As well as the multitude of
feedback published on yesterday's column I
also received even more which were marked "not for publication."
Some of those other emails made the point that since authorities already have
the right to tap phone lines, intercept postal-mail and bug your home -- what's
the big deal over doing the same to your Net access or email?
Well quite frankly I think they have a point and I don't really have too much
of an issue (so long as the proper checks and balances are put in place) with
authorities having similar powers in respect to the Internet.
However, what really worries me about this proposed new legislation is the
bit which means you have to hand over the decryption key for any encrypted
items the authorities might wish to examine.
This ill-conceived piece of legislation would make it very easy to victimise
anyone you didn't like -- and represents another shift away from what was the
right of every citizen: to be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
It would appear that we must now prove we're innocent because the authorities
will have a right to assume guilt if they find encrypted material in your mailbox
and you choose not to hand over the key.
But here's how you can frame a friend (or enemy):
First, send the authorities an anonymous tip-off that someone's trading in
kiddy-porn or drugs -- or has links with an active terrorist organisation and
that they're using the Internet to do so.
Then, once the police have had time to start monitoring their email, start sending them
encrypted messages through an anonymous remailer.
Naturally this will appear very suspicious to the authorities and they will demand
that the recipient (your friend/enemy) hands over the decryption key for those
messages. Of course they won't have the key -- but do you think the police/SIS/whoever
is going to believe them?
Failure to comply with an order to hand over the keys will likely result in
a jail term for contempt and long-term surveillance of their ongoing activities.
That's just one reason why parts of this new law are so lame.
Then of course there's the ease with which an encrypted block of data can
be configured to hold two or more different messages depending on which
decryption key is used.
One key will unlock that incriminating image or message, while another key -- the
one handed over to authorities, will reveal only some other, completely innocent
message. Both messages would be stored in the same encrypted block and how would anyone
know that the unlocked message wasn't all that was inside the seemingly
random array of characters that a block of encrypted data appears to be?
Sorry boys -- time to head back to the drawing board on that one.
When Advertising Kills A Website
Most of us have learned to live with banner ads on websites -- they're now a
fact of life and the price we pay for having free access to so much valuable
Unfortunately for site operators, they can also kill a site stone, cold, dead.
I'm not talking about people getting annoyed with the flashy banners and deciding
to strike a site off their bookmark list -- I'm talking about when the adserver
responsible for delivering those ads dies.
As I trawl the world's online news sites each morning to find the most interesting
and relevant headlines and links for this page it's not uncommon to find a page
which takes forever to load because the computer serving up the ads is either
unreachable or running very slowly.
In the past two days I've encountered this happening with the adserver at
which has intermittently affected the stuff.co.nz site. However, it's not at
all uncommon to have one or more of the Australian sites I visit slowed to a
crawl by similarly ill-behaved ad servers across the Tasman.
The ad.nz.doubleclick.net server or connectivity to it appeared so flaky last
night/this-AM that I had been getting a "Connection Reset By Peer" alert box
occasionally popping up after 30 seconds or so of waiting for the ad to load.
Annoying banner ads I can live with -- but when an ad really screws up the
loading of a page, well that's enough to drive me away for good.
On the Net, life's just too short to put up with such problems.
Yes, I know the first edition of the weekly has yet to appear -- but I'm
still working on it.
Hopefully (if current leads pan out) it will include a very interesting expose'
into the astoundingly bad behaviour of a group of local "new economy" company
directors (some of who are also on the board of a public company). Just how
competent and ethical are the managers of some of our hi-tech public companies?
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