15 votes

Policy vs technology

12 comments

  1. [11]
    vord
    Link
    I'm biased...I'm a techie and pretty anarchistic overall... but Technology trumps Policy almost 100% of the time. You can't legislate away scientific findings, you can't legislate away technology....

    Finally, techies know that code is law­ -- that the restrictions and limitations of a technology are more fundamental than any human-created legal anything.

    I'm biased...I'm a techie and pretty anarchistic overall... but Technology trumps Policy almost 100% of the time. You can't legislate away scientific findings, you can't legislate away technology.

    For a simple example, consider the hoops Linux distros have to jump through in order to distribute: Many fonts, media codecs, and drivers can't be included due to inane laws and EULAs. A user that values Policy > Tech cannot use a Linux system in the same capacity as a Mac or Windows system. A user who values Tech > Policy isn't encumbered at all, but has to take extra effort to do the work that distros could easily do if not for arbitrary legal barriers.

    Policy almost doesn't need to legislate technology as such. Many problems with tech today are a byproduct of some straight up bad (if not malicious) interpretations of the bill of rights:

    • First Amendment
    • Second Amendment (remember: encryption is considered a weapon)
    • Fourth Amendment
    • Ninth Amendment

    Other problems have less to do with technology, and more a byproduct of gutting antitrust: Microsoft, Amazon, Comcast, and Verizon (just to name a few) could not exist in their current form if not for severely crippled antitrust.

    And some of the worst problems are caused by the DMCA, which was one of the biggest attempts to give Policy an edge over Technology. This article does a great job of explaining in more detail.

    7 votes
    1. [10]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      I think sometimes technologists overestimate the extent to which they can predict what's going to happen based on technological constraints. Often there are workarounds, and if meets an important...

      I think sometimes technologists overestimate the extent to which they can predict what's going to happen based on technological constraints. Often there are workarounds, and if meets an important user need, someone will make money off of doing a pretty good job of satisfying that need.

      One example: before Snapchat, many technologists would argue that it's impossible to reliably delete anything after you send it over the Internet. That's not how copying works! You can't control what other people will do on their own machines! If you don't want something to be public, don't send it to someone else.

      But young people really wanted privacy, and in particular to be able to send pictures that automatically disappear. Snapchat made it happen, as a side-effect of mobile phone OSes being locked down. Not completely reliably, but good enough to become very popular.

      Similar things have happened with DRM. People have argued that it will always get cracked, and there have been plenty of cracks, but it seems that in the end, Netflix (on behalf on the movie industry) got their way?

      5 votes
      1. [9]
        vord
        Link Parent
        Emphasis mine. Technologists are still 100% correct. Snapchat didn't make anything happen, not by a long shot. Sure, it provides the appearance of a transient picture, but the reality is that once...

        But young people really wanted privacy, and in particular to be able to send pictures that automatically disappear. Snapchat made it happen, as a side-effect of mobile phone OSes being locked down. Not completely reliably, but good enough to become very popular.

        Emphasis mine. Technologists are still 100% correct. Snapchat didn't make anything happen, not by a long shot. Sure, it provides the appearance of a transient picture, but the reality is that once it's out there, you still have to assume it's out there forever. Anybody can screenshot a sent picture, but that is a very minor issue.

        Unless Snapchat has developed a massive breakthrough in end to end encryption, it is trivial for them to archive and view every single upload indefinitely. I would wager good money that the US government at a minimum has the capability to tap into this archive. Potentially their cloud provider(s) as well.

        Anybody who think Snapchat is capable of actually doing what it markets is naive. It became so popular because the majority doesn't understand the underlying technology, so they believe Snapchat's marketing.

        People have argued that it will always get cracked, and there have been plenty of cracks, but it seems that in the end, Netflix (on behalf on the movie industry) got their way?

        Maybe, but not really. New Netflix-exclusive series pop up on torrent sites within a few days of being released, at most. Since Netflix began producing original content to retain users, you would think they would try harder to lock it down.

        Netflix still wins out for convenience though. That may change as more and more media companies segment the market, and legal streaming becomes as bad as cable was.

        Piracy continues to get exponentially easier. If the media companies get too greedy, they will kill the golden goose, and have to resort to the model the music industry had to for survival: Access to almost every video ever made for under $20 a month with 0 ads. Anything worse, and people will be able to trivially switch to illicit methods and the industries will hemorrhage money and collapse.

        Which may have way for new industries, or perhaps video production will be reborn as a medium for enthusiastic hobbiests. Honestly that sounds a bit refreshing from the current sequel-mania.

        3 votes
        1. ReapersGale
          Link Parent
          There's a few tools/services out there that effectively work like a 'netflix DVR' and would say it's likely they're being used for most of the webrip torrents and would explain why it can take a...

          Maybe, but not really. New Netflix-exclusive series pop up on torrent sites within a few days of being released, at most. Since Netflix began producing original content to retain users, you would think they would try harder to lock it down.

          There's a few tools/services out there that effectively work like a 'netflix DVR' and would say it's likely they're being used for most of the webrip torrents and would explain why it can take a couple of days for them to pop up. That being said at the moment it seems they're more concerned with reducing account sharing in a way that doesn't cause cancellations rather that fighting the losing battle of trying to stop someone recording the show and sharing it.

          3 votes
        2. [7]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          But to the millions using Snapchat, it doesn't matter that it technically shouldn't work. Caring too much about making it 100% secure means you (or actually we - I didn't predict it either) have a...

          But to the millions using Snapchat, it doesn't matter that it technically shouldn't work. Caring too much about making it 100% secure means you (or actually we - I didn't predict it either) have a blind spot that prevents you from seeing when the 99.9% solution makes a bigger impact than what's technically correct.

          1. [6]
            vord
            Link Parent
            But it's not that it shouldn't work, it's that it largely can't. I did some quick research, and noticed that pictures are now supposedly encrypted end to end (not sure how that would works with a...

            But it's not that it shouldn't work, it's that it largely can't. I did some quick research, and noticed that pictures are now supposedly encrypted end to end (not sure how that would works with a one to many share, but ok), but text messages and group chats explicitly are not.

            Legal cases have recovered 'disappeared' images form people's phones.

            A quick search revealed this: http://www.1mtb.com/5-ways-to-save-snapchat-snaps-permanently-without-the-senders-knowledge/

            Anybody who understands the tech knows Snapchat's privacy is largely a farce. I know this is borderline conspiratorial, but it would not surprise me if the CIA were archiving all of Snapchat for future blackmail potential. They've done far shadier things in the past, so being able to blackmail a popular young politician in the future may be high on their priorities.

            Snapchat isn't very secure at all. It sells the illusion, and people mistake it for a cure. Remember: If you are not paying, you're not the customer: you're the product.

            4 votes
            1. [5]
              skybrian
              Link Parent
              You seem to be thinking about this in an excessively binary way, where things are either secure or they aren't, and any vulnerability puts it in the "insecure" bucket. There are times when that's...

              You seem to be thinking about this in an excessively binary way, where things are either secure or they aren't, and any vulnerability puts it in the "insecure" bucket. There are times when that's appropriate, but by doing this you won't see distinctions that are important to other people. Remember that the threats you and I care about are not necessarily the ones other people care about.

              I'm not a Snapchat user, but it seems like there is one particular threat that Snapchat would be good at mitigating: breakups. An ex can't use pictures that they didn't save because they had no reason to gather revenge material at the time.

              This seems like a more common problem than worrying about the CIA?

              2 votes
              1. [4]
                vord
                Link Parent
                Maybe if said person never tried to search for "recover Snapchat from phone." The technique used is roughly on par with hiding inappropriate photos in a folder labeled 'Taxes.'...

                Maybe if said person never tried to search for "recover Snapchat from phone." The technique used is roughly on par with hiding inappropriate photos in a folder labeled 'Taxes.'

                https://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/you-can-find-old-snapchat-picture-data-on-your-phone-according-to-new-research/

                Also regarding CIA: Read this and then really ask yourself if what I said is outside the realm of possibility? Especially since JFK was a more decent person than many recent politicians.

                1. [3]
                  skybrian
                  Link Parent
                  So you found a seven year old article says that Snapchat messages might be recoverable. That doesn't seem definitive? I wouldn't assume that Snapchat works the same way in 2020 without testing it....

                  So you found a seven year old article says that Snapchat messages might be recoverable. That doesn't seem definitive? I wouldn't assume that Snapchat works the same way in 2020 without testing it.

                  Searching on "recover Snapchat from Phone" results in landing pages from people selling forensic software. But people sell all sorts of dubious software to "fix" your computer and there's no guarantee that it actually works.

                  Looking at people asking about it on Reddit, some people claim that deleted photos can be recovered using forensic software, but it's unclear whether they are reliable.

                  Figuring out the truth might not be as easy as it looks.

                  4 votes
                  1. [2]
                    vord
                    Link Parent
                    I'll concede that point in part. Yes, it's entirely possible that things have changed substantially in 7 years...that was an old source. However, this does not negate that it was indeed possible...

                    I'll concede that point in part. Yes, it's entirely possible that things have changed substantially in 7 years...that was an old source.

                    However, this does not negate that it was indeed possible and incredibly trivial, and that the time of that article's publication Snapchat was already valued at over $70 million, and 5 billion snaps had been sent so far.

                    The company was founded on a lie to the tune of millions in valuation. They perpetuated that lie for years, even if it has since been fixed. Even now, with substantial banning and detection methods in place, it's still relatively easy to bypass Snapchat's security. It shows that technologists are still right, but that the skill ceiling is raised. If Snapchat genuinely solved this problem, they would be lauded as heros of our generation. Turns out, it's mostly just smoke and mirrors DRM with substantial banning. A motivated user can still cause problems.

                    https://www.techjunkie.com/snapchat-saver-apps/

                    Here's an iphone app someone made.

                    1. skybrian
                      Link Parent
                      That article looks more solid but it seems those are all ways to record snaps as you receive them, not recover deleted photos? I'm not really interested in defending Snapchat (any further), but...

                      That article looks more solid but it seems those are all ways to record snaps as you receive them, not recover deleted photos?

                      I'm not really interested in defending Snapchat (any further), but rather pointing out that setting rules and keeping people from cheating on those rules is something users want, and with a lot of effort it can be made hard to cheat.

                      This seems similar to what happens with cheating in competitive video games; the cheaters will always be with us, but it can be made harder to do. The argument from technological determinism is to say that it's impossible to prevent cheating so we shouldn't try. But this isn't going to stop the game developers from trying, because a gamer community where cheating is rare is better than one where it's widespread.

  2. joplin
    Link
    That doesn't seem to be the case, though. The author has worked with policy makers and told them repeatedly, the way back doors are used is that unauthorized people figure them out and then use...

    Policy makers can't create policy around a piece of technology without understanding how it is used -- how all of it's used.

    That doesn't seem to be the case, though. The author has worked with policy makers and told them repeatedly, the way back doors are used is that unauthorized people figure them out and then use the access they get to do bad things. Oh, and it gives our government more power to undermine our civil liberties. Those are the 2 main use cases. You can't have one without the other no matter how strongly you wish it. And "we the people" don't want either use case to be possible. And yet, they continue to insist that "there must be a way," or that "it doesn't matter." It's not a "policy discussion", it's just wishful thinking on the part of policy makers. There's only so much you can do with that.

    3 votes