Guilty of being a teenager in a public place [blogjune04]

Police news clipping, click to embiggenEarlier this evening, Channel TEN journalist Hayden Nelson tweeted this news clipping, and oh how we laughed. But beyond the laughter, there’s something quite sinister here.

This item appears to be from one of the Murdochland local suburban papers, and it reads:

Mosman police were patrolling Rawson Park on Friday night, May 30, when they spotted two teenage males standing in the darkness at about 10.30pm. Police deemed it to be suspicious and thought they may have been there to consume alcohol or drugs. The 18-year-olds stated that they were just hanging out and eating lollies. After a search nothing was found but red frogs in their pockets. The pair were moved on from the area by the officers.

I know that the Sydney North Shore suburb of Mosman is a separate planet from the rest of human society, but I seem to recall that when I was 18 years old, some time shortly before the last of the mammoths died out, the local park was about the only place you could go for a private conversation with your mates about… well, life.

Home was obviously out, because your parents were there. Shopping malls were closing, and in any event you can’t just hang around in the mall without buying something. The same goes for pubs and caf├ęs. Not everyone can afford to buy endless beverages, even in Mosman.

The increasing privatisation of public space is a problem. You can’t just walk around the Sydney Harbour Foreshore, for example, without coming under the management of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and their arbitrary rules enforced by private security guards.

The privatisation of public space even has its own story category at The Guardian.

The roads have been turned over to traffic, not people. What seats you can find to sit on are part of JCDecaux’s advertising empire masquerading as bus shelters, sited right at the edge of the road where their hoardings can be seen, rather than set back from the kerb so you can hear yourself think.

No, the local park is the place for a quiet chat about the hell of growing into adulthood.

“Hanging around” is precisely what public parks are for — and if that’s “in the darkness” it’s because the local council is either stingy with the lighting budget, or understands that it’s not actually healthy for the night to be lit up like a football stadium.

Actually no. It’s “in the darkness” because, der, that’s what happens at nighttime.

Maybe there’s more to this story than meets the eye. But as it’s reported, it seems like these two lads were “deemed to be suspicious” simply because they were teenagers outside after dark, and were asked to move on for no valid reason whatsoever, other than to cover the police officers’ embarrassment with having interfered with people going about their lawful business. And that’s wrong.

[Update 5 June 2014, 0805 AEST: In a comment below I’ve written about the law that apparently applies in this situation. It reinforces my view that what happened here was just plain wrong.]

[This is one of 30 daily posts I’m writing during Blogjune. See them all under the tag blogjune, or subscribe to the RSS feed.]

Talking Facebook audio snooping on The Project

Screenshot of Stilgherrian on The ProjectGiven that Facebook is the biggest social network on the planet, and therefore the biggest data miner of them all, there was naturally plenty of media interest in the privacy implications of their latest feature: audio matching.

As explained in these stories at ZDNet and The Independent, and in Facebook’s own blog post, the new Facebook app can use your smart device’s microphone to identify the music you’re listening to or the TV program you’re watching.

On Thursday I spoke about this on Channel TEN’s The Project. “Look I wouldn’t trust Facebook, personally, as far as I could spit a cow,” I said.

Over the fold you’ll find the video of the entire four-minute segment — starting off with a “package”, as they’re called, featuring Angus Kidman, editor of Lifehacker.com.au, followed by the panel interviewing me. The presenters are Carrie Bickmore, Ray Martin (yes, that Ray Martin), Jo Stanley and Lemo.

Continue reading “Talking Facebook audio snooping on The Project”

Talking RATs and webcams on The Project

Screenshot from The Project, 28 February 2014It’s been a while since I got to talk directly to The Project presenters, but I did so last night. And I was captioned as a “Cyber Security Commentator”, which is obviously a bit special.

The story was about the security risks of webcams. Presenter Gorgi Coglan introduced it thusly:

What if I told you that the webcam in your computer could be under the control of someone on the other side of the planet, and watching everything you do right now?

I was pleased that The Project introduced the Channel TEN audience to RATs, or remote administration (or access) tools, and managed — as they nearly always do — to strike the right balance between scary and funny.

Over the fold you’ll find the video of the entire four-minute segment — starting off with a “package”, as they’re called, featuring Hacklabs director Chris Gatford, followed by the panel interviewing me.

It was the Friday team, so that panel consisted of presenter Gorgi Coglan, comedian Lehmo, the inimitable Waleed Aly and, just to be different, Richie Sambora, guitarist of Bon Jovi fame.

Continue reading “Talking RATs and webcams on The Project”

Talking Google and privacy on The Project

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.

Continue reading “Talking Google and privacy on The Project”

Talking geoblocking on The Project

Screenshot from The ProjectI am continually intrigued by the choices of stories that I end up talking about on Channel TEN’s The Project — like bouncing off the release of a parliamentary report on IT pricing to discuss how to avoid geoblocking.

It’s nearly two weeks since we recorded some sound bites at the foot of Sydney Harbour Bridge. The story was originally scheduled to air the following night. But on the day there was a far better yarn to tell — the anniversary of MMS, which could lead to some fun sexting jokes — and then the prime minister called the election. I was starting to assume that the story had been spiked.

But no, it went to air on Monday night, and it turned out to be quite a good explanation of the issue and how to get around the geoblocks — as well as the risks.

The video of the three-minute segment, including comments fore and aft by the presenters, is over the fold.

Continue reading “Talking geoblocking on The Project”

Talking NSA and spying on The Project

Screenshot from The Project, 8 July 2013The revelation that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was engaged in such comprehensive spying of American citizens and their allies, some of it possibly unconstitutional, continues to make headlines.

The focus has not narrowed to the manhunt for Edward Snowden as I’d feared. Instead, there’s a steady stream of mainstream news stories as new details emerge — including my third appearance on Channel TEN’s The Project on Monday night.

On the previous two occasions, when I was talking about cyberwar and crimefighting smartphones respectively, I was chatting with the presenters. Since they’re in Melbourne, that involved sitting in front of a green screen and looking down the barrel of a camera as if it’s your best friend.

But this time my comments were to be included in a stand-alone “package”, as they’re called, along with comments from Fairfax journalist Philip Dorling and others. So a videographer came to my hotel room on Friday afternoon to shoot me at my desk, while the Melbourne-based journalist asked me questions via speakerphone — and I looked toward a yellow piece of paper that indicated where the journalist might have been standing had he actually been there.

Ah, the magic of television!

The video of the three-and-a-half minute segment, including comments fore and aft by the presenters, is over the fold.

Continue reading “Talking NSA and spying on The Project”