Weekly output: Section 702 surveillance, ad fraud, App Store review

Monday will be my first workday spent entirely in D.C. since mid December. I’m both attending and speaking (as in, quizzing futurist Amy Webb) at the State of the Net conference at the Newseum. “SOTN” is always a good tech-policy talkfest, and you can watch the proceedings live at its site.

1/22/2018: What you need to know about the government’s renewed surveillance law, Yahoo Finance

This explanation of the National Security Agency’s “Section 702” authorization to spy on foreign-intelligence suspects from within U.S. territory should have run in December. But once again, CES Advent left me with too little bandwidth to write the post then.

1/23/2018: How a gang of crooks hijacked your web browser, Yahoo Finance

One of the companies that I talked to for a December post on the plague of “forced-redirect” ads offered me an advance look at a study they’d done of a racket that not only inflicted these ads on readers at scale but set up its own network of fake ad agencies to get their fake ads on real networks. We updated the post a couple of days later to note that the report no longer mentioned two ad networks as being especially willing to do business with con-ad artists.

1/24/2018: Net neutrality app is a lesson in Apple’s App Store power, USA Today

I’ve been writing about Apple’s use and misuse of its App Store review authority for almost as long as I’ve been writing about net neutrality, so an episode involving Apple rejecting an app designed to help users spot net-neutality violations was an obvious topic.

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Weekly output: CISA, e-mail “sub-addressing”

Greetings, frustrated owners of Timex sport watches. I’m glad that essay I wrote in a fit of nerd rage continues to draw such interest at each time change, and I hope that at least some of the people who come here looking for help taking their timepiece in and out of Daylight Saving Time stick around and keep reading.

I spent much of this week wrapping up work on a long and long-delayed story. This coming week will see me in Dublin, where I’m covering Web Summit and catching up with some cousins I haven’t seen in over a dozen years. That’ll be my last air travel for work this year, and I am quite okay with that fact.

Yahoo Tech CISA post10/27/2015: CISA: Why Tech Leaders Hate the Latest Cyber-Security Bill, Yahoo Tech

I had meant to write about this cybersecurity bill earlier, but instead this post went up on the day that the Senate approved it by a 74-21 vote. I guess the folks there did not find this piece terribly persuasive. FYI: If you don’t like rants about Obama’s creeping dictatorship, you might want to avoid the comments.

11/1/2015: When a site rejects email “sub-addressing”, USA Today

Want to protect your privacy by giving a site a custom e-mail address that still lands in your inbox? Some won’t let you do that, and their explanations don’t square with the basic specifications of e-mail.

Weekly output: SXSW, cable modems

Spending the first half of the week out of town for SXSW put more of a dent in my schedule than I realized–as you can see from the unusually late time I’m posting this. Seriously, where did the second half of the week go?

Yahoo Tech SXSW post3/10/2014: The News from SXSW: Technology Will Liberate Us! Unless It Enslaves Us First., Yahoo Tech

I pretty much had to focus my writeup of the conference on the remote interviews of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden–both outspoken critics of the surveillance state, both beset by glitches with their Internet-video links. It’s crazy to think that a year ago, almost nobody at SXSW had any idea of what the NSA had been up to; the mood in Austin seemed a lot cheerier about the prospects of technology back then.

3/16/2014: Buyer beware: ‘Gray market’ cable modem can trip you up, USA Today

A reader had bought a cable modem after reading my recommendation to do so last August. Then Comcast said she couldn’t use her purchase. And things got really weird. A reader has since complained that the column left him “totally confused” about whether he can buy a modem on Comcast’s approved-devices list and have it work; I’m going to have to tell him he has correctly read a confusing situation.

Weekly output: NSA pushback, Twitter and Facebook abuse

I had meant to write an essay for the Disruptive Competition Project on this week’s Techonomy conference–but the post that seemed easy when I pitched it to my editors turned out to be anything but once I started trying to string words together. After spending about all of Friday bashing the piece into shape over multiple rewrites, I filed it so late that the post would have gone up at news-dump time. Fortunately, management elected to save it for Monday.

(So now I’ll probably take another whack at this post later tonight.)

11/12/2013: Responses To NSA Snooping: Security, Litigiousness And A Little Profanity, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d meant to write something earlier about the “it’s only self-serving, manufactured outrage” critique of tech companies publicizing their disapproval of the NSA’s snooping, and the latest round of creepy revelations (combined with the f-bombs being tossed around in Google+ rants by infuriated Google engineers) gave me an excuse to address this issue.

USAT Twitter and Facebook abuse11/17/2013: How to report an abusive user on Twitter, USA Today

A question from a reader about a Twitter abuser trying to hide the evidence of her misdeeds and a friend’s account of somebody impersonating his dad on Facebook while apparently blocking him from reporting the violation led to this post. Both of these companies need to fix some bugs, or at a minimum revise misleading directions, in their abuse-reporting systems. Since nobody seems to have called out these problems before, I’m a little happier than usual with this post.

On Sulia, I shared details from a couple of interesting talks at Techonomy (one on voting, another on Microsoft security), provided 30 turns of phrase you can use instead of the “disrupt,” shared what it takes to put somebody in my contacts list and explained how a promising feature in OS X Mavericks’ Calendar app turned out to be near-useless to me.

 

Potential exposure is not forced exposure

One of the foremost foes of intellectual-property extortion is shutting down. Groklaw founder and editor Pamela Jones announced this morning in a post, titled “Forced Exposure,” that the possibility of NSA surveillance of her e-mail means she can’t trust e-mail as a means of collaborative input, and therefore the blog must end.

Groklaw signoffThey tell us that if you send or receive an email from outside the US, it will be read. If it’s encrypted, they keep it for five years, presumably in the hopes of tech advancing to be able to decrypt it against your will and without your knowledge. Groklaw has readers all over the world.

This news bothers me deeply–because Groklaw has provided an immense public service in collecting and presenting evidence of grotesque IP abuse such as the SCO Group’s prolonged and mendacious attempt to claim copyright over code in the Linux operating system, and because I don’t like finding fault with somebody whose work I and so many other people admire.

But look: Potential exposure is not forced exposure. Or if it is, it’s always been there. Yes, the NSA might be reading my e-mail and PJ’s. But keyloggers planted by the Russian mob might be reading it too. The NSA might have the ability to crack PGP encryption in five years–or they could have had it all along and haven’t told us, or they could decide to ignore that five-year timeline. Your own computer might be airtight, but what about the machines of all your correspondents? For that matter, how can you be sure you’ve maintained your privacy offline without going into Kaczysnki-esque seclusion?

If your reaction to those possibilities is to declare that all is lost and that you should “get off the Internet to the degree that it’s possible,” as PJ wrote in this morning’s post, then how are you not tumbling into the same existential fear that the defenders of the surveillance state sometimes seem to think is the right and proper state of a compliant citizenry?

I don’t know PJ (friends whose judgment I trust do and profess a deep respect for her) and only have a vague notion of what her life has been like running Groklaw (it’s entailed being the target of an unhealthy dose of character assassination). But with my limited knowledge I can’t endorse her stance. I wish she’d at least found somebody else to run the site: While we’re having this hypothetical discussion, very real copyright and patent extortion is going on, and Groklaw was doing a damn good job of exposing it.

Weekly output: Slashdot, online journalism, Ron Wyden, This Week In Law, Washington Apple Pi, prepaid data, mobile sites

It’s been a busy week, and I still have to pack for a flight tomorrow morning. (I’m off to San Francisco to speak on a panel about “Blogger Language 4.0” at PR Summit.) I’ll have to be a little more concise than usual in these descriptions…

7/22/2013: Former WaPo Staffer Rob Pegoraro Talks About Newspapers’ Decline (Video), Slashdot

Robin Miller, aka “roblimo,” asked me a few questions about the state of the newspaper business and the future of journalism.

7/24/2013: Online Journalism Not All Doomed (Even If You Count Past 538), Disruptive Competition Project

And speaking of the future of journalism, here I argued that the ability of a local-news site called ARLNow.com to hire its first full-time reporter is probably a better sign of the health of my profession than Nate Silver’s headline-making move from the New York Times to ESPN.

Ars Technica Wyden post7/24/2013: Senator: Weak oversight of NSA may lead to massive location tracking, Ars Technica

I wrote up the speech Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) gave at the Center for American Progress about government surveillance and the secret body of law that barely constrains it.

7/26/2013: #221: We’re #9! We’re #9!, This Week In Law

The number in the title of this week’s episode refers to the U.S.’s ranking in a recent survey of broadband access; tune in to see host Denise Howell, Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn and me talk about the state of our broadband market and a grab-bag of other issues.

7/27/2013: Rob Pegoraro talks about things that beep and blink, Washington Apple Pi

The last time I spoke at a monthly meeting of the D.C. area’s Apple user group was in February 2011. A few things have changed since then (my ability to get lost on the roads of George Mason University’s Fairfax campus is not among them), so I enjoyed catching up with my friends at WAP.

7/28/2013: To get online during vacation, consider prepaid data, USA Today

A reader wanted to know a cheap way to get a laptop online during a long cross-country trip, so I suggested some prepaid data services–most reselling Sprint’s old WiMax network. I also shared a tip about using mobile sites when you’re starved for bandwidth, one of the things I’ve resorted to in the face of uncooperative WiFi at conferences and elsewhere.

Sulia highlights: Excoriating the worse-than-Apple performance of Nokia’s Windows Phone mapping app, noting the impending arrival of a $999, 50-inch 4K TV, celebrating a pathetically overdue tech-patent ruling and wondering if faster WiFi on Amtrak will induce demand that leads to the same slow wireless as before.