CISPA is Back

CISPA is Back (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 4-25-13)

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, is back for another run through Congress.  To review, this proposed law would facilitate the sharing of cyber information between private organizations and the government.  While the intent is noble – sharing security information in order to help protect against future cyber threats – the implementation provides virtually no protections for personal information contained in the data.  Nor does it prevent the use of that data for other purposes after it’s been released to the government.  While the bill does not mandate the sharing of information and data sharing is purely voluntary, history has shown that most organizations will comply with government requests rather than face other strong arm tactics.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed this measure in a bipartisan vote of 288-177.  

A piece of good news for us in the CSRA.  Last year when the House voted on this bill, all of our local representatives voted to pass CISPA.  Not so this time around.

Paul Broun is now fighting for your right to privacy!

Jeff Duncan is now fighting for your right to privacy!

Unfortunately, our other representatives are still voting with the NeoCons in the House.

John Barrow voted against your privacy!

Joe Wilson voted against your privacy!

The bill now heads to the Senate for debate.  Stand by for more.

Aliens Are Back! – Yes, the story was predictable.  Yes, the characters were ripped off and re-done.  Yes, the CG looked great in some scenes and looked like 16-bit graphics in others.  But all that really doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that aliens are back on SyFy!

Of course I’m talking about Defiance, the newly released series on the SyFy network.  The setup goes like this:  In the year 2013, a group of aliens called the Votans, escaping from their doomed planet, arrive at Earth.  The Votans believed the Earth was uninhabited and planned to terraform and colonize the planet.  Of course, that doesn’t work out, and eventually the Votans and humans go to war.  During the course of the war, the majority of the Votan fleet is either destroyed in orbit or crashes to the Earth, releasing massive amounts of terraforming technology.  The uncontrolled terraforming transforms the Earth into something totally unrecognizable and provides for numerous CGI opportunities.

Fast forward to the year 2046.  The wars have ended, and governments have fallen.  Humans and Votans alike are simply trying to survive on the new Earth.  Adding a twist to storyline is the fact that the Votans are actually comprised of seven different races of aliens, each with a different set of morals and ambitions.  The series is set in the town of Defiance, which is located on the ruins of St. Louis.  You’ve got all the major character types – the roughneck drifter that becomes sheriff, the supermodel who becomes mayor, the benevolent prostitute, captains of corporate greed, the angst ridden teenager, and what the heck, let’s throw in Lady MacBeth and Romeo and Juliet for good measure.

After two episodes, I’m cautiously optimistic.  It’s still rough in some places, but any series with this much complexity is going to take some time to find itself.   The overall premise is solid, and the characters seem to be sufficiently entertaining.  Overall, it’s been good enough to keep me engaged for one more week.  And that’s sufficient for now.

You Tube of the Week – Star Wars Episode IV in 60 seconds.

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker


Fighting Terror with Tech

Fighting Terror with Tech (reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 4-18-13)

The big news of the week is the terrorist attack in Boston.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives were lost or otherwise forever changed.  And our emotions burn at those who dare bring violence into our lives.  This time is was on Patriots Day in Boston.  Next time, it could be Sunday in Augusta.

Fortunately, social media always helps us come together in times of crisis, and Monday was no exception.  Within seconds, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites quickly spread news of the blast, and within minutes photos and videos were posted.  A local event immediately became international, with an outpouring of support from those across the world.

In the aftermath, race organizers used online services to communicate with stranded racers and helped them get reunited with their families.  Google relaunched its Person Finder, first used during the Haitian earthquake, to help loved-ones find each other.  And in the days to come, no doubt that the cell phone video from all the citizen journalists will help track down the bastards that did this.

It’s sad to think that this is the world in which my daughters have to grow up.  But it’s of some comfort to see how social media seems keeps us connected and, hopefully, helps us stay vigilant in protecting ourselves.

The Time Is Near – A couple of different rumors in the smart watch department.  First, the CNET is jumping on comments made by Apple board member Bill Campbell at an internal Intuit event this week.  Campbell referred to application of technology to “really intimate things,” specifically items like glasses and watches.  Second, Microsoft reportedly requested Asian suppliers to ship components for a touch-enabled watch device.  Too soon to say how committed Microsoft is, but it seems they are interested.

Of course, we are all still trying to figure out why someone might need a smart watch.  For the time being, having the latest tech status gadget seems to be enough.

Are You Sure About That? – We’ve all been there on Facebook, having spent the last 15 minutes creating a great post.  Just before hitting the Post button, you have a second thought.  Next thing you know, it’s a ctrl-a followed by delete.  It’s called self censorship, and according to Sauvik Dak and Adam Kramer, about 71 percent of Facebook users do it.  Dak and Kramer recently published a paper titled…ready for this…”Self-Censorship on Facebook”.  The eight-page treatise is riveting, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll boil it down for you (with some added literary license)…

  • If you don’t know your audience, you’ll censor yourself out of fear of making a fool of yourself.
  • If you are talking to a specific audience, you’ll censor yourself out of fear of not being relevant.
  • If you are part of a social group with strict social norms, you’ll censor yourself to conform.
  • If you write a column for the Metro Spirit, you’ll never censor yourself because you have no problem with being foolish, pointless and deviant.  And, also, you’d really hate to see a good whine go to waste! 

Until next week, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker