September 2005


Friends & Family28 Sep 2005 08:53 pm

My partner Justin was on The David Lawrence Show tonight talking about his recent “drug holiday.” No, it’s not a long weekend in a crack house in Medellín. He took two weeks off from his drug regimen treating his attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Justin wrote about this in a blog entry entitled Diary of an ADD ‘Drug Holiday’, and talks a little more about it in his post about appearing on David’s radio show.

I’m very proud of Justin for being so open about a part of his life that has caused him a lot of pain over the years. I’m especially proud of him for going on the radio and for writing about it on his blog, so that others might learn from his experiences.

Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who don’t “believe” in things like ADD, as if it mattered one bit what their opinion is of someone else’s physical or mental challenges in life. Just because you can’t see a cancer cell, or a virus, or an imbalance in neurotransmitter chemicals, doesn’t mean that the conditions doesn’t exist. And nobody gives a rat’s patootie whether you “believe” it exists. So if you’re one of those who doesn’t believe in ADD, rest assured that I don’t believe in your right to have an opinion on the matter. :)

But what I can tell you is that my husband’s life is both qualitatively and quantitatively better since going on his drug treatment for ADD. And that has made my life better too. If you think you might have ADD, or know someone who might, I encourage you to visit Justin’s writings and to talk to your doctor. And if your doctor doesn’t “believe” in ADD, go find a more professional physician who won’t pick and choose what maladies he or she feels like treating.

News & Culture & Sillycon Valley Biz27 Sep 2005 12:51 pm

The good folks at Good Morning Silicon Valley noticed something interesting today: Google is talking to C|Net News.com after about two months of the silent treatment. Like most toddlers who decide to refuse to talk, it breaks down the moment they have something exciting to share.

Congratulations to Google on passing this milestone. After all the ruckus, it was probably more like passing a kidney stone… but let’s just embrace the fact that they came ’round at all. :-D

Mobile Tech & News & Culture27 Sep 2005 02:12 am

According to the AP, actor and comedian Don Adams — famous for starring as the bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart — is dead at age 82.

His television series, “Get Smart”, debuted in September 1965. A spoof on the wildly popular James Bond films of the same era, the show won two Emmys for best comedy series and three Emmys for Adams as comedy actor.

As the inept Agent 86 of the super-secret federal agency CONTROL, Adams captured TV viewers with his antics in combatting the evil agents of KAOS. When his explanations failed to convince the villains or his boss, he tried another tack: “Would you believe … ?”

In doing a little searching, I found that his famous Shoe Phone is in the CIA’s museum along with this priceless bit of dialogue:

Operator: “What number are you calling?”
Smart: “I’m calling Control, Operator!”
Operator: “You have dialed incorrectly. Give me your name and address and your dime will be refunded.”
Smart: “Operator, I’m calling from my shoe!”
Operator: “What is the number of your shoe?”
Smart: “It’s an unlisted shoe, Operator!”

And for a privacy guy like me, who can forget the Cone of Silence… where you could hear everything on the outside perfectly, but couldn’t hear each other. :)

Cone of Silence

The Washington Post also had a wonderful appreciation of Maxwell Smart’s impact on American language… including “Would you believe…?”, “Sorry about that,chief!”, and “… and loving it!”

RIP, Agent 86!

Law & Mobile Tech & Spam26 Sep 2005 09:12 pm

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for spammers in courts around the U.S.

On September 20, an Arizona appeals court upheld a lower court decision which found that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 does indeed apply to Short Message Service (SMS) spam sent to mobile phones.

The case, Joffe v. Acacia Mortgage Corp., is another victory for Rodney Joffe, my friend and a fellow co-conspirator in Whitehat.com.

According to the AP:

Acacia argued that it had only sent a message and did not “call” Joffe, but the Court of Appeals said that was an incomplete description of what the company did when it used e-mail to indirectly connect to Joffe’s cell phone and place a text message.

“Even though Acacia used an attenuated method to dial a cell phone telephone number, it nevertheless did so,” Judge Patricia K. Norris wrote for the panel.

Then, on September 22, we learned in late word from Oklahoma that one of today’s most prolific spammers, Robert Soloway, was ordered by a federal judge to pay more than $10 Million in statutory damages and has been permanently ordered to stop his spamming ways. Failure to heed the judge’s order can result in arrest, extradition to Oklahoma, and jail for contempt of court.

Careful readers of PrivacyClue will remember that Robert Soloway recently got on my bad side by sending out the text of a column I wrote, making it appear as if I had sent the spam. As a result of the court’s injunction, if Soloway sends any more spam in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act, he’s looking at jail time.

I’m sure his Mom is so proud!

Mobile Tech & Privacy22 Sep 2005 11:31 am

There seems to, finally, be a shift in coverage of Google towards the skeptical! No longer merely reprinting Google’s press releases about how wonderful and privacy-friendly every new service offering is, some analysts are finally seeing the bigger picture. Today’s case-in-point: Google’s new Wi-Fi offering dubbed Google Secure Access.

The concept is simple: Google plans to offer a free wireless Internet service in numerous major cities. They call it “secure” because you must first download a Virtual Private Network application which encrypts your signal guarding against having your data packets sniffed out of mid-air by hackers, the NSA, and other ne’er-do-wells. Your secured data then travels to and from the sites you visit, whizzing right past the gaping maw of Google’s massive data-mining infrastructure.. which stands by slack-jawed, leaving your private information alone.

In their privacy statement, they promise that your privacy is completely protected, unless they think you’re a bad guy — or were told you were a bad guy by law enforcement — whereupon they’ll capture everything. In this way Google is no different than any ISP who can, if needs be, capture every packet that comes to and from your computer.

But the real difference here is that Google’s model, thus far, has been to provide free services supported by targeted advertising. During this ‘beta’ phase, where the Google service is being tested in a number of major market cities around the globe, the service is free. Ask any analyst and, unless they’re too deeply pickled in Google’s Kool-Aid, they’ll tell you that Google is desperately seeking alternative revenue sources. Not that they’re hurting for cash… but they just don’t want to be a one-trick pony.

The bottom line remains the Bottom Line: Google will have to pay for Google Secure Access somehow. And that will be through charging a fee, or by doing what Google does best — shove data into the gaping maw and serve advertisements.

And just when you thought I was the lone nut in the wilderness, somebody else expresses reservations:

“[I want to] ask an uncomfortable question: How much of your life do you want to put at Google’s disposal? I’ve already noted several times that Google primarily offers all this really cool free stuff in order to mine your hard drive for information and use it to sell ads. That’s why Google’s ‘Secure Access’ program — the first bit of the WiFi strategy to hit the street — is such a spooky irony. It encrypts your WiFi data streams and filters your net experience through Google’s “secure” servers. Basically, Google is saying, ‘Use our encryption servers so no one will snoop on your data — except us.'”

Just another reason to look closely at the fine print in Google’s Privacy Policy, and to make a choice about how comfortable you are with the vague promises therein, especially as revenue pressures mount.

[Note: If you find the title of this posting odd, click here.]

Malware20 Sep 2005 02:34 pm

I am an avid user of Instant Messaging (IM), using it to keep in touch with business colleagues, friends, and family around the world.

Because I have friends scattered among the three major services — AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger — I have accounts on all three. But AOL’s history of intrusive and annoying advertising practices has ensured that I won’t touch the AIM client software.

My grudge against the AIM software began a few years ago while I was in the middle of several months of radio interviews promoting one of my books, Fighting Spam for Dummies. (Speaking of intrusive advertising, you can pick up my book at your favorite online retailer!)

One particular morning, I had arisen around 3 a.m. PST to do a morning drive-time interview on a major East Coast market radio station. Shuffling to my desk in my bunny slippers and bathrobe, I fired up my computer so I would have my notes handy during the interview, and then I made the call into the radio station.

The interview started well, but just a few moments into it, my computer began to loudly play what sounded like a commercial for an action movie. The sounds of martial arts music and exploding bad guys were being blared over my phone to thousands of the radio station’s listeners, drowning out my own voice.

Panicking, I quickly tried to stop whatever was playing on my computer, but I couldn’t find it! In my haste to make the noise stop, I wound up unplugging my computer. That stopped the racket, but the damage was already done: The radio host thought I was nuts, I was flustered and struggling to pick up where I’d left off, and the 90-second segment was almost over.

In the aftermath, it took me quite a while but I managed to track down the source of the disaster: AIM.

To read more, go to my article AIM: Getting More than You Bargained For at eSecurityPlanet.com.

News & Culture & Privacy15 Sep 2005 08:12 am

(Reuters) U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, 2005.

At least it wasn’t missile codes.

Law & Privacy13 Sep 2005 12:52 pm

According to numerous reports, conservative Supreme Court nominee John Roberts testified that he believes the U.S. Constitution contains a right of privacy, backing away from a memorandum he wrote during the Reagan administration in which he summarized arguments against a privacy right.

The question of Constitutional protections for privacy are of tremendous importance because they underpin critical Supreme Court decisions, including the landmark Roe v. Wade decision which gives women access to abortions.

“The right to privacy is protected under the Constitution in various ways,” Roberts said today. But he stopped short of discussing the sensitive topic of abortion directly.

Although the Constitution doesn’t mention the word “privacy,” Supreme Court rulings have established that many of the rights that are specified in the Constitution — such religious freedoms, limits on warrantless searches, and even the right to be free of soldiers in your home — all point to the idea that privacy rights live within the scope of those rights. As such, the Court has held that privacy rights are also part of the freedom to marry and procreate as well as to have access to abortions and to use contraceptives.

Roberts’s views had been in question, in part because of the language he used in a 1981 Justice Department memo, referring to the “so-called ‘right to privacy.'” Roberts explained that the memo didn’t contain his personal views, rather that his assignment in writing the memo was the summarize the arguments of former Harvard Law School Dean Erwin Griswold, who had at the time given a speech criticizing the high court’s privacy cases.

Roberts also suggested he would be slow to overturn such Supreme Court decisions as the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling that reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. He said the Casey decision was a “precedent of the court entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis.”

Stare decisis is the Latin term for the principle that, once the court decides and issue, it generally won’t go back and change its mind on well-settled rulings.

“It is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent,” Roberts told the Senate. “Precedent plays an important role in promoting stability and evenhandedness. It is not enough to think the prior decision was wrongly decided.”

For those who are concerned about protecting individual privacy rights, Roberts’s words are informative but not ultimately comforting. While he’s not prepared to create havoc by rolling back a generation’s reliance on these decisions, he is certainly leaving open the possibility that, if given the opportunity to further narrow these rights, he could still do so. This is what still concerns many, and rightly so.

One set of concerns is explained by Bill Scher in an entry at Huffington Post:

If Roberts’ definition of privacy rights encompasses the views of “every justice” — including Justices Scalia, Thomas and the late William Rehnquist — then it has nothing to with the privacy right that currently underpins the right to an abortion and the right to be gay. Because the three tried to squelch those rights.

Even Roberts’ seemingly explicit embrace of Griswold v. Connecticut was shady. Griswold is the case which concluded there is a broad right to privacy inherent in the Constitution, and was a precursor to Roe v. Wade. But when Roberts endorsed Griswold, he did not endorse its ruling that there is a broad right to privacy. He only said, “I agree with the Griswold court’s conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception.” Just marital privacy!

Privacy13 Sep 2005 12:01 pm

According to an AP story, three former residents of New Orleans are being held without bail in Mississippi pending identity theft charges. According to Jones County Sheriff Larry Dykes, the three posed as workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and were asking victims for their names, Social Security numbers, and other personal data. They were caught at a large auditorium called the Magnolia Center in Laurel, MS, which is housing over 1700 evacuees.