Issues round-up: clash of the titans, building blocks and bad judgement?

Doing things this decade

Before we get cracking into the articles and our goofball takes on them I wanted to talk about how the Issues team is trying to do things “this decade”.

Our recent attempt at this is to use Github. Got a blog post? I have to admit, when we started doing using Github I was rather intimidated. But, it turns out old policy analysts can learn new tricks.

In fact, this blog post was written in markdown (in Atom) loaded onto github and then published into our Issues team blog page (hosted by github). THEN I copied the content and moved it over to our website (for now). Basically, as an issues team we are trying to use modern technology and processes to both understand what an open and uncapturable Internet looks like in 2016 and how to live our open Internet values. It feels great to be able to give you a link to the source code for our blogs.

So anyway, back into the access, use and security stories that have caught our eye over the last week.

Music heavyweights clash

I won’t go into the history (I tried, it took too long). But Apple and Spotify are competing heavily in the streaming music service. But Apple has iPhones, iPads and the App Store under its control. Spotify is calling foul over Apple’s rejection of its most recent app updates, while Apple is saying they’re just trying to enforce common rules which exist for all iDevice app developers. It’s looking like quite the brouhaha.

The interesting thing I take from this is that sometimes vertical integration can create trouble. Who knows if Apple is acting to try and deal to their major music streaming competitor, or simply trying to enforce app store rules onto a developer that’s trying to do things its way (Apple knows best after all ;)). BUT I do know that the vertical integration Apple has between its device, app selling platform AND music streaming provider means that the allegation can be made. Oh the price of success.

Google makes kids blocks?

Google is getting into the “tangible programming game” with project bloks - a set of physical code instruction blocks that you connect to one another and a pi-powered “brain board” to do simple instructions and programming. It looks like a pretty cool way of making really intro programming and coding accessible to kids and those of us who find tactile learning easiest.

Sadly, they’re not for sale yet, but it looks like Google are attempting to do some actual research and analysis to ensure that, if this attempt at teaching coding through a physical medium works, they’ll be able to push it out wider and the world will have another way of trying to get kids interested in coding and computer science. * Engadget: Google’s Project Bloks tinker toys teach coding to kids

Home PCs are private?

Where to start? Well it seems a US appellate court judge left their brain behind when considering a case recently. You can read the article (below) for a full summary but essentially the judge ruled that if you computer is connected to the Internet, they you can’t presume privacy. Why? Because: hackers. Or as he put it:

“Now, it seems unreasonable to think that a computer connected to the Web is immune from invasion. Indeed, the opposite holds true: In today’s digital world, it appears to be a virtual certainty that computers accessing the Internet can—and eventually will—be hacked.”

Where to start with this argument? It’s terrifyingly facile and ignores all the things that people do to use the Internet in a secure way. It enables non-warranted computer intrusions (aka hacking) from government agencies. The judge even considered that using TOR, a private browsing tool, doesn’t give you a presumption of privacy! Once again, a non-sympathetic defendant (someone downloading child sex abuse material) has led to really bad case law.

The non-Internet analogy puts it rather starkly: because your house is connected to a public road, you don’t have a right to privacy in your house. Unwarranted search of a property is okay as its technologically easy for someone to walk from the street into your house.

While this IS a US case, it did make me think about the NZ judiciary. To be honest with Judge Harvey leaving the bench to teach at Auckland University, I’m scratching my head to think about who our tech-savvy and tech-literate judges will be.

As always, let us know if you have feedback, comments, thoughts or feels about these stories or the way we’re trying to do things around here.