February 2008

Voting rights victories in LA County and Texas!

Update, March 6: democracy largely (albeit imperfectly) prevailed in the LA County mess; 47,153 “double bubble” votes were counted in Los Angeles County. What about Ohio? We shall see …

Julia Rosen’s Victory post yesterday on Courage Campaign’s blog announced Dean Logan’s agreement to count every possible LA County decline-to-state ballot, and followup mail from Rick Jacobs today reiterates: we won!

After weeks of bad news, here’s the good news: Tens of thousands of “Decline-to-State” (DTS) voters — who intended to cast a ballot for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton on Super Tuesday — will now have their “double bubble” votes counted by the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters.

And it’s because of you.

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Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008: call for proposals is up!

CFP banner

From the CFP2008 web page:

This election year will be the first to address US technology policy in the information age as part of our national debate. Candidates have put forth positions about technology policy and have recognized that it has its own set of economic, political, and social concerns. In the areas of privacy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, telecommunications, and freedom of speech, an increasing number of issues once confined to experts now penetrate public conversation. Our decisions about technology policy are being made at a time when the architectures of our information and communication technologies are still being built. Debate about these issues needs to be better-informed in order for us to make policy choices in the public interest.

This year, the 18th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference will focus on what constitutes technology policy. CFP: Technology Policy ’08 is an opportunity to help shape public debate on those issues being made into laws and regulations and those technological infrastructures being developed. The direction of our technology policy impacts the choices we make about our national defense, our civil liberties during wartime, the future of American education, our national healthcare systems, and many other realms of policy discussed more prominently on the election trail. Policies ranging from data mining and wiretapping, to file-sharing and open access, and e-voting to electronic medical records will be addressed by expert panels of technologists, policymakers, business leaders, and advocates.

Updates:

CFP2008 is being held in New Haven, Connecticut, on May 20-23. Back in 2000 Elizabeth Weise called it “the most important computer conference you’ve never heard of”; I think of CFP as the most important conference — and network of people and organizations — focused on civil rights (and increasingly, human rights in general) in an electronic society. Lorrie Faith Cranor’s Ten Years of Computers, Freedom and Privacy gives the early history, where hackers, lawyers, law enforcement, and goverment representatives fought out “crypto wars” and internet censorship battles (ending with a defiant “we’ll be back” from the Clinton adminstration as the Clipper Chip went to its well-deserved fate).

The technology policy focus is extremely timely. The upcoming election will feature significant differences between the parties and candidates on issues like net neutrality, warrantless surveillance, immunity for corporations who may have collaborated with illegal government wiretapping programs, Real ID, the McCain bill to censor social networks, and privacy — now on the national agenda thanks to MoveOn’s stance against Facebook’s Beacon.

Over the last several years, CFP has steadily broadened its horizons to take a more global view and pay increasing attention to perspectives that are getting overlooked: digital divide issues, normalization of surveillance and censorship by governments and corporations, hactivism, the special challenges of communities like the Mohawk Nation (spread over multiple jurisdictions), high school students in a panel organized by danah boyd in Seattle in 2005. After a few (in my humble opinion) rather bland and corporate years, things have taken a more activist turn: a 2003 New York walking tour by the Surveillance Camera Players, a 2005 demo by the ACLU that led to the US State Department changing policy on encryption and passports (props to State Department official Frank Moss for being there and taking the message back), Patrick Ball accepting his EFF Pioneer Award by satellite from Sri Lanka, where he was working with the truth and reconciliation commission. Last year in Quebec, during the height of Stop Real ID Now! grassroots activist campaign, a half-dozen coalition members ranging from libertarians to labor activists were there (as well as some people from DHS and elsewhere who strongly disagreed with us but were still willing to have very honest discussions), and Bruce Schneier’s keynote on the Psychology of Security for people on both sides of the debate.

The call for presentations, tutorials, and workshops asks for proposals on panels, tutorials, speaker suggestions, and birds of a feather sessions through the CFP: Technology Policy ’08 submission page. The deadline for panels tutorials, and speakers is March 17, 2008, and the birds-of-a-feather deadline is April 21.The list of suggested topics is really broad (I’ll include it in a comment) and so as always there are likely to be a lot more high-quality submissions than can easily fit; the program committee often merges and suggests changes to sessions to help squeeze more in. The submission process can seem a bit intimidating (this is an ACM conference and so it has some academic overtones) but the guidelines are helpful and have links to some examples.

So if there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, one or more speakers you think would be good, a presentation you’d like to give, a panel you’d like to organize, or a tutorial you’d like to attend (or provide), please think about submitting it. If you’re not sure whether it makes sense, feel free to give it a trial run in a comment here or just send me some mail.

If it seems like CFP means a lot to me, it does: I’ve been going there for over 10 years; my SO Deborah Pierce has been going even longer and chaired it in 2005. I’ve volunteered, asked questions, been on a panel, run a couple of BoFs, and taken photos of Deborah during the various sessions she’s appeared in or moderated, and this year I’m excited to be on the Program Committee. There are lots of friends and long-term acquaintances we only get to see in person at CFP — and every year we met a lot of new people. This year, with the two of us working together on Tales from the Net, and Computers, Freedom and Privacy 2008’s ambitious goal of “shaping public debate” on technology policy in an election year, I’m particularly looking forward to it!

jon

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Microsoft/Yahoo! roundup

Note: this thread summarizes what others are thinking, and my reactions. My opinion on the potential acquisition is here — and along with many others’, on MiniMSFT.

Andy Borowitz has the biggest news: Obama to buy Yahoo! Other than that …

Microsoft has been fined a record €899 million ($1.4 billion) for defying the EU’s sanctions, which brings the total over the last few years to €1.68 billion ($2.5 billion). This is for past actions; Neelie Kroes, the Competition Commissioner, after noting that Microsoft was the first company that had ever defied the sanctions, then goes on to add that she hopes “that today’s decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft’s record of non-compliance with the Commission’s March 2004 decision,” she added. Microsoft’s response is basically “we hope so too”, and affirming that as of October 2007 they believe they were in compliance.

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Cult of the Dead Cow releases ‘Goolag’ beta

Hactivists Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) have released a Windows-only beta of Goolag, a rich client for the Google Hacking techniques pioneered by hacker J0hnny I Hack Stuff.

Basically, Goolag makes it easy to use Google to search out security vulnerabilities related to your web site — or, presumably, others.  From cDc’s blog:

SECURITY ADVISORY: The following program may screw a large Internet search engine and make the Web a safer place.

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Yahoo!!!! (was Yahoo!?!?!): Why, after further reflection, I think Microsoft’s offer for Yahoo! is a brilliant strategic move

Plunking down $44.6 billion, or whatever the number turns out to be, for “change” and “social software” sends a huge message — although bizarrely enough a lot of Microsoft employees, on MiniMSFT and internal email discussion lists like Litebulb, have managed not to hear it.

It’s been several weeks since Microsoft’s unsolicited offer for Yahoo. My initial reaction was that while high-risk, it’s a good deal for Microsoft. Since then, on further reflection … I think it’s a brilliant move on Microsoft’s part — whether or not the deal goes through. And despite all the coverage around the web, I haven’t seen anybody discuss a couple of the most important strategic issues. So I thought I’d take a stab at it.

Update, 2/27: Press roundup (with some commentary) in a new thread; a meditation on cool in a comment. Also, MiniMSFT’s new thread Because the last acquisition went so well links back here, without comment, under Other perspectives. There’s plenty of discussion over there, and I’m crossposting some of my responses here as well.

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Coverage for ‘How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech’

censored, from .mws flickr photostream, used under a creative commons licenseThe two-part series I posted on Tales from the Net and Wired’s How-to Wiki is starting to get some coverage.

Shai Sachs has an excellent piece on MyDD:

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Facebook “censorship” of free speech. The Blackadder One case I wrote about a couple weeks ago was just an early warning sign of more trouble to come. Recently Jon Pincus has been posting a series of diaries at Tales from the Net and Liminal States about his encounter with problems very similar to those Derek Blackadder ran into when he tried to organize workers on Facebook. Pincus’s posts include a very good trail of documentation of the problems he’s encountering, which make this series one of the more interesting resources on Facebook censorship I’ve seen.

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Grr: “Our terms of service has changed”

This morning when I went to log in to a discussion forum on Yuku (“your interests, your communities” — the next-generation, friend-enabled version of ezboard), I was greeted with:

Our terms of service has changed. Please read the new terms of service. By clicking “I agree,” you agree to Yuku’s Terms of Use.

Oh, they has* changed, has they? What changes might those be?

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Dept. Of Homeland Security: ‘Has Anybody Seen A Blue Folder?’

WASHINGTON—In an emergency press conference held this morning, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff urged the American public to be on the lookout for a folder that was misplaced sometime in the last 24 hours, most likely in the DHS offices, but also possibly anywhere else….

“I can assure everyone that the assistant secretary could have sworn she had it when she went through the metal detector,” said DHS Secretary Chertoff.

The Onion has more.

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Facebook Barack Obama discussion board has been deleted!

The discussion board on the Barack Obama discussion page is now *gone* — not just unlinked, vanished. If you follow a link to it, it takes you to your home page instead. Sigh. Looks like they’re choosing fear over hope. Any bookmarks or links won’t work. I’m sure it’s around on backup somewhere, so hopefully things aren’t permanently lost and we can get Facebook to restore it.

It’s not clear whether this was done by Chris Hughes, who’s believed to be the admin of the Barack Obama page (as well as a Facebook founder who according to Wikipedia now “primarily acts as coordinator of online organizing within the Barack Obama presidential campaign on My.BarackObama.com“), or by Facebook. Other Barack Obama discussion boards remain up, although some are undergoing troll attacks.

Facebook: censoring political speech has the backstory.

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Facebook: censoring political speech

Facebook status: Jon is routing around censorship

Update on February 22: How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech is up on Tales from the Net and Wired’s How-to Wiki and links back to comments in this thread. Alas, the Facebook Barack Obama discussion board was deleted on February 20, so many of the links here go off to oblivion.

If you are doing political activism on Facebook and you’re getting warned as a spammer — or if your account has been disabled for engaging in political speech — please leave a comment here or on the Wired Wiki page. Thanks!

February 19: another account was deactivated with less than one hour notice. I’m getting flagged by Facebook’s automated filters for posting info about how to find polling locations. (Okay, I posted it twice, an hour apart. Still.) It’s not pretty. More soon.

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Senate surveillance (FISA) roll calls

There were two major votes on the ‘Protect’ America Act (FISA) surveillance bill in the Senate today.  Civil liberties lost both times.  The fight now moves to the House. A 15-day extension is possible. mcjoan has more on Kos.

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What democracy looks like in the US, February 2008

Update, March 6: democracy largely (albeit imperfectly) prevailed in the LA County mess; 47,153 “double bubble” votes were counted in Los Angeles County. What about Ohio? We shall see …

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