CFP Day Two

CFP 2002 Day Two

I blew off the BoF sessions last night in favor of attempting to get some sleep — I appear to have been successful at it, too.

We started this morning with a presentation by Patrick Bell of the AAAS presenting some of the statistical analysis he did preparing for the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia last year at the Hague. His analysis showed that the pattern of deaths and migrations did not match the pattern of NATO air strikes or Albanian insurgent activity, but that it did match, quite accurately, the activity of the Yugoslav forces. Unlike most of the discussions at this conference, Bell’s presentation showed how computers can actually be used to strike a blow for freedom.

Currently, the second plenary session is in progress: How to Hack an Election. We’ve had presentations from officials and from computer folks; after hearing all of this, I’m amazed that elections work at all!

Proxim has very kindly provided 802.11b (and 802.11a) connectivity here at the conference; unfortunately, whatever router they’re using is not particularly IPSec-friendly. I’ve been able to connect in to work a few times, but the connectivity is dubious and drops randomly. Connectivity to the rest of the world has been pretty solid, but I can’t get to my real e-mail. Hmmm…perhaps that’s actually a good thing!

Now I’m in the third plenary session, “Who Goes There? Privacy in Identity and Location Services”. Brian Arbogast, the VP at Microsoft responsible for Passport, just made an interesting observation:
“One of the nice things about working at Microsoft is we never have to make decisions on the basis of short-term profit.” He went on to say that they do, of course, worry about long-term profit.

Jason Catlett of Junkbusters just observed that, when he was young, he worried about IBM becoming the Evil Empire, but that’s no longer the case, and he looks forward to the day when he no longer has to worry about Microsoft as the Evil Empire. He also apologized to Roger Cochetti of Verisign for not believing that he has to worry about them, despite Network Solutions’ best efforts.

Appropriately enough for this session, I just noticed this:
Seattle Times: “The federal government might use Microsoft’s Passport technology to verify the online identity of America’s citizens, federal employees and businesses, according to the White House technology czar.” [via Scripting News]

Choosing a parallel session was a difficult task, but I finally settled on the Open Source session, which was held, appropriately enough, in the Cathedral Room (the hotel does not have a Bazaar Room as far as I can tell). There wasn’t a lot of new ground covered by the panelists (and again, there wasn’t much time left for audience comment), but Tim O’Reilly made one interesting observation: he worries that the continuing deluge of software patents may break the “plausibility of open development and innovation” which has characterized the Internet to date.

At lunch, Larry Irving gave an impassioned speech on the digital divide (his take: it still exists, and it’s government’s job to encourage the rest of society to take steps to close it — but the market isn’t going to do it by itself) and on media consolidation and its effect on the reduction in the number of views available to the public (AOL was the sponsor of lunch and he was travelling with an AOL VP, but he didn’t spare them in his remarks).

I skipped the first after-lunch plenary session on “Activism Online” in favor of a short walk in the open air (it’s good to know that there’s a real world).

And now I’m in the plenary session on the DMCA — it’s a play in one act and several scenes. The DMCA is a truly scary law — but it pales compared to the potential for utter stupidity which the CBDTPA would unleash.

Interesting comment from Barbara Simons (who is teaching a course, along with Ed Felten, at Stanford on Legal and Policy Perspectives on Information Technology: she pointed out that the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA weren’t activated until 2000, because they might have interfered with Y2K remediation work (and has written more about this in her Viewpoint).

All of this discussion about the DMCA is encouraging me to stop at an electronics store on the way home and buy a DVD recorder now, before they’re made illegal. I don’t have a good track record on these predictions, though — in 1981, we rushed out and bought a VCR the weekend after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Sony in the Betamax decision, which was, of course, later reversed by the U. S. Supreme Court. It was a good VCR and held us for many years, but boy, was it expensive ($1000!), and video tapes were awfully pricey, too (I remember scrimping to be able to buy a box of ten tapes to take advantage of the quantity discount — $170 was big money in 1981! It’s still not a trivial amount of cash, but it’s not quite as significant to me as it was then.).

I’m also planning to join EFF. I’ll have to wait until I get home, though; EFF would be happy to take my money over the Web, but they also want a hardcopy (I don’t know why) and I can’t print anything here. And I’m not sure I want to submit my credit card number on a non-encrypted wireless network, either!

I am not alone at blogging CFP as it’s happening — hi, Thomas! (PS: I’m on the left side of the room as you face the stage, three rows behind the last row of tables.) Michael is also blogging CFP, but not in real time, at least not yet.

Ahh, it’s beginning to look like a real CFP — the panel is debating one another’s positions instead of just giving their prepared talks, and, even though it’s still several minutes before the audience will get their turn, the lines at the microphones are already several people deep…probably deep enough that not everyone already standing will get to rant…err, ask questions.

And the last question of the session was, in best CFP form, a loud and impassioned rant. But it was on-topic, which hasn’t always been the case in the past!

The final plenary session of the day is underway, a formal debate on future of intellectual property. So far, there haven’t been any surprises; John Perry Barlow of the EFF is against the DMCA and its ilk, while Steve Metalitz of the International Intellectual Property Alliance is for it (and said that the DMCA was necessary to comply with [unnamed] international agreements, which is somewhat surprising to me. He also said that the extension of copyright term and increased enforcement of copyright is good because it significantly improves the US balance of payment — these two statements seem to be somewhat at odds to me).

Karen Coyle just made an important point, which John Perry Barlow is reinforcing — putting the history of our times at the risk of technological and legal obsolescence is nothing short of criminal. We risk creating an electronic Dark Ages in pursuit of short-term gain for IP owners (media monopolies).

After the final plenary session of the day, Privacy International presented the Twentieth Big Brother Awards, as well as the Brandeis Awards for those who work for privacy. I had to leave before the Brandeis Awards were presented, but the Big Brother Award ceremony was witty and thought-provoking, as always.

I had to leave because I had a dinner appointment
at Zare Restaurant in the financial district; the food was excellent (though the room was a bit on the noisy side at times). I am glad I didn’t have to pay for dinner out of my own pocket this time, but if I wanted to splurge on a fine meal, I’d give Zare serious consideration.

By the time we were finished with dinner and back at the hotel, it was quite late; I suspect that the BoFs were still going, but I decided to declare victory and go to bed.

Have they no shame?

Trading cards created that portray 9/11 victims [USA Today]