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* Posts by Graham Cobb

96 posts • joined 13 May 2009

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NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw

Graham Cobb

Surely this is illegal under Computer Abuse and Data Protection laws?

If I have set Do Not Track, and I disable or regularly delete Cookies then I am making an unambiguous statement that I do not permit tracking. Any company trying to workround that (whether using canvas, or flash cookies, or anything else) is then abusing their access to my computer. I have not given permission for that. The deliberate action is illegal, whatever the technology. They are, of course, welcome to deny me access to their website if they wish -- but they are not permitted to hack me.

Many companies claim that creating URLs which are not published links and which leak information is illegal hacking of their website by users. If that is the case, then mis-using browser features to track me when I have explicitly refused permission is also illegal hacking.

Why haven't the data protection authorities made a clear statement that any sort of web tracking not based on cookies is illegal and that companies will be prosecuted under data protection laws.

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Remember when Google+ outed everyone by their real names? Now Google's sorry

Graham Cobb
FAIL

Doesn't seem to work

I just tried creating an account. It still says "Are you sure you entered your name correctly?".

It also still wants a date of birth, and a gender. Neither of which am I willing to supply to any sort of social networking.

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UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Graham Cobb

Re: try thinking ahead, assholes

In my view, data retention is the modern equivalent of putting a tail on someone: the tail can't hear what you say but they record everywhere you go, how long you spend there, who you talk to, which shop windows you look in, which buildings you enter. 64 million police tails. 24 hours a day.

One newspaper report said MI5 are expecting 500 returning jihadists from Syria. 500. Apparently that makes it proportional to tail 64 million people, 24 hours a day, because of 500 potential terrorists. Even if all of them managed to radicalise 100 other people, those 50,000 would be less than 0.1% of the population.

There is no way that jihadists (or even all terrorists) can be any sort of justification for blanket data retention.

Of course, the spooks and police know this. So what is the real reason? Apparently 10% of the population (6.5M) are trade union members -- maybe it is them who the government really want to track?

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Super-snoop bid: UK government hits panic button on EU data retention ruling

Graham Cobb

Police state

May is hopeless -- and her merging of snoops and police access doesn't help her or anyone else wanting a sensible debate on this subject.

NCA's Bristow, on the other hand, is much more concerning. He seems to be a sensible man, and the arguments in his speech are well made and effective.

Those of us who disagree with him need to be equally good in our arguing against his vision of a police state. In my view, the public don't understand what using Communication Data means. Collecting Communication Data is exactly the same as placing a police tail on you: the tail can't hear what you are saying but they track exactly where you go, who else is nearby, who you talk to (and for how long), what posters you stop and read, what shops and other building you go into. If the Snooper's Charter was in effect, the tail can follow you into the buildings and video everything you do there.

Unlike a real police tail, this is not reserved for criminals or even suspects. The tail is put on EVERYONE. Even children. 24 hours a day. At home, work, out and about. Just in case you turn out later to have been a paedophile.

Having a permanent tail on everyone seems like the clearest example of a police state that I have seen.

I, for one, am very willing to sacrifice some protection to avoid living in that police state.

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Vodafone: SPOOKS are plugged DIRECTLY into our network

Graham Cobb

@AC -- you are quite right about people not understanding why freedom from surveillance is critical. My "road to Damascus" monent came when looking around the Stasi museum in Leipzig and realising just how close the Stasi came to being able to stop the "Monday demonstrations" (which led to the fall of the Berlin wall, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday_demonstrations_in_East_Germany) due to their mass surveillance -- and they were using manual processes not computerised processing and tracking. The people at those demonstrations were not rebels or activists -- they were ordinary people who's emails "no one would be interested in".

Imagine if a small party (like UKIP, or the Greens -- whichever is your particular demon) was able to hold the balance of power after the next election, formed a coalition, acquired a strong, charismatic leader and started forcing through policies "for the country's good". All very sensible, honest and decent, no doubt. But isn't there a risk that real debate and substantial protest would not be allowed once they had got the national security apparatus to believe they were doing the right thing for the country?

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Graham Cobb

Re: Err...

I suspect this really means, "If we receive a demand we can issue a quote and make sure we get paid for granting access"

That is a start. After all, the closest thing to democratic oversight of security agencies is budget control. Making sure that excessive surveillance costs considerable money would help to limit it.

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REVEALED: GCHQ's BEYOND TOP SECRET Middle Eastern INTERNET SPY BASE

Graham Cobb

Re: Said it before

Just exactly what do you expect out intelligence services to do? How do you expect them to do it?

I expect them to stop mass and untargetted surveillance. Surveillance within the UK should require a warrant, issued by a court not a politician, and be limited to a named target person. Surveillance of our allies should be exceptional -- it should require authorisation from the Prime Minister (who would bear responsibility for authorising it when it eventually came out, as all secrets do). Surveillance of non-allies would be more routine and would not require warrants but it should still be limited and focused on specific targets or purposes: there should be a robust and effective programme for making sure that non-relevant data is destroyed, not archived and certainly not shared with others (so that, for example, the CIA cannot use this to get round their own government's restrictions). All of the above policies should be publically debated and published, with oversight from parliament.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely we can directly enforce these restrictions. They should be in place, with very visible punishments for senior management when they are inevitably ignored (on the basis that whistleblowers will expose some proportion of abuse). However, the only real lever we, the people through parliament, have is money: GCHQ and MI5/6 budgets need to be cut substantially as a public response to the Snowden revelations, and there needs to be continuous effective oversight of their budgets. BT & Vodafone will not work for free, and other MoD agencies will be unkeen on hiding spy budgets within their budgets, so there is an opportunity to limit their activities at least in some way through money.

The budget, and the activities, of the intelligence services should be proportionate to the real threat and very focused on the most critical threats to public safety. It certainly doesn't include "serious financial fraud"!

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Graham Cobb

Re: TRAITORS

Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings?

Are you being deliberately difficult or do you really not realise what the issue is with allowing untargetted data collection?

Of course GCHQ is not intereted in your, or my, email or our personal failings. Not unless we become a "person of interest". For example, write an exposé article for El Reg, or get our MP to ask an embarassing question, or investigate corruption, or campaign for or against abortion, or animal rights, or organise a national strike. At that point, it would be very convenient for the government if they could look back at everything we (and our friends and family) ever did or wrote and try to find some way to discredit us.

I am not worried for myself, I am worried for investigative journalists, campaigning lawyers, radical politicians, or anyone else who should be being given the full protection of the law but instead are being shafted by it. Government ministers are the last people who should be able to authorise wide surveillance powers -- that should be an emergency power, only used in time of overwhelming national need, authorised by parliament and made in public.

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For your next privacy panic, look no further than vending machines

Graham Cobb

Re: Of all the privacy violations to worry about

I was talking to someone at a conference the other day who is selling facial recognition (and other things like gait recognition for when it can't get a clear view of your face) to supermarkets to add to the ubiqitious cameras they have in the shops and feed information into their already massive big data business intelligence systems. The supermarkets plan to not only link it to their loyalty card databases but also track you as you walk around the shop to see what route you take, which displays you stop at, etc. And not just statistically -- you.

This isn't the future -- the cameras are here now, the recognition software is here now, and the SI companies are looking forward to big contracts connecting it all together.

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Kid crims don't need to skim: Paywave cards lead fraud rise

Graham Cobb

Re: Wavey-wavey cards lead to fraud?

Haven't you missed the point -- or am I confused? [Or maybe both]

What the policeman seems to be saying is that the fraud amounts may be tiny in financial terms, and well within the budget the banks have planned, but that it is causing an increase in very visible crimes (burglary, mugging, etc), particularly among children. I can certainly imagine that if kids have worked out that they can often use these cards for small purchases (say £10), then they may have become very popular, even though the banks are also perfectly happy to cover their customer's losses because it is only a very small total amount of fraud.

That seems to be an unexpected impact on society that could be quite important.

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Still using e-mail? Marketers say you're part of DARK SOCIAL

Graham Cobb

Re: How much would you pay to Like my stuff?

If Google just punted total bollocks stats to all their customers, how many would actually notice?

My company tracks how many visitors come from various Google adwords, so we would notice. As far as I know, we have no idea how many ads are served (if we are told that we don't use the information) but we do look at how many visits happen, month-by-month (and sometimes, for specific campaigns, day-by-day). We then decide if what we are being charged is worth continuing with (and, by the way, it generally is -- when compared with other methods of getting visitors such as email marketing or newsletter advertising).

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Graham Cobb

Re: Telephone Tracking

Ken, despite your scepticism, this is indeed a real technique.

In my experience it is not used for the big phone number that appears at the top of the page (and which you might remember or write down and call later) but for specific applications. It is routinely used for "click-to-call", where you click on a button and your phone dials a number -- in that case the number can be allocated knowing that the call is happening immediately.

It is also used for some other cases where numbers are likely to be either called soon or not at all -- things like customer service. The re-use times are measured in minutes, and a pool of 1000 numbers are likely to be plenty.

In all cases, the caller is queried to make sure the details automatically appearing on the agent's screen along with the call are correct -- so it isn't the end of the world if the matching doesn't work properly sometimes.

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It's Google's NO-WHEEL car. OMG... there aren't any BRAKES

Graham Cobb

Re: I don't want one

@imanidiot: THAT is why they need to change the word. Of course you don't want to give up your car. I am not sure I do either. But there are so many benefits to society that governments will make it MUCH more favourable for you to use your "pod" for more and more things (commuting, going on holiday, ...) that eventually you will find you haven't driven your real car for three months. At that point you might decide you don't need your car any more.

But to get that point, they need to first sell you a "pod" as a supplement to your car, not as a replacement. Maybe first of all for commuting, where a 25MPH speed limit is fine because most of the commute is spent in traffic jams, and so you aren't worried about safety because the speeds are low, and it is great to be able to drink a cup of coffee and look at the sports pages on the way into work.

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Graham Cobb

Stop calling them "cars"

What we need is to stop calling these "cars". The future is clearly driverless cars -- we all want all the benefits of personal, door-to-door transport, without the hassle and danger (and inefficiency) of human drivers.

But, to be successful, the industry has to stop calling them "cars". We all have to stop thinking about them as cars -- they are just more sophisticated versions of the people movers at airports.

People don't want someone telling them "you can't drive your car any more". And legislators need to make different laws for these new things -- you can't ask a person to take any responsibility if they have no controls, nor if they are not actively involved second-by-second -- anyone would lose concentration after a few minutes.

Keep cars as what they are now and give these new, driverless things a new name -- for example "pod". Eventually people will stop bothering with cars, governments will make cars less and less attractive (pods won't need personal insurance, only pods will be able to use motorways, go into central London, use bus lanes, ...).

Oh, and we need to get someone to take over from Google. I am looking forward to not having to drive, but I will pay extra not to need to tell any commercial company where I am going.

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Son of ACTA pours fuel on IP trade fire

Graham Cobb

Policy laundering

"On investor-state dispute provisions, it states that countries can still pass their own legislation: “at most, it can lead to compensation being paid”"

No, at worst it can lead to policy laundering and disenfanchisement. Policy laundering (of policies the government want to enact but which will be unpopular) used to be done through the EU ("Oh look: the EU have required that we make interfering with DRM illegal. What a shame. Oh well, I suppose we had better get on with it"). But nowadays, blaming the EU is off the table: it creates votes for UKIP. So, having an "important trade treaty" that means that some wet-dream policy has to be implemented "because otherwise we can be sued by major multinationals" is ideal.

Unfortunately, every government (of every country, and of every political persuasion) benefits from having someone else to be able to blame for unpopular policies so that is how these things get agreed.

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You know all those resources we're about to run out of? No, we aren't

Graham Cobb

Re: Ahem.

Sorry, Earl, I didn't make myself clear. I am not interested in "discussing the controversy" -- as you say, that is the opposite of science, used only by the most disreputable.

I am, however, interested in articles which are not just polemic (interesting, informative but polemic), but ones where I can have some way to make a judgement on the validity of the claims: the BBC certainly do make mistakes in science journalism but you have to have your supporting evidence clear if you are going to make that claim. In the academic world this is usually by citing references, pointing to supporting material. However, in the popular world it is normally by a trusted, independent journalist explaining whether there is any serious disagreement, if so by whom, what credentials and evidence the disagreeing parties have, etc.

Tim's article was educational and interesting. However, for a reader with no experience in this area, it gave no information as to where his claims lie on the continuum between "bleeding obvious to everyone" to "credited only by the tinfoil hat brigade". It was an opinion piece. I would like an analysis piece as well.

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Graham Cobb

Re: Ahem.

Tim, It is a good, informative and interesting article. Definitely good science journalism. Thank you.

But that is only half of the picture. It isn't an investigative or independent review article. And I wouldn't ask you to write one precisely because you are a subject matter expert, with your own opinion. Where are the other good science journalists, who can investigate the (possibly divergent) views of experts, present the arguments for and against, and help us come to a conclusion?

Both aspects are needed: informative, educational articles about a subject area, and investigative, analytic articles to help us draw conclusions. I am not sure El Reg is the right forum for that, but I don't know where is nowadays.

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Graham Cobb

Re: I would argue the situation was even worse

I would encourage you to still vote. We have serious problems with our politicians but I don't believe the "cash-for-policy" is anything like as bad as it will get if the public continue with apathy. Just look at the US, where the corporations really are in complete control, to see how bad it could get!

A caring and engaged electorate, even if largely powerless, may give politicians and their corporate sponsors some pause. And maybe we can actually encourage some genuinely useful candidates to stand in future elections.

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Graham Cobb

Re: Great Article.

I agree it is a great article -- very persuasive. However, I know nothing about the subject matter and can't judge whether the assertions are correct, or whether there are any counter-arguments. What I am even more worried about, than the fact that some incorrect analysis is going around, is that we don't seem to have a good way for claims like these to be tested and debated and trustworthy conclusions to be drawn.

What has happened to the good science journalists? Presumably this is an effect of our unwillingness to pay for journalism any more. How do we get the BBC to rescue Horizon from the pit it has fallen into and start using it for serious science journalism like this?

Some topics, like climate change or string theory, are extremely hard to analyse and there can be genuine expert disagreement (although vested interests don't help!). But I would have thought that this topic was something which some genuine experts could all agree on in their lunch break.

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Rubber-glove time: Italy to probe TripAdvisor over 'fake reviews'

Graham Cobb

False negatives are the hard problem

I tend to mostly ignore the positive reviews. I read them to find out factual information but I pay more attention to the less positive reviews. Mostly because people may love places that aren't our sort of place (maybe we are looking for value for money, or luxury, or quiet, or beach or ...) but things people don't like are often likely to apply to us as well. Also, it does help to guard against false positive reviews.

Of course, that does mean I am open to false negatives. Unfortunately, that is a real problem for the owner: it doesn't do me much harm to miss a fantastic place because of a false negative review (compared to the risk of selecting a bad place based on a false positive) so I am always going to be more open to false negatives. All they can really do is encourage people to keep submitting reviews and hope the false reviews are drowned out by real reviews.

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Get cracking on STARTTLS says Facebook

Graham Cobb

Re: STARTTLS checker?

I use http://checktls.com for testing my configuration

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EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?

Graham Cobb

Re: Article sounds like a rant

Surely trackers only have to trade when the composition of the underlying index changes (a company enters or leaves the index)? Sure, the trackers need to trade, but orders of magnitude less frequently than many other traders. I don't see this putting up the costs of trackers significantly.

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Graham Cobb

Try harder

Sorry, Tim, you have not managed to get your argument across (to me, at least).

I still don't see the need for HFT. Sure I like low spreads and high liquidity but higher spreads just means I have to make fewer trades and keep stocks longer. Lots of trading may be good for investors but you haven't shown any evidence at all that it is good for the companies issuing the shares or the economy as a whole.

I know that trades bring information to the market. But the HFT algorithms are bringing very, very little information -- they are just arbitrage machines. I am willing to be convinced by real evidence but, for now, I still believe HFT is a drain on real finance and that either a Tobin tax or something like a minimum hold period (say, an hour) would make real improvements to stability and the ability of the market to gather, hold and process information, and provide information to the economy as a whole. HFT makes so much noise that the "information" in the market is being lost completely.

Of course, I agree with you that the attempt to have regulators approve algorithms is stupid -- obviously written by someone who does not understand software development.

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Slip your finger in this ring and unlock your backdoor, phone, etc

Graham Cobb

Re: But it's still pointless.

I don't think it is completely pointless, but it isn't quite there yet. It needs to be no bigger than a wedding ring, tough, passive (no charging!). But if it was, then I think the unlocking phone/house use case might be useful.

Personally I don't set a PIN code on my personal phone at all -- I have never lost one or had it stolen (and I have had a mobile phone since the analogue days) so I choose convenience over security. I would use security which didn't require me to do anything to use the phone! And a ring is much less likely to be lost than a set of house keys in my pocket.

I am yet to be convinced about the bitcoin wallet use case, though!

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft – A jolly little war for lunchtime

Graham Cobb

Thanks but no thanks

After I completed the training, they wanted my real name, an email and my age to continue. I won't provide those -- that price is too high for a casual game. If they had just asked for a nick and an email address I would have continued some more.

Back to Clash of Clans for me.

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No, Minister. You CAN'T de-Kindle your eBooks!

Graham Cobb

If you bought a good old fashioned dead tree book written in English, would you expect to be able to translate it into a dead tree version in French for free?

Yes -- why not? Of course, I would expect to pay the translator, if I didn't do it myself, but why would I pay the author or publisher anything? If the translator offered their services for free (such as Google Translate) then the answer to your question is a resounding yes.

Of course, if I buy a French translation of a book, then I would expect that some of my money goes to the translator and some to the author.

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Graham Cobb

Parody is handled fine elsewhere --- there may need to be a few cases to establish some principles, but no court is going to be fooled by scribbling in the book.

As for ebooks -- DRM on ebooks is just stupid anyway. The market and volumes are tiny compared to things like movies, and the sort of people who read a lot are unlikely to heavily pirate. It is just costing them business. Unlike some other commenters, I don't remove DRM -- I will not pay money to any publisher (of any media, in any format) who only sell DRM-encumbered content. I just limit myself to purchasing books which are available DRM-free. I still have many more books in my bookreader than I can read in the foreseeable future!

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Spooks vs boffins: MIT bods say they've created PRISM-proof encryption

Graham Cobb

Re: better than nothing

Not just "better than nothing" -- an important capability which needs to be widely adopted.

Of course, this doesn't stop all attacks, but it does stop one important attack: you can't just serve the provider of the service with a demand for the key (and an instruction not to tell anyone). The service provider doesn't have the key. This stops the Lavabit-style attack.

Sure, it doesn't stop a determined attacker from moving on to other things. But those things may be more expensive, more targetted (always a good thing), more risky, possibly illegal, less likely to get co-operation from 3rd parties and courts, etc. Anything which makes dragnet surveillance more expensive is good.

Ultimately, it isn't law which restricts the actions of spooks, it is cost. That is why, in the days when surveillance meant having a human being follow someone around, they didn't just follow everyone around. We need to do everything we can to make surveillance as expensive as possible, so it will be used in a limited way, on high-value targets.

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Research bods told: Try to ID anonymised data subjects? No more CASH for you

Graham Cobb

Re: Research vs commercial interest

Doesn't sound very ethical to me. Basically, you want deluxe low coverage for a known shite car.

I strongly recommend reading Tim Harford's "Undercover Economist". Whether it is ethical or not depends on whether you know you are at increased risk (and whether you are taking out the policy because of that knowledge). Unfortunately, that is not easy to determine!

Harford explains the complexity of this (serious) problem very well. Unfortunately there is no good solution. The best solution for now seems to be for the health insurers to agree to deliberately forgo knowing much about you -- that has a chance of evening out the risk (and the premiums), at least until people become generally much better informed than they are today about what they are at risk of. At that point, the health insurance business will collapse altogether.

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ISPs CAN be ordered to police pirates by blocking sites, says ECJ

Graham Cobb

Re: Next up.....

This is like informing a courier that they may no longer deliver parcels from a particular company

No it isn't. This is like informing a turnpike operator that they may no longer permit drivers to use their road if they say they are going to collect parcels from somebody who is known to distribute pirated materials. There is no commercial relationship between the (alleged) pirate and the turnpike operator/ISP. And it just encourages people to lie about where they are really going "oh no, I am not going to those nasty pirates, I am just off to see my friends at VPN Inc".

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GitHub probes worker's claims of hostile, sexist office culture

Graham Cobb

Re: Hmm

A manager has to treat people differently. Different people react differently and must be managed differently. Any professional manager understands that.

If your goal is a dressing-down sufficiently serious to bring someone to tears then you are going to have to be much harder with some people than others. If your goal is not to bring someone to tears then don't.

And public feedback like you describe in your previous post is just bullying, whomever is the target -- it has no place in the work environment.

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It's BANKS v TELCOs: Mobe payments systems go head-to-head

Graham Cobb

Identity, not payments

This article seems to confuse payments and identity. They can be related but they are very definitely not the same thing. My understanding about Mobile Connect is that it is purely about Identity: it is a way to use your mobile phone number as a "token" with a website or app -- just like you might use a Facebook login on a non-Facebook website. The website might be, for example, The Register comments section: El Reg really doesn't need to know who you really are, it just wants to know that when you log in again the next time you can access your previous comments. Your mobile phone number is fine for that.

A mobile operator may choose to link the Mobile Connect identity to their M-Payments system, of course, but that would just be an example of an app (M-Payments) using the Mobile Connect identity (just like Amazon or Google or a bank can, if they want to).

[Full disclosure: I have been involved in marketing Digital Identity for a company not mentioned in the article, but these comments are my own view]

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Court allows EFF to keep donor list secret from patent troll

Graham Cobb

Re: i am sure spotify has done this before the application was even made

What The Register needs is an option to read comments with all ACs removed.

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Bugger the jetpack, where's my 21st-century Psion?

Graham Cobb

Re: Well we almost had it

I don't think that is entirely true. Sure, the N900 only sold to geeks (like me) but my wife is a normal business user and she really dreads the day she is going to have to stop using her Blackberry with its usable keyboard, and go to a touch keyboard. I still think the problem is that Blackberry really screwed up, lost its business customers to the (shiny) iPhone and collapsed in market share. Now no one is willing to buy Blackberries (no apps, end-of-life could happen any day, no one has a BES any more) even though a lot of the business users would really like a keyboard.

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Review of UK data protection: Should fines go OVER HALF A MIL?

Graham Cobb

No review of punishments for misuse of our data?

Have I misunderstood the article or does it really say that the current government review of the penalties is only about the penalties for stealing the data, not the penalties on data controllers for losing or misusing the data? This seems to be about increasing the punishment for the evil hackers instead of increasing penalties for those who do not apply sufficient care to protect our data or (worse) deliberately misuse the data.

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Graham Cobb

Re: interesting!

Fines aren't about justice -- that is what prisons are for. Fines are about deterrence -- make it cheaper to comply with the law than to break it.

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Graham Cobb

@Chris Miller: Although fines do, indeed, end up paid by customers, they do have a very material effect on the company. In particular, if fines are heavy enough, they don't end up being paid at all: they cause a change in behaviour (which is what we want to achieve) because good behaviour becomes much the lower cost (thus maximising the shareholders' benefit).

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Even HTTPS can leak your PRIVATE browsing

Graham Cobb

This is an important analysis, although I suspect that the main giveaway is that I visit the site at all (which HTTPS does nothing to hide). If I visit lend-me-money-at-extortionate-rates.com then I am probably having a financial crisis, and if I visit cancer-information.com then there is an increased likelihood I have a serious illness.

But it is important to know that this fairly obvious theoretical attack is actually quite feasible and gives quite high accuracies. It is a useful data-point to feed into the work on the next versions of the protocol to minimise what can be achieved with this approach.

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Facebook pays $19bn for WhatsApp. Yep. $45 for YOUR phone book

Graham Cobb

Re: While I can't argue with the conclusions in the article

I agree -- I think the main purpose is defensive. Although I don't think they see WhatsApp itself as a competitor, it would be a good social network to base a Facebook competitor on, so they want to buy it before someone else can.

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TV scraper Aereo pulled off air in six US states after tellyco court injunction victory

Graham Cobb

Shooting themselves in the foot

I agree with the posters who think that Aereo is a win for the broadcasters. Of course, Orlowski and others point to the high prices Aereo currently charge and want a cut of it. But Aereo are charging what the market will bear. There is nothing to stop NBC or anyone else setting up a similar service -- the barriers to entry are not particularly high. Of course, once the legal situation is clarified, that is exactly what many competitors will do and Aereo's prices will fall, to be litle more than cost. The result will be that the networks gain more viewers and a few companies make a little bit of money out of it. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

The supreme court should rule that as long as the service (content and ads) is not being modified in any way it is perfectly legal. And. while they are about it, they should kill the cable charges (unless the cable company is showing its own ads, in which case they should have to buy the content at commercial rates).

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Microsoft: C'mon, you can trust us... look at our gov spook-busting plans

Graham Cobb

Re: Security Theater Only

I never thought I would write a comment supporting Microsoft -- I am as much an MS hater as almost anyone here. However, I think that btrower is being a little unfair to Microsoft.

Adding encryption to inter-datacentre links is definitely a significant improvement. This encryption will presumably not be TLS based so the fact that Verisign will print a certificate for the government whenever asked won't help. And even the FISA court won't be able to order MS to release the keys for those internal links (MS would fight that one all the way, and start to call in some really high level favours). I believe that Microsoft will succeed in actually making those links secure.

That is an improvement, not just security theatre, because the NSA will then have to fall back on actually asking MS for data about customers. MS can then possibly take legal actions and, in any case, will know (even if it is not allowed to tell anyone) that the action has happened. The NSA will know that a record exists, inside Microsoft, of their actions -- which could come to light at a later date. That is an improvement over the case today where the NSA just watches the links and not even MS knows what is being caught.

Of course, MS should have done this years ago. And it should do much more (the announcement, for example, does not say they will fight gagging orders for individual customers, only for business customers). And the NSA still has massively over-reaching legal powers available to it. But at least this announcement closes down one important part of the NSA toolset.

I agree completely that the right thing is for MS to stop having the keys to anyone's data. This makes providing some of their higher value outsourced services hard (how does an outsourced office system send an out-of-office response if it cannot look at the message without the user being online?). But they have some really good R&D people and they should redirect them to work on these challenges on being able to do (limited) processing on encrypted data without decrypting it.

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Why a Robin Hood tax on filthy rich City types is the very LAST thing needed

Graham Cobb

Time for some damping

I am no economist, but I don't see that the article's conclusion follows from the premise. I am willing to accept that the (pseudo-scientific) consensus is that a complete market, with shorting and speculation, is required for the EMH to work and even that the housing market might work better if that was possible. However, I do not see any consensus that high-frequency trading is required (or even a good idea), nor that a small amount of friction introduced by a tax would seriously damage the EMH. A lot more work would be required to demonstrate either of those propositions.

My gut feel is that modern markets (particularly stock markets and currency markets) are suffering from far too much incentive for both market manipulation and for magnifying small oscillations into larger swings. My control theory course from 30 years ago would suggest to me that a little damping might be a good idea.

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Highways Agency tracks Brits' every move by their mobes: THE TRUTH

Graham Cobb

How is anonymisation done?

The important point here is that this is more or less intrusive depending on how well the anonymisation is done. For example, if the Dept only receives the analysed trafic numbers (73 cars entered the motorway at J3 and exited at J8 between 8 and 9 AM) that would be very unintrusive. On the other hand, they almost certainly receive much more itemised data. Then we have to ask: how often is the "pseudonymous id" (used to correlate different position reports to identify the various points on someone's journey) changed? Every hour? Every day? Never?

The principle is that every time personal data is used to create "anonymous" data sets, the details of how the anonymisation is done must be published so that people affected can check.

Ideally, experts in anonymisation should be involved to create the algorithm, tailored to the particular need and carefully designed to leak the minimum of information. This is a difficult task, that requires considerable experience in privacy, that is almost certainly just being left to programmers today.

Bottom line: anyone who passes on personal data should be required to describe the anonymisation in detail. And public bodies (at least) should be required to do an expert privacy analysis of data they either acquire or release.

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Snowden journalist's partner gave Brit spooks passwords to seized files

Graham Cobb

Re: And from our

If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would embarass the government, then they should act and the law provides them with a fig-leaf to harass and intimidate whistle-blowers. Those who support this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.

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Graham Cobb

Re: "Legally and procedurally sound"

But what makes you think they give a flying fuck about public disapproval?

What they do care about is the risk that their supporters will turn to 3rd parties (LibDems or UKIP). The last thing they want is to have to share power in a coalition. That is about the only weapon we (the people) have against them. We saw that with the U-turns on immigration to appease UKIP sympathisers.

Now we need to convince the politicians (and their friends in the newspapers) that both Labour and Conservative supporters are in danger of switching to the LibDems over this issue of authoritarianism.

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Graham Cobb

Re: "Legally and procedurally sound"

Then it seems that we need to change the laws and procedures. I guess that's where our MPs come in.

I have written to my MP (who happens to be Dave) demanding that the law be changed and asking him to pass on my requests to both the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary to resign over the disgraceful actions of their departments in abusing the existing laws.

I'm not holding my breath but if others feel the same then a few letters may help them understand the level of disapproval of actions which belong in a tin-pot police state.

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Graham Cobb

He didn't cross the border -- he was in international transit.

Itmight be reasonable to investigate him if he was suspected of terrorist crimes as there would be an airport safety issue. That is why the law is there. It was abused.

5
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OWN GOAL! 100s of websites blocked after UK Premier League drops ball

Graham Cobb
Holmes

Re: Interesting...

and why does opposing council not label it a clear case of 'excrementum bovum'?

Because there is often no opposing counsel in these cases.

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