Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Month: January 2010

Data Privacy Day and Anonymity

While I haven’t posted much this month, it isn’t because I’m not writing: it’s because what I’m writing just doesn’t seem to pull together very well and so I have 4 or 5 items held in ‘draft’. See, I’ve been trying to integrate thoughts on accessible versus technically correct understandings of technology as it relates to privacy, and to issues on public relations and the use of FUD by privacy activists, and what I think of the idea of ‘anonymity’ in digital environments that are increasingly geared to map, track, and trace people’s action. Given that it’s the data privacy day, I thought that I should try to pull some of thoughts together, and so today I’m going to draw on some of those aforementioned ideas and, in particular, start thinking about anonymity in our present digitally networked world.

To take the ‘effort’ to try and remain anonymous requires some kind of motivation, and in North America that motivation is sorely lacking. North America isn’t Iran or China or North Korea; Canadians, in particular, have a somewhat envious position where even with the government prorogued – a situation that, were it to happen in Afghanistan would have pundits and politicians worrying about possibilities of tyranny and violence – there isn’t a perception that Canadians ought to be fearful that proroguement heralds the beginning of a Canadian authoritarian state, or the stripping of Charter rights and freedoms. This said, I think that people in the West are realizing that, as their worlds are increasingly digitized, their ‘analogue’ expectations of privacy are not, and have not for some time, been precisely mirrored in the digital realm. This awareness is causing worry and consternation, but is not yet (and may never be) sufficient for wide-scale adoption of anonymization technologies. Instead, we have worry without (much) action.

Continue reading

Crown, Copyright, and the CRTC

I’m in the middle of a large project (for one person), and as part of it I wanted to host some CRTC documents on the project’s web server to link into. You see, if you’ve ever been involved in one of the CRTC’s public notices you’ll know that there are literal deluges of documents, many of which are zipped together. For the purposes of disseminating documents over email this works well – it puts all of the documents from say, Bell, into a single zipped file – but makes a user-unfriendly structure of linking to: expecting casual reader to link to zip archives is unreasonable. Given that as part of this project I do want to facilitate ease of access to resources it’s important that users can link to the documents themselves, and not zip archives.

While I pay attention to copyright developments in Canada and abroad, and have strong stances on how academics and the Canadian government should licence their publications, I’m not a lawyer. I do, however, know that government documents in Canada are governed by Crown Copyright – unlike in the US, the Canadian government maintains copyright over its publications – and thus I wanted to check with the CRTC if there were any problems hosting documents from their site, including those presumably under a Crown copyright such as the CRTC’s decision.

Continue reading

Dispelling FUD: Iran and ISP Surveillance

Since the election of incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the world has witnessed considerable political tension in Iran. Protests over the questionable electoral results, beatings and deaths of political protestors, recurring protests by Iranians associated with the Green Revolution, and transmissions of information amongst civil- and global-actors have been broadcast using contemporary communications systems. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and mobile phone video has enabled Iranians to coordinate, broadcast, and receive information. The existence of Web 2.0 infrastructure has set the conditions under which the Green Revolution operates.

The Iranian government quickly recognized the power of cheap social coordination technologies and, in response, drastically reduced the capacity of national Internet links – the government, in effect, closed the nation’s Internet faucet, which greatly reduced how quickly data could be transmitted to, and received from, the ‘net as a whole. This claim is substantiated by Arbor Networks’ (Internet) border reports, which demonstrate how, immediately after the presidential election, there was a plummet in the data traffic entering and exiting the nation. (It should be noted that Arbor is a prominent supplier of Deep Packet Inspection equipment.)

Prior to trying to dispel the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) surrounding the contemporary Iranian ISP-surveillance system that is regularly propagated by the media, I need to give a bit of context on the telecommunications structure in Iran.

Continue reading