Friday, January 23, 2004

Lauren Gelman, Assistant Director of Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, writing for Findlaw, believes that despite the laudable efforts of the Howard Dean campaign, we have yet to see a real Internet election.

She has it absolutely right on the potential of the net to revolutionise elections through decentralization. Sharing the pessimistic outlook of her colleague at Stanford, Larry Lessig, however, I wonder at the collective ability of liberal democratic electorates to raise ourselves above the usual level of cynical apathy, to the extent that would energise the many to many participative real democractic process she describes.

I think she is also a little optimistic about the best ideas/debates/creative inputs automatically rising to the top. As Tim O'Reilly has so wisely said in the past, with billions of conversations or creative works, we can't read them all - we still need aggregators, who can put the producers in contact with those interested in the products of their creative endeavours. So even with a sufficiently participative electoral process along the lines the Net could facilitate, I predict that there would be an evolution to a kind of halfway house (between total central control and decentralization) of electoral process information supernodes. The centralizing urges of politicians and media moguls would be likely to attempt to converge on a kind of Clear Channel Communications model of control of these supernodes. But on the positive side, I'm a believer in the cock-up rather than the conspiracy theory of history and don't see a future of total control - there will always be leakage and the power of networks of people (note I didn't say the Internet) to nurture that leakage is very strong.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

AOL are getting blamed for the increasing incidences of STDs in the US. Gives you a whole new perspective on computer viruses.

STDs are not the kind of infection worrying the security experts who assessed the proposed $22 million online system to allow Americans overseas to vote via the internet.

The experts said the system has numerous serious insecurities and should be abandoned, so naturally the politicos are going to go ahead with it. When you find yourself riding a dead horse the best advice is to dismount. This one is a lot more serious that putting lots of resources into trying to get a dead horse to move with living impairment enhancements, though. Why does this stuff have to be so difficult to communicate to people? I think I'm going try muttering "computers are not magic but they can be fantastic" repeatedly, to see if that has any affect.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, EPIC, were not happy to find out that NorthWest Airlines, like JetBLue, had also been handling over passenger details for government related research on airline/airport/aviation security. They have complained formally to the Department of Transportation. They are also intending to sue NASA to find out what they did with the information supplied by the airline.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, are calling for a congressional inquiry "into who has been seeking,
getting and giving passenger data to the government".

Meanwhile, E-Data, have settled a patent infringement suit with Microsoft over "downloading of information onto a tangible object." "We are quite pleased with this settlement, as it further reinforces the scope and validity of (our) patent in Europe," said E-Data hairman Bert Brodsky in a statement. "While the OD2 service is still in the nascent stage…the agreement sends an important essage to other companies infringing upon our intellectual property."

Looks like they may be planning to go after Apple's iTunes next.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Yet another example of the kind of idiotic "security measures" post 9/11 panic has triggered at airports is beautifully told at the Mommy blog.

"Luckily, this year we will all be traveling together on the same flight because we were able to find decent fares. Neither of us will have to brave it alone, like I did once last year, and will endeavor never to do again. I could not believe what they put me through. That rule about not holding a baby during a search--what is up with that?? Believe me, I am fully capable of holding my child far enough from my body to get that little wand where it needs to go, but there was just no negotiating a compromise. I had a purple, writhing, screaming baby, a toddler, and a preschooler with me, not to mention a double stroller clogging up the gate, and in the end I actually had to put the baby on the ground so that they could put me in the off-balance stance, search me, and invesitgate the wire in my bra.

By this time our 4 year old was a sniffling mess because we had forgotten to warn him that they would put his stuffed dinosaur through the x-ray machine. He actually threw himself onto the conveyor belt and crawled in after it, so I had to go in after him and then carry him through the sensor under my arm, wailing and wriggling like a marlin. I am normally polite and understanding, but this time I glared holes into the forehead of the woman who made my put my scared and screaming baby on the floor and asked her, "Do you have children? I do, and they were very secure children until a few minutes ago. They were very excited about this trip, and now I have six more hours to go, several of which will now be devoted to explaining why this is necessary, but not something to be afraid of." Total strangers came up to offer their sympathy and wonder at my composure. I wanted to shake that woman for putting her training so firmly in front of her line of sight that she couldn't see that it was scaring the children and pissing off the passengers. "

Monday, January 19, 2004

"The U.S. Supreme Court reversed an emergency stay on a case involving DVD descrambling Jan. 3. "

They said Matthew Pavlovich, who lives in Texas, cannot be sued in California, so he can now post the DeCSS (DVD descrambling code) up on the web again.
According to Larry Lessig,

"CBS is said to have refused to run MoveOn’s winning ad, citing its policy not to run commercials dealing “with controversial issues of public importance.” CBS will instead run ads from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy — apparently an issue of public importance that is not controversial. Who would of thought an ad criticizing a $1 trillion deficit was more “controversial” than an ad about the war on drugs?

Here’s what the true libertarians have been saying for a long time — the biggest reason to worry about concentrated media in a world where media is regulated is exactly this."
Professor Susan Crawford is has been refreshing her cyberlaw syllabus and asked for ideas on what should be included.

Ernest Miller, amongst others, has replied.

Prof Crawford's syllabus for Spring 2004 is here.