Category Archives: Freedom

You have already agreed to be monitored

Steve Chapman poses the question, “would you volunteer to carry a device that lets the police monitor your location 24×7, every day?” He then lets you in on a secret, you already have. In fact chances are you have the locator on your person at this very moment.

It’s called a cell phone.

Just think of the privacy implications here. The government can tell if you spend the night at someone elses house, visit a red light district, attend a political rally, drive too fast, or get a medical procedure. They can know where you are at all times, both when you are out in public or when you are in a private residence.

Oh, and the current administration (like the last one) doesn’t think a warrant should be required for any of this.

Just a bit more complicated than that

Phil Windley posts about Google’s recent moves in China and describes them as a result of conflict between Google’s desired to do what’s right (not censor) and doing what it needs to do to stay in business in one of the largest markets in the world. That’s an interesting take on it, but it doesn’t wash with recent history.

To be clear, Google was fine with doing evil for several years now. The lived with the government restrictions and did business up until recently when they were penetrated (reportedly badly) by hackers that no one seriously believes aren’t at least backed by the Chinese government. Also the decision to buck the government was also made easier by Google’s own lagging competitive position in China.

If the real story ever comes out I’m sure it will be fascinating. Until then I’m not sold on Google’s altruistic motives in this dispute.

Pre-crime and punishment

Reason has this disturbing story about an Oregon man who was taken into custody, had his house searched (without a warrant), had his property taken, and was forced to undergo a mental examination all because there was a suspicion that he might commit a violent crime in the future. He is not suspected of actually committing a crime or of actually threatening anyone, but he was a gun collector who had been place on administrative leave from his job.

Defenders of this policy will likely point out that he was released and his property was returned, so the action is warranted to make sure that he wasn’t a threat to his community. I would note that such defenders are not volunteering to have the SWAT team come to their home, search their house, and haul them to a mental facility in handcuffs.

Assumed consent

According to this Telegraph article, the UK government is rushing ahead with putting all their citizens NHS records into a massive centralized DB. The rush is apparently intended to beat the next election.

Being the UK it should come as no surprise that they are assuming consent unless told otherwise, and aren’t going out of their way to inform the public that it’s happening and that opting out is even possible.

Planes, trains, and genitalia

Would you expose your genitals to a complete stranger just to get on an airplane? That is no longer a hypothetical question as plans move forward to install scanners in major airports. And this article should disabuse of any notions that the privacy and dignity violations won’t get abused. They already have.

Images of your total body in graphic details will be taken. Those images will be viewed by at least one total stranger. Those images can also be stored, printed, and distributed despite any reassurances you will be given.

Really, how many indignities is too many? When is enough enough? How about random cavity searches? If we don’t push back now that is surely next.

Hit them where it hurts; boycott any airports that put these things in, starting with Heathrow.

When what you are taught isn’t true

I get a steady stream of indignant sputtering about this post on the metric system and what it means for authentication. One common point that readers make is that Celsius is better than Fahrenheit because it is based on natural law, defined as 100 degrees between the freezing and boiling point of water.

Only it isn’t, and hasn’t been for some time (at least not since 1954). While the freezing point and boiling point of water was precise enough in the 1700’s, it is no where near precise enough to act as a standard. The reason is that no two samples of water will melt and freeze at the same temperature due to variations in water purity, air pressure, and humidity.

By international convention, the Celsius scale is defined by a range between absolute zero and the thermodynamic triple point of Vienna Standard Mean Ocean Water (VSMOW). This point, by the way, is 0.01 C. And VSMOW is not ocean water  (despite it’s name), but rather is a carefully crafted lab concoction comprised of specially defined proportions of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes.

So while we are taught Celsius is defined by the freezing and boiling points of water, it is actually defined by absolute zero (which doesn’t exist in the natural world), and the triple point of a form of water that only exists in the lab.

Explain to me again, why this is less arbitrary that Fahrenheit?

And why is it still taught incorrectly in schools (at least in the US)?

What’s not being said

I usually find what’s not being said far more interesting than the platitudes that are uttered. According to this article Google and China are negotiating a face saving compromise to allow Google to remain in China. What is being said is that this is about the level of censorship. What is not being said, and what is probably really the truth is that this is really all about the Chinese government hacking Google.

I mean seriously. Google China censored content from day one and now it all of a sudden decided to “do less evil”? As Corporal Nobbs likes to say “pull the other one, it has bells on it”.

No, what changed is that the government has hacked Google and gotten caught doing it, and probably affected some high-level Google execs.

Here is my prediction; the face saving compromise will involve a little easing of the censorship rules, a promise not to hack Google any more, and Google quietly giving some sweetheart deals to some high-level Chinese officials.