By Leigh Beadon
Five Years Ago
This week in 2015, we learned that the feds had been tracking international calls for much longer than we thought, via the DEA, for nearly a decade — in a program that would have continued were it not for Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. The discovery led quickly to a lawsuit by the EFF and Human Rights Watch. And speaking of Snowden, this was the week John Oliver famously interviewed him in Russia for a segment about surveillance on his show. We saw some other examples of surveillance too, like the revelation that the Baltimore PD had gone Stingray crazy and was instructed by the FBI to withhold information from the courts, and that the DHS had decided in 2009 that border patrol can search and copy people’s devices on a whim.
Ten Years Ago
This week in 2010, the patent office hired an economist to add some actual evidence to patent policy, and we wondered if a lot of the problems with software patents could be solved if they hired a team of “obviousness developers” too. We looked at how the DMCA is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech while in the UK, the House of Commons promised to ram through the Digital Economy Bill — and delivered. The whole thing was like a bad joke, and one ISP vowed not to abide by its rules.
Fifteen Years Ago
This week in 2005, we were suggesting that the recording industry seize the opportunity to give people what they want and just sell nice, portable, standard MP3s — but of course, that didn’t mean we wanted politicians stupidly stepping in to mandate a single music format. We noted the cultural importance of sharing music, and the fact that the internet is about communication not content. Meanwhile, it was interesting to see the unexpected secondary trends birthed by mobile phones: like watchmakers freaking out and plumbers doing good business fishing phones out of toilets — not to mention fake trends largely manufactured by the media, like “toothing” for sex partners via Bluetooth.