A Case For Encryption

This article is perhaps one of the best arguments for using encryption in your day to day emails that I’ve ever seen.

No email privacy rights under Constitution, US gov claims

On October 8, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted the government’s request for a full-panel hearing in United States v. Warshak case centering on the right of privacy for stored electronic communications. At issue is whether the procedure whereby the government can subpoena stored copies of your email – similar to the way they could simply subpoena any physical mail sitting on your desk – is unconstitutionally broad.

Essentially, there are several arguments that are being used to try to get courts to agree that email is not subject to any “reasonable expectation of privacy”.  The arguments are several…  Your email provider probably has language in their Terms Of Service that allow them to examine your email.  It almost certainly has language in it that says that if they get a supoena for copies of your email they’ll happily hand over everything it demands.

in 1963 the US Supreme Court ruled in Katz v. United States that the user of a payphone could claim a right to privacy.  That’s when the standards for “reasonable expectation of privacy” were established.

1. Do you think that what you are doing is private?
2. Is this something that society will accept that your belief is objectively reasonable?

An email message is basically text that has been formatted according to a standard and is then transmitted from one server to another until it arrives at it’s destination.  This email is in plain, unencrypted, text form.  Which means that if you know what file to open, you can read an email in a text editor.  Some emails do use a form of encoding to allow binary content to be sent over a text medium, but that encoding (Base 64) is a well known standard that is not indended to keep anything private.

The only way to make email private is to actually encrypt it.  The easiest way to do this is to use PGP or GnuPG (GPG) to encrypt the text of your email so that only the intended recipient can decrypt and read it.  Here’s a tutorial I wrote about how to install and use PGP.

You wouldn’t write private physical mail on the back of a postcard would you?  When you do send a letter in snail mail that contains anything private you put it in an envelope and seal it with the full expectation that it won’t be opened except by the person it’s addressed to.

Encrypting email is the same principal.  If I send an email, especially if it’s private for whatever reason, then I’m going to get the recipient’s PGP key and use that to encrypt the email so that only they can decrypt and read it.

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The End of Internet Freedom in Italy

Here’s something that everybody interested in freedom of speech should be certain to read and follow up on… a blog entry describing a proposed Italian law that would severely curtail the ability of Italian citizens to create and publish blogs.

This gem is carefully crafted to eliminate most open expression on the internet by people in Italy:

the Levi-Prodi law obliges anyone who has a website or a blog to get a publishing company and to have a journalist who is on the register of professionals as the responsible director.

Obviously, this would make 99.9% of blogs and websites in Italy illegal overnight.

People need to make some noise about this and Italians need to make more noise than anyone because it’s their rights headed down the toilet.  In the mean time it wouldn’t hurt for more websites and blogs to display this:

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign
Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!

If you would like to add this to your site or blog, just paste this code into your index.html or your blog’s template:

<a href="http://www.eff.org/br/"><img src="http://www.eff.org/br/br.gif" alt="Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign" align="middle" height="76" width="112"/><br />Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign!</a>

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Watch Out For The Listasaurus

Listasaurus is an online classified ad site that’s got a couple of extra edges.. Like video classifieds where you can include videos in your listings.  Better than just posting a picture, you can use a video of the item you’re selling, include a walk around or show it in action or maybe just show how cool all your neighbors think it is.  Not only that, but most of the categories are free to post in.

What tops that though, is something that I haven’t seen before and that’s their pay per listing program.  That’s where THEY pay YOU for your ad listings on their site.  Currently for each ad you post in an eligible category you get.25 Cents.  Doesn’t sound like a lot?  Well it can add up quickly if you’re posting enough ads.  Then there’s the referral program.  Currently every person you refer to them that registers and lists a business ad can earn you $20.

Looking around the site I saw quite a range of things for sale from a 2003 Chevy Silverado LS to homes in Florida.. That’s right, somebody’s even selling their house on there.  If you’re looking for a job, what would a classified advertising section be without a Job Opportunities section or a place for Jobs Wanted listings?

How’s Your Stock Sense?

Heard of “MyWallSt.net” yet?  I hadn’t heard of it either, but it’s certainly looking interesting and it doesn’t have anything to do with it being a financial social network for people with an interest in investing.  It’s also got nothing to do with any of the many reasons they’ll tell you it’s a good idea to join.  What it has to do with is a game, something called a rookie challenge.

The rookie challenge is a fantasy stock market game….. you know the kind you make theoretical investments in the stock market, in this case based on real stock market data delayed 15-20 minutes.  Even that, while interesting to a point, isn’t *quite* enough to trip my interest.  What did it was the fact that while you’re playing this game and not using real money to do it, you can win $1,000 in real money.

THAT got my attention.  Here’s how it works.  You register on MyWallSt.net (did I say it’s free to register?  And that “Free” is the price for playing the game?  Well, it is and that’s an important part of this deal in my opinion), then you build your profile page and then click on “Rookies” after you log in and start building your portfolio.

At the end the week on Friday after 5pm they calculate the equity (value) of all the portfolios, the rookie with the highest percentage gain in equity for that week wins $1,000.  It’s that easy.. and not so easy.  Investing is a complicated, often expensive business.  But the great part about this is that you get to try yourself out on the stock market without risking real money.

You start out with a hundred grand in virtual money to invest.  You buy and sell stocks in very much the same manner as you would in the real market, even down to paying a commission on all transactions.  The only question I’ve got left right now is “What to buy first?”

Host A Purple Party

Coming up in a few days is “World Alzheimer’s Day”.  It’s all about raising money to increase awareness concerning just what Alzheimer’s is and how it affects people and fund research that is looking for a cure and treatments for Alzheimer’s disease as well as.

Alzheimer’s is a very common form of what the medical types call “dementia”.  Over five million people in the US and something like 26 million people in around the world are have it and the numbers are growing, By 2050 those numbers are expected to be four times what they are now.

The Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging people to hold a Purple Party to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.  This is an opportunity to take something like a party or other event and use it to get people in on supporting the fight against this disease. The idea is to hold “socially responsible” party…. You know, people having a good time raising money for a good cause without the need to get trashed.

Anyone who holds a Purple Party” can register their party on actionalz.org.  When you do, you get to create a web page for the party and send email reminders to your guests.  It even allows your guests to make donations online.  Also, The Harrah’s Foundation is going to match all donations in September dollar-for-dollar, so that makes this month an even better time to raise money.

The Association is giving away free World Alzheimer’s Day party kits to the first 500 people that register their Purple Party and agree to raise $150.  This free party kit includes A DVD of Alzheimer’s Celebrity Champions, Speaking points about Alzheimer’s, Donation forms and envelopes, Cocktail napkins and Thank you cards.  So now is definitely the time to register your purple party today.

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