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How and when can law-enforcement agencies access citizens’ private electronic communications?

Several businesses want answers in the new age of electronic communications. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, a group of businesses and advocacy organizations, including Google, Microsoft, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is calling for an update to a decades-old privacy law it considers seriously outdated.

“Dubbing itself Digital Due Process,” writes David Sarno in the Times, “the group said the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was written in a time before the web had become a ubiquitous communications medium, where users around the world store huge amounts of personal information for years or even decades at a time.”

Sarno continues, “In the nearly quarter-century since ECPA was enacted, the Due Process group said, it has been variously interpreted by courts, creating contradictions that have confused both consumers and service providers.”

“Consequently,” Digital Due Process states, “the vast amount of personal information generated by today’s digital communication services may no longer be adequately protected.”

Technology becoming the new currency

Paying by iPhone takes us one step closer to a cashless society.

Get out your checkbooks

And while you’re using the new technology, the government will be taking more money from you because of it. California drivers, get out your checkbooks.

The “Unvarnished” truth

This is one social network you might think twice about getting attached to. Described as a completely evil social network, Unvarnished allows others to put your dirty laundry online. You definitely don’t want this spin cycle. It’s endless. And fraught with legal implications.

FREE starter version of Microsoft’s Office 2010

Microsoft is giving it away, gambling that the company will make more money from its profitable Office software program. 500 million people worldwide use Microsoft Office.

In addition to the free, browser-based Office Web Apps, Microsoft is also offering PC makers the ability to install a basic version of Office on new computers. The new program, Office Starter, includes a stripped-down version of Word and Excel. PC makers, retailers and Microsoft can all make money if the PC buyer later upgrades to a paid version of Office.

And remember those bulky boxes that packaged the software disc? Gone! Now you’ll load with a smart card.

Virtual get-togethers

With travel as expensive as it can be sometimes, and time constraints controlling your flexibility, there’s a way to enjoy family get-togethers effortlessly and at no expense.

According to Information and Communication Technologies, Nikolaus Färber, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in Germany, and a team of researchers from seven European countries are aiming to turn the tables on technology by simply and affordably bringing telepresence into normal households.

Their vision is of groups of friends and family members seeing each other on their TVs, hearing each other through their stereo systems, sharing photos and videos and playing games almost as naturally as if they were in the same room.

“By marrying state-of-the-art video and audio communications technology with digital media, interactive devices and ambient intelligence, a team of European researchers hope to give people of all ages the opportunity to get together, play games, share experiences and generally communicate, interact and have fun even if they are thousands of kilometers apart,” reports ICT. “Their goal is to bring down the barriers between people – technological and social.”

The project is part of the EU-funded TA2, an acronym for together anywhere, together anytime.

Twitter gets a makeover

Whenever I need real-time info, I head to Twitter, type in a keyword in the search field and read what folks are tweeting about it. I use the social network site for instant information. It appears I’m not the only one, because Twitter developers have noted on the Twitter blogsite that it is not just for status updates anymore.

“It’s a network where information is exchanged and consumed at a rapid clip every second of the day,” the developers write. “With so much being shared, we know that there’s something of value for everyone. People who internalize the value of Twitter understand the power of this simple medium.”

The constantly evolving Twitter just launched an updated, more dynamic homepage that features a scrolling list of trending topics, a constantly updating view of tweets from popular Twitter users, a random sampling of suggested users and a new explanation of what Twitter is.

Twitter worth

What’s Twitter worth? A million? A billion? Take a guess.

Where do the majority of Tweets originate? You might be surprised.

YouTube redesigns entire site

It’s one of the biggest redesigns in YouTube’s history, and developers say it will make the pages cleaner and easier to find a particular video. See for yourself.

Use it or lose it

What are the main concerns of the 12.1 million users who self-host their WordPress blogs? Security and restoration. TechCrunch reports that WordPress.com backs up all of the blogs that it hosts, “but those users who self-host their WordPress-powered blogs need to download outside plugins, such as this one, or use backup services like Mozy or Backupify to protect their data and content.

Today Automattic is changing that with the launch of its own blog protection and restoration service for self-hosted blogs, called VaultPress. And it’s free.

Mobile data traffic to skyrocket

Mobile web browsing is expected to expand the amount of data traffic over cellular networks by a factor of 40 times in the next five years.

As smart phones like the iPhone and Android take over the mobile Web, U.K. firm Coda Research Consultancy forecasts that in the U.S. alone mobile handset data traffic will grow from 8 petabytes/month this year to 327 petabytes/month in 2015. A lot of that data will come in the form of mobile web browsing, especially mobile video, which by 2015 will account for 68.5 percent of all mobile data usage in the U.S. Coda estimates that 95 million mobile handset subscribers in the U.S. will be watching video on their phones in five years out of a total of 158 million mobile Internet users.

Looking out my back door

1951 – Truman fires Gen. MacArthur

1968 – Race riots erupt across U.S.

1973 – Pablo Picasso dies

1976 – Howard Hughes dies

1986 – Berlin disco bombed, 120 killed, including 40 Americans

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WorldNetDaily readers Marcia of Vintage Rosary, Nina Fosdick of Mena, Ark., and Rick Sampson of Tulsa, Okla., who are just a few of those who correctly guessed the actor George Burns in his portrayal of God in the 1977, Oscar-nominated movie “Oh God” . The film told the story of when God appeared to an assistant grocery manager as a good-natured old man, selecting him as his messenger for the modern world.

The quote was: “I know how hard it is in these times to have faith. But maybe if you could have the faith to start with, maybe the times would change. You could change them. Think about it. Try. And try not to hurt each other. There’s been enough of that. It really gets in the way. I’m a god of very few words, and Jerry’s already given you mine. However hopeless, helpless, mixed up and scary it all gets, it can work. If you find it hard to believe in me, maybe it would help you to know that I believe in you.”

This week’s trivia quote: “The thing that’s always worried me about being one of the few is the way we keep on getting fewer.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Good luck!

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