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.

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