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: Nokia 1020, BYOD, PR Summit, Chromecast (x2), patent trolls, CableCard (x2), Google Maps, Gmail

I had some 5,200 words appear under my byline this week. (I wrote one of those reviews last weekend, but I also filed one story this week that won’t show up in print for weeks.) Some of that is the result of products shipping and news breaking at about the same time, and some is what happens when you know you owe a client so many posts in a month and then tell yourself “I can finish that story tomorrow” too many days in a row.

7/29/2013: Nokia’s 1020: A Camera That Makes Phone Calls, Discovery News

Nokia’s latest smartphone includes a 41-megapixel camera that takes impressive photos, but its Windows Phone software has issues with driving directions and app selection. And its battery life may be worse than it seemed when I wrote this.

7/30/2013: BYOD Chat, IDG Enterprise

Another turn as a chat host, this time for a round of questions about bring-your-own-device policies and experiences. The link goes to a Twitter query for the #mobilebizchat hashtag, owing to the questions and answers not yet having been archived on the Enterprise Mobile Hub site. 9/29: Updated link.

7/30/2013: The Future of Technology & How to Speak Blogger Language 4.0, PR Summit

VentureBeat’s Christina Farr moderated a panel featuring yours truly, Fleishman-Hillard’s Layla Revis, Jon Oleaga of etceter and marketing maven Murray Newlands. I can’t say we got the audience past blogger language 3.0, but we did have a good chat on some basic issues of building influence and maintaining trust on the Web, whether you’re in PR or journalism or some intersection of the two.

Boing Boing Chromecast comparison7/31/2013: The real Web TV: Chromecast, Apple or Roku?, Boing Boing

I compared Google’s new $35 Web-media receiver to Apple and Roku’s models. Short answer: Apple’s best for sharing what’s already on your computer, Roku has the widest set of video and audio apps, Google has the easiest setup and the biggest potential upside. Don’t forget to check out the comments BBS, where I answered several questions about these devices and my review.

7/31/2013: Google’s Chromecast Puts the Web On TV For $35, Discovery News

For Discovery, I wrote a higher-level piece starting with what makes the Chromecast different from and better than running an HDMI cable from your laptop to your TV.

8/1/2013: Past And Future Patent Pain: When Does The Law Recognize Abuse For What It Is?, Disruptive Competition Project

I’d been meaning to write this 1,100-word essay for while; fortunately, the EFF’s launch of its Trolling Effects database of “demand letters” from patent trolls gave me a decent news peg for the piece.

8/2/2013: TiVo, media center PC makers alarmed by CableCard-cutting bill, Ars Technica

I got a nice little scoop about an upcoming bill that would end a key regulatory protection for the CableCard standard that allows TiVos and a few other devices to tune in cable TV. Check page three of the comments for a few from me answering reader queries.

8/2/2013: The Endless Re-Runs Of The Cable-Compatibility Debate, Disruptive Competition Project

This counterpart to the Ars piece summarizes the 15 years and counting of regulatory, technological and market failures at establishing a standard way to get cable without leasing a box from the cable company.

8/4/2013: Google removes multiple stops feature from Maps, USA Today

It’s never a good idea to let users discover on their own that you removed a feature many of them like to use. This column also has a tip about using Gmail’s offline and ad-free mode in Chrome.

On Sulia, I recounted an amusing HDMI failure in Apple’s flagship San Francisco store, reported an apparently painless installation of Android 4.3 on my Nexus 4 phone, shared a fix for a broadband breakdown I encountered later that day,  critiqued Google’s announcement of an overdue find-my-phone service for Android phones, suggested replacement brand names for Microsoft’s trademark-conflicted SkyDrive and complimented Dulles Airport for its real-time security wait estimates.