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The GDPR Mess

by @ 4:35 pm
Filed under: business,internet,law,web — Tags: ,

With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) being in full force since May 25, 2018, one must assume that the privacy and security of users are now fully protected. I think it’s an understatement to call that claim an over-exaggeration.

GDPR is a European regulation designed to protect the privacy of European citizens, giving them full control over their personal information. For most website operators it translates to getting users’ permission before doing anything with their data and deleting that data upon request.

While on the surface it is a well-intentioned law, little doubt remains that it has morphed into a giant confusion. Fact is no one really knows all the subtleties of this law and no one knows how to correctly implement it.

First there was a barrage of emails from companies proclaiming that they had new privacy laws, except that who has the time to click on every email and read reams of legalese nonsense.

Now we have the omnipresent ridiculous popup/slider on sites declaring some inane cookie policy for the site with a button to accept the terms. This site is guilty of that too, you might have noticed a cookie disclaimer sliding up from the bottom of the screen. The popup is just a utility script hosted on some site and I have no idea how it helps with your privacy and security while you are on this site.

Ironically, your privacy and security was just fine on this site prior to showing you the GDPR cookie notice. No data was being collected on you, no cookies were being stored on your browser, and no tracking was being done. Of course the Google services used on this site do some of those things and those are separately covered by Google’s privacy policies.

Now with the introduction of the cookie popup, this site has to use cookies to keep track of the fact that the user has been to the site and accepted the terms. In other words this site has to tell users that is uses cookie because it uses cookies to tell users that it uses cookies. And now the site hosting the popup code knows about the user too. Moreover the user that has just arrived to the site is not going to take the time to read all the cryptic nonsense in the privacy policy. Instead s/he is going to accept everything and continue. Now the site can do whatever it wants with the user’s data and it has explicit permission from the user. That provides a pretty strong incentive to abuse the data without any fear of legal consequences.

Finally, how does the European law expect a small time blogger provide the same level of privacy provisions of Amazon or Facebook to its users? Those are companies with billions of dollars at their disposal and an army of developers, attorneys and consultants.

Now comes GDPR with its esoteric rules to confound the small sites or even worse shut them down because they didn’t ask a silly question with a checkbox next to it. So much for democratizing the Internet where the small guys should have a shot at having their voice heard too.

But for now GDPR is here so by all means, read the disclaimer, visit the privacy page and click the stupid button. Don’t worry, your private data is safe with this site, especially since it doesn’t even ask for it.

PRISM, Spies, and Leaks

by @ 12:22 pm
Filed under: hacking,law — Tags: , ,

While the US and much of the world is embroiled in the so-called scandal of US government spying on its citizens, I am left wondering why this is news at all?

The Patriot Act enacted after September 11, 2001 was designed to do exactly that, spy on voice and data communications in the US. Yes there are some subtleties in the act to supposedly protect the constitutional rights of the Americans, but really, who would believe any of that?

I fail to see the uproar on the so-called leak because it's just absurd. What do people think organizations such as the NSA or CIA do all day? They listen to conversations, intercept emails, mine data, and decipher intelligence based on events. That's what they were set up to do.

When I make a phone call to my mother in Iran, the whole time there are pops, hisses, clicks, and various tones. Some may be line issues, but I bet most are a bunch of people or recording devices eavesdropping on the phone call in Iran and the US. Of course in this case, it's a bunch of boring news about family members and who got married or divorced or had a child or passed away.

So Guardian pays some low-level NSA employee in Hong Kong a bunch of money to reveal secrets about the US government spying on its people. Who knows, maybe the Chinese want to divert attention from their own hacking, or perhaps it's just a sham by the US government to serve its own end in some manner.

Whatever the case those secrets were not much of a secret at all. What's next, Iranian government spying on its people? I had no idea, that is shockingly outrageous.

Alimony Rethought

by @ 2:53 pm
Filed under: law,social — Tags:

Kudos to the New Jersey lawmakers for presenting a bill that would abolish permanent alimony.

This is not a male/female issue. It's a fairness and common sense issue. Once a marriage is dissolved, the couple should be able to fairly divide up their assets and move on. Some form of temporary spousal support may be warranted depending on the circumstances, but it certainly shouldn't be forever.

In most cases alimony has become a tool of revenge or a source of income for the leeching spouse, making alimony an incentive to become a parasite.

In a society where equality of the sexes is the rule, outdated alimony laws have no place anymore. Many spouses are too proud and independent to even ask for it and for others, it's time to strongly encourage them to shape up and support themselves.

 

 

Jail Lodging @ $30/Night

by @ 5:42 pm
Filed under: law

A new Nebraska jail has invited people to act as guinea pigs and test the facility. For $30 participants get a taste of being an inmate for one night plus a couple of meals. Proceeds go to charity.

Strange but wish I could do this. Odd invitation from Nebraska jail: Spend the night for $30

Tech and sexism

by @ 10:14 am
Filed under: law,social,technology

When I first read this story I thought the woman in the story was a self-serving, over-reacting simpleton. I still think she is, based on her own account of the events that led to her infantile reaction.

So this woman overheard two guys at a tech conference make jokes about forking and dongles, both tech terms with obvious sexual double-meanings. She snapped a picture of them and tweeted it along with a sanctimonious comment. One of the men was fired by his employer and the woman herself was eventually fired by her employer because she stirred up much negativity from the techies.

The backlash against this woman has been swift and severe.  I don't condone the threatening comments, so let's get that out of the way first. However this woman is a childish attention-seeker who pretends offense at something so ridiculously trivial that wasn't even directed at her. As a native Iranian I have heard my share of middle eastern jokes. I can certainly separate the lighthearted ones from the malicious ones and I've always felt secure enough in myself not to whine about it. Plenty of men and women work in the tech industry which is admittedly tolerant of some profanity, big deal.

I have a mother, a sister and daughters and if any of them did what this woman did and felt proud of it, I'd have no support for them. There's a difference between sexual harassment and dumb comments. If this inept woman didn't like what these guys were discussing she could have moved away or told them to quiet down. Instead she chose to shame and harm them by outing them. Well, I have sympathy for these men and disgust for the actions of this woman. It's not about having a thick skin, it's about having enough maturity and common sense and the woman obviously lacks both.

Well lady, I don't who you are and who they are, but in my eyes you are a whiner who gives a bad name to intelligent women who work alongside men. You don't stand for women in the workforce, you stand in their way, making them appear like weak fragile dolls that cry at the slightest disagreement. One can only hope the actions of this one weak-minded woman don't cause men to feel like they're walking on egg shells or that they must assume a different personality around women.

 

Amazon’s .book domain grab

by @ 7:00 pm
Filed under: internet,law,technology — Tags: ,

I'm not sure why anyone would see any reason behind Amazon's move to hoard a bunch of gTLDs (global top level domains), other than pure greed.

In a recent open letter (PDF) to ICANN, Association of American Publishers rightfully opposed granting Amazon the control of the .book gTLD. It states:

In short, Amazon makes clear that it seeks exclusive control of the “.book” string solely for its own business purposes, notwithstanding the broad range of other companies, organizations and individuals that have diverse interests in the use of  this gTLD or its second-level domains by others or themselves.

Well stated, but does ICANN or anyone else really need a protest  letter to recognize Amazon's true motives in hogging as many domains as it can?

Megaupload Injustice

by @ 12:14 pm
Filed under: internet,law — Tags:

So the founder of Megaupload is back with another file-sharing service. Good for him and good for the millions of would be users who use such services.

Let's reserve judgement on what Megaupload is allegedly guilty of but one thing is for sure, American media is but a means to corrupt and bend minds and subdue society, and  people pay for it on top of that.

In the US the media is used like a sedative  To many, TV, music and movies are like candy to a kid. As long as people are provided with mindless entertainment, they remain passive and controlled. Then commercialism is introduced to sway opinions and move the herd to one direction or another, much like mass hypnosis.

Stealing copyrighted material is illegal, but for the time being we have a choice not to engage in and pay for it. In the end what Megaupload is truly guilty of is giving people a tool to fritter away time with the rubbish called entertainment.

Amazon, Target, and Showrooming

by @ 10:47 pm
Filed under: financial,internet,law — Tags: , ,

Last week came the news that Target stores will no longer carry Amazon's Kindle readers. The bold move was basically a retaliatory reaction by Target to what is known as showrooming.

Showrooming is how Amazon encourages its users to visit various physical stores, check out or even try out various merchandize and then go back to Amazon to order them for cheaper prices. In a sense Amazon uses the physical stores as showrooms for free and that creates an unfair advantage in favor of Amazon.

Sure, people can visit Amazon's site too to shop around but a page visit costs Amazon a tiny fraction of a penny while a shopper roaming the isles of a store, and specially inspecting and trying various items could cost the stores multiple dollars.

Target may feel good about removing Kindles from its shelves but that maneuver will be but a blip on Amazon's bottom line. Making the playing field fair will be tall order but for starters Amazon should be required to collect sales taxes on all items sold. If there's heavy resistance, then stores should be exempt from collecting sales taxes as Amazon is.

Paying sales taxes on Amazon purchases will not be popular, but if Amazon is allowed to push physical stores out of business through the unfair loopholes, that will result in a monopoly and there's little doubt that its pricing policy will not favorable by any measure once the competition is wiped out.

Facebook Privacy?

by @ 10:53 am
Filed under: internet,law,social — Tags: ,

Who needs spies and detectives when people willingly put all their personal data for the whole world to see? Funny how parts of the world pine for a little relief from the prying eyes of their governments, yet in the US people are addicted to sharing everything with everyone, including the government.

The young can be excused for being too inexperienced to realize the consequences of over-sharing. But then there are simpletons who claim they don't fear sharing because they do nothing wrong. Bet they are the first ones screaming bloody violation of their rights the moment that data is used against them.

Cops can request a copy of your complete Facebook activity - Technolog on msnbc.com.

College Prank or Bias Intimidation?

by @ 10:50 am
Filed under: law,social — Tags: , , ,

I have been fascinated with the Dharun Ravi bias case since I read about it a few weeks ago on The New Yorker. The fact is that this case hits close to home for many who are or have been to college because no doubt many of us were involved in similar cases or at least been close witnesses and didn't think much of them, let alone being accused criminally.

This is not strictly a gay bias issue. College (in this case, Rutgers) is where young people from varied backgrounds are thrown together and trusted to navigate the social challenges that comes with that environment. College is a sample of what is to come in the real world.

Being a student form Iran arriving in the US a few short years after the hostage crisis, I myself experienced many of these challenges in high school and then college. Young people will be young people. They judge, they ridicule, and they play stupid pranks. At times I was the target and other times I was the instigator but through it all, even when I was raging mad, I found little evidence of bias or malice in myself or others.

I consider myself a social liberal. Gay, straight, white, black, male, female, whatever, makes little difference to me. Of course we all carry some prejudice. Mine is mostly in the area of education. I tend to favor educated people. The point is that I have no respect for bigotry and prejudice but the Ravi-Celemete case doesn't appear to be one, at least going by what I know about the case.

Bad judgment, yes. Distasteful prank, yes. Immature teasing, yes. I see all those in Ravi's actions and in countless other young people around the world. Sorry but I don’t see bullying and bias intimidation and gay-bashing in this case to hang a man's future on. In the end this is a tragedy of a young man taking his own life in a moment of misplaced personal agony or shame. He should have never been ashamed of who he was.  I wish he had the strength to stand up for his way of life and to handle the offensive (but not criminal, in my opinion) actions of his roommate in a more direct way.

Update: As we know now, Ravi was convicted of the charges and now he will be facing prison time and possible deportation. I'm sure there will be appeals and I hope he's not deported. Some may feel that the jury was too harsh, but the jury most likely followed the letter of the law and it's the New Jersey law that may be too harsh.

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