feeds | grep links > 4th Amendement Protects Cell Tower Data, Possibly Ubuntu Move Away from X11, WikiLeaks Splitters to Setup New Site, and More

  • Cell tower data protected by the 4th Amendment
    As The Register explains, the ruling is in a district court in Texas, so just an incremental part of the evolving case law. The reasoning, at least as revealed by the article, seems arbitrary. I would have expected more thought along the lines of what is accessible by the average citizen rather than comparisons to continuously recorded reality television.
  • Canonical’s Shuttleworth contemplates a future Ubuntu without X11
    Ryan Paul at Ars Technica does a nice job of laying out both the motivation and challenges inherent in any Linux distribution moving from the ancient graphic display system, X11, to anything more modern. Undoubtedly a newer stack, like Wayland, would allow the Linux desktop to compete more effectively with other OSes but video driver support has been one of the platform’s greatest long running problems, one that a drastic change would multiply considerably. There may be a way, as Paul lays out in the article, to take a hybrid approach, which has worked for other software shifts of this scale.
  • WikiLeaks defectors to set up another leaks site
    Give the psychodrama around WikiLeaks, the news as reported by Jacqui Cheung at Ars Technica is hardly surprising. Let’s not forgot the work of John Young and Cryptome, though, when we talk about WikiLeaks and this new effort. Assange’s brain child is hardly the only or necessarily the first of its kind. It just happens to be the highest profile at the moment. Giving whistle blowers more options and opponents a more diffuse front should be all to the good, regardless of the reasons for the split.
  • Did the W3C sell out to Microsoft?, Tom’s Hardware, via Groklaw
  • UK copyright law to be reviewed, BBC, via Groklaw
  • EU Commission also wants to reform copyright, Open Rights Group

feeds | grep links > New Cable Box Rules, France May Subsidize Downloads, Firefox 4 Could Be Delayed, and More

  • Bjarne Stroustrop reflects on 25 years of C++ , Slashdot
  • Wikileaks donations account shut down, Slashdot
  • FCC approves changes to cable box rules
    Slashdot links to a post at Hillicon Valley discussing this latest news in a long standing fight for competition and consumer choice. I can’t help but think that if the FCC, or Congress, had worked to keep DRM out of our media stack, as its embedding in the HDMI connector standard, that there would be less of a need for pushing Cablecard. On the flip side, with the first Google TV devices coming out, this could open the way to smarter set top devices being able to integrate much more seamlessly into our media ecosystem than ever before.
  • French government may subsidize music downloads
    There isn’t much more detail in the article to which Slashdot links, especially as to the detailed reasoning. This is an anti-piracy move but once the vouchers are spent, the effective prices will rise returning everything back to where it was. I’ll give them credit for trying but a more thorough shift is required, one that incents labels as much as young people to meet over legitimate online distribution sites.
  • Blocker bugs snarl next Firefox 4 beta release, The H

Leak Clearinghouse, Cryptome, Hacked and Vandalized

As Slashdot tells it, I suspect the email and web hosting providers of just not being secure enough. Network Solutions, in particular, has been plagued with any number of security problems recently. So much so I am surprised to read the attacker took over the site operator’s email to gain access. Thankfully, the folks at Cryptome have a good back up plan and were able to undo the damage.

Wired has some more details in particular from a person who contacted them, claiming responsibility. The alleged cracker offered screen shots of the email inbox of John Young, the founder of Cryptome, and of the file directories on the site’s server. This matches details reported elsewhere but Kim Zetter also got in touch with Young who disputes some of the claims, in particular that any files were destroyed or the volume of snagged info was as large as the supposed attacker claims.

Zetter further explains a connection to WikiLeaks the site’s attacker claims is apparent in the stolen files and emails. Rumors have been circulating recently about discontent withing WikiLeaks, some published, unconfirmed, through Cryptome. The Cryptome intruder claims Young’s email reveals the identities of many of these WikiLeaks insiders. What is more concerning than the eye roll inducing drama is that if the attacker’s claims are creditable, many more sources besides the onces at WikiLeaks may have been exposed.

The Register has a further announcement from John Young, saying he will pursue the vandals who broke into his email and the site. I may be naive, but I read the promise as consistent with trying to protect sources that now may be exposed rather than a knee jerk vendetta.

Cryptome Hacked; All Files Deleted, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > D in Gnu’s Debugger, Police Raids Hit Wikileaks and Pirate Bay, Hope and Hype in Quantum Computing, and More

I am back from Dragon*Con but thoroughly wiped out. It looks like I will return to my usual blogging routine tomorrow. For now, here are some more links.

feeds | grep links > Mobile Cloud, Name Changes and Reputation, Joke Patents at Sun, and More

  • Building a cloud out of smart phones
    Advancing beyond theory, a group of international researchers have cobbled together a proof of concept out of a dozen or so cell phones and a dedicated router. As Technology Review explains, this mobile phone based cloud is capable of driving one fairly typical distributed algorithm, map/reduce. I have to agree with the article that the rational for this, beyond the obvious clever hack value, is a bit lacking, even the possibility of moving computing back towards data, potentially cutting down on message passing. If there is a killer use for the idea, I’m sure someone will find it.
  • danah boyd criticizes Schmidt’s name change idea
    She makes good points on both deflating the implied ease of changing your name and on how reputation is likely to persist through a simple discontinuity such as tweaking the label on all your personal data online. She acknowledges that it is hard to make predictions about how reputation will evolve in practice and how much we may be able to affect it. Mostly she questions what it isn’t we don’t know about Schmidt’s recently expressed opinions both here and on the end of privacy. I like that she gives him the benefit of the doubt, suggesting there might be some puzzle piece we don’t have that could complete a rational synthesis of his opinions.
  • Sun engineers held a contest for goofiest patents
  • Vimeo releases new embeddable HTML5 player
  • Pirate Party strikes hosting deal with Wikileaks
  • All electrical data storage could deliver eight fold improvement in density

Nonsensical Demands from US Military over WikiLeaks

By and large I’ve been holding off on comments on the recent developments with WikiLeaks. I don’t have the time to figure out what aspects of the story are credible and what is inflated if not outright confabulation. I have tagged the bit about the group of citizen vigilantes online for a bit closer reading this weekend.

Otherwise, I think WikiLeaks is more symptomatic of deeper problems with modern journalism and the traditional free speech protections afforded it. I am not saying a clearing house of leaked documents is journalism or is even the best response to issues of accountability, journalistic rigor, and an uncertain future in terms of the resources need to undertake the sustained work that characterizes the best journalism. I merely think that in the absence of an up to date, Federal shield law and with the uncertainty brought on by media consolidation and outmoded revenue models, this happens to be one form that information has found to out itself.

A couple of things caught my attention all the same. First is news that the US Defense Department has asked WikiLeaks to destroy all copies of military documents it has received. The Register’s lede on this is dead on, it is impossible to undo whatever has been done, whether you see that as a benefit, a harm, or more realistically a stew of both. The savvier commentators I’ve heard weigh in are suggesting that the military needs to take better control over its own communications, even perhaps considering increased transparency as many of its civilian counterparts have been pursuing.

The second is a story originally broken by the Washington Times (but since removed) and picked up by Wired. The US Marine Corps, according to Wired which picked up the story, has forbidden its troops and civilian employees from accessing WikiLeaks. As the article has it from the Defense Department’s social media chief, this statement may actually be pro forma, disconnected from the War Logs and surrounding drama. I have to side with the Noah Shachtman on this one, failing to use this information merely puts our armed forces at a disadvantage over adversaries that have no such qualms.

feeds | grep links > WikiLeaks Insurance, Norvig on Being Wrong, Feds Claim Kindle Violated Civil Rights, and More

feeds | grep links > Firefox 4 Beta 2 Drops, Law Suit over Zombie Cookies, and More

  • Firefox 4 beta 2 released, including app tabs and CSS3 transitions
  • Pirate Party offers hosting to WikiLeaks
  • Law suit targets sites using analysis service that introduced zombie cookies
    As Ryan Single explains, zombie cookies are browser cookies ressurrected from Flash’s client side storage without the users knowledge or consent. It was Quantcast that was identified as using them, though they claimed to have stopped shortly after being outed by researchers at UC Berkeley. Quantcast is in wide usage by many high profile sites and it is their customers being targeted by this suit. The basis of the suit is the use of zombie cookies violated a federal computer intrusion law, which I think is not the best framing but lacking a federal online privacy law there is little alternative.
  • More on ASCAP boss’s fears over being silenced
    Professor Lessig himself messaged about this earlier in the day, linking to an update to his original Huffington Post article from earlier inviting Paul William’s to a debate. Mike Masnick at Techdirt has the open letter from Williams along with a good bit of analysis. The conclusion is indeed as baffling as it seems, somehow equating the call to a civil discourse in a public forum on the merits of both views with an attempt to silence one of those views. It is frustrating when the other side of the question of how we re-balance copyright won’t even engage in a rational conversation.

feeds | grep links > Wikileaks Release 90K Documents, Open Source Software-Based GSM Network, Firefox Beta Delayed, and More

Defending Transparency

Quinn Norton had an excellent post today serving two purposes. First she undertakes a quiet defense of transparency for its own sake. There has been a lot of criticism of so-called naked transparency, the most constructive part of which is making sure there is a role for action as well as mere data. I think there is something to Quinn’s thinking here, that the act of uncovering information is not as passive as many assume. She also points out how different folks are going to receive and use that data differently–where some may be complacent, others have urgent, external pressures to act but need data, even raw, unfiltered data to do so to any effective degree.

My least favorite argument about transparency is that it breeds complacency. This is an argument from a position of tremendous privilege that comes from forgetting why we fight corruption in the first place. It is always the case that corruption costs; right now it is taking a terrible price on a real and growing segment of the population which the corrupt entity is meant to serve. You can only forget the proximate hurt if you’re someone in a position to forget it, someone with money, health insurance, the right travel options. Someone with good schools, and probably, it’s easiest to forget the day to day cost of corruption in America as someone with white skin. Without transparency threatened populations have to take up common myths about why they are in the situation they are in. In short, they blame themselves. Not only are they the victims of corruption, but when it’s not discussed, they’re the victims of believing they’ve brought the situation on themselves. If you want a complacent population, ruining their lives and then getting them to believe they did it themselves is a pretty good way to start.

The second purpose of her post is to remind us that Wikileaks isn’t an acceptable substitute for transparency. The site serves a critical role when the protections for whistle blowers, in the form of shield laws, are uncertain when stories break and evolving largely online crossing the jurisdictions within which these laws currently operate. It doesn’t absolve us of the need to demand information disclosure from our government in the first place.

This is very much like the ministers in the Canadian government, on being criticized for failing to live up to transparency about the ACTA negotiations referring critics to Michael Geist’s web site. An activist gathering and curating leaks is not equivalent to a government acting in a transparent way in the first place, not by a long shot.

Go read the whole post. It isn’t very long and both points are well worth bearing in mind when considering the space of open government, transparency and the role of third party actors like Wikileaks and Professor Geist.

Wikileaks: No Substitute for Transparency, Quinn Said