Monthly Archives: May 2016

Checking Email Like Playing the Slots

Seems checking mail provides the same “intermittent variable rewards” that addicts folks to slot machines. That insight, and several others, comes from How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. I didn’t agree with every word, but there’s a lot there to chew on, and I suspect the thing about email-checking is spot on. (And to the extent it’s not, FOMO does the rest.)

Is reading blogs like checking email? Probably, especially if done via RSS feed – intermittent variable rewards indeed.

Posted in Internet | Comments Off on Checking Email Like Playing the Slots

Of Kurdish House Gardens and Modernity

An article on the 6000-year history of Kurdish gardens cites my Habermas article for its alleged account of Habermas’s modernization theory.

Modernization Theory and House Garden Transformation; Erbil City as Case Study, is jointly authored by scholars from an Iranian engineering department and from the Housing, Building, and Planning department in Penang Malaysia University. The article appears in Aro which is an open-access “journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary” based at Koya University. Koya University’s very smart-looking web site describes the city of Koya as a “1.0 hr drive to the East of the Kurdistan Region capital Erbil (Arbil, Hewlér) in Kurdistan Region of F.R. Iraq.”

The article begins by defining a garden:

Gardens can be considered as the mirror of house’s architectural identity. It’s a plane outdoor space that arranges a part for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature as defined by Turner (2005) A garden is “a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure of man: it is, or ought to be, cultivated”.

However, the article quickly takes a turn towards describing Modernization Theory before heading back to a more extended tour of house garden design in Erbil over the last 6000 years. We then get some quantitative info about how gardens have changed, especially since 1930. One notable finding:

The new functional requirements of modern life style (Social factors) and owning more than one vehicle by family members (Economical factors) affected the garden size (to be small or disappeared totally). Moreover, it reduced the ratio of garden area (open spaces) to house build area. These transformations have a direct impact on global warming and energy conservation.

This does seem significant, although I’m not sure we really need Habermas to understand it.

This isn’t the strangest citation to my work ever, but it’s up there.

Posted in Readings | Comments Off on Of Kurdish House Gardens and Modernity

My New Paper May Make Some of My Friends Angry

Building Privacy into the Infrastructure: Towards a New Identity Management Architecture comes to what I fear some of my friends in the privacy community will find to be an unacceptable conclusion.

I’ll be presenting it at the Privacy Law Scholars Conference in Washington next week. Hopefully, since many attendees are in fact friends, they won’t bring brickbats.

Posted in Cryptography, Econ & Money, Law: Internet Law, Law: Privacy, Surveillance, Talks & Conferences | Comments Off on My New Paper May Make Some of My Friends Angry


Researchers develop face-capture technology that can alter pre-recorded videos in real-time on low cost computers.

Boing Boing suggests it could be used to make George W Bush or Donald Trump appear intelligent.

I can imagine even worse:

  • Fake ransom videos
  • Horrible pranks of the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress variety (fake relative’s video suicide/I’m joining ISIS/mass shooter note)
  • Fake Clinton videos admitting complicity in WhiteWater
  • Unretouched videos of Donald Trump

Feel free to add yours below.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Comments Off on VideoFakes-R-Us

Drone Debate

In a Wall Street Journal debate today I argue that drones should not be allowed to overfly private property without the inhabitant’s consent due to the privacy risks, the consequent erosion of the 4th Amendment, and other dangers. This echoes some of the arguments in Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones, the recent Connecticut Law Review article I wrote with Zak Colangelo.

Ryan Calo gives the other side, arguing that overflights should be allowed in order to spur innovation. I think the WSJ sees him as the Bolshevik here, as they sum up the debate like this:

A. Michael Froomkin, the Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein distinguished professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, says that drones pose a huge threat to security and privacy, and that property owners should be able to keep them from flying over their land. Ryan Calo, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington, says decisions about where and when drones can fly should be made collectively, not by individual landowners.

Who would have imagined I’d be the right-winger in a debate on the pages of the Wall Street Journal? I suspect that my former boss, Judge Stephen F. Williams, would be quite amused, although he’d probably describe it as vindication.

Posted in Law: Privacy, Robots, Surveillance | Comments Off on Drone Debate

Grey Lady No More

NYT logo

“In the end, it will be a race between a tough, smart lady and someone who is obviously a yuge, um, Antonin Scalia School of Law.”

Krugman in his NYT blog.

Leave aside the question of whether Krugman should have written that line.  Would the Times of even five years ago have printed it? Actually, I suppose some might argue that they haven’t printed it, since it’s ‘just’ in a blog. Not that I see the distinction.

(Title explainer for those who need it.)

Posted in Blogs, The Media | 1 Comment