Archive for the ‘privacy’ Category


June 29, 2010

Matthew Papakipos:

Facebook! Love the product and team.

Facebook isn’t a product. Facebook is tool used to obtain the actual product. That being user information. I wonder what Matthew thinks of efforts like Diaspora. Or for that matter, what his former coworkers at Google think.


stupid nerd turf wars

May 21, 2010

xkcd original source


May 14, 2010

Today I decided to support diaspora. I hope you will consider doing so too. The best explanation why has been made by Eben Moglen.

Google says: if it’s private, it’s probably illicit or illegal

December 8, 2009

If you install proprietary software on your computer, you’re putting your privacy at risk. This is but one of several reasons not to. It’s possible however, to run a completely Free system yet forfeit the protection Free software offers. All one needs to do is use “cloud” computing. Essentially, this means crunching your data while it resides on another’s server. In the case of Google (and others), this appears to be an inevitable trend in the coming years.

The idea of having one’s data in another’s hands is nothing new…mainstream Internet users have been doing so with email clients like Hotmail and Yahoo for years. It’s the ubiquity that’s alarming. We’re not talking only of email. We’re talking everything. At least that’s the early idea behind something like Google’s Chromium OS.

It’s alarming (though not surprising) then, to hear Google CEO Eric Schmidt claim that:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

This makes clear that Google’s obligation won’t be to take a stand for free speech or privacy rights. It doesn’t take much imagination to think of just uses of cloud storage that certain governments through corrupt law will deem harmful to society and demand the “perpetrators” be outed. Google being a corporation, doesn’t care at all about anyone’s rights or spreading the freedom that comes with Free software (despite many individuals within the organization that may). Google’s top priorities will be to serve local laws (not out of respect for law, but to do business) and their bottom line. Schmidt’s quote is a stark reminder that while systems like Chrome OS help steer us successfully away from the chains of proprietary software, it’s still important for society to have viable, Free, local computing environment options for the sake of privacy rights.

If we do this…if we enable this environment and promote systems like Chrome in tandem, then perhaps we will be working toward something of benefit to computer users around the world.

“thanks”, brokep

July 6, 2009

Apparently, some Pirate Bay users are unhappy that the site is being (has been?) sold. I’m not sure why there’s gloom – it’s just a site. Instructions to download similar files can be (and are) hosted on other sites. For nostalgia, some may desire the name “Pirate Bay” to refer to an uncompromising domain (it’s quite possible users may see the site compromised in the future) – but nostalgia is useless.

The money generated from the sale will go to an unnamed foundation that understands the political importance of this issue. As well, the video/audio tags of HTML 5 could (but not necessarily) make the Video Bay a site that needn’t require visitors to install any proprietary software on their machines in order to have a quality experience. The avoidance of proprietary software is what makes “breaking” any technical restriction as easy as slipping out of Jell-O handcuffs.

What I did notice is that the Video Bay asks one to register with an email address and tag it with a username. I sympathize when it comes to those posting, but it’s unclear to me why one who simply wants to watch/listen to and/or download a file must register.  So while my thanks are sincere, they do come with scare quotes. This is more information about you in the hands of others. Why does the Video Bay require this? Will it always operate this way?

school privacy and “cloud computing”

January 16, 2009

I’m noticing a growing trend in international schools to shift as much of the institution’s computing as possible to 3rd-party servers. The most popular seems to be Google servers – for example, GMail and Google Docs. My school director forwarded yet another instance of a school in South America doing this and below is my response:

Using a 3rd-party’s online services to do your computing is often referred to as Cloud Computing.

What is often not considered is that when an organization or individual uses such services, the user’s data goes into the hands of the party providing the service. This means that privacy is forfeited in exchange for the convenience of the service. In some cases this may not be a problem at all (e.g. a blog, microblog, or bookmarks are often a public venture and not a matter of privacy) but in other cases it can be irresponsible. What a school needs to decide is what information they consider private and what information is OK for outsiders to have a copy of.

I would always suggest that staff email be kept as local as possible. I would also suggest that most documents be kept as local as possible. And in regard to online classwork and assessments, that too I would suggest a school keep as local as possible. I don’t see “FREE” and the convenience of these services as incentive enough to put copies of our staff email, school documents, and student work in the hands of a 3rd party. Frankly, I think staff/student email, documents, grades/transcripts, and class work are generally a private matter and schools using Cloud Computing to do such work should reconsider that choice.

Any thoughts?

“awesome aspects”?

June 20, 2008

Lee Lefever:

One of the awesome aspects of getting started is that the Kindle already knows who you are.  Since you purchase it from, it arrives connected to your Amazon account and immediately connects to (Sprint’s EVDO) cell-phone network called Whispernet, which quickly delivers books to the Kindle after purchase. This connection is free – paid-for by Amazon.

By default, I don’t want my e-book reader to know who I am through connection to Amazon (or any similar account) unless I say so. I want an e-book reader that connects to the ISP of my choice and allows me to read and share e-books no matter where I download/buy them from. As well, I don’t want an e-book that actively works against users by supporting DRM schemes.

CC and Virgin dismissed from case

November 29, 2007

That’s good news.

Generally speaking, if anyone should be questioned over privacy concerns in a case like this, it’s the subject who published the photos and the subject who is photographed.

University of Dayton: file sharing is unethical and dangerous

November 29, 2007

That’s according to Barbara Belle of the University of Dayton (Office of Computing Ethics). News editor Lauren Williams writes of Belle’s presentation:

The power point presentation focuses on the facts that file sharing is unethical, risky and illegal.

If it is a “fact” that “file-sharing is unethical”, then there’s no need to discuss our conscience. To close that discussion is presumptuous. Williams then reveals misinformation coming from Belle’s presentation:

The first-year presentation also focuses on the risks of file-sharing, noting Spyware and privacy violations on the network as two consequences.

Spyware and privacy violations are consequences of networks in general, not of file-sharing in particular. What exacerbates a spyware and privacy risk is a lack of software auditability and modifiability. If one wishes to share files (or network in a multitude of other ways) and erect the best possible defense against spyware and back-doors, then one installs and runs free software. Stigmatizing file-sharing in particular is alarmist and misleading. If privacy and spyware were really a concern of the university, then the university would encourage the use of free software, not discourage file-sharing.

Free Software: Control

September 13, 2007

When you use free software, you are in control. Apparently, Scott Dunn does not know this. When Scott’s Windows operating system updated files without his permission, despite the fact that Scott had turned updates off, he remarked:

It’s surprising that these files can be changed without the user’s knowledge.

Actually Scott, it’s not surprising at all. This is the nature of proprietary software. To combat this, one option is to complain to Microsoft and beg them not to do this in the future. Unfortunately, this option relies upon hope. The other option is to install a free operating system (e.g. GNU/Linux). With free software you control how your computer behaves.