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  • Archive for the 'Privacy' Category

    A Fine Friday Miscellany

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th May 2016 (All posts by )

    Ah, the stupidities come so thick and fast of late. It’s like the rain here in Texas, which has been pouring down with such intensity over the last few days that all the usual low-water flood-danger locations have been – as any fool could easily predict – flooded and closed to vehicle traffic. It rained so hard on Thursday morning that for the first time in ages, we skipped walking the dogs. Looked out at the flooded street, the flooded front walkway, rain coming down sideways, and the sky so dark that it looked like twilight already; nope – not even the dogs were keen, especially Nemo the Terrier-God-Knows-What, who loathes and despises water with a wholly undoglike passion.

    But social and political stupidities – what a rich buffet was laid before us this week, even apart from the gross stupidity of deciding that the ostensible civil rights and good-will of what may be .03% of the general population – that miniscule transgender portion of it – supersedes the rights of women and girls in a public restroom/locker/changing room to be certain they are not being letched on by a perv who has twigged to the fact that if he only declares that he feels female on that particular day that no one will want to firmly escort his perverted ass out of said safe space. Yes, the Kennedy Administration vowed to put a man on the moon, the Obama Administration has put a man in the Ladies’ Room and damned if the pervy wretch isn’t insisting that he has a perfect right to be there. Progress, y’all. While the perv element may have witless friends in the form of various celebrities ostentatiously declaring that they won’t be performing in *insert the location here* because hate/failure-to-socially-advance/toleration-eleventy!! I am brought to wonder if their concerts were significantly less than sold-out, and this is a handy means of cancelling an event and putting a convenient cover over the economic failure of it all. And I am also reminded of the way that mobs came out to eat at Chick-fil-A, in response to an announced boycott because the gaystapo getting all (you should pardon the expression) butt-hurt over the Chick-Fil-A CEO mildly expressing personal support for traditional marriage.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Environment, Politics, Privacy, Society | 37 Comments »

    Who is giving Apple legal advice?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 27th February 2016 (All posts by )

    The government is asking Apple to give it the password to Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone and iCloud account. Apple is refusing to do so based on its First Amendment rights. This seems to me to be a very weak argument. Just ask Judith Miller. And there really is very little difference. Apple will have to spend $100,000 to comply and all Judith Miller needed to do was name a source. But Apple’s case involves a national security threat to each and every American whereas Judith Miller’s involved only an implausible threat to Valerie Plame who chose to garner all kinds of media attention thereafter. If there were a safe deposit box the government wanted opened, it would go to a court and get an order for the bank to drill the locks out so that the box could be removed. The bank would comply. Apple will lose.

    And if Apple does not lose, the matter will go, as its pleading requests and as it may, even if it loses, now that Apple has made such a ruckus, from the fairly rational precincts of the judiciary to the fully irrational floor of the Congress. Let’s suppose that before legislation is completed there is another domestic terror incident in the US and the terrorist used an Apple iPhone. What kind of legislation would Apple get after that? While not yet widely known, Apple has likely put a back door into every Chinese iPhone via a Chinese designed chip added to the iPhone at China’s insistence for phones sold in the PRC. If this is confirmed, Congress would go even more non-linear.

    And what other things might the government do if Apple were to prevail? Well, in the extreme it could ask GCHQ or some other foreign service to crack the iPhone in general. No device is uncrackable. It could also signal the Chinese that it would not be aggressive in pursuing IP violations by China in the case of Apple products. Apple is refusing to cooperate with its government in the first responsibility of that government, to protect its citizens. There would be consequences. Is it really good legal advice to let your client take such risks?

    Apple should have quietly cut a deal with the government that would offer its customers the maximum security and quietly complied with court orders until a truly offensive order was received. Barring that, Apple would have a far better argument saying that ordering it to break its phones would lower their value to customers, lowering Apple’s revenues, and lowering Apple’s market cap. This would constitute an uncompensated taking by the Federal government of enormous monetary value from every Apple shareholder for which Apple should be compensated.

    With existing technology, you have no privacy. Products are in development that will allow retailers to know how long you look at an item on a shelf, if you pick it up, if you return it to the shelf, how long you look at it and if you buy it. And if you wear an iWatch or other wearable, it will know how much your pulse and bp increased at each step of engagement. If you use gmail, as almost everyone seems to, Google knows the content of every email you send and receive. Who is more likely to release or resell your email, Google or the FBI? The Silicon Valley forces lining up against the government are the most probable threat to what you think is your privacy. It’s been almost 20 years since Scott McNealy said “You’ve got no privacy. Get over it.”

    Apple will be made out to be protecting the ability of terrorists to communicate in secret. We are at war with these terrorists. They will kill any of us where ever they can. Article III, section 3 of the Constitution states,”Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” That sounds a lot like what Apple is seeking to do under protection of the first amendment’s emanations and penumbras.

    Tim Cook is engaging in the same kind of magical thinking that has dominated the boomer elite and led to so many tragedies for the last 24 years. Losing wars has consequences.

    Posted in Advertising, China, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Miscellaneous, Politics, Privacy, Tech | 60 Comments »

    Your Evolving Home Network

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 6th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Our building recently upgraded to 100 MB per unit internet using “microwave fixed wireless” rather than the traditional AT&T / Verizon / fiber solution. Here and here I wrote about this incredible technology and its potential to disrupt the cable and internet industries.

    After the upgrade we were receiving screaming fast performance from wired connections but slower ping and downloads on my wireless clients. Thus I asked my friend Brian for a wireless router recommendation and he mentioned the TP Link Archer A9. I picked it up on Amazon for $129 and recently hooked it up. With all the security threats that abound, it is important that you have a modern network router and are aware of weak security points on your network, particularly some of the new “Internet of Things” devices that are proliferating nowadays.

    Routers have changed significantly over the last few years in terms of power, capabilities, and ease of use. For instance the A9 has a simple console when you sign in and you can “hover over” and see your wired and wireless connections that are currently on your network. They have a cool error page and I am just starting to dig in to the various errors that I see on the panel and will be working with my ISP to resolve them – these aren’t typical “errors” in that the internet doesn’t work, but I do believe that frequent connections and re-connections and slower link times are caused by these events.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Privacy, Tech | 7 Comments »

    In Light of This Development …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th November 2013 (All posts by )

    Covered here, at length, I am certain that New Mexico, or at the very least, the Hidalgo County PD needs a new motto. This takes ‘search and seizure to whole new levels. I’ve seen this story linked on a couple of different independent blogs, but now it goes to a whole new level of ‘WTF?’
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Diversions, Just Unbelievable, North America, Privacy, Society, That's NOT Funny, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    Obama, NSA Surveillance, and the Future of the American Information Technology Industry

    Posted by David Foster on 12th June 2013 (All posts by )

    I’m currently reading 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War, by Charles Emmerson. The book describes the social and political climates then existing not only in the major European countries, but also in other places around the world, ranging from Australia to Canada to China.

    In his description of Jerusalem–then under control of the Ottoman Empire but with a population including residents and pilgrims from many countries–the author says:

    Different countries even had their own postal services, circumventing the Ottoman telegraph service, which was widely thought to be a nest of spies reporting communications back to Constantinople.

    Fast forward 100 years….In the wake of the reports concerning NSA surveillance programs, there is widespread concern..among non-Americans as well as among citizens of this country…that the American telecommunications and information-processing services may be “a nest of spies” reporting communications back to Washington…and from there, possibly, to other shadowy recipients. These concerns may have serious economic ramifications.

    See, for example, Forbes–NSA Surveillance Threatens US Competitiveness:

    Non-US customers of any US business will immediately evaluate their exposure to these new risks and look for alternatives. European, Canadian, and Australian tech companies will profit from this. Competitors in those regions will offer alternatives that will also draw US customers away from the compromised US services.

    Washington Post–European Leaders Raise Concerns on US Surveillance

    “The German business community is on high alert,” said Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “It’s not just about listening in on some bearded guy from Ulm who bought a ticket to Afghanistan and makes conversation with his friends in Waziristan. . . . The suspicion in large parts of the business sector is that Americans would also be interested in our patent applications.”

    Popular Mechanics–Why the NSA Prism Program Could Kill US Tech Companies:

    Think for a second about just how the U.S. economy has changed in the last 40 years. While a large percentage of our economy is still based in manufacturing, some of the most ascendant U.S. companies since the 1970s have been in the information technology sector…

    Let’s say you ran a business in (Japan, India, Australia, Mexico, or Brazil)  that relied upon information services from a U.S. company. Don’t these revelations make using such a service a business liability? 

    See also Business Insider–Did Obama Just Destroy the US Internet Industry?

     

    I don’t think these revelations, even if they are fully validated, will really “kill” US tech companies or “destroy” the US Internet industry…the headlines are a bit over the top, as headlines often are. I do believe, however, that the American information technology industries will be significantly harmed, with implications for the entire US economy…something that we really cannot afford at this particular point in time.

    I think it is obvious that the US government needs to conduct anti-terrorist surveillance programs, which must encompass telecommunications networks…the idea that NSA should be abolished, as some have suggested in recent days, is to my mind very unwise. But non-Americans as well as Americans have every right to be concerned about the scope of what has apparently been going on, and the apparent lack of proper controls, and furthermore, to raise questions about how the information gathered is actually being used.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Economics & Finance, Obama, Privacy, Tech, Terrorism, War and Peace | 14 Comments »

    Security Theater

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th June 2013 (All posts by )

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin.

    “The president has put in place an organization that contains the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life. That’s going to be very, very powerful. That database will have information about everything on every individual in ways that it’s never been done before.” Rep. Maxine Waters

    Who expected that 1984 has arrived? I recall that in the actual year of 1984, a great many commenters in the political arena rejoiced that the whole Big Brother thing had not arrived, but it looks like such rejoicing was premature. Now we have the NSA collecting telephone records from Verizon wholesale for the ostensible purpose of security reasons … not so much for tracking specific suspected terrorists, but rather for data-mining … and very likely for opposition research. The revelations of the IRS stalling Tea Party groups’ applications for 501 status? Almost certainly this distracted or discouraged those groups from going all-out in last year’s election season, which I believe was the primary purpose.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Just Unbelievable, National Security, Privacy, Tea Party | 27 Comments »

    Prefiguring the Hacker…and the American Surveillance Society

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd December 2012 (All posts by )

    Perhaps the first piece of fiction to feature a computer-systems hacker is Poul Anderson’s 1953 story Sam HallPlace and date of birth. Parents. Race. Religion. Educational, military, and civilian service records…The total signal goes out over the wires. Accompanies by a thousand others, it shoots down the last cable and into the sorter unit of Central Records. The distorted molecules in a particular spool show the pattern of Citizen Blank, and this is sent back. It enters the comparison unit, to which the incoming signal corresponding to him has also been shunted. The two are perfectly in phase; nothing wrong. Citizen Blank is staying in the town where, last night, he said he would, so he has not had to file a correction.

    Thornberg has certain reservations about the totalitarian regime which is now running America, but he is not actively disloyal. His political awakening begins when Jimmy, the son of his second cousin, is arrested on suspicion of treason, and Thornberg remembers some of the forbidden history which he has read.

    The intellectuals had been fretful about the Americanization of Europe, the crumbling of old culture before the mechanized barbarism of soft drinks, hard sells, enormous chrome-plated automobiles (dollar grins, the Danes had called them), chewing gum, plastics…None of them had protested the simultaneous Europeanization of America: bloated government, unlimited armament, official nosiness, censors, secret police, chauvinism…

    In order to protect the career of his son Jack, an officer in the regime’s military…as well as his own career…Thornberg decides to alter Matilda’s records and delete any relationship with the arrested Jimmy.

    Thornberg toiled at the screens and buttons for an hour, erasing, changing. The job was tough; he had to go back several generations, altering lines of descent. But when he was finished, James Obrenowicz had no kinship whatever to the Thornbergs…He slapped the switch that returned the spool to the memory banks. With this act do I disown thee.

    Thornberg’s rising bitterness reminds him of an old English ballad:

    My name it is Sam Hall
    And I hate you one and all

    …and he uses his access to Matilda to create records for a fictional citizen by that name, a tough kid who has held a variety of unskilled jobs. Thornberg initially creates Sam Hall only as an outlet for his anger and to prove to himself that he can do it…but when a probably-innocent man is arrested for murder of a security officer…and Thornberg knows the man will be found guilty, whatever the true facts, in order to protect Security’s reputation for infallibility…he decides to establish a trail of records that will implicate the fictional Sam Hall as the murderer.

    This is the beginning of Sam Hall’s career of murder and mayhem, as Thornberg repeatedly alters records to identify his fictional citizen as the author of real crimes across the country. Sam Hall is soon promoted to Public Enemy Number One…and his exploits soon inspire a range of copycat crimes against the government, with the attackers identifying themselves as “Sam Hall.”

    The “Sam Hall” meme soon grows into a full-scale rebellion against the government. Thornberg helps things along by using his access to Matilda to spread mutual suspicion among government officials, turning the widespread distrust which is a feature of totalitarian societies against the regime itself.

    Eventually, the rebels triumph and the totalitarian regime that is ruling America is overthrown. It seems a happy ending. Thornberg looks forward to destroying Matilda (after she is used one last time on behalf of the rebels “to help us find some people rather badly want” and “to transcribe a lot of information..strictly practical facts”) and to retiring Sam Hall to “whatever Valhalla there is for great characters of fiction.”

    The story ends with the following sentence:

    Unfortunately the conclusion is rugged. Sam Hall never was satisfied.

    I wonder what on earth could possibly have reminded me of this old SF story?

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, History, Privacy, Tech, USA | 1 Comment »

    The Connecticut Massacre

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th December 2012 (All posts by )

    There is information still coming to light about this awful case. Early reports, such as the name of the shooter and the alleged murder of the father, were predictably wrong. It turns out that the shooter, named Adam Lanza, a 20 year old with a history of odd behavior and some evidence of mental illness, such as autism, was living with his mother who was his first victim. There are a number of suggestive reports, that she decided to “stay home to care for” her 20 year old son.

    The treatment of severe mental illness in this country has been altered for the worse by a movement that began in the 1960s when mental illness began to be described as a “civil rights ” issue. Several books and movies described abuse of power in commitment of the mentally ill. The first such movie was “The Snake Pit” in which a young woman is committed for what sounds like schizophrenia. The treatment of the time (1948) can be seen as barbaric but there was nothing else available. She did recover, although we know that without adequate treatment, recovery from schizophrenia is unlikely.

    The movie that really devastated the mental hospital system was called “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and starred Jack Nicholson.

    The movie was powerful in showing the Nicholson character as a guy who just is “different” and harmless.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Health Care, Privacy, Science | 31 Comments »

    The Era of the Creepy-State is Here

    Posted by Zenpundit on 6th March 2012 (All posts by )

    George Orwell was more right than he knew….

    Congress passed a law – by unanimous consent in the Senate and by a suspension of rules in the House – to permit the Federal government to arbitrarily arrest and imprison for up to ten years members of the serf class (formerly known as “American citizens”) whose presence annoys or offends specially designated members of the elite and foreign dignitaries. A list that will no doubt expand greatly in future legislation to include very “special” private citizens.

    Think about that, future “Joe the Plumbers” or Cindy Sheehans, before you ask an impertinent question of your betters or wave your handmade cardboard sign. Is ten seconds of glory on your local ABC affiliate news at 5 o’clock worth that felony arrest record and federally funded anal exam?

    No? Then kindly shut your mouth, sir. Learn your place.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Human Behavior, Law, Politics, Privacy, Society, USA | 12 Comments »

    Responding to the Energy Scolds

    Posted by David Foster on 4th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Northeast Utilities is apparently conducting some sort of “energy efficiency” campaign, which involves sending letters to customers comparing their energy use with that of their neighbors. One recipient of such a letter was Connecticut resident Linda Dwyer, who responded as follows:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Privacy | 12 Comments »

    Martyrdom, messianism and Julian Assange

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 23rd December 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Martyr and messiah are two of the more intense “roles” in the religious vocabulary, and unlike mystics and saints, both martyrs and messiahs tend to have an impact, not just within their own religious circles but in the wider context of the times.

    Martyr and messiah are also words that can be bandied about fairly loosely — so a simple word-search on “messiah” will reveal references to a third-person platform game with some gunplay and the white messiah fable in Avatar, while a search on “martyr” might tell you how to become a martyr for affiliate networks, just as a search on “crusade” will turn up crusades for justice or mental health – my search today even pointed me to a crusade for cloth diapers.

    1. Martyrdom and messianism in WikiLeaks

    Unsurprisingly, perhaps, both terms crop up occasionally in WikiLeaks, with the Government of Iraq, for instance, banning use of the word “martyr” for soldiers who died in the war with Iran, and US diplomats wiring home a report by an opposition psychiatrist to the effect that “Morally, Chavez [of Venezuela] combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image.” Indeed, the whole paragraph is choc-a-bloc with that kind of imagery, and worth quoting in full:

    Ideologically, Chavez wants to project an image of a “utopian socialist,” which de Vries described as someone who is revolutionary, collectivist, and dogmatic. In reality, de Vries argues, Chavez is an absolute pragmatist when it comes to maintaining power, which makes him a conservative. Coupled with Chavez’ self-love (narcissism), sense of destiny, and obsession with Venezuelan symbolism, this pragmatism makes Chavez look more like fascist, however, rather than a socialist. Morally, Chavez combines a sense of tragedy and romanticism (a desire for an idyllic world) to project a messianic image. De Vries, however, said Chavez is a realist who uses morals and ethics to fit the situation.

    PM Netanyahu of Israel was using the term “messianic” with a little more precision when he described the Iranian regime as “crazy, retrograde, and fanatical, with a Messianic desire to speed up a violent ‘end of days.'”

    2. Julian Assange in the role of martyr

    The words martyr and messiah, then, carry a symbolic freight that is at the very least comparable to that of flags and scriptures – so it is interesting that both terms crop up in the recent BBC interview with Julian Assange.

    My reading of the interview suggests that it is Assange himself who introduces the meme of martyrdom, though not the word itself, when he answers a question about the impact of the sexual accusations against him, “What impact do you think that will have on your organisation and what sort of figure do you think you, Julian Assange, cut in the face of all this. How will you be regarded? What will it do to you?” with the response, “I think it will be quite helpful for our organisation.”

    In the follow up, interviewer John Humphrys twice uses the word “martyr” explicitly:

    Q: Really? You see yourself as a martyr then?
     
    JA: I think it will focus an incredible attention on the details of this case and then when the details of this case come out and people look to see what the actions are compared to the reality of the facts, other than that, it will expose a tremendous abuse of power. And that will, in fact, be helpful to this organisation. And, in fact, the extra focus that has occurred over the last two weeks has been very helpful to this organisation.

    and:

    Q: Just to answer that question then. You think this will be good for you and good for Wikileaks?
     
    JA: I’ve had to suffer and we’ve had incredible disruptions.
     
    Q: You do see yourself as a martyr here.
     
    JA: Well, you know, in a very beneficial position, if you can be martyred without dying. And we’ve had a little bit of that over the past ten days. And if this case goes on, we will have more.

    3. Julian Assange in the role of messiah

    If the role of martyr implies, at minimum, that one suffers for a cause, that of messiah implies that one leads it in a profound transformation of the world. Both terms are now found in association with the word “complex” – which applies whenever a individual views himself or herself as a martyr or messiah – but a “messianic complex” is presumably more worrisome than a “martyr complex” if only for the reason that there are many more martyrs than messiahs, many more willing to suffer for a cause than to lead it.

    It is accordingly worth noting that it is the interviewer, John Humphrys, who introduces both the word “messianic” and the concept of a “messianic figure” into the interview, although Assange makes no effort to wave it away…

    Q: Just a final thought. Do you see yourself… as some sort of messianic figure?
     
    JA: Everyone would like to be a messianic figure without dying. We bringing some important change about what is perceived to be rights of people who expose abuses by powerful corporations and then to resist censorship attacks after the event. We are also changing the perception of the west.
     
    Q: I’m talking about you personally.
     
    JA: I’m always so focussed on my work, I don’t have time to think about how I perceive myself… I had time to perceive myself a bit more in solitary confinement. I was perfectly happy with myself. I wondered what that process would do. Would I think “my goodness, how have I got into this mess, is it all just too hard?”
     
    The world is a very ungrateful place, why should I continue to suffer simply to try and do some good in the world. If the world is so viciously against it ,why don’t I just go off and do some mathematics or write some books? But no, actually, I felt quite at peace.
     
    Q: You want to change the world?
     
    JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they’re in.
     
    That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don’t create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.

    4. Julian Assange, martyr and messiah?

    I think it is clear that both Assange and his interviewer are in effect reframing the religious terms “martyr” and “messiah” in non-religious, basically psychological senses — although I don’t suppose Assange is exactly claiming to have the two “complexes” I mentioned above.

    Here’s what’s curious about this reframing, from a religious studies point of view:

    Assange’s implicit acceptance of a “messianic” role undercuts the specific force of the role of “martyr” – one who gives his life for the cause. “Everyone” he says, “would like to be a messianic figure without dying.” Assange wouldn’t exactly object to being a martyr without dying, too.

    Posted in Christianity, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Internet, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Media, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Personal Narrative, Philosophy, Privacy, Religion, Rhetoric, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »

    A Few Thoughts on Data Aggregation

    Posted by Zenpundit on 16th May 2010 (All posts by )

    Big Brother on the Make….or perhaps, the take….

    Outside of specific and targeted investigational contexts for law enforcement and intelligence, the Federal government really does not need to know what products we buy at the grocery store, what books we buy or check out at the library, the magazines to which we subscribe, our car payments, what kind of food we eat, the websites we visit, how we use our credit cards and where. It’s not actually the government’s business, and presumably, the 4th Amendment indicates they need a compelling interest before they are allowed to snoop.

    Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) is working hard….to make sure the Feds are watching your every move. Unless you are an illegal alien of course.

    What passes for Liberalism these days is a strange ideology – American citizens are to be treated as criminals to be kept under continuous government surveillance but if you are a foreigner who enters the country illegally, you should get special dispensations from police questioning. Or unless you are a foreign terrorist overseas or in communication with one. WTF?

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Personal Finance, Politics, Privacy, Society, Tech, USA | 1 Comment »

    A Google Privacy Stumble

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th February 2010 (All posts by )

    If you use Gmail you may have noticed a new feature called “Buzz”, which is Google’s attempt to create something like Facebook.

    Email and Facebook-type social networking services are different in function and in their users’ privacy expectations. Google erred by 1) assuming that users of email, the less intrusive service, would want to be signed up by default for the more intrusive social networking service, and 2) configuring the privacy settings of the social networking service in a way that can casually expose a user’s private information before the user has a chance, or even knows, to change the relevant settings.

    Here is an example of the kinds of problems Google’s new scheme caused.

    Here are instructions for restoring the (relative) privacy of your Google account.

    Google will probably correct its blunder soon if it hasn’t already. But it’s interesting that they blundered in this way in the first place. They showed a Microsoftian level of cluelessness about privacy and security. It’s as if the Google offices were a monoculture of young computer geeks for whom clever new features are first and foremost cool toys with business upside and no downside, rather than complex systems that sometimes interact in unexpected ways and may have the potential to harm people who have something to lose. Oh, wait…

    Google’s “don’t be evil” motto, always a cynical joke, deserves at least as much ridicule as does the DHS terror-threat color code. People in China learned this some time ago.

    Don’t be stupid. Don’t trust Google or other free Web-service providers with information that you can’t afford to make public.

    UPDATE: An attorney offers scathing and insightful critique of Google here and here. The second linked post gives additional advice on deactivating your Buzz account, including a link to Google’s own instructions for doing this.

    Posted in Internet, Privacy, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Penumbra Obliterated

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 23rd July 2009 (All posts by )

    I’ve got a question for any of our readers that happen to be lawyers.

    Free access to abortion services appears to be a shibboleth of the Left that they hold particularly dear. That, at least, is the unmistakable conclusion one must draw when considering the actions of the Democrats.

    For example, the abortion question was at the forefront of the news all during the Bush administration. Just about every time the President nominated a jurist to fill a vacancy on a court bench, it seems that the Democrats wanted to spend most of their time during the confirmation hearings endlessly grilling the potential judge on their views concerning abortion. If memory serves, it started with Priscilla Owen, who had to wait through four years of wrangling and filibuster before her nomination ever came to a vote! In fact, she would probably still be stuck in confirmation hearing limbo if it wasn’t for the so-called Gang of 14.

    There were other issues that got the Dem’s fur up, but it seemed to me that the abortion issue certainly took center stage more often than any other.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Predictions, Privacy | 5 Comments »

    Big Nanny is Watching You

    Posted by Shannon Love on 29th October 2008 (All posts by )

    When Joe Wurzelbacher had the misfortune of having Obama walk onto his front yard and solicit questions he discovered what the rest of us will all soon discover. 

    The all-caring nanny state destroys privacy. That’s the thing about nannies: they always know what the children are up to.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Internet, Political Philosophy, Politics, Privacy, Tech, USA | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th August 2007 (All posts by )

    We’ve been assured again and again that RFID passports are secure. When researcher Lukas Grunwald successfully cloned one last year at DefCon, industry experts told us there was little risk. This year, Grunwald revealed that he could use a cloned passport chip to sabotage passport readers. Government officials are again downplaying the significance of this result, although Grunwald speculates that this or another similar vulnerability could be used to take over passport readers and force them to accept fraudulent passports. Anyone care to guess who’s more likely to be right?
     
    It’s all backward. Insecurity is the norm. If any system — whether a voting machine, operating system, database, badge-entry system, RFID passport system, etc. — is ever built completely vulnerability-free, it’ll be the first time in the history of mankind. It’s not a good bet.
     
    Once you stop thinking about security backward, you immediately understand why the current software security paradigm of patching doesn’t make us any more secure. If vulnerabilities are so common, finding a few doesn’t materially reduce the quantity remaining. A system with 100 patched vulnerabilities isn’t more secure than a system with 10, nor is it less secure. A patched buffer overflow doesn’t mean that there’s one less way attackers can get into your system; it means that your design process was so lousy that it permitted buffer overflows, and there are probably thousands more lurking in your code.
     
    Diebold Election Systems has patched a certain vulnerability in its voting-machine software twice, and each patch contained another vulnerability. Don’t tell me it’s my job to find another vulnerability in the third patch; it’s Diebold’s job to convince me it has finally learned how to patch vulnerabilities properly.

    Bruce Schneier

    Posted in Human Behavior, Privacy, Tech | 3 Comments »

    Your Papers Please: The Real ID Act

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th May 2005 (All posts by )

    National ID cards have been an on again/off again controversy in this country, engendering huge opposition whenever they were proposed. Now, however, thanks to recent appropriations legislation into which a national-ID provision was inserted without many people noticing, and which passed easily, a national ID card may be a done deal. The legislation that enables it is the Real ID Act and has already been discussed extensively. Nonetheless it deserves all the scrutiny it can get.

    Info on Real ID:
    Read the bill: Enter “hr 1268” in the search window, select “Enter bill number” and click “Search”; then click on the link for Version 3 of the bill, and search for: “TITLE II–IMPROVED SECURITY FOR DRIVERS’ LICENSES AND PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION CARDS”.
    Wired article
    -Instapundit has link-filled posts here and here.
    -Jews For The Preservation of Firearms Ownership raise troubling questions about the Real ID Act as it pertains to gun ownership.

    Maybe the concern about this law is overwrought. I don’t know. I do know that it is unlikely to improve our security (see Bruce Schneier’s lucid critique here) but is very likely to reduce our freedoms. It’s also a distraction from implementation of more-effective security measures. It was passed almost surreptitiously, and as it seems to have been designed mainly as a tool against illegal immigration it may be that little consideration was given to concerns about privacy and freedom. That’s the way it looks, anyway. None of this bodes well.

    (JPFO link via our friends at the Revolutionary War Veterans Association)

    Posted in Privacy | 5 Comments »

    Privacy? What’s that?

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd November 2004 (All posts by )

    BellSouth’s DSL availability page will display the street address associated with any phone number that you enter, even if that number is unpublished or unlisted. I tried it with an unlisted number and it returned accurate information. How did I find out about this useful service? Someone who works for an ISP told me. I suspect it’s common knowledge among people who need to track down owners of unlisted numbers. It may be that this information is already available for purchase from data vendors, but if the phone company is giving it away it raises a number of concerns — privacy, of course, as well as questions about what exactly unlisted customers are paying extra for. It should be obvious that merely hiding the name on the account is of little value if the address is public.

    So was this a programming oversight or does BellSouth really want to make all of its customers’ addresses public?

    Posted in Privacy | 4 Comments »