The Future of Privacy

Information security expert Bruce Schneier looks at the Future of Privacy in this article from his Crypto-Gram Newsletter.

Two snippets:

The pervasiveness of computers has resulted in the almost constant surveillance of everyone, with profound implications for our society and our freedoms. Corporations and the police are both using this new trove of surveillance data. We as a society need to understand the technological trends and discuss their implications. If we ignore the problem and leave it to the “market,” we’ll all find that we have almost no privacy left…

Most of us are happy to give out personal information in exchange for specific services. What we object to is the surreptitious collection of personal information, and the secondary use of information once it’s collected: the buying and selling of our information behind our back.

Bruce writes coherently — and presumably knows more than we know he knows. His books are well worth a read too.

Australia Post’s lousy website

I’ve never been a fan of the Australia Post website, and not just because it’s pig ugly. In any website design, attention to detail is important — and every time I’ve used this site I’ve run into attention-to-detail problems.

click to view website My first annoyance with this site was just before Christmas. I needed to know when post offices would be closed over the holidays, and when the deadlines were for posting Christmas mail. I couldn’t find either piece of information.

Yesterday I was annoyed again.

I wanted to call my local post office to book a time for a passport interview. Yes, I’m finally getting a passport, and the quaint thing is you apply at a post office. So, rather than use the messy, advertising-filled White Pages I thought I’d get the number straight from the source.

Screenshot of Australia Post website fragment

And this is what you get (right): all the details for your local post office — but the general phone number for Australia Post.

That’s right, you can’t actually call your local post office to ask. You have to phone a call centre, navigate a silly IVR system and then wait in a queue.

Why on earth don’t they just give you the phone number?

Can Muslims use Emoticons?

Islam bans the pictorial representation of the human form, part of its fight against idolatry. So are Muslims allowed to use emoticons? The :-) smiley is a human face — and very pictorial.

Are Islamic nations doomed to second-rate communications because they can’t text as fast as Christians and Jews, for whom “:-)” instead of “I’m smiling” is as natural as “etc” instead of “and the rest”?