— Kiwiconsters congregate
— Hi-tech hijinx
— The world's forgotten boy
Ph33r teh waves of the 1337 descending upon Vic Uni in Wellie... for it is the inaugural Kiwicon 2k7 that takes place there. Metlstorm tells me more than 250 IT security bods have registered for the conference, which is pretty amazing for little old NZ. The list of speakers and topics looks great, and I wish I could be there.
Some people misguidedly think writing about technology is dull and dry. This is absolutely not true. Technology itself is still being developed by human beings like you and I, and we interact with it in various interesting forms.
Then there's the business side of technology, in which several unique characters have popped up over the years. Unlike established businesses, it's not so hard to dazzle non-techie people with for instance IT terminology, and get away with just about anything. You know, stuff like:
"... a software platform that cannot be hacked and enables applications to leapfrog to an internet orientated deployment."
Uh, right. But verbiage doesn't help when the going gets tough.
The world's forgotten boy
One thing that I like about the Herald web site is that it has a search function that actually works. You can type in the terms, hit enter, and lookee! you get relevant results.
The reason I'm pointing that out is because of a story today, a good one, in which a certain:
"Technology blogger and mobile technology specialist Gary Rogers ... "
is quoted, providing opinions on Vodafone's terms and conditions for its recently launched At Home service.
Could this be the same Gary Rogers, whom the Herald recently described as:
"Telecom's data solutions manager ..."?
Why, yes, it is the same Gary. To be fair here, Gary is a good bloke, one of the most knowledgeable people I know, and he does have a very valid point about Vodafone's sloppy use of "unlimited usage". Furthermore, Gary no longer works for Telecom, which is a huge loss for the incumbent. However, a few words in the story to indicate a possible conflict of interest would be fair enough, don't you think?
Then again, the conflict of interest thing doesn't seem to matter much any more to media. TVNZ's Good Morning show technology commentator Pat Pilcher is described as:
"A born and bred Wellingtonian, Pat currently works in the telecommunications industry and writes for Tone magazine."
Pat is in touch with us at Computerworld on a regular basis, using his telecom.co.nz email address.
As for At Home itself, well... it'll appeal to those desperate to snip the umbilical Telecom cord, but it's GSM voice only with all the limitations that entails.
XKCD Cartoon from: www.xkcd.comRobert X CringelyMy nosey uncleI've got this Uncle with a problem. He can't keep his nose out of my business. My email, my web surfing — for all I know he's into my Quicken files, my Netflix queue and my Amazon account. Worse, he thinks it's perfectly justified and I should just get over it. My Uncle is also your Uncle, and his name is Sam. In a speech last month [PDF], the nation's #2 spook — Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr — staked a claim to all of your Internet records. Kerr's pedigree: He runs our nation's satellite spy program, has worked for both the CIA and the FBI, and also at Science Applications International Corp. Among other things, SAIC is hired by the Feds to scan the web looking for "hostile" sites. So he has some experience in scooping up your internet breadcrumbs.Kerr believes anonymity is impossible. (He's wrong, of course. Anonymity is just difficult, especially when the spooks are secretly sniffing the bitstream at the backbone, but it's not impossible.) Too often, privacy has been equated with anonymity; and it’s an idea that is deeply rooted in American culture. The Long Ranger wore a mask but Tonto didn’t seem to need one even though he did the dirty work for free. You’d think he would probably need one even more. But in our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity — or the appearance of anonymity — is quickly becoming a thing of the past.Then again, maybe it's because the Lone Ranger and Tonto only had one mask between them. Kerr's solution apparently is for the Lone Ranger to take his off. I say give Tonto another mask, kemosabe. Kerr also gives hints about the depth of data mining the US government engages in.Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available — and I’m just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here — the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. No, you're not paranoid. Yes, they really are creating dossiers by correlating information across social networking sites. Better scrub that "I (heart) Osama" jpeg from your MySpace page.To his credit, Kerr talks a lot about protecting privacy, even if anonymity is lost. But his approach to privacy is like Godzilla's approach to Tokyo — destroy it first, and let other folks rebuild it later.... privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured. And here's the real howler (which I've truncated slightly):Today... I’m willing to call up... share my credit card number and expiration date with a person I have never seen, have no idea whether they’ve been vetted or not.... at the FBI, I also had electronic surveillance as part of my responsibility. And people were very concerned that the ability to intercept emails was coming into play. ... they were saying, well, we just can’t have federal employees able to touch our message traffic. ... for that federal employee, it was a felony to misuse the data — it was punishable by five years in jail and a $100,000 fine...but they were perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an ISP who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.Bet you didn't know that AT&T, Comcast, and Roadrunner employ thousands of undocumented aliens to pore over your email, did you? They find them at freeway onramps holding signs saying "Will spy for food." Kerr's point isn't exactly clear. Is it that if we hand our information over to our ISP, we should be happy to give it to our Uncle? Or that we're better off letting the government spy on us, because if they do anything really nasty an Inspector General will issue a report condemning it five years later? Either way, he's saying 'your data is also our data.'Ryan Singel has a fine piece for Wired.com detailing what your Uncle can do with this information that your friendly neighbourhood ISP can't, so I won't go into it here.Of course, when it comes to its own matters, the Bush administration is a fierce advocate for privacy. A half dozen Congressional committees are still trying to obtain copies of White House emails — and, unlike the NSA tapping into AT&T's net backbone, they actually do have a subpeona.(To quote former AT&T tech turned whistleblower Mark Klein's testimony to a Senate committee: “These installations only make sense if they’re doing a huge, massive domestic dragnet on everybody in the United States.")The counter argument is that terrorism trumps everything. But I don't buy that. There's always an 'ism.' Before terrorism there was communism. Before communism there was anti-Americanism and generic xenophobia. Somebody always has a reason for Americans to give up their rights to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects," to quote some crumbling document. (What was it again? Oh, right, the US Constitution.) But it's never been a good enough one. And it still isn't.