Author Archives: Jeremy

Which ISP Can You Trust?

Wired.com recently did a survey among major Internet providers to see how well they support privacy. Of the few that responded at all, many of the answers were vague or evasive. Some of the questions included:

How long the ISP stores the unique IP address that the customer used (which can be used to track actions to you individually).

Whether they keep information on all the URLs (web sites) that customers visit).

Whether they sell customer data to third parties.

Out of the companies, only Cox was forthcoming and actually had policies that were close to good. I wish they were in my area…

China FDA Head to be Executed

When the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was caught violating the law, he was charged with two misdemeanors. When the former director of China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) was convicted on corruption charges, he was sentenced to death.

I don't know. I'm thinking that the Chinese version makes the next guy a little more responsible…

Google Street View

A new service from Google is taking their maps program down to the actual street level. You can browse around the streets of locations they've mapped like in a 3-d virtual game (though it's just pictures so not as smooth as an actual game… yet). What happens when they combine it with Fotowoosh?

The implications of this are currently unknown. For one, I suppose it gives you the opportunity to browse around a location before you actually go there so you can plan your trip better. Or if I was a terrorist, it makes it really easy to pick targets and become familiar with the neighborhood before the actual event. Another possibility is making game modifications like this one. Nothing like being able to wander around in Counterstrike blowing people away on your very own virtual street!

Don't get me wrong, it's neat technology and certainly better than live cameras. People and license plate numbers are all obscured at least. Then again, maybe not.

A Call for Impeachment of Gonzales

I stumbled on this article today that really amused me. It's fantasticly well written and biting on both Gonzales and the Bush administration, but it's very short. Here are some of the highlights:

The ultimate humiliation has now been inflicted on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the nation's demonstrably incompetent and intellectually corrupt chief law enforcement officer.

Virtually all major Latino activist groups that vigorously supported his appointment have now declared their support of Gonzales null and void.

This mass disaffection of Hispanics simply adds to the growing realization in Congress and the public that Gonzales is unfit ethically and intellectually to fulfill the oath of attorney general to be the people's lawyer, not the in-house mouthpiece for President Bush and his constitutionally dubious conduct.

And most importantly:

Nothing, absolutely nothing—not even the war—is more critical to the preservation of American government than restoring respect for law and for returning the Department of Justice to those with a profound regard for the Constitution. So too does the nation need legal professionals who understand the rights of citizens and who have the character to repudiate wrongdoing—even in the White House.

I think this author is my new hero.

Scam Alert! Theives Pose As Army Hospital, Say Your Spouse Hurt in Battle

Be warned. No matter how nice, not matter how much they already know, no matter how much they try to upset you, don't give out information over the phone.

The scammer – who sounds young and American – calls a military spouse and identifies herself as a representative from the Red Cross. The caller says that the spouse's husband, who is not identified by name, was hurt while on duty in Iraq and was med-evacuated to a hospital in Germany.

Gas Price Gouging? Maybe Not…

For a friend, we aren't being price gouged says at least one consumer group:

In a past life we were asked to prove that local gas stations were price gouging New York City residents. We knew this to be false, and found the proof we needed in a meticulously researched report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

And more importantly:

Despite popular misconceptions, price gouging almost never occurs as prices rise. Instead, price gouging occurs when dealers keep prices artificially high in order to gain a little extra profit or recoup costs, even though the DTW price has declined.

Which means that a fairly good sign that you're not being gouged is when the prices are going up.

Golden List of Customer Service Contact Information

The Consumerist has a large list of "executive service" contact information.

Executive customer service is a firewall team that keeps your complaints from disturbing busy executives golf games. Very often, they do this by actually solving your problems, possessing superhuman powers to command all parts of the company to action, from billing to technical.

If the company you need isn't on the list, they have a method for finding the executive customer service contact information for just about anyone as well.

It's stuff like this that makes me a fan of the Consumerist. They have a certain amount of clout and companies take notice when they are blogged about negatively on their site. If you have a complaint of some kind, maybe you should try talking to the guys at the consumerist for help.

Oppose the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 (IPPA2007)

A lot of the newsletters I subscribe to and groups that I follow are making more noise about this. The main point, from Defective by Design's e-newsletter:

The Department of Justice has drafted this outrageous legislative proposal that threatens ordinary Americans with jail time and the sort of property forfeiture penalties applied in drug busts for P2P users, mixtape makers, and mash-up artists. The law would stiffen penalties for "attempted infringement", basically removing the requirement that the government or Big Media companies actually prove that infringement occurred. The IPPA would also authorize massive wiretapping to investigate copyright infringement by individuals. The government has plenty of tools to investigate and prosecute large scale criminal enterprises engaging in bootlegging, the IPPA will target every citizen.

The main point here is that it makes copy right infringement a criminal offense and that it only has to be attempted! Think of all the people who've already been served with lawsuits (many who were clearly innocent). Now imagine that they no longer have to prove infringement, only attempted infringement. This makes their case far easier to fight. But now it's a crime so the punishment would be stiffer as well.

I see a vast trail of destruction with the RIAA leading the march in the future if this passes.

North Carolina’s Innovative MySpace Law

Ars Technica reports on a proposed law in NC that will require parents to sign up for social networking sites (like MySpace) and become age verified before their kids would be allowed to sign up.

This is probably the best way I've heard of to prevent under-age kids from signing up and had the added benefit that the parents will have to know that their kids are using the sites. That way, parents are held accountable too.

Anti-war Writer’s Son Dies in Iraq, Gets Hate Mail Saying It’s His Fault.

People sure are quick to attack those they disagree with sometimes.

This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops — today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.

Which points to one of my top reason for hating the administration that we have. They use spin and bad logic to frighten people into doing things their way. "If you're not for us, you're against us". It's that kind of sick thinking that leads to destruction.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

Marketers Launch Sneaky Campaigns at Kids

Some of the consumer groups have published a new report documenting some of the marketing practices aimed at kids. Like this one:

KFC used a high-pitched tone as a promotional “buzz ? device for a recent “interactive advertising campaign. ? The MosquitoTone™ was embedded in TV commercials to launch KFC’s new “Boneless Variety Bucket™. ? In its press release, the company explained that the popular cell phone ring tone “is too highpitched for most adults to hear because most people begin to lose the ability to hear high frequency tones starting at age 20. This is a fact not lost on young Americans who seek the sound for clandestine ring tones that don’t turn the heads of nearby adults. ?

For those who don't realize how desperately the business world wants to connect to your kids, snare, and keep control of them, wake up! Many businesses will pull any dirty trick they can to make money.

Memorial Day

It only been recently that I've stopped to think and take a hard look at this country and the way it works (or more correctly, the way it doesn't work). Chances are, I, like many Americans, have historically seen Memorial Day as just another day off and enjoyed it by doing whatever suited me.

Today, I would like to take a moment to give a nod to the men and women who fight and die to protect our country. These individuals have gone to an ill-thought battle for incompetent leaders and died by the thousands.

Despite the ineptitude, the scandal, and the sheer stupidity of it all, they are selfless in their service and deserve our gratitude and the highest level of respect we civilians can offer.

To the men and women of the armed forces, past and present, I say thank you and pray that our leadership is held accountable for your blood that they used to paint their careers and the tears of your families that they used to fill their wineglasses.

New Hampshire Gets Tough on REAL ID

In a move that is satisfying and liberating, the state of NH has proposed the strongest anti-REAL ID bill to date.

I. The general court finds that the public policy established by Congress in the Real ID Act of 2005, Public Law 109-13, is contrary and repugnant to Articles 1 through 10 of the New Hampshire constitution as well as Amendments 4 though 10 of the Constitution for the United States of America. Therefore, the state of New Hampshire shall not participate in any driver's license program pursuant to the Real ID Act of 2005 or in any national identification card system that may follow therefrom.

Or any that will follow? Right on NH! That's some guts.

It's nice to know that if a state wants to, they can reject a bad federal law, but it's a shame they haven't done it before all those times that Congress pre-empted stronger state laws.

(H/T to Digg.com for the link)

EU Tells Google, 2 Years is 2 Long

Google recently announced that any data they stored that was more than 2 years old would become anonymized. While many applauded this (because at least they were going to anonymize it), many others say it doesn't go far enough.

When asked why they need personally identifiable information in the first place, their answer is for service optimization. I, as others, question what identifying someone has to do with search engine optimization at all.

WordPress Security

So there's a bunch of vulnerabilities in older versions of wordpress. There are other reasons to upgrade besides security.

For example, just going from 2.0 to 2.1, I could see a ton of usability features that made my site much easier to manage. And when I read about 2.2 and how a error in your code wouldn't break your site, I wished I had upgraded then. The very next day, I made a coding error in one of my plugins and my site was down the whole day until I could get back to my home machine.

Either way, besides feature upgrades, each version includes better secruity so it's best to keep current.

Doctors Fight Data Rapists

Seattle pediatrician Rupin Thakkar's first inkling that the pharmaceutical industry was peering over his shoulder and into his prescription pad came in a letter from a drug representative about the generic drops Thakkar prescribes to treat infectious pinkeye.

In the letter, the salesperson wrote that Thakkar was causing his patients to miss more days of school than they would if he put them on Vigamox, a more expensive brand-name medicine made by Alcon Laboratories.

"My initial thought was 'How does she know what I'm prescribing?' " Thakkar said. "It feels intrusive. . . . I just feel strongly that medical encounters need to be private."

It appears that several drug marketers have been tracking what physicians have been prescribing in order to custom tailor their marketing pitches.

I think It's pretty clear by now what my feeling are on this type of practice.

(H/T to Privacy.org for the link)

Using Data Rape to Take the Elderly

You know all those times I've complained about Data Rape and how companies are able to hit us where we are weakest because of all they learn and profile about us?

I'm not just making this stuff up you know.

Mr. Guthrie, who lives in Iowa, had entered a few sweepstakes that caused his name to appear in a database advertised by infoUSA, one of the largest compilers of consumer information. InfoUSA sold his name, and data on scores of other elderly Americans, to known lawbreakers, regulators say.

InfoUSA advertised lists of “Elderly Opportunity Seekers, ? 3.3 million older people “looking for ways to make money, ? and “Suffering Seniors, ? 4.7 million people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease. “Oldies but Goodies ? contained 500,000 gamblers over 55 years old, for 8.5 cents apiece. One list said: “These people are gullible. They want to believe that their luck can change.

Would someone in congress please start paying attention to this?