Archive for the ‘Digital Rights’ Category
At the end of each year I try to list the books that I’ve read during that year. I’ve done this in 2012 and in 2013. Below you’ll find the list of books that I’ve read in 2014. This year I’ve also added the other media that I regularly consume: what magazines and newspapers do I read, what are some notable RSS feeds that look at and what podcasts have been on my playlist?
I’ve read 39 books in 2014. That is, once again, significantly less than in earlier years. It has been a busy year at work and I have occasionally struggled to find the time to read. Here is what I did manage to read this year and what I thought of it.
Menner’s book with pictures from the Stasi archives is another way to powerfully visualise the banality of evil. Malamud Smith’s book is already a bit older but very valuable in how it frames the ability to have a personal life as something that is essential for humanity. Greenwald was a bit too full of bluster for my taste and Pariser’s book is very much worth the effort, even if you have seen his TED talk.
- Simon Menner — Top Secret: Images from the Stasi Archives (link)
- Janna Malamud Smith — Private Matters: In Defense Of The Personal Life (link)
- Katja Franko Aas — Technologies of InSecurity: The Surveillance of Everyday Life (link)
- Glenn Greenwald — No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State (link)
- Eli Pariser — The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You (link)
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We’ve read seven books in our book club this year. Dow Schüll and Scott both managed to blow my mind. Dow Schüll’s work is very impressive because she manages to tie 10 years of observation of slot machines in Vegas to philosophy of technology. Scott has given me a key concept in understanding the state: legibility. Rushkoff’s book disappointed as his concepts (like ‘narrative collapse’) didn’t stick. Garton Ash going back to East Germany to read his 300+ pages of Stasi files and confronting his informants was enlightening.
- Natasha Dow Schüll — Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (link)
- James C. Scott — Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (link)
- Douglas Rushkoff — Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (link)
- Timothy Garton Ash — The File : A Personal History (link)
- Luke Harding — The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (link)
- Mai Jia — Decoded (link)
Chimamanda Adichie’s book had me captivated from the beginning to the end. It painfully exposes the perspective of the immigrant and shows how much race is still an issue in the US. I travelled through Iran in late October and read some related fiction. As always it was Kapuściński who impressed me the most. Few writers can demonstrate so much insight in so few words.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie — Americanah (link)
- Ryszard Kapuściński — Shah of Shahs (link)
- Dr. Seuss — The Lorax (link)
- Marjane Satrapi — The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis, #1-4) (link)
- Kader Abdolah — Het huis van de moskee (link)
- Sam Peeters — In de schaduw van mijn lul (link)
- Aglaia Bouma — Niets te verbergen (link)
- Jean-Yves Ferri — Asterix bij de Picten (Asterix, #35) (link)
I couldn’t really find any way to further categorise this diverse set of non-fiction books, so I’ve bundled them all together. Pollan’s short book is the first sensible thing I’ve seen about food in a long time. His strategy: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is what I now live by. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to read De Bono (he seemed too much like a hyped-up American consultant). I was wrong. His six ‘thinking hats’ helped me tremendously in keeping meetings very productive. Pinker has written a seminal book about the historical decline of violence, the man writes like an angel. Munroe’s serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions were hilarious and managed to teach me a lot at the same time. Cillier, finally, found a way to succinctly explain complexity theory. Lakoff on metaphors was very worth my while and I love anything that gives us Ai Weiwei’s voice.
- Michael Pollan — In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (link)
- Edward De Bono — Six Thinking Hats (link)
- Steven Pinker — The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity (link)
- Randall Munroe — What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (link)
- David Allen — Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life (link)
- Richard Templar — The Rules Of Management: A Definitive Code For Managerial Success (link)
- Paul Cilliers — Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems (link)
- Hans de Bruijn — Framing, Over de macht van taal in de politiek (link)
- Hans Ulrich Obrist — Ai Wei Wei Speaks (link)
- George Lakoff — Metaphors We Live By (link)
- Zinnebeeld — Symboolpolitiek, letterproef van mooie woorden (link)
- Steve Crawshaw — Small Acts of Resistance: How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World (link)
- Stuart Williams — Iran – Culture Smart!: the essential guide to customs & culture (link)
- Paul Arden — It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be (link)
- Jordi Puig — Dali: The Emporda Triangle (link)
- Angela Wilkinson — The Essence of Scenarios: Learning from the Shell Experience (link)
- Eefje Blankevoort — Te gast in Iran (link)
- Antoine Vigne — Le Corbusier In His Own Words (link)
- Barry C. Lynn — Cornered : The new monopoly capitalism and the economics of destruction (link)
- Tony Buzan — How to Mind Map: The Ultimate Thinking Tool That Will Change Your Life (link)
My consumption of other media
In 2014 I continued my subscriptions of Wired (which I find barely tolerable at times) and the New York Review of Books (wonderful!). There were no other magazines that I read regularly. The only daily ‘newspaper’ that I subscribed to was De Correspondent.
The playlist of my podcast player included (in this order of preference): This American Live, This Week in Tech, 99% Invisible, WNYC’s Radiolab, Guardian Tech Weekly,Security Now, Triangulation and occasionally a part of Argos.
I subscribed to (and read) Stephen Downes’ Ol’Daily newsletter, Audrey Watter’s newsletter and Springwise Weekly.
The newsfeeds in my RSS reader that I made sure to read were: NRC, Tweakers, Ribbonfarm, Kars and Alper at Hubbub, Bruce Schneier, Freedom to Thinker, Prosthetic Knowledge, the EFF, the Guardian Tech, Privacynieuws, the Privacy Surgeon, XKCD, Adam Curtis, Zeynep Tufceki, Jevgeny Morozov, Slashdot’s Your Rights Online and of course everything that Bits of Freedom, my place of work, produces.
What will I be reading in 2015?
I am about halfway in Piketty’s ‘Capital in the 21st Century’ and want to make sure that I make the time to read some original McLuhan, some classics in cybernetics, the Club of Rome’s original ‘Limits to Growth’ and some more Žižek.
Just like last year I decided to publish an overview of the books that I’ve read during the year.
This year I managed to read 48 books (I am really missing my daily commute, don’t believe the 47 in the picture above) which I’ve put in the following categories:
Mcluhan’s Understanding Media is the single most important book on technology that I’ve ever read. His probes are all-encompassing and still very relevant 50 years after their first publication. Taleb gave me a new way of looking at the world and a set of tools for thinking that is richer than Dennett’s attempt at doing the same. Carse’s classic is well worth reading and I would love to read more Žižek in 2014.
- Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man — Marshall McLuhan (link)
- Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder — Nassim Nicholas Taleb (link)
- Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking — Daniel C. Dennett (link)
- Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility — James P. Carse (link)
- Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium — Paul Levinson (link)
- First as Tragedy, Then as Farce — Slavoj Žižek (link)
- Het socratisch gesprek — Jos Delnoij (link)
- McLuhan: A Guide for the Perplexed — W. Terrence Gordon (link)
- The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth, and Trust — Robert David Steele (link)
I expect this category to grow in 2014 with more books about privacy, freedom of expression and the Internet. Solove delivers good arguments on why privacy is important and Edwards (inadvertently) showed me how scary it is to work for Google.
- Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security — Daniel J. Solove (link)
- I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 — Douglas Edwards (link)
My focus will move away from learning, but I still managed to read some fascinating books on the topic in 2013. Harrison left me itching to try his method for running meetings with large and diverse groups. Illich clearly showed the institutionalizing effects of schooling (confusing being taught with learning and confusing certification with competence). Gatto made me loathe to put children in schools (read Dumbing Us Down, the Underground History is less cogent).
- Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide — Harrison Owen (link)
- Deschooling Society — Ivan Illich (link)
- Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling — John Taylor Gatto (link)
- De canon van het onderwijs — Emma Los (link)
- The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling — John Taylor Gatto (link)
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The book club read nine books in 2013. By far the most thought- and discussion-provoking was Morozov battling “internet-centrism”, “epochalism” and “solutionism”. Eggers enlarged current Google and Facebook practices to show us the grotesque direction we are moving in. Zamyatin wrote a Russian version of “1984” (way before Orwell) subverting the concept of freedom. Silver was a great read and Lanier gave me the useful concept of “Siren Servers”.
- To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism — Evgeny Morozov (link)
- Makers: The New Industrial Revolution — Chris Anderson (link)
- The Circle — Dave Eggers (link)
- Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet — Julian Assange, Jacob Appelbaum, Andy Müller-Maguhn, Jérémie Zimmermann (link)
- The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t — Nate Silver (link)
- Bleeding Edge — Thomas Pynchon (link)
- We — Yevgeny Zamyatin (link)
- Who Owns the Future? — Jaron Lanier (link)
- The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production — Peter Marsh (link)
For some reason I had yet to read Kafka’s The Trial. It didn’t disappoint. Shteyngart made me laugh the hardest (with Thomése coming in a close second) with his near-future dystopian novel on our hypercommercialized digital future.
- The Trial — Franz Kafka (link)
- Super Sad True Love Story — Gary Shteyngart (link)
- Cat’s Cradle — Kurt Vonnegut (link)
- De laatkomer — Dimitri Verhulst (link)
- 2BR02B — Kurt Vonnegut (link)
- How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia — Mohsin Hamid (link)
- Homeland (Little Brother, #2) — Cory Doctorow (link)
- Het bamischandaal — P.F. Thomése (link)
- Gelukkige Slaven — Tom Lanoye (link)
There were some real gems in this miscellaneous category. Feddes has set the standard for books on cities. Because of Hillis I finally understand how computers work. My friend Dorien Zandbergen‘s PhD thesis gave some wonderful insights into hacker culture in the bay area. Van Casteren’s book made me think of my early teenage years living in a young neighbourhood in a forensic town just above Amsterdam.
- 1000 jaar Amsterdam — Fred Feddes (link)
- Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips: 153 Amazing & Inexpensive Tips for Extremely Lightweight Camping — Mike Clelland (link)
- The Pattern on the Stone (Science Masters) — W. Daniel Hillis (link)
- Japan’s Cultural Code Words: 233 Key Terms That Explain the Attitudes and Behavior of the Japanese — Boyé Lafayette de Mente (link)
- The Incredible Secret Money Machine — Don Lancaster (link)
- New Edge, Technology and Spirituality in the San Francisco Bay Area — Dorien Zandbergen (link)
- Thoughtless Acts?: Observations on Intuitive Design — Jane Fulton Suri (link)
- The Big Lebowski: An Illustrated, Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of All Time — Jenny M. Jones (link)
- Lelystad — Joris van Casteren (link)
- Treat Your Own Neck 5th Ed (803-5) — Robin McKenzie (link)
- The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm — Tom Kelley (link)
- Een halve hond heel denken: Een boek over kijken — Joke van Leeuwen (link)
- How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum — Keri Smith (link)
- What Color Is Your Parachute? 2012: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers — Richard Nelson Bolles (link)
About 4.5 years ago I wrote about me going to work for Shell. Now I am changing employer again. Starting today I will be the director of Bits of Freedom, a Dutch organization focusing on privacy and freedom of communication in the digital age.
I’ve had a wonderful time at Shell: a steep learning curve, many opportunities for doing interesting projects in the learning technology and disruptive innovation fields, smart colleagues and enough scale and budget to try out big things. I wasn’t looking to leave, but couldn’t let this chance pass by.
If you know me even a little, then you will understand that going to work for Bits of Freedom is very much a passionate choice. As somebody who understands and appreciates the positive potential of technology, I am deeply worried about the technology-mediated future we are currently creating for ourselves. I want to make an impact and change that for the better. I can’t imagine a place in the Netherlands that is more at the forefront on issues like surveillance, the EU privacy directive or net neutrality than Bits of Freedom. I am honoured that I get to work there for the next few years.
This will likely also mean a change in course for this blog. Future digital rights related posts will go up in Dutch on the Bits of Freedom blog (Creative Commons-licensed naturally). I will have less time to focus on the world of learning, but will put some thinking into privacy of learners, data ownership and learning analytics in the next few months. Let’s see what gets posted here going forward…
Just now I attended an event organized by the Club of Amsterdam (“Shaping Your Future in the Knowledge Society”) about the Future of Digital Identity at Info.nl. After getting a badge and being photographed without my consent I could enter.
There were three speakers, below my notes.
Can you be in control of your online identity?
Nowadays we can’t imagine a world without Internet anymore. We use the Internet for Social media, shopping, search engine etc and because of that we share a whole lot of information about ourselves. Once the information is there, it is nearly impossible to get it of the Internet. Is there a way we are able to change this? I think there is hope for all of us!
Hagen’s business is built on the inconvenience of having to identify yourself with paper things to do significant things online (like opening a bank account).
When you buy something in the offline world you aren’t asked a lot of information when you buy (a magazine paid for by cash for example), in the online world you need to share lots of personal details. This is not only inconvenient, but also is a security risk. He thinks these details should be left in a secure place (trusted 3rd parties), like E-Herkenning or NSTIC. They should be the trusted intermediary between you and an online service provider (or merchant). This can only work if these parties are free for the consumer (but they can make money with the data that you are willing to give away), independent and international/global.
IDchecker is only one part of the total puzzle (not an e-identity provider) . They have three main services:
- ID Document verification
- Intelligent Data Capture
- Face recognition (biometrics)
There was some strong criticism from Rop Gongrijp who said that these three things are trivial to forge, meaning that either the consumer doesn’t get what is promised or merchant gets the wrong information. Rop said: “Are you aware that you are potentially creating a worse nightmare than you are solving?” Another person asked why he would centralize information that was decentralized before (“my airline currently doesn’t know what books I buy”). According to Hagen these are issues with the trusted 3rd party e-identity providers and not with his ID checking service.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Living in the Panopticon
Balázs Bodó described his talk as follows:
The story of having a double identity / multiple personas is one of the most basic toposes of human imagination. We don’t need to be Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), or Superman (and Clarke Kent) to realize that most of us have more than one face. One we show in public, one, we prefer to keep private, one, we consciously maintain, another we unwillingly hint at, etc. The Internet makes it hard to compartmentalize these personas, since we all live in the “perfect prison”, in the Panopticon. Will Jeremy Bentham’s dream “Morals reformed — health preserved — industry invigorated — instruction diffused — public burthens lightened — Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock — the gordian knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied — all by a simple idea in Architecture!” will finally be achieved now?
The notion of privacy is culturally determined. Since moving to the Netherlands he has been thinking about how to live in a surveillance society. He doesn’t mean government surveillance, but the surveillance we create for ourselves with our smartphones. The definition between the public and the private has become somewhat blurry. He showed a Facebook graph search query: Family members of people who live in China who like Falun Gong. This is information that we create ourselves.
He asked people why we have such big windows in the Netherlands without curtains. They came back with a few answers:
- Showing off wealth
- Calvinist prescriptions
- Transparency as the casual enforcement of civility
The last of course relates to Bentham’s panopticon and Foucault describing how this type of thinking has completely permeated our everyday lives. Will transparency and reform our society? To more tolerance? Or to better ways of lying and deceiving?
We don’t really seem to care about these questions if we can:
- privatize surveillance
- turns privacy into an (exclusive) commodity
- data mine the networks
- turn the lack of privacy, and the decentralized resources of those observed into shareholder value
But Foucault also said “Where there is power there is resistance.”. There is a re-emergence of an underground (like the enlightenment and pirate publisher and the samizdat in the past) on the Internet. Think of things like Wikileaks, VPN, TOR, etc. According to Bodó we might have people taking advantage of our current privacy state, but in the long run “The technologies of disappearance will create gaps” and will “win”.
Panoptic Dystopia or Citizens’ Utopia?
Annie Machon‘s talk was summarized as::
We are at a crossroads in history: never before have people had such access to information and the ability to communicate with others as the Internet now provides. Conversely, never before have governments, intelligence agencies and corporations had such an ability to track our every move, thought and word, with social media such as Facebook providing access the spies could only dream of 15 years ago. As technology continues to evolve, how do we, as citizens, preserve our basic freedoms?
Machon used to be an MI5 intelligence officer and turned into a whistleblower because she saw many things in there that were wrong and illegal. This turned her and her partner into criminal and they had to go on the run. Having to be careful for many years about her behaviour has led her to think about how it would be to live in a police state.
Her whole talk consisted of terrible examples of how we are heedlessly sliding towards a panoptic distopia, she likes to spread the awareness…
In certain parts of the world this police state is in actual effect already: the American kill list leads to many people being killed in North Africa and the Middle East by drones without the US justifying this from a legal perspective. The Patriot Act has shredded the American constitution according to Machon. Websites with an American TLD like .com, .org or .net can just be taken down without any due process. The most famous case being Kim Dotcom who was illegally spied on by the US in New Zealand and arrested by an FBI swat team. We now even pursue thought crimes. She gave the example of a professor who posted his plan to behead a fake copy of prince William during the prince’s marriage ceremony and was promptly and pre-emptively locked up for 24 hours. The UK is famous for its CCTV cameras (currently there are at least 4 million publicly owned cameras). There are even talking CCTV cameras now that are monitored live. The next step will of course will be drones for crowd control.
Mussolini said that “Fascism is the merger of the corporate with the state” and this is precisely what we are seeing in the West. We need to fight back.
The workshop opened with a presentation on the influence of engineering on society. Julian and Danja refer to themselves as critical engineers and have a clear understanding of the deep influence of technology on how we relate to each other (“Look at what Easyjet has done to the shape of Europe.”).
According to them we have more and more black boxes (often locked down) which place a rich interface (a marketing, business or political decision) between the person and the device while at the same time being very intimate to us: think about the iPod Nano in your pocket (and compare it to the old grammophone). Opening these blackboxes (essentially hacking) should then be considered research. The right to open the things we own, if only for study, is increasingly contested. This is problematic because they think technology you depend upon should be understood.
They define the Internet as a deeply misunderstood technology that we have become deeply dependent on. Somebody does own (parts of) the Internet. When they did a workshop in Peru they found out that all of the Internet traffic in that country was routed through Telefonica, giving Spain the hypothetical power to turn off Peru’s Internet when they want to. The question of geography is interesting on the Internet. Where are you on the Internet? Can you access your data and get to it? What will they say when you show up at a data center and request your files? Olver and Vasiliev consider the cloud to be a dangerous form of reductionism.
McLuhan writes in one of his introductions for Understanding Media:
The power of the arts to anticipate future social and technological developments, by a generation and more, has long been recognized. In this century Ezra Pound called the artist “the antennae of the race”. Art as radar acts as “an early alarm system,” as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the arts as prophetic, contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. [..] Art as a radar environment takes on the function of indispensable perceptual training rather than the role of a privileged diet for the elite.
Julian and Danja showed their abilities as a radar by talking about some of their artistic projects that they are working on to try and problematize these topics. Julian has just made something he calls the Transparency Grenade, a little computer wrapped in a grenade shaped holder which start snooping on the wireless netwerks around it whenever you pull out the pin. Danja is working on Netless which tries to be a network of nodes that connect to each other independently from the net. Both of them showed worked in a recent exhibit for which the Weise7 book was created. It is a box shaped like an old-fashioned book with a computer inside. When you open the book it becomes a Wifi access point that allows you to read all the information about the exhibit. When you close the book, the computer turns itself off. They also created a project that plays with what they call the “browser-defined reality”: NewsTweek which used the faux sloga: “Behind every mind is a network. Own it. Fixing the facts. One hotspot at a time”. I’ve written about this project before. It allows you to change news sites in your local wifi network. You can check what people are changning on the NewsTweek Twitter account.
All workshop participants then got a specially designed virtual machine full of networking tools that we could run in VirtualBox. Everybody had to get up to speed with the command line which got a wondeful ode by Julian: Knowing the command line is great because it is a shared language across many machines. You are talking to the computer and it is talking straight back to you. You ask and the computer responds. You can take the output of one program and make it the input of the next program. It allows you to automate the operating system (rather than the computer turning you into a proletarian clicking machine). The command line is far from going away. As computers get smaller, the command line interaction becomes a dominant model.
The artists gave us a crash course on how to use the command line interface. I love how they desribed moving between the directories as moving inside the spatial landscape of your computer. We quickly moved on to commands like netcat (or nc), ifconfig, arp arp-scan, ssh and scp. We discussed what a network packet consists of, the header (SRC, DEST, LEN, SWQ) and the body with its payload.
On the fourth day we got a short lecture on routing and how to set your default gateway on the command line. At that point in time we had created and configured our own little network and were able to ping eachother, log into each others machines and go online using the “base” computer as the gateway and our local DNS server.
In the afternoon we explored the inherent vulnerabilities in using open Wifi networks. By using Aircrack and Driftnet we were able to see images scrolling by from sites that people were browsing on a public Wifi network in a local bar. Driftnet’s manual says the following:
Driftnet watches network traffic, and picks out and displays JPEG and GIF images for display. It is an horrific invasion of privacy and shouldn’t be used by anyone anywhere.
This blog is very much my notebook too. I therefore want to make sure I keep the following three commands (in this order):
sudo ifconfig wlan0 down sudo airmon-ng check kill sudo airmon-ng start wlan0 sudo airodump-ng mon0
The final day was about how to protect yourself a bit better online (a lot of the participants had started to feel “naked” after the Wifi snooping sessions of a day earlier. We discussed how encryption helps you with your basic human right to privacy while in the public space called the network and looked at the difference between anonimity and encryption. They explained HTTPS and Tor with this live diagram from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF):
They also made us download the the Tor Browser Bundle and discussed a few handy Firefox addons:
- GoogleSharing to anonimize your Google searches.
- User Agent Switcher allows you to change your browser user agent so that the webpage thinks you are using a different device.
- HTTPS everywhere to force your browser to use HTTPS whenever it is available.
- DoNotTrackMe helps to protect you against companies tracking you online (they want to do sentiment-analysis and try to pre-empt your behaviour.
We looked at setting up a VPN which is great tool to protect you against Wifi sniffing and to quickly . They showed us ipredator and OpenVPN and have inspired me to finally turn on the VPN capabilities of my VPN server.
Finally they shared a link to their Cryptoparty Handbook. This 400 page book was written in four day sprint and provides a comprehensive overview of everything that we learned (and much more).
For many participants this workshop was a truly transforming experience, hopefully changing their relationship to technology forever. I need to thank Dorien Zandbergen for masterminding this and making it possible!
This afternoon I attended a session at info.nl in Amsterdam with Brewster Kahle who wants to create “Universal Access to All Knowledge”. He has founded The Internet Archive, a non-profit library with about 150 people. It is best known for its Wayback Machine (collecting about 5 billion web pages a month, amazingly still fitting in a container).
They are convinced that it is feasible to store all the world’s knowledge. Texts are being digitized (i.e. scanned) for representation on the screen (see Open Library for examples) and are openly available. The Internet Archive have made their own scanners pushing the costs per scanned page (mostly labour) down to about 10 cents per page. Their scanning centers now have 3,000,000 free ebooks available online (incl. 500,000 for the blind/dyslexic and 250,000 modern books available for lending) and they have about 8 million more to go. They have made a book mobile that can download and print a book for about one dollar.
They are also focusing on archiving all audio, offering unlimited storage and unlimited bandwidth for free and for ever to bands who want to store their tapes online. They have over 1 million audio items in over 100 collections. They are doing similar things to moving images, making permanent archives of video sites that have gone out of business, home movies and even television (do check that one out, it makes TV news quotable and even includes a lending model for physical DVDs of TV news).
They store their 10 Petabytes of data in a redundant fashion and also store 600,000 books in a physical archive (growing fast of course).
Brewster also talked a little bit about his case against the US government when he received a national security letter from the FBI which was deemed unconstitutional with a bit of help from the EFF and from the fact that he is a library.
Daniel Erasmus from Digital Thinking Network (DTN) did a short presentation on NewsConsole which uses a big data approach and aims to collect all the world’s news and put it in an interface that allows for easy interacting with it. I’ve been using it for a while to find news in the field of learning technology. I particularly liked his key lessons from working with big data, like:
- SQL won’t cut it
- Big data is messy, a lot of effort goes into cleaning it up
- Moving a petabyte of data is very expensive and difficult, store it correctly the first time
- Testing on small subsets doesn’t work, because you get unexpected bottlenecks when you scale
- It is a humbling problem
Vlemmix deftly shows that many people in the Netherlands think they have “nothing to hide”, while living in a society which is increasing the level of control and eroding their privacy. Even though I follow this topic actively, the film still managed to upset me. I didn’t know that the trams in Rotterdam do facial recognition or that psychiatrists have to list the diagnosis of their patients in a centralized repository (see this Dutch article, and these Dutch sites of psychiatrists battling this DBC).
Watching the film made me angry and worried. How much further before the police will start pro-actively arresting people for what they might do even before they do it, the infamous pre-crime?. The technology is already capable.
It was interesting to see how Germany, with its Nazi and Stasi history, has much more awareness of the dangers of storing too much data. They refuse to implement the EU’s data retention policy for example.
As you can see, there is ample need for a strong Dutch voice protecting your privacy. Bits of Freedom is doing a great job defending your digital rights.
They could really use your donation.