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Comment Re:Tor? (Score 1) 111

But your dog isn't (I assume) a political activist. Facebook doesn't go out of its way to track down accounts with false names, but if someone complains that your account has a false name, it will be suspended until you provide legal documentation of the name, such as a passport or driver's license.

This has happened, and continues to happen, to activists around the world. Michael Anti, the Chinese journalist, was one high-profile case. There's a Facebook fan page about him, but he's no longer allowed to have a Facebook account.

Comment Use HTTPS (Score 5, Informative) 194

Another good reason to install HTTPS Everywhere, a browser extension that will redirect your Google searches to the HTTPS version of the site. By checking the certificate presented by the server, your browser can then be sure that it's talking directly to Google. (HTTPS Everywhere also works for a lot of other popular sites.)

Or, if you don't like Google, use DuckDuckGo, which uses HTTPS by default with no need for a browser extension.

Comment Re:Pretty much never? (Score 1) 203

I think something like TPB model is there to stay, if necessary they'll just move it to be a TOR onion site, still centralized but anonymous.

On that point, it's interesting to see clients like MediaGet and Frostwire 5 incorporating search into the client. If one of the sites they rely on gets shut down, not only could the clients switch to another site at the next upgrade, they could potentially switch to another way of contacting the site (eg through Tor, as you suggested) without the users needing to be any the wiser.

Comment Re:Pretty much never? (Score 5, Interesting) 203

Going distributed is THE way of stopping people from shutting you down.

But ironically, what BitTorrent got right (and it pains me to admit this, because I'm a big fan of pure P2P solutions) was centralising the hard parts - search and peer location - and distributing the easy part - content distribution.

Another area where BitTorrent struck the right balance between pure P2P and pure centralisation was in content curation. Gnutella made it incredibly easy to share a file, but the result was a ton of low-quality, badly-labelled, nearly-identical files. BitTorrent made it just hard enough that only a few, relatively dedicated people would create torrents, and everyone else would just redistribute them. I don't think that was a conscious design decision, but it happened to hit the sweet spot.

Comment Re:Does this mean IPv4 addresses will sell like DN (Score 2) 264

Your boss will ask you "How much does it cost to adopt v6?" And then he'll buy those v4 addresses.

I agree, at the moment that's what will happen - and arguably that's the rational response, at the level of the firm if not at the level of the net as a whole. But in the longer term I believe a market for IPv4 addresses will have two consequences:

1. Organisations that are currently sitting on more address space than they need will start to use it more efficiently so they can sell or lease the surplus. That will ease the address space shortage.

2. New organisations, which don't face a large upgrade cost if they choose IPv6, will buy a few IPv4 addresses for public-facing assets such as websites and mailservers that absolutely have to be reachable by IPv4-only customers. Everything else will be done with IPv6. Then a few years down the line, someone within each organisation will ask, "What share of our revenue comes through the IPv4 site, and how much is that site costing us?" Organisations on the margin will start to drop IPv4 support, creating extra pressure for the remaining IPv4-only organisations to upgrade.

Comment Re:Does this mean IPv4 addresses will sell like DN (Score 1) 264

Does this mean that companies will start selling IP addresses for increasing amounts of money?

I hope so - nothing's going to spur IPv6 adoption like having a dollar cost per IPv4 address that you can show to your boss.

should I buy a block of 100 as an investment now?

If you can get away with it, fuck yes! At this stage in the game it's probably only lawyer-plated companies like Microsoft that can force this past IANA, but once the market opens up, jump in.

Comment Re:He forgot something (Score 1) 225

The goal isn't to liberate people from their ISPs - at least, not initially. Eben Moglen explained in a speech last year that the goal is to liberate people from cloud providers and social networking sites that would like to collect and sell their personal data.

In the longer term, however, Freedom Boxes might also be useful for resisting wiretapping. In a post to the liberation tech mailing list (sorry, I can't link to the actual post since the archives are subscriber-only), Eben Moglen gave the following explanation:

On the question, how can personal servers deal with network non-neutralities, the answer is by tunneling among themselves. So Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice live in different places, maybe different countries, and have different upstream connectivity providers. If Bob's Freedom Box notices that he can't connect to port X at address Y, the box opens a tunnel to Carol's box, through the encrypted "route" they share, and asks Carol's box to proxy the traffic. If Carol's can't do it, maybe Ted's can. Alice's freedom box, which is located inside a country with a national firewall, uses Bob, Carol, Ted, and a hundred more of her friends abroad to lift her over the national firewall many times a day.

Clearly the same approach could be used to avoid surveillance as well as filtering. Now, of course, that still assumes your ISP allows you to have some kind of connectivity to some of your friends - NAT could be a major issue here, as other commenters have noted.

Comment Re:Little Confused (Score 1) 269

The original research paper does a better job of explaining.

* The following torrent sites were studied: Mininova in December 2008, The Pirate Bay in November 2009, and The Pirate Bay again in April 2010.

* Roughly 3,000 user accounts uploaded torrent files to the sites.

* 100 user accounts uploaded 67% of the torrent files, and those torrents accounted for 75% of the downloads.

* Fake content uploaders (antipiracy agencies and malware) accounted for 30% of the torrent files and 25% of the downloads. Many of those accounts could be traced to a small number of IP addresses.

* Profit-driven uploaders (who use free content to advertise private trackers and/or commercial content) accounted for 30% of the torrent files and 40% of the downloads. This is where advertising comes into the picture: people aren't getting paid for the ads shown on torrent sites, they're uploading content as a form of advertising.

* Altruistic uploaders (who release copyrighted content with no profit motive) accounted for 11.5% of the torrent files and 11.5% of the downloads.

(Yes, I realise the figures don't quite add up - I guess there's some rounding in there.)

Comment Re:Its really (Score 1) 760

Al-Jazeera, who may be biased and ignore pop culture B.S. on the front page; or CNN and FoxNews who give priority to celebrity diversion.

Interestingly, clicking on the CNN link from the UK redirects you to CNN's international edition, which has a relatively serious front page, comparable to that of Al-Jazeera.

I guess there's a double standard at work: people "at home" get patronised, whether by Al-Jazeera or CNN, while those "abroad" are treated as adults.

Comment Re:Mostly US backed (Score 2) 90

No doubt you're right - but the difficult question is not whether the US and other countries support opposition movements for cynical reasons. Of course they do. The difficult question is whether those movements can still be legitimate. Was everyone who protested after the Iranian elections paid by the CIA? If not, do they still have a legitimate right to demand change, or does US involvement taint every opponent of the regime by association?

Comment We need new tools (Score 2) 90

While I broadly agree with Shirky that free communication between people in authoritarian societies is a more important driver of social change than communication with the outside world, we have to recognise that the two can't be neatly separated. One of the reasons people currently use circumvention tools is to reach social media sites where they can communicate with other people who are behind the same firewall. That's a crazy situation for two reasons.

First, it turns commercial entities like Facebook, which couldn't give a fuck about fighting censorship, into vital tools for opposition movements. If there's one thing the WikiLeaks/Anonymous bunfight has shown, it's that internet companies aren't mature enough as institutions to balance their short term political and financial interests against their long term responsibility to protect free speech. We can't rely on them.

Second, it means that all communication between people in authoritarian societies has to cross the border twice, even though borders are among the easiest places to monitor and control. If you wanted to design a communication system for prisoners in neighbouring cells, I doubt your design sketch would begin, "First get the message to a trusted third party outside the prison."

Unfortunately, moving the social media sites inside the firewall doesn't solve the problem. Take China for example. There are already Chinese equivalents of Facebook, Twitter, and other firewalled sites, but they're subject to a variety of pressures to police their users, especially those that start to form political groups. If Facebook isn't going to stand up for Chinese dissidents then Baidu certainly won't.

It's also pretty tough to maintain social media sites outside the firewall that are dedicated to supporting opposition movements - such sites are susceptible to DDoS attacks and subtler forms of infiltration and monitoring, as in the Ghostnet case. The basic problem is that the web wasn't designed or implemented with censorship-resistance in mind. Let's not ask anyone to bet their life on the security of Wordpress.

So what do we do? In my opinion we need new tools. Tools that are designed with security in mind, that don't rely on servers inside or outside the firewall, that can be used from an internet cafe or a mobile phone, that don't produce easily recognised traffic patterns, that can be used to hold meetings, plan rallies, or just tell jokes - in short, to talk to people you trust without revealing anything to people you don't. We already have some partial solutions we can learn from - Freenet, WASTE, txtmob, CryptoSMS, Gazzera, Retroshare, SocialVPN - and a million research papers that never made it as far as implementation. Now we need some specs, some code, many eyes and regular backups. :-)

Comment Re:Time machine (Score 2) 220

I agree, there's a sad lack of vision in America today. The whole country seems bitter and afraid. Nobody talks about principles. Of course the same's true in Europe, but I feel like we've been suffering from that disease for longer - America used to be different. Perhaps it's a symptom of post-imperial decline, which America's only just beginning to enter. Or perhaps I've fallen for the golden age myth after all - Americans must have been bitter during the Great Depression, afraid during the Cold War - why did we ever think they were different?

Comment Time machine (Score 2, Funny) 220

When the iPad was first announced, I dismissed it as an insignificant device - little more than a giant phone or a netbook without a keyboard.

How wrong I was.

What Jobs & Co have developed is nothing less than a fucking time machine. The iPad offers to transport us back to the comfort and safety of the mid-twentieth century. A time when citizens' minds were untroubled by pornographic smut or government leaks. A time when the news was delivered to your doorstep once a day, and you were happy to pay for the privilege. A time when anyone who disagreed with the policies designed to keep them safe was quietly taken away and never heard from again.

What next from these technological wizards? Here are my predictions:

  • The iDollar, a digital currency based on the rock-solid security of the Gold Standard.
  • The iCadillac, a car the size of a house, with stylish white-wall tires and a DRM-equipped stereo.
  • The iWife, a lifelong companion and domestic servant who will teach your iKids strict gender roles and other Apple-approved family values.
  • The iCigar, a relaxing treat for gentlemen, with no proven medical link to cancer.
  • The iMac, a dapper yet practical wrap-around raincoat, available in beige, light brown, or camel.

I'm truly excited to be living in the future my grandparents dreamed of!

Comment Re:Parent wan't a gerneralization. (Score 1) 265

When was the last Northern Ireland-related terrorist incident outside of Northern Ireland? Looks to me like it was the Ealing car bomb, nine years ago.

Getting out of Afghanistan won't bring an end to violence in Afghanistan - but it will make it a lot harder for people to justify spreading that violence abroad.

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