jrtom: (Default)

Our conversation had barely started when privacy activist Betty Ostergren interrupted me to say that she had found my full name, address, Social Security number and a digital image of my signature on the Web.

I had set out to discover just how much information I could find about myself online, and Ostergren, who runs the Virginia Watchdog Web site, was my very first call. If this was what could be uncovered in just a few minutes, what else would I find? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Haven't read the whole thing yet.
jrtom: (Default)
Verizon is apparently going to be sharing data about your calling habits with other companies, and may or may not have contacted you to give you the opportunity to opt-out:


I actually found this literally right after I had called Verizon to cancel our service (for unrelated reasons). Nevertheless I've called their number to opt-out.

[insert seething screed on the lack of ethics implied by the use of such opt-out arrangements]
jrtom: (Default)
The original reference to the paper below. Also includes a link to

which is Bruce Schneier's take on the issue; this is less detailed (but also much shorter! :) ) than the actual paper, at

Despite this paper's self-description as a "short essay", it's about 25 pages long, and I admit I haven't read the whole thing yet. But it looks like an interesting drill-down into what privacy is, what it's for, and why it's important.
jrtom: (Default)

Personally I think that the 'robots.txt' proposal is brilliant.

All joking aside, though, there are some serious questions to be asked here about what's appropriate. (And yes, Microsoft has had a prototype with 2 cities out for several months now; no idea what the current status of that project is.)
jrtom: (Default)

The short version: at least some cell phones can be used to relay sound in their vicinity, even when they're nominally 'off'. Same is apparently true of some cars' navigation systems.

And apparently at least some judges don't have a problem with this.

UPDATE: What I meant by the above comment is that "at least some judges are willing to admit evidence that is gathered by law enforcement officials via this type of surveillance". Which appears to lend at least some legality to the practice.

I guess there are two issues here.

First, I find it annoying when my electronic devices don't make it easy for me to disconnect them from power. It's often wasteful of energy, and also a real nuisance when you find out that they were accidentally turned on and are now dead because they've been sitting around draining the battery. (I've also just recalled an occasion in which I accidentally (and unwittingly) called a friend on my cellphone, apparently by bumping it in just the wrong way while trying to load a bicycle on a rack. Apparently this resulted in a somewhat surreal message being left on his voice mail. Had he actually answered, I suppose my pants might have started talking to me. ;) )

Second, I'm not really sure how I feel about this sort of surveillance; this is probably a larger discussion. The current political climate has made it much more acceptable to use surveillance for 'fishing expeditions', i.e., circumstances in which you're looking for evidence that a person might have committed some kind of crime. If I believed that this technique were only going to be used in cases in which law enforcement officials already had probable cause to suspect that the subject had been involved in a specific crime, I'd feel better. As it is...I don't.
jrtom: (safe cat)
New Scientist:
"Living online: The end of privacy?"

Has links to a few other items (not all necessarily worth the read), including the following SF:

Bruce Sterling, short-short SF story: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google"
(I suspect that Bruce had nothing to do with that title; the story really doesn't have a lot to do with Google.)

Presented as a countervailing vision to the above by someone on /., we have this (rather less short) story by Vernor Vinge: Synthetic Serendipity


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