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Archive for November, 2009

Whack-A-Mole Security: Bad Policy, Bad Legislation

The recent disclosure of a confidential Congressional document has at least one congressman calling for a ban on peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software, but a closer look at the problem reveals that this effort would merely be treating the symptoms, not the disease.

First some background. Last month the Washington Post revealed that more than thirty members of Congress and staffers were under investigation for possible ethics violations, including for “accepting contributions or other items of value… in exchange for an official act.” While this revelation was shocking, perhaps even more shocking was the means by which this information was leaked — the information was downloaded from the Internet. As detailed by the Washington Post and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in the U.S. House of Representatives, a low-level committee staffer had saved a copy of a confidential House ethics committee report on her personal computer while working from home. Unfortunately, the staffer was also running a peer-to-peer file sharing program and inadvertently saved the file in a folder that was shared with other users. By saving the file in a shared folder, the staffer made the document available to all other

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Privacy Fears and the Census

As the 2010 Census gets underway, many people continue to raise privacy objections. While most of these objections are just to government collection of data in general, some relate specifically to technology. As I’ve written before, unfounded fears such as these have even led the Census Bureau to backtrack on using technology like the Internet to collect census data, which would help lower costs and increase the response rate. Check out this video from that contrasts the privacy objections of some individuals with the benefits of conducting a well-run census.


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