[AfrICANN-discuss] [***SPAM***] Patently Absurd: Facebook now wants to copyright the words "face", "poke", (?!) "wall" and "book"

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Mon Mar 26 19:43:49 SAST 2012

 Patently Absurd: Facebook now wants to copyright the words "face", "poke",
(?!) "wall" and "book"
Posted By TelecomTV
March 2012 |

Patent absurdity has surpassed itself with the news that Facebook now wants
to copyright English words that have been in everyday use for hundreds upon
hundreds of years. Martyn Warwick considers a range of other four-letter
words that encapsulate exactly what Facebook can go and do with itself.

The patents battleground is now so shrouded by the fog of war that it is
all but impossible to tell what's really happening. But we do know that
madness reigns supreme.

Offensive actions and defensive actions are simultaneous with, on the one
hand, ICT companies continuing to sue and counter-sue one another over the
alleged misuse of patented technologies and designs whilst, on the other
hand, also being engaged in a mad scramble to get their hands on as many
general and device-specific patents as possible, either by buying them from
other companies or registering just about anything that, at some unknown
time in the future, might one day be used a weapon to wield against enemies
or to futher extend power over users.

Thus, in the last week, it has transpired that the now struggling former
darling of the stock exchange, AOL, has retained the investment banking
advisory organisation, Evercore, to help it sell sell some 800 patents as
it continues to dispose of the family silver and drifts inexorably closer
to a full-scale fire-sale of its entire business.

At the same time, in addition to its campaign to trademark commonplace
four-letter words, Facebook, which is now defending a claim that it has
infringed on some Yahoo IPR, has bought 750 patents from IBM as a sort of
hedge against possible further litigation by competitors.

And so the mad merry-go-round accelerates to the point when, eventually and
inevitably, its riders will be flung of in all directions, in a welter of
arms, egs and lots and lots of money.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the patents fence, Google, the "Don't be
Evil" one has a secured a new patent that will allow mobile devices to be
packed with sensors to record data such as close location, temperature,
ambient and local noise, light levels, the composition of the atmosphere,
humidity and so on - all to help Google's corporate clients bombard users
with ever-more closely targeted ads based on where they are at any given

In other words, if its raining where you are you'll be deluged with offers
for anything from sou'westers, through to umbrellas, oilskins and
Wellington boots, And if you are in a noisy club a little the worse for
wear, in will come the ads for re-hydration products and hangover cures.

Indeed, Google's patent application is explicit on this point. It says,
"Advertisements for air conditioners can be sent to users located at
regions having temperatures above a first threshold, while advertisements
for winter overcoats can be sent to users located at regions having
temperatures below a second threshold."

The new patent will also let the Cookie Monster search offline as well as
online. Google, already a horrendously voracious collector, collator,
manipulator and seller of information about its myriad users says it has no
current intention to activate the patent, but it'll be there in the
portfolio, ready to be pulled out whenever Google feels the commercial need
further to intrude into the private lives of its punters.

In a statement Google says, "We file patent applications on a variety of
ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature
into real products or services, some don't.
Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from
our patent applications."

However, Gus Hosein, the executive director of the international
organisation, Privacy International, founded back in 1990 to defend the
individual's right to privacy around the world, says, "This is an attempt
to turn our devices into personal spying devices, just so a company can try
to sell you a coat on a cold day."

Google's latest patent goes under the blanket title of "Advertising based
on environmental conditions’ and follows on directly from tast month's
controversial changes the Internet company made to what it laughingly calls
its "privacy policy" giving itself the right to "pool" data it collects
form 60 diifferent services including Google Search, Android phones and
Gmail to create "personalised advertising" despite the fact that such
practices are almost certainly illegal in many parts of the world.

Already various European data protection authorities are requiring Google
to respond to official concerns about the search engine’s new privacy
policy. France’s National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties
(CNIL), the primary body representing regulators in Europe, has written to
that nice Mr. Page, Google's chief executive, informing him that it “deeply
regrets that Google did not delay the application of the new policy" and
reiterates that it has “legitimate concerns about the protection of the
personal data of European citizens”.

The CNIL also says that Google's latest snooping wheeze is in contravention
of the European Data Protection Directive on information that must be
provided to data subjects. It is also worried that by conflating its
privacy policies across different of its services and then routinely taking
information from them, Google is making it effectively impossible to
determine which access rights apply to what personal data applied to a
particular service.

Google thus has to provide substantive and verifiable answers to 69
questions "reflecting the need for legal clarification of your [Google's]
new privacy policy". Google has until April 5 to respond.

Meanwhile and elsewhere, Sony has filed to patent a smartphone with enough
powerful sensors embedded in its screen to be able to analyse fingerprints!
The submission says the patent will "allow even a user who is not familiar
with the fingerprint authentication to readily execute an input
manipulation for the fingerprint authentication." The point of this being
what exactly - apart from taking us one more step down the road to global
surveillance of all and sundry and subsequent totalitarianism?

Thankfully, a US, Congressional committee is requiring 31 companies,
including Apple, Twitter and four-letter Facebook to provide it with
details of how user data is collected and stored via mobile apps.

As for Facebook's monumental arrogance and hubris, well,  it's hard to know
where to start. The company has just slipped a tiny clause into its latest
"user agreement" page in its "Site Governance" section, that will have the
most far-reaching consequences as all users, simply by logging-on to the
Facebook site, will henceforth be deemed to be agreeing to abide by any and
all usage terms that Facebook can now or at any time in the future decide
to impose. One of these is that the word "book" is now the property of
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