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  • May 11th, 2017 @ 12:55pm

    Green Party

    According to the article, this action is being driven by Austria’s Green party, which Wikipedia says “is a member of the European Green Party and Global Greens.”

    The Austrian Greens will, I suppose, listen to their Austrian supporters; the other two organizations should denounce this action immediately.

    If Green Parties condone this sort of thing—and I think, and hope, they do not—goodbye, Greens.

  • Dec 28th, 2016 @ 2:54pm

    Listening systems

    with the listening systems we have we knew that we had gone too far

    Would that be your systems for listening to your users, or for listening in on your users?

  • Nov 3rd, 2016 @ 12:20am

    Re: If you live in that area...

    My thought as well. If there is a way to do it without running afoul of the law, a community group in the affected area could set up a way of easily making donations that can be clearly counted to show that the community is willing to pay enough to maintain the service, even when they aren’t forced to do so.

    Wouldn’t that be a kick in the teeth to TWC and friends.

  • Oct 30th, 2016 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Dubious solution to the wrong problems

    If it’s that subtle, then it’s not a very big problem.

    The big problems (in my opinion) are when information is taken from one context and used in an entirely different one. When your old Facebook posts get scrutinized by an employer. When email you sent to your girlfriend winds up in the hands of your vice principal. When the government is pasting together the history of calls to and from your cellphone and drawing conclusions.

    If Google manipulates search results, I can compensate, or stop using them. If Facebook starts promoting some posts and burying others based on a political agenda, I can compensate, or stop using them. If I want to be confident they’re not subtly skewing my perception of reality... I have to do the same thing I have to do anyway, use multiple sources of information and think for myself. Every source of information subtly skews your perception of reality, whether or not they’re explicity paid to do so.

  • Oct 30th, 2016 @ 10:51am

    John Gilmore, 25 years ago

    “I want a guarantee -- with physics and mathematics, not with laws -- that we can give ourselves things like real privacy of personal communications.” — John Gilmore, March 28, 1991

    From the same talk:

    We also need real control of identification. We need the option to be anonymous while exercising all of these other rights. So that even with our photos, our fingerprints and our DNA profile, they can't link our communication and trade and financial activities to our individual person.

    Now I'm not talking about lack of accountability here, at all. We must be accountable to the people we communicate with. We must be accountable to the people we trade with. And the technology must be built to enforce that. But we must not be accountable to THE PUBLIC for who we talk to, or who we buy and sell from.

    Gilmore had the right idea, 25 years ago. The keys to privacy are strong encryption and accountable anonymity. We have the encryption, but it’s still not automatic, so that even non-geeks and people who don’t realize they need it (until it’s too late) would be using it. Aside from Bitcoin, I don’t see much progress at all on accountable anonymity.

  • Oct 29th, 2016 @ 12:09am

    Dubious solution to the wrong problems

    This strikes me as a solution in search of a problem.

    Google Maps shouldn't recommend a drive past an IHOP as the "best route" on your way to a meeting from an airport simply because IHOP gave it $20.

    People will switch from Google to another map provider if it starts making recommendations that are not best for its users.

    Outside of government snooping and tinfoil hat scenarios, what privacy (as opposed to security) breaches of practical concern would be addressed by this “grand bargain”?

    Do I really care if a few advertisers learn more about me? I’ll ignore them (or ad-block them) just the same either way.

    The entities that really might use my information against me probably wouldn’t be bound by the “grand bargain” anyway. Even if they were, the notion of “against our interests” is far too vague. Fiduciaries under current law have rights and responsibilities derived from a long history of tradition and litigation. To what custom would we refer to determine the standards these new “information fiduciaries” are expected to meet?

    I would say, for example, that employers should not be able to use information from web or social media searches in hiring or promotion decisions except under limited circumstances and with the applicant’s voluntary, unprompted consent. (That is, if you think your Facebook record is a plus, you can offer it for consideration; but they can’t look it up if you don’t offer, and not offering can’t be used against you.) The logic of this is that freedom of expression is a fundamental right, and shouldn’t be constrained by fears that a future employer might judge you for expressions that occurred outside the workplace.

    I don’t see how the “grand bargain” would do anything about that or similar problems. These would have to be addressed by specific laws covering specific situations in which potential users of information must respect our privacy.

    Restraints on government snooping don’t belong in a “grand bargain” with information repositories; they should apply to the government, always, regardless of the information source.

    As for security... Best practices in security evolve constantly. If it’s not already this way, a law that specifies or clarifies that in lawsuits, information retainers should generally be assumed to have exercised reasonable and prudent care if their systems are current with accepted best practices in security, and to have failed to exercise reasonable and prudent care if they are not, would seem to be all that’s needed to put liability in the correct place.

    The other major security fix, of course, would be to once and for all figure out how to make end-to-end encryption for all one-to-one (or one to any explicitly enumerated list) communication simple, convenient and automatic for everyone, even people who don’t understand what it is or why they might need it. If I send email to my friend, only she should be able to read it, even though she has no idea what encryption is—she just thinks her email account has a password, like it always did. If I send a private message on Facebook, only the recipient should be able to read it—Facebook should have no way of knowing what it said. When Bobby sends Sally a dick pic... you get the idea. The challenge is how to retrofit this so it “just works” without people having to change the way they use familiar services.

  • Oct 12th, 2016 @ 11:20pm

    The people, not the courts

    There is room for argument. It is hardly obvious that this is fair.

    However, the court’s decision doesn’t say that it is fair. It says that it is not so obviously and fundamentally unfair that it would be proper to override the decisions of democratically-elected municipal governments acting on behalf of the citizens of Milwaukee and Chicago. Neither has it said that those cities cannot implement regulations that create greater parity between novel and traditional providers, if they can be convinced to do so.

    All this says is that the fairness argument has to be made to the people of these cities, and their representatives; the decision lies with them, not the courts.

  • Oct 12th, 2016 @ 10:57pm

    Strategic error

    These cab companies made a strategic error. They simply need to incorporate in a suitable other nation; then they can bring an Investor State Dispute Settlement complaint for deprivation of profits.

  • Dec 12th, 2015 @ 12:09am

    Re: Re: Re: I have to wonder where this is going...

    Thank you for the post-quantum cryptography link. I see they’re way ahead of me.

  • Dec 10th, 2015 @ 11:21pm

    I have to wonder where this is going...

    This could be just dystopian fantasy, but somehow I suspect that one of the kinds of problems quantum computing will be set to solve will be cracking encryption that is presently computationally unfeasible to break.

    Possibly we’re seeing the first steps toward what will be the end of privacy and security based on mathematics.

  • Mar 6th, 2015 @ 4:12pm

    Market Discipline

    It’s not the “zero rating” that’s the problem; it’s the data caps and over-quota charges—which, as Techdirt often notes, are in turn just symptoms of lack of competition.

    When you can’t treat the disease, it often makes sense to treat the symptoms... but you still want to get as close to the problem as possible.

    Imagine that there were perfect competition among broadband providers. Data caps and over-quota charges, if they existed at all, would have to reflect real operating costs. “Zero rating” would then represent shifting some of those costs from the consumer to the service (for which the consumer also pays in some fashion). Large, established content providers might then be able to avail themselves of some business models not available to small independents... but that’s always the case.

    What makes this a problem is that there is no competition to constrain the use of data caps and over-quota charges. The FCC shouldn’t bother with zero rating; it should require last mile providers to demonstrate that consumer-facing impediments like data caps and over-quota charges reflect real costs of doing business, and do so in the fairest and least disruptive feasible way. Where market discipline is absent, effective regulation must stand in for it.

  • Mar 2nd, 2015 @ 11:03am

    Deeper Problem

    Both apps will notify other app users within a defined area if someone has activated their app, with the exact location of the police action. This may result in officer safety issues if community groups are able to pinpoint various police actions, and respond to the location in the form of a flash mob.
    I.e., If the community were to know where we are and what we’re doing, they might join forces and attack us.

    Have police become so accustomed to thinking of themselves as an occupying force—rather than as community servants—that they don’t even see the problem with that?

  • Feb 21st, 2015 @ 5:01pm

    Actions speak louder than words

    Dear Lenovo,

    If you really regret Superfish (and not just the fact that it was discovered), I have a simple way you can demonstrate your integrity:

    As soon as possible, begin offering all of your Windows computers–every single one–with a “clean install” option that includes nothing but Windows, Windows updates and WHQL-certified drivers. Not so much as a custom desktop background image added.

    If you have software other than WHQL-certified drivers that you believe enhances the operation of the machine, make it a downloadable install, and keep it granular (e.g., don’t bundle uncertified drivers we need with apps we don’t).

    Let us see how much more you have to charge without subsidies from bloatware and adware vendors and make the decision for ourselves which is the better value.

    I think you’d win back a lot of respect... and maybe force some other OEMs to play catch-up.

  • Dec 31st, 2014 @ 9:43pm

    Pirates -> authorized viewers

    Netflix streaming costs less than a good Usenet provider, and it’s much easier to use.

    Netflix streaming costs 2.5-3 times the cost of a decent VPN that will allow one to run BitTorrent in peace... but again, it’s much easier to use.

    If the goal were to convert pirates into authorized viewers, I think even Hollywood could figure out how to do it.

    I suspect the explanation for this paradox is somehow connected to “Hollywood accounting.”

  • Sep 8th, 2014 @ 12:18pm


    “It does not matter that Ulbricht intended to conceal the IP address of the SR Server from public view. He failed to do so competently, and as a result the IP address was transmitted to another party – which turned out to be the FBI – who could lawfully take notice of it.”

    So, the next time there is a charge that someone has accessed content by circumventing digital protection measures put it place by the copyright holders... can we argue that they (obviously) failed to do so competently?

  • Aug 6th, 2014 @ 12:04pm

    Time to call Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau...

    “There was some question as to whether the beggar or his minkey was breaking the leu.”

  • Aug 4th, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Any other crime?

    Imagine any other crime, and think about whether or not you'd have someone say it was okay because there was "enormous pressure" on the people committing the crime. Imagine any other crime, and being told "not to feel too sanctimonious" because of what a "tough job" any other criminal had.

    Homicide in the course of protecting one’s home and family, where there is doubt as to whether the action was excessive, or justifiable homicide by reason of self-defense.

    America went batshit after 9/11; thirteen years later, the “normal” to which we have returned isn’t really normal at all. I’m much more concerned with ending the permanent state of emergency and devising better structures so we don’t lose our shit again the next time something unprecedented happens than I am with identifying scapegoats for a hysteria in which most of the nation was complicit.

    If our President were doing anything to put an end to the permanent state of emergency and to use the lessons of the Bush administration to develop ways to make sure we won’t lose our shit again, I’d happily accept leaving it at that.

  • Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    If they are working for re-election (what the people want) rather than doing the right thing (what people need) it gets back to the old Roman bread and circuses. What people want is a free lunch. What they need is training on how to make lunch and grow the veggies to make it. One gets you re-elected, the other makes the country better.
    That cuts to the heart of it.

    Can any form of real democracy work? (Real meaning that the idea of rule by the people is implemented seriously; as opposed to Democracy Theater, in which the object is to go through the motions of democratic process in order prop up the peasants belief in the moral authority of government, while keeping things organized so that the ignorant masses cant actually do much damage.)

    If it can, can we find a way to make it work here?

    I agree (at least, I think this is agreement) that there is a disturbing disconnect between what it takes to get elected or reelected and what it takes to do the job for which one is elected. We elect those who campaign best, not those who govern best.

    Is your argument that without the need to maintain the approval of the people, at least once their last campaign is over, elected officials would be free to ignore the foolish folks who voted for them and do the right thing, should the mood strike them? I really cant see that as being much help.

    I can see how one might argue that getting big money out of elections wouldnt do much to help either, because the problem is really with the electorate: the campaigns just reflect that. Our political dysfunction is not a superficial one that will respond to minor procedural tweaks alone.

    I dont think could be the step that makes democracy work here. I think it just might be the first step.

  • Jun 21st, 2014 @ 11:52pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    I have trouble understanding how term limits would help anything.

    Surely one of our major influence problems is the revolving door syndrome. So long as a politician can be reelected, he or she has some incentive to please voters. Term limits would assure that no elected representative could hold office long before the primary question of interest would become, What next?

  • May 12th, 2014 @ 5:46pm

    Focus on the last mile, not the Internet

    Focus on the last mile, not the Internet

    Two things (still) bother me:

    1. Everybody is worried about fast lanes. Maybe... Im concerned that no one seems to be thinking about data caps.

    Oh, your service offers unlimited access to beautiful, high definition movies that weigh in at about 4GB an hour? Well, we cap our users at 80GB/month, so if they dont do anything else on the Internet, they can watch one every three days or so before we start threatening to cancel their account. Of course, we could work out a deal where traffic from *your* service is exempt...

    Combine that with special peering arrangements, and it could look commercially reasonable.

    2. Considering what a bang-up job the FCC has done with broadcast TV, radio, etc., the idea of reclassification of broadband Internet service makes me think, Be careful what you wish for. What should be reclassified is the last mileregardless of whether its carrying cable-TV channels, video-on-demand, voice communication, Internet traffic or something we havent even invented yet. Those who operate the physical infrastructure that almost unavoidably monopolizes the best path connecting citizens in their homes to the rest of the world are a prime candidate for tough regulation; the Internet is not, and should be left the hell alone.

    If that requires forcing physical infrastructure providers to be separate from ISPs and content providers... sounds good to me.

    (However, equal access rules made DSL ISPs viable until the FCC dropped them in 2005. Resurrecting those rules and applying them to all forms of last mile connection, for all forms of data that are technologically feasible on the connection in question, might be a good start.)

    Then, forget worrying about paid prioritization or data caps (and probably a few other things we havent thought of yet). If people have a real choice (of ISPs), they can decide what works for them. Its the last mile monopoly that makes everything else a problem. The last mile can, and should, be content-agnostic.

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