Sounds Like a Great Party

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Party.

Wish I could go, but SF is a long way away from Miami.

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What to Read While Being Surveilled

Dan's PickThe Intercept’s Summer Reading List is full of stuff to stoke your justified paranoia, plus great quirky reads.

Upgrade your beach.

Among the recommendations are Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation by Drew Westen, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government by Robert G. Kaiser, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush by Geoff Dyer.

The surveillance-related stuff includes The File: A Personal History by Timothy Garton Ash, Little Brother & Homeland by Cory Doctorow, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, the obligatory Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault (Glenn Greenwald’s choice), and my brother’s selection of a thriller — Inside Out by Barry Eisler.

Posted in Dan Froomkin, Readings | Leave a comment

The Future of Phones Says “Fi”

Errata Security discusses Google’s Project Fi.

An “MVNO” is a virtual mobile phone company — they don’t have any of their own network backbone or cell towers, but just rent them from the real mobile phone companies (like AT&T or T-Mobile). Most mobile phone companies are actually MVNOs, because building a physical network is expensive.

What makes Google’s MVNO interesting:

  • Straightforward pricing. It’s $20 a month for unlimited calling/texting, plus $10 per gigabyte of data used during the month. It includes tethering.
  • No roaming charges, in 120 countries. I can fly to Japan, Australia, and France, and still use email, Google maps, texting — for no extra charge.

In-country phone calls are free, but international phone calls still cost $0.20 a minute — unless you are on WiFi, in which case it’s free. Again, this is a feature provided by other mobile phone companies and MVNOs.

In short, Google is really doing nothing new. They are just providing what you’d expect of a 21st century phone service without all the pricing shenanigans that other companies go through in order to squeeze extra money out of you.

Plus you get to choose what area code you’d like your number to be in.

On thing though: at present Project Fi only works with Google’s Nexus 6 phone.

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Oh Joy

Time to add _optout to the name of every wifi router out there.

A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a security risk: it shares Wi-Fi passwords with the user’s contacts.

Those contacts include their Outlook.com (nee Hotmail) contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, their Facebook friends.

But don’t worry!

Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t reveal the plaintext password.

Unless, of course, something goes wrong….

In an attempt to address the security hole it has created, Microsoft offers a kludge of a workaround: you must add _optout to the SSID (the name of your network) to prevent it from working with Wi-Fi Sense.

(So if you want to opt out of Google Maps and Wi-Fi Sense at the same time, you must change your SSID of, say, myhouse to myhouse_optout_nomap. …)

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

Drone Shooting in the News

Looks like my article, Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones (written with Zak Colangelo) isn’t a minute too early. ArsTechnica reports Man shoots downs neighbor’s hexacopter in rural drone shotgun battle.

The parties in Joe v McBay differ as to where the drone actually was when it got shot. Plaintiff says it was on his land, defendant says the GPS data shows it wasn’t. The Judge from the Stanislaus County Court Small Claims Division didn’t care:

Court finds that Mr. McBay acted unreasonably in having his son shoot the drone down regardless of whether it was over his property or not

We don’t agree in our article that the drone’s location is irrelevant. If the drone was not on the defendant-shooter’s land, then he ought to be liable for the damages. But whether he should be liable if the drone was trespassing is a surprisingly complicated question that we address at some length in our article. It depends in large part on what the shooter reasonably thought the drone was doing, and whether the act of shooting the weapon, or any subsequent drone crash, would put anyone else at risk.

Basically, in an urban area it will almost never be reasonable to shoot down even a trespassing drone unless it clearly threatens physical harm to a person or perhaps very major property damage. In a rural area where the dangers of errant shots and crashing drones may be much less, many other factors come into the calculus of reasonableness, including whether it reasonably appears that the drone may be on a spying run, and how valuable the drone looks.

Posted in Robots, Tort | 3 Comments

I Did

Andrew Rudalevige, writing in the Monkey Cage, asks King v. Burwell: Who knew administrative law could be so much fun?

As a long-time teacher of Administrative Law I’m continually amazed that people say Ad Law is dull. It may be complicated and sometimes verging on incoherent, but it’s not dull. And it really matters.

Only about 50% of law students nationally take Administrative Law (it is not on the bar exam in most states, although New York just added it), yet Administrative Law (and Accounting) are routinely among the courses that lawyers later say they regret not taking. Somehow this never comes up in ABA reform movements, perhaps because they are so dominated by litigators.

Posted in Law: Administrative Law, Law: Practice | 6 Comments

ICANN Is Up to Its Old Tricks

Must read: Kieren McCarthy, ICANN’s leaving the nest, so when will it grow up? The org that will run the internet still acts like a teenager.

Protected by its important father, the US government, ICANN has become a surly, entitled, and vain figure. It will want for nothing. It will listen to no one. It is always right. …

Unfortunately, the real ICANN has a visceral loathing of anything decided by its “community” – the people it is supposed to be serving. …

Despite ostensibly being a community organization, at its thrice-yearly conferences ICANN corporate tightly controls the agenda. There are no “unconferences” or even community-led sessions. All sessions – and frequently panelists – are chosen and controlled by the staff. Sessions are added and removed according to whim.

Just as ICANN was showing real signs of maturity, it lapsed. Rather than using its greater autonomy to step up to the plate, the prevailing atmosphere within the organization was that it couldn’t believe its luck. And then, with the arrival of a new CEO and the approval of the money-minting new gTLD program, ICANN more than quadrupled its own budget. It’s now a child with both fewer constraints and more money to spend.

Now in 2016, with the transitioning of the IANA contract, ICANN is finally coming of age and the US government can no longer expect to keep it in its house. Rather than sending forth a well-prepared and mature young adult, however, we’re letting loose a know-it-all teenager with a chip on its shoulder and a determined belief that it doesn’t have to listen to anyone.

Milton Mueller’s ICANN Accountability – Present, Future and Past is good too, but more polite. (Which, if you know Milton, is quite an amazing thing to be writing!)

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