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Comment Re:Untraceable (Score 1) 152

does a $100 bill hold any "personally identifiable information" barring some trace DNA or fingerprints?

Every bill has a unique identifier on it. Every time you withdraw from an ATM, those IDs are associated with your real name. Every time you purchase something, the retailer deposits those bills right back in a bank. Occasionally, bills may be passed around privately before landing in a retailer's hands, but this actually enables data miners to determine with whom you financially associate. Cash is no panacea of privacy.

Imagine a graph in which accounts are the nodes and transactions are the edges. Cash tells the Feds who owns every node. BitCoins tell the Feds (and everyone else) about every edge. The latter information quickly loses its value when nodes are popping up willy nilly with no real names attached to them, and faster than anyone can pin names to. You just have to programmatically keep your BitCoins at a recent node, ahead of the wave of nodes that have been identified.

Comment Re:In other words (Score 3, Insightful) 238

Yeah, I already figured Google knows who I am and what all my aliases are anyhow.

You are absolutely right, but abandoning pseudonymity based on this reasoning reflects a common misunderstanding about how data mining works. Please don't give up so easily. You see, organizations that scrape and aggregate data from the web can only probabilistically connect all your aliases. That is, they only know with 97.3% certainty that YouTubeTrollKing7 is the same person as osu-neko, and they only know with 98.5% certainty that osu-neko is Brian Nekomori who attends Oregon State University (I made that up, by the way). That may not be the kind of privacy you would prefer, but it buys a lot of freedom, especially if everyone does it. You see, the Internet is kind of big, and man-hunts involve skewed data. (That is, most people are not the person they are looking for.) Since false-positives create big headaches for data miners, they tend to set their thresholds very high. For example, if they set their thresholds at 99.5%, those pseudonyms will not be recognized as connected to you.

So, what does this buy you? Well, it's not enough that you can go around committing crimes and expect the FBI to never find you. But, on the other hand, they're going to have a hard time achieving a conviction if they cannot find any other supporting evidence. Furthermore, people just don't seem to understand the power of exponential decay that occurs with probabilities. The more pseudonyms you use, the more the probabilistic connections among them decay into the low 90's, making it extremely cumbersome to link them all together. Imagine having to filter through the 0.01% of Internet posts that happen to falsely connect with your pseudonymns with high probability! No one wants to do that, so guess what, you have some privacy.

So, don't give up on pseudonymity. Yes, data mining is real, but no, it is not omniscient. Pseudonymity doesn't defeat it, but it makes them pay a dear price for finding you. Make them pay to know who you are. If everyone does it, the whole industry stops being so lucrative. The very reason data mining pays off so well right now is because of people who take the attitude that "it doesn't matter because they know anyway". So, stop it!

Comment Re:Bitcoin isn't money but it's still a financial (Score 0) 135

When get get cash from an ATM, the bank associates your name with the unique ID on every bill. Since banks are tightly-regulated institutions, you can bet that they pass all their logs directly to "higher ups". When you buy something at a stire, at the end of the day, the first thing any retailer does is deposit all their bills in a bank, which again scans the unique numbers on every bill, and this data is probably again passes right on up to those who have an interest in tracking you. In rare cases, a bill may change hands a couple times before ending up in the hands of a retailer, but modern data mining techniques can trivially follow two or three hops, and I assure you that there is absolutely no way the NSA would simply pass up having full access to such a valuable trail of information. So, in other words, cash is no panacea of anonymity. With cash, not every transaction is logged as explicitly as with BitCoins, but at least someone has to do a little bit of work to attach your real name to your transactions.

Comment Re:I'm liking how Russia is standing up these days (Score 1) 234

Not being USA-ian...statements that have come out publicly against Obama are not only personally offensive but are against the State: i.e. Treasonous

Agreed, you're clearly not a USA-ian. We don't respect authority, here. And we don't really respect people who suggest that we should respect authority. So, go kiss your king's ...ring. Ya, know, I've lost a lot of respect for my country in the last decade-and-a-half, but thanks for reminding me why this is still the place for me and my treasonous attitudes.

Comment Re:The most damning aspect of this affair (Score 2) 259

If legitimate, this "scientists weren't allowed" statement is indeed alarming. However, it was also given without details, basis, or evidence. I am a scientist, and I don't give a damn about what my industry wants me to study. Who are these pansy agricultural scientists that ask companies for permission about what to study? Was a scientist actually sued? Can anyone document any details of a possible threat, even a subtle or implied one? How did these companies manange to distribute these seeds so widely to farmers while completely preventing all scientists from obtaining a single sample? Come on, evidence please! Until then, I really want to be inflamed by this story. Can anyone with some real details help me out?

Comment Re:Regulation of currency (Score 1) 240

If you want to gamble with money in an exciting way; I suggest going to Vegas.

The folks in Vegas don't take it well when you try to use your intellect to improve your odds. The market, however, permits it. That is a pretty-big difference. Frankly, I do not find games that come with restrictions about how I can use my brain and electronic extensions to be nearly as exciting.

Comment A government by the people... (Score 2) 573

...for the people, and of the people has no legitimate reason to indefinitely keep secrets from the people. When temporary secrets are needed, they should be placed in escrow, so the reasonableness of the duration can be evaluated when it comes out, and those keeping the secret can be held accountable. Until the government provides such reasonable checks, surely the people are justified in seizing all of its information by force.

Comment Re:Almost heaven (Score 1) 44

The only thing keeping Android from being completely open is the amount of blob code needed to access device-specific hardware.

This is no small barrier. To end users, it is the difference between a phone that works, and one that is broken. Reverse-engineering proprietary blobs is a tremendous bother. Who wants to put in all that effort for a phone that will be obsolete in 3 months? Essentially, if there is even one proprietary blob, the whole thing is effectively proprietary. From a practical perspective, is only marginally more open than Windows ever was.

Comment Re:Hmmm .... (Score 1) 569

The 'free market' is a lie

The free market is a noun. What were you told the free market would do? Magically ignore natural barriers to entry and resource limitations and spawn competition that will drive down prices to a fair value? Yeah, that would be a lie. Are you implying that we should give our government power to regulate this industry, and it will never use that power for evil? That would be a lie too. If you want the truth, you gotta stop making ridiculous assumptions.

Comment Re:Yeah but... (Score 1) 152

Until we get the privacy laws straight...

I'm just not seeing that happening anytime soon, so what exactly are you saying? Progress must halt indefinitely? Or do you really think we are on the brink of the general public suddenly becoming outraged at the privacy infractions of the entites that "serve" them?

Comment Re:Fakery (Score 1) 248

Can such a system be gamed? Certainly, as can -any- system given enough time and effort, but it i s still better than nothing at all.

To be more specific, it is better than the system we have, which is easier to game. With the current system, everyone must trust the well-established venues. With the web of trust, everyone chooses their own trusted pointes to seed their web. This is very difficult to game unless you know your target's seed points in advance.

Comment Not as black and white as people think (Score 0) 133

Everyone hates SPAM, so obviously Spamhaus is good and Cyberbunker is evil...

...except, SPAM exists because SMTP is broken, and we can't fix SMTP because of the network effect, and SMTP is not really awful enough to fix because ...wait for it ...Spamhaus. So, it is not entirely clear to me that this guy who fights for a free and open Internet is really the bad guy. Wouldn't it be better if we actually FIXED THE PROBLEM instead of suppressing anonymity to compensate?

No pancake is so thin that it has only one side.

Comment Re:Start working on your dissertation (Score 4, Insightful) 228

As soon as he's finished it's a never ending grind...

Right. People enjoy what they're good at. He's going for a Ph.D. Those are the kind of people that are good at making an impact. If we were good at "enjoying life", we would have pursued the path of greatest pleasure instead of the path of greatest impact. If he's not happier grinding, he's on the wrong path.

We all agree on the necessity of compromise. We just can't agree on when it's necessary to compromise. -- Larry Wall