“If you want to put an always-on microphone in my home, then protect me at the border”

Maciej Ceglowski:

"... searches don't just involve agents skimming through your contact lists or photos—the border police can use software to rapidly dump the contents of your phone, and download your full history from every social media site you use."


Companies that have maneuvered billions of people into storing their most personal information on their servers, and worked aggressively to insert themselves into every facet of social and family life, owe it to their users to fight, and fight hard, for their safety.

No they don’t, and they won’t. The profit motive is too strong.

Let’s be clear. The person on social media is the product. The product serves the needs of its users, the advertisers. This’ll be clear to anyone who’s run a paid ad on social media or seen a social media analytics dashboard. Complying with authorities either on data requests at the borders or otherwise is but a risk-return decision: will compliance with such orders result in enough people leaving to hurt profits significantly? Is building a ‘travel mode’ for social media accounts that locks sensitive data away from border agents worth the trouble with governments? The answer in each case is almost always no.

So. Expect nothing from companies you entrust your data with, beyond the service itself. In general, own your data and make your decisions on where to store your data, what to carry and how to conceal or encrypt it. There are no easy answers, and social media/cloud storage companies are certainly not going to provide any.

Knuth and presence

From the NYT article profiling him for the 50th anniversary of the first publishing of The Art of Computer Programming:

When Knuth chooses to be physically present, however, he is 100-per-cent there in the moment. “It just makes you happy to be around him,” said Jennifer Chayes, a managing director of Microsoft Research. “He’s a maximum in the community. If you had an optimization function that was in some way a combination of warmth and depth, Don would be it.”

Which reminded me of this page on his website I read years ago:

Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things. What I do takes long hours of studying and uninterruptible concentration. I try to learn certain areas of computer science exhaustively

Which itself features a quote from Umberto Eco:

‘I don’t even have an e-mail address. I have reached an age where my main purpose is not to receive messages.’ — Umberto Eco, quoted in the New Yorker

What looks like cryptoanarchism but is really just a tired hustle

Four Days Trapped At Sea With Crypto’s Noveau Riche” • This well written article on a typically bizarre ‘blockchain’ conference cruise:

After his event, the attendees mob the aisles to get closer to their heroes—entirely ignoring the “beautiful ladies” who the host tells us have just taken the stage for the “women in blockchain” panel. It’s a shame, because they miss moderator Olga Feldmeier’s summation, delivered in a pitch-perfect Russian lilt: “Being a woman in blockchain,” she says, “is like riding a bicycle. Except the bicycle is on fire. And everything is on fire. And you are going to hell.”


…it’s clear this is not the Burning Man-style celebration of the liberatory potential of decentralization I was promised. This is a locked-room, hard-sell pitch session to a literally captive audience of high-roller crypto investors, whose only escape is the lifeboats. The whole place smells of aftershave and insecurity. 

Exhibit A for why people will welcome the inevitable overbearing regulation and market capture by the same too big to fail incumbents of the existing financial system. Because the alternative, they think, is this sort.

But of course it’s a simple, old world hustle. A paid event not unlike those selling Amway or time-shares.