I was pleased to see Robert O’Harrow on The Daily Show recently with his book No Place To Hide, which is now out in paperback. It seemed like that book didn’t get the publicity it deserved when it first came out in hardcover. The accompanying website is also quite substantial compared to most book tie-in websites, with many interviews and extra material: http://www.noplacetohide.net/.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch recently published a comprehensive guide to web search and privacy: Protecting Your Search Privacy: A Flowchart To Tracks You Leave Behind (via Michael Zimmer).
Dave Pollard has an excellent post on his blog about The Edge’s question "What’s your dangerous idea?" Here’s an excerpt:
I was stunned by
the blandness of the responses and the utter disconnectedness of
respondents from the critical issues of our world today. From the
social scientists, who are overwhelmingly from the so-called ‘cognitive
sciences’, we get navel-gazing speculations on consciousness that are
neither dangerous nor useful. From the technologists we get
technophilia, muddle-headed blather about technology as religion and as
the saver of the universe, dangerous only its naivety. From the real
scientists we get shopworn retreads about the compatibility or
incompatibility of science and religion. From philosophers we get
starry-eyed dreaming about a new political order, a world where people
suddenly stop behaving the way they do and start behaving responsibly.
What planet do these people live on? […]
if Edge proprietor John Brockman could get past the idea that his
beloved "Third Culture", the blending of elite intellectuals from both
the scientific and literary world, doesn’t need the collective
intelligence of the great unwashed rest of the world to inform, provoke, qualify, amplify and act on its ideas, and, as Einstein expounded and exemplified, to keep us all self-critical and humble,
Edge might stand a chance of once again becoming relevant to the real
world. In the meantime, the most dangerous idea that emerges from this
self-referential group is the propensity of elites to groupthink and to
exaggerate their own awareness, knowledge, importance, power,
authority, and relevance.
He goes on to offer some truly dangerous ideas from various thinkers. It’s worth reading in full.
Andrew Orlowski has a good article at The Register summing up the whole Wikipedia/Seigenthaler libel fiasco. Excerpt:
Two great cries have rung around the internet since the Seigenthaler scandal broke.
One is that Seigenthaler should have corrected the entry himself,
and the other is that no source of authority can be trusted
"definitively". That’s a deliciously weaselly phrase we’ll examine in a moment.
But both excuses seek, in the classic tradition of bad engineers
blaming users for their own shoddy handiwork, to pass the
responsibility onto Wikipedia’s users.
[and even non-users!]
The blame goes here, the blame goes there – the blame goes anywhere,
except Wikipedia itself. If there’s a problem – well, the user must be
The first, and the most immediately absurd of these two defenses, is that since nothing at all
can be trusted, er, "definitively", then Wikipedia can’t be trusted
either. This is curious, to say the least, as it points everyone’s
expectations firmly downwards.
If you recall the utopian rhetoric that accompanied the advent of
the public "internet" ten years ago, we were promised that unlimited
access to the world’s greatest "knowledge" was just around the corner.
This hasn’t happened, for reasons cited above, but now the public is
now being exhorted to assume the posture of a citizen in an air raid,
where every moving object might be a dangerous missile.
Only a paranoiac, or a mad person, can sustain this level of defensiveness for any length of time however, and to hear a putative "encyclopedia" making such a statement is odd, to say the least.
Update: For more fun, you can read about this on the ever-earnest Wikinews! "Author of Wikipedia character assassination takes responsibility". The poor guy who did it is now marked forever as the "Wikipedia Hoaxer" (or at least until he deletes it, which I would do if I were him). I find the Wikipedia "biographies" of everyday people a little creepy.
Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore refuses to show ID to get on an airplane (or a train, and he doesn’t drive either — he doesn’t travel far, apparently), and is taking this issue to the courts. Cory Doctorow (himself an EFF employee) at BoingBoing gushes:
Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette has an amazing, balanced, in-depth profile on
John Gilmore, the guy who Sun hired to write their first code, the guy
who co-founded EFF, the guy who won’t show ID to get on an airplane:
From the Post-Gazette article:
John Gilmore’s splendid isolation began July 4, 2002, when, with
defiance aforethought, he strolled to the Southwest Airlines counter at
Oakland Airport and presented his ticket.
The gate agent asked for his ID.
Gilmore asked her why.
It is the law, she said.
Gilmore asked to see the law.
Nobody could produce a copy. To date, nobody has. The regulation that
mandates ID at airports is "Sensitive Security Information." The law,
as it turns out, is unavailable for inspection.
What started out as a weekend trip to Washington became a crawl through
the courts in search of an answer to Gilmore’s question: Why?
In post 9/11 America, asking "Why?" when someone from an airline asks for identification can start some interesting arguments.
I think he has a strong point about secrecy and the law. Homeland Security should have to produce the text of the law or at least a more specific explanation. This legal "rabbit hole" needs to be fixed, but Gilmore’s true mission is clearly broader. He says:
"I will show a passport to travel internationally. I’m not willing to
show a passport to travel in my own country," Gilmore said. "I used to
laugh at countries that had internal passports. And it’s happened here
and people don’t even seem to know about it."
He apparently forgets that this is a daily reality for the millions of immigrants in this country (having to produce their passport on request). So it’s not exactly unheard of. Airlines presumably also use identification simply to verify that the person boarding the plane is the one who bought the ticket.
From an article in Health Data Management:
"John Halamka, M.D., does not have a chip on his shoulder. He has a chip in his shoulder.
Halamka, CIO at Boston’s CareGroup
Healthcare System, has become the first volunteer to test an
implantable radio frequency identification chip for medical use. The
VeriChip, from Delray Beach, Fla.-based Applied Digital, was approved
in October by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use in
humans. In December, it was classified as a Class II medical device
with special controls. …"
Via Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends — The World’s First RFID-Enabled CIO.