Compilation of some interesting articles that you might not have seen this week from various news sites and blogs.
Here's a case of good security research being silenced by a corporation. If your car lock is vulnerable to malicious by-pass, you should be fixing it, no matter the cost to your company. You don't bury it for two years, leaving the vulnerability out in the open. I understand it might cost your company a lot of money to fix. That's the price of doing business and creating that technology in the first place. Security in the digital age is important!
Apparently the JDate owners, Spark Networks, feel they own a trademark on all intellectual property concerning the letter "J" within the Jewish dating scene. As a Jew, I find that absurd and totally not kosher. Furthermore, I'd argue that the patent Spark Networks owns for automating the process of matchmaking is not innovative in any way. The only thing it did different in 1999 compared to other matchmaking systems was do it "on a computer." The Supreme Court in Alice Corp v. CLS Bank International felt that abstract ideas implemented on a computer are not enough to transform them into patentable subject matter. For Spark Networks to claim a trademark on "J"-anything in relation to Jewish dating along with a (likely) invalid patent is some chutzpah IMO.
I like the Economist. It's great reading. To see them tackle the issue of patents (again), but this time in a favorable light, makes me feel good. Like the article suggests, patents are supposed to be about spreading knowledge, but instead are about profiteering. Like I discussed in IP reform and healthcare reform, the Economist agrees that fixing drug patents could save Americans billions on prescription drug costs. I also agree with the Economist that "non-obvious" requirements on patents need to be strengthened.
The blog was was taken down shortly after publication, but an archive version (linked) shows the mentality that some companies have. This culture in the software industry of "it's my property so don't mess with it, even if it's for legitimate security reasons" does exist across many companies. And I find it completely unhealthy. Fair use exemptions for security research are important.
To sum up, the OLC has decided that IG's wanting to do their job of overseeing need to ask the agency they're overseeing for permission. If they want documents for auditing or other materials, they must ask the agency in question for them. Should the agency in question not wish to hand over such material, tough luck. This is bad government at its finest. The federal government and its agencies need oversight. Telling the NSA it can oversee itself is a recipe for ensuring the NSA never oversteps its bounds... on paper. It's akin to a business being responsible for auditing its own taxes instead of the IRS ("yup, looks like we owe nothing again!"). Congress needs to ensure proper oversight is in place.
There is a right way to police and a wrong way to police. This is not the right way.
Like I said in healthcare reform, the lack of open source and flexibility from open source can be a huge problem when it comes to government waste and efficiency. I'm not entirely sure if the reasons behind these millions in additional expenditures on software (plus whatever other personnel fees/man hours are needed) are because of legitimate interoperability needs or if it's because the Coast Guard chose a non-open sourced system from the get go which requires more money to "get right."
If you have any interest in understanding how capitalism and democracy intersect, this is a good read. It tackles a brief history of economic philosophy before turning to modern dilemmas like campaign financing and self-rule.
Photo source - www.gotcredit.com, CC license 2.0