Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Still on the subject of trademark infringement, HaidaBucks legal battle ended well last summer. (I like that name a lot, actually.) It looks like Mike Rowe's will also. Here's to the power of public opinion!

Uzi Nissan's Plight

I was reading about Mike Rowe's recent run-in with Microsoft when I found comments comparing it to Uzi Nissan's problems. Up until then, I'd been unaware of Mr. Nissan's legal battle with Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. The car maker has been trying to wrest the domain name from Mr. Nissan since 1999, despite his every right to it. Unbelievably, as it stands right now, Mr. Nissan still owns the domain name and (what used to be the home of his Internet service company), but he can't use them for commercial purposes. Talk about stripping ownership of its value! Now that his appeal has been rejected, he waits. What I can't believe is that the judge ruled that Mr. Nissan's critique of this lawsuit on proved the actual dilution of the Nissan Motors trademark, as required by the Federal Trademark Dilution Act. I sure hope this ruling is sent back for review. The man has a right to express his opinion!

Friday, January 16, 2004

The US-VISIT Program

Bruce Schneier wrote a great piece on the US-VISIT program for the current Crypto-Gram. My first thought, upon reading about the program on Slashdot about a week ago, was: where does Canada fit in it? This came up in answering one of the frequently asked US-VISIT questions on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Web site: while Canada is not part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, existing agreements with the U.S. exempt most Canadians from having to submit their biometric data. Of course, this can change based on national need.

My second thought was retention. It's easy to collect data, but keeping track of what you've collected, throwing it out when you're done with it, that's tougher. To their credit, the U.S. DHS conducted a privacy impact assessment on the US-VISIT program that addressed many of the fair information practices, including limited collection, accuracy and individual access:
There is also some duplication in the types of data collected by each system. These inconsistencies and duplication result in some heightened degree of risk with respect to integrity/security of the data, and to access and redress principles, because personal information could persist on one or more component systems beyond its period of use or disappear from one or more component systems while still in use. These risks are mitigated, however, by having a Privacy Officer for US-VISIT to handle specific issues that may arise, by providing review of the Privacy Officer’s decision by the DHS Chief Privacy Officer, and, to the extent permitted by existing law, regulations, and policy, by allowing covered individuals access to their information and permitting them to challenge its completeness. Additionally, as an overarching mechanism to ensure appropriate privacy protections, US-VISIT operators will conduct periodic strategic reviews of the data to ensure that what is collected is limited to that which is necessary for US-VISIT purposes.

What's interesting is that this quote is taken from the section entitled Retention and Destruction. At no point does it discuss the destruction or deletion of the biometric data. And, again, it's easy to keep data around just in case. The scary part is, though, when new systems are being developed and those involved are looking for ways to save money, to avoid reinventing the wheel, these piles of data are pretty enticing. What happens if I'm separated from my biometric data? Oh, that's John because he sent us this biometric data electronically, and look! It matches. No, actually it's just the person who has access to that data; it's been sitting on this decommissioned kiosk for the last two years, but hey, no worries, because you know what? John's fingerprints don't change a whole heck of a lot.

Yes, I know most sensible systems will only use stored biometric data in comparisons with what they get from me, right there, but convenience, assumptions, time constraints... System designers, project managers... They make mistakes. I'd just prefer that my data trail wasn't there, ready to be mucked with.

Overcome With Expression

I am shy. I'm more outspoken than I was 10 years ago, but, on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, I'm still an innie. Those moments when I feel the need (or see the opportunity) to express myself are rare. However, when they come, I experience some strange physiological changes: my skin starts tingling, and my extremities start to sweat and cool. If it takes me a few minutes to write my thoughts down, or speak them, or even complete some sort of public test (of skill or strength) - the key is expressing myself to others - I'll become so cold that I'll start to shake. This can be really annoying, if, for example, the test is a multiplayer game of Halo: sweating all over my keyboard while shaking my mouse makes it tough to shoot the enemy.

Am I alone? Again, it's an excitement, as opposed to an anxiety. Believe me, I know the difference. In Grade 9, I had to speak on my favourite song for a few minutes in front my (English? Social Studies?) class; by the end, I was getting one or two words out between gasps, seconds from hyperventilating. That was anxiety, and my public speaking is much improved today, I'm happy to say. But this excitement is still distracting. Sometimes I shake so badly that I can't type. And my wife loves it when I hug her with my corpse-like hands. :-)

Friday, January 02, 2004

New Year Blogs

Lately, I've gotten in the habit of reading a few of the fresh blogs to the left of the home page after I log out of Blogger. Of course, it's the interesting names that catch my eye (and yes, I'm aware that mine doesn't qualify... It's placeholder for my portfolio when I start writing seriously). I've heard some statistics on this, but I'm still surprised by the number of blogs with less than a dozen entries. Today, many are New Year blogs.

I'm sure to read something about this is the coming weeks, just like I read about (and deal with) the spike in gym membership every New Year. And I'm sure the coming months will see a similar trickle of abandonment as motivation dwindles. But blogs are different than gyms: they're only a few keystrokes away for most of the Internet community. No getting up early nor putting off supper for an hour nor spending the best parts of your evening going to and from (depending on your gym routine). So why do people stop blogging?

One answer is: they run out of things to talk about; and that's a good one. I, for one, don't want to read filler. But I would guess that people are always thinking about something. See, I got around this by starting another blog of limited scope: what I'm watching. I wasn't always thinking about things worth blogging about here, but I was watching lots of movies and a bit of TV. And as the credits were rolling on these shows, thoughts were always bouncing around in my head. Now I've just forced myself to sit down and type those thoughts out, in much the same way that many successful writers live, as I understand it. I guess I'm hoping that this limited exercise won't be so limited one day.

So, if everyone has thoughts bouncing around in their heads, the obstacle may be the process of typing them out. Without these aspirations, would I bother sitting down and typing as often as I do? History has shown the answer to be no, despite the fact that I enjoy it once I've started. And then there's another possibility, one that equally applies to me: the fear of looking stupid. Yes, John, I have a thought every few seconds, but none of 'em are particularly intelligent. I have religiously followed that Better to be thought a fool advice my whole life, and I suspect I'm not alone.

And yet, with all these obstacles, one in seven (or so) of the fresh blogs I stumble upon has been going strong for at least a year, sometimes two. I want to be able to say the same of at least one of mine.

About the new layout...

Hopefully this recommendation doesn't violate the terms of this service: until Pyra Labs (Google now, I guess) brings back their upgrade plans, I recommend using the Mozilla Firebird browser. I only recently realized that this layout doesn't work well with the advertisements, and Mozilla Firebird can block them. Yes, I realize this service wouldn't be free for very long if everyone took me up on this, but I will be putting my money where my mouth is as soon as possible (and feel free to call me out if the ad-free plan is offered again and you're still seeing the ads).