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No we are not yet Borg

I admit that while not being a die-hard science fiction fan, I am a fan of Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek. Last spring I binged on BSG sometimes watching three or four episodes a day. The series is great. While I’m more a fan of a Star Trek: The Original Series, I always found the Borg the more interesting of antagonists on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Their single-minded focus on assimilating all species of the known universe into one collective was intriguing and downright scary.

BSG also dealt with the collected in a way. The series depicted survivors of the Twelve Colonies (twelve planets) wiped out by machines they had created. These machines, the Cylons, were also part of a collective although they were not out to assimilate any humans. They managed to defeat the Twelve Colonies by hacking their interconnected computers. The commander of one of the Colonies’ battlestars, Bill Adama, had a rule on his ship that may have been responsible for them staying alive: no interconnected computers on his ship. Interconnection has its downside.

I’ve touched on being interconnected before, addressing the downside of social media, but an article in The Wall Street Journal by Holman Jenkins provided some additional fodder for the notion of being socially connected via computer. Mr. Jenkins argues in the latter part of his piece that the current tit-for-ta that we are seeing between CBS and Time Warner Cable is a side show, a distraction from the real goal of telecommunications and cable companies: facilitating the meld of mind and machine.

It makes sense. From a consumer view, cell phone users may as well implant their devices as much as we are seen clutching them to our ears. I have to get used to people apparently mumbling to themselves when they are actually talking to someone else.

From a business view the fight for advertisement dollars comes from the traffic we can accumulate at some point. The cable and telecommunications companies, the broadband providers, want their sites to be the points of accumulation. They want the advertising traffic that Facebook and Google are combating for. Anticipating our consumer needs by tracking and documenting our thoughts, feelings, and buying habits would be aided by a technology that makes it easier to meld devices collecting this data with the behavior of the consumer.

My question is, will government promote this type of innovation? How regulated will this new frontier of technology and consumer thought be?

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Is CISPA another Political Football for the Silly Season?

I’m uncomfortable with granting security clearances for national security information to civilians in the private sector. Under the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2012, it appears that individuals employed with private companies or other private entities may get clearances as part of the act of exchanging information between the federal government and the private sector.

Its one thing if a cyber threat is detected by a private entity first and they pass that information on to the feds. They’ve already seen it; it was probably an attack on the private entity; so naturally they are familiar with the contents of the attack.

If it’s the other way around, then the government should not share anything outside of information specific to a private entity that may have additional information or is a target of an attack.
The problem here is that the White House and the Congress did not work together on this. If the Congress felt this additional national security protection was needed, why not work with the branch that would be responsible for carrying out national security.

I hate being cynical, but why pass a bill with privacy flaws unless the GOP is trying to create another political football for the summer and fall for the parties to kick around.

The two-party silly season is upon us…

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So where is the Obama Administration alternative to SOPA?

The Wall Street Journal reported last Saturday about President Obama’s discomfort with the Stop Online Piracy Act. Seems even if it passes Congress, Mr. Obama will veto it.

Is the Obama Administration saying it’s more concerned about protecting content delivered by rogue web sites? If what is currently on the books was effective against infringement on American copyrights, would this legislation have been brought forward? What alternative legislation has the Obama Administration offered?

Do we really need a driver’s license for the information superhighway?

A couple days ago I had a flashback to the 1970s. It happens more and more as one approaches eligibility age for AARP benefits. Anyway, as I started buckling up, I thought about the freedom I enjoyed as a child from not having to buckle up. Freedom. Back then it was an integral part of the driving experience.

On the information superhighway we also have to buckle up. To avoid a negative experience while surfing the Web, we are encouraged to change our passwords, update our firewalls, and only go to websites we trust. These precautions make sense. But the question is, should these precautions include a driver’s license for the Internet?

That appears to be what the Obama administration is proposing. According to a blog post published in The New York Times, the administration is currently drafting a proposal that allows consumers to voluntarily sign up for a national electronic identification card. This one piece of ID will allow you to sign in to a multitude of websites. The alleged rationale behind the voluntary requirement is that a national ID will help the U.S. crack down on fraud and identity theft.

I don’t know. I can buy in to putting on my seat belt to reduce my chances of physical injury. I can’t buy into a driver’s license keeping me safe on the road. Driver’s licenses are issued in order to regulate who gets access to the road. I am also concerned that what is voluntary today becomes mandatory for accessing an increasing number of websites, particularly government websites like those of the Internal Revenue Services or your local tax collector.

When you add a national Internet ID to the Federal Communications Commission’s recent rules on managing access to the Internet, it does not add up to freedom.

Protecting cyberspace as a national asset

I admit that when I read Bianca Bosker’s The Huffington Post’s article and reviewed portions of S.3480, Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, I had visions of Keifer Sutherland running through the streets trying to stop a terrorist while Dennis Haysbert sits in the Oval Office with his finger over a big red button.

Okay, I’m also suffering from “24” withdrawal and it sounds like Senator Joe Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut, is suffering from it, too. At the risk of channeling Representative John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, it sounds like we are using a nuclear bomb to kill an ant.

This bill is just another example of the overreach the Commerce Clause can be used to commit. While aimed at protecting our federal information infrastructure, let’s face it, anything or anyone could be a source of disruption to the infrastructure via the Internet. All this bill does is create the potential of killing the whole body in pursuit of destroying one cancer cell.

Maine’s Republican Senator Susan Collins is correct that “kill the switch” may be the wrong moniker for the bill. Overkill of Internet commerce may be more like it.