Because Money Is Liberty Coined

I really love these redesigns of the US Dollar:

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There’s a contest, and I like these designs by Michael Tyznik the most. On a graphical level, they look like money. He’s integrated micro-printing, aligned printing (that $5 in the upper left corner, it’s really hard to print so it works when you look at light) and moire patterns to make copying and printing difficult.

But I like them the most because money is liberty coined. As everyone who doesn’t have it knows, without money, you have far less freedom. As the government takes more and more of our money and decides what to give us, our ability to make choices to pursue our own happiness diminish. As we make fewer choices, we lose the habits and lessons of liberty.

Further, as you have more money, you have more choices. You have more ability to take control of your life and make more choices. As you get away from having just enough to get by, you have money to play with. You have the ability to make decisions and implement them. Money empowers you to enjoy liberty and pursue happiness in more ways.

And with the bill of rights on the back of each one, it’s a beautiful way to tie together the money that we use with the liberty that it enables and represents.

Makeup Patterns to hide from face detection

Adam Harvey is investigating responses to the growing ubiquity of surveillance cameras with facial recognition capabilities.

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He writes:

My thesis at ITP, is to research and develop privacy enhancing counter technology. The aim of my thesis is not to aid criminals, but since artists sometimes look like criminals and vice versa, it is important to protect individual privacy for everyone.

[…]

What will these forms look like and how well will they integrate into our cultural expectations of body decoration while still being able to function as face detection blocking devices? How can hats, sunglasses, makeup, earrings, necklaces or other accessories be modified to become functional and decorative? These are the topics that I’ll be exploring in thesis on CV Dazzle.

Very interesting stuff in Adam Harvey’s CV Dazzle Makeup blog posts. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

Visual Notetaking

I’m a big fan of the book “Back of the Napkin” which is all about using pictures to help with problem solving. Yesterday, I was introduced to a related concept “visual notetaking” where you use images to support other notes you are taking during a meeting. I’m at a two day workshop and we have a professional notetaker who is using this. It really makes the notes much more powerful and useful then just text. Imagine having notes with visual cues to (including but not limited to network diagrams) help you remember what happened. I’m sitting here looking at the posters, the notetaker made in real time with our discussions and it’s amazing how much more useful they are.

The Presentation of Self and Everyday Photographs

With the kind help of our awesome readership, Amazon and Glazer’s, I’ve acquired a camera, some books, a tripod, a prime 50mm, a flash diffuser, a polarizing filter, a graduated neutral filter, and some other random photography toys tools. You might question this, but I can quit anytime. Really! I even offered to loan my 50mm to a friend for a few days so he could get hooked make an informed decision about buying one.

Now, I know there are lots of people in our communities who post up their photos, and that’s their choice. I like to maintain some privacy-control of how I’m presenting myself. I have posted photos from my trip to South Africa and from the Privacy Enhancing Technologies conference, but those are almost journalistic. There’s something tremendously revealing about what subjects people photograph and share. Go ahead. Look. Ask yourself, who takes pictures like that? Why did they share that? What does it say about them?


Me, I prefer that people focus on my photos for themselves, and not for who I am. And I prefer to present a professional image that’s a carefully cropped subset of the whole.

And what I’m re-discovering is that it’s tremendously hard. A few of the shots at the end of the PETS set are, if I do say so myself, very nice. I have some bald eagles that I shot on Lake Washington while boating with some co-workers. Which stream do those go in?

There’s also a technical hard: I dug into EXIF a fair bit with exiftool, and there’s at least two serial numbers in each raw photo. (Camera body and lens. I don’t vouch for completeness, but for a Canon camera, start with exiftool -SerialNumber -InternalSerialNumber -CameraSerialNumber.) If you set IPTC data automatically, you have to remember to strip it. There are micro-variations from manufacture which (supposedly) can be used to fingerprint a lens, but my expectation is that’s complex and requires some reference images. I’m prepared to re-evaluate that exposure when Moore’s Law comes along for a conversation.

Then there’s wanting to be noticed. I remember being a new blogger, and obsessively watching the stats for new links. Compulsively linking to the big bloggers in the hopes of some love. Writing articles to bait some of the carnivals. Linking back whenever someone gave me a link. If I posted the photos (or even a link here), I’d presumably get a fair number of views. Does that do anything for me? Some folks have given me really great feedback and advice, but let’s face it, giving a new photographer advice is hard. There are so many things you could say, and which ones will help them improve? Does this person take feedback well?

Is there a technological approach which might help, with a crowd of photographers who commit to jointly telling the world their nicknames if there’s a decent anonymity set? But really, isn’t that just the old saw about the dancing bear all over again? (And doesn’t it go up against what Bob Blakley was saying? More on that shortly.) So for now, I’m interested: is there a better way to frame this?

We Live In Public, The Movie

One of the best ways to upset someone who cares about privacy is to trot out the “nothing to hide, nothing to worry about” line. It upsets me on two levels. First because it’s so very wrong, and second, because it’s hard to refute in a short quip.

I think what I like most about “We Live In Public” is how it shows how well that nothing to hide idea screws with people’s lives. The movie is the story of Josh Harris and some bizzare experiments he ran, including putting 100 people under constant surveillance and interrogation in “Quiet,” a bunker under New York City with free flowing drugs. After that screwed a lot of people up, Josh and his girlfriend decided to “live in public” on the web. Roughly quoting “after a fight, we’d both run to see who the people watching thought had won it.” In many ways, it was unpleasant to watch, in the way any view of dystopia is.

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The movie was one of my favorite parts of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, and not just because it was the end and I got to kick back with a beer while we watched. It was my favorite because we talk a lot about privacy in very technical ways: what it means, how to protect it. We talk less about the why or the communication of it. The movie was pretty impactful for a lot of us. One of the best, and perhaps most post-modern was having a Skype conversation with the director, Ondi Timoner, after the screening. (Another member of the household stopped by, said hi, and covered the camera. And sorry about the butt-in-camera, Ondi, we had the beer near the laptop running Skype.)

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In the future, we’re inspired to have more art at the conference, and I’d encourage all of you to see We Live in Public. It’s currently in limited engagements [Updated with links]:

8/28 – IFC Center, NYC
9/4 – Brattle, Cambridge
9/25 – NuArt, Los Angles
10/2 – Roxie – San Fransisco, CA
10/9 – Alamo Draft House – Austin, TX
10/16 – Music Box – Chicago
11/13 – Landmark Varsity – Seattle

You can also follow @onditimoner on Twitter, read the blog about the movie, or get in touch with her by Skype..no, just kidding. I think she deserves some privacy.

Spinal Tap, Copyright

There’s a cute little story in the NYTimes, “Lego Rejects a Bit Part in a Spinal Tap DVD.” I read it as I was listening to a podcast on Shepard Fairey vs The Associated Press that Dan Solove pointed out. In that podcast, Dale Cendali (the attorney representing the AP) asserts that licensing is easy, but she fails to consider transaction costs or denials as a possible downside. Of course, if we didn’t commercially license out Emergent Chaos, none of us would write here. Or something.

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This photo (fairly used) gives the lie to that argument. Lego prevented it from being used in the movie:

“We love that our fans are so passionate and so creative with our products,” said Julie Stern, a spokeswoman for Lego Systems, the United States division of the Lego Group, a Danish company founded in the 1930s. “But it had some inappropriate language, and the tone wasn’t appropriate for our target audience of kids 6 to 12.”

In the most appropriate language I can use: that’s some fucked up over-reaching, and the system that lets Lego prevent such a use with threats of expensive litigation is messed up.

Kindle Brouhaha Isn’t About DRM

In case you haven’t heard about it, there is a brouhaha about Amazon un-selling copies of two Orwell books, 1984 and Animal Farm. There has been much hand-wringing, particularly since it’s deliciously amusing that that it’s Orwell.

The root cause of the issue is that the version of the Orwell novels available on the Kindle weren’t authorized editions. When contacted by the owners of Orwell’s copyrights, they deleted the books and refunded customers’ money.

All things considered, Amazon did something approximating a right thing in this matter. They didn’t have the right to sell the novels, and so they pulled the novels from the store and customers, and gave the customers a refund. About the only thing they could have done righter was to give something to the people who thought they had the books. The best thing to give them would have been authorized copies of the books, but store credit would be nice, too.

You can find a New York Times article on it, as well as a CNET article, as well as a Tech Dirt article that brings up the very good point that deleting the books was very likely against the Kindle terms of service, which is why Amazon likely should offer those people something.

Among all the handwringing, there are a number of stupid people — or perhaps people who should just know better — who somehow mutter dark things about how this serves people right for getting a device that has DRM in it. (As if they’ve never owned a DVD.)

Some of these people who should know better might think that I’m somehow in favor of DRM, so let me say that I am not. I am against DRM. I am also against nuclear war, swine flu, totalitarian governments, and bad service in restaurants. I’m also against one or two other things. None of them had anything to do with this little contretemps.

The issue is caused not by DRM, but by cloud computing. The problem is that Amazon has a cloud service in which Kindle customers can keep their e-books on Amazon’s shelf, and shuffle them around to any Kindle-enable device they have (like a Kindle proper, or an iPhone running the Kindle app). Customers can even delete a book from their Kindle and get it back from the cloud at a later date.

The event is that Amazon removed the book from the cloud, not that it had DRM in it. If you are concerned by this, you should be concerned by the cloud service. The cloud service enabled Amazon to respond to a legal challenge by removing customers’ data from the cloud. They didn’t need DRM to do it. In contrast, if iTunes store or the Sony e-book store had improperly sold a book, they wouldn’t be able to revoke it because they don’t have a cloud service as part of the store. (eMusic, incidentally, regularly adds and removes music from their store with the waxing and waning of desire to sell it.)

This is why we need to look at it for what it is, a failure in a business model and in the cloud service. Interestingly, the newly-formed Cloud Security Alliance predicts similar issues in which outside parties cause a cloud provider to shaft its customers. Not bad.

Their prescience is a bit limited because the proposed solution to this problem is to encrypt the cloud data with some fancy key management. That wouldn’t work here for the same reason that DRM isn’t an issue. If I know you have a resource, it doesn’t matter if magic fairies protect it, if I can delete it. It’s still good advice, it just wouldn’t have worked here.

What’s needed is some sort of legal protection for the customers, not technical protection. There are many potential warts here. If the owners of Orwell’s copyrights do not desire any ebooks of his works, it’s hard for Amazon to go buy legal copies for their customers (which would have been the most right thing to do). And it’s hard to argue that the seller shouldn’t do everything in their power to undo a sale they shouldn’t have made.

The correct way to deal with this is through some sort of contract arrangement to protect the customer. (The Cloud Security Alliance is prescient on this, as well.) That contract should be the Terms Of Service between the cloud provider and its customers. As TechDirt pointed out, this was likely a breach of Amazon’s TOS. They’re not supposed to delete books. They said they wouldn’t. Because of this, they owe something to their customers who were on the losing end of this breach of contract beyond the refund. I think ten bucks store credit is fine, myself.

They really need to do something, however, because without doing something, then someday someone will violate their TOS with Amazon and defend it with this breach of the TOS.

However, if you want to cluck your tongue, it should not be about buying goods with DRM, it should be about goods stored in the cloud. Everyone who offers cloud services ought to be clarifying now what they will do to protect their customers against lawsuits from outside parties. It can be crypto or contracts, it doesn’t matter, it just needs to work. This may be the first major cloud-based customer service failure, but it won’t be the last.