What!? Facebook Users Sue Over Privacy Concerns

In what seems completely ridiculous to me, five Facebook users have sued the company in a California court, alleging violations of privacy. The plaintiffs claim their private information was harvested by Facebook without receiving compensation for the information. This suit baffles me for two reasons. First, users sign up and provide their personal information of their own volition, after agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service and privacy policy. How then did Facebook “harvest” the information if the users provided it? Second, what “compensation” did the plaintiffs expect? The site’s purpose is to connect people, not pay them for private information. If its purpose was the later, why would anyone join?

I can only hope that the judge has enough common sense to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit.

‘1984’ Comes to Life in UK Surveillance Plan

In an attempt to improve the lives of children in 20,000 “problem” households, the UK government plans to install surveillance cameras in the homes to provide 24-hour monitoring by the government. The program is focused on ensuring children are attending school, eating well, and sleeping enough. Parents will also be monitored for substance abuse problems, and support will be provided. To enforce the program, the British government has created a private guard to perform home checks and ensure that families are abiding by their “behavior contracts.”

The plan, dubbed the Family Intervention Project, is expected to cost £400 million (just shy of $678 million today) and is being put forth by the UK’s Children’s Secretary. In response, the opposition party has blamed the moral decay this program is intended to correct on the ruling party, and said the program is “too little, too late.”

What amazes me most about the program is that 2,000 families are already participating. Given the already-pervasive use of camera surveillance throughout Great Britain, I suppose this announcement shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is strange how much this plan mirrors the telescreens of Orwell’s 1984 though.


The Human Firecracker

John Fletcher, or “Ghengis [sic] John the Human Firecracker,” regularly dons a firecracker-laden suit and sets himself alight to raise money for charity, but as he reveals to The Wall Street Journal, after roughly 12,000 performances involving nearly 300,000 firecrackers, the show may soon come to an end.

Check out Carrie Porter’s article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal, “When You Perform in a Firecracker Suit, Every Show Ends With a Bang.”

SMART Tossing – Sign of more to come?

It appears that a new act of vandalism is taking Amsterdam by storm. As smaller and smaller fuel-efficient vehicles are introduced, some are becoming the target of a rather odd prank: being tossed into the Amsterdam canals. As local newpaper De Telegraaf reports, the phenomenon appears to focus on the SMART brand, because the cars are light enough to be lifted over guardrails and deposited in the canals throughout the city. As a result, the activity has been termed “SMART tossing” (see the original article at DutchAmsterdam.nl: “Amsterdam craze: tossing Smart cars into the canals.“).

As the push towards ever-more-fuel-efficient vehicles continues, might this bizarre form of vandalism do the same? SMART has already released its “smart fortwo” models in the US, but I haven’t heard of anything like this being reported here in the States. Perhaps we don’t have enough canals. Now that the story made it to NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me, maybe it’s just a matter of time until some NPR-listening hooligan tosses his neighbors SMART car into a pond.

Owners of small cars beware!