From September 2005 to June 2006 a team of thirteen scholars at the The University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Communication explored how new and maturing networking technologies are transforming the way in which we interact with content, media sources, other individuals and groups, and the world that surrounds us.

This site documents the process and the results.

privacy and surveillance

about privacy and surveillance

Privacy in general involves both the right for individuals to be left alone by others and freedom from the intrusions of formal bureaucratic institution and authorities.

Surveillance is the systematic investigation or monitoring of the actions or communications of one or more persons.

Google Won't Pay ... and They Don't Want to Give Our Data to the Feds Either.

So maybe Google is really living up to its motto, “Don't be evil.

Submitted by kvarnelis on January 20, 2006 - 3:58pm

surveillance and centralization

I've posted some news at my research blog about how the US government is using the highly centralized nature of world telecommunications for eavesdropping. Read more here.

Submitted by kvarnelis on December 26, 2005 - 7:48pm

Is Email Broken?

I can no longer send email to my friends at AOL because, according to AOL, the server is on has also been used to send spam. Since a nonprofit group, the LA Forum is on the same server, members who are on AOL don't get their emails anymore either. The problem is that AOL's policies on what constitutes spam are ludicrous. No doubt AOL users get spam, but my ISPs terms of service are strict. users have a nice big button tempting them by saying "Mark as Spam" over their list of emails. The problem is that clueless users simply look at all of their email, get overwhelmed by the tempting ads for penis enhancement, Nigerian 419 scams, and so forth, hit select all and then "Mark as Spam" to delete the entire bunch. When enough AOL users do this, the site is blacklisted by IP, not by originating server. Then of course there are the people who sign up to mailing lists (such as the LA Forum's) and then want off but are too lazy to read the instructions at the bottom of the email message in order to figure out how to unsubscribe and just hit "Mark as Spam" to get the emails banned from their account. Same effect. Heck, if I just bcc 20 people and one of them is from AOL, I'll be blocked for a day since that's not acceptable, even if I'm doing it to send out a party invite. If I enter in what AOL considers a malformed URL—or even respond back to a message with a malformed URL-the same thing will happen. Some of them persist in sending me email from their AOL. I've given up trying to respond back to them. The next stage may just be to have set up an auto-responder to tell people that I won't read their email and to get a real email address.

Then again, this morning a friend with SBC sent me an email (an my netpublics account) that had bounced back from Why? Because the ISP has put in spamcop and his smtp server is considered blocked.

Spam blocking is becoming more of a problem for me than spam. Perhaps all this will be solved soon, but email seems more and more broken, heading down the route of Gopher or Usenet and other dead media. I asked Mimi Ito about this since she knows everything about such matters (or at least seems to me) and she responded: "Ours will be the last generation to use email." Sites like and instant messaging will defeat email once and for all in her analysis.

But what happens when IM spam and IM spam blockers rear their ugly heads?

Submitted by kvarnelis on December 8, 2005 - 3:02am

sony more evil than MS or Google?

It seems that Sony is using some new DRM that essentially utilizes malware technology and installs nasty things without telling you. Very detailed info here:

Sony DRM Blog post

Submitted by todd on November 2, 2005 - 3:26pm

bloggers to have less rights than journalists?

Ars Technica picked up this item from Editor and Publisher yesterday. The 2005 Free Flow of Information Act is designed to protect journalists from having to reveal the names of their anonymous sources except under specific conditions. On Monday, however, the bill's co-sponsor, US Senator Richard Lugar—who said he was inspired to write the legislation by columnist Judith Miller's recent imprisonment for not revealing her source to a court—suggested that bloggers would not be considered journalists under this law. So somehow we have freedom of speech, but some of us have more freedom of speech than others? So much for the dream of media from the ground up.

Submitted by kvarnelis on October 13, 2005 - 1:39am

rfid me RFID evil? I know that a technology per se shouldn't really be considered evil, and RFID has some pretty cool applications. But like most cool technologies, there is a dark side. Do you want everything you buy/consume tracked by somebody? In 2001 IBM got patents that discussed monitoring people in "shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, rest rooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, museums, etc.."

Rest rooms? RFID toilet paper? Maybe they're on to something...

Submitted by todd on October 10, 2005 - 11:50am

hide my genes

Big Blue appears to be on the leading edge of a new wave...keeping employee genetic data private. It is interesting because IBM is a big player in genomics, so on one hand they are helping to create the issue. But kudos to them for stepping up and saying that the results of genetic tests will not be used against employees.

Congress is working on legislation surrounding this issue, but IBM beat them to the punch. Will the gov screw this one up? I'd say odds are pretty good...

Submitted by todd on October 10, 2005 - 11:45am

Handbook for bloggers and cyberdissidents

Reporters Without Borders or Reporters sans frontiƩres has just released a handbook for bloggers and cyberdissidents who want to protect themselves from recrimination, censors and surveillance. The handbook, partly funded by French government, is meant help cyberactivists with handy tips and technical advice on how to get round censorship and surveillance by strategizing the uses of blogs for various situations.

Submitted by mlim on October 7, 2005 - 2:38pm