In case you didn’t know, every week I host a podcast on tech, economics, and policy called Surprisingly Free. Today we reached our 100th episode and, of course, it’s a clip show. It has some of the best from the last 99 shows. Give it a listen, subscribe in iTunes, reblog this, and Tweet about it. Thanks!
At the Top of Congress’ New Year Agenda? Regulate the Net
This week in TIME I recap the latest on SOPA and PIPA and look at what’s ahead once Congress reconvenes. I also address the argument that the piracy bills don’t amount to censorship since they’re aimed at unprotected speech.
I was on NPR’s On The Media today talking about the hype around cyberwar.
On the podcast this week I talk to danah boyd, Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, and Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, discusses her recent article in First Monday with Ester Hargitai, Jason Schultz, and John Palfrey. It’s entitled, “Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age: Unintended consequences of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.” boyd discusses COPPA as it applies to Facebook, namely that children under 13 are not allowed to use the site. She then talks about her research, which looks at whether this restriction is helping parents protect their children’s privacy, and whether it is meeting COPPA’s ultimate goals. boyd discusses her findings, which indicate parents are allowing their children to lie about their age to obtain a Facebook account. According to boyd, parents want guidelines when it comes to data protection, but they do not necessarily want strict requirements. boyd feels that COPPA is not achieving its goal of privacy protection and should be evaluated with more transparency so parents and the public in general know how to protect their privacy.
Hackers Blow Up Illinois Water Utility…or Not
Over at TIME.com, I write about the “Russian hackers are in our water plants” min-panic that erupted last week. Turns out it was a false alarm, but that didn’t stop the rhetoric from going on overdrive. Check out this story from Nov. 21, one day before DHS and the FBI announced there was no attack, which said that a variant of Stuxnet had been used to attack the Illinois water plant and “caused the destruction of a water pump”. My takeaways from this incident:
First, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on sketchy first reports of cyberattacks. Bad reporting tends to take on a life of its own. Two years ago, an electrical blackout in Brazil was similarly blamed on hackers, but the cause turned out to be nothing more than sooty insulators. That hasn’t stopped pundits, defense contractors and politicians from citing the debunked incident as evidence that we need comprehensive legislation to regulate Internet security.
Second, although Bellovin was mistaken in believing the initial reports, he’s right that such an attack is possible. The discussion should be about the possible magnitude of attacks and what can be done to prevent them. Although the rhetorical engines of those who want new cyber-legislation were spinning into overdrive before the facts abruptly shut them down, this incident, if it had been a cyberattack, would not have shown a dire need for new rules. Instead, it showed that the damage was not catastrophic and that the water utility worked well with federal authorities under existing law.
Read the whole thing at TIME.com.
It sure looks like it. After rejecting several apps for this reason—and being criticized for it—I’ve recently noticed a trend in the other direction. Some examples:
- GMail - An alternative email client that has replaced Apple Mail for me.
- Opera Mini - An alternative web browser that doesn’t rely on the WebKit rendering engine.
- Downcast - An alternative to the Apple Music app for listening to podcasts (previously podcatchers had been rejected)
- Calvetica - An alternative to the Calendar app
- Skype - An alternative to FaceTime for video calls
And there are many more. You can count Pandora, Spotify and other services as alternatives to the Music app, and there are god knows how many camera apps.