Archive for the ‘ Rights ’ Category

2011 Wastebook

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has released his new oversight report, “Wastebook 2011” that highlights over $6.5 billion in taxpayer dollars going to projects that are unnecessary, duplicative and low-priority.

This has been called “A Fun Look at Government Spending”. I’m not sure I had any fun skimming the 98 page document full of examples of how wasteful and inappropriate big brother is.

Here is an example from the report.

Creating a Smart Phone App for Picking Tennessee Farmers – (TN)  $181,966

Yes, there‘s an app for that, too. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture received $181,966 in taxpayer dollars to create an app for

 smart phones and tablets to help connect consumers with specialty crop producers.347 The marketing campaign is designed to help further its Pick Tennessee Products campaign and to help consumers find farmers through the online specialty crop directory. Pick Tennessee Products is a program aimed squarely at Tennessee residents in the hopes they will shop locally at Tennessee farms. The program‘s website, which can already be accessed by any smart phone, allows an individual to browse the program‘s listings and even order products online. Those so interested can also find the program on Facebook and Twitter @PickTnProducts), which provide access to social networks free of charge. In addition, the program allows anyone to aim their smart phone at ―quick response (QR) codes, which when instantly launches the program website on the phone. According to one report,  Once the code has done its job, shoppers can instantly access all the local farm-direct ingredients, artisan foods, gift baskets, and even Christmas trees listed at While having even more avenues to access the program‘s website may be useful, it is hardly a pressing need. The app is intended to even further increase awareness about the variety of Tennessee agricultural products. Supporters hope that in the ―first six months of the App being used, it will be downloaded 10,000 times and 30,000 times within the first year.‖

Transportation Safety Administration

The U.S. House of Representatives has the following to say about the TSA:

Since its inception, TSA has hired over 137,000 employees, grown into a mammoth bureaucracy
of 65,000 employees, spent almost $57 billion, yet has failed to detect any major terrorist threat
since 9/11, including the Shoe Bomber, the Underwear Bomber, the Times Square Bomber, and
the Toner Cartridge Bomb Plot. Congress created TSA to be a lean organization that would
analyze intelligence and set risk-based security standards for the U.S. transportation system.
Today, TSA suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement. The agency needs to
properly refocus its resources on assessing threats and intelligence, instituting appropriate
regulations, and auditing and adjusting security performance. TSA cannot do this effectively as
a massive human resources agency.

Today, TSA‘s screening policies are based in theatrics. They are typical, bureaucratic responses to failed security policies meant to assuage the concerns of the traveling public.

The full report can be had HERE.

The report is great for those who did not already know its findings, so their education is important. However, I hope people will understand that the TSA is not a “safety” endeavor at its core. It is a planed desensitization of the people to an ongoing and increasing attempt at the removal of our rights. Don’t be fooled by the reports ulterior motive to distract you from the true cause of the TSA.

Legal Tender. Not in Louisiana.

There is new legislation in Louisiana that in certain cases prevents citizens from trading “legal tender” (specifically cash) for goods.

shall not enter into any cash transactions in payment for the purchase of junk or used or secondhand property

This will undoubtedly make its way through the federal court system and it will be interesting to follow, particularly in that the legislation applies to lawful transactions. There is no question to the lawfulness of the transaction, the law simply makes unlawful the trade of cash for goods in certain lawful transactions.

Read the article by Thad D. Ackel, Jr. Esq.

In addition to stifling business, the law includes a tangible attack on privacy. From the article liked above:

For every transaction a secondhand dealer must obtain the seller’s personal information such as their name, address, driver’s license number and the license plate number of the vehicle in which the goods were delivered.

There is a theme that this legislation adheres to which is making its way into many aspects of our lives (think airport security). It seems Uncle Sams’ believes it best to treat everyone as a criminal because someone is a criminal.

Situations like these always seem to bring me back to the simplicity of our founding fathers ideas of government. At the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson in 1801 he said:

a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

I love how simple that is and how it exposes our distance from it today. I corresponded briefly with Thad Ackel and promised I’d make this post and promote his efforts to see this legislation corrected.

The case for privacy in the electronic age.

This is likely the finest case for electronic privacy I have encountered and is worth reading.

A Cypherpunk’s Manifesto

by Eric Hughes

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it? One could pass laws against it, but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all. If many parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other parties. The power of electronic communications has enabled such group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it to.

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. Since any information can be spoken of, we must ensure that we reveal as little as possible. In most cases personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am. When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages, my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying or what others are saying to me; my provider only need know how to get the message there and how much I owe them in fees. When my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must always reveal myself.

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the primary such system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.

Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography. If I say something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it. If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy. To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy. Furthermore, to reveal one’s identity with assurance when the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence. It is to their advantage to speak of us, and we should expect that they will speak. To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the realities of information. Information does not just want to be free, it longs to be free. Information expands to fill the available storage space. Information is Rumor’s younger, stronger cousin; Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and understands less than Rumor.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act. The act of encryption, in fact, removes information from the public realm. Even laws against cryptography reach only so far as a nation’s border and the arm of its violence. Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible.

For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract. People must come and together deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one’s fellows in society. We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive ourselves. We will not, however, be moved out of our course because some may disagree with our goals.

The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for privacy. Let us proceed together apace.


Eric Hughes <>

9 March 1993

Cloud here, cloud there…

You just cant get away from it these days. It is a constant tech media darling and every major tech service company is getting on board. I’m not necessarily completely against the concept but you must educate yourself on the terms of your service and what they really mean when participating. Be careful, the internet can be a dangerous place and I fear the “cloud” can be worse.

I came across a blog post this morning regarding the “cloud“. Admittedly, I didn’t read the whole post but I liked this comment by Jason Scott:

By the cloud, of course, I mean this idea that you have a local machine, a box running some OS, and a vital, distinct part of what you do and what you’re about or what you consider important to you is on other machines that you don’t run, don’t control, don’t buy, don’t administrate, and don’t really understand. These machines are connected via the internet, and if you have a company then these other machines are not machines run by your company, and if you’re a person they are giving it to you without you signing anything accompanied by cash or payment that says “and I mean it“.

Can I be clearer than that? It’s a sucker’s game. It’s a game suckers play. If you are playing it, you are a sucker.

P.S. Facebook IS the cloud too.

Dropbox – Terms of Service

Do you use Dropbox? Have you read their new recently changed TOS? The following quote is from their “Your Stuff & Your Privacy” section and seems to me to have some far reaching implications that could cause some users major legal trouble. Particularly the last sentence of the quote. Think about that and the stuff you have in your folders. Additionally, the bulk of the statement regarding granting them sublicenseable rights undoubtedly relates to them making your data visible to you and those you share your information with. I suspect that this is with the best of intentions and results in broad language recommended by lawyers but, it is not restricted in any way. So the result is that it matters not what their intentions for your “stuff” are. They can do what they want with it. Just imagine if Facebook buys Dropbox at some point.

My opinion is, be informed and be cautious. It’s ok to use these services but only once you understand the consequences of doing so.

We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent we think it necessary for the Service. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.

Free software.

Have you ever read the EULA that you are presented with when you buy a new computer or piece of software and you are prompted with that “I Agree” checkbox? I’m guessing no. I never have either. You would likely be surprised if you did read it. Here I’m doing a basic compare and contrast between the Windows 7 Ultimate EULA that comes on a new PC and the GPL (Gnu General Public License).


a. One Copy per Computer. The software license is permanently assigned to the computer with
which the software is distributed. That computer is the “licensed computer.”
b. Licensed Computer. You may use the software on up to two processors on the licensed
computer at one time. Unless otherwise provided in these license terms, you may not use the
software on any other computer.
c. Number of Users. Unless otherwise provided in these license terms, only one user may use the
software at a time on the licensed computer.


The software is licensed, not sold. This agreement only gives you some rights
to use the features included in the software edition you licensed. The manufacturer or installer and
Microsoft reserve all other rights. Unless applicable law gives you more rights despite this limitation,
you may use the software only as expressly permitted in this agreement. In doing so, you must
comply with any technical limitations in the software that only allow you to use it in certain ways. You
may not

· work around any technical limitations in the software;
· reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble the software, except and only to the extent that
applicable law expressly permits, despite this limitation;
· use components of the software to run applications not running on the software;
· make more copies of the software than specified in this agreement or allowed by applicable law,
despite this limitation;
· publish the software for others to copy;
· rent, lease or lend the software; or
· use the software for commercial software hosting services.


Except for any refund the manufacturer or installer may provide, you cannot recover any other damages, including consequential, lost profits, special, indirect or incidental damages. This limitation applies to
· anything related to the software, services, content (including code) on third party Internet sites, or third party programs; and
· claims for breach of contract, breach of warranty, guarantee or condition, strict liability, negligence, or other tort to the extent permitted by applicable law. It also applies even if
· repair, replacement or a refund for the software does not fully compensate you for any losses; or
· Microsoft knew or should have known about the possibility of the damages.

Taken from:

The Free Software Foundation & The Gnu General Public License

The Foundations of the GPL
Nobody should be restricted by the software they use. There are four freedoms that every user should have:
the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
the freedom to share the changes you make.

Taken from:

In the GPL v3 any language devoted to what you may not do with the software is for the purpose of ensuring that the freedoms granted by the license are not infringed. For example, you may not modify it and then license it in a different way.

There is one way in which the GPL and the Microsoft EULA are quite similar. They both provide no real warranty. The GPL is even more absent of warranty as it provides none at all. The MSFT EULA does provide a 90 day warranty for defects.

I have on numerous occasions heard the argument that proprietary software is better if only for the fact that, if it performs poorly or causes damage then there is some recourse against the manufacturer. As paragraph 26 in the MSFT EULA above states, you can see that is not the case.

I suspect that people not familiar with “free as in speech” software have the notion that if it doesn’t cost money then it can’t be good. Those that are familiar understand that is not the case. If you have not had the pleasure to experience free software then you owe it to yourself to give it a try. You can get started with something like The Open Disc .

Be aware that terms are often used that misrepresent the true nature of software licenses. You will hear the term “open source” applied to many software product that may not necessarily be “free as in speech” free. Free software is however inherently open source and this can cause confuision. This is a topic for another discussion but it is good to be aware of it.

More privacy related thoughts.

Our governments abuse of its power is nothing new and it will not end. It is in the nature of any large governing bureaucracy be it corporate, civil or federal. Clearly the frenetic pace which technology has advanced over the last couple of decades has afforded the government an opportunity to take advantage of a gap in the public’s understanding of the true nature of these technologies and the potential consequences of their use. Because I’m a bit if a geek it’s clear to me on a daily basis how little people understand about the technology they use and depend on on a daily basis. It may not be so important to understand the workings of your refrigerator but when it comes to the way you share and communicate all aspects of your life you really need to understand whats going on. Most of us are voluntarily contributing to a massive information store that is the result of such daily activities as using cell phones, texting, internet phone calling, emailing, credit cards, grocery store discount cards, movie rentals, online purchases, ATM withdrawals, DMV auto inspections, EZ-Pass toll payments, airline/train travel and more. Some of these situations seem benign, however all of them result in some amount of data being collected, transmitted and stored on a computer in a database somewhere. Do you know who knows every item you purchased at Shop Rite for the last 5 years you’ve been using your membership savings card there? Did you even know that someone has that information? Perhaps you don’t care, after all its only a grocery list. But take all the databases for all the activities I mentioned and start putting them together and your life story is suddenly patent knowledge. What you read, what you eat, how much gas you put in your car and where you go, how much cash you tend to have in your purse and the people you talk to most on weekly basis, how much money you owe and how much you drink, what kind if driver you are and how long you have owned your home. Such is the way we exist to lesser or greater degrees but we do live is a digital world and digits are very cheap to store and very valuable depending on the end user. Life with these amenities is quite nice. It affords many conveniences and efficiencies. The problem is that we trade our privacy for convenience and often without the understanding that we are doing so. When was the last time you agreed to a terms of service by clicking that “I Agree” button? Did you actually read the entire “Terms of Service” document? Never. Try it sometime, you will be shocked at what you are agreeing to. The truth is, in most cases, we don’t control or even own any of this information and we have expressly given away all rights to it forever.

In this recent article by the EFF there are some examples of how privacy can be violated by the government and your service providers. The article focuses on abuses but what strikes me most is that much of the abuse is facilitated by what I hope is the general misunderstanding of the tech we use every day rather than a blatant disregard for our own privacy as a citizenry.

This portion of the report referenced in the article caught my eye and highlighted my concern.

In over half of all NSL violations reviewed by EFF, the private entity receiving the NSL either provided more information than requested or turned over information without receiving a valid legal justification from the FBI. Companies were all too willing to comply with the FBI’s requests, and — in many cases — the Bureau readily incorporated the over-produced information into its investigatory databases. For example, in a violation reported in 2006, the FBI requested email header information for two email addresses used by a U.S. person. In response, the email service provider returned two CDs containing the full content of all emails in the accounts. The FBI eventually (and properly) sequestered the CDs, notified the email provider of the overproduction, and re-issued an NSL for the originally requested header information; but, in response to the second NSL, the email provider again provided the FBI with the full content of all emails in the accounts.

The failure in the bureaucratic process outlined in this example here is completely preventable, not by a more lawfully compliant FBI or a more adept service provider but a more informed and better equipped citizen. Like Uncle Ben told Peter, “with great power comes great responsibility”, the information age is our superpower. Let’s not destroy ourselves with it.


I’ve never felt comfortable about the so-called cloud and the concept of it being the new home to all of my data. For anyone who questions authority or has any interest in privacy the cloud is extremely questionable but when it comes to data security and stability it is even more so. I can’t see any scenario at this time that is better than having physical possession and total control over your own data.

I think Cringely states a great case HERE.

Airport security?

I saw this article today about a pilot refusing the ridiculous screening imposed on travelers at airports and I really hope this starts some kind of revolt by passengers. Of course we all want to be safe as possible when we fly but the truth is the TSA is not providing safety. The TSA is a (from the article)

make-work program


“I just kind of had to ask myself ‘Where do I stand?’ I’m just not comfortable being physically manhandled by a federal security agent every time I go to work,

If you have flown recently you know what a hassle it is and if you have any sort of imagination you can come up with a number of ways to bring banned and even destructive items through security without an issue. The TSA is a charade. Have you noticed the people in charge there? They are clearly not the upper end of the IQ range. I had an agent find a multi-tool in my bag once, he said he had to confiscate the scissors from the kit and when he handed it back to me he left me with the knife blade. How many time recently have you heard of airport terminals being entirely shut down for complete passenger re-screening? This is not done because security is taken seriously, it is because it doesn’t work.