On June 1st 2012, Go Transit in the Greater Toronto Area started to phase out anonymous 2 ride and 10 ride paper based tickets. These 2 ride and 10 ride tickets would get stamped in a machine and it didn’t require giving Metrolinx your name and address or other personal information. You can still buy anonymous single ride and day passes but if you ride the bus every day this is a huge inconvenience and the price is higher. If you ride the bus every day you’re likely to opt-in to the PRESTOCARD system. The PRESTOCARD system is dangerous to your personal privacy because it collects personal information that was never previously required to ride the bus. Personal information collected by the Government of Ontario is stored on computers running Microsoft Windows Server and is a blatant security risk.
Personal information that may be collected by PRESTO in connection with your use of the PRESTOCARD is recorded information that identifies individuals and may include:
a) information relating to financial transactions in which you have been involved or will be involved with PRESTO, including your credit card number and your bank account information;
b) any identifying number, symbol or other particular identifier assigned to you by PRESTO;
c) your address or telephone number;
d) correspondence sent to PRESTO by you that is implicitly or explicitly of a private or confidential nature, and replies to that correspondence that would reveal the contents of the original correspondence; and/or
e) your name where it appears with other personal information relating to you or where the disclosure of your name would reveal other personal information about you.
The claim from Metrolinx (whom owns Go Transit and Metrolinx) is that the information will only be used for a list of purposes although it says ‘among other things’ meaning the list is not complete:
PRESTO’s primary purpose for collecting your personal information is to provide the services and/or products requested by you. In addition, you agree that your personal information may be used, among other things, to:
a) open and set-up your PRESTO Account;
b) verify your identity and/or your eligibility for certain PRESTO Services;
c) mail to you your PRESTOCARD and other such items or communications;
d) operate the PRESTO Services effectively;
e) administer loyalty programs associated with the use of the PRESTO Services;
f) protect you and PRESTO from error and fraud
g) better understand your needs and eligibility for products and services offered by PRESTO or the Service Providers;
h) communicate to you those products and services that may be of interest to you;
i) improve the products and/or services offered to you; and
j) comply with legal and regulatory requirements.
What they do not list is the fact that the GO Transit system uses “tap on” and “tap off”. What this means is that you get on the bus, you tap your card and it makes a record that you boarded the bus. When you leave the bus you are required to “tap off” which makes a record that your trip ended. From a billing standpoint this means they keep track of your trip. They know where you get on the bus, and where you get off. This means the government (who owns Metrolinx) has your name & address, and can attach your trip information to their records and more readily build a personality profile on you.
The PRESTOCARD itself is RFID based and is read by an RFID reader on every bus. At some point the reader talks to head office, I suspect using WiFi communications. If anyone knows more about Presto and Wifi please leave a comment. I’ve discovered the Wifi prestocard client while on the bus using tools from the Aircrack-ng suite of utilities. My only guess is that this is how they update the billing records on the road.
Since Metrolinx is owned by the Government of Ontario, there will be no third party disclosure issues when handing the information over to the police, or other government agencies. When CCTV exists on Go Transit buses, facial recognition technology will get help via a list of names of people riding the bus since the trip is tracked for billing purposes. If you use your PRESTOCARD on Mississauga or Brampton Transit, it will already “out you” to CCTV. Not to mention the fact that the government will have information on your entire trip from start to finish. This information is valuable to the government and there are many uses. One of the more pragmatic things I can think of would be to give the government statistics it can use to market its incumbent political party to demographics more likely to vote for them.
What ever happened to the right to travel anonymously? Metrolinx, Go Transit and PRESTOCARD are all services that will remove this right and people will simply adapt before complaining. Those of us who don’t want to be tracked will stand out, we’ll get evil looks from bus drivers when we don’t tap on, and disgruntled looks from people waiting in line while people like me pay cash.
The Obama administration issued a feeble response to a previous petition against software patents signed by more than 14,000 people. Please sign the new one which requires more than 20,000 signatures to merit a response.
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Pursue Software Patent Abolition.
We hold the belief that software patents, in nature and practice, hinder true innovation and grant unjust monopolies.
The Obama Administration’s response to a previous petition shamefully attempted to absolve the President of responsibility and placate us with the toothless America Invents Act. We summarily reject his response and demand immediate action.
Rapid growth in the software industry during economic malaise demonstrates the importance and power of this market. The President must use his full power and influence to fight harmful forces from entrenched incumbents and non-producing entities.
There are no possible reforms to be made to the USPTO that will enable it to keep pace with innovation in the software industry. Those who truly understand software are creating it.
Institutions which value their customer’s privacy should only use free software for their day to day business and record keeping. The rapacious behavior of banks, insurance companies and marketing firms has received a great deal of attention, and sane countries are making data privacy laws but the issue of non free software is seldom raised. Medical records are a particularly sensitive area where morals and ethics should trump profit. Ethical medical practitioners know that the records they create belong to the patient and that those records must be guarded and only surrendered to the patient or other health care professionals serving the patient. Bankers, insurance companies and other companies should be forced by law to abide by similar rules but no one can actually comply if they use propitiatory software which hides operations from users.
The US is in the midst of an insurance industry push towards electronic medical records. Tax breaks and other incentives have been offered to doctors who make the move to electronic records keeping. This will be good if adequate protections are in place.
Every business and government office that uses non free software should realize this threat and end it by migrating to free software. Moving to free software won’t protect institutions from malicious clerks and other commonly mentioned problems but it is the only solution to unauthorized access to records by software owners. That access and power is at the heart of the bad deal propitiatory software has always offered but is exposed in an ugly way when all of our records are electronic and computers must be on a network to be considered useful.
Businesses that do not move out of customer and self interest should be forced by law. Customers and citizens concerned about their privacy should be protected. Because no such privacy can be guaranteed by propitiatory software, no propitiatory software should be allowed to operate on customer business records. Only software with the four software freedoms should be allowed.
Summary: Assorted Novell and OpenSUSE news with emphasis on videos
IT HAS BEEN about a month since we last took stock of Novell’s new videos. There is nothing fascinating among them, but this file was uploaded a month ago to celebrate a Novell “Success Story” and Novell has begun utilising some account that’s described as follows: “Novell’s Learning Channel (sponsored by Novell Training Services) is focused on enhancing your ability to use Novell products effectively.”
Well, to name just some of the earlier videos that were uploaded by it last month:
I have started maintaining three packages, namely Texmaker, TeXworks and Rubber, in the Publishing repository. These applications make working with and compiling latex documents user-friendly and painless.
I received an email from a user who switched from openSUSE to Ubuntu since his Wireless netcard did not work. It worked with openSUSE 11.2 initially but after an online update it failed. He hoped that openSUSE 11.3 worked, tested it, it failed – and he gave up and wrote a frustrated email.
I was frustrated reading this since we should have been able to help this user if he contacted us in time.
Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that he is a prophet, declaring that he had foreseen that people will soon have no qualms about displaying every minute detail of their private lives on the internet.
Facebook’s database of binary connections between profiles is problematic for all sorts of reasons and one of our readers has explained why in the following message:
Internet Scumbags Spin Privacy Concerns to Their Advantage
Got a privacy problem? Embarrassed by something you gave others to publish? Perhaps the nice people running the databases and PR astroturf firms can help you get what you really want. The bad guys want to help you, really. This unlikely turn, where the exploiters and extortionists proclaim themselves the good guys, is amazingly being presented as reasonable policy and legislative framework.
A new wave of Google bashing and Facebook glorification is hitting the news. Instead of having a good look at real problems, such as ChoicePoint, and the problematic uses of databases by both government and industry, the databases that people can see and derive some benefit from are lambasted.
The Register is running an amusing article about Facebook that hints at some of the more serious issues.
“Critics have slated the social networking site for burying privacy controls, highjacking its users’ data and allowing advertisers to farm Facebookers to help them flog tat. Oh, and eroding an generations’ respect for their own and other people’s privacy.”
“The fact is, Zuckerberg said, that people want to share everything, and they want to share it on the internet. That is the “new norm”, and he saw it coming.”
Good for the Register to point to commercial exploitation of centralized databases and the intentional erosion of privacy by the exploiters. The article is amusing and worth reading in full.
If only more serious publications had as much sense. “Mainstream” coverage is looks more like this:
Google and digital freedom, aka “piracy,” are presented as cause for concern while astroturfers and spammers are presented as the cure. Reasonable legislation in France, where people would have the right to demand of
commercial databases that pictures of themselves be deleted, is ridiculed as hopelessly naive because “piracy” means the pictures will always resurface. Google is smeared with the piracy label, rather than a company that promises private sharing but then allows commercial data mining and tells you not to worry about it. The authors finally recommend the vigilante justice of “search engine optimization” and “reputation defense” which are euphemisms for astroturf and spam. PR companies that follow Microsoft’s TE training manuals will “defend” their clients by relentlessly libeling competitors, often anonymously or through pseudo names. Without search engines, their work would go doing damage without victim awareness. Google seems to be a convenient, visible target for the crimes of others. Big publishers have always hated digital freedom, which makes them unnecessary, and Google which supplants them.
Serious publications should be focusing their attention on the more sinister practices that have the same but less visible results, data mining of people’s purchasing, email and web browsing. Losses of insurance, denial of
employment and other problems have already shown people the dangers of social exploitation networks. Laws that govern these things are seriously out of line, especially in the US where the PatRiot Act actually encourages violation.
Free software has answers to as many of these concerns as is practical. Modern GNU/Linux systems offer simple interfaces for encrypted email, instant message and file sharing so that only a minimum of user selected material ever needs to be shared to achieve what social exploitation networks promise. The more control people have over their computers and publishing, the more privacy and publishing power they will have. While it is never possible to “take back” what you have given others, no one should need a third party publisher to share with their friends. Data mining of purchasing data and private electronic correspondence can only be reduced by law.
Italians take the ‘p’ to fight back against Big Brother
Italians are fighting back against the surveillance society with a grass roots project designed to publicise the location of CCTV cameras – and to “out” those that have been set up contrary to Italian Law.
Amy sez, “In 1955 Orson Welles created a BBC programme called Sketchbook. In this episode he is shockingly contemporary when he talks about passports, privacy and personal rights ending in his assertion that all members of the human race deserve to maintain their dignity and privacy. He also talks about about the role of police – interesting in light of recent invasions of privacy in the supposed interest of protecting citizens.”
It is good to have people out there who fight for everyone’s rights. █
SARAH from the Free Software Foundation has called for people to express their dissatisfaction with far-reaching DRM in Amazon’s Kindle. “We have over 1400 signatures already,” she emphasises, “and signers include Lawrence Lessig, Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow and other notable authors, librarians, and scholars.”
If you know other people who may wish to support the cause, please pass this around as it will be used to persuade Amazon to reverse, not just apologise, and it may also serve as a future lesson to other companies that attempt the same predatory action. █
“I don’t understand how IE is going to win. The current path is simply to copy everything that Netscape does packaging and product wise.”
–Jim Allchin, President of Platforms & Services Division at Microsoft
Summary: Synopsis of developments regarding the legal challenges Microsoft unleashes upon Linux
THE principal question about TomTom’s lawsuit has recently been transformed into one which revolves around GPL compliance and ethical traps. This latest angle is already being examined, explained, and summarised. Mary Jo Foley, who is in good terms with Jeremy Allison (she interviewed him before), wrote about this issue which was first raised by him. She summarised the TomTom issue — as it appears at this stage in particular– without provoking:
[I]t’s looking more and more like the open sourcers are right and TomTom is the canary in the Linux-patent coal mine.
One of our readers explained this whole situation in simple terms, as follows: “The lawsuit publicizes a patent trap of Microsoft’s own creation. Microsoft created a de facto industry standard in the FAT (File Allocation Table) format that it made widely available for adoption without letting it be known that it held and would assert the patents behind the standard. What makes the FAT patents valuable is not the technology behind them but the fact that they were promoted and accepted as a standard without word that Microsoft would someday come asking for money. Two of the patents are for converting between long and short file names – a FAT function that is commonly implemented in digital cameras, MP3 players, and other devices, not just in Windows and Linux.
“Some wishful thinkers within the open source community may accept Microsoft’s claim that this is about TomTom rather than Linux, along with the blather that accompanies most patent litigation about how Microsoft would rather license than litigate. But this is in fact a landmark assault into the most troubled and controversial terrain of the patent system. It will reverberate for a long time to come.”
When your tech product or website is accused of infringing a software patent, you can:
• Pay the patent holder a licence fee; they decide the amount
• Fight the patents in court – expensive and time consuming
• Take your product off the market
These are the options currently being considered by Tom Tom NV.
Microsoft is claiming that Tom Tom’s car navigation systems violate eight Microsoft patents.
Groklaw has begun taking a closer look at the TomTom case and one person points out (from the comments): “I *also* wonder this: Microsoft is a big company. Has Microsoft *ever* distributed a Linux based device with VFAT support? If so, would the fact that, under the GPL they cannot do so without conveying a patent license to the recipient that is transferable to anybody the recipient sees fit, and the fact that Microsoft as owner of the VFAT patents is able to provide such a license mean that it can be legally assumed they DID provide such a license?”
Asks one informant of ours: “What about Microsoft’s Linux lab and their offerings to Apache and SAMBA? What if Microsoft released something under the GPL (to anyone), doesn’t that mean they relinquish any necessary patent claims?” We already know for a fact that Microsoft uses GNU/Linux-based products, but using is not necessarily selling.
[UPDATE: 2009-03-05 9.30a ET] I’m told that Oracle is also a defendant, although this filing is from April 2008.
Oracle is a member of OIN, so it is likely to be part of the battle that was initiated against TomTom. Additionally, the last time this case was mentioned it was also shown that Google had grown tired of the patent system (Google too is a relatively recent addition to OIN’s members). The word is still spreading out there and since many people respect (sometimes love) Google, they come to disrespect the patent system. Academics too continue to dispute the viability and value of this system.
Markets outperform patents in promoting intellectual discovery, say economists
When it comes to intellectual curiosity and creativity, a market economy in which inventors can buy and sell shares of the key components of their discoveries actually beats out the winner-takes-all world of patent rights as a motivating force, according to a California Institute of Technology (Caltech)-led team of researchers.
[O]nce again, the study found that a free market solution greatly outperforms a patent monopoly solution where the “first” provider gets a monopoly. The research was led by economist Peter Bossaerts and a team of others — and it made a point that won’t surprise anyone who’s studied the economics of monopolies. Patents tend to function just like any other monopoly system: it shrinks the overall market, decreases net social benefit, provides monstrously excess rewards to a single provider and harms everyone else. In fact, the research found that the patent system created a massive disincentive for many people to participate in the very process, even if their contributions could have been quite helpful in speeding along the innovation.
Given that software patents may have already died (most of them anyway [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]), Microsoft’s last resort in the fight against Linux may be dead on arrival. Linux vendors can carry on doing business with confidence that Linux is here to thrive, as is GNU.
Patent trolling ain’t going away until the government decides to actually make a move.
The suit names the following industry players: Symantec, Microsoft, AVG, CA, Check Point Software, Comodo, ESET, F-Secure, iolo technologies, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, MicroWorld Technologies, NetVeda, Norman Data Defense Systems, Novell, PC Tools, PWI, Sophos, Sunbelt Software, Trend Micro, Velocity Micro, and Webroot Software.
The lack of change from the newly-elected government is already upsetting Richard Stallman, who last night pointed a finger at this new article. This isn’t the first example of an Obama appointment that puts pro-intellectual monopolies people in charge and there seem to be legitimate reasons for concern. █
“I would much rather spend my time and money and energy finding ways to make the Internet safer and better than bickering over patents.”