Friendster = Big Brother? Nah.

In a recently published article, an analyst at the Pacific Research Institute argues that social networking sites pose serious privacy risks, and that in fact Friendster and its kin may well be building a private sector version of the much derided (and currently unfunded) Terrorist(nee Total) Information Awareness Program. Bah….

In a recently published article, an analyst at the Pacific Research Institute argues that social networking sites pose serious privacy risks, and that in fact Friendster and its kin may well be building a private sector version of the much derided (and currently unfunded) Terrorist(nee Total) Information Awareness Program.

Bah. Unless terrorists are using Friendster to declare their intentions, I doubt this is where Poindexter and his sucessors will be looking. On the other hand, there is a shitload of personal data on these sites, and it will be abused under the blanket provisions of the Patriot Act(s), of this I am sure. This is worth remembering. Also, the analyst points out a TIA-like private/public partnership called MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange). How tone deaf can you be, to name your government information/control program MATRIX? I mean, didn’t they see the movies? Don’t they get how stupid that is? Following that logic, let’s rename everyone in the FBI Agent Smith and just get it over with…

To be honest, I wanted to post this item mainly for the graphic. I mean, who would have ever thought that social network logos swirling around the TIA’s all-knowing eye/pyramid would look so…dope?

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And From The I Couldn’t Resist Department…

The FBI recently issued an alert for all police nationwide to be on the watch for folks carrying almanacs, in particular those that might be "annotated in suspicious ways." Now, I just can't imagine they didn't realize how profoundly stupid this would sound to your average citizen. I mean, did…

The FBI recently issued an alert for all police nationwide to be on the watch for folks carrying almanacs, in particular those that might be “annotated in suspicious ways.”
Now, I just can’t imagine they didn’t realize how profoundly stupid this would sound to your average citizen. I mean, did they? The AP story goes on to quote the text of the FBI alert: “The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning.” So if this is a serious “alert” – and as far as I can tell, it’s not April 1st – one can only imagine the red flag the FBI will wave once they figure out what kind of “research” Google can do. Given the timeline they seem to be on, that will be in 2103 or so.

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Parts of Patriot II Slipped Into Law While No One Was Looking…

This is a very big deal. Not just because of the law itself – it's heinous – but because of the way it was passed by the Bush administration – on a Saturday, during Saddam's capture celebration, after an unaccountable voice vote on Thanksgiving with no debate. And of course…

This is a very big deal. Not just because of the law itself – it’s heinous – but because of the way it was passed by the Bush administration – on a Saturday, during Saddam’s capture celebration, after an unaccountable voice vote on Thanksgiving with no debate. And of course the media did not pay attention, and of course, I hope, we will. I’ll summarize the effect of this later – it gives the government extraordinary new powers of search (which is one reason it relates to this site) – but for now, please give your lawmakers hell.

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Watch What You Do While Online: Universities (Including Mine) Log Students’ Net Usage…Govt. and RIAA Take Notice

Eye opening Salon piece on Universities' practice of logging the net usage of their student populations. It notes that these practices are under review as the Patriot Act and RIAA are subpoenaing the logs, which many universities kept as a matter of course (why? who knows). This is another…

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Eye opening Salon piece on Universities’ practice of logging the net usage of their student populations. It notes that these practices are under review as the Patriot Act and RIAA are subpoenaing the logs, which many universities kept as a matter of course (why? who knows). This is another example of the power of the Database of Intentions (a term that is central to my book, and I promise, I’ll explain at some point). Interestingly, the Patriot Act may well be responsible for the widespread loss of this valuable resource (see excerpts).

Excerpts: “At the University of California at Berkeley, the everyday Web-surfing habits of students are regularly watched and recorded. Berkeley’s Systems and Network Security group uses a program called BRO — named after the infamous fascist icon from George Orwell’s “1984” — that keeps logs of every IP address students visit on the Internet from the campus network.

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Architecture = Politics

I've long been waiting for something to boil over in the area where politics meets the architecture of search engines. I'm not sure this is it, but it certainly points the way. Someone over at the DNC noticed that the White House website was purposefully blocking various public documents from…

I’ve long been waiting for something to boil over in the area where politics meets the architecture of search engines. I’m not sure this is it, but it certainly points the way. Someone over at the DNC noticed that the White House website was purposefully blocking various public documents from being crawled by search engines. This usually is standard stuff – a file that webmasters keep called robots.txt instructs spiders to ignore various pages, usually because those pages are internally-focused or the company wishes to keep them private. However, White House-posted documents are clearly in the public record. A quick review of the White House’s .txt file shows that something else is going on. A lot of files about Iraq are in the “disallow” category. It’s pretty easy to assume an intention: Keep past statements about Iraq out of the public consciousness, especially ones that are now – er – out of touch with current reality (ie, it’ll be an easy peace! And inexpensive!). If you believe, as I do, that search engines are becoming a powerful proxy for what the public knows, then this action by the White House extends spin to the level of public records. It’s a fascinating move – clearly they knew they could not expunge the documents from the site, that would be too obvious, and it would mean they had something to hide. But…they seem to be trying to keep those embarassing public documents from being found via the tool most casual (or intentional) searchers use first (and sometimes only) – the search engine. Thanks to Dan Gilmor, who first posted this. Stay tuned, this one might turn into something.

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