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And by “long live the PROTECT IP Act”, I really mean, “let’s kill the PROTECT IP Act, as quickly and as dead as possible”.

[Update: At least one petition to the US Congress opposing this bill can be found at Demand Progress; I will update with others as I find out about them.]

Back when COICA was winding its way through legislative committees, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) gave an interview to Ars Technica, in which she said:

I was in the Congress when we did the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. [The content industry] wanted to go farther; at one point, the original draft outlawed Web browsing, which I thought was interesting. We did the bill, and they’re complaining. It’s what they wanted, but it’s not enough. Now they want to do something else, which is really pretty draconian

Rep. Lofgren also predicted that “if this passes, in a couple years they’ll come back with something even more draconian.” She was mostly right: Even though COICA was killed before reaching a floor vote by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), they’re back with something more draconian anyway.

As Wired notes, PROTECT IP, like COICA, would force credit card companies, ad networks, and DNS server to enact the appropriate form of shunning or blackholing against sites deemed “infringing”. Credit card companies could no longer process payments for the site; ad networks could no longer serve ads to them, and DNS providers would have to cease resolving their IP addresses. But PROTECT IP goes further, requiring search engines to censor their own listings.

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

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Why I’m In Favor of WikiLeaks’ Professed Ideals and Aims

I am not a fan of government secrecy. Maybe some things should be kept secret, but by and large? Our government has overused that excuse to the point of absurdity. We can no longer trust the government to keep its citizens informed about what it’s doing.

Since the run-up to the Iraq War, it’s been pretty obvious that we can no longer trust the news media to keep us informed, either. At that point, journalism utterly failed in its civic duty to question the government and inform the populace about critical issues. Someone needs to step into that gap.

Why I’m Not Pro-WikiLeaks

Some of the information they leaked includes data that identifies people in the field. This puts real people at real risk — people who are trying to do good. This is not responsible reporting.

For all the reasons that it was bad when the Bush Administration blew Valerie Plame’s cover, it’s also bad now that WikiLeaks has blown the cover of various sources in the field. I can’t support that.

Why I’m Very Much Anti-Anti-WikiLeaks

For all the danger that WikiLeaks’ cover-blowing has caused, I feel much more threatened by the attempts to censor the Internet and shut down discussion. The idea that Senator Joe Lieberman can ask ask Amazon to pull the plug on any organization’s Web presence and have it done in under a day is absolutely chilling.

Now, upstream providers are denying service to WikiLeaks mirrors as well. There’s a concerted effort to turn WikiLeaks into the Internet equivalent of an unperson. And “unpersoning” people is not the action of a free society. It’s the way a totalitarian regime operates, not the way I want my democracy to behave.

I’m disgusted with the number of financial institutions that will happily process donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but not to WikiLeaks. It’s been pointed out with some accuracy that it’s now easier to send donations to al-Qaeda than to WikiLeaks.

This says something about who and what it is we really oppose. And I don’t like what it says. We need to stand for freedom, for an informed citizenry, and for justice.

(In that vein, AlterNet’s list of Six Companies That Haven’t Wussed Out of Working With WikiLeaks is somewhat encouraging.)

Regarding DDoSes as A Form of Protest

I agree with the EFF’s statement that it “doesn’t condone cyber-vigilantism, be it against MasterCard or WikiLeaks. The answer to bad speech is more speech.”

Regarding the Pentagon Papers Parallel

The argument that this is in any way different from Daniel Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers is ridiculous. The two are very similar. If you ever wonder how you would have stood during that incident (”sure, it’s easy to see in hindsight what was right… but would I have done the right thing back then?”)… take a look at your reaction to WikiLeaks. The two parallel each other pretty well.

To the journalists who are calling for Assange’s prosecution: Are you mad at him because he’s doing the job you should have been doing? Are you so full of spite that you’d advocate to eviscerate the First Amendment that protects your own profession? Oh, right — many of you weren’t really making use of the First Amendment’s protection anyway, since you’re not rocking the boat. That’s why Assange had to rock it instead.

Regarding Rape Allegations Against Julian Assange

There has been a lot of disinformation about this. The pro-WikiLeaks side have been claiming some things that are completely untrue. The only reason I can think of to spread such disinformation is that they don’t want anyone to know the real allegations. That doesn’t make them sound like they’re very confident in Assange’s innocence, by the way.

The charges against Julian Assange include allegations that he tore a woman’s clothing off, that he had sex with a woman without her permission while she was asleep, and that he held a woman down by her arms and pinned her with his body weight.

These are real charges of real rape activity, and the things you may have heard about “a condom broke”, or some bizarre thing called “sex by surprise” are all 100% fiction.

Furthermore, the pro-WikiLeaks side’s false claims haven’t just been about the charges against Assange, but also about the women who brought the charges. For example, there’s a claim that one of them is “a feminist” — as if wanting equal rights should be used as an excuse to deny her justice? There’s the claim that she wrote some kind of “article about how to get even with men”, which is also completely false: she translated a preexisting English eHow.com article on revenge in general, not “against men”. Then there are the claims that either or both of the women are in the pay of the CIA — claims that have not a shred of evidence to back them up.

Assange’s supporters have gone beyond simply smearing these women, and have posted their names, addresses, and other identifying information. In many cases, people claiming to support Julian Assange have threatened to rape his accusers. Then they’ve gone ahead and harassed and bullied other women who had the temerity to point out that the “it was just a broken condom” claim was a lie. And of course, that harassment includes death threats — threatening to kill people merely for trying to speak out publicly.

This behavior is completely unacceptable. It’s inhuman. It’s disgusting.

I am in favor of the free flow of information. But I’m also in favor of taking rape charges seriously. And I’m in favor of whistleblowers, accusers, and those why cry “An injustice has been done!” being able to get a fair hearing without being subjected to death threats. That applies to the Swedish women’s accusations against Assange just as much as it does to WikiLeaks’ revelations about the actions of world governments.

Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

kai_mactane: (Default)

Okay, so I’m a little late to the party in posting this. All the professional bloggers have already written about it, while I’ve been busy with my day job. Nonetheless, something that’s been on my mind since the beginning of the week, when it would have been timely:

I think Facebook has now hit its “cap”. People who don’t yet have Facebook accounts now seem to be saying, “I ain’t gettin’ one now!” Others who do have accounts are finally abandoning them. And I’m one of those abandoners.

I have a little bit of interest in the Disapora* Project, but I don’t think it will really take off. On the other hand, in a recent New York Times article about the project, both its staffers and backers have some things to say about just how quickly they managed to raise funding — and all of those things point to a very clear demand for an alternative to Facebook.

Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has lately been saying that privacy is no longer a social norm, but lots of people don’t accept this. In fact, many of us think that Zuckerberg is saying such things in the hope of making them come true, rather than as observations of something that’s already come to pass.

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Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

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According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This is the same stupid excuse we always hear from people who want to invade everyone’s privacy, and I’m sick of it.

Incidentally, we need a good term for the privacy invaders. Folks like the EFF, EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg, Philip Zimmermann and so on get rightly called “privacy activists”. What should we call the people who make the bogus claim that privacy is a sign of guilt, and is something you should give up to prove your purity?

Funny how those folks never seem to want to give up their own privacy, isn’t it? The “If you’re innocent, then you have nothing to hide” brigade never seem to want their own private lives examined. If only someone could have looked into J. Edgar Hoover’s private life… And Eric Schmidt? When c|net published some public information about his salary, neighborhood, hobbies and political donations — all of which it obtained through Google searches — Schmidt was so incensed, he ordered his entire company to stop speaking to c|net for a year.

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Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

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So, Palm was recently caught spying on its users. Major kudos, by the way, to Joey Hess, who initially broke this story. For those who haven’t kept up, various other news outlets and blogs have also been reporting on it.

Palm’s response to this problem is a single paragraph of corporate PR-speak:

Palm takes privacy very seriously, and offers users ways to turn data collecting services on and off. Our privacy policy is like many policies in the industry and includes very detailed language about potential scenarios in which we might use a customer’s information, all toward a goal of offering a great user experience. For instance, when location based services are used, we collect their information to give them relevant local results in Google Maps. We appreciate the trust that users give us with their information, and have no intention to violate that trust.

The problems with this statement are:

  1. There is no indication of how to turn off this particular piece of data collection. Not on Palm’s web site, not in the user manual that came with the Prē, and not in the Prē’s user interface.
  2. For all the “detailed language” in Palm’s privacy policy, there is no slightest indication — anywhere — that they collect information about what applications the user runs.

It’s particularly interesting to look at the “On-Device Services” part of the privacy policy: It mentions types of data that will be collected “If you use services we provide” (emphasis added). For example, they say, “When you use a remote diagnostics or software update service, we will collect information related to your device (including serial number, diagnostic information, crash logs, or application configurations)”. This is the only mention of collection data about a user’s applications, and it clearly starts with “when you use a diagnostic service”.

It doesn’t say “once per day, no matter what”.

Other items under “On-Device Services” start with “When you use a back-up and restore service…” and “When you use location based services”.

All of this suggests that users have some sort of control over what gets sent and when. The Palm Prē’s “Location Services” preferences item has a control labeled “Background Data Collection”, with the caption: “Allows Google to automatically collect anonymous location data to improve the quality of location services.” (This is after other controls labeled “Auto Locate”, “Use GPS”, as shown at right. If you turn on Auto Locate, you also get a control labeled “Geotag Photos”.)

It doesn’t say that Google (or anyone else) will collect data on what apps a user is running. And it strongly implies that this data will only be collected when I actually run an app that uses location services — for example, Google Maps, or OpenTable (which wants to know where I am so it can try to find nearby restaurants).

And it blatantly claims that if I turn off that switch, it won’t send my data off to big corporations any more.

So far, I’ve verified a few things:

  1. The application data log includes installs, uninstalls, and launch and close times for all apps, not just Palm’s official ones. Homebrew and third-party apps are included.
  2. Flipping the Background Data Collection switch does not turn off the contextupload process that’s responsible for sending the information to Palm’s servers.
  3. Nor does it stop logging application launch and close times. I’ll repeat that: My Prē is still logging application launch and close times into /var/context/contextfile, even though I have Background Data Collection turned off.

We in the technology business have a technical term for what Palm is doing when it claims that it “offers users ways to turn data collecting services on and off” in the context of this particular data. That term is: lying. Palm is lying to us, pure and simple.

Originally published at Coyote Tracks. You can comment here or there.

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