Journal Entries By Tag: #privacy

Assorted journal entries with the tag #privacy.

Smartphone Cryptogeddon

👓 2 minutes

After yesterday’s Senate committee hearing on encryption, wherein both FBI Director James Comey and New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made some pretty nasty comments about strong encryption on smartphones and the apocolyptic-problems it could bring, I thought it might be a good idea to remind everyone of what Representative Ted Lieu of California said back in April about why some users wanted smartphone encryption in the first place:

Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It’s because the public is demanding it. People like me: privacy advocates. A public does not want an out-of-control surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn’t do this because they thought they would make less money. This is a private sector response to government overreach.


[T]o me it’s very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: just follow the damn Constitution.

And because the NSA didn’t do that and other law enforcement agencies didn’t do that, you’re seeing a vast public reaction to this. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our Internet traffic, that is now spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement. And if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write to NSA: the FBI should tell the NSA, stop violating our rights. And then maybe you might have much more of the public on the side of supporting what law enforcement is asking for.

Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that’s why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States—that’s why they put in the Fourth Amendment. Because they understand that an Orwellian overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things that this world can have.

It might be worth point out that Rep. Lieu is one of four House members with computer science degrees, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves, and served for four years as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, making him (IMHO) someone knowledgeable in this area.

And it just so happens that fourteen of the world’s top computer security experts agree with him, but who’s counting.

An Act of Freedom, But For Whom?

👓 2 minutes

On this most auspicious day, when the USA FREEDOM Act passed through the Senate on it’s way to president’s desk, I spent the afternoon listening to some of law professors Eben Moglen’s excellent talks about Snowden and the Future.

One of the things that I noticed he mentioned, which I don’t recall hearing anywhere else, is our (the US citizenry) continued complacency about spying, as long as they aren’t spying on Americans.

Military control ensured absolute command deference with respect to the fundamental principle which made it all “all right,” which was: “No Listening Here.” The boundary between home and away was the boundary between absolutely permissible and absolutely impermissible—between the world in which those whose job it is to kill people and break things instead stole signals and broke codes, and the constitutional system of ordered liberty.

Of course, we all know how that turned out:

Not only had circumstances destroyed the simplicity of “no listening inside,” not only had fudging with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act carried them into the land where law no longer provided them with useful landmarks, but they wanted to do it—let’s be frank, they wanted to do it. Their view of the nature of human power was Augustan if not august. They wanted what it is forbidden to wise people to take unto themselves. And so they fell, and we fell with them.

Nearly every time that the USA PATRIOT Act is demonized in the press (even the leftist press), it seems to only be because the NSA dared to spy on us. But, shouldn’t we be questioning why they have to have such a large net at all, irrespective of the national boundaries?

Or, as professor Moglen so succinctly put it (emphasis mine):

The empire of the United States, the one that secured itself by listening to everything, was the empire of exported liberty. What we had to offer all around the world was freedom—after colonization, after European theft, after the forms of twentieth-century horror we haven’t even talked about yet—we offered liberty; we offered freedom. … It is, of course, utterly inconsistent with the American ideal to attempt to fasten the procedures of totalitarianism on American constitutional self-governance… Partly, as I shall suggest next time, because freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all. But primarily because there is an even deeper inconsistency between American ideals and the subjection of every other society on earth to the procedures of totalitarianism.

Something to think about the next time someone talks about “freedom”.

The People vs. John Deere

TL;DR — John Deere argues that farmers don't own their tractors, and this does not bode well for our IoT future.

👓 less than 1 minute

Over at Wired, iFixit’s Kyle Wiens (@kwiens) points out that #DMCA abuse extends well beyond preventing you from jailbreaking your PS3 and into the world of… farm machinery?

In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.

I find this particularly worrisome with regards to the #InternetOfThings, and the possibility of forced vendor lock-in on even the most trivial of items (“I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to call a certified Moen plumber to fix your leak.”)

Welcome to the future. Fight to make it better.