Monthly Archives: April 2013

Scarcity and Intelligence Amplification

I don’t have tons of time to discuss the article but I found it while studying and it is pretty interesting. It links together artificial and real scarcity with IA. It seems to make the point that scarcity will always be around, just not ‘physical’ scarcity.

Decline of Scarcity


When I was doing research for my paper, I came across the Konomark mark on Museum of Intellectual Property website.

Most rights sharable. Just e-mail me and ask. Learn more at

Instead of using something like the Creative Commons, where you provide a set licenses for your work, the Konomark serves as a signal that you would be open to sharing if contacted but allow you to deny any requests. Making it a case by case version of the creative commons license instead of blanket sharing.

What is the konomark philosophy?

The konomark philosophy is that it’s often a good idea to share copyrighted content for free, even though there are many circumstances under which even extremely generous people understandably deny permission. For example, if someone wants to use your snapshot from your trip to London to illustrate a blog post, you’re probably fine with that. But if some high-end fashion magazine wanted to use your photo, you’d probably want them to pay you for it.

I wondered if anyone else has see this symbol before or any other versions of Creative Commons like projects with Intellectual property.

(This blog post is now “license” under Konomark. (C) 2013 Most Rights Sharable.)

European Countries Not Putting up with Google’s Privacy Policies

This article expresses that the six largest European markets (France, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Germany) have announced to take joint legal action against Google over their privacy policies. This action was taken after Google’s decision last year to consolidate more than seventy privacy policy into a single one, and after they decided to change their terms of service agreement. Google did not comply with EU data protection authorities’ recommendations, and did not follow up after a meeting with representatives of the six nations, leading to an investigation on Google by these nations. This could lead to fines for Google and/or possibly the banning of Google services in these countries until changes are made.


I think this article really goes to show that people aren’t going to tolerate Google’s abuse of information gathering. I also think it is good that these countries are calling attention to these abuses, as I don’t think many average users of Google services know how much data they are giving away. Although Google may be fined by these countries, I don’t think they will impact Google so much. From what I understand, the fines that could be imposed would barely be able to put a dent in Google’s economic infrastructure. I think the greatest impact that these nations could have on Google will stem from the public awareness that they are raising and the possible bans that could be put in place. I think if they go through with the ban in those markets, we could very well see a much more “tame” Google in terms of the user’s privacy. I think it is good that these countries are doing this because Google needs to be brought back down to Earth before they go overboard and severely damage the privacy of every individual.

WordPress Has Become a Big Target for Hackers

This article describes how WordPress has become a huge target for massive brute force attacks, due to many WordPress users not using strong credentials.  Recently, sites using WordPress have been subjected to attacks by botnets of massive proportions. This is due to many administrators just making their username “admin” and using a simple password such as “123456”, therefore making it easy for a botnet to log into many administrator accounts by using a brute force method of attack on many websites. Solutions to this problem are simple: all WordPress users have to do is change their username and password, if they are simple/not strong, and implement a form of two-factor authentication. The problem with this though, is that many people overlook the importance of internet security and just assume “oh, well that would never happen to me.”


I think this article shows that it is vital that it is made aware that basic security is very important and should not be disregarded. I believe that many people hosting these websites have little knowledge of internet security and need to be informed of its importance before they are hijacked and end up unknowingly contributing to a botnet that could adversely affect many people. This is a simple problem that requires a simple solution, but a solution cannot be formed if people do not know of the problem in the first place. Hopefully the blog’s administrator account credentials are not “admin” and “123456”…

Race with the machines

This post is ties really closely with the Software is eating the world post. In this TED talk, Erik Brynholfsson addresses the problem how as machines take on more jobs more and more people find themselves out of work. “Is this the end of growth? No, says Erik Brynholfsson — it’s simply the growing pains of a radically reorganized economy.” The description of the talk also suggests to watch the opposing viewpoint from Robert Gordon. (I watched his video too, but it doesn’t relate as much to our class).

Anyway, Erik argues that indeed at this moment people are losing their jobs, but this is just a growing pain for what he calls “The New Machine Age”. According to Erik at this moment in time productivity is at an all time high, and actually the numbers used to make this hypothesis are understated. He says that because a lot of the Internet is “free” economists miss about 300 billion dollars for the total GDP. Interestingly enough he will go on to incorporate a lot of the ideas that we have discussed throughout this course. He says that this new machine age will promote grow for three reasons. It’s digital, meaning it’s at virtually no cost. It’s exponential, like what Ray Kurzwiel says, and it’s combinatorial, meaning that new things will be building blocks for future implementation. His final point provides the most hope for our job situation. He states as an example that when Deep Blue played grandmaster Garry Kasparov, the machine won. And even today, a cell-phone app can beat even the most skilled grandmaster, but what is most hopeful is that today, the world champion is not a human or a machine. Today when humans work with machines, they can beat any human or any machine. This means that we need to race with the machines rather than race against the machines.

He also talks about Watson during the talk which can relate to the singularity.

And finally here is another TED talk that is unrelated to the first one, but I’ve been meaning to post it for some time. It describes the purpose of this class, and what we as developers should be doing, when making new software.

Is a Twitter Revolution possible in America?

I was originally going to write my paper on this video, but I feel that it is very important to expose as many people as possible to the truth.

The topic of this video is government surveillance and, specifically, the regimes involved in the Arab Spring and US capabilities.

The speaker starts off talking about the current trends of US warrantless communication interceptions. Last year, 1.2 million intercepts (non-national security letters) were issued at the request of local police departments for phone dumps. In fact, the number of intercepts for Sprint alone was more than all the court ordered issues nationwide! He mentions that ISP’s (by name, Time Warner) log the IP addresses of wireless devices used behind wireless gateways to help police identify users, which is obviously not required by law. He says that the state uses software like Palentir to cross check multiple databases searching for “terrorists”. He also mentions Facebook monitoring chat logs looking for child predators.

He then turns to the Arab Spring. This is to build the argument that if this third world country can get their hands on these capabilities, just imagine what a country like the US can do. Libyan suppression capacities during their revolution included the ability to monitor all unencrypted traffic – email, IM, VoIP, web, deep packet inspection, cell phone triangulation and monitoring, and land line phone tapping gear. This essentially provided Ghadafi the capability to monitor nearly all traffic.

The US is very secretive in their capabilities – much of which is even kept secret from Congress. The NSA had most of Ghadafi’s abilities 20 years ago with the ECHELON system. CALEA has remote interception capability. Here, the speaker makes a very profound statement. He says that it is safe to assume all Internet traffic nationwide is being logged and analyzed, and that it is also safe to assume that all SSL’s and VPN’s are compromised.

He mentions the Utah Data Center a couple of times throughout the speech. Carrier logs are now available to even local police (anybody you dial or that calls you, including messaging). Apparently last week it came out that a police department can get a tower dump for only $75 from AT&T. Another alarming statistic that we’ve covered is that warrantless “emergency” intercepts are growing at a rate of 15% a year. One of the most interesting things – I thought – that he talked about was some new legislation in the US giving the state the ability to remotely interrupt cellphones, use a land line kill switch, and send threatening SMS messages to citizens!

At the end, he poses an excellent question: if you combined the McCarthy era with today’s surveillance tools and laws, what would be the result?

I think that question sums up his speech very nicely. In the past decade, we’ve seen fear used as a motivator so many times, we’ve seen blatant lying become the norm, we’ve all experienced news sources making up facts and figures and giving opinions rather than facts (yes, some more than others). The average citizen who doesn’t have the time or the care to look up facts will either refuse to believe anything they hear, or only listen to one news source because “every other one has a (liberal) bias!” The state that things have come to is rather despicable. People are unwilling to take back our country – at the very least by voting for people that would actually represent them – as we move closer and closer to a police state. How long did it take before the police “found” Ted Kaczynski? 17 years? How long did it take them to find the Boston Bombers? Two days? Obviously the government has these capabilities and in situations like what happened last week, it’s good that they do. But there’s definitely more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.

This isn’t a call to arms (at least, not from me), it’s just a public service announcement that our freedom is an illusion. Any thoughts on these privacy violations?


I’m rather surprised that no one else has written a post on the CISPA bill passed in the House of Representatives last week. So I guess I’ll take the easy one. CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed rather convincingly in the House (288 to 127) even after a surprising veto threat from the President. Essentially, the bill allows companies to share every piece of information they possess on clients with any other entity – to include the federal government. This effectively supersedes any Terms & Agreements contract made between clients and companies. Even so far as protecting the company from any sort of civil litigation. If you guys remember, a similar bill was struck down in the House last year after passing the Senate because the House didn’t feel like it was strong enough. Also, the SOPA bill from early last year never made it out of the House because of overwhelming opposition from the American people – a staggering 4,500,000 signatures. To put that number in perspective, the second highest signature count was for Texas to secede after the Presidential election at about 80,000. Here’s a link to a Huffington Post article that includes a video for further information.

So what’s being done in response and why is it that CISPA passed the House when SOPA never even made it to the vote? In response, Anonymous has proposed an Internet blackout on Monday. There is no word yet on which websites plan on doing so, but historically, numbers have been very good. They did something similar for SOPA and more than 7,000 websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit and Google participated. Why has CISPA “succeeded” where SOPA failed? Because majority of the opposition to CISPA are non-profits, whereas SOPA had major corporate backers. Obviously, in the corrupt government we have, money talks, not people. Well, considering corporations are now considered people, I should say that money talks louder, but I digress.

My question is: why in the hell does the government keep trying to censor the Internet in the face of overwhelming opposition?! I’m a strong supporter of freedom, and most especially in the freedoms afforded by the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech to which arguably the greatest conduit in history is the Internet. We’ve already seen our Fourth Amendment rights essentially eliminated (drones, warrantless wiretappings, the door-to-door search conducted by Boston Police to catch suspect 2 in the past week), our Second Amendment right being currently targeted, and our Sixth Amendment rights not even being acknowledged (in cases such as Bradley Manning, who has been sitting in Fort Leavenworth since 2010 and is just now receiving a trial). I just can’t fathom how these laws can supersede Constitutional Amendments, and furthermore, I can’t see how Congressmen are getting reelected when they support neither the Constitution, nor their constituents!

Background Checks for Employment

Here’s a little change of pace and back on our privacy topic.  I was recently filling out my application for an internship this summer and came across the paper that I had to sign agreeing to a background check before I was to be employed.  Well being in this class I decided to finally read what this background check completely entails even though I knew I had nothing to hide.  I was just wondering what all information is pried before they decide to hire you.  Here’s a short list that I found online:

  • Driving records
  • Vehicle registration
  • Credit records
  • Criminal records
  • Social Security no.
  • Education records
  • Court records
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Bankruptcy
  • Character references
  • Neighbor interviews
  • Medical records
  • Property ownership
  • Military records
  • State licensing records
  • Drug test records
  • Past employers
  • Personal references
  • Incarceration records
  • Sex offender lists

Well most of the things on here make sense to go through and check/reference before hiring someone.  Being in my situation and applying for an internship position I didn’t understand why some of these checks had to be made.  Like I said before, I have nothing to hide but for instance why should my medical records be any sort of thing I could be “accidently” discriminated over.  I’ve had quite the medical past and don’t understand why a company I’m trying to receive an internship with needs to know.  Another example was the check they do on your credit records.  What should my credit have to do with how fit I am for the position and safe to hire.  I understand this is something a landlord or bank needs to know before giving a loan but why should a company have this information and be something that you could be discriminated over therefore hiring someone with equal job skill and great credit.

I believe certain things like the ones mentioned about shouldn’t be sought out so that they couldn’t be used as “accidental” discrimination when hiring. What does everyone else think about this topic? Is everything on the list valid and should be known before hiring you?

Software is eating the world, or at least our world

In class recently we have spent a lot of time discussing the singularity and this idea that technology will advance to the point it could overrun humanity as the dominate life form on earth. But this assumes technology develops into greater than human intellect, while its not hard to be smarter than some humans (see jackass ripoffs on YouTube, not the actual jackass people since they are all rich and thus not dumb), for a computer to be smarter than the average child that would be quite difficult and it could take a long time. I’m more worried about computers ruining my future than technology killing my grand kids after the singularity.

By ruining my future I mean ruining my future job opportunities, or the economy of my country. In this article it is pointed out that software has been harming the job market for years. Not everyone can be a doctor, lawyer or engineer thus more common jobs like secretaries, factory workers, and even house maids (Roomba!!!) are being replaced by technology. Soon the vast majority of middle to lower class jobs will be replaced by software or robots. An entire team of construction workers will be replaced by one guy who can run multiple machines on a computer who will then be replaced by a piece of smart software that can manage the machines for him. Bars will be filled with alcoholic drink machines instead of bartenders. Software could replace all repetitive or “easier” jobs long before it goes terminator on the human race.

If every thing goes to plan in my life and in the lives of most of the people in this course who will read this, we wont be construction workers or bartenders. We all will hopefully be the ones creating this software. But the problems it could cause others raises a very difficult question: should we look to replace jobs and tasks with software?

Creating this software would probably make this individual very rich, but it would also cost hundreds or even tens of thousands of jobs. Under any utilitarian view, the unhappiness of hundreds or thousands of unemployed people would outweigh the couple dozen programmers. But even if you evaluated it from a greedy standpoint, if thousands lose jobs the economy suffers. If the economy suffers then it would effect everyone including the now rich programmer. There is a different level of loss for the programmer compared to the now unemployed construction worker but no one truly wins.

Others would argue that it would cause people to become better educated so they don’t need construction jobs and can be engineers, doctors, or businessmen  There can only be so many people doing certain jobs and still be successful. There is a supply and demand effect in the job market too.

So what does everyone think? do we create smart software that could replace workers like bartenders or construction workers? Or is it better to restrict the creation of software to save jobs and not replace people?

New service is released to stop sites from tracking you online

This article explains that a former Google employee, Brian Kennish, released a new plugin called Disconnect that helps protect your privacy online. The plugin was released for both Chrome and Firefox and it blocks over 2000 different websites that track you to provide targeted advertisements, including Facebook, Google, and Twitter. In addition, the plugin allows you to force websites to use secure HTTPS logins whenever possible. The plugin is available on their site, linked below, for a pay-what-you-want fee (including nothing) and you can even designate a percentage of the payment to go to charity rather than to Disconnect.

Kennish worked at Google in their advertising department and helped pioneer targeted ads. First of all, isn’t this a conflict of interest? I can’t imagine that Google likes him taking his knowledge of Google’s inner workings and then using it to prevent them from tracking users.

Secondly, is preventing sites from tracking you an ethical decision? The sites that you use on a daily basis make their money from ad-clicks and to get them, websites need to make sure their ads apply to you. Without revenue from ad-clicks, websites that we take for granted may decrease in quality or become a pay site after a certain amount of uses, such as WolframAlpha has done. I think that the privacy tradeoff is worth it to keep websites running in the long term, because it provides the most happiness to both parties. I can use their site, they can sell my data. Let me know what you guys think.

Here’s the link to the plugin.

More discussion of e-waste

We really spent only one class session discussing e-waste, but I think it is a really important topic. The starting point of our discussion was “The Electronic Wasteland”, which originally aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes. It is a startling video. I think it is something we should be sharing with our friends and families

When I have had old computers to recycle, I have taken them to either FreeGeek Columbus (which seems to be defunct) or Ohio Drop Off. I assume my old electronics were reused or recycled responsibly, but I have no way of knowing for sure. And even if there are good places that recycle electronics responsibly, there will be others that don’t. It is much cheaper to recycle electronics in developing countries that have little health and environmental regulation or enforcement than it is to do the recycling around here. As long as that is true, there will be businesses that send electronics to the “wasteland” in order to save money — even if it means making people sick and polluting the land.

In class, we mentioned a few possible solutions to the e-waste problem. One idea was to design electronics with more replaceable and upgradable parts. That way things do not become obsolete as quickly, and there is less total e-waste. Another idea was to add to the cost of electronics a fee that would be refunded only if the item was returned to an authorized center for recycling. (This is similar to how some states handle recycling of bottles and cans.)

What are some other solutions? What are the pros and cons of each solution?

I Do Not Like Richard Stallman

I attended Richard Stallman’s guest lecture the other night, and I can honestly say that I definitely do not care for him as a person and I think his movement is far too radical, to the point that I think it can be considered an extremest movement.

I think what Richard Stallman is shooting for is a worthwhile goal, but his way of trying to get there is ridiculous. He cannot truly expect that I am going to quit using cellphones and delete my Facebook because they may invade my privacy a little and can be used to track me. In fact, I promote that. I hope they can use these technologies to track down the coward who blew up the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Without these technologies, it is possible that this shithead may get away with it. Once again, I promote free software, but I do not promote Richard Stallman’s way of getting there.

I also felt that everytime someone asked him a question or exclaimed a criticism he took it as an attack on his movement and in turn, behaved like an asshole. I think he had a very condescending tone toward all of us and behaved very unprofessionally. It’s like he felt so highly of himself and we were all just a bunch of idiots who needed to see that his way of doing things is the only way of doing things; in his eyes we have to change completely and he/his movement are perfect and there is no room for improvement.  In a way, I see him as a bit of a hypocrite. In the same way that Apple ropes in their users, Richard Stallman is trying to rope us into his. If we don’t see things his way we are “unethical” or “evil.” I think he bullies people into his movement with name-calling like that.

Also, here is a video of Stallman eating something off of his foot. It’s gross/funny, but when regular people see this I think it definitely turns them off to his movement and furthers the notion that he is a wacko. Free Software deserves a more professional and appealing leader  —

Skip to 1:52 for the foot-crud feast

^^If you are a Stallmanite I cannot recommend that you watch this video as it was recorded and released in a non-free format. For the rest of you, enjoy the show.


“TrapWire is a counter-terrorism technology company that produces a homonymous predictive software system designed to find patterns indicative of terrorism attacks” (Wikipedia). According to Wikileaks information this program takes information gathered from video cameras in major cities (Washington DC and Seattle are mentioned by name) and provides the ability to detect persons, or suspicious behavior. Wikileaks also revealed that TrapWire is owned by the company Abraxas which is staffed by ex-CIA members with a lot of experience and time in the CIA.

Consider a few of these cases through the eye of common sense and rule utilitarianism.

If a city has a warrant to surveil a person, TrapWire allows the process to be mostly automated within city limits saving the city time and money. This appears to be a legally and morally (again, rule utilitarianism) right because the city received a warrant through the judicial process which is supposed to err on the side of caution with respect to a citizens rights

Now consider a crime that has been committed and the police find a suspect. The suspect is convicted because TrapWire tracked his movements back showing motive and premeditation resulting in the death penalty. In this case it seems that TrapWire is functioning to illegally surveil the suspect because the city never received a warrant through the judicial process before hand to track the suspect. On the other hand, if the city were to piece together the same information by looking through every video camera in the city, would that be considered good sleuthing? Now the rule utilitarian has to start creating a lot of sub-rules to handle these situations specifically.

If the judicial process could be trusted then authorities using TrapWire would be doing so in a manner that would be applicable in all situations. But who’s watching the watchers?

The IRS Has Upgraded to Track Your Online Activity.

Recently, the IRS has been quietly upgrading its technology so tax collectors can virtually track everything people do online. The original article points out how intrusive the new measures really are. The IRS is collecting personal information on taxpayer’s digital activities from Facebook posts  to credit card transactions. The basis for this massive data collection is to close the gap in revenue losses due to evasions and errors. Given the reduction of IRS staff because of budget cuts, and about $300 billion a year in revenue losses, it is understandable that the IRS would utilize technology to do its job more efficiently.

The IRS has already used data gathered from Facebook and eBay postings to defend tax challenges. As of now third-party data has been used only if a person’s tax returns appear irregular and merit more attention. If someone breaks the law (i.e. evading taxes) it is clear they give up their right to privacy. However, if the IRS already has a method of punishing tax evaders then why is there a need to implement data collection on a  petabyte scale?

Yes, for those who do not know: an entire year of tax returns amounts to 15 terabytes which is about 1.5% of the 1.2 petabytes (and growing) of storage capacity the IRS currently has.

This is where things get a little tricky when it comes to privacy because “by screening existing data for thousands of unique attributes, the agency can quietly create a DNA-like code to understand the economic behavior of any individual.” The IRS claims this is for data collection purposes only and has not yet decided how to implement this technology. Do you think the government has the right to monitor your online activity while essentially formulating an economic profile of you based on your behavior?

Is it just the government adapting to the times in order to keep people honest or is it another way the government is trying to keep Americans under a microscope?

2 weeks? This is 2013 Vudu .

Yesterday, customers of the streaming video service company Vudu began receiving emails to alert them of a theft that occurred in the company’s offices TWO WEEKS ago on March 24. According to Vudu, the hard drives which were stolen definitely contains sensitive personal information, including but not limited to: names, e-mail addresses, postal addresses, phone numbers, account activity, dates of birth, and the last four digits of some credit card numbers.

Obviously, the first thing that strikes strange about this whole situation is the time delay: two weeks? It took them two weeks to notify their customers that a major security issue has occurred. But why was the time delay such a big deal? According to Prasanna Gasneasn – Chief Technology Officer for the company – it’s not huge crisis because their company doesn’t store whole 16-digit credit cards anywhere on their hard drives. However – as we’ve learned from our readings about data-mining and other information collection techniques, you don’t need a lot to take you far. In fact – the ‘basic’ type information that was stolen contains enough information for most people to figure their way into someone’s account, either thru the gathering of other small bits of information or by making do with what they have.

I believe this brings to light a major ethical issue. Was Vudu attempting to cover-up this security breach and that’s why they waited two weeks to alert their customers? If so – I’m curious to what pushed Vudu to suddenly alert their customers? Whistleblowing anyone?