Tech is increasingly a huge part of everyones lives. Twenty years ago, a PC was an expensive investment for a family, it’s abilities were limited, and the internet wasn’t widespread or affordable enough to really be a threat. One generation on, and most people in the developed world are online all day with multiple devices, connecting to and feeding data into a myriad of corporations our governments routinely go on fishing expeditions to.
The business model where the user IS the product is also a product of now. It’s inevitable that governments want to use the same tools and ideas to get a fine tuned control over their populations.
Now is the time to start fighting back against this practice, as a normal day to day thing. In the days of posses, a gun was a deterrent and protection from those who would abuse you, now that abuse comes from the devices we use every day. We need to apply that same thinking to IT.
Encrypt all of your local data on your hard drive, internal and external. Encrypt and sign your email. When possible, use HTTPS instead of HTTP when using websites that you log into and create content, like Twitter or Facebook. Split uses of sites into browser profiles, so it gives those gathering the data less to work with about you; this in turn gives the government less to work with when they come knocking to profile you. Use the addons available to protect your own data in your browser of choice. Create a user account on your PC and require a password to log in and decrypt it.
I encourage you to visit their blog and read the article. The overall, longterm effect of most of us continuing to feed our private data to corporations and goverment agencies is to make us hostages. This is also the effect of "real name policies" for joining sites or making comments: you become a hostage.
If someone can see all of your interactions, everything you've said or written, that person has power over you. They can, for example, tell your boss about the time you compared him to a part of your anatomy. They can tell the local law enforcement about your youthful (or not so youthful) indiscretions. They can tell your spouse about the time you cheated with the blonde in Accounting. Or they can blackmail you, making you their puppet.
So, no, encryption is not about protecting criminals and terrorists. Encryption is about privacy for individuals and groups of individuals. It is about the freedom to say "I believe ..." without harassment. Indeed, in the current social climate, religious believers should be using encrypted communications as a matter of course.
Does this make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs? No, not really. Mass surveilance produces tons of false leads that bury the occasional signals that indicate someone might be involved in criminal activities. When most people use encryption, it frees police to focus on real crime, not on muzzling thought and speech.
Do you remember the Miranda warning that police have to give people during the arrest process? "You have a right to remain silent." That's what encryption is. Remaining silent. "If you give up your right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." Thats what unencrypted communications are: you're volunteering to allow third parties to monitor, copy, publish, and distribute your message, and to use the content of your message to bring you harm.
The difference is that Miranda only applies to arrested suspects, while encryption applies to everyone.
Forgive the mess. I'm closing several blogs. Most of the remaining blogs will go on a short hiatus while I do some infrastructure switching. I hope to archive and restore the content of the Christians in Business, Owner-Managed Business, and Free & Open Technologies blogs. The WCC LinkBlog, La Voz de la Revoluccion, my Writings blog, and Slingshot will not return.
I also have two blogs hosted on Google's Blogger site: OpenTech and Open Source REXX Blog, and two blogs hosted on Wordpress.com: Opportunity Knocks, and LAMPJR. I believe I want to merge Open Source REXX Blog and LAMPJR, at LAMPJR's address (at least, for now). I am not sure whether OpenTech will stay on its own, whether I'll merge it with Opportunity Knocks, or whether I'll merge it with Free and Open Technologies.
(1) The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us... then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, "OK, compromise," and gets half of what they want. That's not the way to win... that's the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.
The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It's time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we've got. Let's force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:
Elimination of software patents
Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary "to promote the useful arts." Maybe 10 years?
Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
And ponies. We want ponies. We don't have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the "compromise" position.
Mr Spolsky is expressing thoughts that all of us should be thinking. In fact, I've partially expressed some related concepts before. Only, now that they've been expressed, we need to discuss them, modify them as needed, and then implement them. I encourage you to go to his post on GPlus and read the whole thing.
So finally Monday rolls around, I get a hold of support and they inform me that my software was registered using a different address, email address and phone number than before and that they couldn’t reactivate my software unless I used the original information. But the kicker was that they also couldn’t tell me what info I had used in the past.
After arguing with the sales rep for about 20 minutes, she finally relented and gave me a new activation code. But the damage was already done. This ordeal wasted several days of my valuable time and caused numerous delays with our order fulfillment. The worst part? I paid good money for this software, so why was I getting punished and hassled just because someone else decided to copy it illegally?
This annoying experience is actually pretty common among people who have proprietary software installed on their computers. I recently talked with someone whose hard drive was dying. Being away from his home, he did not have all the license information handy, and wound up having to call the support lines for his software.
It struck me that people who use proprietary software trade present convenience for future pain.
I once had a desktop computer running Windows XP SP2 that decided not to boot up because I had no Internet access for over a year. It demanded that I connect it to the Internet, so that it could check to see whether it was legitimately licensed. As a result, that computer was switched to run Linux instead of Windows.
Now, this isn't a diatribe about switching to an operating system that is based on GNU+Linux. There are a number of other operating systems which respect and / or protect their users' freedoms, such as the BSDs, Syllable, Hurd, HaikuOS, FreeDOS, FD32, Minix, and ReactOS. Some of these are in a usable state and some are not. I would not bother installing the Windows clone ReactOS yet, for example, if I wanted to actually be able to use my computer.
Nor is this about guilt-tripping people into ditching Windows and Mac OS X. The author of the article uses his computer to run a business--including running the stitching machines that embroider his products--and has to use software that does what he needs. Still, if he's at all smart, he has to be wondering (now) whether there is a way to prevent such hassles in the future.
The fact is, when your software is produced by someone who is all about money, it is in the software company's best interest to ensure that users pay for the software as often as possible. If you get a new computer and wish to transfer your license from computer A to computer B, the company would like to get paid. If you want to use the software on more than one computer, the company would like to get paid. And if you've been using the software for five years or more, the company would like to sell you an upgraded version. They would like to get paid.
That is only natural. But your interest is in a stable, useful, usable application that you can use whenever and wherever you wish, including multiple computers and devices, with a single payment (or even zero cost). Your interest includes having a minimum amount of change in the user interface from version to version (and again, reduced-price or even zero-price version upgrades).
The two interests tend to clash over time. However, in the short term, using such software can be the easiest way to satisfy both sides' needs. If you're a short-term thinker, this is enough and acceptable. Just know that it is very likely to cost you some extra money and pain in the future.
If you're the kind of person who will forego some present pleasure in order to avoid a lot of pain and cost later on, you should be looking at ways that you can replace your present computer environment with something like Linux Mint.
We’re introducing a method that lets you opt out of having your wireless access point included in the Google Location Server. To opt out, visit your access point’s settings and change the wireless network name (or SSID) so that it ends with “_nomap.” For example, if your SSID is “Network,” you‘d need to change it to “Network_nomap.”
This sounds wonderful. Until you think about it. Because most people never change the SSID or WPA key on their routers, most DSL and cable services now preconfigure a unique SSID and WPA key before even shipping the router to consumers. So Google is saying here: "only the most technically skilled or privacy aware people can avoid having their wireless routers mapped and publically displayed."
If this action wasn't malevolent, it was stupid. The proper action is to make privacy the default. Let those who wish to be mapped be the ones who take special action to enable it. This is bad. Really bad. As in re-evaluating any ties to bigG bad.
No, this does not match Microsoft, which runs "Genuine Advantage" snoopware every time you start your (Microsoft Windows) computer and sends unspecified information back to Redmond, WA. The same Microsoft which has also been mapping WiFi access points for display on the internet.
Still, that this follows so closely on the #nymwars / real names policy fallacy on Google+ seems, to me, to indicate that something has changed inside the bowels of Google the corporation. Whatever that is, seems to smell of the kind of decaying morals once thought to reside only in Redmond. I don't think I like this new Google.
A lot of us join various membership and "social networking" sites. Joining such a site, you enter all sorts of personal information, such as your name, your date of birth, your city of residence, zip code, age, educational background, current or past employment, interests, contacts/friends/family, e-mail address, telephone number, and that all-important secret question and answer.
These are all the same pieces of information that identity thieves as well as marketers use to extract your hard-earned money. (If your money is not hard-earned, send it to me.) Identity thieves will obviously prefer it if they can also obtain your social security number.
If you don't want such personal information disseminated for anyone, anywhere, at any time, to use, misuse, and abuse, do not give web sites (including social networking sites) that information. Remember, it isn't just legitimate users that will have access to that information. It is scam collection agencies that will call, write, and otherwise harass you and your family and friends solely because they want you to send them money. I'm not talking only about legitimate debts, either. There are companies that will call you, claiming that a friend or relative used you as a reference on a loan application, and that you are now liable for the person's defaulted loan.
The point is this: without privacy, you have no safety, no security. Better to err on the side of non-disclosure than to expose too much of your private information. Once it gets loose, there is no way to capture it and pull it back. As for the site that wants you to join under your real name and insert your work and educational information, they do this to increase their ad revenue. It has nothing to do with helping you connect to others and everything to do with their pocketbooks. That's why they've suddenly decided that this formerly private information is now public: it gives their customers (advertisers) more information to use in targeting their ads.
Be very stingy about giving personally-identifying information to any website.
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In this age of privacy-invading websites, it is easy to get distracted from the basics. If you still receive your bills and balance statements in the mail, you should implement a comprehensive shredding program.
Often, we shred the occasional document that we consider privacy-sensitive. We don't shred non-important documents, such as junk mail or shopping lists. In the process, we give "dumpster divers" a clear signal about which items in our refuse stream have a high value. We tell them which pieces of paper are worthy of their reassembly efforts by only making reassembly necessary (by shredding) when the contents are sensitive.
Instead, we need to obscure the high-value, privacy-sensitive documents in a deluge of shredded junk mail, television schedules, and homework.
Shredding personal documents may not be enough. If you only shred
sensitive information, your refuse stream will be easy to segregate into
sensitive / non-sensitive.
Instead, shred everything you can, so that dumpster divers will find it
more difficult to reassemble documents.
Even though it is our electronic communications that people find scary, most of us are probably more likely to suffer breaches through dumpster diving and dishonest waiters than we are to suffer losses through online bad guys.
This explains why "open source" is not always sufficient.
Our world of Free software / Open source software may not be enough of a foundation for free culture and the historic Constitutional freedoms we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Much has been written, and rightfully so, about the way our nation refused to extend to various ethnic groups (and women in general) the rights we claimed were so fundamental that they were self-evidently granted to all "men" by our creator. But we've come a long way toward rectifying those errors. And yet, we are rapidly heading toward a time when it is no longer ancestry or body parts that determines whether one has rights, but whether one is a corporate officer of a small number of corporations.
ACTA: An Orgasmic Festival Of Greed And Glutony
Glyn Moody has done a lot to inform the UK public about the secret treaty called ACTA. ACTA is an effort by the copyright abuse industries (corporations that control music, movies, publishing, and software) to prevent social and technological changes from threatening their business models. Among the provisions being negotiated into this proposed treaty is "three strikes". Essentially, if you or a member of your household are accused--not charged, not convicted: accused--three times of violating copyrights you lose Internet access for life. Your Internet provider would be required to track every site and file, to prevent you from accessing any potential copyright violating material. So no more visiting YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, or any other user-generated content sites, since "The Numa Numa Dance" might feature a copyrighted song.
But that's not all. Draconian copyright-enforcement rules damage freedom-preserving software, such as that which the Free Software Foundation endorses, as well as open source software (such as the Open Source Initiative endorses) because closed-source software may (because no one can see the source) utilize its more open competitors within its products, but those competitors may not utilize the closed source product. Stopping at "exposing source code" isn't good enough. That source code needs to be protected with "cannot close derived code" defenses, such as those advocated by the FSF.
Even there, however, we need to ally our quest for freedom-preservation in software with similar efforts in other creative fields. For example, consider supporting Creative Commons the organization and even more importantly, insisting that you view or listen to only CC-licensed media. Surely there is little on the latest reality show to be worth its toxic effects on your rights as a content consumer and as a potential remixer or other producer of derivative content? This is where the rubber meets the road: these draconian copyright enforcement actions are really about destroying both fair use and derivative rights. Opposing the scam requires both political action and principled purchasing. We cannot win if we continue to give money to the already-huge media corporations that oppose our interests. We have to stop buying music, software, movies, books, magazines, newspapers, and other "content", including removing ourselves from the audience for broadcast operations and web properties, whenever the copyright owner advocates, lobbies, or otherwise promotes copyright extremism.
Snoopware Built In
One of the things that no one talks about, or at least not regularly, loudly, and in public arenas such as the Web, is the incentive for proprietary software companies to include snoopware in their products, so they know about your system's hardware and software environment and can identify when you try and install the software on a different computer. Microsoft has its Genuine (Dis)Advantage, which runs in the background even before your computer will allow you to log in, and which periodically phones home with unknown data. Is it checking what browsers and office suites are installed? Is it reporting which sites you've visited? Does its report include personally-identifying information such as your name or your username? Does it include GeoIP information that can tell what neighborhood you're accessing the Web from? Again, no one knows for sure. But without a clear concern for at least first-order freedom, it is difficult to resist the temptation to try and bump up revenue by suppressing suspected cheating, even if that process tramples individual rights and freedoms or exposes private information.
Now, I am not opposed to companies making money on software. But when their business is built around proprietary (EULA) licensing, it is predictable that their interests and the interests of the users of their products will clash eventually, and that is when snoopware and technological usage restrictions (TUR, often euphemized as digital rights management [DRM]) become tempting for the companies. TUR is the use of technological means to restrict what the user can do with the software. An example of this might be the code built into Apple's operating system to prevent its use on non-Apple hardware, or code which prevents you from using MS Office 2007 once the trial period expires unless you enter the "activation code" or the region code which prevents you from viewing that DVD you got for $3 in Japan. The purpose of those restrictions is to prevent you from using content you purchase in ways the copyright owner does not approve.
It is also predictable that, in the absence of such anti-user provisions, the average selling price of most areas of software will drop over time, just as prices do with most other products. That the price of some companies' office suites or operating systems continues to remain high is a testament to how effective anti-user, anti-competitive technological means can be (especially when coupled with a legal assault to back up the TUR).
We need to be loud, persistent, and very clear that the power-grab by the copyright abuse industries will not be tolerated. I believe that we can regain control of our nation from the corporate interests. It won't be quick, nor will it be easy. We will have to beat back those who seek to shortcut the process through the rhetoric of revolution. We will have to counteract the proven-effective media promotion of the ultra-copyright viewpoint. We will have to use political pressure and the law to gain control of our state universities; our state legislatures, governors' mansions, and courthouses; and the federal equivalents of those state institutions. We cannot afford to endorse (even through silence) those who seek a violent re-ordering of society, but instead must quickly and loudly oppose their every pronouncement. Above all, we must indoctrinate the teens and twentysomethings of today, recognizing that our own generation will die off someday and theirs will run the ship. It is a long-term effort to bring back common sense to copyright, but it is one that we need to undertake beginning now.
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This was my submission to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality. I found it again today and thought it might merit circulation. Even though it is too late to submit similar comments to the FCC, there are two senators and a representative who still need to see this.
In the beginning, entrepreneurs put banks of modems in their garages and started Internet service providers offering dial-up service. And it was good. And lo, the telephone industry offered dial up. And their competitors offered better service at lower prices, and everyone's phone payment paid the costs of building the infrastructure.
Then came dark days, for someone in the FCC decided to allow the telephone and cable television industries to offer high-speed access, but they needn't allow competing ISPs to sell high-speed access through those lines. And the cable companies raised their prices and offered inferior service. They interfered with their customers' use of phone- and video-over-Internet services in order to promote their own, higher-priced offerings. They placed arbitrary limits on bandwidth use for supposedly "unlimited" access. The phone companies, meanwhile, continued to offer only a relatively slow-speed version of Internet access. And the FCC and Congress hemmed and hawed and did little to nothing about the injustices they saw.
And lo, a new ruler arose, and with him, the FCC began to discuss whether it should mandate "net neutrality" to prevent the abuses they had observed, and worse besides. And the telephone and cable television industries gave money to Congress and gained an inside track. And there arose a movement that sought to get the FCC and Congress to protect the interests of citizens.
And this is where we stand today. I ask you to impose net neutrality because the FCC erred in allowing wireline owners to offer access and service-consuming services to the public themselves. It should have been an arm's length transaction with similar terms available to multiple qualified ISPs (and no throttling or interference by the cable or telephone company owning the "pipes" at all). Because of this mistake, there is no free market for many consumers.
In many areas, there is the cable company and there are a few surviving dial-up competitors. In other areas, there is a duopoly, where the cable company offers faster speeds at higher prices, and the telephone company offers moderate speeds at medium prices. When the only game in town decides to interfere with the Internet services you use (possibly to make your living), you are screwed.
I ask you, members of the Federal Communications Commission, to recognize that the Internet is not the property of any company. It is not something of no consequence that can be restricted or limited for company purposes without fundamentally harming the American economy and those of us who pay those companies for our access. I ask you to represent the interests of "We the people", the ones you work for, and not solely the interests of a few large corporations.
And I remind you that I am a registered voter and will withhold my vote from candidates for federal office who do not support the American people through Net Neutrality.