31 August 2011

Cyberspace September 2011

Also published in the Journal of the Law Society of New South Wales

What about the children?

Software licences are usually long, poorly drafted and unreadable. A lot of this is in an attempt to protect the author from liability which is never likely to arise. However, there are other hazards for them... The USA has the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits collection of email addresses from children under 13. You may be aware that Facbook prohibits children under 13 from using its product to avoid COPPA issues. However, a number of iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod etc) applications have collected email addresses from kids, and W3 Innovations has just paid the Federal Trade Commission $50,000 as a result.

This is by no means a first for the FTC, but it reinforces the need to: think globally when writing software; consider that there are different requirements for users of various ages; and consider other diversity issues. More importantly, the FTC considers that it applies to any website from anywhere in the world which is directed at USA children. http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppafaqs.shtm

FOI Twitter

The UK body responsible for FOI has made it clear that applications can be submitted to government bodies via Twitter. The Information Commissioner's Office http://goo.gl/EuMLR said that "While Twitter is not the most effective channel for submitting or responding to freedom of information requests, this does not mean that requests sent using Twitter are necessarily invalid. They can be valid requests in freedom of information terms and authorities that have Twitter accounts should plan for the possibility of receiving them." It is important that the request comply with the Act, such as using a real name. Since that occurs rarely on Twitter the ICO said that it is sufficient for the user's Twitter profile to have the required information.

Section 15 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cwlth) http://goo.gl/Nq8Ho alows for a request be made in writing, giving details for notices such as an electronic address, and it be made by sending by electronic communication to an electronic address specified by the agency. I'd have to say that a request via Twitter can satisfy all those requirements, especially with the obligation on the agency under s 15(3) to assist in making a compliant request. I look forward to hearing about the first one.

Tips & tricks

  1. IP Australia has released a simple tool to assist in choosing business names (http://goo.gl/Ggjje). It can assist in the early stages of branding development by helping to rule out some names.  
  2. The Australian Business Number lookup (http://goo.gl/XXeQ8) has a new interface, and also makes it easier to cross check details on ASIC's site. This is a great way to check an ABN, ACN, business name or company name. With a little interpretation it can also alert you to when you're dealing with a trustee, so you can make the appropriate contractual amendments, or whether a business is registered for GST..  
  3. Legify (http://legify.com.au) is a great way to quickly look up Australian legislation and regulations.  
  4. My current favourite iOS applications are TuneIn Radio, TripIt, TripView, Evernote, GoodReader, ShopShop, Remember the Milk, Roboform, Tom Tom Australia, Collins English-French Dictionary, LogMeIn Ignition, Mocha RDP and Bloomberg.

Unsocial networking

The English Crown Courts have been busy sentencing prisoners for their roles in the London riots. A number of these were for using Facebook to incite rioting, and they received four years imprisonment. The Crown Prosecution Service (http://goo.gl/DPgrX) said that they were convicted under ss 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 for using "Facebook to organise and orchestrate serious disorder...". The pages were quickly closed and no riots occurred as a result, and the defendants were previously of good character, but the pages caused panic and revulsion in the community.

First published by Andrew Calvin andrew@calvin.it

© Copyright 2011 Andrew Calvin, Sydney, Australia