Privacy Advocacy Theater

Ed Felten recently used the very nice term Privacy Theater in describing the insanity of 6,000-word privacy agreements that we pretend to understand. The term, inspired by Bruce Schneier’s “security theater” description of US airport security, may have been introduced by Rohit Khare in December 2009 on TechCrunch, where he described how “social networks only pretend to protect your privacy.” These are real issues, and I wholeheartedly agree that long privacy policies and generally consumer-directed fine-print are all theater. I want to focus on a related problem that I’ll call privacy advocacy theater. This is a problem that my friends … Continue reading Privacy Advocacy Theater

if you’re outraged by accidental breaches, you’d better sit down

A few days ago, a security bug was discovered on Facebook, whereby users could see the chat transcripts of their friends talking to other friends. Then, another security hole was discovered where a problem at Yelp revealed email addresses of Facebook users. And today, Google realized that they accidentally collected network traffic from open wi-fi connections while gathering street-view data. In every instance, the companies involved didn’t mean to cause these data breaches. In every instance, they would gladly pay serious cash to prevent these bugs, given the negative publicity they cause. In every instance, most security folks I know … Continue reading if you’re outraged by accidental breaches, you’d better sit down

“It’s a tradeoff” and other uni-dimensional thinking

Many folks, like John Gruber, are responding to criticisms of the iPad’s closed ecosystem with the “it’s a tradeoff” idea: to have such a great computer, you need to lock it down. Some use the argument that Linux has never conquered the desktop, so there, open is incompatible with good usability (I’m looking at you engadget). That is some twisted backwards logic. Apple needs to remove apps it finds “not useful enough” for the iPad to work well? Apple needs to be the sole app distributor for the iPad to be so desirable? It would make the iPad worse if, … Continue reading “It’s a tradeoff” and other uni-dimensional thinking

The Accidental Tinkerer, Unexpected Lock-in, and Fatherhood

Ben Fry recently explained his concerns about the iPad: I want to build software for this thing. I’m really excited about the idea of a touch-screen computing platform that’s available for general use from a known brand who has successfully marketed unfamiliar devices to a wide audience. [..] It represents an incredible opportunity, but I can’t get excited about it because of Apple’s attempt to control who creates for it, and what they can create for it. Their policy of being the sole distributor of applications, and even worse, requiring approval on all applications, is insulting to developers. [..] I … Continue reading The Accidental Tinkerer, Unexpected Lock-in, and Fatherhood

The Great Content Lockdown of 2010

I had an invigorating and thought-provoking chat with my good friend Oliver Roup today. We agreed that the Apple iPad is going to be an unbelievable success. I’ve thought from day one that it would be huge, but I think it will be bigger than huge. Before the end of the summer, millions of people will own one. Content producers, looking for a way to make money, will flock to it. A virtuous circle will be created. More users. More content. More users. More content. And so, while killing Flash with one hand, Apple may put a dent in the … Continue reading The Great Content Lockdown of 2010

Taxing Human Transactions – Part 1

The worst part of my job is dealing with the mess of document formats and coding systems in healthcare. The acronym soup is insane: HL7, CCD, CCR, CDA, Green CDA (which I just heard about from John Halamka’s blog but… no link!), and that’s just the document formats. Then there are coding systems like LOINC, SNOMED, SNOMED-CT, UMLS, ICD9, ICD10, RxNorm, … Interestingly enough, the issue is not how many there are. The issue is how they’re licensed. Here’s a screenshot from the HL7 website that should tickle your funny bone: So, HL7 is unlocking the power of health information, … Continue reading Taxing Human Transactions – Part 1

Buzz Kill

Everyone is talking about the privacy disaster that was the Google Buzz launch, and oh my goodness it was. I’ve never been so thankful that I don’t use gmail. I’m frankly surprised that they didn’t do a smaller beta first, or that there isn’t a group at Google charged with thinking about the privacy implications of every product release who would have clearly screamed “stop!” If you want to think about the deep issues at play here, you really want to be reading Arvind Narayanan’s blog in general, and in particular his post on this issue: When I enabled Buzz … Continue reading Buzz Kill

I was wrong about the iPad

So I made a couple of predictions about the iPad, Apple’s tablet, and I realize in retrospect that, while I got some of the details right, I got the gist completely wrong. I thought it was going to be a special-purpose device. And most commentators are saying just that. But I was wrong and they are wrong. The iPad is very much meant to be a new approach to how we use computers in general. Still think it’s just a big iPhone? Watch these few minutes of video, a summary of how you interact with the iPad to create slides … Continue reading I was wrong about the iPad

a prediction regarding the Apple “Tablet”

Why a prediction? Eh, cause it’s fun and cause I think the Apple Tablet will have a large impact on consumer computing. I think Apple will launch a tablet computer in January that will be aimed at saving TV and print journalism. On-demand video and on-demand print magazines and newspapers will be at the forefront. And because those industries want Digital Rights Management, the Tablet will run the iPhone OS so that only approved apps can be installed. It will be great, and the “App Store” concept will continue to rock the house. In the meantime, Zittrain’s Future of the … Continue reading a prediction regarding the Apple “Tablet”

The first good mainstream article on vaccines in a while

I meant to mention this a while ago, but I keep forgetting. Amy Wallace at Wired wrote a fantastic piece on how irrational fears of vaccination are putting us all at risk. The feedback to Ms. Wallace has been enormous, and although tilted towards the positive, the negative feedback from the anti-vaccination crowd is insulting, misogynistic, ad-hominem crap. I’m a scientist and engineer, but I’m not a medical doctor. Back in 2004, when Robert Kennedy Jr. published his anti-vaccine piece in Salon/Rolling Stone, I worried that there was something to his claims. I asked around. I’m lucky enough to work … Continue reading The first good mainstream article on vaccines in a while