October 17, 2007

3.37 Minutes of Bacon Jokes

As Bullwinkle said, "now for something really important":

October 16, 2007

Ongoing, Warrantless Telephone & Internet Surveillance of Us All

Even Starbucks is now required to help them spy on us.

Check out the summaries here and here. Note the post in the first thread indicating that telcos may now be routinely routing ALL communications through jurisdictions outside the U.S., so all can be captured.

All info is good info – until it's used against you for bad purposes. The gummint surveilled John Lennon (Wikipedia) and Martin Luther King (Wikipedia) in its efforts to end their activism, probably succeeding in the case of Lennon, who faced deportation for marijuana use.

A balance of power requires a balance of knowledge: we need to know at least as much about what our gummint is doing as it knows about us. We don't.

October 15, 2007

Pirates Take Over Anti-Piracy Website

"Software pirates have launched an astonishing smash 'n' grab raid on the music biz, stealing the domain name of one of its foremost anti-piracy bodies.

"The Pirate Bay has now taken up residence at IFPI.com, a domain once owned by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). . . ."

* * *

"When asked to confirm how they got the domain name, Pirate Bay administrator Brokeup told TorrentFreak: 'It's not a hack. Someone just gave us the domain name. We have no idea how they got it, but it's ours and we're keeping it.'"

More at Tech.co.uk.

October 3, 2007

UPDATE: With Our Help, the Internet is Being Brought to Heel

Free speech in general and the internet in particular seem to worry control freaks.

As of 2000, just five megacorporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) – controlled over 90% of the media industry in the U.S., with General Electric's NBC a close sixth (see here, here, here, and here).

In 2003, despite the largest public outcry in FCC history, the FCC adopted rules loosening restrictions on media ownership (stories here, here, and here). Although courts ultimately threw out the rules, the FCC is now trying again (stories here and here).

Certain people have spent a lot of money to gain all that control, and notwithstanding claims of hard times in the media biz, the investment has proved profitable; but one of the main benefits that might have been hoped for – control over the agenda and messages reaching audiences of any significant size – is threatened by the 'net.

Internet freedom, neutrality, etc. have accordingly been attacked on a variety of fronts.

In an earlier post, I discussed conservatives' plans to replace the internet as we know it with something called the "Worldbeam," a.k.a. the "Cloud," a system in which, instead of storing all your personal docs, files, and software on your own computer at home, everything would be stored on larger computers elsewhere, and you would just have a box that would be little more than a gateway to the Cloud.

Instead of buying your own copies of applications, the most basic might (or might not) be provided on the Cloud for free, and you'd pay license fees for anything fancy, so vendors could force you to upgrade whenever they liked. Although access to your own data would theoretically be protected by a password or other security, the gummint or others who controlled the Cloud could access, modify, or simply delete any or all of your or others' data much more easily than now.

The internet would have been transformed into a massive, top-down surveillance system while conferring virtually unlimited power on those who controlled it to re-write "reality."

I was worried, but thought it would be some years before the "Beam" replaced the 'net as we know it.

Duh. It's finally dawned on me, there's no need for those desiring Beam-like control to engineer any single, vast switch-over to a new system. They're simply colonizing the 'net bit (so to speak) by bit – and many of us are unwittingly helping them.

Think MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, MeetUp, LinkedIn, del.icio.us, Ancestry.com, and yes, Blogspot – you upload or create tons of data about yourself and your activities, opinions, social and other relationships, and personal preferences into online facilities that are maintained and controlled by other people. You may or may not even keep copies on your own computer of everything you put on the 'net. Think online banking and investment, every airplane ticket you've ever bought and hotel you've booked, every comment you've ever posted, and every purchase you've ever made esp. from vendors like amazon that keep track so as to make recommendations. Think on-line spam filter services (I realize AT&T is probably already giving the gummint copies of every e-mail that passes through AT&T's "pipes," in direct violation of our constitutional rights -- see here -- but hey, we managed to shut that down, didn't we? Oops, guess not.) HuffPo even tells the world how much money I've given to which political candidates.

The fact is, many of us have for some time been eagerly shifting vast portions of our lives into Beam- or Cloud-like facilities that are based somewhere out there and are only nominally under our own control.

At least now, of course, we CAN keep copies of our stuff on our own computers. My computer can of course be infected or hacked; but I can fight that in various ways that at least make it more difficult for my privacy etc. to be massively violated by the gummint, etc. Theoretically, I could even put stuff on a computer that has no wireless port and isn't otherwise connected to the 'net, so someone would have to have actual physical access to it in order to alter or delete it.

So far, a lot of us haven't been terribly concerned about what info we put or allow to be retained about us on the 'net – at the time, it seemed it would probably be convenient, although those of use who've tried have found it's not so easy to delete information from the 'net once we've put it there, if it turned out not to be so much to our benefit as we originally thought.

Maybe we should be more concerned.

To be super-blunt, the internet is a great place to find and share general info or info about public issues or figures. For a lot of reasons, it's a terrible place to entrust valuable info, esp. personal info about yourself or people you care about.

October 2, 2007

Artist Gets Probation for Building Secret Mall Apartment

"PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The leader of an artists' cooperative has been sentenced to probation for illegally setting up a secret apartment inside the Providence Place Mall that was equipped with furniture and a video game system.

"Michael Townsend, 36, said he and seven other artists built the apartment in a 750-square-foot loft in the parking garage four years ago and lived there for up to three weeks at a time while documenting mall life.

"The apartment included a sectional sofa and love seat, coffee and breakfast tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, paintings, a hutch filled with china, a waffle iron, TV and Sony Playstation 2 -- although a burglar broke in and stole the Playstation last spring, Townsend said."

As the artists explained on their website, "General Growth Properties, LLC, the owner of the Providence Place Mall . . . . strives to simulate the feeling that 'you,' the shopper, are in control of your environment." (Attributed to "Sorkin 2005").

More details here. Credit presumably due to trummerkind & co.