biomedical R&D
James Love of Knowledge Ecology International takes on what he calls “strategic ignorance” about the effects of government policy on medical innovation in this short essay.

Copy Culture and the children of the web
Joe Karganis of the American Assembly at Columbia University gives a talk on his latest research into social attitudes towards copyright infringement and enforcement measures. Meanwhile, the Atlantic publish an English translation of an essay by Polish writer and commentator Piotr Czerski entitled “We, the web kids”, which gives a more individual perspective on the attitudes of the next generation: “We know how to compete and we like to do it, but our competition, our desire to be different, is built on knowledge, on the ability to interpret and process information, and not on monopolising it”.
Karganis (video) | Czerski

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