Solving the Gun Crisis: a modest proposal

I’m so impressed and inspired by the Parkland highschoolers fighting the NRA and urging common sense gun regulation. They’ve done so much more in 2 weeks than the rest of us combined in 2 decades. I will support them any way I can. I’m worried about what happens next. The NRA isn’t going down without a fight. How do we get to a lasting solution that radically addresses our gun addiction while also finding a way for the NRA to win? I’m worried that if we don’t, they will simply come back harder and stronger, once gun regulation momentum wanes. … Continue reading Solving the Gun Crisis: a modest proposal

the responsibility we have as software engineers

I had the chance to chat this week with the very awesome Kate Heddleston who mentioned that she’s been thinking a lot about the ethics of being a software engineer, something she just spoke about at PyCon Sweden. It brought me back to a post I wrote a few years ago, where I said: There’s this continued and surprisingly widespread delusion that technology is somehow neutral, that moral decisions are for other people to make. But that’s just not true. Lessig taught me (and a generation of other technologists) that Code is Law […] In 2008, the world turned against bankers, … Continue reading the responsibility we have as software engineers

Letter to President Obama on Surveillance and Freedom

Dear President Obama, My name is Ben Adida. I am 36, married, two kids, working in Silicon Valley as a software engineer with a strong background in security. I’ve worked on the security of voting systems and health systems, on web browsers and payment systems. I enthusiastically voted for you three times: in the 2008 primary and in both presidential elections. When I wrote about my support for your campaign five years ago, I said: In his campaign, Obama has proposed opening up to the public all bill debates and negotiations with lobbyists, via TV and the Internet. Why? Because … Continue reading Letter to President Obama on Surveillance and Freedom

The Onus is on Scientists – Shame on the AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has just come out against California’s Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of genetically-modified foods. In my opinion, the AAAS has failed its duty as promoters of Good Science. The question is not whether genetically-modified foods are safe. I see the benefits, and I see the downsides (especially as a security guy, since food safety testing is, in my opinion, very poorly done), and the debate will rage on for a long time. But whether genetically-modified foods are safe is not the issue. The issue is whether consumers have a … Continue reading The Onus is on Scientists – Shame on the AAAS

an ode to lessig’s optimism, taking on gigantic challenges… and a quibble

Last night, I went to see Lessig pitch his latest book, Republic, Lost. His latest spiel is fantastic, fine-tuned, gripping, thrilling, inspiring. I’ve been an avid fan of Lessigian story-telling for 13 years now. The way he sets up his argument, the way he goes far beyond the obvious, far beyond the quick fix, and the way he absolutely destroys any shred of doubt that may remain about his thesis. I saw him giving one of his first “Code” lectures at Harvard in 1998. In 2002, I waited in line at the Supreme Court and got to see the last … Continue reading an ode to lessig’s optimism, taking on gigantic challenges… and a quibble

with great power…

When Arvind writes something, I tend to wait until I have a quiet moment to read it, because it usually packs a particularly high signal to noise ratio. His latest post In Silicon Valley, Great Power but No Responsibility, is awesome: We’re at a unique time in history in terms of technologists having so much direct power. There’s just something about the picture of an engineer in Silicon Valley pushing a feature live at the end of a week, and then heading out for some beer, while people halfway around the world wake up and start using the feature and … Continue reading with great power…

intelligently designing trust

For the past week, every security expert’s been talking about Comodo-Gate. I find it fascinating: Comodo-Gate goes to the core of how we handle trust and how web architecture evolves. And in the end, this crisis provides a rare opportunity. warning signs Last year, Chris Soghoian and Sid Stamm published a paper, Certified Lies [PDF], which identified the very issue that is at the center of this week’s crisis. Matt Blaze provided, as usual, a fantastic explanation: A decade ago, I observed that commercial certificate authorities protect you from anyone from whom they are unwilling to take money. That turns … Continue reading intelligently designing trust

i changed my mind on nuclear power

Until this recent catastrophe in Japan (it’s awful, please consider helping out), I was very pro nuclear-power. I’ve never been afraid of technology, and I was raised in France, where 80% of electricity comes from nuclear power and there has been no serious safety problem with it. Plus, nuclear power can be green. And with newer technology, it can be made passively safe, where even if everything fails, a meltdown cannot occur (unlike the Japanese reactors, unfortunately.) So the recent crisis has changed my mind. I don’t think we can afford the risk of nuclear power. I’m not a nuclear … Continue reading i changed my mind on nuclear power

Wikileaks — not ideal, but a force for good in the end

I’ve found myself quite conflicted over the latest Wikileaks “dump”, specifically the hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables. On the one hand, there is no doubt that the mainstream press is failing miserably in its role of investigating and breaking stories about illegal secret activities. We’ve seen numerous high-profile publications delay stories for fear of impacting elections (e.g. the NY Times and Bush-era warrantless wiretapping). Where the War in Iraq is concerned, it seems fairly clear that the US government misled its people, and that, in my opinion, deserves complete whistleblower protection. On the other hand, while Wikileaks claims … Continue reading Wikileaks — not ideal, but a force for good in the end

devices, payload data, and why Kim is (in part) right.

A few days ago, I wrote about privacy advocacy theater and lamented how some folks, including EPIC and Kim Cameron, are attacking Google in a needlessly harsh way for what was an accidental collection of data. Kim Cameron responded, and he is right to point out that my argument, in the Google case, missed an important issue. Kim points out that two issues got confused in the flurry of press activity: the accidental collection of payload data, i.e. the URLs and web content you browsed on unsecured wifi at the moment the Google Street View car was driving by, and … Continue reading devices, payload data, and why Kim is (in part) right.