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John David Stone
free thinker
free thinker

John David's posts

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In the last of four lectures, Eben Moglen answers the question I asked several months ago (at "It has happened here.  Now what?"  He methodically explains what must be done in politics, by the President, by the Supreme Court, and by the citizens of the United States and of other countries that have democratic institutions to preserve; in law, by public-interest lawyers and corporations; and in technology, by free-software developers and standards organizations.

"For the technologically gifted and engaged around the world, this is the big moment, because if we do our work correctly freedom will survive and our grandkids will say: 'So what did you do back then?' ... And if we don't do it ..."

Note: Listen to the audio, watch the video, or read the PDF.  The HTML transcript on the cited page omits two long, important passages of the talk.  The HTML transcript of part II is also very defective.

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In the third of four lectures, Eben Moglen discusses the role of Facebook, Google, and other corporations in undermining the privacy of users of their services -- specifically, the freedom to read without being monitored and recorded.

"... we will have also a politics in the market, a politics of requiring the organizations with whom we deal to treat ethically the ecological substance of human existence. Not only the air, the water, the land, but the privacy of people and anonymity of reading and the freedom of the mind.  We will require this of them, not casually or doubtfully, but because the opposite is slavery."

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In the second of four talks, Eben Moglen articulates the lessons of America's previous experiences with tyranny.

From the experiences of  those who fled from tyrannies in Europe and elsewhere to seek and secure freedom in America, we learn that we have an obligation to protect the privacy of our fellow citizens against intruders in our government and in corporations.

From the experiences of those who escaped, or tried to escape, from slavery, before and during the American Civil War, we learn that we have an obligation to help others to protect their privacy against intruders in our government and in corporations.

"We face now a global system in which the States have, almost without exception, agreed complicitiously to deliver over their people to a form of pervasive spying which we know is incompatible with our own liberty and with the liberty that we have frequently postured in the world as bringing to the human race as a whole. We know this. As individual citizens we are now aware. Mr. Snowden has made it impossible for us to ignore this fact unless we bury our heads so deep in the sand that we are likely to suffocate."

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In the first of four talks, Eben Moglen chronicles the decline of the morality of freedom in America and prepares us to address the question: What now?

"If we are not doing anything wrong, we have a right to resist. The nature of our freedom is that we lose it because we do not exercise it. And the nature of our freedom is not necessarily the one we find only in the books of law."

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Where Grinnell is headed, as we seek to become an "analytics-driven organization" ... although we probably won't sign up with inBloom until after Microsoft has acquired it.

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A plausible solution to the problem of password management -- one that doesn't involve trusting, or even relying on, a third party to assist in authentication.

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"Cost and responsibility for Snowden's breaches"
Jonathan S. Shapiro, Interesting people, October 1, 2013

The gist: The NSA officials who designed and adopted the policy of subverting the cryptographic standards on which our information infrastructure depends have done more damage to the United States and its allies than the terrorists they were nominally attempting to surveil.

Three lessons: (1) Export controls on cryptology are now pointless -- their only effect henceforth will be to undermine the credibility of American technology companies.  (2) It is not sufficient for cryptological standards to be open.  No one can trust the standard algorithms unless the processes by which they are developed and the theoretical justifications for all design choices are open as well.  (3) Fixing crypto isn't sufficient; we also need  radical improvements in information management practices.

The redesigned Grinnell College Web site came out today.

The W3C validator wasn't able to assess the front-door page properly, since the designers chose to use a document type that the validator doesn't implement.  But I notice that the HTML source is replete with easily avoided blunders, such as img tags with no alt attribute, unencoded ampersands in URLs, horizontal rules inside span elements, and tags containing two instances of the same attribute (with different values).

I checked the CSS with the W3C's validator as well.  Eighty-five errors, a hundred and four warnings.

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Yet another sign of the times:  prominent persons openly declaring distrust in institutions.  Caspar Bowden was Microsoft Corporation's chief privacy adviser for nine years (2002-2011), responsible for Microsoft's privacy policies in forty countries.

" 'I don't trust Microsoft now,' he said, adding that he only uses open source software where he can examine the underlying code."
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