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Comment Re:Expect competitors for all big IT US companies (Score 2) 166

That's because people are idiots. Not only would a European-based competitor NOT prevent the NSA and GCHQ from getting at your data, it's not going to prevent any other agency from getting at it either.

I think that's a bold claim. Remember that when GCHQ wanted to spy on phone calls from the Middle East, they didn't do it by serving Belgacom with some dubious order from a bogus court. No such courts exist in Europe, at least as far as I know. They did it by hacking Belgacom directly and then they got caught when the telco went looking for them (and presumably evicted).

The UK has some pretty crap laws when it comes to surveillance, largely a hangover from the IRA era (which was a way scarier terrorist group than al-Qaeda, so it's somewhat understandable). The "9 hours at the border" thing comes from that time, it predates 9/11 actually. However the rest of Europe, not so much.

With regards to the solutions, I guess some companies will do exactly as you suggest and in source, or at least partially in-source private data. But that's a giant pain in the ass. Expect to see some novel and innovative approaches to squaring this circle in the coming years - cryptographers have spent a lot of time finding ways to do computation in the cloud over encrypted data. Perhaps they will finally see some of it get used.

Comment Re:news media has lost interest? (Score 4, Insightful) 513

Who says the general public doesn't care about it?

Polling shows that even back in July the US public knew the NSA was lying and disapprove of what's happening by 2:1.

But what can be done? "Outrage" doesn't achieve anything. It became abundantly clear the moment senior members of the military were caught lying and nothing was done, that what the public think doesn't matter. So why should the public make a fuss? Waste of energy.

CNN and the likes are just reflecting the fact that the general story is by now well known and not news. The NSA lies and is totally out of control. It does everything the most paranoid people ever imagined, and more. OK. Got it. Next story.

But make no mistake. The right people are still paying attention. Behind the scenes there's a lot going on in a lot of places. All kinds of people who previously would not have included government agencies in their threat models are now starting to do so. Change will take years, perhaps decades, and enormous amounts of technical talent is going to be wasted fighting the US government by trying to blind it with more effective encryption. Success is by no means guaranteed. But without a doubt those members of the general public who have the ability to take part in that are still paying attention.

Comment Re:NSA's fucking job (Score 5, Insightful) 260

You know, I've read this excuse a million times since Snowden did his thing, and I'm sick of it.

The problem is it's an abuse of language. Saying "Every country spies. It's one of those things governments are supposed to do" is nothing but rhetorical sleight of hand. The word spy conjures up cartoons of men in pork-pie hats and long raincoats following some traitor in a car. The word is loaded with cold war imagery. It reminds people of a time when there was an "us" vs a "them" and spying was a very small scale and targeted activity done against "them" or, at very least, those of "us" working for "them".

We need a new word to describe what's going on in todays world. Spying doesn't even come close to being the right word. How about totalitarian surveillance? But even that isn't strong enough to communicate the reality we are living in.

In today's reality there's no us vs them. There's no good vs evil, capitalism vs communism. There's just bureaucrats and their power, exercised over their own people as readily as over foreigners.

This is not only not "one of those things governments are supposed to do", it's often one of those things governments are expressly prohibited from doing by their own laws. And that's for good reasons!

Please, don't flatter the NSA by calling them spies. They aren't spies at this point. They are real life equivalents of O'Brien, the dedicated agent of totalitarian control in 1984. O'Brien is a far darker and scarier character than anyone who could be described as a spy.

Comment Re:So we've learned... (Score 4, Interesting) 126

A couple of problems here. Firstly a lot of those stories refer to an event in 2008, and Der Spiegel claims GCHQ only got access to Belgacom in 2010. So their spying cannot have been relevant there.

Secondly, the evidence in those cases was the sort of thing that can be obtained using ordinary court orders or ordinary, limited and carefully controlled wiretaps. The people targeted went to the Afghan-Pakistani border for months and according to one article, some of them were already known criminals in Belgium even before then. Getting a tight, time limited court order for surveillance of these people within Belgium is easily possible - at no point would Britain hacking Belgium have been helpful in such a prosecution and indeed, would have been dangerous - if the evidence was obtained without a warrant and defence counsel found out, the case might have collapsed.

I strongly dislike this notion that the acts Snowden uncovered are all OK because occasionally, the authorities do manage to catch terrorists. Guess what? They also catch random serial killers, fraudsters, drunk drivers who do hit and runs, all kinds of other criminals .... just using the ordinary tools and strict supervision they are supposed to operate under. Where's the evidence that tightly specified, time limited court orders issued by open courts are insufficient? Can you point me to just one case of a terrorist who successfully blew himself up because a judge mistakenly denied a reasonable warrant request? I've not heard of such a thing, even though occasional mistakes would be expected and not by itself sufficient to conclude what the NSA/GCHQ does is necessary.

Comment Re:Wow the US sure has well off homeless (Score 1) 403

I suppose the way it can work is this - after a reasonable if not rich life style, they lose a job and lose the apartment. They now get food stamps, but it's not quite enough to live off each months, so they end up living on the street. Due to the lack of rent payments, they now have enough money from social security to buy OK food and drinks. They still have laptop and phone from before things went south, even though they might not be able to afford a new one.

Comment Re:And how does a McJob prevent homelessness? (Score 4, Interesting) 403

It's worse than that. Yes, you need some kind of an address to get a bank account thanks to stricter AML laws passed in the PATRIOT Act.

However, if you spend a while in the cash economy, when you do get back on your feet many banks will refuse to take your cash as a deposit. Because they don't know how you got that cash, they are afraid of being considered money launderers by allowing you to deposit it. So once people fall out of the banking system it can be hard to get back in, which then in turn keeps these people down (and more likely to be criminals). All in the name of fighting the terrorists.

By the way, the US government knows the power of being evicted from the financial system full well. That's why they're starting to enforce US law internationally even though they can't jail people outside their borders. Instead of jail the punishment they use is being blacklisted from the financial system and having all your bank accounts closed. If you're a middle class guy with a home, a mortgage, kids etc and one day banks stop wanting to deal with you because you pissed off the US, then you could find yourself on the street faster than you might think. After all, what are you going to do when your bank accounts get closed - take out your life savings and pension as cash?

Comment Re:Oh my god (Score 1) 403

I think you over-estimate how difficult it is to use Bitcoin. Here's what they have to do:

1) Install app on phone (perhaps a charity case, or perhaps one they had before they lost their home)

2) Retype Bitcoin address from screen to laptop when receiving money for "microwork tasks" like spamming YouTube

3) There is no step 3.

Alternatively, step 2 can be "show someone the qrcode on your screen to receive money in person". Anyone can do it.

Comment Re:Absolutely nothing new about this (Score 3, Informative) 52

Fortunately, despite the name, it seems BountySource also supports fundraisers aka Kickstarter-style schemes aka "assurance contracts". We know from Kickstarter that this model can scale to very large investments, when the project leaders are credible and there are lots of people who want something done. Unfortunately Kickstarter has a very narrow focus, so it's really great to see someone step up and create a competitor focused on the open source world. If I didn't already have a job I'd definitely consider experimenting with funding myself this way.

Comment Re:Web of trust? (Score 1) 491

I think there are two technologies coming up that could help this situation somewhat. Although they're both a bit exotic currently.

The first one is Bitcoin proofs of sacrifice. The basic idea here is that you can obtain some Bitcoin via whatever means, and then sacrifice it (to miner fees) in such a way that you can create a data structure containing a public key which also proves that you threw that money away. Poof - you just created an anonymous "identity" that had a specific cost and that you therefore do not wish to lose. By adding this proof (or hash of the proof) to shared blacklists, you can then be banned from various sites. If you really really want to get back in, you can of course make a new sacrifice - but it could get expensive fast. People who behave can re-use their non banned proof at lots of websites and may never need to make a new one.

The second technology is called SCIP/TinyRAM and it allows you to generate a proof that some arbitrary computation was done correctly, where some of the inputs to that computation can be private. For example, you can take some rare and difficult to obtain object - like your NFC enabled passport - and then run a provable computation that verifies the signed cert chain stored inside the chip. The passport data is a private input. The output of the program is a hash of the passport and the fact that it was valid (signature chains were correct). This "proof" is then used as above - you can send it to websites who can then ban you if they wish, but they never learn your real identity. The bans stick because you can't easily obtain a new identity from the passport office.

I prefer the Bitcoin approach because it sets a market for abuse ... if you screw up and get banned in a lot of places, you can get a second chance by spending money. With the passport approach it can theoretically be done using any NFC enabled Android smartphone, so it's more accessible, but you only get once chance unless bans expire after a time period.

Comment Re:Please Leave the Gun Rights Debate Out Of This (Score 2, Insightful) 159

That's not what the article actually says. What it says is that the murder rate in the USA is much higher in general (it makes no mention of gang warfare), but that the mugging rate is lower than in Europe. Perhaps because people get shot instead of mugged instead?

Also, although it's a minor issue, I take umbrage with your phrasing of the first statement. It can be read to imply that violent crime in the USA is somehow doing better than normal. In fact violent crime rates have fallen everywhere in lockstep with phasing out of leaded petrol. The US has merely followed that trend, as would be expected from a phenomenon rooted in heavy metal poisoning.

So essentially what we have is that violent crime fell everywhere, including the USA, but in America muggings are generally replaced with shootings.

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