Tag Archives: privacy

Links: Identity, Kindle, Language, and the Moon

  • Geek Merit BadgesFanboy Scouts has launched a series of Merit Badges for Geeks including achievements for Speedster, Mt. Doom, Tie Fighter Pilot, Away Team, and more.
  • Privacy in terms of contextual identity. How you present yourself to your friends is not how you present yourself to your colleagues, and what you’re willing to share in each context is going to be different.
  • XKCD is probably right about the future of “old-timey” speech. “Forsooth, do you grok my jive, me hearties?” We have a hard enough time getting the mid-twentieth century right, and that’s with people around who lived it!
  • Darryl Cunningham debunks the Moon Hoax in comic-strip form.
  • The new Kindle looks nice. They’re starting to get to the price/feature/polish point where I’d be tempted. (Well, except for that pesky DRM…) Also, Amazon launched Kindle for Android recently, but I haven’t tried it out. While it will run on Android 1.6, it’s a bit big for my G1 unless I clear out some other apps.
    Kindle Wireless 3G+WiFi.

Smoking Dutch Cleanser

Here’s something I just don’t understand about the whole electronic eavesdropping controversy.

Given that FISA warrants are:

  • Easy to obtain
  • Secret
  • Obtainable retroactively, so you can legally start listening in immediately

Why is it necessary to eavesdrop without one? What’s so hard about getting a warrant?

While we’re at it, given that the bad guys almost certainly knew we were spying on them as much as we could already, what’s so dangerous about revealing the warrantless spying program?

Instead of these endless self-justifications, it would be nice to see President Bush or Attorney General Gonzales say, “You’re right, we should have gotten warrants. From now on, we will.” End of story. Instead of digging in their heels and insisting on powers that should scare the hell out of anyone, no matter what their party affiliation.

Toolbars that Phone Home

Many web browser add-ons have features that require contacting a central server. The Google Toolbar will show you a site’s PageRank. Amazon’s A9 Toolbar will show you information from Alexa. If you want this, that’s great—but if you only want it occasionally, you might not want someone tracking your entire browsing session.

After installing the A9 toolbar for testing, I decided I wanted to know just when they were contacting their server. I installed the Firefox versions of four toolbars and used netstat to see when they connected.

  • A9 Toolbar: Constant connections to hosts at amazon.com and alexa.com, but only when the toolbar is visible.
  • Google Toolbar: Opens initial connection to a Google-owned IP address. If PageRank display is enabled, or was earlier in the session, maintains continuous connections—even when the toolbar is hidden!
  • Yahoo! Toolbar: Opens initial connections to a Yahoo server and to unknown.Level3.net (which, based on traceroute, appears to be on the way from here to Yahoo). Sometimes the latter remains open for a long time before closing. It does not appear to reconnect on its own.
  • StumbleUpon: Only connects when you press its buttons.

Overall, these toolbars seem to behave in a privacy-friendly way. But it was disturbing that the Google toolbar keeps a connection open even when it’s hidden, and that disabling PageRank display doesn’t seem to stop the connections until you restart Firefox. (Maybe it does eventually, and I didn’t wait long enough.) If I’ve hidden the toolbar, I don’t need the functionality right then. There’s no reason to hold a network connection open until I re-show the toolbar.

If I only want to use these toolbars occasionally, I can just hide most of them through the View→Toolbars submenu. But to keep the Google Toolbar from phoning home, I have to either disable PageRank and restart Firefox, or disable the toolbar in the Extensions—and restart Firefox.

We know where your network is

Apparently wardrivers (people who cruise neighborhoods with a laptop looking for open wireless networks) have been submitting their findings to WiGLE—a searchable database and interactive map of wireless access points.

Already checked—our home network isn’t in there. (As much as I’ve locked it down, it had better not be!) But they do list several in our neighborhood.

As always, the power of the Internet can be used for either good or evil.

(via Aunty Spam’s Net Patrol.)

Bunch O Links

Some random links I’ve come across today (several from the same source)

Peter David: Getting Ink for the Fund – yes, Peter David has gotten a tattoo to raise money for the CBLDF. He follows up: “What have you done for the CBLDF lately?” Well, I’ve plugged it on my website and bought a T-shirt… (Edit: It seems Neil Gaiman just missed this by not answering his phone. Also, Newsarama has posted a follow-up story with photos)

The Great Custom 404 Page Adventure – comparing the sometimes helpful, sometimes hostile, sometimes humorous “file not found” messages at various websites. Update: Ironically, the site’s gone 404 itself…

Indispensable Mac OS X products – ’nuff said.

Pir(l)ouettes – a commentary on Adobe’s history of the ampersand.

ACLU – Pizza – a funny/chilling animation of what might go on if a pizza place could cross-reference your health, library, and banking records while you were on the phone.