Category Archives: Society

Air reputation in Beijing

Measuring something as basic as air quality and posting it frequently can have reputational effects, demonstrated by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

France24 posted today, Beijing air goes from ‘hazardous’ to off the charts, literally,

Two years ago, Chinese officials asked the US Embassy to stop tweeting about pollution in Beijing on the grounds that the information was “confusing” and could have “social consequences”, according to a confidential US State Department cable made public by WikiLeaks.
Hm, so measurement can affect reputation and have social consequences….

The measurements postings didn’t stop, and the pollution got worse: Continue reading

Liberty vs. Control (Not Privacy vs. Security)

secretsandlies.jpg Bruce Schneier hits the nail on the head:
If privacy and security really were a zero-sum game, we would have seen mass im migration into the former East Germany and modern-day China. While it’s true th at police states like those have less street crime, no one argues that their ci tizens are fundamentally more secure.

We’ve been told we have to trade off security and privacy so often — in debate s on security versus privacy, writing contests, polls, reasoned essays and poli tical rhetoric — that most of us don’t even question the fundamental dichotomy .

But it’s a false one.

Security and privacy are not opposite ends of a seesaw; you don’t have to accep t less of one to get more of the other. Think of a door lock, a burglar alarm a nd a tall fence.

What Our Top Spy Doesn’t Get: Security and Privacy Aren’t Opposites, Bruce Schneier, Wired, 01.24.08 | 12:00 PM

There’s more, all well worth reading.

Here’s the gist:

The debate isn’t security versus privacy. It’s liberty versus control.

You can see it in comments by government officials: “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity,” says Donald Kerr, principal deputy director of national intelligen ce. “Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.” Did you catch that? You’re expected to give up control of your privacy to others, who — presumabl y — get to decide how much of it you deserve. That’s what loss of liberty look s like.

Haven’t we lost enough already?


Simply Switched Off the Internet: Myanmar Junta v. Bloggers

Sanghas23.jpg When blogging is a revolutionary act:
Internet geeks share a common style, and Ko Latt and his four friends would not be out of place in cyber cafés across the world. They have the skinny arms and the long hair, the dark T-shirts and the jokey nicknames. But few such figures have ever taken the risks that they have in the past few weeks, or achieved so much in a noble and dangerous cause.

Since last month Ko Latt, 28, his friends Arca, Eye, Sun and Superman, and scores of others like them have been the third pillar of Burma’s Saffron Revolution. While the veteran democracy activists, and then the Buddhist monks, marched in their tens of thousands against the military regime, it is the country’s amateur bloggers and internet enthusiasts who have brought the images to the outside world.

Armed with small digital cameras, they have documented the spectacular growth of the demonstrations from crowds of a few hundred to as many as 100,000. On weblogs they have recorded in words and pictures the regime’s bloody crackdown, in a city where only a handful of foreign journalists work undercover. With downloaded software, they have dodged and weaved around the regime’s increasingly desperate attempts to thwart their work. Now the bloggers, too, have been crushed. Having failed to stop the cyber-dissidents broadcasting to the world, the authorities have simply switched off the internet.

Bloggers who risked all to reveal the junta’s brutal crackdown in Burma, by Kenneth Denby, The Times, 1 October 2007

Unfortunately for the bloggers, they all had to register with the government to be allowed to blog in the first place. If the junta falls, they’ll be heroes. If it survives, they’ll probably be dead.

This is not the first time. Continue reading

FISMA Failing

Shades of SOX complaints: the U.S. GAO reports that the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is failing:

When we go out and conduct our security control reviews at federal agencies, we often find serious and significant vulnerabilities in systems that have been certified and accredited. Part of it, I think, is just that agencies may be focusing on just trying to get the systems certified and accredited but not effectively implementing the processes that the certification and accreditation is supposed to reflect.

Q&A: Federal info security isn’t just about FISMA compliance, auditor says, Most agencies still have security gaps, according to Gregory Wilshusen, by Jaikumar Vijayan Computerworld, June 14, 2007

Sounds like they haven’t implemented numerous simple security measures that were known before FISMA, they don’t have processes to do so, and they don’t adequately report what they’re doing, even with FISMA. What to do?

Continue reading