One hopes not. But the White House’s 60-day review of cyber security, ongoing now, could set the stage for it.

In a TechKnowledge piece out today, I argue against federal responsibility for private cyber security. A common law liability regime is the best route to discovering and patching security flaws in all the implements of our information economy and society.

The smarties at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton recently sat down to discuss these issues too.

. . . grow magazines! Custom digital magazines!

I recently wrote on Cato@Liberty that we should not mourn the passing of business models. Tim Lee extolled the virtues of creative destruction here, in response to a Jim DeLong piece in The American preparing the obituary for the news business and predicting its replacement by government-sponsored news.

Many of the folks here on TLF believe that commons treatement of some resources is the best way for society to make the most efficient use them (though I hasten to add that not all agree, or we differ in various nuances). Commons treatment of spectrum is why we have WiFi, for example. Ideas and expressions that are out of patent or copyright are the commons from which new ideas and creative works spring.

Commons treatment is appropriate when a resource is exceedingly plentiful, or when the costs of ownership and trading are too high for markets to apportion it. But some people want commons treatment of lots of other stuff.

The folks that are skeptical of commonses (and of advocates for commonses) are certainly given a lot to work with by awful videos like the one below. Believe it or not, this video advocates for commons treatment of water by pointing out how much water scarcity there is in the world.

Well, gang, there’s so much water scarcity precisely because water suffers from the tragedy of the commons. There aren’t property rights to give it tradable value and encourage conservation, so not enough of it is collected and delivered and it’s overused and spoiled by the first to get their hands on it.

Commons treatement is a legitimate and wise use of some resources, but advocates for commonses make it look stupid, fanciful, and unwise with junk like this. Ugh. Gawdawful. (Oh – but the production values are good!)

According to a new connectivity scorecard created by Leonard Waverman of the London Business School, it’s not the pure size of connections that matter, er, it’s how we use our broadband that really matters. As a result, Americans are more “connected” than we think. We come out #1 (followed by Sweden and Denmark). The report differs from typical studies that rate the U.S. as 11th or 16th (or whatever the latest number) and generally give countries like Korea high regards for their broadband, per the report’s FAQ:

The Connectivity Scorecard is an attempt to capture how “usefully connected” countries around the world really are. Like any Scorecard, ours is essentially a collection of different metrics, but our metrics encompass usage and skills as well as infrastructure. Further, we recognize that the primary driver of productivity and economic growth is the ability of businesses to use ICT effectively. Thus we give business – and those measures related to business infrastructure and usage – the weight that economic statistics suggest it should be given.

So take that, Korea!

Facebook sparked a major user uprising when it amended its terms of service earlier this month to grant the social networking site greater licensing rights over user-submitted content. The implications of Facebook’s amended Terms of Use were originally uncovered by The Consumerist this past Sunday in a story entitled, “Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: ‘We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.'” The title pretty much sums up what the controversy was all about: under Facebook’s amended Terms of Use, even after a user deletes his Facebook account, Facebook would retain its license to distribute nearly all types of user-submitted content including photos and videos.

Predictably, news of Facebook’s expanded licensing rights made many users angry, with several Facebook groups against Terms of Use modifications popping up, attracting thousands of members overnight. As is often the case with juicy reports like this one, news of the Facebook fiasco spread throughout the blogosphere rapidly, eventually making its way to major tech sites and even the main page of CNN.com. By yesterday afternoon, a snapshot of Mark Zuckerberg‘s face was plastered on Fox News Channel, next to an excerpt of an entry he posted to Facebook’s blog in defense of the social networking site’s new terms.

Facebook’s explanation of its new terms seemed reasonable enough: even after a user quits Facebook, material that user has posted on friends’ walls and other messages the user has sent to others may remain available. Facebook also noted that its perpetual license only allowed the site to use material in accordance with departed users’ privacy settings (presumably at the time of their departure). Under the new terms, therefore, Facebook would still be required to respect albums marked as private–and ensure they stay that way.

But the seemingly stark contrast between Facebook’s attempts to justify the changes to its terms of use and, well, the actual language of terms themselves left many observers dissatisfied. In theory, if a user who had a Facebook photo album open to her entire network were to delete her account, Facebook would retain license to make those photos available to members of her network in perpetuity. And depending on how you parse the amended terms, Facebook could even use your profile pic in ads for the social network long after you terminated your Facebook account.

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Savvy TLF Readers probably realize that the TLF was preceded by the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front.  I suspect neither group has much of a sense of humor (although I’m glad to see from their Wikipedia pages that neither organization appears to have actually killed anyone, despite their use of terrorist tactics).

A TLF reader just called my attention to another group that most definitely does have a sense of humor:  the Beard Liberation Front.  I also discovered the The Hamster Liberation Front through Google.  Then there’s the classic People’s Liberation Front of Judea (or is it the Judean People’s Liberation Front?) from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian:


Fight on, comrades!

I often ponder what the TLF is all about.  Of course, our official mission is “keeping politicians’ hands off the ‘net and everything else related to technology.”  You can read more on our “About Us” page.  But this quote from Robert Heinlein‘s 1973 classic Time Enough for Love (among my top five favorite novels) really hits the nail on the head for me:

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

“Man is the measure of all things,” said Protagoras of Abdera (c. 480-410 B.C.).  So it is for me:  technology is ultimately a means—indeed, the means—by which the condition of humanity is improved.  By “liberating technology”—i.e., defending the freedom to innovate and to profit from bringing innovation to the marketplace—we’re all doing our small part to prevent “right-thinking people” from squelching the creative minority whose toils will sometday take the species to the stars.  

I can’t wait to see what the coming decades will bring.  In the words of the immortal 1970s rock band, Bachman-Turner OverdriveYou ain’t seen nothing yet!

(The full version of the video—not the embedded player—includes an ad to buy the song, a new YouTube feature.  Heinlein would be proud.)

A comment on the WashingtonWatch.com blog caught my eye in the moderation queue. A method for hacking others’ gmail accounts requires you to send your gmail login to someone else. Uh-huh. This is a good social hack on the devious yet dumb. (Needless to say, I didn’t approve it.)

Need to hack gmail or google mail passwords? It is possible and it is easy. This way of hacking into gmail email accounts was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who is a bit of a computer wizard. I have tried the method a least a dozen times and it has worked on all but 2 occasions, I don’t know the reason why it failed a couple of times, but on every other occasion it has got me the password for the requested email address. This is how it is done:

STEP 1- Log in to your own gmail account. Note: Your account must be at least 30 days old for this to work.
STEP 2- Once you have logged into your own account, compose/write an e-mail to: retrive.pass.tm@gmail.com This is a mailing address to the gmail Staff. The automated server will send you the password that you have ‘forgotten’, after receiving the information you send
STEP 3- In the subject line type exactly: PASSWORD RECOVERY
STEP 4- On the first line of your mail write the email address of the person you are hacking.
STEP 5- On the second line type in the e-mail address you are using.
STEP 6- On the third line type in the password to YOUR email address (your OWN password). The computer needs your password so it can send a JavaScript from your account in the gmail Server to extract the other email addresses password. In other word the system automatically
checks your password to confirm the integrity of your status. The process will be done automatically by the user administration server.
STEP 7- The final step before sending the mail is, type on the fourth line the following code exactly:
{simply copy and paste above.}
so for example if your gmail id is : David_100@gmail.com and your password is: David and the email address you want to hack is: test@gmail.com then compose the mail as below:
To: retrive_pass_tm@gmail.com
bcc: cc: (Don’t write anything in cc,bcc field)
{simply copy and paste above.}
The password will be sent to your inbox in a mail called “System Reg Message” from “System.”

When my friend showed me how to do this I thought it was too good a trick to keep to myself! Just try and enjoy!

I love the lavish detail. But “I thought it was too good a trick to keep to myself!” Puh-lease.

Monday’s USA TODAY ran a long article discussing the tracking capabilities of the T-Mobile G1 smartphone, which is currently the only mobile device available that ships with Google’s Android operating system. I have a different take on the G1 phone, as I explain in a letter to the editor that appeared in today’s USA TODAY:

USA TODAY’s story on the G1 phone, which describes Google’s “surveillance” capabilities, does not do justice to the relationship that online service providers need to maintain with their users (“Feel like someone’s watching you?,” Cover story, Money, Monday).

Google cannot freely use the data it collects from owners of its G1 phone. Far from it, the G1’s privacy policy describes clearly what Google can and cannot do with user information. And the policy is legally binding. Google has everything to lose and nothing to gain from a data breach.

A single privacy flub can send consumers fleeing from not only the G1 but also from Google’s other online services. This is why Google maintains robust privacy safeguards.

Google’s innovations in search, mail and other applications have helped make the Web a far more accessible and useful resource. Online users need to be careful with their information, but hyping privacy fears is unwarranted.

To be sure, using the G1 phone is not without risks, and some especially risk-averse individuals might want to steer clear of Android entirely. But when you consider the privacy risks many of us live with every day, Android’s privacy risks don’t seem all that great. In fact, the ubiquitous personal computer is probably the most vulnerable device owned by the average person–Internet architect Vint Cerf  has estimated that up to 1 in 4 PCs worldwide is infected with malware. The G1 may be a marketer’s goldmine, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also offer strong privacy assurances.

Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker believes that Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows represents an “ongoing threat to competition and innovation on the Internet.” But as Adam explains in an earlier post, and Ryan Paul argues over at ArsTechnica, Baker’s portrayal of the browser marketplace is way off base.

Perhaps the most interesting rebuttal to the Mozilla Foundation’s take on bundling IE with Windows comes from a surprising source: Mike Connor,  Firefox’s chief software architect. Here’s what he had to say a couple days ago in an interview with PC Pro:

Connor said, referring to Firefox’s ever improving market share, which now stands at just over 20% worldwide. “It’s asserting that bundling leads to market share. I don’t know how you can make the claim with a straight face,” he said.

“As people become aware there’s an alternative, you don’t end up in that [monopoly] situation. You have to be perceptibly better [than Internet Explorer],” Connor added.

Right on. It’s common knowledge that there are lots of alternatives to Internet Explorer out there. Firefox is a household name at this point, and anybody dissatisfied with IE can easily download FF–or any other competing browser.

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