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Archive: 30 January 2003

Stay in View, Please

Imagine the ability to spread a bunch of sub-millimeter sensors around and then collect the data.  Now go read “Companies test prototype wireless-sensor nets” at EE Times Advanced Technology.  Then, assuming you haven’t, go read A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge.  It goes on rather longer than I might have liked, but it’s still full of interesting ideas, including the use of a “smart dust” sensor network.  It would seem that privacy as we know it really will be over.  David Brin touched on this topic in Earth, and apparently addresses it directly in The Transparent Society, which I haven’t read.  Is the only defense against technological invasion of privacy the ability to detect the invasion, and the ability to counter-invade?  I don’t see too many other options, frankly.  It might be possible to jam some forms of invasion privacy, but who could afford the gear to detect and defeat all possible forms of invasion?

Along similar lines, the more I hear about the things that can happen to IE/Win users, the happier I am about being a Macintosh user who works for Netscape.  The very idea that a Web browser can be taken over, and seriously mess up the operating system in the process, makes my eyes cross.  I’m starting to wonder how any company with the slightest shred of concern over security could possibly justify running IE/Win.  Here’s a scenario:  a high-level manager wanders past a site that does a drive-by download of a toolbar which then does its own download of a small program that quietly transfers all of the hard drive contents to another system.  Hey, were those your corporate secrets leaving the building just now?  Yeah, I think they passed a virulent data-eating virus on its way in.

Then again, if said company is also running Outlook, I suppose getting upset over virus infections became passé a long time ago.  In any case, the only defense against this sort of thing is the ability to find out that it’s happening and put a stop to it.  If there were a way to inflict similar damage on the original perpetrators, we’d all be mini-Cold War actors: don’t mess with my data and I won’t mess with yours.  In that kind of situation, how long would it take someone to decide a first strike was a good idea, and how much damage could they inflict?

January 2003
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