Freeing Locked Down Public Data, Protecting Your Anonymous Online Speech, and More

  • Another suggestion of minimizing IP to foster reform
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt points to a piece by “Against Intellectual Monopoly” co-author David Levine. It is the first in a series of posts by Levine and his co-author Boldren on The Huffington Post. Not surprisingly, while his opinion is well substantiated, it is pretty radical. I am eager to see any reduction in intellectual property to see how well reality would match these very optimistic predictions of the economic good doing so might cause.
  • FCC hearing will reveal whether it can stand by its principles
    Public Knowledge’s Art Bordsky lays out the challenges the FCC must surpass in an upcoming general hearing. At issue is whether the commissioners will stand firm on network neutrality, stemming from Obama’s campaign promise penned by the FCC chair himself of an open internet. Failure to do so will invite industry to continue to make self interested communications policy largely unopposed.
  • How the apology to Turing came about
    A nice O’Reilly Radar post from the very person responsible for the key petition. It also demonstrates how activism can unfold differently in the UK than other places, like here in the US.
  • How to get yourself unmasked online
    At Ars, Jacqui Cheung explores recently failures of anonymous speech through cases and procedures. Counter to the articles title, there is some good advice here if you are interested in preserving the anonymity of your postings online.
  • Pleading for an online, machine readable “The Constitution Annotated”
    The Sunlight Foundation is petitioning the Government Printing Office to produce a full, XML formatted, electronic version of an extraordinary living document that contains analysis of nearly 8,000 US Supreme Court cases. Much like pleas for similar publication of the up-to-date body of our legal code, this seems reasonable and long overdue.
  • Wikileaks posts British postal-code database
    More than just the news of Wikileaks latest data acquisition, Cory gives a fair grounding in what publicly funded information is typically locked up in the UK and how access is controlled through steep licensing fees. He also considers how unusual this sort of institutional double dipping is compared to other models for funding such data entry and processing projects.
  • Massachusetts court allows secret, GPS tracking of vehicles
    This is nowhere near as scary as it seems on first blush. A warrant is still required in a manner that seems consistent with traditional wire tapping. The judges’ ruling also included comments on working to protect citizens’ privacy rights for the sort of ubiquitous, constant surveillance many might fear from granting law enforces this capability.

An Apology to Turing, Continuing Microsoft Shenanigans, and More

  • Pre-release pirates facing prison sentence
    I don’t have much to add to the simple reporting at Ars by Jacqui Cheung. This crew treads too far on the side of eroding marketability of music, really. If the rights holder has not release it yet, then this is not even a question of reasonable access, it really does interfere with the ability to publish and profit.
  • UK PM apologizes for treatment of Turing
    The petition to recognize the poor treatment of a hero of early computing was clearly successful. I do have to agree with Glyn Moody’s sentiment, though. While this is a nice response to activism, a more considered response would be to properly preserve the crumbling and underfunded Bletchley where Turing and others made such significant contributions to the war effort.
  • Linux kernel developer points out tapering of MS open source efforts
    Actually, if you put this in the context of the recent patent auction, in particular the theory that MS sold off some Linux-relate patents with the hopes a troll would acquire them, then this really suggests that skepticism is warranted despite what now seem much more like token gestures towards open source. To be fair, GKH doesn’t take MS to task exclusively but mentions other companies that haven’t backed up their contributions with coding effort.
  • Apple releases its parallel programming code as open source
    GCD complements other, more open efforts which Apple has been supporting. Apple has implemented OpenCL, a tool for parallel programming GPUs, and GCD provides similar capabilities for multiple cores. The slashdot post has many links to commentary and analysis, the most interesting is how GCD may be ported and put to use in place of or alongside older parallel programming systems like MPI/OpenMPI.
  • Microsoft launchs an open source foundation
    Ryan Paul has the details at Ars. They are confusing and he rightly I think relates this to other recent confusion of the relationship between Microsoft and open source. The question that occurs to me in reading through the scant info on the new CodePlex Foundation is why they would not simply contribute those funds to an existing foundation? I am positive they have done so in the past and doing so again would seem to have far less potential for conflict of interest.
  • Dark stalking on Facebook
    Thanks to Phil for sending me this link. This expands on the concerns exposed by the ACLU-CA’s quiz that demonstrated how much data is exposed without constraint to application developers. The use of FQL suggests much greater ease for an attacker or other party interested in mining personal data. I hope addressing these exposures is already part of or will be made part of Facebook’s plan to address user complaints and the recent scrutiny from the Canadian privacy commissioner.

Quick News for 8/31/2009

  • IP stack in a tweet
    Sure, it is the usual for fun kind of effort but it does make you wonder. Other folks have tried to push data compression to see what is possible with the 140 character limit. Why not do the same for nano-programs. I wonder what sort of sharing might be possible, though the more obvious scenarios involve attackers and spammers spreading malware nano-programs.
  • Google to hand over IP addresses of Caribbean journalists
    This WikiLeaks article makes it pretty clear that this is not a may for Google, but definitely a will. It is under the auspices of a libel suit, one of the few limits on free speech but I wonder if that claim holds water here. The statements deemed libelous were made as part of a government inquiry and at least the WikiLeaks article is careful to label them as allegations, not fact.
  • A response to the good enough revolution
    Mike Masnick offers a rebuttal on Techdirt to this story to which I linked earlier. Masnick’s post is well worth a read but in brief, basically contends that the good enough lamented in the Wired piece is actually best when measured correctly. Any shortcoming is a bias of the observer.
  • Turing apology campaign gains momentum
    The field of computing is lousy with some regrettable social ills, most notably a perverse gender bias. What happened to Turing at the hands of his own government makes these problems pale. I do like that those spear heading this campaign are open to their efforts having a benefit just by helping more people understand the importance of Turing’s contributions to modern computing. I genuinely hope they manage to achieve much more than that for this misunderstood pioneer.
  • Wikipedia to color code edits from less trusted authors, editors
    Mike Masnick has the details at Techdirt though many other sources are also pointing to this story. We’ll see how it works in practice but in theory I like the idea of an explicit signal that a source may need checking. It’s a subtle distinction from flagging the accuracy of the article itself, which may be high regardless of the contributor’s trust status. I think it is continuous with other changes the site has been making recently to improve quality of information.
  • Lori Drew case dismissed for vagueness
    Wired has the details of the judge’s written ruling following up on his ealrier decision in the case. The ruling speaks to the very problematic charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act from the lower court’s ruling, overturning for exactly the reasons we would hope. Namely that it sets a very dangerous precedent that encourages vague and over broad interpretation of the CFAA.