privacy

YouTube – ‪Game of Thrones Violin Cover‬‏

This is rather nice.
(tags: music violin game-of-thrones)

YouTube – ‪Lara plays the Game of Thrones theme on piano and violin‬‏

Another nice version of the theme, via andrewducker.
(tags: music game-of-thrones tv)

The Real Life Social Network v2

Via andrewducker,a great presentation from Paul Adams at Google which goes some way to explaining the design of Google Plus.
(tags: internet facebook privacy relationships google social social-networks plus)

How to Talk to a Fundamentalist (If You Must)

Former fundie talks about how her uncle convinced her by asking questions, preventing the whole cached thought/semantic stop sign thing, and showing how alternative ways of living can be fulfilling.
(tags: fundamentalism religion quiverfull debate)

Nick Davies on phone hacking, Murdoch and News of the World – video | Media | guardian.co.uk

The investigative journalist Nick Davies on how the phone-hacking scandal has escalated, leading to News of the World's announced closure.
(tags: video law press news-of-the-world nick-davies murdoch)

Metamagician and the Hellfire Club: On moral evaluations

Blackford points out that morality doesn't require anything spooky or metaphysical to be rational and non-arbitrary, so long as we're prepared to accept that "[w]hatever judgments we make do not compel all comers, regardless of their desire-sets, to act one way or another on pain of making a mistake about the world or something of the sort."
(tags: philosophy morality ethics error-theory mackie russell-blackford)

“Have friends who are atheists? Agnostics? Into Wicca? Or New Age?”

Mefi discovers "Dare2Share", which is one of those worldview based Christian evangelism things where they're training Christians to understand other people's worldviews (which is good) as a preamble to converting them to Christianity (which would be bad). I've linked to Mefi rather than the site itself as the Mefites discussion is interesting. The site has cutesy names for their examplars, like "Willow the Wiccan" and "Andy the Atheist", so the Mefi crowd have come up with a few of their own.
(tags: metafilter apologetics christianity evangelism worldview)

New Statesman – The bugger, bugged

"After a chance meeting with a former News of the World executive who told him his phone had been hacked, Hugh Grant couldn’t resist going back to him – with a hidden tape recorder – to find out if there was more to the story . . . " Coppers taking backhanders from journos, oh my. No wonder the Met dragged their feet about the phone hacking case.
(tags: news journalism crime phones privacy surveillance police hugh-grant hacking)

Scientism « Why Evolution Is True

Jerry Coyne: "when used as a derogatory adjective, “scientism” means this:

the practice of applying rationality and standards of evidence to faith.

For religious people and accommodationists, that practice is a no-no. That’s why the adjective is pejorative."

I think there is something which we could validly call "scientism", namely the belief that science can answer all our questions, or that all questions reduce to scientific ones, or something. However, Coyne's point stands: "scientism" is often code for "how dare you ask us for evidence?"
(tags: scientism science religion jerry-coyne)

Why the New Atheists Failed, and How to Defeat All Religious Arguments in One Easy Step

A neat summary of Luke's problem with Dawkins, and what he thinks is a better argument against theistic explanations. Youtube video with a transcript (hurrah).
(tags: richard-dawkins dawkins atheism religion philosophy explanation)

Curing the gays « Derren Brown Blog

Derren Brown (who's gay, and who used to be a Christian): "I have, however, attended these sorts of church sessions and even courses which set about healing the ‘brokenness’ of homosexuality… I read of such things now and shiver."
(tags: derren-brown gay homosexuality christianity religion philippa-stroud sex)

Top Tory Adviser Ran Prayer Group to “Heal” LGBTS

Focusses on why the media have ignored the story. Contains a comment from one of the people quoted in the original Observer article, something which the regular media won't print, apparently.
(tags: philippa-stroud conservatives conservative politics sex religion homosexuality demons)

Erasing David

Ross Anderson on poor operational security in the NHS, made worse by politics: "Last night’s documentary Erasing David shows how private eyes tracked down a target by making false pretext telephone calls to the NHS. By pretending to be him they found out when he and his wife were due to attend an ante-natal clinic, and ambushed him as he came out."
(tags: privacy security nhs ross-anderson health)

A Bit of Fry and Laurie – A word, Timothy

"Berwhale the Avenger, the Weapon of the Chosen One." "He lives far beyond… in Saffron Walden."
(tags: funny fry-and-laurie stephen-fry fantasy parody berwhale)

Cambridgeshire Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

For Cambridge folk: what's holding up the MisGuided Bus. Looks like the building contractor has the council in some sort of catch-22 about accepting defects in the construction. Should have built a monorail.
(tags: cambridge mgb guided-bus bus transport)

How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked The Harvard Crimson

Ah, the old "get people's failed logins, assume they typed the password for some other place" trick. Someone I knew at university did something similar with his Linux box, back when we all ran Linux boxes in our rooms: he rigged the login to fail the first time and log the password (this being easier than hacking up a special version of the login demon: you just write something to prompt, fail and then pass you on to the real login), and assumed what he got would do for other servers too. Happy days.
(tags: facebook history privacy ethics journalism security harvard internet)

Odds Are, It’s Wrong – Science News

What goes wrong with the 5% significance level in scientific papers.
(tags: science mathematics maths statistics biology medicine bayes bayesian)

Debunking Christianity: Loftus vs Wood Debate: My Opening Statement

"No one would value the opinion of any judge who had a double standard, one for the plaintiff, and a different one for the defendant. Any judge who did that would be placing his thumb on the scales of justice. He wouldn’t be weighing the evidence fairly. And we would object to his ruling. All of us. Tonight I’m going to argue that this is what Christian apologists do when it comes to the evidence for their God."
(tags: religion atheism christianity apologetics)

YouTube – Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

Maths filk is funny: this one is oddly sweet, although I also groaned at various points.
(tags: music video youtube humour mathematics funny maths acapella)

‘Witch’ set to stand in general election

Everyone's favourite Cambridge witch, Magus Lynius Shadee, is going to stand for MP for Cambridge. Policies include getting rid of faith schools (sort of want), banning RE lessons (do not want), more tax on booze (do want, I think). Previously, Shadee was in the news for summoning demons in the local Catholic church, and for threatening to open an occult shop in Cambridge. He's Satan's gift to local journalism.
(tags: witchcraft woo-woo paganism politics)

Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian

The Onion scores again. HT to Friendly Atheist.
(tags: politics religion humour funnny onion homosexuality)

Oh no! “Licentiousness breeds extremism”

"Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has a worrying column in The Independent. It is not worrying because of the concerns she raises about "licentiousness", "social nihilism", "debauchery", etc., but because it is another example of blaming the victims. Somehow the blame for Islamist terrorism is to be sheeted home to the relative sexual permissiveness of Western (in this case, British) society. It is also worrying because Alibhai-Brown is supposed to be an example of a moderate Muslim"
(tags: islam muslim uk politics sex religion terrorism)

Conversations About The Internet #5: Anonymous Facebook Employee – The Rumpus.net

Interesting stuff about privacy and re-writing PHP. HT to Andrew Ducker.
(tags: culture internet facebook security privacy media social programming php)

Beyond belief

Short but interesting article on the growth of atheism in Australia.
(tags: atheism religion australia)

Heresy Corner: Sir Ian Blair defends the indefensible

I do try not to link to every single thing Heresiarch posts, but this is a particularly good one. " Evidence that the powers have been used inappropriately is not hard to find. Much more striking is the lack of evidence that the powers have ever been used appropriately. No terrorism-related charges have been brought against anyone as a result of a search carried out under the 2000 Terrorism Act".
(tags: terrorism politics ian-blair crime police)

Whenever I post a comment on LiveJournal, I get an email containing the text of it. I’ve written a Python program which turns these into an Atom feed, so that people could stalk me more easily by subscribing to the feed. I get into some interesting discussions on other people’s LJs, so I thought such a feed might be useful.

The program checks that the comment is on a public posting and doesn’t publish it if it isn’t (you can do this by submitting an HTTP HEAD request for the entry in question and seeing whether LJ redirects you to login or sends you a 4xx response, both of which I take to mean “don’t publish”). Edited to add: the program also periodically re-checks for posts changing their privacy settings (there’s a cache with an exponential backoff from a couple of hours to a month to avoid annoying LJ: the backoff is restarted if the entry’s privacy changes).

I’m not sure whether to do further checks before publishing the comment. On the one hand, all I’m doing is publishing my own words as they appear in someone’s public posting. On the other hand, sometimes people are quite surprised to find that people read stuff they’ve made public, and I don’t want to annoy my friends. Since I mostly comment on your journals, what do you think?

[ LJ Poll 1242038 ]

I have a message between two people who aren’t me (and aren’t known to me, don’t worry!) sat in both my Facebook Inbox and Sent Messages. The message was sent at 3:04 pm today, apparently.

This does not appear to be the problem mentioned in The Register recently, whose symptoms were that people would see whole pages belonging to other users. I can see my Inbox with messages people have sent to me, but I can see a message between these two people in it. I’ve sent them a message to ask whether they meant to message me, but right now, that looks unlikely.

A while back I wrote about some of the advantages of centralisation for keeping out spam and making new features available quickly. The downside, as livredor pointed out, is that Facebook is a single point of failure.

Could this happen with standard Internet email? Yes: I could mis-address the mail (less likely if I use an address book rather than typing an address by hand), or the recipient’s server could mis-deliver it (usually, if my outbound server hands my mail to the wrong remote server, the remote end will reject it). Are popular mail servers more reliable than Facebook? Almost certainly, I’d say. Lots of people are on Facebook, but I reckon the volume of Internet email is still orders of magnitude greater than that of Facebook messages. The email servers handling that volume are so reliable that I’ve never heard of a case of mis-delivered (as opposed to mis-addressed or lost) email. Google Groups doesn’t seem to have done so either, or at least, the evidence is uncertain. The Usenet postings I found talking about mis-delivered mail seemed to be explained by the little-known fact that Internet email is like a letter: there’s an envelope destination address used to deliver it, as well as the “Dear Fred” saluation you see in the To: header or Cc: header. I had a friend at university who used to send out party invites which looked as if they been addressed to president@whitehouse.gov and god@heaven.org. Anyway…

Don’t send anything sensitive in Facebook messages, will you?

Edited to add: The message has gone again now. I’ve used the help form to tell Facebook about it, so we’ll see what they say.

I look up potential interviewees on Facebook (as well as Google, obviously). Unlike the proctors at Oxfrod, I don’t care whether you’ve been photographed covered in flour or shaving cream, as long as you look like someone who’s smart, and gets things done.

livredor recently posted an entry in which she talks about online privacy, linking to Charlie Stross’s essay on the subject. I think Stross has this article on teenagers and online privacy in mind when he talks of a generation growing up with the idea that you have no privacy online and it doesn’t matter anyway. livredor is coming to the conclusion (which I share, see my replies in the comments) that she “should just make everything open and take care never to post anything that I could be ashamed or embarrassed about”.

As the comments on her posting point out, the problem is working out what you could be embarrassed about. The problems mentioned in the Times article are partly the result of a generation gap between people who aren’t surprised that some of their peers have put their lives online, warts and all, and the staid elders who are shocked to learn stuff that proctors, employers and parents didn’t previously find out about. I suspect that absence of evidence of shaving cream was never really evidence of absence, but it’s going to take a while for the elders to work that out. It seems sensible for the younger people to be a little circumspect in the meantime, so it’s not surprising that many existing Facebook users are tightening up their privacy options. Relying on privacy settings is another risk, because you’re trusting your e-friends and the site you’re using, but at least you’re keeping your embarrassing university antics out of sight of indexers and archivers, and you’re not assuming that the elders cannot join the site you’re using.

livredor also mentioned the possible problems which might be caused by people migrating away from email to the messaging systems offered by sites like Facebook. Gervase Markham has some thoughts on the subject. Conventional email is a lot less slick than, say, Facebook’s internal messages, and faces a greater spam problem, in part because email is distributed but Facebook has centralised control. These proprietary systems have their downsides too, of course: balkanisation, and a single point of failure when Facebook gets shut down by a law suit.

I think there’s some mileage in building an email system which is a bit more like Facebook’s walled garden. When I say spam in its current form is a solved problem, what I mean is that you can solve it by only accepting messages from well-behaved parts of the Internet. What I mean by well-behaved is stuff like not being in space given to cable modems and the like (Spamhaus PBL, checks on the presence of reverse DNS and that the hostname does not contain some variant of the IP address), not being a known baddie (Spamhaus SBL and XBL or your own email providers local list of scumbags), and not sending bulk email except by prior arrangement (DCC with whitelisting for mailing lists).

Alas, not all badly-behaved emailers are spammers, some of them are just managed by incompetents. Sometimes these incompetents work for large companies who aren’t going to change, so you have to start making holes in your garden wall to keep your users happy. However, an inbound email gateway for a hugely popular site like Facebook could enforce these restrictions by fiat without losing anything, since their users are using the internal system to send each other messages anyway, so anything else is a bonus (you could also make a nice interface for whitelisting legitimate bulk senders by requiring them to produce a Facebook application, say). If Facebook does take over the world, it needn’t mean the death of email. It might just bring the incompetents into line, we can but hope.