For several years, I've been covering the bizarre phenomenon of "adversarial examples (AKA "adversarial preturbations"), these being often tiny changes to data than can cause machine-learning classifiers to totally misfire: imperceptible squeaks that make speech-to-text systems hallucinate phantom voices; or tiny shifts to a 3D image of a helicopter that makes image-classifiers hallucinate a rifle
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Jonathan Zittrain (previously) writes, "There’s reason to worry about security for the ever-growing Internet of Things, and it’ll be tempting to encourage vendors to solely control their devices that much more, limiting interoperability or user tinkering. There are alternatives - models for maintaining firmware patches for orphaned devices, and a 'Faraday mode' so that iffy devices can still at least partially function even if they’re not able to remain safely online. Procrastination around security has played a key role in its success. But 'later' shouldn’t mean 'never' for the IoT."
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The war on encryption waged by the F.B.I. and other intelligence agencies is unnecessary, because the data trails we voluntarily leak allow “Internet of Things” devices and social media networks to track us in ways the government can access.
That's the short version of what's in “Don’t Panic: Making Progress on the ‘Going Dark’ Debate,” a study published today by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. Read the rest
Jonathan Zittrain writes, "I published an op-ed in the Boston Globe today musing on the prospects for 'time capsule encryption,' one of several ways of storing information that renders it inaccessible to anyone until certain conditions -- such as the passage of time -- are met. I could see libraries and archives offering such technology as part of accepting papers and manuscripts, especially in the wake of the "Belfast Project" situation, where a library promised confidentiality for accounts of the Troubles in North Ireland, and then found itself amidst subpoenas from law enforcement looking to solve long-cold cases. But the principle could apply to any person or company thinking that there's a choice between leaving information exposed to leakage, or destroying it entirely."
I'm less enthusiastic about this than Jonathan is. I think calibrating the strength of your time-capsule is very hard. If the NSA might be an order of magnitude faster than the rest of us at brute-force cryptanalysis, that means you need to make your 10-year capsule strong enough to last for 100 years just to be on the safe side. Same goes for proof-of-work. Read the rest
One year ago today
Portland's "Naked American Hero" not guilty! John was found not guilty -- hurray!
Five years ago today
Nude, crazed airplane passenger: "stripped naked, got dressed again, and then attempted to open the emergency exit door."
Ten years ago today
How the Nerds Were Having A Perfectly Good Time Until The Businesspeople And Lawyers Showed Up And Ruined Everything: Jonathan Zittrain and Terry Fisher's talk: "Domain names - How the mess came about" Read the rest
Tim Wu has written an admirably economical and restrained review of Evgeny Morozov's new book, "To Save Everything, Click Here." I wrote a long critique of Morozov's first book in 2011, and back then, I found myself unable to restrain myself from enumerating the many, many flaws in the book and its fundamental dishonesty, pandering and laziness. Wu has more discipline than I do, and limits himself to a much shorter, sharper and better critique of Morozov's new one. It's a must-read:
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“To Save Everything, Click Here” is rife with such bullying and unfair attacks that seem mainly designed to build Morozov’s particular brand of trollism; one suspects he aspires to be a Bill O’Reilly for intellectuals. How else to explain the savaging of thinkers whom you might think of as his natural allies? Consider Nicholas Carr, another critic of Silicon Valley, who wrote a book, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” detailing the malicious effect of Web apps on our minds. He commits the unforgivable sin of discussing “the Internet” and is therefore guilty of what Morozov calls “McLuhanesque medium-centrism.” (Morozov is evidently licensed to use concepts, even if his targets are not). Similarly, although most of my work is an effort to put the Internet in historical or legal context, I, too, am an “Internet-centrist” (but at least I’m in good company).
Too much assault and battery creates a more serious problem: wrongful appropriation, as Morozov tends to borrow heavily, without attribution, from those he attacks.
ROFLcon, the biennial extravaganza of deranged internet culture, takes place this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The third such event, there'll be panels about memes, microfame, gaming and art, with a keynote speech from Jonathan Zittrain.
Attending will be Anil Dash, Andy Baio, Chris Poole, Nick Douglas, Joel Veitch, Chris Torres, Jason Scott, and many more. We will do our best to amuse one another, and you.
I'll be moderating a panel about the web of the 1990s, with Eric "conveys an emotion" Wu, Josh Levine of zombo.com, and Jonti "Weebl" Picking.
Here's the full schedule. Tickets to the two-day epic can be gotten for $55 and up. Don't fret if they're all sold out: there will be videos galore posted next week. Read the rest
This 1:48 panel discussion from Silicon Valley's Churchill Club features Daniel Ellsberg, Clay Shirky, Peter Thiel, Jonathan Zittrain and Neville Roy Singham on the topic of "WikiLeaks: Why it Matters. Why it Doesn't." Though the Q&A gets a little sidetracked, the discussion covers a lot of good, thoughtful, nuanced ground. Read the rest
Marketplace Tech Report had a piece on 3D printing this morning. I came away with two thoughts:
1: I MUST see photos of the bicycle made from 3D printed parts that Jonathan Zittrain mentions in the interview. (So far, no dice. If you find anything, let me know.)
2: "Holy Cats! I've never watched a 3D printer work!" Luckily, YouTube came through for me. Big time. I chose this video to post because of the nifty song that goes with it, but there's lots more 3D printer videos available—including some that feature DIY printers. Follow the link, be awed, kill lots of time.
Cheap, portable personal 3D printer: the UP!
Turn an inkjet into a 3D printer
White paper on 3D printing and the law: the coming copyfight
3D printing with glow-in-the-dark plastic
NYT on 3D printing Read the rest
Author and Internet researcher Jonathan Zittrain got hit with a mysterious but serious illness that doctors couldn't figure out. A friend created a blog (with Zittrain's identity veiled, for privacy) to crowdsource the investigation into why he was illin'—and it looks like they've figured it out. Zittrain is on the road to recovery, and is no longer in need of help finding out why. Yay, internet, and yay, smart doctors! Get well soon, Jonathan. Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published the Apple iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, a secretive document that requires its signatories to agree to a gag order on the terms of the deal. EFF got the agreement by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to NASA, who had signed onto it in order to release its app. EFF Senior IP Attorney Fred von Lohmann has some pithy analysis of just how awful this agreement is for the programmers who gets sucked into it:
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Overall, the Agreement is a very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn. That's not unusual where end-user license agreements are concerned (and not all the terms may ultimately be enforceable), but it's a bit of a surprise as applied to the more than 100,000 developers for the iPhone, including many large public companies. How can Apple get away with it? Because it is the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold. In other words, it's only because Apple still "owns" the customer, long after each iPhone (and soon, iPad) is sold, that it is able to push these contractual terms on the entire universe of software developers for the platform.
In short, no competition among app stores means no competition for the license terms that apply to iPhone developers.
If Apple's mobile devices are the future of computing, you can expect that future to be one with more limits on innovation and competition (or "generativity," in the words of Prof. Jonathan Zittrain) than the PC era that came before.
Fred sez, "Students for Free Culture has organized another awesome Free Culture conference on February 13th and 14th in Washington D.C. and registration is open.
Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn and cyberscholar Jonathan Zittrain will be keynoting on the first day, and the second day will be an unconference tackling all the cutting edge issues of the free culture movement.
Everyone is welcome to register and pay whatever they like (though last conference's median fee was $26) so signup today and see you in two weeks!"
Man, I wish I could get to this!
Update: Fred adds:
SFC just let me know that they just announced incentives for registration levels (the JZ voicemail is particularly awesome):
If you register at $50 or more, get a DVD with the complete Free Culture 2008 videos archive
If you register at $75 or more, get a signed copy of one of these books:
* Remix by Lawrence Lessig OR
* Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins
If you register at $100 or more, get one of these badges of coolness:
* a email@example.com email address OR
* a custom answering machine greeting by none other than cyberscholar Jonathan Zittrain
Free Culture Conference 2010
Free Culture Forum Barcelona, Oct 29-Nov 1 - Boing Boing
Free Culture distributed audiobook jukebox - Boing Boing
Lessig's Free Culture, free online, under a Creative Commons ...
FreeCulture NYC photo-mob to produce enormous repository of free ...
UMaine launches free culture/code/knowledge service - Boing Boing
Free Me! Read the rest
Few people are as qualified to write a book about the copyright wars as William Patry: former copyright counsel to the US House of Reps, advisor the Register of Copyrights, Senior Copyright Counsel for Google, and author of the seven-volume Patry on Copyright, widely held to be the single most authoritative work on US copyright ever written.
And Patry has written a very fine book indeed: Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is every bit as authoritative as Patry on Copyright (although much, much shorter) and is absolutely accessible to a lay audience.
There are many legal scholars who've written about the copyright wars, from Pam Samuelson to Larry Lessig to Jonathan Zittrain to James Boyle, and in this exalted company, Patry's Moral Panics stands out for the sheer, unadorned calm of his approach. Patry doesn't have a lot of rhetorical flourish or prose fireworks. Instead, he tells the story of copyright in plain, thoughtful words, with much rigor and grace. Reading Moral Panics is like watching a master brick layer gracefully and effortlessly build a solid wall: no wasted motion, no sweat, no missteps. Patry knows this subject better than anyone and can really explain it.
As the title implies, Patry places the copyright wars amid other moral panics -- think of witch-hunts (both the "Communist" and the old-fashioned "witch") -- and he devotes much of the book to the sociology of moral panic, the views of the Greeks on language and metaphor, and the weaponizing of language (and the especial use which the terms "theft" and "piracy" have in this regard) and the ways that historical figures like Jack Valenti used this rhetoric to shift the debate. Read the rest
In the New York Times, this thoughtful piece by Noam Cohen on the links between online communication tools and political crises -- namely, the ongoing turmoil in Iran:
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# Tweets Are Generally Banal, but Watch Out
"The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked are what makes it so powerful," says Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor who is an expert on the Internet. That is, tweets by their nature seem trivial, with little that is original or menacing. Even Twitter accounts seen as promoting the protest movement in Iran are largely a series of links to photographs hosted on other sites or brief updates on strategy. Each update may not be important. Collectively, however, the tweets can create a personality or environment that reflects the emotions of the moment and helps drive opinion.
# Buyer Beware
Nothing on Twitter has been verified. While users can learn from experience to trust a certain Twitter account, it is still a matter of trust. And just as Twitter has helped get out first-hand reports from Tehran, it has also spread inaccurate information, perhaps even disinformation. An article published by the Web site True/Slant highlighted some of the biggest errors on Twitter that were quickly repeated and amplified by bloggers: that three million protested in Tehran last weekend (more like a few hundred thousand); that the opposition candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi was under house arrest (he was being watched); that the president of the election monitoring committee declared the election invalid last Saturday (not so).
David sez, "On a decentralized network it's much harder to map blockages than to create them. Herdict.org takes a crowdsourcing approach. Install the add-on and click the button when you encounter a site that's down. Herdict aggregates this information, including your geographic location, to draw a map of the Internet's potholes, including the ones intentionally dug by frightened governments. If you have a few spare minutes, you can check sites others have reported as down, determining whether they're blocked in your part of the world as well. (www.AmIBlockedOrNot.org will take you to that part of the Herdict site.) Herdict is a project of Harvard's Berkman Center (sponsored by Jonathan Zittrain) and obeys all the appropriate privacy rules of the road."
(Thanks, David!) Read the rest