Is this constitutional?

The Department of Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano says the department may eventually extend its “Einstein” technology, designed to detect and prevent electronic attacks, to networks operated by the private sector. The technology was created for federal networks.

This raises a host of questions about privacy, access, government monitoring of private networks, loss of control, and constitutional rights to privacy guaranteed in the Bill of Rights under the Fourth Amendment.

Einstein grew out of a still-classified executive order, called National Security Presidential Directive 54, that President Bush signed in 2008.

Surfin’ Safari says, “Take one giant step toward Big Brother” and keep a close eye on this one.

Your government at work

As we reported in Surfin’ Safari last week, the Federal Communications Commission has begun tweaking its surveys to measure Internet use by census tract – rather than county – and divide broadband into different “speed tiers.”

The new research is the “first iteration of the commission’s plan to collect more detailed broadband data,” says FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield.

The FCC is due to present its national broadband plan to Congress on March 17. And nearly two weeks out, the FCC is already picking winners and losers based on key themes that have already been identified, such as mobile broadband networks and spectrum swaps.

Just as the federal government took over the airwaves, it is poised to take over Internet access with regulations that many argue are outside of its constitutional purview and best left to the private sector. Your government at work.

Some cities want to be on this broadband FCC program so badly that a Topeka, Kan., mayor actually signed a proclamation temporarily changing the name of his city to “Google.”

AT&T proposing metered Internet usage charges

Pay-per-download Internet is heading our way. At last week’s AT&T investor conference, Chief Executive Randall Stephenson talked about an idea that’s unpopular with many: metered Internet access, using “variable pricing”, with heavy-use consumers paying more than those who use less.

It’s a model similar to that used by gas or water utilities, charging consumers based on household usage.

Telecom companies are offering another unpopular proposal – limiting access to certain sites on a pay scale, similar to the way cable companies do with TV channels.

Thus far, the Federal Communications Commission opposes the option.

Microsoft: a taxing proposition

A broad Internet tax to help defray the costs associated with computer security breaches and vast Internet attacks? Say it ain’t so, Bill!

Microsoft chieftains say a web usage fee is a way to subsidize efforts to combat emerging cyber threats, an idea that’s already chafing many in the computer world.

One radio computer “goddess” hinted that Microsoft and its vulnerable Windows operating system are responsible for countless, worldwide cybersecurity problems.

Microsoft will need Federal approval before it can implement a tax on users. Watch this one closely.

Troubled Toyota turns to Twitter for repairs

Toyota has joined a growing number of companies using Twitter to connect with consumers, especially useful in handling the current crisis in which the carmaker finds itself. The Japanese automaker has launched a branded channel on TweetMeme called Toyota Conversations that features news stories, videos, tweets from Toyota’s Twitter account and its own AdTweets.

Recent additions include “5 Reasons to Buy a Toyota” and “Toyota rolls out 0% financing incentive plan.”

The ‘Great Firewall of China’

Twitter’s popularity has produced a number of clones in China: Fanfou, Jiwai and Digu were the top three.

Along with Twitter, however, they have been blocked by the Chicoms since last July.

Prior to shutdown, Fanfou had reached nearly one million registered users. Since then, Weibo has emerged as China’s biggest micro-blogging service. Weibo is like Twitter, in that it allows users to post short messages of 140 Chinese characters or less via the Web, SMS or MMS. But there is a significant difference: Weibo is censored, or “harmonized”, in Chicom-speak.

Facebook clone Renren is also tightly controlled by the Great Firewall of China’s censorship climate.

Meanwhile, in the USA

U.S. technology companies were criticized last week on Capitol Hill for censoring or blocking Internet sites in China, Iran and other countries.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs a Senate Judiciary Committee panel, said during a hearing that he would introduce legislation requiring Internet companies to take reasonable steps to protect human rights or face civil or criminal action.

The overseas practices of high-tech companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft’s search engine Bing continue to come under greater scrutiny in the wake of Google’s announcement that it would stop censoring search results in China. Google made the pledge after it came under cyber attack there.

Social media soars via phone

Social networking is one of the most popular and fastest-growing behaviors on both the PC-based Internet and the mobile web. According to a study done by comScore, Inc., social media lends itself perfectly to mobile browser devices, which are at the hub of how people communicate with their circle of friends, using phone, text, email or, increasingly, social networking sites.

ComScore, Inc., a leader in measuring the digital world, recently released a study on social networking access via mobile browser that found 30.8 percent of smartphone users accessed social networking sites via their mobile browser in January 2010, up 8.3 points from 22.5 percent one year ago. Access to Facebook via mobile browser grew 112 percent in the past year, while Twitter experienced a 347-percent jump.

Americans and the news – the times they are a changin’

The days of loyalty to a particular news operation on TV, radio or newsprint are over. The Internet, now the third most popular news platform, is indicative of how people’s relationship to news is changing.

According to a PEW Study, six in ten Americans (59 percent) now get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day.

“In the digital era, news has become omnipresent. Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The overwhelming majority of Americans (92 percent) use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, including national TV, local TV, the Internet, local newspapers, radio and national newspapers. Some 46 percent of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day. Just 7 percent get their news from a single media platform on a typical day,” states the summary of findings in the report “The process Americans use to get news is based on foraging and opportunism. They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines.”

Ten billion tweets!

Experts estimate that last week Twitter celebrated its 10 billionth tweet.

According to Gigatweet, the milestone came less than five months after Twitter’s 5 billionth tweet. Gigatweet extrapolated out when the 10 billionth tweet would hit based on a variety of tweet data.

Unfortunately, the 10 billionth tweet was unobserved because the user had a protected stream. But according to Twitter co-founder Ev Williams, the whole team was watching for the tweet on the “big board.”

As we mentioned here in last week’s column, Twitter is seeing about 50 million tweets per day. Hint: To see how many tweets have been sent, look at the numbers appended to the URL of each tweet. Or, watch the Tweet Tally Clock!

Let’s take a SkyDrive!

You mean you didn’t know about Windows SkyDrive? Or Windows Live Essentials? How about Windows Live Services?

Don’t feel badly if you aren’t aware of this range of website services and downloadable apps that will make life more fun for Windows users. David Pogue explains it in simple language: Windows Live Mail, Photo Gallery, Messenger, Movie Maker, Family Safety, Toolbar, Writer, Spaces and so much more.

2010’s most wired city

Pop quiz: Which United States city is the most broadband-connected of all U.S. cities? If you guessed San Francisco, you’d be wrong. I’ll give you another chance. Atlanta? Seattle? San Jose? Celebration? Boston? Nope.

The most wired-up city is Raleigh, N.C. According to Forbes’ most-wired cities list, the N.C. capital, with its high concentration of info-tech companies, research universities and state government offices, leads in three measures: broadband penetration, broadband access and plentiful wi-fi hot spots. Taken together, the factors point to a populace that readily uses high-speed Internet inside and outside the home.

“At stake is more than just bragging rights,” writes Elizabeth Woyke in “As the U.S. formulates a national broadband plan designed to connect the entire country to fast, affordable Internet, Raleigh and other top-ranking Wired Cities could serve as models for change.”

The cities that didn’t make the list? Surprisingly, the big metropolises of New York, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Honolulu, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento and Tampa.

Little League to update games live on the web

Your Little League son – or daughter – is playing a big game this afternoon, but you can’t be there. You hate to miss it, but what can you do? You can follow along on your computer or on a smart phone.

The Game Changer free website is a lot like ESPN’s Gamecast and Yahoo’s StatTracker and works in practically any browser. You can get a text message or e-mail alert when, for example, your son’s name shows up in the play-by-play. Or check into the site after a baseball game for the box score breakdown.

The site is currently being beta tested, but once it launches in the second quarter of this year, you’ll be able to pay $10 or $12 per month (the company hasn’t decided which) for access to live game tracking as well as in-depth team and player stats. Now you’re in the game!

Sci-fi geeks unite around William Shatner

William Shatner of Star trek fame is extending an invitation to you: “Welcome to My Outer Space, a brand new community of sci-fi, horror and fantasy lovers. I’m William Shatner and I’d like to invite all of you who like to act, perform, write, direct or compose music. From actor to animator, register now on the planet that hosts your specific talent. Join us today as we aim for the stars. My Outer Space dot com.”

What would YOU do for $5?

Would you do something funny and bizarre? Perform a social marketing service? Create graphics? Write a term paper? Do some silly stuff? Fiverr is a marketplace for “gigs” that are priced at $5. You can sell and buy tasks for $5. Buyers can order gigs and are required to pay for the gig in advance.

Fiverr takes a $1 commission from the $5 fee. It’s like Twitter with a Twist.

“Gigs range from installing WordPress on a server to reading Tarot cards to writing a romantic sonnet. Tasks are divided into categories, including Funny and Bizarre, Social Marketing, Graphics, Writing, Technology, Business, Silly Stuff and Programming.

“The idea is kind of brilliant and also entertaining,” writes Leena Rao of TechCrunch.

We agree. And we’d be willing to do … uh … well, we’ll come up with something!

Looking out my back door

1964 – Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa gets 8 years

1964 – Jack Ruby gets death

1967 – Stalin’s daughter defects to U.S

1969 – James Earl Ray sentenced to 99 years

1972 – TWA 707 explodes at Las Vegas airport

1977 – Polanski charged with raping 13-year-old

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Beth McDonald of Urbana, Ill.; Will HisleBeard of Jacksonville, Ore.; Dwight McFarland, Laveen, Ariz.; Russell Dobbyn, Stennis Space Center, Miss.; and Mandy McGraw – all of whom correctly guessed the actor Cate Blanchett who portrayed the Elven Princess Galadriel in the 2001, four-time Oscar winning movie ““Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Rings,” one in a trilogy of LOTR movies by director Peter Jackson.
The film was based on a novel in the Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

The quote: “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.”

This week’s trivia quote: “It seems it always happens. Whenever we get too high-hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides we’re a pushover all ready to be blackjacked. And it isn’t long before we’re looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flag’s still waving over us.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character.

Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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