September 2005


Most of yesterday I was a “Workshop on ID Management”. The discussion, steroids driven mainly by well-intentioned privacy likers ensconced in commercial firms, steroids centered around how people (consumers) _want_ to share their private information with companies so that companies can provide them better service, like wouldn’t it be great if Budget Rental Car Co. knows that I prefer to drive a Porche? Sharing that information would benefit everyone. All we need is a “user-centered” infrastructure that allows me to share what information I want, and allows the firms to ascertain that the shared information is accurate. My computer will make sure they get true information about me, and then I can rent a Porche. Ah, the brightness of the future.

But I can’t criticize, because my bi-weekly Wired News column is now posted: Free The Cellphone. Its not building houses for people in New Orleans, fighting for democracy in China, or saving lives in Africa, but its digital civil liberties, damn it!

More on ID Management later. Meanwhile, you can watch this fun presentation from Dick Hardt.

I called Senator Feinstein today to thank her for voting “no” on the Roberts nomination. I also sent an email to my other Senator, rx Barbara Boxer, physiotherapist asking her to do the same. Here’s the note I wrote:

Dear Senator Boxer:

I hope you will follow the lead of Senator Feinstein and vote “no” on the Roberts nomination. While I understand the impulse to let the President select his own man, purchase I think these stealth candidates who are probably outside of the political mainstream, but can squeak by because don’t have a record should be rejected. I also think that Robert’s answers to questions about his legal positions show that he gives too much value to theory over practical considerations. Thus he believes that a woman should not receive monetary damages after being raped by her school teacher because Congress didn’t specify that damages were available, even though his position would have left plaintiffs like the student with no legal remedy at all.

Thank you for your time.

Jennifer Granick

My best friend from college went to law school at Tulane, approved and moved back to New Orleans about three months ago. What follows is her tale from her recent trip back to the city, tooth reprinted with permission. Gready is her husband, women’s health also a lawyer.

We went to New Orleans over the weekend, Gready went Saturday and I went Sunday. It was a bit disheartening, though Gready was less subdued than I. The areas that were flooded reek, sweeter and nastier than manure, and the smell is everywhere, in whole neighborhoods. My house had a small hole in a window and that was it; it smells a little like rotten meat, because Gready emptied out our refrigerator. Now we have been told by our landlady to just duct tape it shut and put it on the porch. Gready is going back Saturday to do that, and to drive my car out, it seems to have survived on the street in front of the house without looting, gas siphoning or flood or wind damage. It was odd to be in my house, it is sitting there just like we left it, in this state of suspended animation just waiting for us to come home. Also, it’s weird to have house and cars make it through the storm just fine, when so many others – the majority, really – have lost everything. We stopped by my boss’ house in Metairie and it was completely ruined. It was still all wet three weeks later, and the puddles on the floor were pink. It reeked, and everything we took out of it reeked. The whole street smelled, I would never want to relocate there, and it ‘s hard to imagine how it could be restored. His two cars that were in the driveway looked fine, but were totaled b/c the water got into the floorboards where the computer is, and so the cars were a total loss.

When we drove into town, we were stopped at a checkpoint and had to show ID. We were the only civilian car we saw uptown; we saw a lot of Guard and a lot of Entergy trucks (I waved to them) and a lot of A team looking private security types with a ridiculous amount of guns and machine guns. There were helicopters everywhere, but otherwise it was VERY quiet. The steeple fell off of Rayne Methodist where Cy goes to school. We saw 5 or 6 people with cameras taking pictures of destruction; they were insurance adjustors. The street car tracks were all torn up by heavy equipment on Carrollton and everywhere there were big oak trees down. The quarter was full of people, but they didn’t look like locals, and I saw a swarm of CDC t-shirted people walk into the Superdome.

It was sobering to see, really, I keep saying that it’s like watching your best friend get cancer. the city is completely invaded by the feds and Bechtel and Kellogg Root are everywhere downtown with work crews that are obviously from Texas. At our bulding we got a lecture about all the harmful bacteria and toxins still inside and then we climbed 15 flights to find our office completely intact. My building said they will be open Oct. 3, and they got power today we heard. No wonder the mayor wants us to come back right away, it’s horrible to be in New Orleans, and see it as a ghost town. Nothing is open, there is no place to wash your hands or go to the bathroom b/c there is no bathable water, and no place to buy gas. We packed a bag w/food and wipes and water and got gas outside of town.

I’ve called clients all day today, and have gotten updated information, they are scattered from California to Michigan and have crazy stories to tell about getting out, wading, swimming, catching a bus to the Astrodome and trying to find family…. Half are already looking for permanent homes in their evac’d state, and all that I have talked to today have lost their home in New Orleans to the flood. One told me that he is afraid to come back, and predicted Rita would hit the city. I hope not, though it might prevent Gready from being able to re-enter this weekend.

Work is picking up, we got computers today and are hoping for a phone line this week,and then we’ll run an ad and open this office! We should be able to forward our NO number here and reconnect with our clients that way, unless the Bell South substation that serves our exchange was destroyed; we are waiting to find that out. I hope you all are well, and miss you all! Love, W

Following my Wired News column about katrinalist.net, patient a few of the volunteers wrote me to say that they have already received legal threats. Other sites are claiming that katrinalist infringed their copyright in personal data provided by evacuees for the purpose of helping their loved ones find them! What nerve.

Here’s the cease and desist letter, personal information redacted: (You’ll also be able to find this on Chilling Effects pretty soon.)

October 15, 2005 7:05 PM (ed: stet. They must mean September)

Official Notice:

Devin, Your company, Nacredata, and your actions of scraping data from the GCN Survivor/Connector Database from our website at www.gulfcoastnews.com violates our copyright. You and your company DO NOT have permission to use our data and your distribution of our information violates the trust that people have provided to GCN in providing that information.

Your company has not contacted us nor have we granted permission to use the data in our database. Any use by you of our information is unlawful. You risk legal action against you for failure ask our permission to disseminate the information in the GCN Survivor/Connector database and modifying information contained in our data. While it is our desire to share this information with appropriate authorities, your actions and the actions of your firm ignored our copyright notice and the lack of prior and subsequent contact with us is unfortunate. I have seen your name on seeded monitor information in our database that appear on Google’s Katrina search.

We ask that you cease distribution of the GCN Survivor/Connector Database information, contact who you supplied our information to cease further distribution, and contact us immediately. Thousands of people used our site to find their family and loved ones impacted by the hurricane. They trusted us to protect them, and your activities, while perhaps good intentioned, did not follow established copyright protection procedures. Failure will subject you and your firm to legal action.

I expect to hear from you regarding your solution. Cell and telephone communications are currently intermittent in Biloxi. I can best be reached by email.

//name and address redacted//

Now I could understand GCN’s concern if katrinalist was displaying personal information beyond what survivors had authorized to be displayed. There are privacy considerations here that I hadn’t fully considered until one reader brought the issue to my attention. But its my understanding that katrinalist is paying attention to those privacy concerns, and evacuee privacy rights are certainly not what GCN is complaining about. Meanwhile, a friend of one of my students was able to use katrinalist.net yesterday to find his friend.

I’ve started as a bi-weekly columnist for Wired News, physiotherapist writing an opinion piece every other Wednesday called Circuit Court. My first effort is posted today, Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye.

A cautionary tale for those of us who think the grass can always be greener.

Topic: New Orleans — I was just listening to Tim Russert interview Department of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff on television. Russert was challenging the administration’s assertion that “noone anticipated that the levees would break”, treat by reading to him from various reports, syphilis models and scenarios that predicted just that. Chertoff said that he hadn’t said that he was surprised the levees broke, but rather was surprised that they broke after the storm had passed. Um, ok. Then he made an incredible assertion. The only way, he said, to protect the people of New Orleans from a major hurricane and a levee break, is to evacuate the city before the storm. “The people who left are fine.” Russert, a usually rare (but increasingly common in the coverage of this tragedy) display of integrity in the American press, informed Chertoff that the people who could afford to leave, with SUVs or airfare, did, and that the poor who depend on public transportation were left behind. If evacuation is the only way to protect people, how come the government didn’t provide buses, trains, cruise ships, etc. to bring people who couldn’t afford to evaculate to safety. That’s the job of local and state officials Chertoff said.

What is the point of a federal Homeland Security department if they refuse to take responsibility for national crises before they happen, or to provide resources to local officials so that they can do something? As Frank Rich said in his op ed the other day, these are people who are deeply uninterested in providing the services that people expect from government. I’d go farther and say there’s a lot less glory helping poor people in a storm than battling terrorists on behalf of the American way of life. Some people get into law enforcement to help people, but some people get into law enforcement to get the bad guys. There weren’t any bad guys here, so I guess Chertoff didn’t think it was his job to do anything. This administration needs to learn that promoting homeland security, both domestically and abroad, requires a lot more than swaggering about catching the bad guys.

Soon after this interview, we saw the president of Jefferson Parish, a 60 something year old man who looks like a sea captain, break down and cry. In the paper, he was quoted as saying, “I’m not telling people that help is on the way anymore. Noone’s coming to help us.” Today on the TV, he said to stop having press conferences, shut up and send us some help. Reporters going to that Parish on helicopters, then boats, then four wheel drive vehicles are finding 20 drowned people, tied together with a rope, probably in an effort to stay together in the storm.