Outsourcing Big Brother

I gave this speech last July at the ACLU Biennial Conference in New Orleans. At the time, the news that major telcos and search engine companies were cooperating with the government by providing all kinds of personal infomration had not yet hit the press. I was just applying logic.

It seems useful to me to publish here as a reminder that the recent headlines are not an aberration or the work of a few evil or gready or misguided men. It is the inevitable result of a system that concentrates power and information in the hands of a few large coorprations with every interest keep those in government happy.

We don’t ask chain saws to distinguish between human beings and trees. They are inanimate tools. If you turn it on, it cuts through things. If you want to make it safer, you need to put on safety locks and other devices, or someone is likely to cut his or her own leg off by accident some day.

Similarly, it is ridiculous to depend on corporations to defend private information. They are designed to maximize revenue for shareholders. This does not make them good or bad, greedy or virtuous. It makes the corporation a tool. If we, as citizens of democracies, care about our civil liberties, then we need to install some safeties.

Stay tuned . . .

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My Take on WSIS and DNS

I will be the first to acknowledge that some good came out of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) last week in bringing together a lot of people to talk about important issues. On the key item in the news, what would happen to ICANN and management of the domain name system, the U.S. won hands down. And while I have no desire whatsoever to see the DNS run by some UN-type organization, I understand why the U.S. is not exactly popular in other countries.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory: I Am Now on the Sh–list of the Wall St. J. Editorial Board. Go me!

Well, actually my boss, Andrew Jay schwartzman, and my organization, Media Access Project. But since MAP has only three attorneys and one admin staffer, I think I’m entitled to crow a bit.

The WSJ is a pay site, so I can’t provide a link. And copyright prevents me from reprinting the editorial — which appeared in the print addition of the WSJ on Dec. 30, 2003.

But to see my more detailed comments, see below.

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Tales From the Sausage Factory: Telephone Competition in the U.S.

I’m taking the opportunity to post a little essay I wrote when I moved last March. It illustrates the problems of implementing domestic phone competition in the U.S. I have no reason to believe that anyone in either company (Verizon or Cavalier Telephone) were trying to screw us or were playing fast and lose with the rules. Each one was genuinely trying to do its job, and all the people I talked with were uniformly polite, friendly, and well intentioned. I love well intentioned people, they provide me with such great paving stones that the handcart I’m in rides smooth to the end. . .

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