Google goes too far again

Google's founders are fond of their corporate slogan, "Do nothing evil," but the lady doth protest too much, to borrow an old phrase.

I've written about Google's Gmail service, in which the company happily stores every email you have ever sent or received, mainly so they can snoop through your mail and figure out what ads to show you (e.g. correspond with a friend about an upcoming hiking trip, and you'll start seeing ads for outdoor gear).

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North Dakota does the right thing

The North Dakota legislature has done the right thing by making the data stored in vehicle black boxes solely the property of the vehicle owner.

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FBI raises the cost of VoIP

The FBI wants to increase the cost of Voice over IP. The VoIP news article has a set of excellent questions that someone ought to be asking the FBI as they seek to extend existing wiretap requirements to VoIP companies. Not only will it increase the cost of commercial VoIP software by requiring those firms to install wiretap backdoors in their systems, the whole exercise is absurd. Here's why.

  • As VoIP News asks, why would criminals use a commercial VoIP offering that was known to have a wiretap backdoor when they could just as easily use their own secure VoIP software. Dozens of VoIP software products are completely free and can be downloaded and installed easily.
  • Some VoIP providers are located outside the U.S., beyond the jurisdiction of the FBI. Why would anyone use a higher-priced U.S. service if a less expensive offshore service with equivalent voice quality is available? Why would international drug rings ever use U.S. services if the FBI has their finger in them? One effect of FBI regulation will be to drive the entire VoIP business out of the United States.
  • Wiretapping only the VoIP data streams of suspected criminals is, well, just dumb. If I were trying to investigate criminal behavior, I'd want to capture their entire data stream. And the FBI can do this now, just by going to the criminal's ISP with a court order and getting the ISP to re-transmit to the FBI every data packet coming from the criminal. This is trivial to do, does not require expensive new software, and is much more likely to provide useful information, since you'd also see email, Web sites, chat, IRC, and any other communications, along with VoIP conversations.

So what's really going on? Occam's Razor may be useful here (the simplest explanation is probably the correct one). Recall that this is the same FBI that just spend $170 million of our tax dollars on a "Virtual Case File" system that does not work. In other words, the FBI has neither good in-house technology advice nor do they seem capable of buying it. Like many other Federal government agencies, when the FBI wants technology, they run to the beltway bandits--the big consulting firms that inhabit the D.C. area, who have a built in conflict of interest when asked by those same agencies to both design and build systems.

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Is Amazon "Big Brother"

I purchase items online all the time, but I've never bought anything from Amazon. In my opinion, they collect too much information about their customers and use it in unethical ways. This CNet article notes even more intrusive data collection by the online giant.

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