All posts by brian

Understanding Email Security and Privacy

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has a good summary of the laws governing email privacy protections in the context of the scandal that led to the resignation of General David Petraeus, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. At the heart of the protections afforded to email is the The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) from 1986. The EFF article explains how ECPA applies in this case, but is seriously outdated and doesn’t seem to offer much protection at all. Emails over 180 days considered “abandoned”? Read versus unread emails handled differently?. The EFF concluded:

Sound confusing? It is. ECPA is hopelessly out of date, and fails to provide the protections we need in a modern era. Your email privacy should be simple: it should receive the same protection the Fourth Amendment provides for your home.

This is clearly a high-profile case, so there may be some hope for the government clarifying these laws to catch up with today’s reliance on electronic communication. The EFF is part of a new campaign calling for reform: Vanishing Rights – Tell Congress Don’t Let Our Right To Privacy Expire. I think it’s a worthwhile effort, but I’m not optimistic for any privacy improvements soon. I don’t see the government voluntarily increasing privacy, especially in this case which could be considered a “success”.

To learn more about protecting your data and communications, I highly recommend reading the EFF guide to Surveillance Self-Defense. Many people may assume they have nothing to worry about because they aren’t expecting to be investigated by the government, but the guide points out a lot of data that’s available to private parties as well through subpoenas. You may think twice about keeping all your email with Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, etc.

Or, you could really go old-school like Janet Napolitano (U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security) and don’t use email at all.

NASCAR Race – Phoenix 2004

Eight years ago this week my wife and I spent the weekend in Phoenix Arizona for the NASCAR race. We had a great connection through my uncle and were able to get Sprint Cup garage passes. (We also had Nationwide garage passes through Yahoo, but our driver didn’t even qualify for the race…)

Here’s one of my favorite pictures from the weekend – Dale Earnhardt, Jr in the Budweiser Chevrolet #8 – the race winner.

Dale Earnhardt Jr

Dale Earnhardt Jr Budweiser #8 – Phoenix Arizona – November 2004

See my whole photo set on Flickr: NASCAR Phoenix 2004

Smart Voter Mobile Website

With the US Elections coming in a couple weeks, I’ve started to take a closer look at mobile options for learning about the candidates and issues, and for watching the results.

First up, the League of Women Voters site: Smart Voter, tagline: Unbiased Election Information. This site looks very complete, including lots of pre-election information:

  • Your ballot – based on your address and/or zip code
  • Your polling location
  • National, state, and local races
  • State and local measures, including objective descriptions and arguments for and against

I can’t tell yet whether they will also post election results.

Smart Voter Mobile Site

Smart Voter Mobile Site –

London Summer Olympics Mobile Web Sites

With the 2012 Summer Olympics about to get underway, I wanted to get ready with the best mobile websites to follow along with all the action. So far these are the best I’ve found, brought to you by the BBC, ESPN, the official London 2012 site, and NBC. The content is just starting to roll in, so we’ll soon see which of these have the best coverage.

I’ve also added these to the Sports section of my Mobile Websites list – check out if you haven’t already!

ESPN Olympics Mobile Site

ESPN 2012 Olympics –

London 2012 Official Olympics Mobile Site

London 2012 Olympics –

NBC Olympics Mobile Site

NBC Olympics –

Android Screenshots and Screen Capture

In addition to Android Screencast (which I just demonstrated with my broken HTC Evo), I’ve had good success with another Java desktop application called Android Screenshot and Screen Capture. Both products are very similar, and have similar issues such as the slow refresh rate. But, Android Screenshot and Screen Capture has a higher resolution, and looks much better when the desktop window is expanded – like you might do in an online meeting.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Android Screencast Comparison

Android Screenshot and Screen Capture (left) has a higher resolution than Android Screencast (right)

And here’s a screenshot of the software in an online meeting:

Android Screencast in Online Meeting

Android Screenshot and Screen Capture works well in online meetings for Android software demonstrations