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Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion
Author: Harold Abelson、 Ken Ledeen、 Harry R. Lewis
2008/06/06

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Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 3.0.
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Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 3:

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Chapter 1:


Digital Explosion: Why Is It Happening, and What Is at Stake?


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Your computer successfully creates the illusion that it contains photographs, letters, songs, and movies. All it really contains is bits, lots of them, patterned in ways you can’t see.… Naral Pro-Choice America … wanted to form a text messaging group to send alerts to its members. Verizon decided not to allow it, citing the “controversial or unsavory” things the messages might contain.

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The world changed ..


The world changed very suddenly. Almost everything is stored in a computer somewhere. Court records, grocery purchases, precious family photos, pointless radio programs…. Computers contain a lot of stuff that isn’t useful today but somebody thinks might someday come in handy. It is all being reduced to zeroes and ones‚ ”bits.” The bits are stashed on disks of home computers and in the data centers of big corporations and government agencies. The disks can hold so many bits that there is no need to pick and choose what gets remembered. … … Had Naral simply wanted telephone service or an 800 number, Verizon would have had no choice. Telephone companies were long ago declared “common carriers.” Like railroads, phone companies are legally prohibited from picking and choosing customers from among those who want their services. In the bits world, there is no difference between a text message and a wireless phone call. It’s all just bits, traveling through the air by radio waves. But the law hasn’t caught up to the technology. It doesn’t treat all bits the same, and the common carriage rules for voice bits don’t apply to text message bits. …

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very suddenly. Almost everything is stored in a computer somewhere. Court records, grocery purchases, precious family photos, pointless radio programs…. Computers contain a lot of stuff that isn’t useful today but somebody thinks might someday come in handy. It is all being reduced to zeroes and ones‚ ”bits.” The bits are stashed on disks of home computers and in the data centers of big corporations and government agencies. The disks can hold so many bits that there is no need to pick and choose what gets remembered. … The world changed very suddenly. Almost everything is stored in a computer somewhere. Court records, grocery purchases, precious family photos, pointless radio programs…. Computers contain a lot of stuff that isn’t useful today but somebody thinks might someday come in handy. It is all being reduced to zeroes and ones‚ ”bits.” The bits are stashed on disks of home computers and in the data centers of big corporations and government agencies. The disks can hold so many bits that there is no need to pick and choose what gets remembered. …

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Your computer successfully creates the illusion that it contains photographs, letters, songs, and movies. All it really contains is bits, lots of them, patterned in ways you can’t see.… Naral Pro-Choice America … wanted to form a text messaging group to send alerts to its members. Verizon decided not to allow it, citing the “controversial or unsavory” things the messages might contain.

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… Had Naral simply wanted telephone service or an 800 number, Verizon would have had no choice. Telephone companies were long ago declared “common carriers.” Like railroads, phone companies are legally prohibited from picking and choosing customers from among those who want their services. In the bits world, there is no difference between a text message and a wireless phone call. It’s all just bits, traveling through the air by radio waves. But the law hasn’t caught up to the technology. It doesn’t treat all bits the same, and the common carriage rules for voice bits don’t apply to text message bits. …

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Chapter 2:


Naked in the Sunlight‚ Privacy Lost, Privacy Abandoned


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1984 Is Here, and We Like It … Footprints and Fingerprints … Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Away … Little Brother Is Watching … Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S. … Technology Change and Lifestyle Change … Beyond Privacy Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) have improved the marital lives of countless males too stubborn to ask directions. … But change the

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scenario just a bit and the same technology feels less wonderful. In 2004, Ron Lee rented a car from Payless in San Francisco. He headed east to Las Vegas, then back to Los Angeles, and finally home. He was expecting to pay $150 for his little vacation, but Payless made him pay more‚ $1,400, to be precise. … When he went out of state, the unlimited mileage clause was invalidated. The fine print said that Payless would charge him $1 per Nevada mile, and that is exactly what the company did. They knew where he was, every minute he was on the road. …

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Chapter 3:


Ghosts in the Machine‚ Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents


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What You See Is Not What the Computer Knows … Representation, Reality, and Illusion … Hiding Information in Images … The Scary Secrets of Old Disks In October, 2005, UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis released to the media a report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria had been suspected of engineering the killing, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement. The report

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was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

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1984 Is Here, and We Like It … Footprints and Fingerprints … Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Away … Little Brother Is Watching … Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S. … Technology Change and Lifestyle Change … Beyond Privacy Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) have improved the marital lives of countless males too stubborn to ask directions. … But change the

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scenario just a bit and the same technology feels less wonderful. In 2004, Ron Lee rented a car from Payless in San Francisco. He headed east to Las Vegas, then back to Los Angeles, and finally home. He was expecting to pay $150 for his little vacation, but Payless made him pay more‚ $1,400, to be precise. … When he went out of state, the unlimited mileage clause was invalidated. The fine print said that Payless would charge him $1 per Nevada mile, and that is exactly what the company did. They knew where he was, every minute he was on the road. …

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Chapter 3:


Ghosts in the Machine‚ Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents


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What You See Is Not What the Computer Knows … Representation, Reality, and Illusion … Hiding Information in Images … The Scary Secrets of Old Disks In October, 2005, UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis released to the media a report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria had been suspected of engineering the killing, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement. The report

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was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

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1984 Is Here, and We Like It … Footprints and Fingerprints … Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Away … Little Brother Is Watching … Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S. … Technology Change and Lifestyle Change … Beyond Privacy Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) have improved the marital lives of countless males too stubborn to ask directions. … But change the

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scenario just a bit and the same technology feels less wonderful. In 2004, Ron Lee rented a car from Payless in San Francisco. He headed east to Las Vegas, then back to Los Angeles, and finally home. He was expecting to pay $150 for his little vacation, but Payless made him pay more‚ $1,400, to be precise. … When he went out of state, the unlimited mileage clause was invalidated. The fine print said that Payless would charge him $1 per Nevada mile, and that is exactly what the company did. They knew where he was, every minute he was on the road. …

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Chapter 3:


Ghosts in the Machine‚ Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents


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What You See Is Not What the Computer Knows … Representation, Reality, and Illusion … Hiding Information in Images … The Scary Secrets of Old Disks In October, 2005, UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis released to the media a report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria had been suspected of engineering the killing, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement. The report

25

was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

26

1984 Is Here, and We Like It … Footprints and Fingerprints … Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Away … Little Brother Is Watching … Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S. … Technology Change and Lifestyle Change … Beyond Privacy Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) have improved the marital lives of countless males too stubborn to ask directions. … But change the

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scenario just a bit and the same technology feels less wonderful. In 2004, Ron Lee rented a car from Payless in San Francisco. He headed east to Las Vegas, then back to Los Angeles, and finally home. He was expecting to pay $150 for his little vacation, but Payless made him pay more‚ $1,400, to be precise. … When he went out of state, the unlimited mileage clause was invalidated. The fine print said that Payless would charge him $1 per Nevada mile, and that is exactly what the company did. They knew where he was, every minute he was on the road. …

28

Chapter 3:


Ghosts in the Machine‚ Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents


29

What You See Is Not What the Computer Knows … Representation, Reality, and Illusion … Hiding Information in Images … The Scary Secrets of Old Disks In October, 2005, UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis released to the media a report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria had been suspected of engineering the killing, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement. The report

30

was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

31

1984 Is Here, and We Like It … Footprints and Fingerprints … Why We Lost Our Privacy, or Gave It Away … Little Brother Is Watching … Big Brother, Abroad and in the U.S. … Technology Change and Lifestyle Change … Beyond Privacy Global Positioning Systems (GPSs) have improved the marital lives of countless males too stubborn to ask directions. … But change the

32

scenario just a bit and the same technology feels less wonderful. In 2004, Ron Lee rented a car from Payless in San Francisco. He headed east to Las Vegas, then back to Los Angeles, and finally home. He was expecting to pay $150 for his little vacation, but Payless made him pay more‚ $1,400, to be precise. … When he went out of state, the unlimited mileage clause was invalidated. The fine print said that Payless would charge him $1 per Nevada mile, and that is exactly what the company did. They knew where he was, every minute he was on the road. …

33

Chapter 3:


Ghosts in the Machine‚ Secrets and Surprises of Electronic Documents


34

What You See Is Not What the Computer Knows … Representation, Reality, and Illusion … Hiding Information in Images … The Scary Secrets of Old Disks In October, 2005, UN prosecutor Detlev Mehlis released to the media a report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria had been suspected of engineering the killing, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied any involvement. The report

35

was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

36

A few years ago, two MIT researchers bought 158 used disk drives, mostly from eBay, and recovered what data they could. Most of those who put the disks up for sale had made some effort to scrub the data. They had dragged files into the desktop trash can. Some had gone so far as to use the Microsoft Windows FORMAT command, which warns that it will destroy all data on the disk. Yet only 12 of the 158 disk drives had truly been sanitized. Using several methods well within the

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technical capabilities of today‚ teenagers, the researchers were able to recover … credit card numbers … bank account numbers and account balances …love letters, pornography, complaints about a child‚ cancer therapy, and grievances about pay disputes, for example. Many of the disks contained enough data to identify the primary user of the computer, so that the sensitive information could be tied back to an individual

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was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

39

A few years ago, two MIT researchers bought 158 used disk drives, mostly from eBay, and recovered what data they could. Most of those who put the disks up for sale had made some effort to scrub the data. They had dragged files into the desktop trash can. Some had gone so far as to use the Microsoft Windows FORMAT command, which warns that it will destroy all data on the disk. Yet only 12 of the 158 disk drives had truly been sanitized. Using several methods well within the

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technical capabilities of today‚ teenagers, the researchers were able to recover … credit card numbers … bank account numbers and account balances …love letters, pornography, complaints about a child‚ cancer therapy, and grievances about pay disputes, for example. Many of the disks contained enough data to identify the primary user of the computer, so that the sensitive information could be tied back to an individual

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was not final, Mehlis said, but there was evidence of both Lebanese and Syrian involvement. Deleted, and yet uncovered by the reporters who were given the document, was an incendiary claim: that Assad‚ brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, was personally involved in the assassination. … The UN prosecutor neglected to remove the change history from his Microsoft Word document, and a reporter discovered the deleted text ….

42

A few years ago, two MIT researchers bought 158 used disk drives, mostly from eBay, and recovered what data they could. Most of those who put the disks up for sale had made some effort to scrub the data. They had dragged files into the desktop trash can. Some had gone so far as to use the Microsoft Windows FORMAT command, which warns that it will destroy all data on the disk. Yet only 12 of the 158 disk drives had truly been sanitized. Using several methods well within the

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technical capabilities of today‚ teenagers, the researchers were able to recover … credit card numbers … bank account numbers and account balances …love letters, pornography, complaints about a child‚ cancer therapy, and grievances about pay disputes, for example. Many of the disks contained enough data to identify the primary user of the computer, so that the sensitive information could be tied back to an individual

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blown to bits


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