Apr 052016
 

Telling travelers about to be screened whether to go left or right is an important job. It keeps people from getting in line in a way that would let them avoid more detailed screening. That’s why TSA bought $1.4 million of systems to do that. The product that costs 25 cents per installation – a quarter that screeners would flip – obviously won’t do. We need the cyber security version.

 Posted by at 10:14 am on April 5, 2016
Mar 202016
 

The war on impure thoughts continues down its slippery slope.

Harvard Law School will ban retire its seal because it derived from the emblem of a slave-holding family … never mind that the family funded the school’s first professorship 200 years ago. The way ahead is described in a very nice piece of writing by a scholar who studied other problematic icons associated with Harvard.

It will be easier in the future. Today’s digital era, in which so much data are kept, will make it far easier for tomorrow’s enlightened people to reach back and study our private thoughts in order to recognize which of us must be condemned for violating that era’s sensibilities.

They will know better then than we do today.

 Posted by at 8:52 am on March 20, 2016
Feb 242016
 

What starts as a review of an important new book on academic freedom quickly moves to a first person account of the effects of speaking freely at the Naval Academy, written by a professor of nearly three decades there.

We’ve known that open discourse has generally been lost to most campuses, but it sure is sad to see this turmoil at what should be one of the last bastions of liberty. Future officers and leaders should be free to vet ideas on their merits, not on their conformity.

 Posted by at 12:57 pm on February 24, 2016
Feb 092016
 

We appreciate the candor of DNI chief James Clapper in confirming what the tin-foil-beanie crowd might have assumed all along: The Internet of Things will be spectacular for collecting fine grain intelligence about people in their homes. It isn’t like Google and others competing for these data have not already figured this out. Why would the government not want on board too?

 Posted by at 6:18 pm on February 9, 2016
Jan 102016
 

The Washington Post reports on the cutting edge software police are starting to use for identifying people who are possible threats. One example of its use involved flagging someone as a threat based on a 911 call, so officers could call in a heavier response. It is all based on searching police records and social media.

Anyone who thinks the social media part is searched in real time once a name or address turns up in a query will be sadly mistaken. An immense amount of static information is compiled and added to continuously so it will be available at a moment’s notice – like in a 911 call.

One of the several dangers of course is that they get it wrong, and your innocent actions become misinterpreted, with potentially deadly consequences. Oops. But can you control this? No. As with so many “homeland security” systems these days, police cloak the actual computation in commercial operations, where the algorithms, data sources and records are not subject to public information requests or challenge. It will only be a matter of time until the equivalent of a ‘Google Bomb’ is dropped on someone through social media, after which the next interaction with police could involve trying to persuade a tactical team you are not a threat … while zip tied face down on your living room carpet.

 Posted by at 9:52 pm on January 10, 2016
Oct 312015
 

Rolling Stone carries a nice capsule summary of Tor, or ‘the onion router’, and its history. What is its future? Probably its security has been cracked already in pretty fundamental ways, but the cost of doing so for any one or another individual target remains higher than would commonly be paid by any but nation states having serious ‘national assets’ to deploy in the process.

 Posted by at 7:04 am on October 31, 2015
Sep 252015
 

Spoiler alert: the answer is “poorly”.

Government regulations continue to expand and options available to consumers corresponding diminish, as called out in the linked article. Bureaucrats make choices about what is ‘best’ for consumers but these often fly in the face of choices that rational consumers would make in their own interests; officials’ track record is one of promoting decisions which are best for them … not consumers.

 Posted by at 9:36 am on September 25, 2015