Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Worth looking at their “guide”

DuckDuckGo Challenges Google On Privacy With

January 4, 2011 by Dissent

Matt McGee writes:

DuckDuckGo, a small search engine that’s largely flown under the public radar, has started the new year by taking a public shot at Google on the issue of search privacy. The company has launched, an illustrated guide showing how Google tracks its users … and how DuckDuckGo doesn’t.

The site:

  • shows how a search for “herpes” shows up in Google Analytics as a search referral with information about the user’s location, browser, and other data

  • shows how the “herpes” search can lead to targeted ads being associated with a user profile and how that profile can “potentially show up in unwanted places like insurance, credit & background checks”

Read more on Search Engine Land.

Some interesting and conflicting statements. This should be fun to watch...

DHS Files Brief in EPIC Airport Body Scanner Case

January 4, 2011 by Dissent


The Department of Homeland Security has filed its answer brief in EPIC’s suit to suspend the agency’s controversial airport body scanner program. EPIC filed its opening brief on November 1, 2010, arguing that the body scanners are “unlawful, invasive, and ineffective.” Since then, a national grassroots movement of citizens, advocates, and lawmakers staged protests, sent letters, held hearings (2), and introduced legislation (2, 3) to stop the program. DHS has repeatedly attempted to delay resolution of EPIC’s lawsuit, but the Court has scheduled oral argument for March 10, 2011.

Interesting, but not well defined concept. How would you hold organizations that discriminate based on Facebook (or Behavioral Advertising) accountable?

Article: Accountability as a Driver of Innovative Privacy Solutions

January 4, 2011 by Dissent

Joan Feigenbaum of the Yale Computer Science Department has an article, “Accountability as a Driver of Innovative Privacy Solutions,” available online.

The abstract:

The standard technical approach to privacy in particular and computer security in general is preventive: Before someone can access confidential data or take any other action that implicates privacy or security, he should be required to prove that he is authorized to do so. As the scale and complexity of online activity has grown, it has become increasingly apparent that the preventive approach is inadequate. It is our thesis that a paradigm shift to accountability, rather than prevention, as an organizing principle for privacy in online interaction could spark much needed innovation.

Interesting thought exercise!

Privacy vs. Security vs. Anonymity

January 4, 2011 by Dissent

Sasha Romanosky writes:

When I first began my PhD at Carnegie Mellon, I was keen to properly sort and define any new terms and reconcile them with my own education and experience. Three terms that always seemed to be intermingled were: Privacy, Security and Anonymity. Certainly they are related, but I wanted to be a little more specific and understand exactly when and how they overlapped.

First, let’s establish some basic definitions. For the purpose of this blog post, the following definitions will suffice (I’ll address alternative definitions later):

• Privacy: having control over one’s personal information or actions
• Security: freedom from risk or danger
• Anonymous: being unidentifiable in one’s actions

Next, create a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles (each circle representing one term). Then, within each area, try to provide examples that reflecte those properties. That is, imagine some situation where you would have security without privacy, or security without anonymity. When can you have all three? When can you be anonymous but lack privacy?

Read more on Concurring Opinions.

[A sample Venn Diagram (humor?):

Not sure I find much logic here. How important is it to interpret fact based on the sender's bias? If someone pounds on my hotel door and screams “Fire!” should I ask his political affiliation before I take action?

Anonymity and the Dark Side of the Internet

January 4, 2011 by Dissent

Stanley Fish opines:

In McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission (1995) the Supreme Court overturned a statute requiring any person who prints a notice or flyer promoting a candidate or an issue to identify the communication’s author by name. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, grounded his opinion in an account of meaning he takes from an earlier case (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti): “The inherent worth of . . . speech in terms of its capacity for informing the public does not depend upon the identity of its source, whether corporation, association, union, or individual.” Or, in other words, a writing or utterance says what it says independently of who happens to say it; the information conveyed does not vary with the identification of the speaker.

There are at least two problems with this reasoning.

Read more in the New York Times.

Monopoly is as a monopoly does... (“Looming” might be a bit too generous.)

January 04, 2011

The Looming Cable Monopoly

The Looming Cable Monopoly, by Susan P. Crawford, 12/16/2010, vo. 29 Yale Law & Policy Review

  • "On March 9, 2010, the city of Alexandria, Virginia received a letter from Verizon. The letter, signed by Verizon’s Virginia president, Robert Woltz, said that Verizon would not be installing FiOS services in Alexandria. The mayor of Alexandria, William Euille, was disheartened: The city council had already awarded Verizon a contract to install fiber service and had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars negotiating a cable franchise agreement with the company. Verizon, for its part, declared that it was suspending FiOS franchise expansion around the country. Just one week later, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled out its National Broadband Plan. The Plan, which was based on the assumption that “broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life,” and was said by the FCC to be “lay[ing] out a bold roadmap to America’s future,” made a host of detailed recommendations. These recommendations focused largely on making more spectrum available for wireless broadband use, and reforming the nation’s Universal Service Fund. The Plan did not discuss net neutrality or competition policy. There were likely good reasons for these omissions. The Commission wanted to be seen as setting forth a vision for the country’s broadband future and was trying to keep any discussion of the newly-contentious subject of net neutrality on a separate, dedicated track. Also, the Commission was not, as of March 2010, eager to address the market structure of high-speed Internet access services."

[From the article:

Here is a translation of this section: Where Verizon FiOS service exists, there will be competition with cable Internet access service providers for high-speed Internet access at speeds that are necessary to carry out real-time video conferencing or watch high-definition video. Where FiOS is not installed, there will not be any competition, and consumers will have just one provider to choose from: their local cable monopoly. Most Americans—perhaps as many as 85% of us—will fall into this latter category. As of March 2010, with Verizon’s announcement that it would not be expanding service to their town, the citizens of the City of Alexandria had just joined this group.[10]

It might be interesting to see who has a “get out of jail free”: card.

Florida Newspaper Demands Private-Public Records

January 4, 2011 by Dissent

If a city uses a private company to issue traffic tickets to red light violators, are the ticket records of the ticket-issuing contractor public records by extension or are they the private records of the private entity? And if they are public records, can they be disclosed without violating the federal Drivers Privacy Protection Act? Courthouse News reports on an in interesting case in Florida:

The St. Petersburg Times sued Kenneth City and American Traffic Solutions, which won a city contract to issue traffic citations to red-light violators. The city and the private company both blew off the newspaper’s FOIA requests; ATS said it “does not consider records it creates and maintains to be ‘public records.’” The newspaper disagrees.


An ATS attorney wrote to Lindberg that “ATS does not consider records it creates and maintains to be ‘public records.’” ATS offered to tell Lindberg “the number of violations that have been received, but not the names of the drivers.”

In a subsequent interview with the police chief, the chief told Lindberg “that the city does receive a report from ATS containing the names of the alleged red light violators,” according to the complaint. But the city refused to release the records, claiming disclosure would “violate the Drivers Privacy Protection Act.”

The Times says it “has a clear legal and constitutional right to inspect all public records to which no statutory exemption applies,” and adds that “the city has a mandatory and nondiscretionary duty to permit the inspection of all nonexempt public records.”

Read more on Courthouse News.

Related: Complaint in Times Publishing v. City of Kenneth City.

Refining the definition of the Cloud.

January 04, 2011

Economist - Computing services are both bigger and smaller than assumed

Tanks in the cloud - Computing services are both bigger and smaller than assumed: "Clouds bear little resemblance to tanks, particularly when the clouds are of the digital kind. But statistical methods used to count tanks in the second world war may help to answer a question that is on the mind of many technology watchers: How big is the computing cloud? This is not just a question for geeks. Computing clouds—essentially digital-service factories—are the first truly global utility, accessible from all corners of the planet. They are among the world’s biggest energy hogs and thus account for a lot of carbon dioxide emissions. More happily, they allow firms in developing countries to leapfrog traditional information technology (IT) and benefit from advanced computing services without having to build expensive infrastructure... The “cloud of clouds” has three distinct layers. The outer one, called “software as a service” (SaaS, pronounced sarse), includes web-based applications such as Gmail, Google’s e-mail service, and, which helps firms keep track of their customers. This layer is by far the easiest to gauge. Many SaaS firms have been around for some time and only offer such services. In a new study Forrester Research, a consultancy, estimates that these services generated sales of $11.7 billion in 2010."

Egotistical or essential? One way to use the Cloud...

Easy Lifecaching: How To Back Up Your Online Life

For everyone with a BlackBerry...

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