July 10, 2008

You Suck At Photoshop [10:13 am]

In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a fact that had not emerged before the photo appeared on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com and many other major news Web sites.

If you haven’t seen the series (which, happily, has recently seen the release of a new episode), take some time and check them out as soon as you can — You Suck At Photoshopepisode #3, if no other

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Fair Use? [9:44 am]

Isn’t it interesting that, once we accept the fact that the US Government tortures people, we can have serious discussions of process? The banality of evil, indeed. Barney the purple torturer? (pdf)

Some months ago, Mother Jones magazine put together what it called a “torture playlist” of songs that American interrogators have used in their sessions with detainees during the last few years. “Torture’s Top 10″ was what one newspaper called it.

I have no idea whether the list is accurate. It includes mostly the kinds of songs you might expect — by Metallica, Drowning Pool, Deicide, Eminem. The top song on the list included an extremely obscene reference to the religion of others.

But I must admit I was surprised to see that one of the songs supposedly used to break the will of terrorist suspects and cause them to confess to crimes against humanity was the well-known “I Love You” from the “Barney” TV series. That’s a song that I produced and arranged in the 1990s (to the tune of “This Old Man”). And this is certainly not a use I ever would have dreamed of for it.

[...] Ultimately, the real issue here does not have to do with the morality of the music being played but with the morality of the people who are playing it. And there’s not a thing that I or any other composer or songwriter can do about that.

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A Nice Summation [9:36 am]

Why is YouTube hoarding data? (pdf)

Stanton’s order is a reminder that websites shouldn’t retain personally identifiable data any longer than the law or their services require. Google argues that the data enable it to improve its services, combat fraud and personalize offerings. Its approach, though, reflects an engineer’s habit of hoarding information for the sake of as-yet-unimagined features, not the cautious practices of a privacy-conscious company. If YouTube really needs to keep months’ worth of data about what users do, the least it can do is remove the links to who’s doing it. In the meantime, users should remove the links themselves by following instructions on the site for erasing their viewing histories.

Also there’s the AP piece: Privacy protections disappear with a judge’s order (pdf)

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The NYT Finds A New Windmill To Tilt At [9:14 am]

After yesterday, who really expects anyone in the US Government to act as if electronic privacy merits protection? The Government and Your Laptop

The Department of Homeland Security is routinely searching laptops at airports when Americans re-enter the United States from abroad. The government then pores over or copies the laptop’s contents — including financial records, medical data and e-mail messages. These out-of-control searches trample the privacy rights of Americans, and Congress should rein them in.

[...] Congress should pass a law that allows the government to look at data on laptops and other portable electronic devices only when it has a reasonable suspicion about the specific person being searched — something the law does not currently require. To copy data or seize devices, the government should be required to show probable cause, an even higher standard.

Congress should force the government to spell out the rules governing its searches and report on how many it conducts. The law should also require the government to destroy data that does not lead to criminal charges.

At this point, the only hope is the Judicial branch, it appears. And we know what’s been going on there for the past couple of decades. Orwell would be mightily shocked that his predictive abilities were so good, and that his warnings have been so completely ignored.

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