Tag: Privacy

In Montana, Nudity Can Bring You a Life Sentence

I’m not making this up. You can’t make up this kind of stuff.

A story came across my Inbox this morning about a Montana legislator who introduced a bill extending the definition of “indecent exposure” in his state to encompass yoga pants. Rep. David Moore, a Republican (I know; redundant, right?) David Moore introduced the bill, which a committee of the legislature immediately tabled among much chuckling. Moore, however, was undaunted. He allowed as how he wouldn’t be opposed to arresting people for “wearing such provocative clothing such as tight-fitting beige garments.”

As strange as I found that account, I was stunned by the closing sentence on the AP wire story on the incident. “Currently, a person convicted of indecent exposure three times in Montana can be sentenced to life in jail and up to $10,000.”

See? Not all of the backward thinking in this country takes place south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Big Sky Country can get into the act as well.


Is the Fourth Amendment Dead on the Net? Is Expectation of Privacy “Reasonable”?

The Fourth Amendment only protects you against searches that violate your reasonable expectation of privacy. A reasonable expectation of privacy exists if 1) you actually expect privacy, and 2) your expectation is one that society as a whole would think is legitimate.

So says the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the Web page on its site discussing the Surveillance Self-Defense Project. That’s an accurate summary of the law as it’s been interpreted over the years by the courts in the United States. Famously, e.g., courts have ruled that prison inmates have no reasonable expectation of privacy; they should assume they are under constant surveillance.

So the question that arises for me is whether anyone in the world today has a “reasonable” expectation of privacy in Internet communications. And I sadly conclude that, as much as we might like to claim it and as hard as we’d fight for it if it weren’t too late, it is in fact too late. This means that any communication you have that involves the Internet, however seemingly tangentially, should be governed by the principle that if you don’t want everyone to know about it and see it, don’t do it on the Net.

I am expecting that conservative courts — and this regrettably includes a highly partisan Supreme Court — will soon begin chipping away at the expectation of privacy that many us pretend we have as they conclude that such expectation does not meet the reasonable clause of the freedom as understood by those courts.

And then all hell will break loose.


Hackers As the Immune System of the Internet

I just watched this Ted Talk about the hacker culture and found it quite interesting. No new information, really, but a perspective on hacking that I have not heard so well presented before.

The speaker, Karen Elazari, is an Israeli who was (and may still be) part of the hacker community for years, so her perspective isn’t objective and she doesn’t claim to be. But she does a good job of pointing out both the good that hackers can do and the dynamic tension that will exist between them and what she characterizes as “over-reaching governments and data-hording corporatists” so long as the latter view the former only as the bad guys. And, as Ms. Elazari proves, gals.

EU Ruling on “Right to Be Forgotten” is Insane and Naive

European Union Logo

European Union Logo

The whole Internet is on fire today over a European Union court ruling that search engines must respond to individual complaints about inaccurate and irrelevant data that can be found when searching for a particular individual online. I’m not sure why I think adding my tiny voice to the din will do any good. But even if it’s just cathartic, here goes.

This ruling is even dumber than most of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings about voting rights and free speech in the past few years. It is naive and insane.

First, it’s absolutely impractical and unenforceable. It will lead to a glut of tiny civil suits where people bitch about Google search results finding and displaying an old or embarrassing photograph of someone.

Second, the ruling goes after the wrong outlet. It’s the publisher of the source material, not the search engine that in the normal course of operations happens to find it, that is the offending party here. (And all too often that’s going to turn out to be the individual who’s bitching. Can you say Facebook?)

Third — and this s perhaps the most important here — the whole idea of a “right to be forgotten” is so stupid as to not bear up any real scrutiny. As many have pointed out, the mere fact that some bit of data isn’t found by Google doesn’t mean it’s “forgotten”. People who have stuff they want forgotten need to pursue the sites where the data is hosted, not the innocent search engine.

This whole thing is akin to a reporter being sued for reporting a true fact about the subject of a story that the subject finds irrelevant or embarrassing.

Intelligent, aware, educated Europeans must be cringing this morning at the idiocy of these judges.

Surely Google will appeal, fight, and hold this action up in court for as long as its reserves hold out.

Gen. Hayden Reveals Classical Fascism in Government-Industry Connections

Journalist Peter Sussman — one of the few laboring in that profession who remains worthy of the title — pointed out in an email to his followers today that there is “more than a whiff of classical fascism” in the tight working relationships between the American military and intellilgence communities and aerospace and telecommunications companies.

Quoting from a PBS NewsHour interview that included retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former top spy in the United States, Sussman brings out a telling comment that would be scary if we weren’t all pretty much aware of the fascism that has been nurtured in Washington for the past 20+ years.

Hayden said:

The American Air Force is the military expression of the American aviation industry, right? The American signals intelligence enterprise, American cyber-security are the espionage and military expressions of the American telecommunications and computer industry. I mean, these two things are wed. And if for one reason or another these are separated, American security is harmed and American commerce is equally harmed.

Say what? The economic interests of American security and American commerce are inextricably linked and completely interdependent? Is that the way our society is supposed to work? I think not.

I guess what I find shocking isn’t that this observation is accurate, but rather that a man of Gen. Hayden’s reputation and experience would utter such a clear statement of the fact and never bat an eyelash. Like it’s common knowledge and furthermore no big deal.

Well, my friends, it is a big deal; a very big damned deal. And this New American Order has been building under Presidents and Congresses of both parties for a long time. It’s almost certainly too late to undo the damage. But perhaps it’s not too late to reverse the course of history.

The upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections loom larger and larger as we see more and more of the slimy underbelly of our political system and how very little distance on important transcendent issues there is between the two political parties.

More on that subject later.


Let Any Twitter Follower Send You a DM? Someone’s Eating Stupid Pills


Courtesy of The WEEK

Twitter announced a new policy today that allows you to agree to let anyone who is following you send you a Direct Message (DM), whether or not you’ve followed them. Good thing it’s opt-in because I expect damn few people to check that little box. But this could signal the top of a slippery slope.

Until now, only people you followed could send you a DM. Your followers whom you have not chosen to follow have no way to reach you directly.

But with the new policy, there is a checkbox in your user settings that, when checked, allows any follower to DM you.

Don’t check the box! If nobody takes advantage of this new “feature” maybe it will fall into the dustbin of terrible ideas Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have tried to use to monetize their platforms at the expense of their users/members.


Stupid Idea of the Week: Yahoo Recycles Email Addresses

Two steps forward, three back.

Just as ex-Google exec Marisa Mayer gets Yahoo headed in what looks like a positive direction, her company pulls a boneheaded move worthy of our Congress.

The company has begun (or continued…it’s not clear which) a policy of recycling email addresses that have been inactive for a year or more. “Recycled” as in “made available to someone other than the original account holder.”

This has resulted in some significant privacy breaches and issues. Private, even intimate data, about former Yahoo email users is showing up in the records of the new account holders. This despite Yahoo’s claims that it is taking extreme precautions to avoid such problems.

Here’s an idea for avoiding such problems that’s guaranteed to work: stop recycling email addresses, you boobs! Yeesh. Are you afraid that someone will decide not to use your email if they can’t get the email address they want? Really? If that’s not your motive, pray tell, what is?

We used to call people who did stupid stuff “yahoos.”

Coincidence? Maybe not.


‘Stealthwear’: Aluminum Hat or Essential Privacy Tool?

In an era of ubiquitous government surveillance and drone snooping, is it a silly idea to wear clothing designed to make you invisible to such privacy intrusion?

stealthwearThat’s the question that comes up amid news that artist and design professor Adam Harvey has designed and fabricated samples of hoodies and cloaks that render their wearer essentially invisible to physical surveillance attempts. And Prof. Harvey isn’t the only one working on the concept. According to the article:

The National Institute of Informatics in Japan has developed a visor which uses light sources bordering on infrared to stop facial-recognition software from registering your features and identifying you in photographs.

Whether or not the paranoia is justified, I doubt that anyone who markets wearable technology designed to shield its wearer from unwanted electronic view will have trouble finding a market. Many years ago when I lived and worked in Silicon Valley the lore held that if you could make money selling 1,000 copies of something, you should do it because it was trivial to find that many people who would buy one of darned near anything.

This trend is one worth keeping an eye on.

If you can see it, that is.

Password, Smashword. Take a Pill or Slap on a Tattoo!

Passwords are the bane of my online existence. I’ve lost count of the number of times I get prompted for a password at a site I’ve visited multiple times a day. It seems that — probably in a misguided attempt to somehow protect me from myself — sites just sort of randomly decide it’s time to ask me to prove once again that I am who I say I am.

And there’s been a huge increase lately in the number of sites that impose ridiculous — and many cases insecure — rules for what is and isn’t acceptable in a password.

So I was more than a little interested in this piece in which a Motorola exec who is a former DARPA nerd described and demonstrated the ideas of using pills and tattoos to replace passwords as personal authentication mechanisms.

Way cool.

The pill would essentially turn your body into a conveyor of authentication data. The tattoo is a flexible circuit that uses proximity to let devices nearby know that you’re the one who is allowed to use the system.

The problem with both of these solutions that I see is that they are consumable, which means they will cost a lot of money, at least early in their deployment, and will make free access to systems a thing of the past. But I wonder: is that too high a price to pay never to have to remember or type another password? Hmmmmm.


Who’s Got Your Privacy Back? Twitter, But Not Some You’d Think

Great summary of a privacy report today over on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) site. Among the most important reveals:

Of six criteria for complete privacy protection, only Twitter and Sonic.net manage a perfect score. Dropbox, Google, LinkedIn and SpiderOak (a Dropbox competitor) manage five out of six. (I’m going to see if I can help the first three in that list see the light because I use them a lot.)

But here are the losers who get zero or one star in the evaluations:

  • Apple
  • AT&T
  • MySpace
  • Verizon
  • Yahoo!

That is pathetic. Apple? Come on, Cupertino! Smarten up.