O Hai

Posted: January 11, 2011 by bennettfiasco in Politics, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So it’s 1.11.11 and it’s our first post of the new year.  Clearly, we’re very busy and important.  Clearly.

I woke up this morning and, whilst perusing the internets, something very common happened to me.  I read an article that got my hopes up.  Something that was finally going the way it should be.  Like someone actually “got it” and was doing the right thing.  I shouldn’t have to talk about how sad it is that that is what passes for up-lifting these days.  But this is what I saw.


On Friday, it emerged that the U.S. government recently got a court order demanding that Twitter turn over information about a number of people connected to WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The request was approved by a magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal grand jury is looking into charges against WikiLeaks related to its acquisition and publishing of U.S.-government classified information.

The court order came with a gag order that prevented Twitter from telling anyone, especially the targets, about the request’s existence.

That’s obviously not the good part.  This is what happened. Twitter, amazingly, beta tested a spine.

To Twitter’s credit, the company didn’t just open up its database, find the information the feds were seeking (such as the IP and e-mail addresses used by the targets) and quietly continue on with building new features. Instead the company successfully challenged the gag order in court, and then told the targets their data was being requested, giving them time to try and quash the order themselves.

Finally, after Mastercard, Visa, Amazon, Bank of America and PayPal all fail to see what’s going on, Twitter rises to the challenge.  Maybe there is hope yet.


But then again, maybe not.  The same US Government that is applying an uninformed, politically charged battle versus WikiLeaks is applying an uninformed, market-based affront to internet privacy.  But I mean, really, are you surprised that the Gov’t wants to know your business?

Cut to the chase: the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a bad idea. On the surface having something that will increase online transactions and reduce identity theft makes (some) sense. Security is the #1 reason that people avoid online transactions and in an age that is continuously going more and more digital, it would appear prudent to take steps towards improving security.

But you know what this is really asking for? A singlepoint entry to all your commerce needs.  If you aren’t nervous yet, I probably worded that poorly.  Here’s some more.

In its most basic form, [a skeleton key] is what the Obama Administration is proposing. Rather than have different passwords and email validations to access the various places we surf, NSTIC will be a single point of entry for online interactions and transactions that consumers and businesses can use to engage.

Allowing access to our financial credentials and buying power through a single interface is ludicrous. eCommerce fraud is bad as it is and this solution is only an opportunity to empower the nefarious types to have more access in one tightly-wrapped package called NSTIC.

So while this does come with good intentions, it reeks of privacy-busting.  I’m not going to start spouting about National ID talk but that’s definitely worth pointing to.

“We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system,” United State Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Jan. 7.

The first thing that comes to mind (and should come to your mind) when hearing these words is, “Yet.”

This is a very dangerous step towards increasing the power and reach of the government into our pocketbooks. Until the details of the plan are released this is just a conspiracy-theory-laden section of paranoia without substance, but any time the government gets involved with anything pertaining to the Internet, the alarm bells ring in the back of my CPU.

Because I’ve found that when the government has the ability to misuse their authority, they inevitably will.


Oh internet, how you take me on an emotional roller coaster ride.  Time to get my laughs from lolcats or a Day[9] Funday Monday I suppose.

  1. Derek says:

    While no one knows the final version of NSTIC yet, it could be a good thing if implemented correctly. The all-too-easy-too-miss OpenID framework is somewhat like the NSTIC idea, and has been developed by business interests (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openid) and has been hailed as a boon by internet privacy advocates, because it actually allows you more control over which companies get to see which personal information. If NSTIC ends up like OpenID in the sense that I can choose my service provider, with the government being only one possibility–and this is the way it is envisioned now, in my understanding–that would go a long way towards mitigating the “omg the govt is stealin mah identity” complaints. As long as the government’s authority is limited to specifying a framework for interaction (and not, say, inserting backdoors or becoming the sole service provider), this has the potential to work out.

    One important way in which NSTIC could potentially improve end-user security, if done correctly, is to easily and securely allow OTHER entities to be authenticated to YOU. It’d be nice to know if the person you’re giving your PayPal account number to is actually PayPal instead of some phisher, wouldn’t it? The “eCommerce fraud is bad enough as it is” argument you quoted above doesn’t make sense when you realize that eCommerce fraud is a problem precisely because we DON’T have a solid system of verifiable identity like NSTIC in place already.

  2. Tim says:

    The amount of data people can find on one another is scary enough, without taking governmental powers into consideration.

    The problem is, in order to live a comfortable lifestyle we are forced to take all our information online… As services stop being available outside of that medium.

    I would like to be able to remove my data from every site as soon as I am done using it, unfortunately… At the age of 19, I am probably too far down the line in terms of using web services to effectively track down all of the potential sinks for my information.

    Its a bit of a ballache, but something majorly wrong is going to go wrong in the next 30 years that affects everyone, and internet profiling will be the least of our worries then.

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