I think we often conceptualize the internet like a busy street, full of things to see, do, and learn. But unlike a busy street, your very presence on the internet leaves lasting impressions and information about you and your browsing habits. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group is filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission “urging greater scrutiny and possibile regulatory action of online advertising and consumer tracking.”
While “regulatory action” is pretty much anathema to the internet, just stop for a moment and consider what Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft know about you. Do you use Gmail? If you do, Google knows your likes and dislikes, who you are dating, who you are sleeping with (most likely), where you shop, what kind of videos you like (if you also use an online movie rental service), etc. What if you also use Google Calendar, Google Reader, or Blogger?
Your life is out there. I actually think some regulation might be a nice thing, especially with the government gobbling up civil liberties like trick-or-treaters with bags full of candy.
Edit: U.S. Pirg just posted its press release (PDF link) as well as its complaint (PDF link).
Article no longer available at USPIRG.org.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Phillip Morris v. Williams, a tobacco case from Oregon where a jury awarded $79 million to the plaintiff. The issue on appeal is whether juries can award punitive damages for harm to third parties not involved in the lawsuit, and places the Rehnquist Court’s BMW v. Gore analysis in the crosshairs (partially, at least).
The Rehnquist Court frequently slashed punitive damages awards based on a three-pronged analysis: (1) the degree of reprehensibility of the conduct; (2) the ratio between punitive and compensatory damages; and (3) a comparison of the amount of punitive damages to any civil or criminal penalties that could be imposed for comparable misconduct.
Hotel key cards are a bit of an enigma, it seems. Though Snopes.com and Computerworld both put considerable effort into debunking the idea that hotel key cards hold more than just innocuous information about hotel guests, the idea persists. And, potentially, with good reason.
At least one California detective found a veritable treature trove of personal information on a card from a major hotel, including name, length of stay, and credit card number. In other words, more than enough to make it easy for someone to steal your identity.So it isn’t clear whether or not hotel cards do or do not hold risky personal information, but it does seem worthwhile to take some basic precautions. For starters, keep careful track of your key card during your stay, and take it with you when you leave the hotel, then shred it.
Arbitration is the devil. Seriously. A retired judge who served as an arbitrator for the popular National Arbitration Forum described his experience:
“Thus I learned how Godless bloodsucking banks have converted apparently neutral arbitration forums into collection agencies to exact the last drop of blood from desperate consumers.”
When you agree to arbitrate—as nearly everyone who has signed a contract does—you agree to give up roughly 90% of the rights you would have in a real court. You cannot appeal the decision except to a panel of arbitrators from the same company. You have no right to the rules of evidence. All hearsay is potentially admissible.
The system is designed to be friendly to those who know how to navigate it. For the rest, it is an impenetrable thicket of incomprehensible rules and regulations not for the faint of heart. Or for those hoping to prevail on their claims.
An entrepreneurial spirit in the Twin Cities, Brian Peters, has started a chauffer service for drinkers, solving the primary problem with going out in the city: getting the car home. Drink and Drive Intelligently brings a second car, drives the customer’s car home, and leaves everyone safe and sound.
And–for the drivers, at least–the company has a solution to another age-old problem:
Another advantage of driving drinkers home in their own cars? They sometimes vomit. “I just drop them off and say, ‘Hey, good luck with that,’” said Blaske.
Real estate listing services will, from now on, be required to treat listings from discount brokers the same as those from traditional (read: high-priced) agents. This is good news for consumers on both sides. Sellers using discount agents will get equal booking, and buyers will have an easier time finding homes where the list price is not inflated by traditional realtors’ fees.
In plain English, this could mean that home prices trend slightly downward as traditional agents are forced to compete with discount agents.
Following up on this post, it looks like China has unblocked Wikipedia, although it still seems to be trying to block individual pages. Chinese users are still having difficulty viewing the Tianenmen Square page, for example.
Still, this is a positive step. I wonder if Google and Yahoo! will now reconsider their policies. It’s also a shocking indicator of just how powerful information has become, if China feels it just can’t afford to entirely block Wikipedia.
When the city of Winona decided to take Rich Mikrut’s access to his truck-to-train transfer station, they offered him a measly $72,500. Mikrut was forced to use residential roads (probably not so easy when your business is giant shipping containers), and was buying up nearby properties to build his own driveway. Rather than settle for the $72.5k, Mikrut took the city to court and was awarded $903,000 for the city’s taking.
Article no longer available at WinonaDailyNews.com
I’m having fun searching for “landlord” on YouTube lately. There are a ton of great videos of terrible landlords. Cameras are a terrific tool to use in a landlord-tenant dispute.
This video, however, shows what happens when a liberal eviction law is in place. In Maryland, a landlord may evict a tenant for even one day of late rent. Minnesota, thankfully, is not quite so strict, and requires notice, at least, before an eviction can be filed.
Uncovering the generic alternatives to discuss with a physician can be a problem, which now has a solution — a new interactive web service from DrugDigest.org called Check for Savings.
Looks like a great way to help takers of prescription drugs and their doctors, arrive at money-saving treatment options.