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Someone Smarter Than You

"After the war, cryptographers spent a lot of time thinking about (how Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code). The problem had been that Turing was smarter than the guy who thought up Enigma. Any time you had a cipher, you were vulnerable to someone smarter than you coming up with a way of breaking it.

"And the more they thought about it, the more they realized that anyone can come up with a security system that he can't figure out how to break. But no one can figure out what a smarter person might do."

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

Last night I was working on a huge post in response to an article I saw on BoingBoing yesterday about how the Australian federal government is planning to force Internet Service Providers to install filtering technology with the intent of preventing Australians from accessing illegal and child-unsafe Internet sites (the initial testing is apparently already complete). The general gist of the article was that, although I admire the Government's intentions, they were blazing a highway straight to hell, laid with flagstones of innocent sites locked off due to false positives, crippled Internet response and money wasted on circumventable blacklists.

But this morning I decided to start reading a collection of essays who wrote the brilliant novel Little Brother, blogger and web-activist Cory Doctorow, who is a lot better educated on Internet technology, security, digital rights management and such matters than I could make myself in a scant four hours. In those essays, he covers all the bases I was planning to in much more detail and better conversational style.

So instead of a half-baked rantesque, I will simply offer you two recommendations:

  • If you would like the challenges facing and born from the Internet explained to you in clear, plain language, download and read Cory Doctorow's Content. Yes, it's free. Legally free. If you really like it, buy your library a copy. (Do the same for Little Brother.)
  • If you're Australian and anywhere near approaching Internet-savvy, write to your local MP and demand that ISP filtering or any other restriction on Internet access be stricken from the Plan for Cyber-Safety immediately.

I'll end with the final paragraph of that rant I'm not going to bother finishing:

I understand the desire to ensure that Australia's children, that all children, are protected from “harmful” information. But I believe it's impossible. The best any parent or guardian can do is give the children in their care as many opportunities as possible to educate themselves and encourage those children to take them up so as to best protect themselves. I can only protect myself from information by choosing to be ignorant – which increases my risk of making choices that will lead to unnecessary harm to myself and others.

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