Whenever I discuss secure communications I try to hammer home the difference between confidentiality and anonymity. Most popular secure communication services such as Signal and WhatsApp provide the former but not the latter. This means unauthorized users cannot read the communications but they can find out which parties are communicating.
Another thing I try to hammer home is that not all forms of anonymity are equal. Several services are claiming to offer anonymous communications. These services don’t claim to offer confidentiality, the posts are public, but they do claim to conceal your identity. However, they tend to use a loose definition of anonymity:
On Sunday, a North Carolina man named Garrett Grimsley made a public post on Whisper that sounded an awful lot like a threat. “Salam, some of you are alright,” the message read, “don’t go to [Raleigh suburb] Cary tomorrow.”
When one user asked for more information, Grimsley (who is white) responded with more Islamic terms. “For too long the the kuffar have spit in our faces and trampled our rights,” he wrote. “This cannot continue. I cannot speak of anything. Say your dua, sleep, and watch the news tomorrow.”
Within 24 hours, Grimsley was in jail. Tipped off by the user who responded, police ordered Whisper to hand over all IP addresses linked to the account. When the company complied, the IP address led them to Time Warner, Grimsley’s ISP, which then provided Grimsley’s address.
There’s a great deal of difference between anonymity as it pertains to other users and anonymity as it pertains to service providers. Whisper’s definition of anonymity is that users of the service can’t identify other users. Whisper itself can identify users. This is different than a Tor hidden service where the user can’t identify the service provider and the service provider can’t identify the user.
When you’re looking at communication services make sure you understand what is actually being offered before relying on it.
When you purchase a computer do you own it? What about your cell phone? Or your automobile? At one time the answer to these questions was an absolute yes. Today, not so much:
Cars, refrigerators, televisions, Barbie dolls. When people buy these everyday objects, they rarely give much thought to whether or not they own them. We pay for them, so we think of them as our property. And historically, with the exception of the occasional lease or rental, we owned our personal possessions. They were ours to use as we saw fit. They were free to be shared, resold, modified, or repaired. That expectation is a deeply held one. When manufacturers tried to leverage the DMCA to control how we used our printers and garage door openers, a big reason courts pushed back was that the effort was so unexpected, so out of step with our understanding of our relationship to the things we buy.
But in the decade or so that followed those first bumbling attempts, we’ve witnessed a subtler and more effective strategy for convincing people to cede control over everyday purchases. It relies less—or at least less obviously—on DRM and the threat of DMCA liability, and more on the appeal of new product features, and in particular those found in the smart devices that make up the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).
I’ve annoyed many electrons criticizing the concept of intellectual property. The idea that somebody has a government granted monopoly on something simply because they were the first to receive a patent is absurd in my opinion. But we live with much more absurd ideas today. Due to the way software copyright and patent laws work, if a company loads software onto a device they can effectively prevent anybody from owning it. At most a buyer can acquire a limited use license for those devices.
Combining software copyright and patent laws with the Internet of Things (IoT) just amplifies this. Now there are a bunch of devices on the market that rely on continuous Internet access to the manufacturers’ servers. If the manufacture decides to drop support for the product it stops working. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) didn’t make it illegal for you to hack the device and load your own software onto it that allowed it to continue working.
Right now we’re dealing with relatively cheap IoT devices. If your $99 Internet connected thermostat stops working it sucks but it’s not something that is so expensive that it can’t be replaced. But what happens when IoT comes to, say, automobiles? What happens when critical functions on an automobile cease to work because the manufacturer decides to drop support for one of the Internet connected components. Suddenly you’re not talking about throwing away a $99 device but a machine that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Although this scenario might sound absurd to some I guarantee that it will happen at some point if software copyright and patent laws continue to be enforced as they have been.
What is a greater accomplishment, putting a man on the moon or building a prison? I would imagine that most of the people reading this would choose the former. In fact, I hope that most of the people reading this would consider the comparison absurd. But when you’re talking to a politician the two accomplishments are of equal importance:
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) pointed to one of man’s greatest scientific achievements as evidence that his state could build more prisons.
Noting that 2019 would mark the 50th anniversary of his state putting a man on the moon, Bentley argued that Alabama should be able to build more facilities.
“If Alabamians can put man on the moon, we can build new prisons,” Bentley said during his State of the State address on Tuesday. The Saturn V rocket, which propelled Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969, was built at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) put a man on the moon they first asked themselves what would be accomplished by doing so. Then they asked themselves whether a cheaper solution existed. Because NASA is a government agency the motivation was statist in nature, to show the world that American had a bigger dick than the Soviet Union. There wasn’t a cheaper option because putting a man on the moon was the only way to overcome the fact that the Soviet Union put the first satellite and man into space. No lesser endeavor would have done.
But Governor Bentley isn’t even smart enough to ask why more prisons are necessary or whether a cheaper solution exists. The reason more prisons are necessary is because politicians continue creating new laws that turn formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. There are a lot of cheaper options for dealing with that problem. For example, the politicians could simply stop creating new crimes. Better yet, they could save the state some money by decriminalizing a bunch of currently criminal actions. Then they could commute the sentence of anybody currently rotting in a cage for committing one of those crimes. Instead the politicians continue creating new crimes so, of course, see the need to also create new prisons.
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Governor Bentley decides to combine the two ideas and demand that Alabama build prisons in space.
People don’t appreciate how awesome the future we live in today really is. Compare the life you live with the life lived by some of history’s wealthiest people:
If you were a 1916 American billionaire you could, of course, afford prime real-estate. You could afford a home on 5th Avenue or one overlooking the Pacific Ocean or one on your own tropical island somewhere (or all three). But when you traveled from your Manhattan digs to your west-coast palace, it would take a few days, and if you made that trip during the summer months, you’d likely not have air-conditioning in your private railroad car.
And while you might have air-conditioning in your New York home, many of the friends’ homes that you visit — as well as restaurants and business offices that you frequent — were not air-conditioned. In the winter, many were also poorly heated by today’s standards.
To travel to Europe took you several days. To get to foreign lands beyond Europe took you even longer.
Might you want to deliver a package or letter overnight from New York City to someone in Los Angeles? Sorry. Impossible.
You could neither listen to radio (the first commercial radio broadcast occurred in 1920) nor watch television. You could, however, afford the state-of-the-art phonograph of the era. (It wasn’t stereo, though. And — I feel certain — even today’s vinylphiles would prefer listening to music played off of a modern compact disc to listening to music played off of a 1916 phonograph record.) Obviously, you could not download music.”
While I spend a lot of time complaining about horrors statism has wrought upon us, we do live better today than anybody did in any point of history thanks to the wonders of the market. And since technology is cumulative the rate of advancement is even more rapid, which means our lives are improving faster than the lives of people in the past. For example, in my fairly short lifetime home Internet access went from nonexistent to dial-up to fiber directly into the home. The computing power available in my phone wasn’t available to the consumer market for any price when I was young. Even simple toys, such as Nerf guns, improve a lot since my childhood. Kids today have electrically powered fully automatic Nerf guns, something young me could only dream of. Although various diseases such as cancer are still a scourge our chances of surviving it have increased significantly.
While there’s a lot of terrible things going on in this world don’t forget that our present is an overall great time to be alive.
Gun control advocates have been trying to make the case that guns are a “public health” issue for ages. I came across this nonsense again when read Ars Technica (which is a great site when it comes to technology but its writers are mostly ignorant of guns):
BOSTON—Because both criminal violence and gun rights have become contentious political topics, research on the health and safety aspects of gun ownership in the US is barely funded. In fact, many have questioned whether it should be studied at all. But Northeastern University’s Matthew Miller used a talk at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science to argue that there’s an area where the data shows a clear link between gun access and public health and that this topic reveals some hints as to how to better manage safety.
The issue in focus is suicide.
Here’s the thing, “public health” isn’t a thing.
Health is something that can only be determined on an individual basis. Sure, you can say ‘x’ number of people suffer from ‘y’ ailment but that information is of limited use because you need to look at each individual suffering from ‘y’ individually. The reason one person, for example, suffers from chronic headaches may be entirely different than why another person suffers from chronic headaches. What factors allow and individual exposed to people suffering from a highly virulent disease to avoid becoming infected? What factors cause a generally mild disease to turn into a life threatening condition for an individual?
The problem with collectivizing health is that it leads to absurd conclusions such as firearms causing suicides. Suicidal tendencies need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. This probably surprises collectivists because they like to think of everybody has being an identical cog in the great machinery of society but different people suffer from suicidal thoughts for different reasons. Some of those individuals are suffering from chemical imbalances in the brain. Others have suffered a lifetime of torment and just want it to stop. There are a plethora of potential causes for suicidal thoughts.
Another issue with collectivizing health is that is leads to blanket policies that can hinder sufferers from seeking treatment. Consider this claim that guns are related to suicides. It’s likely to lead to a policy that prohibits people deemed suicidal by the State from owning firearms. What happens when a gun owner starts suffering from suicidal thoughts but doesn’t want to reach out for help because they’re afraid of losing their guns? The answer is that they don’t seek help and try to deal with the problem alone.
I wish people would stop falling into these collectivist traps.
For the longest time self-identified rightists have been referring to anybody they identified as leftists as special snowflakes who are constantly seeking opportunities to be victims. The irony in this is that those rightists are constantly seeking opportunities to be victims:
That said, Hanlon is right to bemoan the rise of a “cottage industry of outrage” related to conservatives on college campuses. Whether or not their frustration stemmed from legitimate grievance, the conservative student movement is increasingly, and loudly, playing the victim—with an energy as palpable as the left’s. Too many right-leaning student groups have lost interest in inviting speakers who are knowledgeable about philosophy and policy: they would rather score easy outrage points with provocateurs.
I suspect that some of this is not just a reaction to the left’s hysterics, but rather, a convergence. Many of the forces that incentivize leftists to seek victim status—Title IX guidance, administrative bloat, changing ideas about safety in the K-12 system, helicopter parenting, concept creep—apply equally to rightist students.
As is often the case, in their constant struggle against leftists the rightist have become the very thing they hate. At one point identifying as politically right in the United States meant you were an opponent of socialism, advocate of self-reliance, and absolutist on free speech. Now rightists are just as much of socialists as leftists (but are dishonest about it, unlike most leftists), supporters of the nanny state, and flip their shit whenever somebody exercises free speech in an unapproved manner.
The rightists and leftists in this country deserve each other.
Socialism ensure that everybody is equal..ly poor:
In a new sign that Venezuela’s financial crisis is morphing dangerously into a humanitarian one, a new nationwide survey shows that in the past year nearly 75 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds for lack of food.
The extreme poor said they dropped even more weight than that.
The 2016 Living Conditions Survey (Encovi, for its name in Spanish), conducted among 6,500 families, also found that as many as 32.5 percent eat only once or twice a day — the figure was 11.3 just a year ago.
How can the people of a nation with such plentiful resources end up starving? Through the wonders of socialism!
Venezuela is yet another example in a long, sad list of examples of centrally planned economics failing. As Ludwig von Mises explained so thoroughly, centrally planned economies are always doomed to fail. It’s not possible for a handful of individuals to accurate determine the wants and needs of millions of people. Especially when the wants and needs of every single one of those millions of people are constantly changing.
The only question here is whether or not the Venezuelan government will do the decent thing and disband itself or if the people will have to rise up and overthrow it.
Yesterday I wrote a post about some neoliberals threatening to homeschool their children. Homeschooling isn’t the only anti-state idea neoliberals are getting though. Some are now claiming that they won’t pay their taxes because Trump was elected president:
Andrew Newman always pays his taxes, even if he hates what the government is doing with them. But not this year. For him, Donald Trump is the dealbreaker. He’ll pay his city and state taxes but will refuse to pay federal income tax as a cry of civil disobedience against the president and his new administration.
Newman is not alone. A nascent movement has been detected to revive the popularity of tax resistance – last seen en masse in America during the Vietnam war but which has been, sporadically, a tradition in the US and beyond going back many centuries.
Bombing children in the Middle East, having the highest prison population in the world, widespread unwarranted surveillance, civil forfeiture, and a plethora of other horrible government programs weren’t enough to convince them to not pay their taxes. But Trump getting elected? That warrants such action.
This is me not really giving a shit about their tax protest.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they’re finally understanding why us libertarians are so opposed to government power. But their protests ring a bit hallow when it’s obvious that the only thing they’re upset about is who is in power, not what people in that position of power has been doing. I’m sure these same people would gladly pay their taxes if Hillary was in power regardless of what horrible shit she was doing because the only thing that matters to them is the party, not the actions.
While I do appreciate their sentiment I must also admit that I look forward to seeing their reaction once they realize that taxation, regardless of what they have previous claimed, is backed by the barrel of a gun.
I remember hearing a rumor that the Bill of Rights included an amendment regarding privacy. You wouldn’t know it living in our society though. Between the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive surveillance apparatus, law enforcement’s tendency to deploy cell phone interceptors without so much as a warrant, and the recent trend of municipal governments deploying license plate scanners throughout their realm of influence it’s pretty obvious that if we had a right to privacy it’s effectively dead now. But every so often the courts find a shred of privacy remaining. When they do they work efficiently to destroy it:
It’s a case I first wrote about a year ago when the Minnesota Court of Appeals reinstated charges against a Meeker County resident after a district court threw out the case against Leona Rose deLottinville because sheriff’s deputies captured her while she was visiting a boyfriend. The lower court had also ruled that evidence seized in the arrest could not be used against her because the warrant for her arrest did not authorize police to search her boyfriend’s apartment.
In upholding that decision Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court said the woman, who was suspected of possessing meth, had no greater expectation of privacy when visiting another home than in her own home. [Updated]
“We understand that a homeowner might well be surprised and distressed to learn that police may enter at any time to arrest a guest,” he said. “But there is no indication in this case of any such abuse; deLottinville was visible to the officer before he entered the home. And the question of what rights the homeowner may have in such a situation is not before us.”
In a dissent, however, Justice Margaret Chutich said
Lillehaug the majority opinion “fails to protect the right of a host from unreasonable governmental intrusion into the sanctity of her home, a right at the ‘very core’ of the Fourth Amendment.”
Of course the majority ruled based on the rights of the kidnapped individual, which completely ignored the rights of the homeowner. At least Justice Margaret Chutich understood this fact. Unfortunately, she was part of the minority and as we all know in a democracy the majority rules.
I believe the potential for abuse of this ruling is obvious. Home owners in Minnesota can now lose their privacy privileges if they invite the wrong person over. How can a homeowner decided whether or not they’re inviting the wrong person over? I guess they have to call their local police department and ask if a warrant has been issued for any guests they have over.