How email is still failing, a good read on security

Why are we still blindly (for most of us, to say the least) trusting a messaging protocol that lacks so many basic security protections?

The fact is that if someone owns our email account, they own us. To make things worse, so many of us hand the keys to our lives over to the custody of third parties such as Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!

I think Mark Burnett is spot on.

http://xato.net/cryptography/email-security-industrys-biggest-failure/

A year with La Quadrature du Net

It’s hard to believe I joined la Quadrature a little over a year ago.

The lack of updates on this website is a clear testament of the fact, though.

It feels as if it has been a lot longer, and some of my friends have also told me so. As one can imagine, it has been an intense ride, with many dossiers unfolding at the same time: the Net Neutrality debate, the French HADOPI law and similarly-named administration clinging on to dear life, the revision of the European IPRED directive, the dangerous and infamous ACTA agreement, and the many and ongoing attempts to control and censor the Internet.

But many positive things have also happened: positive proposals for the future of creation funding were synthesised, wonderful projects such as RespectMyNet, a citizen Net Neutrality monitoring and reporting platform, the Political Memory, or the Pi Phone came to fruition. Furthermore, many, many citizens learned of what is looming over the Internet as we know it and our freedoms in this space, and decided not only to keep track of these issues but also to act on them.

To imagine over 2.5 million people have watched a two-minute video trying to synthesise the dangers about ACTA is quite incredible, and to see how in a post-SOPA setting this translated into literally thousands of phone calls to European elected representatives  makes one realise that citizen involvement, beyond being heart-warming, is also vastly efficient.

I can hardly sum up everything I’ve learned, the insight I’ve gained into politics and policy-making at the European level, the understanding of organisations and volunteer communities, the wonderful people I’ve met and the knowledge and expertise they’ve shared with me.

But I will attempt to do so in a few posts in the near future.

Joining la Quadrature!

I’ve recently joined la Quadrature du Net as a full time campaigner.

My role will be to coordinate the community, help build citizen campaigns directing grassroots energy towards existing institutions (both French and European) and assist with fundraising and support.

It’s quite an honour to join one of the most dedicated group of people in Europe fighting for a free Internet and for the protection of civil and fundamental rights online, and I expect to learn many things and gain insight as much as I hope to be efficient in defending our freedoms.

Le Web 2010: day 2

Here is a quick summary of what happened at day 2 of Le Web 10.

A fascinating presentation by Salim Ismail of the Singularity University about the brain, how it controls stuff, what we know and especially don’t know about it.

Before that, Ariel Garten from Interaxon talked about thought controlled computing, using the brainwaves.
The presentation was insightful but felt a little too prepared and unnatural. The opposite from Dennis Crowley of Foursquare.

Talking of which, he came back for an extra Q&A and answered candidly questions from the audience.

Later during the day, it was good to see Mitchell Baker from Mozilla and Matt Mullenweg from WordPress talk and remind the participants of the importance of Free Open Source Software on the web.
I sometimes wonder if they realise most of their infrastructure runs in no small way thanks to FOSS. It seems most of the start-ups are very happy to take advantage of the Free Software offerings, but most don’t practice that approach themselves.
Save for WordPress, whose Matt had this good wording of the situation:

We are one of the only companies here today that makes a living by giving away our intellectual property.

Given the success of WordPress (it powers 10% of all websites according to them), it may have given a bit of food for thought to a few participants.

Matt Mullenweg also called people to pay more attention to the hidden social network, the vast network of loosely federated blogs that still contain more people on or around them than Facebook. If they were to actually federate, one can only imagine the result. But I’m sure some smart people are already thinking about that and working on it.

As for Mozilla, they did a very cool demonstration of an real-time animated city with video rendered on the skyscrapers, all in HTML5. And Mitchell Baker talked about how they plan to make one’s identity a bigger part of the browser. The future sure looks interesting for the web.

The day ended with possibly the best talk (and did he talk) by Kurt Vaynerchuk.

Unrelenting, unabashed, whole, he spoke before a delighted and fascinated audience about the importance of finding what really motivates you in life and follow that as a professional path. His message is a really positive one and his delivery makes it even more honest and interesting to listen to.

All in all an interesting 2 days, some interesting people, some not-so-interesting food (but maybe it’s just France that spoils us) and lots of interesting insight, be it on the web/tech start-up scene or more general perpectives.

Well worth it.

Le Web 2010: day 1

So far, most of the presentation from companies have been a little bland.
Well maybe bland is the wrong word, but not that exciting nor disruptive, which is what we’ve come to expect from web players that often skyrocketed to success.

Seeing the MySpace CEO struggle to convince the audience that they could turn around the “plane in mid-crash”, in the words of the interviewer, was a little painful. Hard to think they will manage to stay relevant, especially considering how tainted is their brand name.

TechCrunch’s Arrington was a refreshing interviewer, he pressed Facebook’s Ethan Beard on some answers and seemed unimpressed when Beard’s answers became too diplomatic.

Microsoft refused to give any real numbers on Windows Phone 7 sales, but assured us that they were planing on re-becoming a large player in the mobile landscape.

Ignite Talks (10 five minute presentations) were interesting.

  • Japanese geek culture and how not over-protecting your copyrighted content and letting people remix and re-distribute it is actually profitable.
  • Protecting kids from bad search results and bad side-effects from tech, how important it is to think about it and much harder it is becoming with the rise in mobile devices.
  • How teen entrepreneurs need to be taken more seriously by the tech community and investors. Considering how they can change things thanks to their ingenuous and not money-centred approach.
  • A fun and witty presentation by Matthias Läkens from the World Economic Forum (Davos) about Twitter Diplomacy and how World leaders (or their team at least) are becoming reachable via Twitter. Interesting graphing of who follows who and doesn’t follow others, with a little jab at the French Presidency which doesn’t follow anyone and doesn’t tweet during the summer, as everyone on the team is on holiday.

And not long ago, Marissa Mayer, VP of Google, announced a few Android evolutions (3D vectorial maps, some offline caching of maps). Arrington (again) was a better interviewer than others, but the answers were still a little too distant and PR-like.
Gingerbread is considered to have been released, the Nexus S is coming really soon (some before Xmas, a lot more in January… this is the Nexus One all over again) and Chrome OS is gearing up, but won’t really be available before sometime next year.
Also, an interesting announcement it “contextual search”. Search is changing: already 1 in 4 mobile searches are now voice searches in the US.
Contextual search takes the “don’t type to search” mantra further by searching (and finding) relevant stuff as you walk around in an unknown city, for instance.
Likely to be very popular.