It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and I’m sure many of you are traveling to spend time with loved ones. In addition to whatever wonderful things you’ve already planned, may I suggest a little tech support? A few minutes of effort can go a long way!
- Updating your mom’s operating system
- Updating her browser
- Updating and running a virus scan
Those few things are almost effortless, and can go a long way towards protecting your mother’s machine from all manner of badness.
Practice safe computing by lending a helping hand!
The House of Representatives added an amendment to their Cybersecurity bill CISPA, and then passed it 248-168. Those 248 people need to take a high school civics course are get a refresher on the Bill of Rights.
The bill will annihilate our 4th Amendment rights on the Internet by creating a loophole whereby the authorities can pretty much establish cause to search any files you’re sharing with another web service – Email, Google Docs, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, banking, medical databases, websites, Google Search, you name it, if it isn’t hosted on your own server, you’re screwed.
Previously, CISPA allowed the government to use information for “cybersecurity” or “national security” purposes. Those purposes have not been limited or removed. Instead, three more valid uses have been added: investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime, protection of individuals, and protection of children. Cybersecurity crime is defined as any crime involving network disruption or hacking, plus any violation of the CFAA.
Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cybersecurity bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a “cybersecurity crime”. Basically it says the 4th Amendment does not apply online, at all. Moreover, the government could do whatever it wants with the data as long as it can claim that someone was in danger of bodily harm, or that children were somehow threatened—again, notwithstanding absolutely any other law that would normally limit the government’s power.
CISPA is now a completely unsupportable bill that rewrites (and effectively eliminates) all privacy laws for any situation that involves a computer. Far from the defense against malevolent foreign entities that the bill was described as by its authors, it is now an explicit attack on the freedoms of every American.
I’m choosing to believe that 248 of our Representatives are just incredibly stupid, because otherwise they are evil. This is one of the most oppressive bills I’ve ever heard of. Bunch of savages.
Hopefully Obama comes through with a Veto, and it holds up.
Yesterday’s amendment to a larger FCC reform bill that would make it illegal for employers to ask for employee’s social media passwords failed to garner the votes it needed.
This is a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, my montra remains the same: “Don’t give your passwords to anyone.” By anyone I include boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, children, or employers. That being said, I don’t see this as the kind of issue that must be transformed into law as there is nothing inherently dangerous about giving away a Facebook password, and there are other ways of getting at the information in one’s Facebook profile beyond demanding access.
Personally I won’t work with obviously unethical people. I rather like the idea of telling a potential employer to piss off because they demand something that they have no business asking for. I see the fact that an employer can ask for my passwords as a layer of protection for me. It’s a simple red flag system, as I will loathe working for or with people like that.
It’s fine if they ask me for my password, and it’s my right to tell them that I don’t work with unethical people.
The Other Side of the Argument
Now some of you are already thinking, “David, you don’t have a family to think about.” And you’re damn right. I don’t. At that point, you’re putting a value on your privacy. It’s your choice. We place a value on our privacy every time we signup for an online service like Google or Facebook. What’s wrong with doing the same for employment? With regards to your potential employer, ask yourself:
- How badly do you want that job?
- Do you honestly believe that the (largely imagined) job security you seek is really going to come from the jerk who demands your passwords?
- Are you ok with working for a micromanager? Because that’s who asks for your passwords.
What To Do If You Turn Over Your Password
- Tell the potential employer that your password will change by the end of the day. This is a personal security issue, and you can’t knowingly have a compromised password in the wild for more than a day.
- If you reuse passwords (which you shouldn’t), you need to change the password on all accounts that use that compromised password. Do it as soon as you get home.
Question: “If we take Chrome apps to its logical conclusion: Do you like Samsung 5 Chromebook? Do you see any there at SXSW?”
Browser As An Operating Systems
Rumors circulated for years that Google was creating an operating system environment within a web browser. It’s a natural leap for Google because it benefits greatly from Internet expansion. Due to ubiquitous broadband (at least in the States), and relatively fast, and inexpensive processors have given this idea legs: an inexpensive machine that only accesses the Internet and other software that runs in-browser.
Google has a fun habit of releasing mostly-baked products into the market. They do so with everything: Gmail, Google Music, Android, G+, Chrome (browser). Now, they are doing it with Chrome OS.
When you buy a Chromebook, you are essentially paying to enter an open beta. That’s all well and good if you’ve got the cash, and don’t mind tinkering with partially completed software & hardware, but it’s not my cup of tea. I’m happy to beta test a free product from time-to-time, but I won’t pay for the privilege.
What is Chrome OS Good at?
- Browsing the web
- Basic to intermediate word-processing & spreadsheets
- Editing content from within a CMS
Where Does Chrome OS Fall Short?
The Law & The Cloud
Technology moves fast. Regulations and laws creep when they move at all. Steven Levy put it best:
“…the legal and regulatory framework for cloud computing is still evolving, as we are reminded by the government subpoenas for digital information on people tied to Wikileaks. If we’re going to make the leap to the cloud, we’ll need renewed assurances that personal data on the servers of Google or other companies will enjoy the same protections as the information stored on our personal hard drives and in our desk drawers” (Wired).
This is a big deal because with every passing month, the US government has become more aggressive in expanding online search and seizure.
Are People Using Chromebooks at SXSW?
While I’m hesitant to use SXSW attendees’ behavior as a measure of good tech decisions, I have not noticed a single Chromebook. Mostly I’ve seen a ton of Macbook Airs & Pros, Lenovo Thinkpads, and iPads.
Where is This Headed?
For better or worse, our computers are going to become increasingly more dependent on the cloud. That being said, I do not believe that Chrome OS is the answer. Over the next few years we will witness an operating system convergence.
Apple: iOS & OSX will merge
Microsoft: Windows 8 is all about convergence of the desktop, television, phone & tablet
Google: Android & Chrome will become one
Chrome OS is kind of a neat idea if you can already do all of your work in-browser, and can mentally get past the privacy/ legal issues.
Personally, I can’t do all of my work in-browser. I can’t ignore the privacy issues, and completely surrender all of my data to Google. I am deeply troubled by the imbalance between meatspace and cyberspace civil liberties (which is not Google’s fault).
All that being said, this really is an individual decision based on personal values, and use-cases. If Chromebook is all you want and need, enjoy. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a Macbook Air.
Until recently, if an item was small, remote-controlled, had a propeller and flew, then it was a toy… And probably a crappy one at that.
Now quadcopter drones are performing all manner of nifty precision tricks. Make no mistake, these tricks are a precursor to a coming technological revolution. The results of this revolution are unknown, but they will have huge implications for law enforcement, military, journalism, cinematography, and scientific research.
As with any new technology, some of the applications will be incredibly beneficial to human life, and other will be destructive. Drones can rapidly travel where humans cannot to gather data, or make repairs. Drones can also be used for surveillance and murder.
Regardless of their application, you can expect to see drones playing a larger role in our lives over the coming years.
On a philosophical and political level, I’m deeply troubled. Philosophically, I think more privacy is the direction we should be moving. However, politically I don’t want to see that privacy come as a result of government regulation. As we have seen with copyright law, when governments get involved, things get ugly fast. Google’s actions here have captured the attention of government leaders in quite a few countries, and I guarantee it’s going to case problems down the line. Ultimately the people who will suffer most from government internet regulation will be smaller website operators., not Google.
Killing YouTube Data Collection
All that being said, I have no problems sticking it to Google for grabbing at more data. Here’s a simple way to kill Google’s data collection on YouTube:
Courtesy of Lifehacker