Toward Totalitarianism: Digital Millenium Copyright Act, attack lawsuits

The original intention of the DMCA was to prevent copyright infringement. According to EFF, "the DMCA and DRM (digital rights management) have done nothing to stop 'Internet piracy'." Rather, the DMCA has become a threat to fair use, competition, innovation, free expression, and scientific research.

In MGM vs. 321 Studios, the DMCA was used to attack backup software, the research-oriented discussion of cryptology, and competitive innovation.

In Universal vs. Corley, a movie studio sued journalists who posted a link to DVD decryption software that had been posted on the Internet, making it difficult to even discuss the topic as a news story.

In Felten v. RIAA, the recording industry association threatened to sue academic researchers who had discovered and wanted to publish a paper discussing weaknesses in the cryptographic system used in the industry's recently standardized digital rights management.

Toward Totalitarianism: Patriot Act

The USA PATRIOT Act was passed shortly after the 9/11 attack in 2001. It removed restrictions on law enforcement's use of surveillance and investigative techniques, potentially jeopardizing traditional civil liberties, privacy, and democratic traditions in the US, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

According to EFF, the PATRIOT Act allows the US government to monitor citizens' web surfing, access ISP records, wiretap citizens and their associates. The provisions of the PATRIOT Act are not limited to terrorism, only requiring that a government investigator suspect that a person is engaged in illegal activity to justify surveillance, wiretaps, and other intrusions. The PATRIOT Act makes it easier for foreign intelligence organizations to spy on Americans.

While eliminating or reducing privacy rights for citizens on the one hand, the Act creates more secrecy for government activities, making it more difficult for citizens to hold their government accountable. Under PATRIOT, government investigators are authorized to use "sneak and peek" warrants to enter private premises without the permission or knowledge of the occupant and without informing the occupant of the search in connection with any federal crime, including misdemeanors, whether or not such crimes are related to terrorism.


Toward Totalitarianism: watch lists

John Graham writes about the experience of discovering himself on the "national terrorist No Fly Watch list." He can't find out how his name got on the watch list. He can't appeal his status. He can't get his name removed from the list. His career speaking on civic action and leadership around the world is potentially threatened since "plane travel is key to my livelihood." He compares such measures to Pinochet's Chile and Germany
in 1930.

Even government employees and members of the US armed forces are being delayed and hassled because their names appear on watch lists.

Schneier has written on the problem of false positives, which is exactly the problem exemplified in the stories referenced above. Watch lists raise the personal price of travel, leading to loss of privacy, loss of control of one's movements, even loss of one's reputation. Soon the price of travel will be prohibitive for most people. Remember how citizens of Iron Curtain countries couldn't travel freely during the Cold War?

Toward Totalitarianism: ePassports

The US government has mandated that US passports will contain radio frequency identification (RFID) chips by the end of 2006.

According to the Department of
State website
, the chip embedded in the cover of the new ePassports will contain the holder's name, birthdate, gender, birthplace, passport issuance and expiration dates, passport number,
and image of the holder. The claim is that the anti-skimming device and basic access control technology incorporated into the passport will prevent unauthorized access to the information encoded in the chip.

However, Bruce
encourages his readers to renew their passport now to get a low-tech non-RFID-enabled version before they become unavailable. He points out that short-term attempts to crack or clone the RFID passports have had some success. While the State Department claims that the chips will only be readable from a few inches, what determines the distance is the power and sensitivity of the reader, and that the passports have been read at much longer distances. Schneier points out that the security measures in the passport (which Schneier deems inadequate) have to last for the life of the passport -- ten years.

Do you want to avoid the identity theft risks associated with having your passport information read illicitly? Don't get a passport. Need to travel outside the US? Too bad. Remember how citizens of Iron Curtain countries couldn't travel freely during the Cold War?


Toward Totalitarianism: Automated Targeting System

The Automated Targeting System assigns a "terrorist threat score" to each American traveling abroad. Almost everything about your score is secret. You can't know what it is or how it was determined. You can't appeal it. It will stay in US government records for 40 years and may be shared with federal, state, local, and foreign governments, NGOs, and domestic or foreign private contractors, just not with you. Want to keep your information out of the database? Don't travel abroad. Remember how citizens of Iron Curtain countries couldn't travel freely during the Cold War?


Chain letters come to blogging

Seth Godin has posted a non-z-list. Looks like Mack Collier started the fun here.

Sooner or later, this approach will start exhibiting the same issue as a chain letter or other pyramid scheme -- the folks at the top will get lots and lots of clicks, but once a quarter to a half the available population is participating, there won't be enough clicks to go around.

Of course, no "real money" is involved, so it's okay, right? Well... maybe. On the other hand, maybe clicks are the new currency. Where do you want your clicks (eyes, attention) to go? What do you want to recommend to your friends?

Perhaps you trust Seth enough that you're willing to look at the blogs on the list he posted, even though he admits that he hasn't had time to look at them all. I prefer to post my own list of favorite blogs. I have looked at and enjoy these regularly:

Schneier on Security
Martha Barnette's Orts


Why the US should not be the world's bully..., er, I mean policeman

11. Throwing our weight around just pisses everyone off, even our allies.

10. Now they don't just want us to leave, they want us to clean up the mess we, er, I mean, the insurgents have made.

9. There's no consensus on what democracy means. Is it voting for one's leaders? Is it voting for electors who choose one's leader's? Does it include an independent judiciary? Who says? I'll show you democracy you lame brain... See what I mean?

8. There's no consensus on what freedom is. Does it mean freedom to do what you want? Wear a burka? Kill infidels? Worship as one pleases? Wear miniskirts? Be gay? Get AIDS? Use drugs? Visit prostitutes? Be a prostitute? Make fun of one's leaders? Make fun of other people? Make fun of oneself?

7. How do you tell an insurgent from a freedom fighter?

6. We can't afford the human cost -- lives lost or disrupted, emotional fallout, lost productivity -- both for ourselves and those we "help".

5. We can't afford the financial cost.

4. We can't fix political situations others have created. Only the people involved in the politics can resolve political problems. How would US citizens feel about another country attempting to impose a different form of government in the US?

3. We can't satisfy ourselves that our own elections are free and fair. Why would anyone trust us to run theirs?

2. It never seems to take long for those we "liberate" to go from gratitude to radicalized terrorists, the ungrateful wretches. I just don't get that.

1. Most of us are too fat to fit into the uniform.



A story is a sequence of perceptions, not events. An event is indescribable. A perception, like a description, is from a particular perspective.