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Sensing Technology As Open Source's New Frontier

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the do-traffic-cameras-fear-pellet-guns dept.

Privacy 51

destinyland writes "Christine Peterson coined the term 'open source.' Now she's proposing the same collaborative sharing approach to sensing technology 'to improve both security and the environment, while preserving — even strengthening — privacy, freedom, and civil liberties...' The Open Source Sensing initiative welcomes individuals and organizations, and warns that 'We have a short window of opportunity for guiding this technology to protect both our security *and* our privacy.' Peterson says that in the long term, 'open source defensive technologies will likely be the only ones capable of keeping up with rapidly-advancing offensive technologies, just as open source software is faster at addressing computer viruses today.' And the EFF's Brad Templeton warns that 'Cheap, ubiquitous sensing has the potential to turn the worlds of privacy and civil rights upside-down... It's not enough for governments to watch people; people have to watch governments.' His solution? 'Learning from the bottom-up approaches of the open source community.'

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51 comments

Nuclear WMD Sensing? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456011)

The proposal lists detection of nuclear WMDs via neutrons and gamma rays ... the proposal itself also correctly notes that places like NYC are trying to ban Geiger counters [slashdot.org] and probably wouldn't be too keen on this sort of data being opened up to the masses. So you find out your neighborhood has an irregular--perhaps even mildly dangerous--amount of radioactive activity. Watch the lawsuits roll in ...

The proposal itself stays away from video and on their site they talk about who would have release rights to this video, I'm not sure why the EFF is commenting on that. It looks like they want to stay away from somone/group grabbing all the video and putting it up on YouTube to make the street in front of your house a public spectacle.

Re:Nuclear WMD Sensing? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456667)

So you find out your neighborhood has an irregular--perhaps even mildly dangerous--amount of radioactive activity. Watch the lawsuits roll in ...

I dislike barratry and other abuses of our legal system as much as anyone, but you know, we are a society of laws. Now, if my neighbor's house is in fact dangerous to me and my family, well, yes, I would like a legal remedy. The other options are (1) suck it up, do nothing, and suffer the consequences or (2) settle things outside of any legal framework. While in theory (2) sounds like a good idea, and can work well sometimes, it can also get nasty. I think the legal system often gets a bad rap, because it's always present during disputes. Thing is, the disputes are really what's nasty, the legal system is supposed to be the most civilized way we've thought of to resolve them.

Linux can win... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456029)

...the nosetop!

Knowing the government's level of incompetence? (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456059)

I'll bet right before a large attack all of our technology will recieve a killall command.

Re:Knowing the government's level of incompetence? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#28458091)

A good starting point would be to implant an RFID chip in every elected politician. They might become slightly more privacy oriented then.

Citation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456093)

"just as open source software is faster at addressing computer viruses today"

citation needed...

Re:Citation (0, Troll)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457613)

the open-source solutions to anti-virus:
  solution 1) bury head in sand, pretend viruses don't exist and will never attack your systems
  solution 2) stand naked directly in the path of oncoming viruses, with the attitude that no virus could possibly harm you.

I propose... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456197)

I propose that politians should have no privacy. All their records should be open long before the regular citizen should go through that. All emails, all text messages, phone calls, bank accounts, credit card records, loans, etc.

That way we'll know who to trust. Shouldn't politics be required to be like that anyway?

How will we know who we're really voting for.

If everything was public ideally the good people would (finally) finish ahead. And thus so would we.

Any takers?

PS: ban lobbies too, while we're at it! Let's give democracy a shot for a change.

Re:I propose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456371)

What the fuck are you talking about?

Are you somehow trying to connect this post to TFA by open-sourcing politicians private lives? At least one of us is terribly confused.

Re:I propose... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456791)

Are you somehow trying to connect this post to TFA by open-sourcing politicians private lives?

No need to. TFA did that for me:

'Cheap, ubiquitous sensing has the potential to turn the worlds of privacy and civil rights upside-down...'

The loss of privacy thing is getting out of hand pretty much everywhere. In the UK they jumped the shark sooner than anywhere else. Privacy laws are being implemented by politians. I'm just saying that, if anything, they should be the ones REQUIRED to relinquish that right.

It would be a win-win situation for everyone:

Either they'd never do it, and drop the whole thing altogehter, leaving us populace alone.

Or they'd go through it and the right set of darwin laws would finally be applied to politics (ie, not money), because we'd finally know who we'd be voting for.

And, of course, it would also be great for honest politicians, because they'd finally have a shot. Let's not kid ourselves, an honest politician doesn't stand a change. The big corporations and pressure groups have no interest in them. And you can take the US as an example here: only 2 parties in the game! WTF? Where's the democracy there? And, of course, you have to buy your way into a spot in one of those 2 parties. Then you have to buy the big one. It's amazing. No other country in the world as ever been so in need of a revolution as the pre-Obama US. Soon we'll see whether or not the Obama presidency turns out to be that revolution. That would be great, much better of course.

Re:I propose... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456375)

Then you run the risk of completely skewing elections for very silly reasons.

Perhaps that guy who would have been a kick ass administrator never gets voted for because people just don't like the fact that he downloads horse porn.

Or the guy who leads a regular, dull, and boring life turns out to be a horrible politician. Oh wait, we just had one of those.

good points... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456541)

But would you vote for a dumb imcompetent guy just because he was honest?

What I meant is that it's easier to figure how smart or competent someone is, than knowing how the hell he uses his smarts to be successful.

Besides, I'll take a dumb (well, at least not super-bright) but honest and morally capable dude over someone like Dick Cheney. And you can replace Dick with pretty much any other name you know, it'll still support my point.

And by having access to all that data I can assure you I'll be able to figure out how smart the guy is more easily.

Re:I propose... (2, Insightful)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456477)

propose that politians should have no privacy. All their records should be open long before the regular citizen should go through that.

Politicians are regular citizens. Maybe if more people realized that fact it would be easier to not be afraid of them, and we then could really get some change going in this country.

Re:I propose... (1)

hot soldering iron (800102) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457281)

My... you're not a particularly bright child, are you?

Re:I propose... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459225)

Cut him some slack. Either he's american (remember, they ellected Bush - although only once... :) or he was sent to spin.

I put spin up there with lobbying.

WTH! Why don't the media just find an unbiased independent commentator and let him do the talking. Probably none available.

Better just give Bill Maher a call, he'll trash both sides.

Re:I propose... (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28480943)

Yes, I am an American. We elected Bush twice (do some research into our electoral system). I don't spin. Usually.

I was commenting on the poster's use of language, i.e., "politician" versus "regular citizen." It's a common, uneducated misconception in our country that congressmen are endowed with some special magic not possessed by mere mortals. People understand so little of what goes on in capital hill; if they really understood, many new faces would be showing up in Washington next election.

Re:I propose... (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#28481263)

Whoops, that should be "capitol." Guess I'm not a very bright child after all. Damn these not-context-sensitive spell checkers!

Re:I propose... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459133)

Are you kidding me?! Good people run from politics like it's the plague. That's how bad it is now. We need a way to figure out which of those asses stinks less. If any.

Re:I propose... (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456771)

PS: ban lobbies too, while we're at it! Let's give democracy a shot for a change.

I'd go two steps farther.

  1. Make it a felony to contribute to any candidate one isn't eligible to vote for. This would pretty much stop all lobbying from corporations, unions, and other organizations. The CEO of a company could still contribute to his own senatorial and congressional candidates, but only the ones he's allowed to vote for. Why should Bill gates have any say on Illinois politicians? Or ADM's exec have any say in Oregon's politics?
  2. Make it a felony to contribute to more than one candidate for any election. Face it, a grand for the Repub abd another grand for the Dem, and no matter which candidate loses, the briber/contributor wins. Contributing to more than one candidate in any given race is an ill-disguised bribe, and it should be a felony.

Re:I propose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456973)

Already modded up, but this seems brilliant enough I had to post to.

Re:I propose... (2, Insightful)

Daffy Duck (17350) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457089)

Let's get closer to the mark and make it a felony for a candidate to accept money from anyone who isn't eligible to vote for them. Fewer felons to keep track of that way. :)

Re:I propose... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457183)

Let's get closer to the mark and make it a felony for a candidate to accept money from anyone who isn't eligible to vote for them. Fewer felons to keep track of that way. :)

In some states, some felons lose the right to vote, that makes the candidate liable if they accept money from "anyone". Maybe that should be accepted as the cost to the politician of playing a fundamentally bribery based game. So, we'd need an accurate nationwide list of felons that have not been pardoned or expunged. Good Luck.

Re:I propose... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457709)

It would be pretty hard for the candidate to check out each and every contributor, and the chances of making a mistale one way or another would be enormous.

Re:I propose... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 4 years ago | (#28477135)

It would be pretty hard for the candidate to check out each and every contributor, and the chances of making a mistale one way or another would be enormous.

Yes. And it should be pretty hard for any person to get into office, where they can ruin the lives of many citizens with a pen stroke.

(Yeah, I realize that I'm essentially advocating career politicians, because "ordinary people" don't have the resources or skills to vet all their contributions. But perhaps I'm really advocating the creation of a "political industry" which caters to those types of needs.)

Re:I propose... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457095)

Make it a felony to contribute to more than one candidate for any election. Face it, a grand for the Repub abd another grand for the Dem, and no matter which candidate loses, the briber/contributor wins. Contributing to more than one candidate in any given race is an ill-disguised bribe, and it should be a felony.

Maybe you could restrict it a little further and market it better as "contributing twice is like voting twice". Exactly one contribution per election seems fair to me, just like one vote per election seems fair to me.

This also cuts back slightly on bribery, as you'd be unable to do the "half the money upfront to prove we're serious, then the other half the money after the politician makes the correct/profitable decision"

Re:I propose... (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457407)

Well that is just... broken?... dumb?

Actually, on item 1 I'd go along with you as long as you change it to you can donate to anyone who can vote on legislation that will affect you. I mean if the Senator from New Mexico gets to vote on a law regulating ocean fishing, it's only fair that residents of coastal states should have some small amount of influence in the senator's race for office.

On item 2, that really is just dumb. If there are three candidates running for office, one a democrat, one a republican and the other the nambla candidate, I may have a much larger desire for the pedophile not to get elected than I do for either of the others to be elected.

Re:I propose... (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457807)

On item one, if I can contribute to any candidate who can vote on any legislation that affects me, why can't I vote for or against any candidate who can vote on legislation that affects me?

On item two, the nambla candidate isn't likey to get many votes OR much campaign cash. I can't vote against the nambla candidate by voting for the Republican and Libertarian candidates, now can I?

Re:I propose... (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459801)

Okay, here's another step: 1. Make it illegal for candidates or sitting politicians to accept money from anyone, for any reason. 2. Make it illegal for a candidate to use their own money to promote an issue, or for their re-election. 3. Set aside a small amount of money for very basic advertising, and don't give it to the candidates - give them air time, etc. - just like with the homeless guy - buy him lunch, don't give him a $20. 4. Make sure that the qualifications for running for an office (to register and be considered a candidate) are standardized within a given state, or, for federal positions, federally - with citizens being able to directly vote on those provisions.

Re:I propose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28464645)

Suppose campaign donations were anonymous?

It's Not News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28456235)

Other articles have been pointing to sensors as the hot new arena for about two years now. Computers are getting more and more able and now having them observe and react to their surroundings is a hot area for making money. The medical uses alone will be world changers and the ability to sniff our bombs, terrorists etc. is also much sought after. Using illegal substances is also going to get harder and harder as sensors evolve to detect telltale chemicals and odors. Agriculture can also greatly benefit when remote sensors are more and more able to report the needs of crops to farmers.

I must agree (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456259)

This is an interesting concept. However I think there's a major flaw:

      Open source software development works because it consists of people willing to sacrifice some of their spare time doing something that they enjoy. The actual cost is nil, or close to it. Distribution and collaboration are made easy via the internet.

      However here you're talking hardware. Hardware has to be manufactured. It has cost. Then it has to be physically shipped to where you want to install it. Then you have to find (and pay) a guy to go up a ladder and bolt your hardware to that building, etc.

      The real up front cost - without taking into account actually monitoring and administering the flow of information - is staggering if you aim to do this on a nationwide scale. So much so that even the governments (with apparently endless resources as 2008 has just taught us) haven't done it. And if it was cheap, I'm sure they would have.

      I hate to be a naysayer, but I wouldn't like to see the bill for this project.

Re:I must agree (1)

axlash (960838) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456441)

I guess that the assumption here is that the sensor devices are probably devices that most people own, like mobile phones. Perhaps the hope is that they can be enabled with special software to do the sensing.

Re:I must agree (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456619)

Your point is valid, in that hardware has a higher cost of entry than software(and the relative levels of maturity of OSS vs. Open Hardware reflect this); but I'm not sure that it applies as much as you suggest.

Designing, fabbing and installing specialized sensors is one aspect of "sensor technology" and one that OSS is, as you say, arguably of limited use as a model. However, co-ordination of sensor values, turning the data points into some meaningful picture of the world, is more or less completely a software problem.

Also of note is the idea of building distributed sensor networks out of what already exists, which is largely a problem of software, creativity, and social structuring. For instance, consider the sheer number of cameras, accelerometers, and RF receivers, all connected to programmable computers and radio modems, that are running around the streets in the form of cell phones. For that matter, think of the giant crowds of happy-snapping tourists in most tourist destinations as constituting a sort of camera network.

The business of actually putting hardware into the field will, as you say, likely remain a more or less closed commercial enterprise, with some open source/DIY projects here and there(just as most software, even OSS, runs on commercial hardware); but there is a lot of room for OSS models in the systems and software that tie the sensors together, and make something useful of their output.

Re:I must agree (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456823)

Only the design need be open source.

Re:I must agree (1)

Xiterion (809456) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459635)

Very true, however I have yet to see a design that goes from paper to product and doesn't need significant feedback from the process of actually making one in order to hammer out all the bugs in the system. I think that's akin to saying it's possible to take a specification and write a bug free piece of software to it that needs zero feedback from higher level testing, such as system integration.

The "Bad Guys" can look at the source... (3, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456281)

But so can the smart good guys. More (and possibly better) penetration testing and verification also means that there are fewer exploitable holes. Sounds like a win-win, both from the standpoint of security and privacy.

Totally Different Ideals (3, Insightful)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456659)

The problem is that a lot of the OSS community breathes the philosophy that "all information should and must be free... except for information about me, which should be confidential or not exist in digestable form at all." While an overstated and oversimplified sumation of reality... if those are two guiding principals, then where the rubber hits the road is quite difficult, if you're designing multipurposed software that doesn't have a very narrow scoped-purpose at design time, and you're really concerned that your work is going to be used in ways that violate either of those provlems. FOSS is a widget... if some company builds gears it has to know that one buyer might be using them to build hospital machinery and the other harpoon guns for whales. If OSS says you can use it, execpt for these purposes, it isn't very free as in freedom anymore.

An eloquent argument for a supremely bad idea (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 3 years ago | (#28456773)

TFA doesn't consider the problems of compulsion and access.

The approach of "open source sensing" may have some validity in public places, but for the most part the interesting things that governments and other powerful entities do are either done in privacy or are already covered by news media of various kinds. There's no way to get access that would allow a discussion between police and prosecuting attorneys over the real reasons for a bust, there's no way to get access to the side discussions and dealmaking that a protected by deliberative privilege and not covered by open meeting laws.

And private people can't compel searches the way the government can. The TSA and customs get people to run their possessions through a scanner and remove outer articles of clothing, while the public has no equivalent ability to compel compliance upon the government or other powerful entities.

And besides, even if the playing field itself were level, I don't believe that a comprehensive ability to see what the government does would further individual rights. The loss of privacy due to constant surveillance is very real and cannot be overcome or compensated for by observing the actions of the government.

seeensing .... (1)

x4r (1573235) | more than 3 years ago | (#28457159)

i like to sense my girlfriend. and warmly welcome any technology, that can improve it :-)

mod down (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#28457623)

feel an obligation those uber-,asshole

Given Sen. Mark Sanford's recent admission... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#28458265)

maybe we should be putting radio collars on our congresscritters.

Re:Given Sen. Mark Sanford's recent admission... (1)

GMFTatsujin (239569) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459197)

Can I man the tranquilizer rifle we use to stun them in the wild? Or the pincers that hook the ID tags into their ears?

Why are you looking at me like that?

whatever (2, Informative)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 3 years ago | (#28459609)

Christine Peterson coined the term 'open source.'

Oh no she didn't.

It was Eric S. Raymond.

It *was* Christine Peterson (2, Informative)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#28463387)

http://www.opensource.org/history [opensource.org]

They brainstormed about tactics and a new label. "Open source", contributed by Chris Peterson, was the best thing they came up with.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source [wikipedia.org]

The group of individuals at the session included Christine Peterson who suggested open source.

It wasn't Eric Raymond. He was just in favor of that term over all the others that came up. I'm pretty sure I remember himself saying that on catb.org/~esr/<somewhere>, but I can't find that right now.

Re:It *was* Christine Peterson (1)

steveg (55825) | more than 4 years ago | (#28469591)

I'm pretty sure that *he* claimed it was Christine Peterson when interviewed for the documentary "Revolution OS."

Sense what? (1)

htdrifter (1392761) | more than 3 years ago | (#28460231)

I read the article and watched the video and it set off my BS sensor. The video reminded me of the first time I heard the term "symbiosis" used in a merger meeting.

who cares about the code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28461663)

I work in biological threat detection. The software involved is trivial. We couldn't care less who looks at the code involved in our system, it's the chemistry, biology, sample prep, and materials science that take real development and require the leaping of significant hurdles. I'm willing to bet many other systems are similar.

Re:who cares about the code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28464683)

Open source as a philosophy applies to far more than just software. Really it means more generally the design specs necessary to recreate a system or process. So your notebooks, schematics, timing diagrams, SolidWorks, whatever it may be.

Of course, open source lends itself quite well to software compared to some disciplines, but there you go. I had a college roommate who'd proclaim his genetic material was open source. I've heard worse pickup lines.

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