- Indian government blocks programming web sites, including archive.org and Github gists – TechCrunch – As if to illustrate why it’s bad to allow anyone the power to block web sites arbitrarily, the Indian government has blocked entire slices of web infrastructure because one of their functionaries found something about ISIS somewhere on it. More on the blog.
- Marriott wants to block your devices so you have to pay for their wifi – Boing Boing – Marriott clearly does not want anyone from the technology industry to stay at their hotels or to use them for events. Best to respect their wishes and avoid them like the plague.
- End-user adoption of open source is a lousy metric – RRW – Open source is primarily a collaboration technique, leveraging the permission-in-advance arising from software freedom to unlock innovation in many unrelated deployers. For many reasons, enterprise end-user deployment of unmodified open source software is thus a lousy metric for gauging the influence of open source.
- Perfect slapdown to a bogus takedown – TechDirt – The monkey selfie is resoundingly in the public domain, your jurisdiction has no say in mine and my use is fair use. Otherwise, do you have any questions?
- If the Supreme Court tackles the NSA in 2015, it’ll be one of these five cases — Ars Technica — This is a great test for the separation of powers. US law very clearly needs an update for the meshed society and signalling it is a job for SCOTUS. I’m also interested to see if the court is willing to clarify the Third Party Doctrine. It seems obvious to me that if I have a relationship with a telco as a customer, that telco can’t truly be considered a “third party”.
- Police called to remove pre-teens just in case they pirated Hunger Games movie with cellphones – Ars Technica – Given the storyline of the movie, this is ironic. Cineworld thinks copyrights are so precious it’s worth infringing common sense and individual rights to protect them. They think paying customers are criminals until proven otherwise, even kids. Don’t let any kids you care about watch movies at a cinema with this attitude, it’s not safe.
- The most wasteful patent aggression strategy ever has failed – Ars Technica – Another skirmish in the ongoing dirty war by the legacy technology & media industry against Google bites the dust.
- NSA dumps incriminating documents on Christmas Eve – Boing Boing – Anyone who doubts the effectiveness of Freedom of Information requests should see how government agencies squirm responding to them.
- Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty – MeyerWeb – Facebook’s Year In Review is a product of an unremittingly positive mindset that believes algorithms can handle anything. This time I think it will be widely regretted rather than welcomed, for the reasons Eric Meyer explains and I expand. Algorithms can’t exercise discretion; don’t use them for things that demand it.
- Cuba’s “offline Internet” – Guardian – The Internet was designed to work around obstacles. This fascinating example does it via sneakernet.
If we store… data in a place with public access, it will eventually become public.
Simon’s conclusion might seem a little paranoid, but it seem’s there’s plenty in the news at the moment to back up his position. From the hacking of celebrity Apple iCloud accounts, to the DEA using decades old phone records (stored by AT&T) as a covert source in investigations, vulnerable data is in the headlines.
The NSA and GCHQ also come under the spotlight. Simon’s contention is that all intelligence agencies worth the name are now actively gathering all online information that doesn’t require illegal action to take. This information includes all email, instant messages, Web pages, and social media traffic just for starters. The legality of the information harvesting is justified by a whole series of explanations, definitions and broad interpretations of legal doctrines, which enable such agencies to claim the information gathered is “public”.
Most of this data never gets looked at. Instead it’s cached in gigantic data lakes. According to the NSA’s legal advisers, “wiretapping” or “hacking” starts at the point a human being actually analyses or interprets the data. Of course, given the availability of the data, as soon as legal permission is given, tools like the NSA’s XKeyscore enable them to fish the data lake for relevant information. Given that you can’t dissociate data gathering from data usage, we all need to account for all the costs of putting information online, not just the ones associated with our primary goals. Don’t just think about what your data is being used for now; think about what it could be used for when it’s no longer your job. Read Simon’s full article in InfoWorld.
When it was revealed that Angela Merkel’s own mobile phone was being monitored by the NSA her sudden personal interest in internet governance and calls for the creation of a European internet seemed more than a little reactionary. There are a couple of important take away points here though. Firstly, Merkel’s concern over the matter of internet governance is well placed and should be shared by all freedom loving internet users, not just those with a passion for digital rights. Secondly, finding a solution to the problem of “re-decentralising the web” is a responsibility too important to be left to the politicians. Geeks everywhere need to make sure that they are not only looking for that solution, but also that their voices are heard by those with political power. Read Alexandra’s full article on ComputerWorld UK.