Remembering Aaron Swartz and never forgetting his legacy

Aaron_SwartzLet’s keep Aaron Swartz’s memory alive. Why he died should never be forgotten.

This article was originally published at written by Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm on the 14th May 2013

Disappointing Unsealing Decision in Aaron Swartz Case

The public lost another battle in the U.S. v. Aaron Swartz case, this one over transparency. On May 13, 2013, the U.S. District Court judge handling the prosecution sided with the government, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and JSTOR and refused to make public any information in the case that any of these three entities wished to keep under seal. The ruling effectively grants the Department of Justice, MIT and JSTOR a veto over what the public gets to know about the investigation.

The decision stems from the government’s controversial prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the brilliant activist and Internet pioneer, who died in January. The government brought a myriad of charges against Swartz, most notably under the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). After his tragic death, there were widespread calls for an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct and reform of the CFAA, and in response, Swartz’s lawyers had asked the court to unseal the vast majority of evidence in the case since all charges have been dismissed for months.

The specific information at issue is identifying information for JSTOR, MIT and certain law enforcement personnel, along with any information “identifying and sentitive network information.” As Swartz’s attorneys have noted, the proposed redactions includes job titles and other information needed to understand who was talking to whom in the voluminous email traffic, and it’s impossible to follow what happened in the course of the prosecution without it. This information is vital in understanding how involved MIT was in the prosecution and at what level in the institution, when and how JSTOR was involved and whether the Justice Department’s repeated public assertions that everything in the prosecution proceeded normally were accurate.

The Court gave short shrift to the great public interest here, dismissing it as significantly less important than the vague and largely unspecified “incidents of harassment and retaliation” claimed by the government, MIT and JSTOR. The judge used these alleged incidents as justification for removing nearly all identifying information of those involved—regardless of how likely they were to be actual targets for retaliation. It is difficult to believe that this case posed a bigger threat of retaliation than other federal cases involving violent offenses or organized crime, such that broad witness secrecy is required even after the case has ended.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that in a prosecution say, for a burglary, the victim would be able to prevent public access to any facts about how the incident occurred (was a crowbar used? a fake key?). Yet, here the court allowed MIT and JSTOR to prevent any information from being released about the broad term “sensitive network information.”

The big losers in this case are the countless number of Americans of who have raised legitimate and serious concerns about the prosecution of Aaron Swartz and who have urged Congress to reform the CFAA.  With the facts and identities locked away, and only selectively revealed to Congress by the three entities most interested in defending the prosecution, how can those of us pushing for reform lawmakers determine what changes are needed? How can we respond to the government’s repeated claims that nothing went awry here?  The result of this decision excuses accountability by denying the public access to the facts it needs to engage in the democratic process and fix the law.

The Court did note that if Congress wishes to know more, it can ask JSTOR, MIT or the government “on a case by case basis.” We hope that members of Congress, who just received a secret briefing from the DOJ, will take the court up on this offer and, to the extent they are thwarted, go back to the court for further relief.

Google Glass – why it’s our new future

google glass

“In case of Revolution Wear Glass” It’s safe to say that Google have a very direct marketing agenda  when you read this strapline. Yet, I have to admit to you that I have been astounded by my own remarkable interest in the new arrival of the technological wizardry known as Google glass. Before you read on please accept that I have no profitable interest or agreement with Google.  I personally despise what Google have become as they have long used their power to snoop on individuals and release private information to Corporate spies. So I am by no means a fan of what they stand for.  But my interest in Google glass is not in relation to Google in particular because although Google are trying to be the pioneers in this new ‘glass-tech gadgetry’ it doesn’t mean they will be the leaders of the pack once this technology takes off in a big way in a few years time.

As we move beyond the 2012 marker and into a new beginning the world of secrets and secrecy is breaking down.  Whether we believe in the Mayan calendrical date of 21 December 2012 or not we can all agree that our  world is rapidly shifting and changing in ways unimaginable to our psyche of even five years ago.  Power structures that once had a great hold on the collective consciousness are in fear of being exposed and discovered.  The average person nowadays has heard of the term ‘the illuminati’, and although they may not have any idea about what this term actually means they have by association been exposed to salacious ideas of a world being run by a powerful elite.  Of course for those of us who have long known about these things it is refreshing to see others waking up to this new world that has always been in front of our eyes, but for many reasons has not been easily knowable.

Whether we want to believe it or not the world of ‘No more secrets’ is before us. Yes, it is true that we are currently living in a police state and that there is a race on for your mind and soul. The elite have been running the show for a long time and have, in current years,  revved up their dominance and desire to control our every move we make now more than ever. This is where Google glass becomes interesting.  For the greedy elite they are hoping the innovation of this technology will be used by people to tune out and become mind controlled robots.  I’m sure a certain section of the public will do just this in the early years, but I see Google glass becoming a way of life in the future and the initial plans to use this technological innovation in a negative way will back-fire.

In these current years of austerity the elite are in a great position of power to rob us of our savings, pensions, salaries and homes.  We can pinpoint astrologically that these grievous times, we are living in, are the symptomatic result of Pluto in Capricorn.  Capricorn rules structures, finance, economies and governance and with Pluto in Capricorn, this energy is expressed as austere, strict and controlling, hence we get the term the years of ‘austerity.’ The energy of Pluto loves to shake things up. It demands ruthless change, and will reveal the dark and dirty aspects of our world whether we like it or not.  Since Pluto’s arrival in the sign of Capricorn  in 2008 we have seen scandal after scandal. The financial system and structures that rule our world have been eroding and fighting for their survival.  In the UK we have grappled with the misuse of public money by way of dodgy expenses used by our elected officials.  We have heard the dark and twisted reality of phone tapping by News of the World, to get a ‘story’ at any expense. News of the World is of course owned by Rupert Murdoch, a powerful man who in the past has never had to answer to the public for his deeds, but we saw, if only briefly, his private and corrupt world being questioned and probed.  And of course let us not forget the Jimmy Savile scandal and the issue of a large and well-connected pedophile ring that has brought well-known British celebrities front and centre as we learn about their sexual exploits with underage children.  There has been no short supply of intrigue over the last six years since Pluto’s entry into Capricorn and as we wade through these tough years through to 2024 we will see a lot more.

In 2024 Pluto will move out of Capricorn and into Aquarius.  The austerity years will become a beacon of the past and new themes of revolution and defiance, consciousness for the greater good, amazing technological leaps and becoming unified for a common purpose will move to the forefront.  After being battered and bruised during the years of austerity and witnessing the collapse of first world economies, we will finally be ready for real change leaving the old world truly in the past. This is why I see great things for Google glass style objects in the coming future and I don’t believe people will tune out and become mindless robots if they choose to use them. Yes, the technology will be used to spy on us, there is no doubt about that. But we are now in the early years of the Age of Aquarius, and our online culture of sharing every detail of our personal lives with each other via Facebook, Twitter and other social media in general is only the beginning of the ‘No more secrets culture’, that is coming.

The establishment is not responsible for the discovery of social media technology, although with their help these big-wigs have financed and helped to spread the seeds.  The brilliant ideas of social media have come from those born in the 80s and early 90s who are the Adam Swartz’s of our world. I have no doubt that there are more of these personalities to come in the future and they will revolutionise the way we communicate and share information. For their vision of the future is for all information about everything to be readily available at the touch of a fingertip. Those born in the 80s and beyond strongly believe information should be free and accessible to everyone everywhere whilst truly enjoying living their lives online and connected. These concepts can be a bit scary for those of us born in the 70s and earlier, for the world we were born into was all about keeping secrets and playing a power game of dominance and control. All one has to do is look at the years of the Cold War to understand this point further.  Yet, I do believe that just as everybody is now walking around with a tablet and mobile phone, we will all, in about 10 years time, if not sooner, be styling Google type glasses or contact lenses. It doesn’t mean that you have to cop-out and tune out and live in a fairy tale world of virtual reality which I’m sure will become a feature of this technology. Conversely, the internet is a great tool for sharing ideas, creativity and thoughts.   Hopefully in about ten years, when this technology has fully taken flight a reputable company with vision for the future that has our best privacy interests at heart will become the market leaders. Nevertheless, google glass technology is here to stay.

Uses for Google glass

-take pictures and video at voice command

-24 hour connection to the internet

-24 access to email

-translating services

-navigation guide

-stereo sound using your brain

-question and answer service on demand

-watch media on a large  screen from your point of view through the glasses

Possible uses in the future

-Virtual reality gaming

-Virtual reality neighbourhoods where you can hang out with others

-use as a phone including video