Friday, April 11, 2014

A Sonnet for the Boston Marathon (2014)

Last two years my marathon poems have been humorous, with references to Uta Pippig and Rosie Ruiz. This year humor didn't seem appropriate. Perhaps next year, but until then I offer you:
 
A Sonnet for the Boston Marathon (2014)
 
When the time of Paul Revere’s Ride draws near
And the light of patriots of old dawns
We honor them with games and marathons
Memories of days and of ideals held dear
 
Yet now we strain to think beyond the year
Past a moment scarred by hatred and bombs
That took Martin, Krystle, Lingzi and Sean
Left others wounded, a city in fear
 
Even as innocents crumple and bleed
That light still glimmers as ever before
Piercing the dark of our “peril and need”
 
A fire that burns bright with love and deed
The word that shall echo for evermore
And strength that must never fail to lead

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An April Day on Boston Common



An April Day on Boston Common (April 3, 2014)

On this day in April
When then sun, at last
Shone its warming light
On Boston Common
Princesses and prophets and poets
Blossomed like crocuses
Dressed in purple taffeta
Promising salvation or damnation
Waiting for inspiration

Marathon Poetry Archive

Starting in 2012 I decided I was going to scratch out a poem each year in honor of Massachusetts' Patriots Day tradition: the Boston Marathon.

My inaugural marathon verse can be found here.

Last year's poem can be found here.

Of course, when I wrote the 2013 version I had no way of knowing what would unfold at the finish line. Because of the tragic events of April 15, 2013 there was no way I could take the same lighthearted approach this year and feel good about myself. Cracking wise about Uta Pippig and Rosie Ruiz was fine before--and it will be again--but not this year. My 2014 marathon poem is a serious effort to commemorate that day and its victims.

I'll post the new poem soon, but wanted to get these to the top of the heap in the meantime.


A Change of Direction for My Blog

I'm ditching the privacy theme. Or at least mothballing it. Seems every time I resume my privacy blogging in earnest I end up being asked to spend my efforts in that regard elsewhere. That's kept me from generating any consistency and, as we know, a blog without consistency is no blog at all.

So while I will continue to write and generate content for others in the realm of privacy and information security, I'm going to focus my blogging efforts here on publishing my poetry and other forms of creative writing.

I'll leave the other stuff here as a legacy, but hopefully it will fade quickly into the past as my verses and stories accumulate.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Patriots Day and Persistent Surveillance


On July 7, 2005, a series of suicide bombing attacks rocked London’s public transportation system, killing 52 innocent people and injuring hundreds more.



On June 29, 2007, terrorists again set their sights on London, but failed in their dastardly scheme to detonate two car bombs outside two Haymarket nightclubs.

London is considered by some to be the most surveilled city in the world and in both cases its extensive surveillance camera network – numbering in the millions of devices – was cited as playing a key role in the investigations and understanding the who and how of the events. Following the 2007 attack, surveillance imagery was among the evidence used to help Scotland Yard quickly identify and capture the suspects.

As I observed at the time that fact was not missed by certain lawmakers in the United States. Within 48 hours there were calls for more surveillance on the streets of our own cities, paid for by taxpayer dollars, in the name of national security and to fight the so-called War on Terror.

Last week, terror once again struck U.S. soil when two homemade bombs detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three innocent people lost their lives and nearly 200 others were maimed or injured as a result of the explosions. Over the next five days Boston and much of the nation were gripped by the intense investigation to learn who was responsible and, once identified, the massive dragnet that shut down six cities and put nearly 4.5 million people in lockdown while local, state, federal, and military forces combed the community of Watertown where the two suspects were, in turn, killed and captured.

Once again surveillance imagery played a crucial role in the investigation and, once again, within 48 hours politicians were calling for more federal investments in more a more extensive surveillance network, including both fixed position cameras and those mounted on drones.

New York Representative Peter King is leading the charge on this cause, but for Mr. King and his peers I have one question: what would the presence of more cameras have accomplished following the events of April 15, 2013?

One thing is certain about that place on that day – the area was saturated with surveillance. Within hours of the bombing Boston police and the FBI asked anyone who recorded events in the area to send in their images, and the public responded with a deluge of camera phone footage and images, news camera footage and photography, and images from private surveillance systems operating within and the vicinity of businesses located near the crime scene. Some of those images proved instrumental in identifying the suspects and flushing them from their home in Cambridge where they were laying low and, according to Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, planning additional mayhem.

I am uncomfortable with the idea of pervasive government surveillance. Stated bluntly, despite statements of good intentions, I do not trust them with that power. The U.S. Constitution places limits on the ways in which our government can intrude on the lives and liberties of its citizenry, but that has no stopped well-meaning legislators from passing well-intended laws that have been abused by others with more sinister designs.

I think it is fitting to close this post with the same words I used in July of 2007.

I know this event will influence the ongoing liberty/security debate here in America. As a nation we're already paranoid about some future act of terror, and we're constantly being told that we need to fear this shadowy enemy called terrorism. If the events of this past weekend result in a stronger push for and greater acceptance of remote security camera networks, and an undermining of opposition to extensive DNA cataloging, it will not be welcome news.

Using fear as a means of achieving legislative change is poor public policy. Loss of liberty should never be tolerated by patriots.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Privacy is a Curious Thing


The New York Times recently ran a feature about privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti, whose examinations of the choices people make that relate to their personal information have opened eyes in Washington, DC, and Silicon Valley


Acquisti seems intent on better understanding the disconnect between what consumers say about privacy, and how they act. Knowing why people make the choices they do can inform the privacy policies companies adopt, and the regulations created by lawmakers.

One question that I continue to ask on this topic is: what does privacy really mean to the individual? Privacy is a curious thing, and each of us defines it in ways that are nuanced and fluid. If one person claims to fiercely protect their personal privacy, yet freely shares information about themselves online, is there a disconnect between what that person says and does, or does the disconnect lie in a false assumption about how that person defines privacy?

Rather than use Acquisti’s excellent research to impose new ways of protecting privacy that may be based on flawed assumptions, we should instead use his research to better educate the public about the implications of online sharing in order that they can make their own best decisions. Otherwise, the false impression that the consumer has is that there are mechanisms in place that will safeguard privacy and personal information, and that sense of security will only lead to more sharing and a reinforcement of bad sharing habits.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Marathon Monday 2013, A Poem

In keeping with a storied annual a tradition that began with an inspiration born of the scorching heat that scalded New England last April, I've indulged my latent love for poetry and my regional proximity to the annual self flagellation that is the Boston Marathon, turning out humorous rhyme at the expense of that slightly more storied annual tradition.

Last year's inaugural verse was, if not my best, at least my second best effort. And so I give you the second installment.



Two Weeks Before Boston
(To the meter of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.)

Two weeks before Boston and all 'cross the nation
Runners were thinking of a race they'd be racin'
Their miles increasing, offering assurance
That legs would not fail for a lack of endurance
Kenyans were training in rarefied air
While the masses hit pavement less lofty than there
But each, from elite to those without numbering
Whether sprinting down Boylston or painfully lumbering
Dreamed dreams of being carried by a soft April breeze
Or of riding the Green Line like Rosie Ruiz

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Irons and Irony




Every now and again I come across examples of behavior that illustrate the point that privacy is a difficult thing to regulate – especially in the realm of social media.

Yesterday, professional golfer Tiger Woods and skiing phenom Lindsey Vonn took to Facebook to post photos and confirm the rumors that they are a couple. As reported by USA Today and others, that news included the following message from Mr. Woods:

“We thank you for your support and for respecting our privacy. We want to continue our relationship, privately, as an ordinary couple and continue to compete as athletes.”

Let me get this straight: two of the world’s most famous athletes announce their relationship via Tiger Woods’ Facebook page, where he has more than 2.75 million followers, and include a plea for privacy?

Tiger Woods has proven himself to be tremendously adept at grasping his irons. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his grasp of irony.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Privacy, Genetics, and Pandora’s Box



My last post, on the difficulties of regulating a malleable thing like privacy in the context of personal preferences and, especially, voluntarily giving up privacy for the greater good of medical research , takes on even greater relevance in light of this recent article in CSO about DNA hacking.

The challenges of maintaining privacy and securing identity are not a new development. Leaked search terms and de-identified marketing data have proven useful in precisely identifying individuals. Now it turns out you can be positively identified by comparing DNA samples provided by distant relatives with publicly available demographic information.

Looking into my crystal ball, I can see a response to this revelation that includes new laws and regulations aimed at layering further safeguards on personally identifiable information. Despite attempts to write protections into the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that would ensure the availability of data for the purposes of health research, that law still proved vexing for the medical research community.

While I am fully in favor of ensuring that individuals who do not wish to expose data related to private details of their lives have the information and tools to protect themselves, I’m also a realist. Some level of exposure of personal information is necessary in the digital age, and the government is one of the primary sources of publicly available personal data. In that regard, Pandora’s Box was opened long ago and simply cannot be closed.