Monday, July 16, 2007

A Quiet Hero

Here's the story of Shannen Rossmiller, a woman from Montana who's spent considerable time and energy using the Internet to dig up information on terrorists and the radical Islamic movement. She did some good (read the link, it's inspiring), and is now under permanent security after she was required to testify in court in the bust of an American serviceman who was selling military secrets.

I call her a hero.
Digg Report: Today's #1 Digg, at 6261 Diggs, is a request for Diggsters not to reveal Harry Potter spoilers. It's a reasonable request.

Non-Air War in Iraq

Some interesting statistics about the air war in Iraq. Or, as it would seem, the lack of one. Iraq is so unlike previous American wars in how it's being conducted that it doesn't seem like the same country fighting it.

Boing Boing - Yet Another Way To Avoid Prosecution

My golly, but Boing Boing just loves to show how to avoid criminal prosecution. This time, it's how to escape from plastic handcuffs.

How. to. escape. from. plastic. handcuffs. Because there are so many instances where perfectly law-abiding citizens might need to know such a trick.

Citizen Journalism?

If "citizen journalism" is anything like Digg and YouTube, I think we're in for a very huge disappointment.

Google Wants to Listen to Your Home

Speaking of privacy, it looks like Google wants to violate it as much as government, only not for quite the same reasons. And actually, comparatively speaking, this idea of listening to my surroundings as I use my computer and using that to direct ads and such seems far more damning than anything I've seen government want to do.

So far, I haven't seen any government proposals for placing microphones and video cameras in all of our homes. But, then again, I'm sure Google will make it an opt-in service, and easy to shut off. In which case, I see no problem with it.

Tiny Yellow Dots Create Privacy Firestorm

There's a new brouhaha over the embedding of yellow dots in prints by certain color printers. It's not a new thing--having worked in the printer industry for a few years, I can say that this has been going on for some time, ever since color printing technology advanced to the point where it was possible to print passable currency. In a similar vein, some color copiers (particularly high-end units) will shut down if a user attempts to copy currency.

Personally, I don't see this as any sort of real privacy violation (which, along with the right to steal intellectual property, seems to be the only thing some people really care about). In spite of people's hatred of Bush, and the rampant conspiracy theories that surround him, I don't really believe that the checks and balances that have kept us relatively secure from oppression have entirely disappeared.

I see this as a viable method to provide evidence of wrongdoing, where technology has passed by other forms of evidence. Once, pages typed with old-style typewriters could be traced by the minute differences in how a given typewriter made each keystroke. Hasn't anyone ever watched a suspense movie where the ransom note was made from newspaper clippings? With laser and inkjet printing, that method of investigation is no longer available.

Finally, there are a thousand ways for government to trace you. While I don't trust my government completely, or in some ways at all, I don't really believe that it's out to get me.

And about the Secret Service visiting the guy who called his printer company to ask how to turn off the dots? Doesn't that sound like the Secret Service was just doing its job? Wins Case Against Visa - ?

It's odd that the folks behind the Internet download site, which was recently shut down by the Russian government as a prerequisite for joining the WTO, has just won a judgement against Visa for the latter's refusing to do business with the illegal site. And, it means that Visa will now have to do business with the new site by the previous owners of, even though it follows the same business model (as far as I can see) and so is just as illegal.

Government Data Mining: Checks and Balances?

I'm all for our law enforcement and military agencies having all the tools they need to protect us from criminals and foreign threats. Data mining is one such tool, and ultimately I don't find it any different than any other form of investigation. It's just faster.

But, there do need to be the same checks and balances in place to make sure that any information that's mined is used for appropriate purposes. And frankly, I don't know if these checks and balances are in place. This story doesn't say.

Probably worth some investigation.