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Submission + - RIP: UK privacy advocate Caspar Bowden

wendyg writes: The Register (and Business Insider) report that UK privacy advocate Caspar Bowden has died. For ten years or so, Caspar was one of Microsoft's leading privacy officers, but he is most significantly known as a tireless campaigner against back-doored encryption and key escrow. As a founder of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, he spent countless hours studying the legislation that became the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and was instrumental in keeping some of the worst proposals out of the eventual law. Campaigners from Privacy International, Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, and No2ID all speak of how important his advice and insight were in their work.


Comment Zimbardo's research... (Score 1) 950

I guess no one's read Jon Ronson's latest book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. There's a chapter on the Zimbardo prison experiment in which Ronson interviews a couple of the key figures and casts a lot of doubt that the experiment unfolded the way it's been told for these many years. IF you believe the people he interviewed, which includes the main "prison guard" bully, there was a lot of play-acting going on. Ronson cites academic psychologist and textbook author Philip Gray's argument that the experiment was flawed because Zimbardo awarded himself the role of superintendent, especially since he gave the guards a pep talk about their total power in the situation (as recounted in Zimbardo's own book, The Lucifer Effect).

That does make me wonder about the quality of Zimbardo's research on this occasion.


Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 365

What's expensive is not healthy older people; it's *un*healthy older people. The focus on smoking and death ignores the more important point that smokers are much more likely to need many years of expensive care in their later years before they die and are likely to have much lower quality of life.


Comment Progressive lenses - wrong for more than computers (Score 1) 464

I'm extremely myopic and briefly tried progressive lenses. Like you, they drove me nuts because so little of the visual field was in focus at any given time. I dumped them quickly and went back to straight distance lenses. I don't actually need glasses for reading fine print, so for medium distance (I keep my computer monitors at the back of my very large desk) I just slide my glasses down my nose to adjust the correction. It's not perfect but it's still better than progressive lenses. (I have poor eyesight but very good visual acuity.)


Comment Ellen Ullman (Score 1) 247

I'd recommend Ellen Ullman's Close to the Machine, a book of essays written in the late 1990s. It's not a computer science book per se, but it is very insightful about how the choices programmers make trickle down to the eventual actual users of the system - that is, not the administrators and employees but the people the system makes decisions for and about. (eg, in the UK's DWP benefits system it would be the people receiving those benefits, not the people deciding whether or not they deserve them).


Submission + - Pupils tracked in UK college via ultrawideband RFID for 1-3 years (

wendyg writes: As part of redeveloping its three-site campus and without consultation with parents or the Information Commissioner, the UK's West Cheshire College installed a highly detailed tracking system using ultrawideband RFID tags handed out to its 14 to 17-year-old students. The system, which cost up approximately £1 million, was abandoned earlier this year because of escalating costs and lack of the functionality the college wanted. The college has been reluctant to answer questions, dubbing privacy campaigner and persistent questioner Pippa King "vexatious", and material relating to the trial has been vanishing off the Net. The law requiring parental consent for the use of biometrics in schools (for things like taking attendance and paying for meals) came into force last month. It seems it already needs to be updated.

Comment Re:A lot of this BS is just Daniel Berg's fiction (Score 1) 266

I'd point out that *this* particular New Statesman piece was written by Jemima Kahn, who was one of the celebrity names who posted bail for him. I rather suspect she's formed her own opinion. Same goes for people like Heather Brooke, the Guardian, and the NY Times, who all had their own relationships with Assange before becoming critics.

It's not *all* people who read Domscheit-Berg's book.


Comment Re:640 years (Score 1) 813

That's certainly how I've always felt - the existential thing and the fear of death. As I'm approaching 60, however, the thing I'm also learning to fear is the deaths of friends and family - one thing that's often left out of these discussions.

I've certainly never thought I'd be bored, no matter how long I lived.


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