It was really only a matter of time before someone started using their smartphone to track their significant other’s movements openly. That is, that someone would proclaim, loudly and proudly, that they digitally stalk their S.O., and offer justifications for it. Here’s Samantha Williams at The Independent (h/t Lucy Cummin):

I can’t remember exactly when I decided to start Geotagging my partner, but I do know why. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him; I just wanted to build on that trust with cold hard evidence. [Emphasis added.]

She says that she trusts her boyfriend. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. She says that she doesn’t not trust him.



That’s not really the same thing as trusting someone, and she gives this away in the very next two paragraphs:

Friends who think my behaviour is creepy, controlling or borderline obsessive have pointed out that just because you know where someone is doesn’t mean they are not in that place cheating on you. That’s true, but this is something which means he’d have a harder time getting away with it.

It is one of those small concessions you make in relationships. I don’t complain if he leaves the toilet seat up, he enables an app which allows me to track his location. That’s just how our love works. [Emphasis added.]

Look, these two can do their relationship however they want. I’m just not comfortable defining “trust” in this way. If you think you need evidence of your partner’s fidelity (or whatever) to feel better, as far as I am concerned you already do not trust them, and there is no app for that. Continue reading


Can You Teach an Old Judge New Tricks?

Judge Richard Posner is indisputably one of the most renowned jurists of the modern era, and deservedly so. Even he gets things wrong , though, and when he does, well, I’ll let Cory Doctorow explain further:

Speaking at a Georgetown law cybercrime conference, 7th circuit judge Richard Posner made a series of conscience-shocking, technologically illiterate statements about privacy that baffle and infuriate, starting with: “if the NSA wants to vacuum all the trillions of bits of information that are crawling through the electronic worldwide networks, I think that’s fine.”

Posner went on to say that privacy is “mainly about trying to improve your social and business opportunities by concealing the sorts of bad activities that would cause other people not to want to deal with you.”

On the idea of default full-disk encryption, he added “I’m shocked at the thought that a company would be permitted to manufacture an electronic product that the government would not be able to search.” Continue reading


Don’t Dangle Raw Meat in Front of a Badger

(The following is adapted from a comment I made on Facebook, in response to the argument that the hacked nude photos debacle is analogous to leaving one’s wallet hanging out and having it stolen. It briefly involves badgers.)

By Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ah yes, a version of the “don’t dangle raw meat in front of a badger” argument. How is putting something online different from leaving cash hanging out of your wallet? Taking the cash requires little to no skill, just a willingness to steal something from someone. Hacking someone’s phone or computer, or even a cloud account, requires much more concerted effort. (Yes, yes, I know it’s easy for some people, but no one is born with hacking skill—they still have to learn how to hack, then make the decision to do so.) Nothing was left “in plain view,” as your analogy would require.

(By the way, I’ve heard the “don’t leave cash hanging out of your wallet” argument applied many, many times to women who get sexually assaulted while wearing short skirts, just so you know the rhetorical company you are keeping.)

Since we are possibly talking about hacks that occurred in the “cloud,” a better analogy would be a locker, or even a safety deposit box. One of the top cloud-storage companies is even called “Dropbox.” We’re not talking about people who left nude pictures of themselves in plain view of the whole world. Several of them had already deleted them, and the rest stored them places that, we have been repeatedly assured, are secure. In fact, we’ve learned that a well-known flaw in iCloud security might have been involved (and by “well-known,” I mean well-known to computer security professionals, not celebrities who happen to own iPhones.) [Ed.: Apple is claiming that iCloud was not hacked, but that multiple individual celebrities’ accounts may have been hacked.] If you want to argue that what happened here is somehow to be expected, then you have no cause for complaint if someone cuts the lock off of your locker at the gym, steals your wallet and your phone, and gym management asks why on earth you would carry your wallet around with you outside of your home.

That only scratches the surface of why your analogy is flawed, but I’ll stop there to give you time to catch up.

(I could go on from there about how people ≠ badgers, but this is good for now.)

Photo credit: By Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


The Tragic, Yet Probably Inevitable, Snapchat Porn Scandal

I had no idea what Snapchat actually was until a few days ago. I had heard the name, but thought it sounded like something that would shortly go the way of Chatroulette.

Apparently, however, its owners and investors are so confident in its $4 billion valuation that they felt comfortable turning down a $3 billion cash buyout offer from Facebook. This made me realize several things:

  1. I may never understand how Silicon Valley determines “value;”
  2. Even a system specifically designed to delete pictures as a privacy measure is beatable;
  3. If it’s popular with teenagers, they’re gonna use it for sex somehow (cf. xkcd); and
  4. Sooner or later, someone’s going to use it for revenge porn.

I don’t always hate it when I’m right, but sometimes I really do. Sometimes I really, really do.


This Must Violate HIPAA Somehow

stanislava from morguefile.com

It was a party to reme—wait, what? (Via morguefile.com)

A Chicago  student is suing a doctor, hospital, and medical school after the doctor allegedly took pictures of her in the hospital, where she had been admitted for overindulgence in alcohol, and posted them on Facebook. The student was reportedly taken to the hospital by ambulance at about 3:00 a.m. on June 13, 2013. The defendant, who was not the student’s treating physician, allegedly looked at her medical records around noon that day, using his medical ID card to gain access to the files. According to Courthouse News Service:

It continues: “At or around 4 p.m., on June 13, 2013, [defendant] came down to the ER again and commenced taking pictures of plaintiff while she was on the hospital bed, crying, and attached to an IV.

“[Defendant] was seen by hospital security in the hospital taking the pictures and was asked to delete them immediately, which he refused to do.

“[Defendant] decided to public said photographs on the Internet through Facebook and Instagram online sharing programs.

“[Defendant] attached statements of commentary describing [plaintiff]’s condition in those photographs. Continue reading


All Your Nudes Are Belong to Us: Likeness Rights in the Age of Photoshop

3762597413_d820da2d19During an inadvertent foray onto TMZ’s website, I came across this bit of fun a few months ago:

DO NOT Photoshop Megan Fox’s naked face on another chick’s naked body … and then publish it online … because she will sue the crap out of you — at least that’s the threat she sent to one website this week.

Megan’s legal team fired off the cease and desist letter to a parody website called Celebrity Jihad — after the site published a shockingly good Photoshopped pic last week, depicting Megan’s face on a naked chick’s body.

I’d be curious to hear a fair use argument for the doctored photo, but copyright law does not seem to enter into the discussion here. It’s hard to know what legal arguments were raised, because all the coverage comes from mouth-breathing websites like TMZ and Perez Hilton. Anyway, the website that posted the pictures was not nearly terribly clever in its reply:

A rep for Celebrity Jihad tells TMZ … “While we appreciate Megan Fox’s concern for her image, we find it hard to believe that a woman who spent two Transformers movies bent over with her breasts pressed together could have her reputation damaged by a blatantly satirical website.”

See, Megan Fox slutted it up in two Michael Bay movies, so how could she complain about some hack website sticking her face on someone else’s naked body, amirite??? (That’s my interpretation of their argument, anyway.)

(If you want to see the picture, you’ll have to Google it yourself. I already feel bad enough for linking to TMZ, although I tagged it “nofollow.”) Continue reading