John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Is it safe to download free apps on your cell phone?

        "To begin with, many of us at some stage in our lives will have taped a CD or TV program, photocopied a book or made use of copied software.  For most of us, there is a world of difference between this kind of activity and crimes like rape, murder or the supply of illicit drugs.  Intellectual property piracy is just not an issue in the way that safe streets and better policing are issues in the public mind (p. 25 Information Feudalism)." 

        Pirated software could cause your personal information on your phone to be compromised.  According to Matthew J. Schwartz with Information Week, "More than 1 million cell phone users in China has been infected with a virus that automatically sends text messages, and the attack is costing users a combined 2 million yuan ($300,000 U.S.) per day."  According to Shanghai Daily, "the 'zombie' virus, hidden in a bogus antivirus application, can send the phone user's SIM card information to hackers, who then remotely control the phone to send URL links."

        Some of the sent text messages contain links to more viruses and if you click the link, your phone could likewise be infected.  Then other text messages get automatically dispatched to premium-rate phone numbers, generating profits for the attackers while draining subscriber's accounts.  According to Zhou Yonglin, an official with China's National Computer Network Emergency Response Team, "about 1 million cell phones had been infected since the beginning of September, and mobile operators were having difficulty eradicating the malicious application, owing to the breakneck pace of new variations appearing."

        Also, some people will download a pirated phone app thinking that they will save money by doing so.  Instead, they download Android.Walkinwat which is a trojan that not only steals a person's information, it also sends a text message to everyone on the user's cellphone list, telling everyone about the piracy.  According to PCWorld, the "Android.Walkinwat adds public humiliation by sending an SMS text message to all of the contacts on the smartphone with the text, ‘Hey, just downloaded a pirate App of the Internet, Walk and Text for Android. Im stupid and cheap, it costed only 1 buck. Don’t steal it like I did!”


        It is hard to tell how many people are using pirated apps that may be compromising the security of their cell phones.  Estimates of people who are using an app they did not pay for are as high as 97.4% in Asia, 70.1% in Europe, and 43% in North America.  So why do people download free apps if it compromises their privacy and is against the law?  Probably because to most people software piracy is not a big issue.  If you can get something for free then what is the harm?  The immediate harm is that a person's private information can be compromised.  These viruses can be easily transmitted by being downloaded as normal games, ringtones, phone alerts and updates, then once downloaded these cell phone viruses can do big damage. 

Cell phone keyboard key

        For most people, software piracy is not a big crime like committing murder or illicitly selling drugs.  Also, if the software is free and very popular then it is one of those "everybody is doing it" attitudes.  Pirated games exist because people get a thrill out of cracking games — and because there will always be people who want something for nothing.  It is the same thing that happened with the music industry.  When music CD's were $20 for a music album, people were gladly downloading their favorite songs for free on sites like Napster and BearShare.  Now that people can download their favorite songs for .99$, the desire for illegally downloading music has dramatically decreased. 
        The same rule holds true for computer software: as long as software designers keep their computer software at a certain price,  people will gladly continue to download pirated copies.  If the software developers had their products priced at $.99 a download or charged a monthly fee to have access to a particular software program, then software piracy would dramatically decrease. 

What would happen if the people in Libya had free speech?

        "Hence, then, is a large lesson about the relationship between a well-functioning  system of free expression and citizen's well-being.  Free speech and free press are not mere luxuries or tastes of the most educated classes; they increase the like-lihood that government will actually be serving people's interests ( 2.0, p. 98)."  The above quote taken from the reading of the book Republic 2.0 shows us why there is unrest in Libya.  For example, Muhammad Bouazizi set himself on fire in an act to protest against high living costs and joblessness in Tunisia.  Then, in Cairo Egypt, a demonstration broke out over high food price inflation, high unemployment, corruption, etc.  Now there are demonstrations taking place in Libya.  Libya has an unemployment rate of 30% along with the problems of health issues and poverty.  As the above quote states, all of this revolves around the issues of freedom of speech and the standard of living costs for citizen's in these arab nation states. 

Libya Unemployment

        The main question is "What happens after people get their freedom and over throw the pre existing tyrannical leaders?"  Egypt right now has removed president Mabarak and most of the people in the government who supported.  The military is now in place to keep the country functional until a new civilian government can be elected.  This is not the case in Libya.  If people were to overthrow Gadaffi, then who would step up to take his place?  Would the current military be able to govern the country temporarily?  Or would another radical group or tyrannical leader take over? 

        According to Najla Abdurrahman, a Libyan-American writer and activist, writes, "After all, Libya lacks political institutions which means it could descend into years of bloody civil war. And Libya is full of Muslims so Islamic extremists could take control of a new government and further destabilise the Arab world.  Do Libyans even realise where they're headed? Have they forgotten about Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq? Gaddafi is admittedly unpleasant, even brutal, but he has held the country together and kept extremists at bay for decades (Libya: Making something out of nothing, Aljazeera)."

        According to the above author, if Gaddafi were to be overthrown, Libya would be in disarray and possibly be taken over by Islamic extremists.  So if the anti Gaddafi supporters had Gaddafi removed from office, would a radical group or dictator step into power and still keep the people of Libya oppressed?  The problem is this could be a possibility considering the issue of extremist groups within the Islamic communities.  If we look back at the beginning of this blog, I took a quote from Cass R Sunstein's Republic 2.0 which stated that "Free speech and free press are not mere luxuries or tastes of the most educated classes; they increase the like-lihood that government will actually be serving people's interests".  The people's interests will not be served if a ruler or group comes into power who will still oppress the Libyan people.  If the issues of poverty and joblessness are not fixed then the people will still continue to suffer.  Cass R. Sunstein is very optimistic that if the freedom of speech and freedom of press are achieved then the government will serve the people's needs.  This could have the opposite effect in Libya in that with the people achieving freedom without a structured plan to rebuild, could fall prey to a more oppressive regime or according to Najila "descend into years of bloody civil war".  The question is, "will overthrowing Gaddafi give the people what they really want?" 


        The leaders in these arab countries need to listen to what the people want and make sure people have what is needed to sustain themselves in their daily lives.  If people do not have their basic needs meet, then revolutions will continue to take place.  When the government starts to suppress or cut off cell phone and internet communication services in response to these demonstrations, then this just adds to the suppression of the people's freedom of speech.  If the mentioned arabic countries do not resolve the issues of their people, then they will continue to face uprisings in the name of freedom and democracy.

What happens if your cell phone or cell phone password gets stolen?

        When reading the book, "Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Sharky", the first chapter starts off with the story of a Stolen Sidekick cell phone.  A woman, Ivanna, lost her phone and a girl by the name of Sasha found the phone and started to use the phone for her own personal use.  When Ivanna bought a new phone, all of the information from the lost phone was transferred to her new phone since her cell phone company stored all of her information on their servers.  This included all of the recent phone calls made, e-mails sent and pictures taken by Sasha with the stolen Sidekick cell phone. 

        Ivanna was able to get Sasha's contact information from an e-mail that was sent by Sasha from the stolen phone.  When Ivanna contacted Sasha about returning the stolen phone, Sasha refused to return it.  Eventually, Ivanna got her stolen cell phone back from Sasha which involved help from a friend and the authorities.  The details of how the phone was returned is not important.  The question to ask is what if Ivanna had sensitive information on her stolen phone like credit card numbers?  Or what if Sasha used Ivanna's phone to prank call or spam the people on her cell phone's contact list?  What if Sasha stole Ivanna's identity?


        If Ivanna had a password on her phone and immediately had her cell phone provider turn off the service on her stolen phone, then Sasha could not have used the phone which means that Ivanna would have never been able to get her stolen phone back.  The benefit to this would be that Sasha would not have access to Ivanna's contact list, pictures, e-mails or any other sensitive information on Ivanna's phone.

        Another Example of a cell phone getting compromised is Paris Hilton, who could of had the information on her cell phone stolen in several different ways.  According to, a hacker by the name of Jacobsen, hacked a T-mobile server and was able to access Paris Hilton including other celebrities cell phone contacts and e-mails.  Some of these e-mails contained pictures of different celebrities which Paris took using her built in camera on her Sidekick mobile phone.  He then posted all of this information on the internet until authorities finally caught him and had the information removed.
 The other way her information could of been compromised, according to T-mobile, was the weak password question and answers she used for recovering her password.  When you reset or recover a password on a T-mobile phone, you have to enter in your cell phone number, username and answer the security question that was created.  Then T-mobile allows you to reset your password.  The issue here is that if this information is stolen or compromised then resetting the password is way too easy.  If the forgotten password or reset link was e-mailed, then this would add another layer of security and possibly stop an account from being exploited.    The connection to make between these two stories is the concern of having personal information stored on a cell phone and on a cellular provider's server.  The question is how vulnerable is our cellular information and is it safe to store it on a cellular providers server?

Forgotten your password  
        T-mobile offers a service called MobileLife which will store all of your contacts information which includes names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, photos, etc.  This information is then accessible through T-mobile's website or the account holder's cell phone.  So when Ivanna received her new cell phone, the pictures and contacts were loaded back onto the new phone because of the MobileLife service.  The danger of this is that having this information online can easily be compromised if a person's password or cell phone is stolen.  Is it safe to trust services like MobileLife, if the security measures in place can easily be compromised?  Is it safe or secure to have a cell phone company store a person's private information on their servers?

        So are cell phones secure or do they allow for people's privacy to be compromised?
If several different layers of security are used, then gaining access to a person's information on their cell phone is very hard to do.  Using strong passwords, reporting a lost or stolen phone, and not giving out your passwords, are just a few of the ways a person can keep their cell phone information secure (Information Services and Technology, IST, has some great tips on how to keep a cell phone secure).  As long as basic security measures or practices are put in place, then this will insure a greater chance of a person's personal information being secured on their cell phone.

Governments and the internet

        Even though the internet does not stop bombs or regimes, it is interesting how countries now stop the internet and or cell phone service in a country when a demonstration or revolution takes place.  For example, the Libyan government, who owns the cell phone and internet service provider companies, shut off these services during the protests.  This is the same action that the Egyptian government tried to do which only incited the protestors.  Eventually the internet was successful in forcing President Hosni Mubarak out of power and it did so by putting alot of outside pressure on the Egyptian Government.

        So, is it true to think that the internet can topple a government?  This was not the case in Iran.  "But while the manic surrounding the manic Iran's Twitter Revolution helped to crystallize the main tenets of the doctrine, it did not beget those tenets ( The Net Delusion, p. 6)."  The Green movement, a group in favor of the opposing presidential canidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, used social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about their upset and corruption of the 2009 Iranian elections.  Even though social networking was used in Iran it was not effective in over throwing the corrupt government.  After the protests subsided, the Iranian government used the internet against the Green Movement.

        "Passport control officers at Tehran's airport asked Iranians living abroad if they had Facebook accounts; they would often double-check online, reagardless of the answer, and proceed to write down amy suspicious-looking online friends a traveler might have (The Net Delusion, p.11)." 
The Iranian government then came out with a statement that if people were caught with anti government based information on their Twitter or Facebook page's that they would be arrested and tried by the Judiciary. 


Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan president, has warned against the use of Facebook and 's security forces have arrested activists who've posted online about the Libyan revolution. 

        Out of the Iran revolution only a small percentage of people were using Twitter.  "98 percent of the most popular links shared on the site during that period were Iran-related.  It's just that the vast majority of them were not authored or retweeted by those in Iran" (The Net Delusion, p. 15 ).  According to Vahid Online, a prominent Iranian blogger and activist, said that many were led to believe falsely that Iranian people were also getting their news through Twitter."

        So if the number of people protesting online inside a country are a very few percentage and if the Iranian government was not toppled, then why has Libya for example shutdown the internet and arrested activists for anti government content on Facebook?  We could look at what is being transmitted but the real answer here is that the internet is causing external pressure from the mass media which is causing internal pressure in Libya.  Gaddafi is afraid of excessive pressure from outside forces and being toppled as what happened to President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  So shutting down the internet and cell phone service from the Libyan government standpoint seems like part of the solution in quieting the news propaganda.


        "Bizarrely, the irresponsible Iran-related punditry in Washington allowed leaders in Beijing to build credible case for more internet censorship in China (The Net Delusion, p.13)." "On the contrary, most often it's just unthinking acceptance of conventional wisdom, which posits that since authoritarian governments are censoring the Internet, they must be really afraid of it.  Thus, according to this view, the very presence of a vibrant Internet culture greatly increases the odds that such regimes will collapse (The Net Delusion, p.21)."

        It is not that the internet is a weapon against tyranical regims and the promotion of Democracy, it is a way of spreading information.  Even if the information is not true, the damage can already be done once the information is distributed on the internet.  Since anything can be created and distributed on the internet, this is why the internet can be labeled as the perfect propaganda medium that any group, country, or person can use to spread it's message. 

        If Gandafi wants to react by shutting down the internet and making claims that social media is an imperliast conspiracy then let him.  It is just him reacting to the wide spread reach and power of the internet.  In the end, it is humerous how some countries will bad mouth the internet and yet at the same time use it to forward their own agendas! 

How secure are cell phones?

        "In internet governance, the term security now encompasses a host of problems, perhaps too many to fit properly under one word.  It includes the fight against spam, viruses, and phishing.  It refers to bugs in protocols and operating systems on computers, mobile phones, and other devices that create opportunities for exploitation by clever programmers (p 159-160, Networks and States)."
        With the increased rise and wide use of the cell phone, the risk of information being stolen from these devices raise several questions.  For example, "what is the risk of having our private information stolen from our cell phones?"  Is it safe to perform private transactions, such as online banking or contactless credit card purchases on a cell phone?" 

        According to the "Is it safe to bank by cell phone?" article on MSN money, "Mobile browsers are theoretically susceptible to the same kind of security risks as a home or office computer. In reality, they are probably somewhat safer at the moment because creators of password-pilfering viruses and Trojan horses haven't yet fully focused on the mobile market. Of course, mobile Web users are as susceptible as anyone else to the phishing scams and spoofed Web sites that try to trick users into disclosing passwords and other personal data." 


        The same rules apply with desktop computers as they do with cell phones, which is to use the same level of precaution when accessing online information.  These variants cause the following once the phone is infected: leakage of private data, excessive battery drainage, and the spread or replication by using bluetooth.  The key to being safe from these variants is to avoid fake e-mails which look like they have come from reputable sources and being cautious of what websites are visited.     

        Also, the best solution when performing mobile bank transactions is to use proprietary apps that are designed to work with a bank's security algorithm that are resistant and safer then using a mobile web browser which can be susceptible to phishing scams.  The big downside to this is these programs can store sensitive information on the phone itself.  This can be dangerous if the phone is lost and then ends up in the wrong hands so disabling certain features that this app can offer is essential to maintaining optimal privacy of personal information.

        Another issue with using cell phones for financial transactions is the ability of using a cell phone as a credit/debit card.  This technology is currently being used in Japan and is now being used by select retailers in the United States.  All a person has to do is wave their cell phone in front of the credit card terminal and the cell phone terminal picks up the credit card information from the phone which then processes the payment.  Even though this is a quick way to pay and may be the demise of the wallet, there are some key issues with this new technology.

        Privacy, security, and dispute rights are the main concerns with this new technology as mentioned by a coalition of consumer rights advocates.
The issue of privacy with this technology is that a person's location and profile can be transmitted through this contactless payment card system.  Marketers can use this information for marketing and profiling purposes without the consent of the consumer.  The consumer groups say people using contactless devices should be given clear notice of the potential for privacy intrusion.  According to, "consumers should be able to make contactless payments without having their activities tracked except for payment processing and record keeping if that is their desire," the statement says (Contactless payment cards raise security, privacy concerns, consumer groups say, Connie Prater, June 23, 2008).   


        The issue with security is that if someone has an RFID reader, they can intercept the signal and steal the credit card information being transmitted to the payment terminal.  The other concern is the same as mentioned earlier which is the sensitive banking and credit card information stored on the phone.

        Dispute rights are the final issue with these contactless payment systems.  The concern with this is the accuracy and the ability to dispute charges made using this system.  These consumer groups suggest putting a safeguard in place which would allow a daily dollar cap on the amount of transactions processed on these contactless devices. 

       The more mobile our world becomes the issues of privacy and securing of information will still be a big concern.  Using this type of technology comes with great convenience and risks at the same time.  Eventually we may see a new era of mobile devices which will solve all of our needs and be safe at the same time.  Until then, we must be aware of what advantages and disadvantages this new technology brings.

Controlling the Flow of Information in Libya

        “Control is not simply manipulation, but rather modulation.  One does not simply control a device, a situation, or a group of people; rather, “control” is what enables a relation to a device, a situation, or a group.  “People are lines,” Deluze suggests.  As lines, people thread together social, political, and cultural elements (The Exploit by Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, p. 35)."

        The first part of this quote examines how control is not manipulation, rather it is modulation and that we do not directly control an object but rather the connection we make to a particular object.  We can look at how Ghadaffi, Libya's ruler, emulates this example of modulation.   The internet was shutdown in Libya to control the flow of information and cool the political temperature in Libya.  According to, "Gaddafi warned against the use of Facebook where groups have formed calling for economic and political reforms.  Gaddfai's security forces have arrested activists who've posted online about the revolution."  This is a perfect example of how the Libyan government is working on controlling the internet in Libya. 

        Yet despite the governments efforts, information about the events in Libya are still getting transmitted to different online venues through the internet.  According to, "there are a number of alternatives being shared on Twitter for Libyans to get online, such as a free dial-up account provided by organizations in Europe.  XS4ALL, a "hacker-friendly" Internet service provider based in the Netherlands, opened up its modem lines for free during the previous curfew, but there had been no activity from Libya on the account, XS4ALL’s Niels Huijbregts told eWEEK."
So there are outside resources that are allowing the people inside Libya to connect to the internet so that information about the events in Libya can still get out on the internet. 


        So Ghadaffi may have stifled or caused the flow of information to be routed but has he completely shut off or disrupted the flow of information?  According to some journalists it looks like cell phone access was still working several weeks ago despite the Libyan government shutting off internet access and owning the two mobile phone operators in the country.  We can also see that this has still not disrupted the "lines" of communication in the network like what Ghadaffi was hoping to accomplish.  He managed to shutdown the main nodes which control internet access and arrested some bloggers posting an anti Ghadaffi message online, yet he has failed to completely take down the network of conversations or people involved.  This is because it is the network of people not the nodes that keep information flowing.

        If Ghadaffi wanted to completely control the flow of information he would need to remove the key people involved in the networking spreading the information on the internet.  The conversation then spreads through the network were other people pickup the conversation and then pass it along.  The Libyan government trying to shut off access or stop the modulating signal of information is one level of control and the people in the network passing the conversation along is another form of modulation or control of the flow of information.  If the information is stopped at one point or a node is destroyed, then information can still pass through other functioning nodes or networks. 


        No matter how or who tries to control the flow of information, there are still other ways for information to spread as long as the key ties in the network are still functioning.  This is just like a virus spreading if it affects one place or person it can spread to others instantly even if part of the virus is contained.  For example, if we look at @ShababLibya on Twitter this is a Libyan movement inside and outside of Libya which also has a Facebook Page associated with the movement.  We can see that since predefined connections and sites have been established that the flow of information can still exist.  Other resources can be used and if predefined alternative methods of communication have been established (dial-up, cellular, radio communications, etc.) then information can still get out through these alternative channels. 

        Can the flow of information be stopped even though one area of the network has been shut off?  From what we have seen predefined channels and connections are hard to break or destroy once once they are established.  In the end, even if the flow of information is interrupted or changed, this flow can be rerouted using other channels or resources.

What is considered private?

        Is there privacy for people today or are we always in the public eye?  Are we always connected or being watched even when we think we are not?  The rise and use of cell phones has had an astounding effect on our privacy especially now since all cell phones come standard with a built in camera. 


        So is there any privacy rights or laws for people if a person captures another person in an embarrassing or compromising situation then posts it to the internet?  For example, lets say person A captures person B in an embarrassing or compromising situation.  Then person A uploads the video to You tube and it goes viral.  Now person A is out in the public eye and did not consent to having themselves broadcasted online.  Is this an invasion of privacy? 

        Lets take for example the shocking story of Danya Kempson who lost control of her car and died after colliding into some trees.  A first respondent fire fighter captured her death on video using his personal cell phone.  The fire fighter later shared this video with other fire fighters, then an unknown firefighter took the video to a bar and texted it to other patrons.  After that, the video went viral.  Then months after her death, the parents received a copy of the video via e-mail from an ex-brother-in-law. 

        According to the iNews article, "The parents are outraged, and are pleading for the video to be taken out of circulation, and that the firefighter in question be punished. The firefighter has been suspended, until the legality has been established."

There are two questions being asked from this incident:
1. Was it illegal for the video to be taken in the first place and shared with other firefighters?
2. Other videos have been taken out in the field by first-responders of all kinds.  So is this more of a moral then a legal issue?

        The Spalding County Sheriff’s office is looking into whether this violated any internal rules since the taking and distribution of the video did not violate any laws.  The family in this incident believe there should be a law in place to prevent this kind of footage from being taken.  Currently, there are no laws in place in the U.S. to prevent the taking and distribution of video.  There are laws and policies that prevent the distribution of video without a persons consent and most public or private establishments prohibit the taking of video.  Since the firefighter has not been questioned into why he took the video another question arises from this example.  The question is, what if this video was taken by a person passing by and then spread anonymously?  Also, what would drive someone to capture and share a tragic video of another person's death? 
        Morally I think the firefighter should have thought twice before sharing the video.  He could have taken it and then thought about it for a couple of days then deleted the video or ask his superiors if it would be appropriate to share.  I think most people react in the moment and want to share events or information with people in their close social circles.  Maybe this is just like the example in the book Connected, were in Rockdale County, Georgia, "a norm among the teenagers that sex – and sex of a particular kind, involving multiple partners – was acceptable," (p. 96).  So since other first respondent people on the scene of accidents have taken videos of accident victims in the past, then it was socially acceptable for this fire fighter to take a video of this young girl who died in a car accident and share it with other fire fighters.


        This now goes back to the other question being asked, "is this an invasion of privacy?"  The answer to this is it depends on the society and what people in the society deem as socially acceptable.  If  there are rules or signs in place which state "no video taping allowed" then it is very clear that taping a video of something or someone is prohibited.  If it is out in public, like an auto accident, a crime, or brutality against someone, then in most social circles this can be acceptable and controversial at the same time.   Once again the right to the freedom of speech and expression comes into play.  It may be o.k. and a person's right to use a cell phone to video tape an auto accident of two cars colliding as evidence of who was at fault, but it maybe controversial to film a dead person who has died in a car accident. 

        When it comes to privacy, the social network for that particular culture, region or society has to determine if the kind of information being distributed is socially acceptable or an invasion of privacy.

Are your habits and actions being watched?

        Hasan Elahi was stopped and questioned by Homeland Security when flying back to the United States from a Transience Project.  The reason for his detention was "suspicious movement after 9/11." and he was labeled as a suspected terrorist.  Data on Hasan, like his cell phone records, were anonymized which made his whereabouts unknown which is what had him detained by Homeland Security.  Since Hasan has been tracking his own movements for several years now, he could provide records of his whereabouts to the authorities which prompted his release.


        A predictive algorithm, developed from MIT was used on Hasan's data which failed to predict his movements making him fully unpredictable.  So does this mean that suspicious equals unpredictable?  If a person is unpredictable in there movements then is this an accurate way to determine if someone could be a possible terrorist or threat?  In the MIT study 93 percent predictability was found on all of the test subjects and only 7 percent of the time were a person's wereabouts a mystery.  Based on this study, the predictability of a person's movement is preferred, if not then it can lead to problems as in the example of Hasan and his encounter with Homeland security.

        So is monitoring people's cell phone, debit/credit card activity, and traveling activities a more efficient way to profile people?  We are tracked everytime we use these products so our whereabouts are constantly being transmitted.  So if someone does not conform to leaving a digital trail by using a cell phone or debit/credit card does this automatically make a person a terrorist and is this a just assumption?  What about a persons right to privacy or is this necessary in the war against terrorism?

Blazing new digital trail_large

        People have the right to try and keep their life as private as possible.  From Homeland security's reasoning if people and their habits are predictable then they are not considered a terrorist.  We should look closely at people's habits but not to the point of scrutinizing people due to not leaving a digital trail.  For example, if Hasan does not use a cell phone or credit cards to keep his whereabouts unknown, then this should acceptable.  Instead of interrogating the man to find out if he is a terrorist which I think violates his basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

        Homeland Securities actions do not surprise me since monitoring strange or no habits on a person is the algorithm that most government agencies use.  The same algorithm works with credit card companies who alert cardholders of unusual spending activity which is compared against a person's normal spending history.  I think Hasan is an important example and shows that Homeland Security made a mistake by analyzing his habits or non habits in the network.  Since he showed up as an anomaly, this was a red flag which triggered Homeland Security to stop and interrogate him.  Obviously he is not a terrorist and at the same time this questions the validity of the predictive algorithm.  It could be that this was an isolated incident since the algorithm shows that only 7 percent of the time is a person's whereabouts a mystery. 

        Liberty and False Comparisons, an online article published by James Joyner reflects these times of change:  "The conservative, torture-friendlyWashington Times, declared that “a balance must be struck between reasonable security measures and the maintenance of a free society.” Abu Ghraib was a fraternity prank, but getting frisked at the airport is a sign of, to quote the Times, “Big Sister’s police state.” (Outside The Beltway,  If the predictive algorithm was used before people entered an airport, then the need to screen everyone before they enter an airplane could be decreased. 

        The predictive algorithm is an important endeavor for studying people's habits and even though there is a margin of error, the algorithm is still necessary in protecting national security.  It is easier to justify searching or questioning someone who has unusual habits then it is to stop someone based on their race or religion.  This way an entity like Homeland Security can justify stopping, searching and questioning someone based on their habits and avoid backlash since they did not profile someone based on race or religion.  This form of tracking dangerous individuals is a big step forward in keeping people safe and minimizing the violation of people's rights.  There will always be flaws or margins of error which will be hard to account for and it is in the best interest of the nation state to protect its people in the most efficient way possible.

Do we have freedom of speech on the internet?

        My question from all of the readings this week (Habermas on the public sphere, Mark Poster, “Cyberdemocracy”, and Pieter Boeder, “Habermas Heritage: the future of the Public Sphere in the Networked Society”) is do we really have freedom of speech or are we always being watched, judged and assessed?

        People can say what they want and freely express themselves online, but there can be consequences to a person's actions.  Alexandra Wallace, a UCLA student, posted a vblog on YouTube which gained national attention.  Her video gained over 30 thousand views, a corresponding video commenting on her video gained over 2 million views, and the story was covered by Fox News.

        The interesting thing about this video is how a comment on the original posted video gained more views and comments then the original video that was posted.  Interesting how David So, a stand up comedian, used Alexandra's video, which went viral, to gain over 2 million views on his vblog comment.  Even though our discussion is not about how this other individual capitalized on another persons controversial video, it is worth taking note that this comedian used this other person's video to gain viewer ship and popularity as a comedian. 


        The UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said "Like many of you, I recoil when someone invokes the right of free expression to demean other individuals or groups," he wrote in a statement posted on the university's website.  Earlier Friday (March 18th, 2011), university officials said they would not discipline Wallace because her video was an exercise of free speech, not hate speech, and it didn't violate the student code of conduct.

        From this incident, she has withdrawn from school due to harassment from her peers.  She wrote "The video has led to the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community. Accordingly, for personal safety reasons, I have chosen to no longer attend classes at UCLA. I was trying to produce a humorous YouTube video, but instead offended the UCLA community and the entire Asian culture." 

        This looks like cyberdemocracy at work which by definition is "the use of information technologies and communication technologies and strategies in political and governance processes."  Alexandra has administered a form of self governance and discipline on herself in this situation by withdrawing herself from school.  The other is facing ridicule and embarrasement from online and offline communities.  Even though the Chancelor of the school was looking at wheter her actions violated the school conduct code, and later the school found that her actions were not a violation, the video had spread all over the internet which caused her to be black balled and harrased.

        Lets use a quote from Poster in this situtation at UCLA, "To ask then about the relation of the Internet to democracy is to challenge or to risk challenging our existing theoretical approaches and concepts as they concern these questions" (Poster, 1995).  So lets take the definition of democracy which is a "form of political organization in which all people, through consensus (consensus democracy), direct referendum (direct democracy), or elected representatives (representative democracy) exercise equal control over the matters which affect their interests." 

        The matter that affected our interest in this example was the issue of racism in Alexandra's video which looking at people's comments online a majority of the people found offensive.  With the issue of racism in question, certain actions has stated above were taken by the Chancelor of the school making a public comment and looking into the violation of school code.  The other part of this is the negative publicity she gained and probably embarrassment.  Some of the online bloggers think that this was not enough and others think that this girl has been harrased enough.  I think she has learned her lesson unless she enjoys all of the negative publicity. 

        Everyone has freedom of speech when it comes to the internet and yet out of this girl freely expressing herself online she received backlash from her comments.  So do we really have freedom of speech online or do we have to watch what we say and does this stifle our freedom of speech?  You have the right to say whatever you want as long as it does not cause harm or offend the public.  For example, you are not allowed to shout "fire" in a crowded movie theater since this will cause people to panic and possibly trample each other when trying to get out of the theater. 

        Yet we have the freedom to say anything else which leads me to my point about the freedom of speech arguement as in the example of this UCLA video.  You have the right or free will to say what you want and this right is given freely, except when it offends or possibly could bring harm to other people.  Did she receive just punishment by having to withdraw from school and receiving death threats?  I think democracy or cyberdemocracy fairly decided the verdict for her in this case so far without the cause for legal ramification. 

How state governing bodies police people using a car

        The panopticon controls what we do in the form of parking permits, tolltags, road signs, etc.  Why do we obey and how does this influence us?  An example of this is how the apartment complex my girlfriend and myself are living at now require parking permits with no reason behind why this is necessary except that if the sticker is not applied to the window of our cars, they will be towed.  So of course we obey, fill out the paper work and apply the sticker's to our car windows so that they will not be towed.  I question this as far as will this be inforced or is this just a sticker trying to police people illegally parking in our apartment complex?  It is the fear of someone watching the parking lot and towing people who do not have parking stickers. 


        Does this exist in reality or is it just an example of the panopticon philosphy at work?  I think it is a way of controlling people who illegally park in a certain place and whether or not this new rule will be controlled or monitored is questionable.  The same exists at colleges with tickets being issued if parking tags are not on vehicles.  Another example is RFID enabled devices, like tolltags, which charge people's cars based on what toll booths they pass through.  Accounts that are expired, overdrawn, or cars with no tags, are either mailed or e-mailed an invoice and charged for their usage.  When cars are towed or fines are issued, then we can see the reality of not obeying the laws of the state governing body and the penality for not doing so. 

        “The division of labour inside a nation leads at first to the separation of industrial and commercial from agricultural labour, and hence to the separation of town and country and to the conflict of their interests (Marx/Engels Internet Archive, Chapter I: A Critique of The German Ideology).”  Each state body or government entity has different functions to perform and rules/regulations which govern each state body differently.  Each body must learn how to interact with each other and each body interacts with each other based on their own interests. 

        Just as an apartment complex, toll tag authority, or a college informs people that their car will be towed or a fine assessed based on not having a parking sticker is a way in which separation of state governing powers exist.  Each governing body is enforcing their authoritative powers from different governing bodies (local, state, federal, etc.).  From Marx's quote, we can see that governing bodies have different interests from the town (local government) and country (federal government).  Using parking or driving on certain roads as an example, we see that even though different governing bodies are operating on different levels they still are enforcing the same thing which is governing transient vehicles. 

        The thing Marx did not see was how even though conflict of interests arise between state governing bodies, there is a common ground that can be reached between these governing states. 
The U.S. constitution addressed this issue with Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 which states "[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; ".  This is an example of how the U.S. established acts of commerce between governing states which was applied from the federal, to the state, and down to local governing bodies.  This applies to the way people are charged for toll road or parking tag charges and establishes a common agreement which disolves self interests of state governing bodies. 


        We can find the same principles used in road signs which inform and direct ways in which people drive on roads.  If there is a detour sign, then people are given a choice of either using the detour route or another route.  The same thing applies to signs that state "speed zone" or "radar enforced by aircraft"

Speed limit enforced by aircraft

which gives drivers an impression that they are being watched and that they had better obey the speed limit.  Once again this is the imaginary or real big brother watching people and having people feel guilty or pay the consequences if they do not obey certain signs on the road. 

        So the question is since the roadways or parking lots are subject to being policed by certain visual signs and regulations, do we have a say in this or are we constantly looking out for the next visual object that will direct us on how to drive or park?  It is hard to say since Marx's philosphy on governing state bodies is that the state is looking out for the welfare of the people.  This is true until the governing state body exercises too much control or power over the people.  A balance between more or less government or state control is constantly in flux and always changing.  As long as the decisions made are for the greater good of the people and changes can be made to the way people are governed, then this creates a fair and balanced society.