Gallows humor for the NSA privacy debate

williamsessionsIt’s hard to believe sometimes, but I began writing this column — in print back then — during the Reagan Administration. It was 1987 and the crisis du jour was called Iran-Contra, remember it? Colonel Oliver North got a radio career out of breaking federal law. The FBI director back then was William Sessions, generally called Judge Sessions because he had been a federal judge. I interviewed Sessions in 1990 about the possibility that American citizens might have their privacy rights violated by an upcoming electronic surveillance law. “What would keep an FBI agent from tapping his girlfriend’s telephone?” I asked, since it would shortly be possible to do so from the agent’s desk.

“It would never […]

What if Marissa Mayer went to jail?

Dai SuganoWednesday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer presented her company’s side of fighting the National Security Agency over requests to have a look-see at the data of Yahoo users. It’s a tough fight, said Mayer, and one that takes place necessarily in private. Mayer was asked why tech companies had not simply decided to tell the public more about what the U.S. surveillance industry was up to. “Releasing classified information is treason and you are incarcerated,” she said.

Go directly to jail?

No.

How would that work, exactly? Would black helicopters – silent black helicopters — land at Yahoo Intergalactic HQ and take Marissa Mayer away in chains? Wouldn’t that defeat the […]

Instagram’s Exit Plan

instaUpdate — Instagram now says it was all a huge mistake, that users own their pictures and there’s no way Facebook is going to sell them to anyone… but the company hasn’t yet revealed alternate legal language, which they should have been able to cobble up in an hour or two. The underlying problem of mean-spirited, self-serving, over-reaching terms of service is still with us at Instagram and almost everywhere else. Their revised terms of service were stupid and couldn’t stand. Let’s hope in their next attempt to grab rights (because that’s what this whole thing was about and probably still is) Instagram and Facebook treat their users fairly. Until they do, most of what’s […]

Falling Out of Orbitz

orbitz-logoA lot of online behavior is habitual.  My e-mail client is Eudora, for example — an orphaned program that hasn’t been updated since 2006.  People keep telling me to switch to this or that but I like Eudora and have 17 years of mail stored in it, though I sense an end coming there.  I also use Orbitz, primarily, for my travel planning.  And it isn’t that Orbitz is particularly better (though not particularly worse since I use Kayak from time to time to compare) but that it holds already in its digital innards a whole succession of my credit cards as well as my five frequent flier numbers.  Or it did.

You see Orbitz […]