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Comment: Re:One of the big boys (Score 2) 84

These sorts of discussions are nothing new. Debates about how to handle modern cryptography have been running since its invention. The police are judged exclusively by their ability to catch criminals. They are not judged on how eloquently they argue for civil rights. Plus, they are exposed to the pointy end of criminal behaviour and its impact on people every single day, so of course they tend to get frustrated when they can't stop it. They are rarely if ever exposed to the pointy end of government abuses of power, partly because it's often them or their colleagues in the national security state doing it.

All the above has been true ever since the modern concept of a police force was created back in Victorian England. The police ask for more powers so they can catch more criminals. The job of the politicians who can give them that power is to weigh the costs and benefits, and try to ascertain the mood of their voters. Sometimes they say yes and other times they say no.

So just because in Australia the police are asking for more powers does not imply anything is wrong or unusual. The real thing to pay attention to is the final outcome.

The real reason these sorts of discussions cause widespread concern, especially on sites like Slashdot, is not the inherent push/pull compromise-based process of making and enforcing law, but rather trust in the whole process has broken down to such an extent that nobody believes the outcomes will be fair or properly enforced.

Comment: Re:Real users? (Score 1) 114

by IamTheRealMike (#46831011) Attached to: WhatsApp Is Well On Its Way To A Billion Users

I am routinely spammed by fake accounts on Facebook. It happened twice in the last week alone. So far I have never received any spam on WhatsApp, probably because they do phone verification for every user, so a spammer would need to control lots of phone numbers, which is possible but not trivial.

Literally everyone I know uses WhatsApp. Just because it didn't take off in the USA doesn't mean these numbers are wrong. It's pretty rapidly replaced SMS as the global mobile messaging standard. Half a billion users sounds about right to me. If you say there's about a billion people online (very rough), subtract a few hundred million for the USA, and WhatsApp is getting close to but hasn't yet saturated the international market, then half a billion is about where I'd expect them to be.

Comment: Re:Not really true (Score 1) 114

by IamTheRealMike (#46831003) Attached to: WhatsApp Is Well On Its Way To A Billion Users

Facebook do not "farm out" people's private data. Go sign up to be an advertiser and try to obtain people's private data. You can't.

As to the second thing - wat? Do you expect any company that's the target of a class action lawsuit to simply not defend it? Also what's up with this "class action lawsuit brought by its userbase" nonsense? I'm a Facebook user and I never brought a class action suit against anyone. I think you mean, "class action lawsuit brought by lawyers who claim to represent Facebook users".

Comment: Re:How does that sit with you, Snowden? (Score 4, Insightful) 146

by IamTheRealMike (#46815465) Attached to: VK CEO Fired, Says Company Under Kremlin Control

OTOH, power in the West is rotated between two different bands of crooks (or at least two factions of the same band of crooks).

I think if the Snowden affair has taught us anything, it's that real power in the west is not held by politicians but rather the executive branch (US) and civil service (UK). The bureaucrats appear to be able to do whatever they like, then repeatedly lie about it (USA) or simply refuse to turn up at all (UK) and politicians let them get away with it. What's more, the bureaucracy is now routinely blacklisting and even assassinating people based on no kind of formal process whatsoever, with no democratic oversight, and the people doing it are career government employees who are certainly not elected and in many cases their identities are themselves secret.

For background, in my former job I worked on one of the systems at Google that was compromised by GCHQ (they wrote wire sniffers to decode the login traffic). The root cause of this failure was the incorrect idea that western governments are "good" and the nasty Chinese/Russians/Iranians are "bad" thus internal encryption was only worth the cost when traffic transited wires controlled by "bad guys". But it turned out that they're all bad and the degree of badness appears limited only by their budget, so now Google all wire traffic all the time.

So please get out of this idea that the west is better than Russia. Democracy in the anglosphere has become so weak that lots of people simply refuse to vote at all, or are (at best) single issue voters for things like immigration. Anything national security related is uncontrollable by voting at this point.

Comment: Re:How does that sit with you, Snowden? (Score 2) 146

by IamTheRealMike (#46815315) Attached to: VK CEO Fired, Says Company Under Kremlin Control

Why? In the USA Facebook and Google+ are both run by people who could be described as "oligarchs" with strong ties to the White House.

By the way, if you believe this story is true then you should also believe that Putin's answer to Snowden was correct, given that it says:

Earlier this month, Durov claimed that Russia's intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), had pressured him to hand over personal data on VK users involved in anti-government protests in Ukraine. Durov said he refused to do so, though he's gradually ceded control of the company in recent months and has long butted heads with government authorities. Experts have speculated that the Kremlin is looking to tighten its grip over VK and other social networks in the same way it controls print and TV media. Many Russians used VK to organize widespread anti-Putin demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, when thousands took to the streets to protest allegedly rigged elections

i.e. they are/were not able to simply access that data in the same way the USA and UK were slurping internal Google/Facebook db replication traffic right off the wire. In which case Putin's assertion that the FSB doesn't monitor "millions of users" might be correct, though of course the rationale given is highly suspect.

Comment: Re:Voluntary? (Score 4, Interesting) 396

Getting from Hong Kong to Ecuador (or wherever he was going) without flying over any US or allied territory requires strange routes - just go to a flight booking flight and notice that the returned results mostly involve changes in the USA.

Taking such a route was wise - look at how US allies forced down the presidential jet of a LatAm leader just to search for Snowden.

But I'm really not sure why you're arguing with me about this. What happened to Snowden is a matter of public record, it's not something that's up for debate. He got stuck in Russia because the USA revoked his passport and he then wasn't allowed to board his onward flight. But once it became clear that no plane was safe, not even those with diplomatic immunity, if it flew over any US allied territory, he would have been an idiot to leave anyway because that would have been a direct flight into a lifetime of solitary confinement.

Comment: Re:wouldn't matter if it weren't canned (Score 1) 396

Fox News is the last place anyone would turn to learn about abuses of power by the government, especially with anything related to national security. It is however VERY effective at making it look like there's real accountability and competition in governance, by turning everything into a personal popularity contest between two men who are little more than figureheads.

Comment: Re:Wow... Snowden just lost me. (Score 3, Insightful) 396

Congratulations. Your post wins the "who can represent the worst stereotypes about Americans" prize for this thread.

Let's recap. Snowden revealed gross abuses and illegality in your government. Doing this results in the same sort of punishments as it does in many other countries with overly authoritarian leadership: lifetime in jail, as you request. So to do the big reveal you admit is something you "really needed", he had to run. His first choice was Hong Kong, but when it appeared the Chinese might hand him over or keep him jailed for years in diplomatic limbo he decided to go to Latin America, probably Ecuador. He was en-route there when the US Govt revoked his passport, leaving him stranded in Russia which happened to be on the way.

Your post and general mentality have multiple failures, but don't worry, they are correctable.

  1. An absurdly strong "us vs them" complex.
  2. A garbled and factually incorrect belief about events in very recent history.
  3. A desire to see someone who did something "really needed" severely punished because he did it for "the wrong reasons", you of course don't elaborate on what those wrong reasons were. He has stated his reasons many times: he saw illegal behaviour and knew it had led to dangerous territory and serious abuses. He did not do it for personal fame or fortune, as evidenced by the fact that he is now broke and vanished from the scene almost entirely for months after he got let out of the Russian airport. Pretty hard to argue he had the wrong reasons.
  4. Finally, a strong quasi-religious belief that the USA is better than Russia, despite the fact that they are both remarkably aggressive and corrupt societies, run by oligarchies, in which democracy is barely functional and anyone who challenges the status quo has to run away lest they end up with a life sentence from a kangaroo court. In addition, the populations of both countries are easily manipulated by telling them how glorious and special they are. There are far more similarities than you dare imagine.

There's a simple fix for your predicament - never use the word "traitor" ever again. It describes a state of fevered flag-waving tribalism which allows your own government to blind you and switch off your critical thinking. The people in power are not better than you or anyone else, they are just ..... the people in power. Your country is not better than other countries, it's just .... the place where you were born. Your rulers deserve no loyalty, no special breaks. They are corrupt and untrustworthy to the core, they need to be watched constantly lest they abuse the powers they were temporarily granted for some purpose or another. You cannot be a traitor to such people, the concept simply has no meaning.

Once you get into this mentality, your recollection of historical events will probably improve.

Comment: Re:Voluntary? (Score 5, Insightful) 396

He didn't choose Moscow. He chose Latin America and got stuck in Russia when the USA revoked his passport. It's the US governments fault he's now in Russia and yet they try and paint him as a traitor who ran to the Russians - yet more US hypocrisy and propaganda.

Comment: Re:wouldn't matter if it weren't canned (Score 2) 396

You wont be arrested for insulting or protesting Obama. You wont be arrested for reporting on his failings; there are huge websites dedicated to it.

Of course you will. The Obama administration has prosecuted journalists and leakers at a far higher rate than before. How is one supposed to report on his failings, if the act of revealing them triggers immediate accusations of being a traitor and guaranteed prosecution? The US based papers who reported the Snowden leaks took big risks to do so, and of course their source is now in exile ...

Comment: Re:Useful Idiot (Score 2) 396

These propaganda sessions for Putin are pre-staged so Snowden has allowed himself to be used as a "propaganda tool". Considering how freedoms are curtailed in Russia, it seriously deminishes Snowden's reputation.

No it doesn't.

Snowden asked a simple and direct question, as is the norm at Putin's Q&A sessions (he does them with press corps too). Putin gave a simple and direct answer. Whether you believe the answer is a lie or not, it's a question that anyone could have asked and got the same response.

Also, do you actually know these sessions are entirely pre-staged? Can you give a cite for that? Putin had to ask for help with a translation of Snowden's question, why would he make himself look linguistically weak like that if it was all pre-staged and he already knew the question was coming? Far better for him to look fluent.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun