Tech at Night

Sometimes the government cheers the idea that your data is being protected from the bad guys. Other times, the government grumbles and complains.

It turns out they’re fine with your data being at risk, as long as it means government can get to it whenever it wants. Funny, that.

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Tech at Night

Delay, obfuscate, distract. The anarchists are doing everything they can to try to keep Silk Road drug ring founder Ross Ulbricht from facing justice. His lawyers want his trial delayed and are slinging mud about FBI, and his fellow anarchists are attempting to intimidate the judge.

America used to bar anarchists from entering the country. These days it’s easy to see why that was wise.

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Tech at Night

So the Obama administration for a while has been talking about failing to renew its Commerce Department contract with ICANN, the organization that runs IANA and the fundamentals of the Internet. This would create a power vacuum online, one that would gladly be filled by America’s rivals.

And all the tough talk to the contrary won’t change that.

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Tech at Night

A service called Snapchat has been around a while, purporting to let its users share images, without the recipient being able to save them. Except well, it never was possible to prevent that, and that’s been known all along. Snapchat’s answers was to try to warn the sender if the photo was saved but… they weren’t that great at that.

So now a bunch of nude Snapchat photos may come out but, seriously, if you were sending nude photos around in this way, you didn’t really care about your privacy anyway.

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Tech at Night

According to the government, if they think you’re breaking the law, they have the authority to break into your servers. Given the possibility of errors, combined with the tendency of third parties to gather data which could help, this puts private citizens online in a tricky spot.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sympathetic to the Silk Road scum, and I’m inclined to look the other way when an anarchist gets stomped by the state.

However, Google is right that it’s government’s fault that there’s a new push for encryption online.

Even if you support NSA’s role online, a government that is not transparent while actively searching people’s data, is a good reason to keep your data encrypted. Governments make mistakes, and data gets leaked. Just look at Bradley Manning’s case, or Edward Snowden’s.

Should our data be at the mercy of anarchists, traitors, and opportunists? No, we have the right to secure our data. And government has no business telling us they need special access. Democrats have wanted that since the Clinton era, with the Clipper program of so-called Escrowed Encryption (where you can encrypt your data, but government can always decrypt it), but it’s never had any popular support. Rightfully not.


If Belkin can’t even keep routers running, why would anyone trust the Internet of Things?

There’s no such thing as a ‘light’ or ‘forbearance’ version of Title II Reclassification, which would cause the Internet to be regulated by the FCC like the phone system. 1930s regulation for 2010s technology.

Net Neutrality violations are a myth, finds the European Commission, after spending a year trying to gin up justification for government control of the Internet.

Tech at Night

Have to say, sometimes enforcement of things is rather inconsistent in this country.

If you or I (or Aaron Swartz) were caught making unauthorized access to other people’s computer equipment, to engage in a Denial of Service attack, we’d risk criminal charges. Marriott International? Not so much.

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Tech at Night: Net Neutrality update

On October 4, 2014, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

The fact that the Net Neutrality and “Title II Reclassification” debates are being driven by myths and falsehoods seems to be getting out.

Which is why we now see them getting more desperate.

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Tech at Night

I’m old enough to remember 2001. Back in the early days of the Bush administration, the new Bush FCC took an active role in enforcing the decency rules that had gotten pretty much ignored under the Clinton administration. This enforcement culminated with the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, featuring Janet Jackson.

Democrats naturally were outraged. But, fast forward ten years, and now Democrats are talking about pushing their own broadcast decency preferences, against the Washington Redskins.

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Tech at Night: Nobody cares about privacy, not even criminals

On September 30, 2014, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

I’m sure everyone’s tired of my saying it, but nobody cares about privacy. That’s why texting and Gmail are so popular, nobody does end-to-end encryption, Facebook is nearly ubiquitous, and nude photos keep getting broadcast everywhere.

This is why it’s so silly to keep trying to obstruct NSA going after the bad guys, when people’s non-existent privacy practices are broadcasting all of that data and metadata anyway. Let’s get serious.

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Tech at Night

Imagine a safe, one used to store important papers, extreme valuables, or even guns. When we put our things into a safe, to keep things secure against a determined thief. It’s very important they aren’t able to get in and take these things, so we ensure our safes are very difficult to open without authorization. The idea that we’d have a secret back door that could be exploited to gain unauthorized access, perhaps by the manufacturer, bypassing our control of the lock, would be unthinkable.

Yet, this is exactly what Obama’s FBI head, James Comey, is asking for when it comes to the safes protecting our online data. It’s madness.

I have long been a defender of NSA (one of our nation’s leading data intelligence and counterintelligence groups), of FISA (the spy courts), of ECPA as written (the law that allows ISPs to give access to their email servers), and of the overall role of government in monitoring online activities to further legitimate law enforcement and national security objectives. However, one big reason I’ve taken this position is that few of these surveillance techniques work against effective encryption techniques.

Basically, most of this “government spying” is rendered completely ineffective by the use of free, modern, commodity encryption tools and techniques widely available today. Anyone who wanted a great deal of privacy would be able to chose to take it, however, most Americans do not value their privacy, and are willing to sell it for cash and convenience.

However the fact that most Americans give away their data does not mean that we should all be mandated to do so. Even if we mistrust the crank Internet encryption communities out there, groups like Tor which are magnets for criminals and terrorists, the fact is we have a right to close the drapes, we have a right to lock our doors, and we have a right to encrypt our data.

Encryption is a lot like a gun. In fact, export law used to treat it as a munition. It’s a powerful tool that, put in the hands of honest people, is protective and good. In the hands of crooks and terrorists, it’s a tool for evil. The fact that the bad guys will encrypt their data is no more a reason for encryption restrictions, than the fact that bad guys get guns, is a reason for gun control.

The bad guys are going to grab GNU Privacy Guard or something, and encrypt their data, whether the good guys do so or not. FBI needs to lay off trying to intimidate private citizens from protecting themselves.


Yahoo joins Google and Facebook in kowtowing to the extreme fringe left against ALEC. That’s fine. Remember that, folks, the next time they push for Net Neutrality, or open borders, or any of the other astroturf campaigns the extremist left fringe of tech have been trying to foist upon us.

The Obama FCC is using prison phone bills as a pretext to fight federalism.

California already mandates kill switches in phones. What happens when cars are next?

Security is as much about people as it is about code. Note that FBI and DHS are warning the public about this, when government itself gets bitten in cases like Bradley Manning’s and Edward Snowden’s. Government is ing no position to regulate on cybersecurity. It’s not competent enough to do so.

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