Inside Google Plus

Steven Levy interviewed Google’s Bradley Horowitz about Google+:

Wired: Some users are chafing at Google’s insistence that they provide real names. Explain the policy against pseudonyms.

Horowitz: Google believes in three modes of usage—anonymous, pseudonymous, and identified, and we have a spectrum of products that use all three. For anonymity, you can go into incognito mode in Chrome and the information associated with using the browser is not retained. Gmail and Blogger are pseudonymous—you can go be captainblackjack@gmail.com. But with products like Google Checkout, you’re doing a financial transaction and you have to use your real name.For now, Google+ falls into that last category. There are great debates going on about this—I saw one comment yesterday that claimed that pseudonyms protect the experience of women in the system. I felt compelled to respond, because I’ve gotten feedback from women who say that the accountability of real names makes them feel much more comfortable in Google+.

Notice that Horowitz did not answer the question, and what he did say was just ridiculous nonsense. Steven Levy at Wired didn’t seem to notice, or care.

Horowitz tries to make us think that we need our real name when making a financial transaction.  Thousands of years of currency proves that is not the case.

Horowitz then goes on to blurrily equate making a financial transaction with sharing videos of cats on Google+.

And then the cherry on the top: Google+ protects women.

This was the closest there was to a serious question in the whole interview and Horowitz just laughed out of his arse at it.

Continue reading Inside Google Plus

April Fool: A man in Jalawla walked into a bar…

Medialens spotted that the BBC attributed a bomb attack on Monday in Iraq to “al-Qaeda”, with apparently little evidence.  They wrote to the BBC’s “man in Baghdad”, Hugh Sykes, and asked him “what is the evidence that al-Qaeda, rather than some other insurgent group, were behind the attacks”?.

Hugh’s answer genuinely made me think this was an early April Fool’s joke. In fact I’m still not sure Medialens aren’t making me look like an idiot:

No proof, but circumstantial evidence and reasonable presumption of AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] involvement – very much their modus operandum. Suicide attacks are their signature method, and this was a dramatic detonation suggesting a lot of explosive – again, very AQI.

And…who else would do this?

So, process of elimination, history of AQI attacks in Diyala etc.

And the logic of it Sunni Arab vs Iraqi Kurds. As a man in Jalawla told Reuters:

“Al-Qaida is targeting the Kurds because it believes that
we are involved in the political process and collaborating
with the Americans.”

This blows my mind. “very AQI” and “a man in Jalawla told Reuters”. “Who else would do this?”

As Medialens point out, the BBC claim they are “committed to evidence-based journalism”. Except they pick and choose when their committment applies, such as when they refused to report the use of banned weapons by US forces in their November 2004 assault on Falljuah.

James Reynolds of the BBC comes clean

Admitting it for all to see on his BBC blog. Very brave of him:

Past horrors and mistakes do not seem to have weakened a servile belief in the ultimate benevolence of the state and a willingness to grant it unlimited powers.

In this country, if you start to blame the system itself – and the men right at the top – you tend to get into all kinds of trouble.

Unsurprisingly though, he’s talking about China and not the USA or the United Kingdom.

£5/month for your digitial civil liberties

The Open Rights Group are a UK based organisation fighting for our civil liberties in the digital age. DRM, e-voting, copyright term extensions, FOI, net neutrality, privacy, RIPA, creative commons etc.etc.etc.etc.etc. They’re like an English EFF.

They have a tiny staff and many other volunteers who are extremely dedicated to the cause and are working very hard for our freedoms.  They are funded entirely by donations which pays for the staff, an office and expenses of running campaigns and pestering politicians.  They’re currently hoping to push their income up so things are more sustainable.

So, please sign up and give them some money every month. Anything from £5 upwards would be super. If you use computers for pretty much anything, it will make your life better – or at least prevent it getting any worse.

BBC Racism

The public can see for themselves the ‘neutral’ media language used to describe Israeli actions: ‘incursion’, ‘retaliation’, ‘military operations’. By contrast, Israel endures ‘terrorist attacks’, ‘slaughter’, ‘a bloodbath’. Careful analysis by Greg Philo and Mike Berry, of the Glasgow University Media Group, found a persistent, ugly pattern:

“In our samples of news content, words such as ‘mass murder’, ‘savage cold-blooded killing’ and ‘lynching’ were used by journalists to describe Israeli deaths but not those of Palestinians/Arabs. The word ‘terrorist’ was used to describe Palestinians, but when an Israeli group was reported as trying to bomb a Palestinian school, they were referred to as ‘extremists’ or ‘vigilantes’.” (Philo and Berry, ‘Bad News From Israel’, Pluto Press, London, 2004, p. 259)

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/080311_israeli_deaths_matter.php

Wikileaks Censored by US Judge

A controversial website that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously post government and corporate documents has been taken offline in the US.

BBC News

WikiLeaks and its domain registrar for the wikileaks.org domain name, Dynadot, have been sued by the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, because of leaks claiming illegal activities at the bank’s Cayman Island branch.

The Judge order the DNS registrar to freeze the domain. The main servers are in Sweden though, so the cover names still work (such as the UK one: http://wikileaks.org.uk). There are also mirror sites. This is a good example of why you shouldn’t rely on US domain names (and why we need more diversity of root server control no doubt). Not sure how much better the UK system is though.

The Tor network has hidden services for this kind of thing and though not perfect, helps protect against this kind of attack (the Tor website is censored by my Vodafone ISP btw). A good time as any to volunteer to host a Tor router server.

Cryptome has a Wikileak archive and more information.

Our dominant system of economics is unstable

The dominant system of economics is unstable, inimical to social justice and lethally damaging to the environmental support systems on which we all depend. A major failure in professional journalism has been the refusal to analyse this; or even to report that real growth rates in the developed world have been declining since the 1970s. Instead, corporate-employed journalists and mainstream analysts frequently extol the alleged spectacular achievements of an ‘unparalleled’ rise in wealth.

Medialens – a UK based media analysis project.

That quote is from one of their latest alerts, “‘CREATIVE DESTRUCTION’ – THE MADNESS OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY”. Find it here: part 1 and part 2.  You can buy their book, Guardians of Power, from here.

CIA Freedom of Information – Publish Your Own

CIA sealThe CIA Freedom of Information website had the dumbest security hole in it.  With all the recent hoo har about the “Family Jewels” documents, you’d expect they’d do a quick once over on this stuff.  All the textual content on the document view pages is generated directly from variables passed in the url – with no input validation.

This opens them up to cross site scripting attacks (XSS) and really is just stupid.  Lucky they aren’t the GUARDIANS OF THE LARGEST CACHE OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION IN THE WORLD or anything – *phew*.

Anyway, using this bug, I made a website where you can write your own documents and publish them on the CIA FOIA website:

http://geekz.co.uk/cia-foia/

I guess that from tomorrow, any mail for me should be addressed to Guantanamo Bay.

Actually, technically you’re the ones doing the exploiting by using the links my site provides – so, you know, at your own risk and all that.

An example here.

HD DVD cracked

The High Definition DVD encryption got cracked a couple of months back, but recently the AACS licensing authority have been threatening people who discuss it. At the core of this is the processing key, which can be used to decrypt all HD DVDs. The key is just a big number. The AACS assert that the number is illegal to disclose.

If you were counting a large number of something, you’d have to skip this particular number (or whisper it) because the AACS believe they control it.

Anyway, we don’t quite have the DMCA here in the UK, so I can write that number here:

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Without this work, you could not play legally bought HD DVDs with free software applications.  You could not play legally bought HD DVDs that were from another country.  You could not transfer legally bought HD DVDs to your hard disk for easy access, or to your portable movie player.

One might argue that you shouldn’t be purchasing goods from a company that is at war with you. Whilst I agree, it’s not that easy to find companies that aren’t at war with you and I support work like this to take back our freedoms.

Mr. Litvinenko’s body

Heard on the radio:

“Pathologists will conduct an autopsy on Mr. Litvinenko’s body this week”

If they are to examine his body, where is Mr. Litvinenko now? Is he in a waiting room? Has he gone back to Russia, leaving his body here for analysis? Maybe he’s gone to heaven.

This statement raises many questions. When Mr. Litvinenko was alive, what was he if not his body? Where was he? How did he control his body? Where was he before his body was born?

Additionally, how come I’ve not heard or read the word “terrorism” anywhere in conjunction with this story? Is it because the Russian Government is involved? Governments can’t commit terrorism?

Why can’t we get on a plane with a tube of arse cream unless it’s in a clear plastic bag but these guys were able to carry radioactive material onboard with no problems?

Opt-out of centralised NHS records

The government are centralising our medical information onto something called the “NHS Spine”. So our entire NHS medical histories will be moved to this system opening it up to general access for millions more employees of:

  • various government agencies including the police and social workers
  • private investigators, media organisations and other commercial entities.

Well, you apparently have the legal right to opt out of this “data rape”:

In June 2005, FIPR developed an opt-out letter to send to the Secretary of State. People who sent this off have been fobbed off. We now recommend that you opt out via your GP. Ask your GP to enter into your record the code 93C3 (“refused consent for upload to national shared electronic record”). You can also ask for your address and phone number to be kept off the NHS internal directory, and for your hospital records also to not be uploaded to central systems: see here for details. We encourage you to opt out even if you have nothing to hide; if only people who do have something embarrassing in their records opt out, then doing so will carry a stigma.

Air passengers ‘could be tagged’

BBC News is running this press release from the University College London: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6044310.stm

“Electronically tagging passengers at airports could help the fight against terrorism, scientists have said.”

But the only explanation of how this will actually help the “fight against terrorism” is

“the tags could aid security by allowing airports to track the movement patterns of passengers deemed to be suspicious and prevent them from entering restricted areas.”

Which seems to roughly translate to

Step 1: Tag passengers electronically so you can track their movements

Step 2: ???

Step 3: Security!!

Oh, I missed step 0

Step 0: Get big fat grant from the government and impress your fellow professors

The BBC obviously don’t ask any pertinent questions.