privacy in the trump era

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Android 6 encryption configuration. Apple’s iOS is automatically enabled when you create a device pin or use biometrics.

I’ve been fighting for my right to privacy for quite a while now, ever since 9/11 and the bad legislation that quickly came out as part of the aftermath, which enabled and legalized broad digital surveillance. I base my sense of personal privacy on the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

My life has for decades extended into the digital domain, through e-mail and remove logins to other systems, and has since at least the mid 1980s when a lot of this was beginning to take shape. There is no hard demarcation between my physical home and its properties and the digital domain. For example I now get many of my bills delivered to my on-line mail account. It makes it far easier to find them, especially if I need to return an item or get it serviced. I can simply look it up on my phone and show it to the store staff. And yet, because of the Patriot Act and National Security Letters (NSL) any and all of my online life and digital “papers” can be made available to the demanding government party. Along with the NSL comes a defacto gag order that prohibits the on-line service from every telling me such a demand was made.

And that doesn’t begin to cover how my information is spied upon by the NSA and GCHQ, looking for whatever they deem important. Swept up in this world-wide dragnet is everything I send across the web. Assurances by the spooks who run those places that essentially if I have nothing to fear then nothing will happen is no assurance at all. And so, to have some sort of sense of privacy in some channels and corners on the web, to protect my Fourth Amendment rights, I’ve taken to doing the following:

  • Where-ever possible I enable encryption on my data at rest. This includes, but isn’t limited to, emails and other personal electronic documents. The devices I own and that have encryption enabled include my iPhone, MacBook Pro, and all my iPads.
  • I use an encrypted email service that isn’t hosted in the US for my data in transit. This service uses end-to-end encryption for the emails (meaning emails from/to me and to/from those that also use this service). Emails that are temporarily at rest on the service’s servers are encrypted. They don’t have the key. The only part of the service that isn’t encrypted is the metadata used to route the encrypted emails.
  • I use an encrypted chat tool for end-to-end encryption, again for my data in transit. Again, the metadata used to set up the connection isn’t encrypted.

I’ve limited encryption, so far, to those few critical areas of my digital life I feel need this level of protection from prying eyes. And just to make sure you, the reader, understand, this won’t always stop the determined spook. Given enough computation horsepower at the NSA, for example, I’m sure they could brute-force a decryption attack if they felt it was needed. My use of encryption in this case isn’t so much to stop, as to slow down the inevitable. And of course if they did crack my encryption I’d never know. Sad times we live in…

It’s a pity I have go to this much trouble, but that’s the nature of the world we live in. The digital surveillance state has been building up slowly since the late 1970s, eroding our basic freedoms all in the name of safety. We’ve now reached a point where there’s little (if any) difference between domestic and foreign security services. Everybody want’s to spy on you. And with the election of Trump as president, domestic spying will only get worse. This carefully crafted surveillance  system, built up over decades, is not in the hands of a man whose heinousness knows no bounds, especially if he wants to know, on a whim, what you might or might not know.

via Daily Prompt: Privacy

tweet less – new years resolution #1

The blogging tradition is to publicly announce to the world all your New Year’s resolutions, at which point they sink out of sight, never to be mentioned again. This year, I’m breaking that tradition in two ways; I’m waiting until mid-January before making such pronouncements to make sure they’re going to succeed in some way, and I’m only announcing one at a time.

I put a very short list of resolutions together in December that I wanted to work on in 2017. At the top of my list is reducing my use of social media, particularly Twitter. The tool I had high hopes would be a powerful tool for positive social change and direct democracy has metastasized into anything but. The biggest driver behind this is the election of the Donald as president (but #NotMyPresident!). The fact that Trump could use Twitter as his bloody pulpit, that he could digitally spew his constant corrosive stream of lies and hate to his many millions of followers (a sizable percentage of which may actually be bots) without any management by Twitter itself goes to show, paradoxically, just how little value the service holds now in the social media universe. If it was truly valuable then Twitter would have put practices, procedures and tools in place to more tightly curate and control the out-of-line users, including Trump himself. But they haven’t, and those who could bring value to Twitter through their participation have been driven away, some publicly, but most privately.

An example of what’s wrong with Twitter (besides Trump) is what happened to Leslie Jones, co-star of the new Ghost Busters (which I liked) and her abuse by Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the “alt-right’s” poster boys. Here, in one story, are all the elements that make participation on Twitter so toxic: hate speech, racism, misogyny, white supremacy, white entitlement… And what happened? Yiannopoulos, who had had a number of prior run-ins and temporary Twitter bans, was finally permanently banned in July 2016. But not before inciting quite a bit of destructive (to Twitter primarily) hate tweets directed at Jones. And all the while this was happening, Trump was dumping his Twitter drivel, one tweet at a time, to the perverted delight of his followers…

Twitter is a free service, the only requirement being I put up with “promoted” ads injected into my timeline (which I’ve diligently marked them all as irrelevant, and which seems to have slowed their appearance). This marks my second appearance with the service. The first time was as a lark back in the very late aughts, and after about two years of aimless wondering through the Twitter hinterland I deleted the account. I came back into the Twitter fold back in February 2011 as @wbeebe4, and I’ve hung out there ever since. Now I’ve decided to move away again, but this time I’m just walking away. Rather than delete the account I’ve clicked the “Tweet privacy” checkbox to protect my tweets and keep the bots and twitter influencer wannabes from following. Which reminds me of another major dislike of Twitter, the formalization of media whoredom as influencer following.

I’ve enjoyed being away from Twitter since Christmas. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to using it to the same level I did before the November elections. Perhaps, as 2017 progresses, and the Trump presidency grows even worse than I believe it will be, I’ll be driven completely away from Twitter. My exit certainly won’t bring Twitter down, but it certainly won’t help keep Twitter up. It may come to pass that I actively become part of some movement that helps move Twitter along into total irrelevancy and its final complete failure. Twitter no longer deserves to succeed, let alone exist. The stewardship of Twitter by those who supposedly created it, and should thus care the most about it, has been almost totally non-existent. It’s best to let it finish its slow-motion collapse and to move on, hopefully to something far better.

the radical grammarians have finally snapped

PLEASE FUCKING PAY ATTENTION

They’re = They fucking are.

Their = Shows fucking possession.

There = Specifies a fucking location.

You’re = You fucking are.

Your = Shows fucking possession.

We’re = We fucking are.

Were = Past fucking tense of “are”.

Where = Specifies a fucking location.

Than = A fucking comparison.

Then = A point in fucking time.

To = Where it’s fucking going.

Too = An excessive fucking amount.

Two = A fucking number.

It’s = It fucking is.

Its = It fucking owns whatever.

cats and µ4:3rds and iphone and wordpress – oh my



I’m doing this because I’ve got all this camera gear lying around, yet I still find myself lusting after something newer and very expensive, like the Pen F, E-M1 Mk II, and the GH5. I’ve got digital camera equipment that goes back to 2009 and the Olympus 4:3rds system, and film equipment that goes back even further to the early 1980s. For this work I took a very “classic” 4:3rds system Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens and mounted it on an E-M10 Mark 1 via a Panasonic 4:3rds to µ4:3rds adapter (DMW-MA1), then went around trying to produce some “interesting” photos of the kittehs with the 30mm nearly wide open for that “pleasing bokeh” effect. That’s Ellipses at top followed by Luke the Gingersnap.

All focusing was manual because the 30mm Sigma lens, already glacially slow to begin with on 4:3rd systems, is a joke when it comes to auto focus on any of my µ4:3rds Olympus bodies, starting with my E-P2. I put the lens in manual focus mode and used the E-M10’s back screen to carefully focus. The camera was set to a custom color mode (Muted picture mode, contrast -1, sharpness 0, saturation -1, and high key) that provided a more pastel-like color palette and character than the heavily saturated overly sharp look I tend towards. I then set the lens to f/1.8 and went out stalking the cats. Well, more like following and cajoling. They, of course, cooperated only on their own terms…

Once something was duly captured, I used the Olympus OI.Share app to move the JPEGs over from the E-M10 to my iPhone. Just a little bit of trimming in Snapseed, then I opened a new post in the WordPress app and selected the three images to go into the post. Then I closed the post as a draft and re-opened it in my MBP using the web-based WordPress editor.

A bit complicated, especially that last part, but once you get into the flow it flows pretty quickly. It keeps my cellphone as my “creative center”. I’m thinking I’m going to give both Scrivener and Ulysses an opportunity Real Soon Now to write and post to my blog.

My complaints against the WordPress iOS app on the iPhone are growing. I’ve noticed that you can’t set the size or the location of the photo when you import the photo. When I check the photos using the web-based editor they’re full size and not centered at all. I have to do some cleanup to get the images how I want them on the page. This might work if all you do is write for, and read from, smartphones exclusively, but I also check to see how my blogging looks on tablets (iPads and Android) as well as regular PC browsers.

But hey, that’s why we’re doing this. It’s a “learning experience.”

working beyond familiar boundaries

The rubber ducky photo is courtesy of the iPhone 7 Plus, its dual lens camera, and the built-in Apple app. Using the app I selected the the short telephoto, square aspect ratio, HDR, and Instant live photo filter. 

That ducky has been in this house since my oldest adult daughter was two. Out of respect for her I won’t say how long I’ve had it.

I was attempting to write this entire post using the WordPress iOS app on the iPhone and the Microsoft folding portable Bluetooth keyboard. This isn’t the first time I’ve used or written about the keyboard. The problem is I’ve rarely used the keyboard/iPhone combination, far less than I originally intended. I bought that keyboard so that I could write just about any time, anywhere. We can all see how that turned out…

Unfortunately when I sat down tonight to try and use it, the WordPress app was rather uncooperative. It let me select my lovely rubber ducky photo and upload it to my blog, even associating it with the initial start of the entry. But when I attempted to try and write anything, the app seemed to think I wanted to modify the photo. In the end the entry just “went away” from me, and I couldn’t tell using the iOS app on the iPhone if the entry had gone to the draft side of things, or if it had just simply been deleted. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you view this, it had gone off to become a draft. The only way to continue to edit it was to open up my WordPress blog using the web-based view in Chrome on my MBP.

I have several entries using this combination, all successfully entered, so this isn’t something new for me. The only problem is I wrote them back when I had my iPhone 6S Plus, under iOS 9, and earlier releases of the WordPress app. Going forward I really do want to use my iPhone exclusively to create content for my blog. The iPhone is an incredibly powerful overall creative tool, the camera an excellent tool for documenting and providing supporting photography to my writing. The Microsoft keyboard syncs up quickly and flawlessly, and works quite well with other tools that need textual input. It’s just that when I mix everything together to write up an entry that the results are less than what I’ve experienced in the past.

I consider these minor challenges to be overcome. I want to “turn on” the writing so that I’m at least creating at least one post/day. I want to focus on the “web log” aspect of the blog. It’s not here for marketing, it’s here to log the next 365 days of 2017. I have a deep feeling there’s going to be a lot to cover. My rubber ducky seems to feel that as well.