Tin Foil Hat – Part I “Nothing to Hide”

I’m picking up where I left off here. In the introduction I discussed online privacy and technology.  What I didn’t mention in that initial post was an insight from Bruce Schneier.  Large corporate institutions and the government (at least in the US) cooperate in order to evade the law.  Public institutions are restricted from collecting some kinds of information whereas corporations are not. So you have a situation whereby cooperating they can both avoid the spirit of the law and keep to the letter, clever and despicable.

Moving onto our main topic.  Where you do fit with respect to your privacy concerns?  Pick one of the descriptions below that matches your world view then you will know which part will address your concerns.

I.  I just love social media and telling all my friends where I am and what I’m doing.  I think it is really cool that we can track each other on weekends with mobile apps because it makes it easier to hook up at clubs.   I like getting free stuff so I fill out all the surveys for things I am interested in.  I have nothing to hide.  My life is an open book.

II.  I live in a mostly free country.  I am not too concerned about privacy.  My life is pretty normal and perhaps boring to others.  I don’t particularly like all the snooping and profiling by corporations just to try and sell me junk I don’t want or need.  If I want something I will find it;  you don’t need to find me.

III.  I live in country with some censorship and constraints or I live in a mostly free country and despise the idea of surveillance.  I consider myself free and I would like to access what I deem appropriate not the state.  I realize that I will always leave some digital footprint but would like reduce my digital signature as much as possible.

IV.  I am currently engaged in an activity which if discovered could land me in jail for a long period of time or possibly be executed.  I’m a target of a state actor.

In this post I will take up the first case, the one in which a person sees themselves as open book, “I have nothing to hide” approach.  Even if you have a relaxed attitude toward privacy, I assure you have something to hide.  If you truly believe that you have nothing to hide then email me the following so I can add them as an update to this post:

  • Current address
  • Annual income
  • Social Security Number
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Credit Card numbers with expiration and the CVV/CVC code off the back.

It’s a fact that the more that can be known about you the more likely you are to be an easy mark for exploitation.  What minimal things can be done to reduce your footprint?  One empty your browser cache and clean all history from time to time.  Install a product like Abine’s DoNotTrackMe. There are similar tools also;  find one you like and stick with it.  You can also enable “do not track me” in the browser but few companies will respect it.  Let’s face it, most corporations are run by a self-serving, crass, and rapacious to the limits of the law executives.  I have no hard proof but I would guess it works about as well as opt-out does for email.  If you want to avoid marketing email you can set up an account exclusively for that or purchase a service from a company like Network Solutions.

With your mobile devices you should be very selective about which applications have access to your location.  In general the “free” applications are most likely to abuse your privacy.  Facebook and Google being the devil’s unholy twins.  The information and profile these companies have on you is not as high a risk as when the data is stolen or lost due to incompetence.  The more public your life, the more you need a service to protect you from identity theft.  There are many good ones seek them out and purchase the service.


A Machine That Goes of Itself

“20% Time” is purportedly done at Google depending on who you ask.  This is not surprising in a large organization, which tend to become more controlling over time, but hey Microsoft, “Don’t Be Evil.”  I like to hammer on Google because they are the perfect exemplar of just how fast you can go from daring, reckless innovator to  money chasing, power grubbing, privacy violating, insufferably arrogant mega-corporation.

Here’s how Google has effectively shut down 20% time without actually ending the program, says our source: First, as has been reported previously, Google began to require that engineers get approval from management to take 20% time in order to work on independent projects, a marked departure from the company’s previous policy of making 20% time a right of all Googlers.

Of course it takes approval, independent thought and action is for senior management.

Recently, however, Google’s upper management has clamped down even further, by strongly discouraging managers from approving any 20% projects at all. Managers are judged on the productivity of their teams—Google has a highly developed internal analytics team that constantly measures all employees’ productivity—and the level of productivity that teams are expected to deliver assumes that employees are working on their primary responsibilities 100% of the time.

It’s back on the chain gang boys and girls. Now, put your mouse into it!  The next step for Google in their evolution to fully worthless is to go crying to the government about foreign competition by which they will mean domestic competition whose innovation is hurting their quarterly profits.

Now comes the counter story:

But other engineers, even those who say they use the free time at Google, painted a more nuanced picture.

“20% time isn’t dead — I have been using it at Google consistently for over 7 years, and it has immensely benefited me. You don’t need any permission, at least in engineering.”

However, I would agree that it is “as good as dead”. What killed 20% time? Stack ranking.

Stack ranking?  Jack Welch’s Darwinian approach of killing off the bottom 20% aka getting rid of political enemies.  Apparently at Google they don’t actually fire them.  They must have a re-education camp or something.

Google doesn’t enact exactly this policy, and is more focused on helping its bottom 20% improve, but the point is that such policies of measurement don’t exactly lead to intangibles like incubating new initiatives or products.

You think?  You are just a cog in the wheel of the machine that goes of itself, whose purpose is not clear but at least it has a “mission statement”, “values” and quarterly earning’s reports.  They just don’t revolve around humanity.




This is a useful initiative.  What is to keep the FCC from simply writing a regulation that bans the activity once criminals start using it?  The many must be punished for the few. It would not surprise me:  Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.

The Amateur Expects Nothing

It appears to be difficult to collect a decent royalty these days especially from Pandora.  Of course, Pandora thinks they pay too much and like all corporate toads have gone to Congress with their hat in hand and their million dollar lobbyist to request a special law that benefits them.  Why won’t these companies just compete?  It’s supposed to be a free market, not a rigged game.

Now most poets are true amateurs.  They have no expectation of any royalties or compensation.  The write because they enjoy it; they write because they can’t suppress it.  Poetry, like all arts, is a winner take all market with a couple of well known people pulling in the majority of the money.  They are not really better than many other poets, they are just lucky.  But if you are one of those fortunate individuals don’t you believe it.

Google Mine

Google is testing a new service  Google Mine where you tell them everything you own and like so you can share it with advertisers and thieves your friends.  What could go wrong?  Next up is Google Panopticon where they record every element of your life from dawn to dusk, cradle to grave so advertisers can analyze your total behaviour to sell you stuff!  You need stuff right?  I know I do.

In other news EU regulators are threatening to fine Google for privacy violations.  Repeat after me “Don’t be evil.”


Facebook is like a drunk college student who shows up at a party uninvited and when caught rifling the medicine cabinet belches his contempt for you.  This article at ZDNet indicates that they have alienated many more users of their service but not quite their customers, (not to be confused with the users).  Facebook is walking public relations disaster because it it run by a crew of unscrupulous people.  The accidental merging of the data should be a wake up call for all those companies using hadoop, no sql and so called big table approaches.  While this kind of error is possible with SQL databases, it is not as likely to happen.