Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I've just joined the Open Source Initiative (OSI) board.

Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a non-profit corporation dedicated to managing and promoting the Open Source Definition for the good of the community, specifically through the OSI Certified Open Source Software certification mark and program. You can read about successful software products that have these properties, and about our certification mark and program, which allow you to be confident that software really is "Open Source." We also make copies of approved open source licenses here.

The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.

We in the open source community have learned that this rapid evolutionary process produces better software than the traditional closed model, in which only a very few programmers can see the source and everybody else must blindly use an opaque block of bits.

Open Source Initiative exists to make this case to the commercial world.

Open source software is an idea whose time has finally come. For twenty years it has been building momentum in the technical cultures that built the Internet and the World Wide Web. Now it's breaking out into the commercial world, and that's changing all the rules. Are you ready?

It's an important time for Open Source with many governments and large organizations switching or seriously considering switching to Open Source. The people at OSI are dedicated to making Open Source successful more broadly and I'm honored and excited to be working with them for this important cause.

Donna Wentworth @ EFF: Deep Links
It's Official: TSA Lied

Two government reports confirm what EFF and other privacy advocacy organizations have long known: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lied about its role in using airline passengers as guinea pigs for testing "Secure Flight" - the latest version of a fundamentally flawed passenger-profiling system for screening terrorists. And not only did TSA lie, it lied repeatedly, to everyone.

A DHS report [PDF], released this past Friday, reveals that TSA misled individuals, the press, and Congress in 2003 and 2004. A GAO report [PDF], released Monday, also shows that Secure Flight has failed to meet 9 out 10 conditions the GAO set for giving the program the go-ahead. These conditions include providing adequate protection for passengers' privacy and ensuring the accuracy of the data it would use to classify people as terrorist risks.

Passenger records contain detailed personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, travel itinerary -- even your credit card number. Yet the DHS report says TSA shared passenger information with outside contractors while neglecting to "inquire whether the data used by the vendors had been returned or destroyed."

"This is worse than ChoicePoint," says EFF Senior Privacy Attorney Lee Tien. "It reflects an attitude toward the privacy of Americans that falls well below what people are up in arms about in the commercial data industry. These people have a public trust and they're abusing it."

For additional information, see Bruce Schneier's GAO's Report on Secure Flight; for background, see TSA and CAPPS II -- Anatomy of a Cover Up.

As Donna says, this just confirms things that we all sort of figured were going on, but this is quite an official acknowledgment. I wonder if there will be any followup action on the part of the US government.

The US doesn't have a monopoly on this stuff of course. I've been fighting very hard for privacy in Japan. What we ended up with was a privacy bill that allows the government to strictly enforce privacy rules for businesses, but leaves the government quite free and exempt from similar oversight, focusing more on the "ethics of civil servants." Of course there is also a carve out for "the media" so they don't scream about it too much. Unfortunately, in the case of the Japanese privacy bill, "the media" includes only TV and newspapers and not magazines and of course not bloggers. Although I agree that privacy violations by businesses is a problem and a threat, I'm still much more concerned about abuse by governments, particularly when there isn't a good oversight process. The US is lucky it has the GAO.


Rape, Torture, and Lies An ongoing Canadian saga has a sad new twist today: photojournalist Ziba Zahra Kazemi was likely brutally tortured and raped before her death in Iran in 2003. Arrested after a demonstration, the official Iranian line has been that her death was an accident due to injuries from a fall. The ER doctor who treated her has now spoken out, after being granted refugee status in Canada. Wikipedia has an excellent outline of the entire story.

Hoder ponders what he should do to prevent similar treatment when he returns to Iran. What sort of pressure can help prevent governments from doing such terrible things? Can we help protect Hoder? Hoder says that credentials from a Canadian magazine would help. Can someone help him out?

Jim Downing @ Smart Mobs
like a monkey driving a car

This article in Businessweek says that "the study of neuroeconomics may topple the notion of rational decision-making. According to the new science of neuroeconomics, the explanation might lie inside the brains of the negotiators. Not in the prefrontal cortex, where people rationally weigh pros and cons, but deep inside, where powerful emotions arise. Brain scans show that when people feel they're being treated unfairly, a small area called the anterior insula lights up, engendering the same disgust that people get from, say, smelling a skunk. That overwhelms the deliberations of the prefrontal cortex. With primitive brain functions so powerful, it's no wonder that economic transactions often go awry. "In some ways, modern economic life for humans is like a monkey driving a car," says Colin F. Camerer, an economist at California Institute of Technology".

Why Logic Often Takes A Backseat

I generally don't like the idea of trying to turn everything into economics. It often reminds me of trying to make music with math. This idea that we act irrationally is obvious to most people and if neurologists can help explain it to the economists, good. But I don't think it's just our economy that's being run by monkeys.

Long trip ahead. I'm off to Mar del Plata, Argentina today for the ICANN meeting. It's a long trip involving flying from Tokyo to Chicago San Francisco, Washington DC, Buenos Aries, then meeting some people there and taking a car for 400 km or so...

UPDATE: I picked the fastish looking line coming through immigration out of Tokyo. The extremely efficient agent looked familiar and I confirmed from her stamp that she was agent 1128 that I had when I was departing in January as well. Kudos agent 1128.