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Comment Re:I can answer that question (Score 1) 105

Correct. Under the provisions of the PATRIOT Act the private corporation does not have a choice. All the government has to do is assert national security concerns.

Incorrect. I wish people would actually look up the law, instead of just assuming.

Yes, the PATRIOT act expanded the applicability of National Security Letters (note that it did not create NSLs, that was the Right to Financial Privacy Act, in 1978), and those allow the government to request certain sorts of information from private companies without prior judicial approval, and with a gag order on the recipient, preventing them from talking about it. However, the law also includes some important limitations. (Not enough, IMO, but the limitations that are there should not be ignored).

The primary limitation is that NSLs may only demand metadata, not content. Metadata is incredibly useful and valuable, of course. In the context of communications between parties, knowing who talks to who and when is often more valuable than knowing exactly what they're saying. In the context of a a smart speaker, I don't see how any metadata could be useful.

Another important limitation is that the recipient of the NSL may challenge the NSL in court. There is some evidence that many of the big tech companies do challenge them, though the evidence is obviously fragmentary, since such proceedings are normally closed and sealed, especially if the challenge is unsuccessful.

Anyone here remember Lavabit?

Indeed I do, and I also recall the details of how that actually went down. Lavabit had nothing to do with NSLs, it was all about ordinary court orders, because the FBI wanted the content of Snowden's communications, not just the metadata. And the reason the judge ended up handing down an extremely far-reaching order (to hand over private keys) was because Lavabit repeatedly and incompetently failed to comply with more selective orders. The "incompetently" part is important. If Lavabit had gotten an attorney and actually argued the earlier orders properly, they may or may not have won (probably not), but would ultimately have just had the selective order enforced. Mostly Lavabit just failed to respond or show up, leading the court and the FBI to decide that they were not acting in good faith, which resulted in the FBI's request for, and the court's approval of, an order to hand over their private keys. Lavabit chose to shut down instead of complying.

Aside from that, anyone remember Quest? The one telco that refused to play patriotic 9/11-ball with the government and just hand everything over. What happened to them?

Apparently you don't remember them very well, because their name was Qwest (note that the past tense is because they were bought out by CenturyLink, not because they ceased to exist).

What happened to them is that because they refused to play ball, they were denied government contracts worth many millions of dollars. The CEO, Joseph Nacchio, also publicly said that the request had come several months before 9/11. He was convicted of insider trading; the charges look legitimate, but not unrelated to the NSA stuff. Nacchio had used false accounting and inflated revenue predictions to pump up Qwest's stock price, believing that he'd be able to cover those inflated predictions with the revenue of the aforementioned government contracts. So his refusal to hand over customer data did directly result in his ultimate conviction, not because the conviction was punitive but because the loss of those contracts exposed the shell game he was already playing -- a shell game which included his early sale of stock while the price was high because he suspected his value inflation would not hold up, even before he was asked to illegally provide customer data. Odds are that his game would have fallen apart even with the lost contracts. It's impossible to say whether he would have been prosecuted in that case, but it seems likely because of the accounting fraud that would have come to light eventually regardless.

All of the telcos should have refused to take the carrot and comply with the illegal requests. That they didn't is a reason to distrust them, but not necessarily a reason to distrust all US corporations, especially those that publicly proclaim that they refuse illegal requests and fight them in court if necessary. Note that falsely making that claim falls afoul of various consumer protection and SEC laws, so it seems very unlikely that they would be foolish enough to do that. Note also that nothing in the PATRIOT Act, nor in the previous legislation that created NSLs gives the government any power to force corporations to lie, only to keep quiet, nor does anything in those laws exempt companies from being prosecuted for lying if they chose to do so.

Comment Re:Anyone... (Score 1) 105

OTOH, the whole point of a smart speaker is to listen and snoop.

Either this is nonsense, or the makers of smart speakers are blatantly -- and criminally -- lying to consumers, engaging in fraudulent advertising, probably violating SEC regulations on truthful disclosure to investors, and perhaps breaking other laws as well.

Also, if they were blatantly lying in this way, it would be fairly easy to tell by monitoring the device's network traffic. In fact, no one has found any evidence that any of the devices, from any manufacturer, send audio data back to the servers except when triggered by their hotword. In the case of Google's devices, you can also go to a web site (or use the phone app) to see and play back every piece of audio that was sent to Google by the device. This is how the defect with the Google Home Minis was discovered (there's a button on top that was intended to allow command-triggering by touching the device rather than using the hotword; the button was often triggering when not touched).

Skepticism and scrutiny of corporate claims is a good idea. But assuming blatant lying about something that (a) is easily checkable and (b) would get the companies in big trouble as well as generate massive negative PR is just silly paranoia.

Comment Re:Another step (Score 1) 72

Neither, you put them in the data set with equal rank and then in the UI pick a random ordering for each client.

Neither? Really? You'd honestly prefer to have a 50% chance of having to wait longer to get your information?

Frankly, I don't believe you.

What about other characteristics of bad sites? They can be slow, ugly, spammy, malware-laden... there are quite a number of quality factors other than content relevance. Obviously relevance is the most important characteristic (well, except for malware), but once that bar has been met, there are still better and worse sites. Google has long taken into account a wide variety of factors (including speed... note that they've been including speed in their rankings for desktop searches for years) in deciding how to rank search results, because offering users higher-quality results provides a better user experience.

On mobile, I suspect that they've been weighting total page and resource size rather heavily for years, since minimizing size uses less expensive mobile data. Is that something else you think they shouldn't consider in result rankings?

Comment Re:So I have to walk out and not have it at the do (Score 1) 207

What does pizza cost in the US? 10 bucks cheaper would mean you get money if you order a pizza here...

Including delivery?

I just went to Domino's.com and created an order to check. The delivery charge for my mom's house (there's no pizza delivery service to my house; my area is too rural, but my mom is 30 miles away, so a reasonable proxy), is $2.50. Plus a tip, of course. Assuming two medium cheese pizzas ($12.99 each), four bottles of Coke and an order of bread twists with dipping sauce, plus delivery fee, the total is $45.09, so that's about a $7 for a tip.

Assuming the delivery surcharge of $2.50 stays the same, the main savings would be the tip. So, in this case, $7.

I don't know where you live, but if tipping is not the norm in your location, then the delivery charge will almost certainly be higher (adjusting for currency and cost of living), because $2.50 is unlikely to be enough to pay for the driver's time, unless the store is very close to your house.

What it boils down to is that unless labor is extremely cheap in your area, the bulk of the cost of delivery will be labor, not vehicle wear and tear or fuel. And whatever that labor amount is, eliminating the human reduces the delivery cost by about that much. In the US, labor costs are high enough that the savings is non-trivial.

Comment Re:Doubt it - desperate people power food delivery (Score 1) 207

I agree with you - back in the early 80's, while in college I worked at a Godfathers Pizza. We delivered and used company cars. (Chevy Citations, if remember).

What you're talking about isn't a difference between the 80s and now, but a difference between pizza places. Godfather's still uses company cars.

Comment Re:So I have to walk out and not have it at the do (Score 1) 207

I think the logic is rather that if I ask for delivery, I want delivery. If Domino's does not provide this, I'll order from someone else who does.

What if Domino's is $5 cheaper, but you have to walk to the curb? Or $10?

If delivery to the door means having to pay a driver, that cost will be reflected in the price. You can choose to pay it if you want, and if you can find a pizza place that will do it. I suspect that the vast majority will choose the lower price and walk to the curb, so there will soon be no stores that provide delivery to the door. Well, until they put a robot in the car that will walk / wheel / fly it to the door for you.

Comment There are optimal tax rates, here's why it's obvio (Score 4, Informative) 260

Obviously, a zero percent income tax rate will result in zero income tax revenue. Just as obviously, a 100% tax rate (the government takes your ENTIRE paycheck) will result in roughly zero tax revenue - most people won't work a job if they don't get to take home a paycheck. Also companies wouldn't have any reason to.pay more than minimum wage - employees don't demand more because they don't get any of it anyway.

So we can see that tax rates too low result in little or no revenue, and we can see that tax rates too high result in little or no revenue. That's obvious even without understanding the basics of economics, without even knowing the difference between microeconomics and macroeconomics, for example.

If the current tax rate is 80%, that hurts revenue and reducing the tax rate to 70% will increase revenue. If it's at 2%, increasing the rate to 10% will increase revenue. So what we can see, without even reading Chapter 1 of Economics 101 is that anyone who says "increasing tax rates increases revenue" is an idiot, and anyone who says "decreasing tax rates increases revenue" is similarly clueless. There is an optimal rate, not near 100% and not near 0%, that maximizes revenue. Raising rates above the optimal rate hurts revenue, reducing them below the optimal rate reduces revenue.

Also, complex tax laws create "compliance costs". Small businesses file taxes about sixteen times per year - quarterly federal returns, quarterly sales tax returns, quarterly unemployment tax returns, annual business personal property tax returns, etc. There is a real cost to all that, even of the business only owes $1, that's a lot of tax paperwork. (I've filed returns for 12 cents before - the cost / time to fill them out was much greater than 12 cents, so the current situation is a significant net loss for the economy.)

Corporate tax rates follow the same reasoning. If you taxed them at 100%, nobody would invest their savings into starting or growing any companies, since they can't make money. The economy would come to a halt and there would be no revenue (and nearly 100% unemployment). On the other hand, with a 0% corporate tax, you have no revenue from corporate taxes, but higher savings and investment, much better returns from your 401k, lower unemployment, higher wages, etc. So again there is an optimum rate. Too high hurts revenue, and too low hurts revenue. Too high also hurts a lot of other things. Fortunately, corporate taxes have been around for many years, many different rates in many different countries, so economists and policy makers can see how each worked. Based on the data, most countries optimize their revenue by setting corporate tax rates at about half of what the US has had. A few countries have tried very high corporate tax rates. A corporate tax rate of nearly 100%, where the government takes all the profits, is called communism. The USSR tried that. China tried that for a while and reversed course before they ended up like the USSR.

Comment Re:I set myself up for 2GB a month. (Score 2) 58

I'm a slightly heavier user; I usually use a little under my nominal 4 GB per month. However, with this change, I'm pretty much just going to stop caring about my data usage, which will probably lead me to use 10-12 GB per month. They'll get a little more money from me, I'll get a lot more data from them. Works for me.

Comment Re:EDM? Maybe 15 years ago (Score 1) 475

Proclivities, sure, to listen to new music|artists that don't suck. There's certainly enough of it.

I've never listened to the bolded artists, as very little rap interested me at any stage of my life.

Most folks stop listening to new music well before middle age. I suppose it's a fine balance between trying to find new music and listening to music one already knows the patterns of.

Comment Re:They are paying the taxes, that is the point (Score 1) 161

and is in line with other countries You know what other countries do as well? They have low corporate tax rates and high personal tax rates.

And they don't tax overseas earnings at all.

If we're going to go "in line with other countries", it only seems right to go whole hog and crank up the personal tax rates as well.

I agree with that. We should abolish corporate taxes entirely and instead fund the government with individual taxes -- including a healthy capital gains tax rate. The reason is that corporations never actually pay taxes anyway; the money always comes from some mixture of investors, employees and customers. Better to tax those people directly rather than trying to hide it by pretending to tax the corporation. Then the legislature can make sure that the tax burden is allocated the way public policy wants, rather than the way corporate execs decide, too.

Comment Re:I guess I'll stop... (Score 1) 133

Making repair and electronic instructional videos on youtube ;).

Out of curiosity, did you start doing it before or after YouTube started doing advertising? And if after, was making money your original goal, or did you do it for fun?

People get funny when money is involved. I suspect that a fair number of small-time YouTubers started doing it as a hobby... and would have been happy to continue doing it that way without any pay, just the fun of making the videos and knowing that people are watching them. BUT the instant they started making any money, even a pittance, the game changed, the expectations and the goals changed. Originally, it was cool that they could upload videos to the whole world -- for free! But now, take those ads away and the same people who were happy to make videos for nothing but the enjoyment of it are angry that YouTube is "exploiting" them. In spite of the fact that if YouTube doesn't show any ads, YouTube isn't making any money either, and is still offering unlimited free hosting and serving.

Some open source projects have found this out, too. Prolific contributors do such a great job that the community decides to throw a little cash their way as a token of appreciation. The contributor is duly grateful for a while, but now has different expectations and goals... and when additional cash isn't regularly forthcoming, in increasing amounts, gets angry and ceases contributing.

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