James Hogg's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the how-has-it-come-to-this? dept

Greetings to all of you Techdirt readers! And thank you to Mike Masnick for allowing me the chance for a front-page post after I opportunistically jumped at the opening.

Techdirt is a dependable resource for discovering where the heat of most technology synthesis takes place. I shall be frank: skepticism, science, language, dialectical thinking and argument for the sake of argument are all grand virtues in my background. Whether you are of the thesis or the anti-thesis, it does not matter nearly as much as your thought process. I shall respect, for example, an advocate of copyright far more if he has taken the time and effort to investigate his position and come to his own non-clichéd conclusions. Far more than those who have believed in copyright solely because everyone else has.

Let us begin with one of five articles this week that caught my eye. Beginning chronologically, we start with the MacGyver-esque videos posted by Evan Booth detailing how to improvise the assembly of dangerous weapons with items collected after TSA screening. The answer he gave to the critical question about the consequences of revealing the information to the public was spot on: Islamic fascists no doubt already know this stuff and then some if Evan can so casually come across these findings himself (the better question is why fascists have not attempted this while many were unaware). The true danger, if there is to be one, lies with the public not knowing about the potential threats, never mind them being even more hindered from coming to the rather self- evident conclusion that most airport screening practices punish many and deter few. If the danger presented by these videos is so nasty, why not a) have an open discussion instead of shoving the issue under the carpet and pretending that it will solve itself, and b) give the opportunity for the TSA to ban the items in these videos as well, only to look equally ridiculous in the future.

There can be good reasons for wanting to not know something, but "ill-intentioned fanatics will find out" is not one of them. Just because you choose not to research into if you can build a nuclear bomb in the name of the survival of our species does not mean the worst totalitarian nightmares of our planet will take as kindly. You are far better off beating them to the discovery so that you can prepare to resist it accordingly. Just remember this any time you hear people claim that scientific inquiry is evil in itself, never mind common inquiry.

Next, we note the story about the malicious re-routing of internet traffic and its repercussions. If there is one ideological odor that can almost always show it to be stinking of wrong -- I am tempted to just say "always" but for the sake of avoiding absolutism I won't -- it is a utopian odor. We are unfortunately still in the premature age of the internet despite how far it has progressed, and as a result we still have a wave of cyber-utopians claiming that the internet can set you, and keep you, free on its own. But the internet, like all tools and/or weapons, does not free people. People free people, to improve on a well- known mantra. And we have to remember that technology accumulates power as well as separates it. For instance, here is one slogan you are unlikely to see as you go about your daily lives: "CCTV is in operation in this area to protect you from the police."

This traffic diversion shows exactly why all technology, even such as this sophisticated mass-communications channel, is not infallible. To still be uncertain as to how it is even happening speaks volumes in itself. The last thing you want is for dictatorships or other dodgy states to take advantage of traffic flowing through their servers for profiteering purposes or otherwise. And you certainly do not want them decrypting the NSA-backdoor-encryption for their own purposes (which they could most likely do, thanks to the NSA). Do not ever forget: just because the NSA deliberately weakens encryption for the "security" of the nation does not mean that everybody will use that tainted encryption.

Believe it or not, the large corporate tentacles of Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc do not extend everywhere on the planet. There is no reason why an Al Qaeda fascist cannot research the mathematical techniques independently and write his own encryption program that IS up to standard, and will not be crackable even if you throw millions of years of supercomputer-workload at it. David Cameron was simply being frivolous when he invoked Alan Turning for NSA expansion a few days ago. Alan Turning did not help crack the Enigma code by politely asking the Nazis to install backdoors. And he would have failed miserably had the Nazis been using uncompromised SSL. This is why you have to be ready for the real possibility that technology can turn against you. Al Qaeda, as I have said before, are not likely to be stupid. Totalitarian, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, nihilistic and religious, yes. But not stupid.

I do have hopes that this attitude will pass. Ultimately, it is a reactionary phase to the birth of the mainstream internet, and in a few decades we shall have seen enough to know that the internet has its limits when "it" fights states and corporations.

Next, we have LG having to embarrassingly look into claims that its smart TVs were picking up user data without users' consent. If I were older back in the days of the PC really proliferating, the first reaction I would have had to cameras being installed on the screens as a norm would have been "Sweet merciful CRAP... Orwell was right about THAT particular deadly nightmare?", and flipped my shit. However, we have been reasonably fortunate that what we call "telescreens" have not been under the sole control of a state. But still, for the most uncomfortable of reasons, we have been surrendering our resistance to even potential eavesdropping from "user-friendly" companies so slowly and passively: PCs, Laptops, Kinect, and now the TV on its own?

I really have to ask: how has it come to this? Why is such a monstrosity even necessary?

If I were an investigative journalist, the first thing I would look into as a result of this story is how many other companies supposedly have such glitches and manifest a great headline piece of my own. The first place I would start with is Digital Rights Management within software -- a theory that works so well to protect the unauthorized copying of data that we do not need copyright law whatsoever.

If EA will go as far to split their games in half -- one half on a PC and the other half on a server of theirs -- in order to protect their content, only to have it disproved so swiftly and so humiliatingly within days, shows that the control- freak mentality of corporations cannot be healthy, and we have every right to be suspicious in the days of mass NSA wiretapping. Do yourselves a favor: start being hostile towards built-in cameras as a first principled step if you need to take one. I do not think Cory Doctorow exaggerates when he stresses the urgency of watching out for a war on "general purpose computing."

And finally, we yet again have assaults on the rights of derivative artists with Paramount's attacks on the public domain. I would indeed like to know if there is any other property system out there that claims somebody can have ownership of property before it even exists, because I certainly do not know of it. And I also would certainly like to know why retroactive extension of copyright of ANY kind is considered democratic: either a law is valid at the time of it being in effect or it is not. We do not hold people's actions of the past under the laws of the present. That I would have thought was a very important principle. But no. It does not matter how much labor and work went into a derivative work that was ready for release for after the original's copyright expiry. All of it can be spat on and thrown away.

Then again, you can always work around the transparent nonsense of copyright and start a viral Twilight fan-fic, replace the characters at the very last moment and make tons of money. Mass scale infringement has, after all, still occurred quite profoundly in this situation, yet the answer to stopping it does not seem to come anywhere close to sane. Some others would rather pretend such a dilemma does not exist at all.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read. Enjoy your weekends!


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    when you have someone like Cameron, who is poor at his job, in a position of such great power, telling people how to do something he knows even less about than an idiot, it's time for a serious look at what the hell is going on!

     

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  2.  
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    QuietgyInTheCorner (profile), Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 3:22pm

    Built in cameras

    I remember being rather shocked when it reached the point where I couldn't get a laptop without a built in camera. It may seem a picky point, but I didn't (and still don't) want a camera that was ALWAYS available; when I want a web cam, I dig out my trusty old USB cam and plug it in. When I'm done, I unplug it.
    Initially, my response to built-in cameras was to disassemble the bezel and physically disconnect the offending hardware. These days, I simply cover it with black electrical tape - nearly invisible on the black bezel.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    FUCK COPYFRAUD!!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:52pm

    I'm drunk right now. I'm not proud of it but I am still...

    I just wanted to say, or ask rather, when is everyone going to pull their heads out of their asses and realize you are slaves/serfs because are surrounded by like-minded folks that believe these cops, governments, authorties, etc... have power over you.

    I'll ask one more time (no need to tell me because I already know): what district is washing sitting in? seriousely? what district?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:54pm

    Re:

    "washing" lol, see how drunk and foolish I am?

    I meant washington.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Built in cameras

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaphragm_(optics)

    Have you tried making a little iris our of some thin black pieces of plastic or paper?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    my point is, it doesn't matter who you put in the white house. you can't change them. things will always be screwed up until people pull their heads out of their asses.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 5:01pm

    Re:

    "pull their heads out of their asses", globally..

    forgive me for being an ass hat myself, please...

     

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  9.  
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    alan turing, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 7:05pm

    'nuff said

    ...as I said...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 7:38pm

    no one looked into what district the white house sits in yet?

    well go ahead then and look for youselfs and then realize we're screwed...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 7:47pm

    since no one will look I'll spill the beans... washington is in the district of columbia

    you are owned the monent your parents signed your "birth certificates".

    the answer to the problem? I do not know. I have an idea for you though... it's called global non compliance...

    something that will only happen long after I'm dead, if at all...

     

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  12. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 8:38pm

    Re:

    someone please prove me wrong............................................................................................... ...................................................... I hope I AM wrong............

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Re:

    to avoid confusion, i'm comments: 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 9:33pm

    I await your reply and hope someone can prove me wrong

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 9:52pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Get a hobby man, have you tried shoe making?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 10:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    nice reply, NEXT!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 10:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I have plenty of hobbies thank you very much, and make an honest living at some of them

     

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  18.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 11:49pm

    Response to: out_of_the_blue on Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    Apparently out of the blue is the new anonymous coward

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 1:46am

    Potential threats !!!!

    "The true danger, if there is to be one, lies with the public not knowing about the potential threats,"

    We ALL know already what the "potential threats" are, the issue is knowing what the ACTUAL threats are. You can probably list the 'potential threats' just as well as anyone else.

    That's easy to do, and history helps you a lot there, again the issue is not knowing the potential threats are, its the ACTUAL threats they (and we are worried about).

    If you need to know what the potential threats are, just read the news, and look at history, and consider any of those ACTUAL threats, could be 'potential threats', that is what security is about, everyone knows what the potential threats are, they work to find the actual threats from the list of potential threats to find the REAL threats.

    Think of them like "potential suspects" in a crime, they all did not commit the crime, they simply had to potential to do it.

    Or if you consider terrorism, you know what the potential threats are and you know what the actual acts of terror are, its not hard to work out from the list of potential threats what or who could be involved in actual threats.

    As I said, you can work out the potential threats just as good as anyone else, or do you need to be told them by someone else ?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 1:52am

    "Alan Turning did not help crack the Enigma code by politely asking the Nazis to install backdoors."

    No, the Bleatchly park people and the British Navy attacked a lone weather monitoring ship off the Labrador coast and seized an enigma machine, it helped a lot, all they then had to do was work out the daily cipher.

    They also DID rely greatly on "back doors" in that the Germans would sometimes send the same information in plain text and in cipher to different locations, this gave Brittan a "back door" making working out the cipher much easier.

    So yes, Turing most certainly used "back doors" and break these codes...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 2:57am

    darryl has no idea what he's talking about.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 5:52am

    Re:

    District 13, I hope.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 24th, 2013 @ 8:14am

    Re: Response to: out_of_the_blue on Nov 23rd, 2013 @ 4:07pm

    out_of_the_blue has always been a coward.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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