December 11th, 2013
Josh Costello is the playwright who created the award-winning, sold-out stage adaptation of my novel Little Brother. Now, he writes, "The stage adaptation of Cory's novel Little Brother was a big hit in San Francisco in 2012, and the script is now available for licensing. Want to see Little Brother on stage in your city? Playwright Josh Costello has posted information about licensing the script, along with video clips, photos, and reviews from the premiere. If you know folks in your local theatre community that might be interested in producing the play, this is where to send them.
"Theaters will want to know that the adaptation is a full-length play for three actors (one woman and two men). There is also a large-cast version available (which might especially appeal to schools). A script sample (as published in Theatre Bay Area Magazine) is available for download.
If you’re an Artistic Director or Literary Manager looking for a small-cast play that speaks to the present moment, that appeals to a younger audience, and that comes with a sizable fan base eager to buy tickets, please take a look and let me know you’d like to read the script.
If you’re looking for a large-cast play with great parts for young people — perhaps for production at a high school or college — there is a large-cast version of the adaptation available as well.
If you’re a fan of the book and you want to see the play performed in your city, let’s make it happen. If you know folks in your local theatre community, tell them about the play and send them here (and let me know as well so I can follow up). If you don’t know anyone, let me know and I’ll see if I can make a connection.
The premiere production in San Francisco was immensely exciting, artistically fulfilling for me personally, and tremendously successful. I know it would be a hit in other cities as well — Cory Doctorow’s novel is so good, and the story is as relevant as ever. Let’s do it again.
Let’s get Little Brother back on stage
Our friend Glenn Fleishman is crowdfunding a book of non-fiction essays and stories from a couple of dozen writers, along with work from illustrators and photographers. The stories were originally published in the first year of The Magazine, the ad-free electronic publication he edits and publishes. We've published a few of the stories appearing in the collection here at Boing Boing, as we feature a story of theirs every week or so.
You can back the project to get an ebook (in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI, with no DRM encryption at all), or both the hardcover and ebook version as a bundle. The project is past the 50% mark towards its funding goal, but it still needs several hundred more backers to pledge for books.
The book includes many tales that Boing Boing readers can relate to or enjoy, like having a secret superhero life (in this case, as a roller-derby racer), a small town trying to build a 60-foot-tall lava lamp, or finding the joy in the video-game Journey, which is quiet and emphasizes communication instead of blowing people up. You can download a PDF with sample layouts and the complete version of Scott Simpson's essay, "You Are Boring," which pokes fun at posers and groupthink. There's a full list of stories with brief explanations at the Kickstarter project page.
Glenn is a long-time Boing Boing contributor, and he likes to make sure that writers and artists get paid for their work. The budget for the Kickstarter includes reprint fees for everyone who contributes, and Glenn is increasing the rates if the project reaches a stretch target beyond its initial goal, as more copies printed reduce the cost of each book.
The book's cover is by one of our favorite painters, Amy Crehore, and is being sold as a separate fine-art print (with no logo or type on it) during the Kickstarter in a signed and numbered edition. There's also a limited-edition fine-art print by painter Olivia Warnecke of butterflies and moths of the southern California mountain ranges.
We could go on and on about the book, but we'd rather share with you some of the illustrations that will appear in it.
Glitch in the Afterlife
Stewart Butterfield tells how a few million dollars worth of art, created for a beloved massively-multiplayer game, ended up in the public domain after its death.
Working on the now-defunct massively multiplayer game Glitch meant daily conversations — most of them quite earnest and a few of them even heated — on topics such as what a bubble tuner should do (aside from "tuning" the bubbles one harvests from a bubble tree) or which alchemical compounds should be required to produce a Powder of Startling Fecundity.
We were creating a world that was deliberately preposterous, one where "that seems implausible" was considered as a statement of praise. Players would go about donating to shrines in order to gain favor with one of the Eleven Giants in whose shared imagination the whole world existed, so that they could speed up the rate at which they were learning skills like "Bureaucratic Arts" or "Soil Appreciation". After several years of effort, the game actually got fairly fun.
Cosma, Lem & Spriggan, three of the Eleven Giants in whose imagination the world of Glitch existed
In the end, however, it got fun too late. It didn't help that we were on the wrong side of a big technological shift, building around Flash as a client technology right before people started shifting their "discretionary computer time" from laptops to phones and tablets where the game couldn’t run. It eventually became clear that the game was never going to be a sustainable business. So in November of 2012, it was shut down.
Samples of some of the thousands of images created by players using the in-game "snapshotting" skill.
The shutdown was very sad. Thankfully, the decision happened with enough time to give players refunds for their purchases and launch a campaign to get new (and mostly better) jobs for the team.
But there were a lot of broken hearts out there, as there is any time the medium for an online community ceases to exist. There was also a deep sense of loss, shared by the players and the developers, for all the creative effort that went into constructing the world.
Concept art for player’s rag-doll like butlers who would stand outside their homes to interact with passing visitors.
A spritesheet showing individual frames of the dance animation for one possible butler customization
The team that gave life to the game's concepts were hugely talented. The expression of this world was both vast in scale —a huge variety of locations designed in a bewildering number of artistic styles— and minutely detailed, with hundreds of items, many individually animated and highly customizable.
Samples of a few of the landscape styles from the world of Glitch
But with the game offline and the art assets locked up in proprietary formats on private servers, the whole thing was effectively gone. The idea that all of that effort and creativity being forever inaccessible seemed more than a shame: it seemed almost criminal. One way to help mend those broken hearts was to get it back out into the world.
And so it was an easy decision to to contribute the art (along with all the writing, and nearly all of the code) to the public domain. The logistics took a while, but in November 2013, the formal announcement was made and all of the packaged-up assets and code were published on the Glitch site.
There are more than ten thousand items, millions of frames of animation and tens of thousands of lines of code to control them. It includes the whole avatar system, the world’s flora (from bubble trees to egg plants) and fauna (from metal-eating tree sloths to milkable butterflies), hundreds of unique characters (from the mythic Giants and the Rook to everyday vendors and street spirits), thousands of items (tools, resources, furniture), the complete housing and tower building systems and many thousands of environmental art assets used to create a massive world with dozens of styles.
A player, having just completed a puzzle quest stands outside the Rube’s house.
By giving up our ownership and any rights associated with all these designs, images, characters, drawings, animations, systems, and code, we hope more people will be more easily able to create new works with them. (The initial release was targeted towards developers; the hope is that they will repurpose the assets in ways that will lower the technical barriers so they can be enjoyed, appreciated, or re-used by more people.)
It doesn't matter to us if those new works are commercial or artistic or educational. It doesn't matter if the Glitch art is just the basis for inspiring something else or if it is reproduced exactly. It doesn't matter if we like the results or not. Anyone can use any of it for whatever purpose they want without any restrictions.
Some of the different health and production states for a mature gas plant.
That measure of freedom is important to us because when you come down to it, as a species, culture is all we’ve got. The more of it we make, the better. The freer the materials the easier it is for people to make new things.
Glitch was not a significant cultural milestone in its own right, but we hope that it has an outsize impact in its ability to foster the creation of more art and the expression of more creativity.
So please: help yourself. Go and make something beautiful.
Glitch was created by Tiny Speck. After shutting Glitch down, the company began work on Slack, a tool for team communication that was built on the systems used in developing Glitch.
Slack is currently in ‘preview release’ and is being used by high-performing teams like Soundcloud, Rdio, Buzzfeed, Medium & Lonely Planet. It will launch early next year.
December 10th, 2013
A new set of leaked NSA slides from the Snowden trove was published in the Washington Post today, detailing NSA/GCHQ's use of Web cookies (including Google's PREF cookie) to uniquely identify people as they move around the Web, in order to target them and compromise them.
They also report on an NSA program called HAPPYFOOT that uses mobile phones to do very fine-grained tracking of targets.
Ed Felten, an eminent computer scientist and security researcher, has written a lengthy comment on the disclosures, exploring the different options companies have if they want to safeguard their tracking cookies from being hijacked by the NSA. His primary recommendation is that these cookies should only be sent over SSL.
Google assigns a unique PREF cookie anytime someone's browser makes a connection to any of the company's Web properties or services. This can occur when consumers directly use Google services such as Search or Maps, or when they visit Web sites that contain embedded "widgets" for the company's social media platform Google Plus. That cookie contains a code that allows Google to uniquely track users to "personalize ads" and measure how they use other Google products.
Given the widespread use of Google services and widgets, most Web users are likely to have a Google PREF cookie even if they've never visited a Google property directly.
That PREF cookie is specifically mentioned in an internal NSA slide, which reference the NSA using GooglePREFID, their shorthand for the unique numeric identifier contained within Google's PREF cookie. Special Source Operations (SSO) is an NSA division that works with private companies to scoop up data as it flows over the Internet's backbone and from technology companies' own systems. The slide indicates that SSO was sharing information containing "logins, cookies, and GooglePREFID" with another NSA division called Tailored Access Operations, which engages in offensive hacking operations. SSO also shares the information with the British intelligence agency GCHQ.
"This shows a link between the sort of tracking that's done by Web sites for analytics and advertising and NSA exploitation activities," says Ed Felten, a computer scientist at Princeton University. "By allowing themselves to be tracked for analytic or advertising at least some users are making themselves more vulnerable to exploitation."
NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking [Ashkan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman/Washington Post]
California State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrest of a man said to have owned and operated a so-called revenge porn website. According to the arrest warrant (PDF), the site operated by Kevin Christopher Bollaert published over 10,000 sexually explicit photos. The young women who appeared in these images, some of whom were minors at the time they were taken, were charged up to $350 each to be removed from the site.
California Department of Justice agents arrested Bollaert, 27, in San Diego where he lived. He is in San Diego County jail on $50,000 bail, and has been charged with 31 felony counts of conspiracy, identity theft and extortion. If he is convicted, penalties may include jail time and fines.
The arrest warrant is well worth a read. It includes the stories of a number of young women who ended up physically exposed and personally identified on the internet against their will. In some cases, private photos made their way online after their accounts were hacked or phones snatched. The women speak about how that violation damaged their lives and destroyed their sense of privacy.
During an in-person interview with two special agents, Bollaert bemoaned the burden of all those emails he was receiving from young women and teens, asking for images to be removed -- a service he charged hundreds of bucks for.
"At the beginning this was like fun and entertaining," he said to the agents, "But now it's ruining my life." At the end of the meeting, the agents served him with search warrants.
Also, the agents discovered that Bollaert's site rejected photographs of nude cats:
More from the Attorney General's announcement below:
Court documents allege that, in December 2012, Bollaert created the website ugotposted.com, which allows the anonymous, public posting of private photographs containing nude and explicit images of individuals without their permission. Commonly knows as revenge porn, the photos are typically obtained consensually by the poster during a prior relationship or are stolen or hacked. Unlike many other revenge porn websites where the subject of the photos is anonymous, ugotposted.com required that the poster include the subject’s full name, location, age and facebook profile link.
California Penal Code sections 530.5 and 653m (b) make it illegal to willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information, including name, age and address, for any unlawful purpose, including with the intent to annoy or harass.
Court documents also allege that Bollaert created a second website, changemyreputation.com, in October 2012, which he used when individuals contacted ugotposted.com requesting that content be removed from the site. Bollaert would allegedly extort victims by replying with a changemyreputation.com email address and offering to remove the content for a fee ranging from $299.99 to $350, which could be paid using an online PayPal account referenced in the emails. Ballaert allegedly told investigators, according to court documents, that he made around $900 per month from advertising on the site and records obtained from his changemyreputation.com PayPal account indicate that he received payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars.
According to court documents, ugotposted.com’s registration listed a billing address in San Diego, CA.
The arrest comes after a six-month investigation by the California Attorney General’s eCrime unit.
Attorney General Harris created the eCrime Unit in 2011 to identify and prosecute identity theft crimes, cybercrimes and other crimes involving the use of technology.
Individuals who feel they are victims of ugotposted.com or other revenge porn websites should file a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office here.
Please note that a complaint contains only allegations against a person and, as with all defendants, Kevin Christopher Bollaert, must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The state's complaint is here (PDF).
Detail, Arrest Warrant.
On Tor.com, Alex Brown reviews Ian Tregellis's new novel, Something More Than Night, a noirish hard-boiled detective novel about angels and extreme physics. Tregillis wrote the spectacular Milkweed Triptych, a trilogy of novels that suppose that the Nazis had a horrific, X-men-like experiment that produced superbeings who could only be held back by the secret work of English warlocks and the blood-thirsty cosmic powers they served. With Milkweed, Tregillis showed himself to be a literary chameleon, who could handle two-fisted WWII fightin' action (Bitter Seeds); Cold War spy thrillers (The Coldest War) and mind-bending, existential time-travel science fiction (Necessary Evil -- the best of the very good lot). Now, with Something More Than Night, he changes voice yet again, and with excellent effect:
It all starts when somebody murders the archangel Gabriel. A lowly nobody angel named Bayliss is tapped by the higher ups to help fill the vacuum left by the recently deceased, and, of course, being a lowly nobody, he botches the job. He shoves Molly, a stubborn, opinionated, complicated young woman, under a train instead of her less obstructive brother like he was supposed to. To make matters worse, when Gabby died, the Jericho Trumpet disappeared. To the rest of the heavenly Choir, that Trumpet is the most powerful thing in existence, so naturally they assume his redheaded replacement knows the score. Too bad she doesn’t.
Bayliss is so low on the totem pole that he’s practically trapped on earth. He can make little side trips here and there into his personal heaven (Magesterium) or into “Heaven” itself (Pleroma), but because he’s spent so much time on earth he’s adopted some of the quirkier habits of the “monkeys.” In particular, he’s got quite the fetish for playing Sam Spade, down to speaking in the jargon nonstop, much to Molly’s chagrin.
Playing the role of the noir antihero means adhering to certain tropes, and both luckily and unluckily for Molly, Bayliss feels responsible for dragging her into such a life-threatening mess. He sets about trying to sort out who killed Gabby and why. Molly, refusing to play the damsel in distress, takes matters into her own hands and runs her own parallel investigation. Good thing, too, because what she uncovers has set its sights on its own selfish means, with no regard for the mortal lives in the way. And just when you think you’ve sussed out Plot Twist #8952, Tregillis throws a wrench into the whole operation and you realize just how great a writer he really is.
Something More Than Night [Amazon]
After the Big Sleep: Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis [Alex Brown/Tor.com]
In this episode of Boing Boing's Tell Me Something I Don't Know podcast, we speak with Joseph Lupo
, a printmaker and professor at West Virginia University
. His work focuses on how writers and artists communicate through comics. For more than a decade, he has deconstructed and examined a single volume of The Invincible Iron Man
comic book: Volume 01, Issue 178, published in 1984.
"It is a different kind of superhero issue for a few reasons," says Lupo. "For one, never in this story does the superhero Iron Man ever directly appear. Also, this issue is split into two different story lines."
Using that single issue as source material, he invited 23 nationally-recognized artists to create new work inspired by that original comic. The result: a curated group exhibition, "Shame of the City: Deconstructing and Reconstructing Comic Book Narratives," which opens at Future Tenant in Pittsburgh on December 13, 2013.
We speak with Lupo about the show, and what we can learn about communication from studying comics.
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Tell Me Something I Don't Know is produced and hosted by three talented cartoonists and illustrators:
Jim Rugg, a Pittsburgh-based comic book artist, graphic designer, zinemaker, and writer best known for Afrodisiac, The Plain Janes, and Street Angel. His latest project is SUPERMAG.
Jasen Lex is a designer and illustrator from Pittsburgh. He is currently working on a graphic novel called Washington Unbound. All of his art and comics can be found at jasenlex.com.
Ed Piskor is the cartoonist who drew the comic, Wizzywig, and draws the Brain Rot/ Hip Hop Family Tree comic strip at this very site, soon to be collected by Fantagraphics Books and available for pre-order now.
Oklahoma City's state capitol is home to a controversial monument to the Ten Commandments, donated by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. Mike Ritze. The state legislature has been adamant that a religious monument on the lawn somehow didn't violate the principle of separation of church and state. Taking them at their word, NYC's Satanic Temple would like to see a monument to Satanic principles placed on the lawn alongside of it. They're raising funds for monument on Indiegogo, and insist that it will be "in good taste and consistent with community standards." Naturally, the state lawmakers are satisfyingly incandescent at the prospect. The ACLU is suing to abolish religious monuments on the state capital grounds altogether.
"This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state," said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. "I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation."
"It is not something the people of Oklahoma would support, and the people of Oklahoma support the Ten Commandments monument," said Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa.
"It is not going to get approved here without a court battle," said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove. "I can assure you."
The Ten Commandments monument was paid for with $10,000 donated by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. Mike Ritze and his family plus $10,000 raised privately.
State lawmakers slam proposed Satanist monument [Barbara Hoberock/Tulsa World]
Over on Long Forgotten (a Haunted Mansion blog that is so fantastically great that every post is a cause for celebration), there's a new post about suits of armor and haunted houses that reveals (among other things) that the helmet of the famous armor by the Haunted Mansion's infinite corridor was originally an ornamental piece worn by Martin Luther's archenemy Albrecht von Brandenburg, the indulgence-flogging Archbishop of Mainz. What's more, there's a damned good reason why they only used the helmet (click through to find out why).
For me, though, the highlight of the piece was this excellent description of why suits are armor are inherently spooky:
It isn't hard to explain why suits of armor are scary. First of all, they're ancient and unfamiliar, from another time and place, and often they are holding wicked-looking weaponry. Armor, after all, is supposed to look intimidating. Second, they present you with a human-shaped vacuum that could easily be a hiding place for a prankster or a villain—you can't tell by looking. Since you don't know for sure if anything is in there, when you see one your fight-or-flight instinct is automatically put on low level alert (otherwise known as the jitters). Funny, but you can't help imagining them starting to move, however vague or backgrounded or foolish this anticipation might be. Third (and best of all in my book), despite any misgivings you may have, it is nevertheless presumed that suits of armor are likely to be empty, which is to say they contain nothing, they define a void, they create a something-that-isn't-there, and this "nothing" is in the shape of a human. See? You've practically molded for yourself a ghost, instantly and automatically! With a suit of armor, it's all so easy that it's practically cheating.
Eric Crinnian, a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, says that a police officer threatened to destroy his possessions and shoot his dog unless he was permitted to enter Crinnian's home without a warrant. The officer was apparently seeking two men who'd violated their parole; when Crinnian said he'd never heard of the men, the officer asked to come inside to verify that they weren't there. Crinnian told him to go get a warrant, and the officer said that, in serving such a warrant, he would be sure to destroy Crinnian's possessions and kill his pets.
Making such a threat is apparently legal in Missouri, if you are a police officer.
They wanted to know where two guys were, and Crinnian later found out police believed they violated parole.
“I said, ‘I have no idea who you’re talking about I’ve never heard of these people before,’” he said.
To prove it, he said police asked to search his house, Crinnian refused multiple times. He said they needed a warrant.
Then he said one police officer started threatening him saying, “If we have to get a warrant, we’re going to come back when you’re not expecting it, we’re going to park in front of your house, where all your neighbors can see, we’re gonna bust in your door with a battering ram, we’re gonna shoot and kill your dogs, who are my family, and then we’re going to ransack your house looking for these people.”
Man says police officer threatened to kill his dogs [Abby Eden/Fox 4 KC]
The Pirate Bay's .sx was seized this morning, and the site has relocated to thepiratebay.ac. The .AC top-level domain is controlled by Ascension Islands, a UK territory, and a Pirate Bay spokesperson announced that the change was only temporary, with another new domain (.pe, in Peru) in the wings. This is the fifth time that The Pirate Bay had its domain seized in 2013.
The Pirate Bay, meanwhile, continues to be accessible through the new .AC domain, although only briefly since the ccTLD is UK controlled.
“The AC domain is directly connected to the UK, so it’s just a quick stop there,” a Pirate Bay insider told us. After solving some technical issues the infamous torrent site plans to move to the Peruvian .PE ccTLD.
ThePirateBay.pe will be the fifth domain name for The Pirate Bay in 2013.
Fearing a domain seizure by the Swedish authorities The Pirate Bay quickly switched to a Greenland-based domain in April, later hopping to Iceland, and eventually landing .SX domains as other problems became apparent.
The Pirate Bay hopes for a longer stay at the PE domain, but the site’s operators still have a few dozen domain names backed up if required.
The Pirate Bay Moves to .AC After Domain Name Seizure [Ernesto/Torrenfreak]
In Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data, the ACLU's Jay Stanley presents a slide deck from the near future in which a government intelligence service presents a glowing account of how it convicted "Jack R Benjamin" of DUI pre-crime, by watching all the places he went, all the people he interacted with, and using an algorithm to predict that he would commit a DUI, and, on that basis, to peer into every corner of his personal life.
The use of the slide deck is inspired here, echoing as it does the Snowden leaks (Snowden had been tasked with consolidating training documents from across the NSA, which is why he had access to such a wide variety of documents, and why they're all in powerpoint form). And the kind of data-mining here is not only plausible, it's likely -- it's hard to imagine cops not availing themselves of this capability.
Just out of curiosity, who else has been visiting Mary Smith’s house?
Looks like Mary has a few close friends. Wonder if Mr. Benjamin is aware of this Bill Montgomery character who spent a few nights with her?
Going back to the main screen, looks like Mr. Benjamin is quite a union activist. Perhaps we should notify George over at BigCorp (he serves at the Fusion Center with us). Just in case our man has been involved in the trouble they’ve been having over there.
Meet Jack. Or, What The Government Could Do With All That Location Data [Jay Stanley/ACLU]
One year ago today
University of California's new logo: Good to see them putting the freshmen to use.
Five years ago today
Jaw-dropping steampunk mouse integrating real mouse skeleton: This handmade "Neo Victorian" mouse is pure steamporn.
Ten years ago today
Dick Cheney shoots 70 pen-raised birds: Read about his exciting bird hunting trip, where he shot 70 "pen-raised animals that cannot escape." He sure must be hungry.
One of the perks that comes with winning a Nobel: Access to the bully pulpit. In the last week, Peter Higgs (of boson fame) spoke out against the pressure to publish
— pressure that he thinks prevents younger scientists from taking the time to formulate really groundbreaking new ideas. Meanwhile, fellow 2013 winner Randy Schekman announced that he's boycotting brand-name journals like Science
because of the negative impact that they have on scientific culture
Amy L. Rawson continues her tradition of creating felted cthulhoid Santas for the holiday season (see last year's); the current iteration is $595 on Etsy, and includes a 4lb epoxy/wire "octisleigh" pulled by a "rapidly morphing, protoplasmic vision of a Shoggoth." It's 13" long, 7" high, not including the Shoggoth. From her post on the piece:
Santa is needle felted entirely from wool. Oddly, this is the first year we've given the Santa Cthulhu wings. I have no real reason for that. In previous years I think we just got close to the finish line and thought, "Wings? Nah, that'd be more work ..."
The shoggoth is a writhing, amoeba-like mass of needle felted pustules, eyes, appendages and teeth. A shoggoth is a constantly changing creature. As such, it's somewhat difficult to put a yoke or harness on it. Santa just hitches his sleigh up to a large metal ring that he has to trust the shoggoth to keep incorporated into its fluctuating body. Chains hitch the shoggoth's ring to the sleigh, and Santa holds leather straps as reins. The eyes are glass cabochons that we painted specifically for the shoggoth. The teeth are epoxy clay.
The Octi-Sleigh is a substantial sculpture I made specifically for this project. It has a wire armature covered with nearly 4 lbs of epoxy clay. It is painted with acrylics, and I'd just like to point out that this was my very first attempt at painting with an airbrush! If you look back at the last several journal entries, you can see lots of work-in-progress photos of the sleigh.
Needle Felted Santa Cthulhu with Shoggoth and Octi-Sleigh [Etsy]
Santa Cthulhu 2013: Final! [Thirdroar]
Mark sez, "In the midst of the NSA uproar, many have overlooked the fact that there is an outdated law on the books that says hundreds of government entities -- including the IRS, FBI, and local law enforcement agencies -- can access Americans' digital communications without a warrant. That law is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and reforming it is critical to data privacy.
Right now, there is a petition calling on the the White House to support ECPA reform that has been signed by nearly 67k people. The petition has been backed by groups like EFF, ACLU, Google, and Facebook. We have two days left to reach 100k signatures to get a public response from the White House - please support ECPA reform and digital privacy by signing and sharing the petition today.
ECPA Petition: Four Steps for the Fourth Amendment! (Thanks, Mark!)
A group of writers from around the world, including Nobel laureates, have signed onto a petition calling on the world's governments to limit online surveillance. I was honored to be asked to be among the initial signatories, in good company with the likes of Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Martin Amis, Günter Grass, Pico Ayer, Will Self, Irvine Welsh, Jeanette Winterson, Lionel Shriver, Paul Auster, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Lethem, and many, many others. The petition is now open for your signature in support of a set of simple, important core principles:
WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.
WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.
WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.
WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an International Bill of Digital Rights.
WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.
A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age
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Happy Mutants is an occasional podcast of interviews with creative people. In this episode, I interviewed Mark Williams and Sasha Robinson, designers of a new instant-on, lithium-ion battery vaporizer called The Firefly. It is an incredibly cool piece of technology.
Every detail of the Firefly has been the subject of intense obsession by Williams and Robinson. Williams said he received the best advice of his career from Steve Jobs while working at Apple who told him to “build the best thing you possibly can.” Williams took that to heart, honing his craft in positions of design leadership for over 20 years at Silicon Valley. After meeting fellow designer Robinson, the two friends became business partners in 2011, channeling their combined expertise into launching the Firefly vaporizer.
(The creators of the Firefly have a special offer for Happy Mutant listeners. Use the code BOING13 to get 10% off your order. Expires 12/31/2013)
Native to the Malaysian rainforest, this orchid mantis does such a good job of mimicking local flora that it inspired Alfred Russell Wallace to propose that some animals mimic plants in order to lure in the pollinators they hope to eat.
It would also go nicely in a thematic collection with the pink fairy armadillo.
In my latest Guardian column, I suggest that we have reached "peak indifference to spying," the turning point at which the number of people alarmed by surveillance will only grow. It's not the end of surveillance, it's not even the beginning of the end of surveillance, but it's the beginning of the beginning of the end of surveillance.
We have reached the moment after which the number of people who give a damn about their privacy will only increase. The number of people who are so unaware of their privilege or blind to their risk that they think "nothing to hide/nothing to fear" is a viable way to run a civilisation will only decline from here on in.
And that is the beginning of a significant change.
Like all security, privacy is hard. It requires subtle thinking, and the conjunction of law, markets, technology and norms to get right. All four of those factors have been sorely lacking.
The default posture of our devices and software has been to haemorrhage our most sensitive data for anyone who cared to eavesdrop upon them. The default posture of law – fuelled by an unholy confluence of Big Data business models and Greater Manure Pile surveillance – has been to allow for nearly unfettered collection by spies, companies, and companies that provide data to spies. The privacy norm has been all over the place, but mostly dominated by nothing-to-hide. And thanks to the norm, the market for privacy technology has been nearly nonexistent – people with "nothing to fear" won't pay a penny extra for privacy technology.
We cannot afford to be indifferent to internet spying
(Image: Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online/Pew Center)
James writes, "Following on Eben Moglen's mind-warping series of talks about life after Snowden
, the Software Freedom Law Center
has invited Bruce Schneier to join Eben for a conversation informed by Bruce's own analysis of the leaked documents
. Bruce is one of the smartest thinkers around when it comes to understanding how security and surveillance operate in the real world. And he is unsurpassed at presenting complicated security concepts even to people who lack his expertise. Between Moglen's sophisticated thoughts and Bruce's grounded approach, we're sure to learn a lot about where we stand and what we can do next!"
The maintainers of the security-conscious FreeBSD operating system have declared that they will no longer rely on the random number generators in Intel and Via's chips, on the grounds that the NSA likely has weakened these opaque hardware systems in order to ease surveillance. The decision is tied to the revelations of the BULLRUN/EDGEHILL programs, wherein the NSA and GCHQ spend $250M/year sabotaging security in standards, operating systems, software, and networks.
"For 10, we are going to backtrack and remove RDRAND and Padlock backends and feed them into Yarrow instead of delivering their output directly to /dev/random," FreeBSD developers said. "It will still be possible to access hardware random number generators, that is, RDRAND, Padlock etc., directly by inline assembly or by using OpenSSL from userland, if required, but we cannot trust them any more."
In separate meeting minutes, developers specifically invoked Snowden's name when discussing the change.
"Edward Snowdon [sic] -- v. high probability of backdoors in some (HW) RNGs," the notes read, referring to hardware RNGs. Then, alluding to the Dual EC_DRBG RNG forged by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and said to contain an NSA-engineered backdoor, the notes read: "Including elliptic curve generator included in NIST. rdrand in ivbridge not implemented by Intel... Cannot trust HW RNGs to provide good entropy directly. (rdrand implemented in microcode. Intel will add opcode to go directly to HW.) This means partial revert of some work on rdrand and padlock."
“We cannot trust” Intel and Via’s chip-based crypto, FreeBSD developers say [Dan Goodin/Ars Technica]
The CBC is reporting on a four-page, top-secret, "hyper-sensitive" Snowden leak that shows that the Communications Security Establishment Canada was used as a kind of innocent-faced bagman by the NSA, going to places where the Americans were not well-liked or trusted in order to install surveillance stations for the NSA's use. Canada established spy-posts in "approximately 20 countries" for the NSA, as well as "transnational targets." The CBC quotes an expert who predicts that the revelation will undermine Canada's diplomatic standing and relations around the world (duh), and who speculates that the Prime Minister himself may have signed off on the arrangement.
The briefing notes make it clear that Canada plays a very robust role in intelligence-gathering around the world in a way that has won respect from its American equivalents.
Wesley Wark, a Canadian security and intelligence expert at the University of Ottawa, says the document makes it clear Canada can take advantage of its relatively benign image internationally to covertly amass a vast amount of information abroad.
"I think we still trade on a degree of an international brand as an innocent partner in the international sphere," Wark said. "There's not that much known about Canadian intelligence.
"In that sense, Canadian operations might escape at least the same degree of notice and surveillance that the operations of the U.S. or Britain in foreign states would be bound to attract."
Snowden document shows Canada set up spy posts for NSA [Greg Weston, Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher/CBC News]
This ancient Peruvian telephone was unearthed in the 1930s by Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler, "a shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer."
The gourd-and-twine device, created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional — and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”
We'll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering — cunningly constructed of two resin -coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height.
There’s a 1,200-year-old Phone in the Smithsonian Collections (Via Daily Grail)
Eight of the biggest technology companies in the world have jointly called for reforms to global surveillance laws, launching a site called Global Government Surveillance Reform, which sets out the following principles:
1. Limiting Governments’ Authority to Collect Users’ Information
2. Oversight and Accountability
3. Transparency About Government Demands
4. Respecting the Free Flow of Information
5. Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments
The companies announced the initiative through full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, Roll Call, and The Hill, and asked the US to take the lead in surveillance reform (presumably, because the US has taken the lead in surveillance itself):
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.
For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com
AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo
Eight Tech Giants Call for Reform to Surveillance Law