Tag Archives: Technology

Cory Doctorow: “Light a candle, curse the darkness and win the war on general purpose computers to save the world”

Cory Doctorow (Webstock, 2015) on technology:

If we’re going to solve the serious, existential risks to the human race – things like environmental apocalypse – we’re going to need social and technical infrastructure that can support evidence-driven, public-spirited institutions that can help steer us to a better place.

Alas, we’re in trouble there, too. We’re living in a nearly airtight bubble of corruption and coercion. The only policies that states can reliably be expected to enact are those with business models – laws and actions that make someone incredibly rich, producing the private wealth necessary to lobby state to continue the policy and keep the money flowing.

There’s always been practical limits to how wide the gap between the rich and poor can get – at a certain point, elites end up spending more money guarding their wealth from the ever-enlarging, ever-more-desperate cohort of poor than they’re getting from corrupt policies and self-dealing relationships with the state.

But technology changes all that. The automation of surveillance and coercion makes the business of maintaining social order vastly cheaper, and therefore increases the amount of wealth the very richest can keep to themselves rather than doling out dribs and drabs to the rest of us.

Thus the miseries of a technologically supported system of feudalism dwarf those of the darkest days of kings and lords. And the ever-dwindling accountability of ruling elites means that evidence-driven policy is harder and harder to enact, and when it is, that policy needn’t be in the common interest.

We need to crack the airtight bubble. We need to find a way to begin unravelling the knotwork of decades of neoliberal corruption.

The first step to this is to seize the means of information. We need computers that we do what we tell them to do, and networks that we can trust, in order to carry out a program of popular reform for good governance, fairness, and equity.

We can do this, and we will do this. Because this is a policy with a business-model, and policies with business-models are the only policies the modern state can be relied upon to enact.

Watch him speak to this point (and so much more) in an hour-long video here: https://vimeo.com/123473929

‘The Cloud’ and Other Dangerous Metaphors

'The Cloud' and Other Dangerous Metaphors - The Atlantic

As a concept, data constantly eludes crisp definition…

The collection of personal data is now ubiquitous, and people are starting to pay attention. But data-collection policies have been built primarily on what we technically can do, rather than what we should do.

Underlying the discussion has been a tangle of big, thorny questions: What policies should govern the use of online data collection, use, and manipulation by companies? Do massive online platforms like Google and Facebook, who now hold unprecedented quantities of sensitive behavioral data about people and groups, have the right to research and experiment on their users? And, if so, how and to what extent should they be permitted to do so?

‘The Cloud’ and Other Dangerous Metaphors – The Atlantic.

What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson

Algorithms have consequences.


But I’m not quite sure that without the neutral side of the Internet—the livestreams whose “packets” were fast as commercial, corporate and moneyed speech that travels on our networks, Twitter feeds which are not determined by an opaque corporate algorithms but my own choices,—we’d be having this conversation.

-Zeynep Tufekci (University of North Carolina)

via What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson

EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist

EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist

As we did last year and the year before, EFF welcomes the winter season with a new wishlist of some things we’d love to have happen for the holidays—for us and for all Internet users. These are some of the actions we’d most like to see from companies, governments, organizations, and individuals in the new year.

  • Citizens, organizations, privacy officials, and governments should unite around the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance and add their voices to declare that mass surveillance violates international human rights.
  • The U.S. Congress should create a new Church Committee to find out what intelligence agencies are actually doing; since mass surveillance is a global problem, we also need parliamentary commissions of inquiry around the world to look into the same question.
  • Congress should pass meaningful reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
  • The Department of Justice should notify everyone who’s been convicted of a crime using evidence derived—directly or indirectly—from warrantless surveillance programs (not just a cherry-picked handful of defendants).
  • All communications companies should publish transparency reports showing the scope and nature of government requests for user information. The Internet industry, led by Google, has made this a standard for corporate transparency, but telecom companies are still totally missing in action.
  • All Internet sites should adopt cryptographic best practices for every connection, every time, including PFS, STARTTLS, HSTS, and encrypted traffic between data centers.
  • In 2014, every certificate authority and web browser should commit to adopt Google’s Certificate Transparency system to detect and stop the issuance of fake certificates that facilitate spying on web users.
  • Companies that sell books, movies, music, or other digital media should commit to the principle that if you bought it, you own it. That means no DRM and no sneaky license agreements.
  • Every wireless device should let you change its MAC address (a hardware serial number), and no new technology standards should be designed to transmit any persistent hardware serial numbers over the air or on a network. (If your device keeps sending the same hardware serial number, like wifi devices and cell phones, among others, whoever’s at the other end or listening in can recognize you and track your location. Businesses and governments are already taking advantage of this to build massive databases of our devices.)
  • Web sites should publish historical versions of their terms of service and privacy policies, with their effective dates, to help users understand what’s changed over time. At a bare minimum, companies like Facebook should stop blocking the Internet Archive from creating and displaying a historical record of their policies.
  • Governments should come clean about how they’ve weakened computer and communications security, clean up the damage, and stop doing it.
  • Companies entering the secure communications space (as well as those that have been there a while!) should explain exactly how secure they are and why. They should get public technical audits by experts and clearly explain how they handle classic, fundamental security challenges. They should clearly and publicly explain whether and to what extent they could be compelled to record or turn over user data or to help break users’ security (including by disclosing cryptographic keys or passwords, by issuing false digital certificates, or by modifying their software).
  • The surveillance industry should take responsibility for ensuring that it’s not assisting mass surveillance and other human rights violations.


EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist | Electronic Frontier Foundation.