Seattle Parking Monitoring

Seattle’s King5 TV reports on “Parking enforcement’s powerful new weapon:”

An unassuming white sedan is the Seattle Police Department’s new weapon against parking violators. Just by driving down the street, George Murray, supervisor of SPD’s parking enforcement unit, can make a record of every parked car he passes.

“What we’re doing here is we’re actually reading the plates with the reader and electronically chalking them,” Murray said.

It’s electronic chalking because you won’t see any evidence parking enforcement has marked your car and started the clock ticking.

As the e-chalker passes by, its roof-mounted cameras send a picture of your vehicle and plate directly to an on-board computer. All Murray has to do is cruise the same street two hours later to know who’s been there too long.

Me, I wonder how long they keep the data.

Covering the Verizon Breach Report

As you probably know by now, the pattern of 1s and 0s on the cover of the 2009 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report contains a hidden message. I decided to give it a whirl and eventually figured it out. No doubt plenty of people managed to beat me to it, as evidenced by the fact that I didn’t get my solution in early enough to win the cash prize — but so far, I haven’t seen anybody write up a walkthrough, so I thought I’d do one. (Chris Eng, “Decoding the Verizon DBIR 2009 Cover“)

Zero Knowledge Poster.jpg

This reminds me a lot of the posters we did at Zero-Knowledge. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but we decided to encode a secret message in the bar codes. It was pretty tricky. We didn’t have the hundreds of bytes that Verizon had on their cover, we had 8 bytes per barcode, meaning we had no more than 40 characters in which to encode a message.

I remember a brainstorming session at a nearby bar (le Cheval Blanc?). We wanted something meaningful. We wanted something relating to privacy, anonymity and freedom. Something evocative and memorable. We kept running into that 40 character limit. The ads were expensive to produce, and we had already decided that we only wanted five, so that there would be recognition and people would see them repeatedly in Fast Company and Wired.

I don’t remember who came up with “Who is John Galt” as the slogan. We had bounced around some 1984 references (too negative), but kept hitting that limit. When we decided we needed to get them out, we settled on the Ayn Rand reference, and Ian Goldberg encoded them as bar codes. He just happened to have some bar code fonts sitting around.

Even with those constraints, it was a lot of fun tossing ideas around and seeing them in print all over the place.

Like Verizon, we hinted at there being something there to get people to look. Maybe one of these days someone will manage to keep it a secret for a while, and get a second wave of publicity out of their secret messages.

Anyway, I had fun reminiscing about the posters. Thanks to Austin Hill and Jean Bernard for hooking me up with high quality images of the posters.

Scalia: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

aka it’s not nearly as funny when you are the subject of the probe.
At a recent conference Justice Scalia said “”Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly,”
Well, a professor at Fordham University decided to take Mr Scalia at his word, and had one of his classes collect a dossier on the Justice and this is what they found:

Professor Joel Reidenberg and his class now have a 15-page dossier on Scalia, including his home address, the value of his home, his home phone number, the movies he likes, his food preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address, and “photos of his lovely grandchildren.”

So what we have here is yet another person discovering that while individual facts aren’t necessarily important, when you aggregate them together you have something quite valuable. Justice Scalia was understandably somewhat unamused

It is not a rare phenomenon that what is legal may also be quite irresponsible. That appears in the First Amendment context all the time. What can be said often should not be said. Prof. Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any.

Daniel Solove, over at Concurring Opions has provided more details and analysis as well as a follow up from Professor Reidenberg. Of note is the fact that this is a regular assignment in the professor’s class each year and the previous class had been told to use Dr. Reidenberg himself as the subject of the dossier.