Tweet all that you can tweet – U.S. Army Social Media Guide Updated

The U.S. Army recently released the second version of its Social Media guide. The revised Army guide sits alongside the previously released Navy Command Social Media Handbook providing a very useful summary of best practices for the adoption of social media for business (and even personal use). Both documents are hosted and available through Slideshare.

While the general public may not need the reminder about the Uniform Code of Military Justice, many sections are highly relevant to individuals and business organizations. Checklists for operations are helpful reminders. Admonitions to” mix it up,” to “balance ‘fun’ with ‘medicine,'” and to measure its impact are quite important.

Nearly as interesting is the discussion on branding. The Guide explains the brand behind “Staying Army Strong” and the various color and style guides. Again, most small business would be well advised to have such a clear statement of their brand strategy for their employees and the public.

A related website, the DoD Social Media Hub provides a wealth of resources on education, training and laws related to social media, informatics, cyber defense and many of the various military policies. As with the social media guidelines, the other DoD policies provide excellent resources to begin developing a company’s own policies – as well as understanding what our government is engaging in at the moment. In particular, the Education  & Training page plays host to many helpful resources. (For example, everyone should double check the NSA summary on protecting home networks.) The Web and Internet-based Capabilities (IbC) Policies is another useful source.

And of course, as government-authored documents, all the materials actually created by the U.S. government are in the public domain. So use and reuse, and be all you can … you get it.


Lessons on Innovation – Schooling TV by Google

This week is the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International TV Festival 2011. As Informed Edinburgh explained, “The festival attracts a who’s who of the television industry, with over 2000 attendees, ranging from controllers, directors, and producers, to new media companies and distributors.” A major event for UK media, it has a sliver of U.S. interest generated from its keynote speaker – Google’s Eric Schmidt.

Interloper Schmidt did not disappoint, though his reception and impact were viewed quite differently by The Guardian – which found he did not understand UK’s media issues – and DigitalMediaWire – which found him prescient.

The speech and Q&A sessions reflected the gulf that separates U.S. from U.K. and the regulated television industry from the largely open Internet content business. As Schmidt commented, “Regulation has always favoured the regulated and at some level always shuts off new opportunities.” He rejected the notion that regulation to keep a multitude of voices serves a valuable social purpose. Instead he sees the competition being fierce and victory essential. “History shows that in the face of new technology, those who adapt their business models don’t just survive, they prosper. Technology advances, and no laws can preserve markets that have been passed by.”

The debate started at the festival is an important one. Schmidt is probably correct regarding the impact on disruptive innovation and the failure of lagging regulation to stop change. But the social value of media diversity is independent of efficiency. It begs a question whether society would be better with three or four search engines rather than only Google; meaningful networks to provide settings missing from Facebook; or television content that did not come from only four studios. The U.S. values efficiency so oligopolies and monopolies inevitably develop. The U.K. values media diversity so the industry is less efficient and faces challenges competing with the U.S.

Schmidt did his job well. This is a very important discussion for industry and government. The values – as well as the consequences – need to be better understood. And we can watch it live on the Internet.

17,000 Counterfeit Items Collected in Minnesota Sweep – A Drop added to the Bucket

The Minneapolis Star and Tribune reported this morning that “in a five-day Twin Cities sweep, federal agents seize 17,000 counterfeit items, everything from faux football jerseys to charade Chanel perfume.” In its feature story, “Fake goods, stolen secrets cost Minnesota businesses billionsJim Spencer identified attacks against companies such as Valspar through industrial espionage of its trade secrets.

The sweep of the goods – and the sheer size of the raid – helps make real what is more often considered an amorphous or even humorous risk. Last month shoppers in China identified a number of counterfeit Apple stores. The ability to create entire stores selling counterfeit goods seems inconceivable, but the public becomes inurned to the fake DVDs sold on street corners and millions illegal of MP3 and DVD downloads.

But in a time of job loss and economic upheaval, the undermining of the U.S. innovation economy remains a serious threat. As the Star Tribune reported:

David Yen Lee, a technical director at Valspar, got caught trying to steal $20 million worth of chemical formulas to give to a Chinese company in exchange for a high-ranking job. Lee got 15 months in jail.

The bust of a group led by a Minnesotan named Charles Thompson led to the arrests of eight people accused of selling $500,000 worth of counterfeit items, said Mike Feinberg, a Minnesota-based agent with ICE. The suspects pleaded guilty and got probation.

Moreover, because the risks of apprehension are low and the consequences tend to result in short jail terms, organized crime realizes this is a very economically efficient market to exploit.

At the same time, however, economic efficiency and rationality must drive the enforcement actions. Congress is quick to draft new laws rather than fund enforcement of laws already perfectly appropriate to stop the illegal conduct. Moreover, the enforcement should be focused on the legitimate industry threats. Like the recent raid, the emphasis must be directed at large scale criminal conduct. Only once the antipiracy efforts become focused on major players (rather than college students and single mothers) and proper resources are invested in defense of these assets can the problem be addressed.

The Present State of Human Tracking

The Washington Post recently ran an interesting story regarding the reality of human tracking. According to the story, near field communications chips (such as RFID) are being implanted subcutaneously to enable those at risk of kidnapping to be more readily recovered.

The Post article points out, however, that such technologies have ranges from a few feet to a few hundred meters – and the latter require significant power. Nonetheless, in Mexico this has become big business. Xega’s VIP Localización satelital de personas provides some of the leading products in the field.

“Unfortunately, it’s been good for business but bad for the country,” said Xega executive Diego Kuri, referring to the kidnappings. “Thirty percent of our clients arrive after someone in their family has already experienced a kidnapping,” added Kuri, interviewed at the company’s heavily fortified offices, opposite a tire shop in this industrial city 120 miles north of Mexico’s capital.

Xega calls it the VIP package. For $2,000 upfront and annual fees of $2,000, the company provides clients with a subdermal radio-frequency identification chip (RFID), essentially a small antenna in a tiny glass tube. The chip, inserted into the fatty tissue of the arm between the shoulder and elbow, is less than half an inch long and about as wide as a strand of boiled spaghetti.

– Washington Post

The implant might be able to be read by a nearby receiver but it could not broadcast directly to a cell tower. From the website, however, the description of the service suggests that help can arrive at the touch of a button – suggesting that the subcutaneous implant is not the emergency device – though it could be used if the primary device fails and a body needs to be later identified.

Emergency devices, of course, are used not just for kidnapping but also for seniors and those who live alone. Some are little more than pre-programmed phone handsets designed to be worn on pendants. Life Alert has a mobile system but it is a cell phone service not a button or self-operating device. More sophisticated devices include cellular phone wrist-bands that have GPS and Cell phone data, such as the Laipac watch device. The equipment knows when it has been removed from the user’s wrist, pre-defined safety zones and voice-over features.

The Washington Post implies there is a great deal of over-selling, if not fraud, being perpetrated using fear to grow the market. Certainly tracking devices the size of hair strands or grains of rice cannot call 911 or interact with global tracking satellites – but other devices can and do.

Whether the use of these devices is good or bad depends on the risks being managed. But the field is changing and fear is a powerful motivator.

The Compression of the Legal Profession

Lost in the fanfare of Google’s acquisition of Motorola, the announcement last week that Google has taken a financial stake in Rocket Lawyer serves to highlight one of the more important but frequently ignored transition of the legal profession – the erosion of general practice, preventive lawyering.

Along with Legal Zoom, Nolo and Quicken, Rocket Lawyer provides legal forms and simplified legal advice. For $19.95, a customer receives the form and the ability to speak to an attorney conversant with the legal issue. Depending on the complexity of the legal issue involved, the use of forms may provide a high degree of value and service that is good enough. Since the forms will not be challenged unless a controversy arises, most customers will never even know if the quality is sufficient. This is equally true, of course, of professional assistance conducted face-to-face by a local attorney.

The form-based commoditization of legal services likely has a far greater impact on the profession than out-sourcing. Few attorneys, if any, can compete with $19.95 to draft a contract. The technology will satisfy most. The problem, of course, is that those who need special assistance may not be aware of it. Like inaccurate driving directions or formula errors in spreadsheets, the technology will not flag its own mistakes.

For the profession the challenge is more significant. The work traditionally available to solo practitioners and small firms is disappearing, putting even greater pressure on the lawyers and law schools. As hourly rates climbed, the profession priced local service out of the reach for middle-class America. Technology has responded. The practice will never be the same.

(The notion of disruptive innovation is one I’ll be emphasizing frequently this fall as I embark on a new article regarding the law and management of disruptive innovation.)

The Facebook Contacts Kerfuffle – The Immediacy of Privacy

The blogosphere has been atwitter regarding the revelation that the Facebook mobile app can scrape contact information and post this to your Facebook page. But Digital Media Wire summed the controversy up best – “Fine, except that this news wasn’t hidden or nefarious. It wasn’t even news.” This is a feature that has existed for four years.

Facebook responded with a post trying to reduce the public frustration. “The phone numbers listed there were either added by your friends themselves and made visible to you, or you have previously synced your phone contacts with Facebook.”

Responses to the post reflect a good deal of continued frustration that the mobile app pulls phone number data. The user sets the privacy data, of course, and according to Facebook these numbers are not re-published as a list.

This means that the contact list is shown only to the Facebook account holder, not published generally. It is the people who don’t restrict their personal information that are having the information distributed – and the contact list on their friends’ sites is the least of their worries.

Part of the confusion is that those friends who leave their contact information public are now appearing in the Facebook Contacts directory without being invited in. Another concern is that to disable the feature, a user must both remove the mobile contacts from Facebook and from the Facebook Contacts page.

A four-year-old feature become new again as the adoption of mobile apps changes the scale of use and the population of users. So the feature may be old; but the concerns are very modern.

The Blackberry Effect

For the past four days, riots in Britian have shaken the country. Reports emphasize that the RIM Blackberry is the technology preferred for the spread of information regarding the attacks.

According to the NPR Marketplace Tech report, “the Guardian originally was “monitoring chat about the riots on Blackberry’s BBM messaging service and posting newsworthy posts that it sees. But the paper now says it’s going to stop publishing messages that anticipate violence.”

The riots have created a number of legal challenges. RIM may be called on to retain the information being communicated on its servers. Some analysts are musing over RIM’s ability to voluntarily provide this data to governmental officials, but such voluntary action is not likely under E.U. privacy directives. Government compulsion is another matter. RIM may find itself obligated to provide the data.

But RIM is not alone. The controversial Google face recognition software — and similar technologies privately available — may be used to identify the rioters for later prosecution. Similar questions have arisen in Vancouver after the looting triggered following Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Tech Crunch has reported about a recently launched Google Group,  “London Riots Facial Recognition.”  “The group’s goal is to use facial recognition technologies to identify the looters who appear in online photos.” Others are using Facebook tools to farm similar information.

The riots and the public response put notions on privacy to a new test. Some of these tools are owned by governmental agencies. Others, however, are part of the social media environment and are being used by private citizens. The riots represent senseless violence and most appears divorced from any political action. Still, the notion that one’s public photographs can be used by fellow citizens to inform the police of criminal activity echoes of more insidious government enforcement.

The combination of messaging data and facial recognition software may combine to change the relationship between police and criminals. So long as this doesn’t change the relationship between the public and the state, that might be reasonable. But the difference may beg the question.