Weekly Wrap 48

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. This week was very much a calm — sort of — before the storm.


  • Patch Monday episode 86, “Apple: Big Brother or just misunderstood?”. When news broke that Apple’s iOS-based devices were logging location-based information, the media went wild. I speak with information security engineer Alex Levinson from Katana Forensics and Professor Roger Clarke, chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation.


  • APF urges criminal penalties for smartphone privacy breaches, for ZDNet Australia, based on Professor Clarke’s comments on Patch Monday.
  • Gamification: Hot, new, unethical? for the new site Technology Spectator. I’ll say it straight up: the mindset behind the gamification trend disgusts me. And, despite what the first two commenters on that op-ed imagine, it’s not because I haven’t heard or read enough about it. The more I hear and read from gamification’s buzzword-addled cheer squad the more disgusted I become.

Media Appearances

  • On Monday I spoke with Perth radio RTRfm about the Sony PlayStation Network hack.
  • On Friday I spoke with Kate O’Toole on ABC 105.7 Darwin about the surge of spam and malware following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I haven’t posted the audio files of those radio interviews, even though I have them. Should I? Part of me says I should do so, because it helps create a proper archive of what I do. But another part of me reckons that radio in particular is ephemeral, and that my conversations about these issues really haven’t added much new to the vast global pool of media on these subjects. What do you think?

Corporate Largesse

None. But that will seriously change next week. Stand by.


Most of my day-to-day observations are on my high-volume Twitter stream, and random photos and other observations turn up on my Posterous stream. The photos also appear on Flickr, where I eventually add geolocation data and tags.

[Photo: Victory is mine! The view from the dining table at Wattle Cottage, one of the Bunjaree Cottages where I’ve been living off and on for the last three months. The title is because this was the last in a sequence of photos documenting my battle with the forces of natural gas. I guess you had to be there…]

Patch Monday: Contactless EFTPOS and Google privacy

ZDNet Australia logo: click for Patch Monday episode 26

Privacy issues on the Patch Monday podcast this week.

Contactless EFTPOS and credit cards that allow you to make payments without a signature or entering a PIN, and the vast honey pot of personal data that is Google. It’s not just Gmail, but everything else.

My guest is the Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, Professor Roger Clarke.

You can listen below. But it’s probably better for my stats if you listen at ZDNet Australia or subscribe to the RSS feed or subscribe in iTunes.

Please, let me know what you think. We now accept audio comments too. Either Skype to “stilgherrian” or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

eBay: Not Australia? Let’s try the US!

eBay couldn’t force its Australian sellers to use its wholly-owned PayPal payment service, but that’s not stopping them from trying the same trick in the US.

I wrote about this previously, though I didn’t mention that eBay gave up in face of such clear opposition — the 700+ submitters and the ACCC, that is, not me! However Lauren Weinstein writes that in the US eBay has announced that PayPal (or credit cards) are to be the required mechanism for all transactions.

Continue reading “eBay: Not Australia? Let’s try the US!”

Stupid email disclaimers: don’t use them!

Over on the Link mailing list, there’s been a brief discussion on those legal disclaimers people put into email signatures. Brief summary: they’re stupid.

These disclaimers have never been tested in a courtroom, and in some circumstances they could even reduce your legal protection. However, I reckon the key issue for a business is “branding”.

Do you really want your communication with clients, suppliers and associates to look like your relationship will be defined by lawyers? That you routinely send “confidential” email to the wrong people and have to ask for it to be deleted? That you or your staff won’t actually stand behind what you say in an email because it’s not “confirmed in writing”? That your reaction when things go wrong is to sue someone?

Please, empower your staff to speak with authority. Get your act together so you don’t make lame mistakes to begin with. And have the confidence and honesty to stand behind what you say, wherever and however you say it.

Critical Perspectives on Web 2.0

First Monday is a peer-reviewed journal about the Internet. Almost always good reading — but this month’s special feature Critical Perspectives on Web 2.0 is double-plus good.

The Preface gives the flavour:

Web 2.0 represents a blurring of the boundaries between Web users and producers, consumption and participation, authority and amateurism, play and work, data and the network, reality and virtuality. The rhetoric surrounding Web 2.0 infrastructures presents certain cultural claims about media, identity, and technology. It suggests that everyone can and should use new Internet technologies to organize and share information, to interact within communities, and to express oneself. It promises to empower creativity, to democratize media production, and to celebrate the individual while also relishing the power of collaboration and social networks.

But Web 2.0 also embodies a set of unintended consequences, including the increased flow of personal information across networks, the diffusion of one’s identity across fractured spaces, the emergence of powerful tools for peer surveillance, the exploitation of free labor for commercial gain, and the fear of increased corporatization of online social and collaborative spaces and outputs…

Much, much food for thought in the essays. Expect to see it reflected — somehow — in my writing over the coming week.

Hat-tip to Professor Roger Clarke, who says, “I thought my paper was reasonably critical of the phenomenon, but these make me seem like a pussycat (or maybe a respectable academic?).”

Sensis’ legal bullying revisited

On 19 January I wrote about Sensis’ lawyers sending legal “nastygrams” to small website owners. Professor Roger Clarke has received a response [PDF file], which we can’t copy and paste because it’s a scan of a printed letter.

Professor Clarke reckons the response is “reasonable enough (as far as it goes)”, and he won’t be taking the matter any further. His article on Lawyers’ ‘Nastygrams’ re Trademarks reminds us that lawyers’ letters often make inappropriate demands on behalf of trademark-owners.

It’s vital that people stand up for their rights, and resist corporations getting away with claims that go beyond the already excessive rights that corporate welfare laws in the ‘intellectual property’ arena grant them.

So, we all should say “the Yellow Pages® directory” to help Sensis prevent their trademark turning into a generic word. Sensis is our friend.

The funniest bit, I think, is that the lawyer’s response reckons the original letter was intended to “encourage the proper use of Sensis trademarks”. Lawyers must have a funny idea about “encouragement”: their “nastygram” was a three-page letter in pompous legalese containing veiled threats [PDF file].