Internet

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On Wednesday I decided to see if I could finally sort out my Google+ profile, which was suspended around two and a half years ago. I didn’t really get anywhere, but I did discover some new and different frustrations.

First, the back story…

Google+ screenshot 1: see text for a description

As the first screenshot (above) says, “Your profile [that is, my profile] was suspected because it violates our names policy.” That’s because back in 2011, Google required that names consist of at least two words. To get something that looked close to my single-word name (a “mononym”), I’d entered it as “Stilgherrian .” But the full stop (“period” for American readers) isn’t allowed, and the profile was suspended.

I was so frustrated by that, and even more so by Google’s arrogant-seeming error messages, that I wrote an infamous expletive-filled blog post — which got more than 100,000 unique viewers on the first day. Even now, two and a half years later, it sometimes gets a couple hundred readers a month.

Since then, Google had supposedly started allowing people to display their “nicknames” (that is, pseudonyms”), at least in some contexts, so I figured that I’d give it another go. It wouldn’t worry me too much if I was “Stilgherrian Stilgherrian” under the hood, as long as my name was displayed properly.

So I clicked on “Take action”…

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ABC logoOn Tuesday, news reached us that two men connected with the digital currency Bitcoin had been arrested in the US — one a prominent advocate, the other the operator of a currency exchange.

ABC Radio’s lunchtime current affairs program The World Today did a story about it the same day, in which I made a few brief comments. The reporter was Tom Nightingale. Here’s the audio.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, served here directly from their website — where you can also read a full transcript.

ABC logoWhen the list of the worst passwords for 2013 did the rounds last week, I’m glad that a few media outlets went beyond mocking those who used them and gave some practical advice.

ABC 105.7 Darwin was one of them. On Thursday morning 23 January I spoke with breakfast presenter Richard Margetson.

While it was a light-hearted chat, we also managed to sneak in the advice: use different passwords for everything important; the longer the password, the better it is; email account passwords are particularly important; use password management software to keep track of them all.

Searching the internet for “how to choose a good password” generally delivers reasonable advice, but I reckon Microsoft’s advice and password checker ain’t too bad.

[Update 1510 AEDT: As Nick Andrew points out, the problem with Microsoft's password checker is that you're typing your password into Microsoft's website -- which is obviously a Bad Idea. So my recommendation is to use it to explore how different choices for your password affect its strength, and then choose something different again for your real password based on what you've learned.]

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

FIVEaa logoI continue to be pleased that digital privacy issues are getting more and more coverage in the mainstream media — such as the interview I did last Monday 20 January with radio 1395 FIVEaa in Adelaide.

Presenter Will Goodings had spotted the story of Turnstyle Solutions in Toronto, who can track people around town via their smartphones and use that location data for marketing.

Rather stupidly, I talk about Australia’s Privacy Act being “under review” when in fact that review is well over and the new Privacy Act comes into force on 12 March.

We also spoke about the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) forcing Apple to refund $35 million to customers who’d had their kids make what they felt were unauthorised in-app purchases on their iDevices.

It’s something the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been concerned about too, and they have a page to explain how you can block in-app purchases or complain to Apple or Google.

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The audio is ©2014 dmgRadio Australia, but here it is ’cos it hasn’t been posted on the radio station’s website. Besides, this is a reasonable plug.

ABC logoThe concept of Net Neutrality was in the news earlier this month: a US federal court struck down the Net Neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had introduced in 2010.

On 16 January I spoke about the issue on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Jonathan Green, and here’s the audio.

A US Court of Appeals ruling in Washington DC is being seen as a major blow to proponents of an open internet.

In ruling described as “even more emphatic and disastrous than anyone expected”, the court found internet service providers had every right to play favourites with their clients.

That could mean slowing speeds for services in competition with their own services and potentially charging higher fees to allow access to premium speeds.

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I must admit, I feel like I rambled a bit. As we started the conversation, my mobile phone link went dodgy, and the producer had to phone me back. We started the interview after a break — that’s been edited out of this version — but it threw me a bit. I’m not sure that I recovered.

Still, I think we got through the key points, and later in the morning I wrote something more coherent for Crikey, Net neutrality and why the internet might have just changed forever.

The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and is served here directly from their website.

Screenshot from The Project, 13 December 2013On Friday 13 December I recorded some grabs for the Channel TEN program The Project, which were used that night in a story about Google’s idea of putting microphones in your house so that their “digital assistant” software could figure out how it could help you next.

I was amazed that Google would even suggest this idea so soon after they were linked to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the US National Security Agency (NSA). But then again, Google is a many-headed hydra of an organisation. It can walk and chew gum at the same time. Badly.

The Project only ended up using two of the grabs, but over the fold you’ll find the video of the entire four-minute segment — including some guy called Mark Pesce in the studio, talking to the panel.

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ABC logoBack on 13 December I was a guest for the recording of the penultimate episode of Marc Fennell’s Download This Show for 2013.

Data privacy. What a year it’s been: 2013 will be remembered as the year we came to understand just how much our data was not our own. Edward Snowden might not have won Time magazine’s Person of the Year, pipped to the post by Pope Francis, but the former NSA computer specialist has forever changed the way we think about our information security as a result of his world-changing revelations. But has he changed our behaviour?

My fellow panellist was Karalee Evans, head of social for advertising agency DDB Australia, and we had a great time. Here’s the full audio.

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The audio is ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

ABC logoMore than a million dollars worth of the digital currency Bitcoin was stolen from a Bitcoin wallet service that seems to have been run by a young man who won’t be reporting the theft to the police.

I was interviewed by ABC Radio reporter Will Ockenden to provide some context about Bitcoin and digital currencies generally, and fragments of that interview were used on Friday morning’s edition of the national current affairs program AM. Hit their website for a transcript.

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The audio is ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

ABC logoThe topic of Net Neutrality was in the news again this week, because major US telco Verizon was challenging the US Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 ruling on various grounds, including that it was unconstitutional.

It’s a complex and subtle topic, but the Wikipedia entry linked to in the first paragraph, this InfoWorld article and Verizon’s legal claim [PDF] should bring you up to speed — as, perhaps, might my chat with Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National’s Drive program from Thursday night.

Here’s the full audio, running for nearly eight minutes.

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The audio is ©2013 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

Cover art for Corrupted Nerds episode 8: click for podcast pageI’ve just posted the first full-length podcast of material recorded on my Melbourne trip, this one being a chat with Dr Vanessa Teague about electronic voting.

Now I’ve always thought that the whole idea of electronic voting is a bit dodgy. You get a little bit of convenience, sure, but you get a whole lot more attack surface for the bad guys to hit — especially if you open up that whole can of worms of internet voting — and you make it almost impossible for anyone but a specialist digital forensics team to confirm that everything was legitimate.

I was willing to have my mind changed, but in fact the opposite happened. I now think more than ever that electronic voting opens up all manner of avenues for attack that would never have been possible before, with little benefit for most people. And it’d cost a squillion.

“There isn’t a secure solution for voting over the internet. There isn’t a good way of authenticating voters, that is, making sure that the person at the other end of the connection is the eligible voter they say they are. There isn’t an easy, usable way of helping voters to make sure that the vote they send is the vote they wanted, even if their PC is infected with malware or administered by somebody who wants to vote differently,” Teague said.

“And although there are some techniques for providing evidence that encrypted votes have been properly decrypted and tallied, it’s hard to scale those techniques to large Australian elections.”

As I said in September, give me my trusty pencil of democracy.

This was also my first podcast with a specific commercial sponsor.

Corrupted Nerds is available via iTunes and now SoundCloud.

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