June 9th, 2013

Disqus and the NSA/FBI/CSA

If I were a government spook I’d drool at the opportunity to connect the IP addresses from the most widely used commenting system in the United States (among other things), Disqus, with what I already had gleaned from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Skype, Dropbox, etc. Disqus has built a system that spans blogs and newspapers across the nation and of late requires detailed “user information” in order to comment on whatever.

Update (2013 June 10): Disqus Privacy Policy Hmmm.сео оптимизацияСеоиконисондаживик услуги

February 10th, 2012

What’s your browser “fingerprint”

Mad Magazine‘s Alfred E. Neuman’s mantra was “What me worry?” Well, yes – you should. Peter Eckersley has written an interesting paper for the Electronic Frontier Foundation that is available as a PDF file, “How Unique Is Your Web Browser?”

Today I was fiddling around with a search engine that incorporates a proxy server, and the test results at EFF’s site using “Test ME” http://panopticlick.eff.org were eye opening. Of course I have to take privacy promises from the folks at IXQuick at their word (I don’t) – but still it’s an interesting approach bundling a proxy server into a search engine that promisses privacy. If 5% of the folks using search engines switch over because they think that IXQuick offers privacy that Google and others obviously do not this will be a big shake-up in the way The Internet works. FWIW, I’ll buy into what IXQuick is offering after their technology has been reviewed by 3 or 4 independent experts that are granted all privileges to see what IXQuick has implemented; at present all the assurances of privacy come from IXQuick “corporate.” If IXQuick is on the up-and-up that should all happen very soon.

December 15th, 2011

The cloud services

British BAE (a defense contractor), on the brink of contracting Microsoft for their Office365 services, bailed out. Although MS had promised their data would be stored in the UK (Dublin data center), they could not exempt BAE, or actually themselves from the US Patriot Act, which basically forces any US based company, or any foreign company with a US office, to hand over any data about any client also forbidding to inform the client this information has been requested and turned over. No thanks, up yours.

And yes, of course this also holds for me writing this on a US based hosting service, my gmail, etc etc. And yours.

Added December 16: Europe is working Data Protection Directive, which seems to be a head-to-head with the US government, actually forbidding companies to share data about EU citizens. One rules seems to be that a company cannot requested directly to hand over data about a EU citizen, but that such a request should always be funneled through national law enforcement. My opinion: utter window dressing BS. 1) US law enforcement will easily arm twist the Microsofts and Googles of this world, especially when it’s about non US citizens. 2) National governments will easily be arm twisted to comply. In politics, everything is merchandise,

April 27th, 2011

The Fingerprints Database

After endless ignoring, parliament shot down the administrations fingerprint database, that was conveniently build when applying for a passport. 6 million fingerprints have been collected, whereas the only European law states it must be stored in your passport. Sometimes reason prevails. Just sometimes.

Earlier on the nest: The little error (last paragraph)Картини

March 29th, 2011

The Electronic Patient File revisted

The EPD was killed by the equivalent of the senate, based on cost-benefit analysis, privacy issues and a somewhat rough track record for my government on the subject of the successful implementation of huge ICT projects. I am very proud of these “old men” of politics. It is very, very rare that the senate votes down a law like this; their primary job is to ensure new laws are consistent and are rather a-politic.

I hear the same project is being tried in Canada, where the administration is selling at as a huge benefit for the patients. I hope a few people have a look on how things seem to have run.

Note: not that it has been completely shot down. It is still allowed on a regional level.

January 8th, 2011

The long arm of the law

Today it was announced that on December 15th, the US subpoenaed a.o. the twitter accounts of Rob Gongrijp (a Dutchman, he is the guy behind the “we don’t trust voting computers” here, there is more on this blog about that) and an Icelandic member of parliament Birgitta Jónsdóttir (she has pushed lawmaking in favor of protecting “leakers”). The subpoena was held secret for 3 weeks, by order of the US magistrate Theresa Buchanan.

Lessons kearned:

  • If one uses US based cloud services, accept they are bound by US law (google, microsoft, twitter, this blog)
  • accept there is no such thing as respect for foreign law, on the contrary: in my experience, for US law enforcement, a non-American citizen is one step lower on the ladder (sorry to be so blunt)
  • accept in a broad sense that to plead for a transparent government, one is probably a Wikileaks supporter, and therefor somehow a terrorist, or at least there is some sort of smell. (see this youtube how Wikileaks REALLY works)
  • accept that this smell is enough to tear down a lot of intrinsic mechanisms to protect the average Joe from it’s, or in this case somebody else’s government.

A sad state of affairs.

And just for the record: my country is not a shred better in cases like this. Just more silent.

August 29th, 2010

The cookies (republished)

Note: I decided to re-post this entry, see below why.

After a bit of (non-extensive) internal discussion, we decided to remove all tracking code from the nest. This is one of the reasons the Media Matters widget has disappeared. *)

We try to keep this site clean (as in, “non evil) so we got rid of that. Now you WILL receive a few cookies when you decide to log in, but that of course is not mandatory. As an advise, at least tell Firefox to broom out your cookies after it closes (under Preferences, Privacy, Use custom settings for History.

Added 08/29: CityKid dropped me a private comment about flash cookies that left me a bit “huh? what’s that?”. Until I checked out, yes only today, what he was talking about. I urge all readers to understand what it is here and here, then, if you haven’t done already, switch to FireFox, and install this plugin. I was completely shocked (but not suprised) there is a very active “parallel cookie universe”, that is handled NOT by the browser and it’s setting at all, but by our dear, most used, evil, plugin Flash. All the more reason to dump it. With HTML5 coming around fast now, we don’t need flash anymore.

Added 09/18: Put MediaMatters back, checking things out a bit.

*) We think Media Matters are good guys. Here is a link to them.

April 15th, 2010

Didn’t I see you naked on The Internet?

Updates follow.

As a U.S. Senator running for The Office of President of The United States Barak Obama voted to remove a provision from FISA legislation that provided immunity to telephone companies that had willingly provided access to the National Security Agency (NSA), without Court issued warrants to the telephone conversations of US Citizens. The amendment that was defeated would have removed civil immunity for the telephone companies from FISA and allowed citizens to hold telephone companies (telcoms) responsible and subject to Civil Action in our courts. Then Senator Obama contradicted himself when he went on to vote in favor of the FISA legislation which included civil immunity for the telephone companies that had violated Federal laws; thanks President Obama – nice flip-flop. The violation of our rights by the telephone companies, The Bush Administration (via NSA) and the United States Senate has come to be known as the “warrantless surveillance program.”

The problem with giving up our Civil Liberties is that we give up those rights in drips and drabs and become accustom to the “new ways.” 40 years ago I know people who would have brandished a gun and shot out the security cameras that now look at us everyday. Now days we don’t give those cameras a second thought. When was the last time you willing gave out your Social Security number – perhaps because somebody told you they couldn’t do something for you without it?

This case, filed in Federal Court this past Tuesday by a Pennsylvania family may or may not be adjudged true:

“A Lower Merion family has set off a furor among students, parents, and civil liberties groups by alleging that Harriton High School officials used a webcam on a school-issued laptop to spy on their 15-year-old son at home.”

If it turns out to be true it is an example of how much we’ve given up to live in a “safe world.” Even if it turns out not to be true it demonstrates, in my opinion, how paranoid we have to be to live here in these United States.

If you use email in these rather twisted times, remember that somebody else is probably reading the words you write. If you make a phone call there is a good chance that somebody unbeknown to you is listening to the words you speak (maybe a computer equipped with voice recognition software is transcribing your words), or at the least the numbers you have dialed and the numbers you have received calls from have been data mined for analysis (probably using billing information). If you make a purchase with a credit or debit card you are being tracked. Big Brother is among us.

Oh, and just for fun here’s a tune that you might enjoy though I know that my co-conspirators here at The Ptarmigan Nest have heard it many times.

Update I (2010 Feb 24): Shut down Webcam use, judge tells school district

Update II(2010 April 15) John P. Martin reports on The Philiadelphia Inquirer website, “Lawyer: Laptops took thousands of images.”

The system that Lower Merion school officials used to track lost and stolen laptops wound up secretly capturing thousands of images, including photographs of students in their homes, Web sites they visited, and excerpts of their online chats, says a new motion filed in a suit against the district.

More than once, the motion asserts, the camera on Robbins’ school-issued laptop took photos of Robbins as he slept in his bed. Each time, it fired the images off to network servers at the school district.

Back at district offices, the Robbins motion says, employees with access to the images marveled at the tracking software. It was like a window into “a little LMSD soap opera,” a staffer is quoted as saying in an e-mail to Carol Cafiero, the administrator running the program.

“I know, I love it,” she is quoted as having replied.

Update III You can’t make this stuff up: Lower Merion report: “Web cams snapped 56,000 images.”

February 14th, 2010

Again, photo’s

In 2008 I blogged a bit about photo geotagging. My stance on it has only deepened: 2, 3 years later it’s become way cooler, and I am much deeper concerned on its privacy aspects. Watch this jaw dropping TED video and see what Microsoft is doing with both their and your pictures.

I bet google will follow soon.

February 11th, 2010

The account data (updated)

According to local news outlets secretary Clinton…

…. urged EU parliament by letter to share bank account data of European citizens with American authorities. This data is needed in our “mutual effort to counter terrorism”.

This red flags the hell out of me. What would you guys think if our Secret Service type of guys wanted to browse though your transactions?

Parliament seems to be against sharing, but expect members to fall like domino bricks under US pressure. One member though explained there was not a single concession in Clintons letter to the EU and basically said there was room for ‘discussion’ after legislation to share would have passed. wtf?

Added 2/11: Today, the European parliament, for the first time since it’s power was raised by the Lisbon treaty, rejected above treaty 378 against 196 with the US. Reasoning was

  • Unclear which US authorities would have access to EU bank data
  • Impossible for inhabitants to see what data is shared
  • No appeal procedure if shared data is false

Note: the treaty was approved by the member states one day before the Lisbon treaty came into effect, which was seen by a lot of people as a hasty push-through. Also note that the treaty in itself was deemed “needed” since Swift moved it’s operation from US soil, and thereby falling under US anti-terrorism laws (read: we can see everything we want to see), to the Netherlands. If I find the time I will try to find out why Swift decided to do that.

Added: here is a statement from Swift, give a tiny bit of insight.