Highest Rated Comments

pdeEFF49 karma

The structural risks we take on if we leave deliberate holes or backdoors in our communications technologies are much greater than any likely benefits in terms of "national security". So we should do everything we can to ensure that our basic protocols and communication tools are hard to eavesdrop upon.

For better and worse, governments will always have ways to surveil specific individuals or groups that they choose to target. Governments know how to plant physical bugs in your house; infiltrate your organization; find and exploit vulnerabilities in the software you use. That will mean they always have ways of pursuing their national security objectives. And because those targetted surveilance capabilities are so ripe for abuse too, they need to be checked by thorough and transparent judicial review, an independent media, and by whistleblowers.

pdeEFF37 karma

The problem is that the MPAA is dictating terms to Netflix, and Netflix is turning around putting DRM hooks into open Web standards so that it can impose the MPAA's restrictions on its users.

So no, while Netflix is doing the MPAA's bidding, we should not be helping them to do that.

pdeEFF32 karma

It's too soon to say. We have a handful of censorship-resistant routing protocols (Tor hidden services, I2P, GNUnet) but having a few more serious projects in that direction might not hurt.

pdeEFF25 karma

It's clear that campaign finance is a thing that some societies do very differently to the US. Visit Germany during an election campaign and you'll see a completely different system in operation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_finance_in_Germany).

Moving the US to Germany's comparative level of transparency and democratic responsiveness would be difficult if not impossible. You have to play the hand you're dealt.

So I think the best we can do is the sort of thing that Aaron was trying to do: build new organizations to give ordinary people a time- and cost- efficient way of being involved in political campaigns, and create new counterweights to the influence of corporations and plutocratic elites.

pdeEFF20 karma

Somehow telling pure anecdotes feels strange in a discussion thread, like the hooks are in the wrong places.

So I'll tell one that comes with the (ghost) of a link. Back in 2007, Aaron, and I started an experimental blog called Science That Matters: https://web.archive.org/web/20110826202455/http://sciencethatmatters.com/ .

Our aim was to unearth and explain scientific research papers that had profound public policy implications that were being overlooked. We found quite a few, and had fun writing them up for a while. Aaron was generally a bit more cavalier than I was; he'd get excited and fire off a post or three while I'd spend a weeks worrying if my understanding of some field or question was right. I remember spending months trying to write up the theory that supervolcanoes nearly wiped out humans around 75,000 years ago (which has been promoted by Bill Bryson, amongst others) before concluding that it was probably wrong.

In any case, it gradually dawned on both of us that no matter how closely we read individual papers and their citations, there was no way we could reliably tell if they were right (for example, we wrote up an intriguing paper on computer science education, and then six or twelve months later a researcher in the field came along and said they'd been trying to replicate the study at great length, but couldn't do so: https://web.archive.org/web/20111011065554/http://sciencethatmatters.com/archives/9 ). What it told us was that it isn't peer review of individual papers that's doing most of the work in verifying scientific results, but replication of results and the much longer, slower, and problematic social process of refutation and validation.

We concluded that we needed a much more ambitious site, that would keep track of the ongoing work on many of these questions, trying to provoke researchers' interest when the subject was under-studied, and explain the evolving state of knowledge well when it was. We never had the time or resources for that larger project, so we stopped updating the blog. But I think we were both a little sad that the more ambitious and beautiful version never got to exist.