2019: EFF enters the competition fray

None of us signed up for an Internet composed of "a group of five websites, each consisting of screenshots of text from the other four", but here we are, watching as hyper-concentrated industries rack up catastrophic victories against net neutrality, right to repair, security auditing, and a host of other issues. Read the rest

Mint: late-stage adversarial interoperability demonstrates what we had (and what we lost)

In 2006, Aaron Patzer founded Mint. Patzer had grown up in the city of Evansville, Indianaa place he described as "small, without much economic opportunity"but had created a successful business building websites. He kept up the business through college and grad school and invested his profits in stocks and other assets, leading to a minor obsession with personal finance that saw him devoting hours every Saturday morning to manually tracking every penny he'd spent that week, transcribing his receipts into Microsoft Money and Quicken. Read the rest

Talking Adversarial Interoperability with Y Combinator

Earlier this month while I was in San Francisco, I went over to the Y Combinator incubator to record a podcast (MP3); we talked for more than an hour about the history of Adversarial Interoperability and what its role was in creating Silicon Valley and the tech sector and how monopolization now threatens adversarial interop and also how it fuels the conspiratorial thinking that is so present in our modern politics. We talk about how startup founders and other technologists can use science fiction for inspiration, and about the market opportunities presented by challenging Big Tech and its giant, massively profitable systems. Read the rest

alt.interoperability.adversarial

Today, we are told that the bigness of Big Tech giants was inevitable: the result of "network effects." For example, once everyone you want to talk to is on Facebook, you can't be convinced to use another, superior service, because all the people you'd use that service to talk to are still on Facebook. And of course, those people also can't leave Facebook, because you're still there. Read the rest

Facebook sues notorious spyware company NSO Group for 1,400 attacks on diplomats, journalists, dissidents, and government officials

The NSO Group is one of the world's most notorious cyber-arms dealers, selling hacking tools to some of the world's most oppressive regimes that are used to identify targets for arrest, torture and even murder. Read the rest

Talking science fiction, technological self-determination, inequality and competition with physicist Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a physicist at JPL and the author of many popular, smart books about physics for a lay audience; his weekly Mindscape podcast is a treasure-trove of incredibly smart, fascinating discussions with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Read the rest

Bipartisan legislation would force Big Tech to allow interoperability with small competitors

The Augmenting Compatibility and Competition by Enabling Service Switching” (ACCESS) Act was introduced by Senator Mark Warner [D-VA] and co-sponsored by Senator Josh Hawley [R-MO] and Senator Richard Blumenthal [D-CT]; it mandates the creation of "third party custodial services," regulated by the FTC, that will allow uses of Facebook and other Big Tech platforms to switch to smaller, direct competitors who would then act as an intermediary between these new entrants and the platforms. Read the rest

Not only is Google's auto-delete good for privacy, it's also good news for competition

Earlier this month, Google announced a new collection of auto-delete settings for your personal information that allows you balance some of the conveniences of data-collection (for example, remembering recent locations in Maps so that they can be intelligently autocompleted when you type on a tiny, crappy mobile device keyboard) with the risks of long-term retention, like a future revelation that you visited an HIV clinic, or a political meeting, or were present at the same time and place as someone the police have decided to investigate by means of a sweeping "reverse warrant." Read the rest

Adversarial Interoperability

“Interoperability” is the act of making a new product or service work with an existing product or service: modern civilization depends on the standards and practices that allow you to put any dish into a dishwasher or any USB charger into any car’s cigarette lighter. Read the rest

This is your smartphone on feminism

Maria Farrell admits that comparing smartphones to abusive men (they try to keep you from friends and family, they make it hard to study or go to work, they constantly follow you and check up on you) might seem to trivialize domestic partner violence, but, as she points out, feminists have long been pointing out both the literal and metaphorical ways in which tech replicates misogyny. Read the rest

Podcast: DRM Broke Its Promise

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my new Locus column, DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), but instead (unsurprisingly) everything got more expensive and less capable.

The established religion of markets once told us that we must abandon the idea of owning things, that this was an old fashioned idea from the world of grubby atoms. In the futuristic digital realm, no one would own things, we would only license them, and thus be relieved of the terrible burden of ownership. They were telling the truth. We don’t own things anymore. This summer, Microsoft shut down its ebook store, and in so doing, deactivated its DRM servers, rendering every book the company had sold inert, unreadable. To make up for this, Microsoft sent refunds to the custom­ers it could find, but obviously this is a poor replacement for the books themselves. When I was a bookseller in Toronto, noth­ing that happened would ever result in me breaking into your house to take back the books I’d sold you, and if I did, the fact that I left you a refund wouldn’t have made up for the theft. Not all the books Microsoft is confiscating are even for sale any lon­ger, and some of the people whose books they’re stealing made extensive annotations that will go up in smoke.

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Important legal victory in web-scraping case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (a 1986 anti-hacking law passed after a moral panic over the movie Wargames) does not ban accessing public information from websites, even if you do so against the wishes of the website's operator. Read the rest

Podcast: A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition", published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's the latest in my ongoing series of case-studies of "adversarial interoperability," where new services unseated the dominant companies by finding ways to plug into existing products against those products' manufacturers. This week's installment recounts the history of cable TV, and explains how the legal system in place when cable was born was subsequently extinguished (with the help of the cable companies who benefitted from it!) meaning that no one can do to cable what cable once did to broadcasters. Read the rest

A cycle of renewal, broken: How Big Tech and Big Media abuse copyright law to slay competition

As long we've had electronic mass media, audiences and creators have benefited from periods of technological upheaval that force old gatekeepers to compete with brash newcomers with new ideas about what constitutes acceptable culture and art. Those newcomers eventually became gatekeepers themselves, who then faced their own crop of revolutionaries. But today, the cycle is broken: as media, telecoms, and tech have all grown concentrated, the markets have become winner-take-all clashes among titans who seek to dominate our culture, our discourse and our communications. Read the rest

My appearance on the MMT podcast: compelling narratives as a means of advancing complex political and economic ideas

I've been following the Modern Monetary Theory debate for about 18 months, and I'm largely a convert: governments spend money into existence and tax it out of existence, and government deficit spending is only inflationary if it's bidding against the private sector for goods or services, which means that the government could guarantee every unemployed person a job (say, working on the Green New Deal), and which also means that every unemployed person and every unfilled social services role is a political choice, not an economic necessity. Read the rest

Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

Last summer, we published a comprehensive look at the ways that Facebook could and should open up its data so that users could control their experience on the service, and to make it easier for competing services to thrive. Read the rest

Podcast: Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle

In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my essay "Interoperability and Privacy: Squaring the Circle, published today on EFF's Deeplinks; it's another in the series of "adversarial interoperability" explainers, this one focused on how privacy and adversarial interoperability relate to each other. Read the rest

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