Computers, Freedom, Privacy and NEWS!

June 2nd, 2009

With tutorial day and the CFP2009’s opening day behind us, here is an overview of our coverage so far!  See the coverage page on the wiki for a more complete list.  Did you blog?  Post your links in the comments!!

Craigslist Founder Seeks Larger DC Role, Andrew Noyes, National Journal, Tech Daily Dose, 6-2-09

Crawford: Tech Agenda Just Beginning, Andrew Noyes, National Journal, Tech Daily Dose, 6,2,09

Justice IG To Release Exigent Letter Report, Congress Daily, 6-2-09

Critics: Google Book Deal a Monopoly, Privacy Debacle, Ryan Singel,’s Epicenter blog, 6-2-09

Computers, Freedom & Privacy: Day 1, Mark Belinsky, 6 to cut, 4 to sharpen, 6-2-09

The Obama Administration’s Silence on Privacy, Saul Hansel, New York Times Bits blog, 6-2-09

Ex-Fed: Privacy Advocates Should Go After China, Lay Off NSA, Kevin Poulsen, 6-2-09

White House Aide Warns Online Advertisers To Be Monitored, Wall Street Journal (clip only, subscription required) 6-2-09

Conference at the Crossroads of Tech Freedom and Privacy, Federal News Radio, 6-2-09

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2009 – Day One, net.wars, Wendy Grossman, 6-1-09

Transparency v. Dialogue in the Obama Administration

June 2nd, 2009

This morning I watched Susan Crawford, a new Obama Administration appointee who is the Special Assistant to the President for Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy, speak to the CFP conference.  Many folks in the audience know  and speak well of Susan.  However, despite this friendly relationship with her audience, Ms. Crawford declined to take any questions and engage in a true dialogue with participants about the issues being considered.

This choice to speak on behalf of the Administration without then taking the time to hear, consider and attempt to answer questions from the audience is representative of a nagging problem with the new Administration.  Despite the Administration’s positive focus on transparency and creating a way to collect citizen input, when it comes to engaging in dialogue with policy makers and thinkers whom they may not know intimately or as 100 percent supporters, the Administration has been slower to incorporate such input and dialogue into its style of governance.

And whille the Administration is so young (133 days old as of this morning?) it is important that it correct this bad habit and take some risks by putting officials out there to really interact and listen.  Senator Daschle was excellent at this and did it often as an Obama surrogate during the campaign, and there were many other campaign workers who went out and simply met with, listened, and responded to constituents.  This important practice needs to be a central part of the Obama Administration’s style of governance, as it was during the campaign and during Senator Obama’s earlier career as a community organizer.  Such a risk is worth taking and will only result in stronger support and true respect from citizens who care enough to show up and listen.

Routing Around Censorship

June 2nd, 2009

The famous quote by John Gilmore, “The Internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it,” and whether or not it still applies was the focus of one of the breakout sessions this afternoon at CFP.  The speakers included Ian Brown from the Oxford Internet Institute, who discussed different deep-packet filtering tools used in the UK; TJ McIntyre from Digital Rights Ireland, who looked at the Internet Watch Foundation, the British organization that determines what pages are blocked by some of these tools, and their accountability; Catherine Crump from the ACLU, who discussed recent cases to challenge web filtering in libraries and schools in the US; Derek Bambauer from the Brooklyn Law School, discussing the recent fervor in Australia about a legally mandated national web filtering scheme; and Nicole Wong from Google who discussed censorship faced by Google services in various countries.

The key question- can the internet still route around censorship- was not settled at the panel (but then, a topic that large cannot expect to be settled in an hour and 15 minutes.)  Instead, the focus was on the chilling effects of new legal filtering requirements in what are generally considered “free” countries.  China, Iran, and other repressive countries have attempted to filter the Internet practically since the day they connected their first pipe, and there has been comparatively ineffective attempts to limit particular types of content through mandated filtering in the US and other nations that generally have more respect for free speech (see the Child Online Protection Act). But most individuals sufficiently technically suave can easily get around whatever filters are put in place.  Ian Brown’s examination of the different technologies being used to filter in Britain brought up the specter of censorship technology that will be more difficult to “route around” in the future, but it remains unclear how much more difficult that will be.

However, it seems like the technology of filtering is less significant than the legal, cultural, and psychological effects of mandated filtering.  As Derek Bambauer pointed out, while most of the people who attend conferences called “Computers, Freedom and Privacy” can get around filters, the average user would not be able to.  One of the audience members who worked with internet users in China pointed out that unless one has a compelling reason to seek out particular information, one isn’t likely to just stumble across filtered websites.  A case can be made that this is a good thing in the event that filtered information is child porn– that is exactly the case that the UK and Australia are making when promoting filtering.  However, as Nichole Wong pointed out, once countries like Australia start filtering the internet, it takes away the question of if filtering and censorship are acceptable in general, and allows countries like China to claim that it is merely a value judgment as to what is “dangerous” information.

-Eliza Bonner, guest blogger

CFP Tutorial Day Recap

June 2nd, 2009

Wendy M. Grossman attended the CFP tutorial Twittering in the Trenches yesterday wrote a great recap of the day at net.wars.

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2009 – Day One

“Did you check that with your ethics committee?”

The speaker, who was feeling the strain of being a newcomer to privacy issues among a very tough, highly activist crowd, turned a little shakier than she already was.

“I didn’t need to,” she said, or something very like it. “It’s not interacting with humans, just computers.”

We spend a lot of time talking about where the line might be between human intelligence and artificial intelligence, but the important question may not be the usual one, Not “What does it mean to be human?” but “How far down the layer of abstractions does human interaction persist?” If I send you email intended to deceive, clearly I’m interacting with a human. If I set up a Facebook account and use it to get you to friend me by first friending one of your less careful friends and never communicate directly with you, the line gets a little more attenuated. Someone who had thought more about computers than about people might get confused.


Computers, Freedom & Privacy – Day 1

June 2nd, 2009

Guest writer Mark Belinsky has an overview of the first day here at CFP09 at his 4hours blog. His day covers a few sessions, mainly:

  1. Twittering in the Trenches: Activism Using Social Networks
  2. Data Mining: Privacy, Transparency, Democracy
  3. The Web is a Dangerous Place

Below is a mock-up for a friends don’t let friends use privacy-violating apps campaign seal, similar in theory to the logos that Creative Commons uses.

Half Private

Half Private



[Mostly] Secure

[Mostly] Secure

Creating the future at #cfp09: showtime for privacy and civil liberties activsm!

June 1st, 2009

“Fight for me!”
– a privacy-loving Facebook friend, wishing me luck at the conference

Here’s our opportunity to realize the promise of the Net that was so present in the 1990s when CFP started.
– Deborah Pierce on the CFP blog

The program for this year’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference is outstanding even by CFP’s high standards. The mix of technology, legal, policy, and activism perspectives is particularly strong this year, and with the new administration and Washington DC location there’s significant involvement by government employees for the first time since the 1990s. As well as CFP regulars like Jennifer Grannick, Jim Harper, Ed Felten, Nicky Ozer, Alessandro Acquisti, Stewart Baker, and Lillie Coney, speakers incude first-timers like Marcy Wheeler, Dori Maynard, Paul Ekman, Shireen Mitchell, Rebecca Mackinnon, Nancy Scola, and Ari Melber. Don’t take my word for it — check out the program and prepare to be impressed.

Best of all, with streaming video, the #cfp09 Twitter backchannel ,* live-blogging, and a community wiki, the conference will be more accessible onine than every before. Kudos to Katy Nelson of the ACLU and Robert Guerra of Freedom House for taking the lead with the video streaming, and to all the volunteers of the online visibility team for all the great work on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook. The online schedule has details, we’ll do our best to keep the web site updated regularly, and the Twitter feed will be best way to keep up what’s going on.

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CFP Buzz on the Google blog

June 1st, 2009

CFP2009 Co-Chair Jay Stanley is a guest blogger on the Google Public Policy Blog.

Creating the future

Monday, June 1, 2009 at 10:05 AM

(Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by Jay Stanley, public education director for the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program and co-chair of the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2009 conference, which is taking place June 1-4 in Washington, DC.)Eighteen years is an eternity when you’re talking about technology. Back in 1991, the World Wide Web was just being introduced to the public, 3.5” floppy disks were state-of-the-art, and a couple guys named Larry and Sergey were mere teenagers. That was also the year of the very first Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) conference, which took place in Burlingame, California. Over time, it has become an evolving collection of activists, hackers, technologists, academics, government officials, and journalists, who gather every year in a different city to talk about technology and its often bewildering implications for our lives.



How to follow CFP 2009 online

June 1st, 2009

With luck, CFP this year will feature live video streaming and a Twitter backchannel. Along with this blog, the CFP Wetpaint Wiki, and Ask your lawmaker about computers, freedom, and privacy,* we hope this marks a significant step to increasing the visibility of privacy and onine civil liberties issues — during the conference, and throughout the rest of the year too.

The best ways to follow what’s happening:

And please, don’t just follow along — get involved! Join in the conversations on the blog and on Twitter. When you see articles, videos, blog posts, and discussions about CFP-related issues, tweet them and include the #cfp09 hashtag. And stay tuned for more about Ask your lawmaker about computers, freedom, and privacy, a joint project with Capitol News Connection, focused on getting answers and coverage on key legislative issues.

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CFP Podcast: Conference Co-Chairs

May 31st, 2009

Listen to CFP2009 Co-Chairs Jay Stanley and Cindy Southworth on the night before the conference begins here.

Twittering in the Trenches: Monday’s Social Networking Workshop

May 31st, 2009

The Twittering in the Trenches Workshop is Monday, June 1, 9am-5pm (eastern). Please join us online or in person

In 1995 I went to my first Computers, Freedom, and Privacy (CFP) conference. I was completely boggled: every issue that was discussed had at least three compelling sides to it. I was also inspired because I could really see how the Net could be great for building communities.  Even back then it seemed that the Net was about building bridges and communities.

I remember David Brin speaking about surveillance cameras (no cell phone cameras yet), how ubiquitous they were going to become, and how we had to turn them to our advantage. I remember very smart, tech-savvy, civil libertarians like John Gilmore and Mike Godwin on panels with representatives from the White House and the FBI debating the use of cryptography, free-speech, and privacy issues. The techies stated that the Net was going to be a place where we would have the ability to share knowledge widely, without regard to geographical location, and where we would have more freedom to discus topics than in traditional media.  We could reshape our reality; old-fashioned laws wouldn’t hinder us, technology would finally give power to ordinary people.  It was exciting stuff.

I also remember the White House representative responding, almost in angry frustration, that we may have won the first round of the crypto wars, but that they’d be back and he Net wouldn’t be a “lawless” place — meaning that the status quo would be regained.

Of course, he was right. Now we have CALEA, the Patriot Act, Carnivore and its successors, draconian copyright laws, and a host of other privacy-invading tools that governments can use against people.

So here we are again in 2009.  The same kind of power is there on social network sites – on Facebook, MySpace, Tribe, Second Life, Free-Association, LiveJournal, and all the rest. Unlike Usenet and other ways of communicating on the Net a la 1995, social networks now are quite usable for us non-technical people, and the interfaces are pretty and inviting.  It’s never been easier to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues online.
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