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Comment Never go full J. Edgar Hoover (Score 1) 171

The type of power Director Comey is asking for sounds like J. Edgar Hoover's wet dream. To keep Comey and future FBI directors from breaking the law like Hoover is suspected of doing, if he succeeds in mandating encryption back doors to allow law enforcement to access suspected criminals' phone I believe Comey's phone should have the same type of encryption back door. Just in case he implements a policy like COINTELPRO, of course.

How about it, Director? Would you use one of these phones for confidential and/or secret communications with other members of the FBI? If not, why not?

Comment Re:And for what? (Score 1) 277

I'm sure that when or if we colonize the moon we will have "big arsed" telescopes on the moon. But to develop the lunar infrastructure to the point where constructing a radio telescope there will take decades (at least) and hauling enough material up there to set up a colony is going to be a monumental task, much less hauling enough extra to build a telescope. So, to tide us over for the (rough guess) 30-40 years until we can build a lunar colony and lunar industry to the point where a lunar telescope is feasible, scientists want to build one on this mountain.

Comment Re:Just fight it (Score 3, Informative) 353

New York City is small enough and close enough to New Jersey that traveling to another state to buy a phone may be reasonable.

New York state is a bit over 300 miles wide (estimated from Albany to Niagara Falls on a more or less straight route) and at its tallest about 330 miles tall (estimated from New York City to Champlain.) If you're in the center of the state (in the vicinity of Syracuse, roughly) I'd estimate you're looking at a two to three hour drive one way to get to Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or the Canadian border.

Since this bill is in the state legislature, I'm not so sure I'd call a four or five hour round trip an easy way to skirt the law for Syracuse residents.

Comment Re:Might seem like a good idea on paper, but-- (Score 1) 353

3) This assemblyman buys a phone with a backdoor that gets compromised and his dirty laundry ends up on the Internet. The assemblyman may backpedal faster than Michael Jackson moonwalking.

4) The assemblyman buys a phone without the backdoor. Assemblyman's opponent in the next election finds out and gets a target to use to accuse assemblyman of hypocrisy.

Comment Re: This was _outlawed_ in the USA? (Score 3, Interesting) 545

Generally speaking, there are two possibilities for what happens to a child on the way to school: something bad or nothing bad. [I'm being REALLY general here, but I think the conclusions drawn from this simple exercise apply even if you introduced more complexity by adding additional cases.]

There are two possibilities for what a police officer can do: stop the child or not stop the child.

In the "Something bad", "Stop the child" case the officer may prevent harm to the child. This is a positive outcome.
In the "Something bad", "Not stop the child" case the public tees off on the police in general and the officer in particular. "Why didn't you do your job???" Negative.
In the "Nothing bad", "Stop the child" case at worst the officer gets accused of interfering with the parents' right to allow their child to walk. At worst, mild negative.
In the "Nothing bad", "Not stop the child" case nothing happens. Neutral.

So if the officer chooses to stop the child, at worst they get the public mildly disapproving of his or her actions. If they choose NOT to stop the child, at worst they get dragged over hot coals by the court of public opinion, sued, etc. From the officer's perspective, mild disapproval is a MUCH more attractive alternative than torches, pitchforks, and/or lawsuits and so their dominant strategy is to stop the child.

Or the tl;dr version: cover their asses in case something bad would have happened to the kid.

Comment Re: We Need To Add To US Surveillance Programs? (Score 1) 343

The corresponding statement to "We need our guns to protect us from the government. Doing so has the side benefit of protecting us against criminals who may otherwise attack us." is "We need strong encryption to protect our words from the government. Doing so has the side benefit of protecting us against criminals who may otherwise attack our electronic accounts."

Comment Re:revolutionary technology (Score 1) 172

Direct human-markability isn't necessary IMO. Let the human make selections on a touch screen. Let the computer print out a ballot with both human readable text and a machine readable barcode (QR code perhaps; that would allow many smart phones to check a ballot.) Scan the barcodes as the ballots enter the ballot box. In the event of a recount the election officials would read the human readable text and that would be the official count.

The computer doesn't need to be anything special; a machine from Best Buy (costing a few hundred bucks) would be sufficient (overkill, really) for the display needs. A printer for a cash register probably would be sufficient to write the ballots. An iPhone or Android phone and a simple wooden box could serve for the logging system and the ballot box in a pinch.

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