Getting some perspective

Bruce Schneider responds to criticisms of technology like Google Earth.

Criminals have used telephones and mobile phones since they were invented. Drug smugglers use airplanes and boats, radios and satellite phones. Bank robbers have long used cars and motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I haven’t seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank bottled water, and breathed the air. Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are – by and large – small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and spectacular. And while terrorism turns society’s very infrastructure against itself, we only harm ourselves by dismantling that infrastructure in response – just as we would if we banned cars because bank robbers used them too.

Precisely.  You don’t go banning things because some morons put them to good use.


A neutral victory

Good news on the Net Neutrality front.  Stoller reports:

I’m hearing from friends that the FCC just voted 3-2 to punish Comcast for illegally blocking internet traffic to some customers who used file-sharing software.  This was a bipartisan decision, with Republican Kevin Martin standing up to vicious party and media pressure to side with Democrats Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps.  Though Comcast will litigate the order and the order carries no fine, this is a precedent setting move.  A few years ago, no one thought that the FCC would move to enforce its ‘principles’ of an open internet, figuring they were simply fig-leafs to the public interest community.  With the tremendous public pressure on the issue and the egregious behavior by Comcast (and Verizon censoring NARAL’s text messages and AT&T censoring Pearl Jam), the logic became too compelling to ignore.

In a series of important moves, Barack Obama came out strongly for net neutrality, every Democratic Senate challenger came out for net neutrality, and once the Democrats solidified, a few others like Republican Chip Pickering and Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin chose to protect the internet from aggressive censorship-prone corporations like Comcast.  The McCain campaign, though it’s against net neutrality, has been reduced to saying that the issue is not a ‘President of the United States’ issue and that it’s ‘inside baseball’ not worth public discussion.  The backlash has been so aggressive that even McCain, who is owned by telecom and cable interests wholesale, doesn’t want to fight here.

There’s another lesson here, and that’s the real meaning of bipartisanship.  We started this fight in 2006 with a bipartisan consensus against us, and gradually we’ve been able to flip the Democratic Party on our issue.  And now we’re beginning to flip Republicans.  There was a lot of whining that net neutrality was becoming a ‘partisan issue’, but what we’re learning is that winning a fight involves first pushing an issue through one party, making it partisan, and then making it bipartisan though the other party.  The intellectual coherence of the argument, not whether you have a fig leaf Republican or a conservative Democrat on your side, is the politically powerful tool.

Scary stuff for privacy advocates

Microsoft’s Visa looks to have a few hidden “secrets” – but you won’t.

Are you using Windows Vista? Then you might as well know that the licensed operating system installed on your machine is harvesting a healthy volume of information for Microsoft. In this context, a program such as the Windows Genuine Advantage is the last of your concerns. In fact, in excess of 20 Windows Vista features and services are hard at work collecting and transmitting your personal data to the Redmond company.

Microsoft makes no secret about the fact that Windows Vista is gathering information. End users have little to say, and no real choice in the matter. The company does provide both a Windows Vista Privacy Statement and references within the End User License Agreement for the operating system. Combined, the resources paint the big picture over the extent of Microsoft’s end user data harvest via Vista.

Linux scores

From the “duh” files:

Linux websites have better uptime and load faster than Windows-based websites. Research by WatchMouse, a website monitoring company, also shows that web server platform Apache outperforms the Microsoft IIS platform. Therefore, having a Linux website and an Apache web server platform offers the best choice for professional web pages.