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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for January, 2011

Claire Wolfe

Dog murder

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Scum. And there were probably thousands of rescuers who would happily have helped save these dogs, if only the business owners/managers would have bothered.

Claire Wolfe

Etsy and your privacy
(even if you never shop on Etsy!)

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Seems that Facfebook gets all the press when it comes to online privacy. But it’s time to put in a bad word for Etsy, too. Now, maybe you don’t hang out at Etsy, which is, after all, an arts & crafts bazaar that may be of limited interest to the techies and political types hereabouts.

But it appears that Etsy might be interested in you, even if you’ve never heard of it.

This week, Etsy members are all getting emails that say (as if speaking to extraordinarily stupid kindergarteners): “Right now it’s hard to find people you know on Etsy, and that’s sad. Well, we’re changing that. We’re making it easy to connect your email address book to Etsy, so we can find people you know who are also members.”

In other words, if you’re in the address book of somebody who has an account at Etsy, they’ll soon be encouraged to upload your name, your address, and whatever other personal data about you they possess in the address book to Etsy. Without your consent. Without even your knowledge.

Whether you receive Etsy spam or not appears to be up to the discretion of the moron who uploaded your information. And once you’ve received Etsy spam at a given email address, you’re graciously “allowed” to opt out of getting any more. But nevertheless, the real bad deed is already done. Etsy will have acquired personal data on (potentially millions of) people who don’t even know they’re being data-mined. And despite all assurances, there’s no telling what Etsy will do with that information. There’s no assurance they’ll safeguard it (and why should they). There’s no telling the ways that the data could be linked with other data to create yet another profile of you and your connections and your activities.


I could be wrong in some of my suspicions about Etsy and the worst potential consequences of this grotesque new policy. Details are sketchy. And Etsy isn’t offering any clarifications. This week’s patronizing message and this updated passage in their privacy policy are about the only Clues:

We utilize a contact-importer feature to help you identify people from your email address books who are current members of Etsy and invite any other contact to join Etsy. You may connect directly with your email service provider and import your contacts to Etsy. When you add contacts to your Etsy circle, they will automatically receive an email notification. When you invite contacts to join Etsy, you may preview the email invitation before Etsy generates and sends it. Recipients of invitations may opt out of receiving future invitations via a convenient link located in the invitation email. If you do not want your contacts to be able to find your Etsy username through your email address, you may opt out through your account privacy settings.

Etsy has always been about networking. I have a very small Etsy jewelry store that’s never done well, partly because of timing (I got into jewelry-making just as it peaked and right before the crash of 2008) and partly because I’ve never haunted the Etsy forums, participated in Etsy teams, or created Etsy “circles” — whatever they might be.

But the idea that it’s “sad” that “we” can’t find our friends on Etsy is — as some of the 4,000 messages of protest have pointed out — just plain silly. The thing that’s hard to find is the items you’re looking for. Etsy has a very poor search engine, and one that is so biased toward the newest listings that the only way you can ensure your items will be found is to keep “churning” listings. Which costs money every time you do it.

I’m really impressed with the response of Etsy members. For “arty types” the writers of those protests show a lot of concern for privacy and a lot more regard for customers than Etsy itself is displaying. I’m not impressed at all with Etsy’s response, which runs from nil to a few more bland bits of kindergarten talk.

I was thinking about closing my Etsy store, anyhow. Only a few great buyers have kept it alive since the crash. (Thank you. :-) )When my last items are sold or when the listings expire I’ll close the shop but still create jewelry on commission or for my own enjoyment.

The irony is that, should you want to buy any of that jewelry, you won’t be placing yourself in any greater danger from hackers, spammers, and data-miners than you already are. In fact, if you become a member of Etsy or already are one, you’ll soon be given the option not to let your friends “find” you via their uploaded address books. If you aren’t a member of Etsy, you stand an even greater chance of getting Etsy spam.

But all of us, no matter who we are, might never know which of our “friends” have turned us over to commercial marketers and data miners.

Some of the thousands of Etsy members raging against this new “feature” have questioned whether it’s even legal. In some countries, it may not be. In no country is this a senisble or ethical way to treat people. And on the surface, it appears sneakier than any datamining stunt Facebook has ever pulled.

Somebody — I wish I could remember who — recently said something very sharp. When it comes to dealing with social networking companies — or social networking wannabes like Etsy which have forgotten they’re marketplaces in which participants pay commissions to list and sell tangible goods — we are the product being bought and sold. And increasingly, it seems as if we’re entitled to about as much consideration as a marketer might give to a pair of sox or a package of toilet paper.

Claire Wolfe

When push comes to shove — and the shoving is done by riot police

Monday, January 31st, 2011

For Egyptians now. Might come in handy for us later. Well, except for that one part.

Sure do hope somebody posts a translation of the whole thing, not just these excerpts.

Claire Wolfe

Monday miscellany

Monday, January 31st, 2011
Claire Wolfe

ATF retaliating (already) against whistleblowers?

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Despite careful efforts to ensure protection for the truthtellers, David Codrea reports that the ATF is already harrassing the Project Gunwalker whistleblowers. (Thanks to EL for the bad word. And kudos to Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh for their original and continuing reporting on Project Gunwalker.)

Claire Wolfe

Bitcoin: Techie comment?

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Bitcoin. An anonymous somebody dropped this link into a recent comments sections. Would any of you techies or econ experts out there care to comment on it?

I’ve become so inherently distrustful of new online money systems after watching so many fall (and one fall with my money in it) that I admit I no longer even try to evaluate them. I figure they’ll eventually evaluate themselves via their success or failure in the real world. This one’s … different.

And of course, one day one or more of them will succeed. And change the world. Probably not this one. But someday …

Years ago, I heard libertarian economist Joe Furig (RIP) compare the the Federal Reserve to the Vatican. He said it’ll probably never go away, but eventually it will no longer rule the world and will be nothing more than a minor influence.

Claire Wolfe

Looking back

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Few days ago, for reasons that escape me, I got curious about the fate of Laissez Faire City. If you’ve been around a while you might remember LFC as a hopeful and apparently well-funded effort to build a libertarian community in Costa Rica. That is, a hopeful, well-funded, and unfortunately badly “mis-mangled” project that died aborning.

Wanting to see if there were any shreds of it remaining, I googled it startpaged it duckduckgoed it and found, sadly though not surprisingly, that it has disappeared without a ripple. The ‘Net that Never Forgets has forgotten it. Even its Wikipedia entry simply redirects to a page on anarchist utopian communities — which then completes the humiliation by not even mentioning it. The scamdog site that once gleefully tracked old, dead, and sometimes criminally misbegotten libertopias is also no more, taken over by a cybersquat operation that offers links to dog medicines, dogs for sale, and dog training.

Right on the first page of the search results, though, was a link to my old Wolfesblog, now kindly archived by Bill St. Clair.

If you’re interested in Laissez Faire City (and it seems nobody is), Patri Friedman has an ancient account that pretty much accords with my slight experience with the project.

But failed libertopias aside (and there’s a mindfield of them littering the recent past), I couldn’t resist clicking through a few weeks of old blog entries made by me and my fellow Wolfesblogistas circa 2003, then clicking through the links I found in those entries.

Lots of links are as dead as Laissez Faire City, of course. But I was amazed at how many are still alive and worth a visit. The scientists of AstroCapella are still making beautiful music about astrophysics despite the RIAA’s hilarously wrongheaded efforts to stop them. My favorite is still the Swift Song, even if it was commissioned by NASA.

Alan Bock still offers his ode to living the principled life.

Lots of good old stuff back there.

The thing that struck me most, though, is what has happened (or not happened) with so many of the beastly privacy threats that were making the news back then. In 2003, I was pretty sure that by now everything we bought would carry an individual RFID tag, and possibly that millions of damnfools would already be lining up for their chip injections. That hasn’t happened. Were we privacy doomsayers just being hysterical back then? Was the threat never that terrible? Or did it not happen because smart, tough people like Katherine Albrecht (and, as Ted Dunlap points out in the comments section, thousands more informed and angry people) fought back?

Other privacy threats … well, who knows? Take DARPA’s lovely [ahem] proposal for LifeLog (and more here) — a program to track every, single e-blip about every, single human being for a lifetime. That’s every email you ever sent, every webpage you ever visited, every report card you got in school, every job evaluation, every cellphone call or text message, every photo ever taken of you, every medical exam, every tax you ever paid, every ticket you ever got, every everything.

Terrible, scary sh*t. So … Was LifeLog among the many “bright” ideas of our SuperSTASI that just went away for lack of initiative or funding? Or are there computers in the Pentagon or deep below Langley whirring our life histories away right this minute? We may never know. Or by the time we find out, the news will earn 20 seconds of infamy followed by yawns. Lord knows enough real privacy threats have burdened us in the meantime.

Anyhow, it was an interesting trip down old bromidic Memory Lane.

Claire Wolfe

Help me find a book …

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I think it was a book. Might have been a novella. Definitely not a short story.

In any case, it was delightful, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t remember the author or the title. Can you help me find it?

Joel blogging about the mysterious causes of World War I — ultimately tracing back to the personal quirks and insecurities of the so-called leaders — got me started & you’ll see why.

The plot: Aliens crash-land on earth near the beginning of the twentieth century, A crucial part on their ship is damaged (I’ll call it an anti-gravity device, though I don’t recall exactly what it was — definitely something you and I would still consider futuretech).

No way can the part be recreated with the earth technology of that time — not even with the aliens’ greater knowledge. Without the part, they can’t go home. So the aliens, seeing that the planet is already on the cusp of political chaos, come up with a scheme. Everybody knows that wars advance technology, right? So they’ll travel around the world, visiting heads of state, and doing everything they can to provoke the war.

Agitating their way across the globe, they meet with Kaiser Wilhelm — and just by the way cure his withered arm. They meet with Czar Nicholas — and just by the way cure his son’s hemophilia. And so on.

I’d put the rest behind a spoiler tag, but the simple tag I know doesn’t work here and the HTML spoiler codes I’ve found online are more complicated than Obamacare and the rest of the federal tax regulations, combined. But you can probably guess the rest, and I’ll come back later and put it at the bottom of the comments section after others have had their say. (And I do hope somebody will have a say about the title and author of that book.)




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