Today, I have sent the following letter to Chuck Schumer, senator from New York State and Senate Minority Leader urging him to take further strong action regarding the horrific abuse of human rights that is currently being perpetrated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Dear Mr. Schumer, First of all, please know that I am a U.S. citizen, formerly a resident of (and still a voter in) Brooklyn, NY. I am also a member of Democrats Abroad, where I have been active. Furthermore, I am an immigrant (currently living in another country than my country of birth) and a father of two. I am writing to you to express my outrage at what is currently happening on the U.S. border. As reported in the New York Times, 5-year-old children are being kept in cages due to a rule change put in place solely by the Trump administration and implemented by an increasingly fascistic ICE agency. There can be no other description for what is going on here than ethnic cleansing and I cannot help but see it as part of a general slide into authoritarianism based on a racist ideology that brands some people as “animals” due to their ethnicity or country of origin. What is happening here seems like it must be against the law on child cruelty grounds alone. However, so far you and your office have remained mostly silent on this issue. Why? What are you waiting for? I call on you to vociferously support the efforts of your senate colleagues to pass …

An Open Letter to Chuck Schumer Read more »

So the UK government seems to have launched a new public awareness campaign dubbed #cyberstreetwise  (evidenced by posters in the Tube I spotted this weekend). The campaign’s web site is : https://www.cyberstreetwise.com. Bonus points for a https URL. Negative points for choosing a “.com” domain instead of a more appropriate “.co.uk” or even “.uk” domain. So first of all, I was confused initially about who was supporting it. The logos at the bottom left panel include HM Government but also the more recognizable Facebook and Twitter logos (without explanation) which seems (to me) to mean “this is being sponsored by the government, Twitter and Facebook” or possibly “this is a government initiative with sponsorship provided by Twitter and Facebook.” In fact, reading the web site, it appears that neither Twitter nor Facebook have any formal role, so the presence of their logos is somewhat mystifying. I Suppose they just mean “we are on Twitter and Facebook” but honestly, these days who isn’t? [Side note: what is up with random Facebook and Twitter logos on things?  See my Twitter update on this topic that seemed to “go viral” earlier today.] But putting this to the side for a second, I really don’t know what to make of this campaign. On the one hand, it’s exactly the kind of public awareness campaign thatI feel is needed. People need to start getting more aware of the the web basics, especially around privacy, e-safety, scams. use of strong passwords, installation of updates and use of security software. So yes. Great. But the …

Mixed Feelings About the UK Government #Cyberstreetwise Campaign Read more »

I was greatly moved  yesterday after listening to the This American Life episode on conditions at Foxconn, the plant in China than makes (among other things) iPhones, iPads, and most other Apple products. I just made a post on Facebook relating to this and a related Forbes article and I encourage you to chime in there or here. Is this just “business as usual,” or is there something wrong happening here that needs to be fixed?

On U.S. election day last year, November 4th, I co-organized with Katrin Verclas of MobileActive a Barcamp style event we called “Mobile Tech 4 Social Change” focusing on the increasing role mobile technology is having in social activism, grass-roots organization, social development, and in the developing world. It’s possible we started a movement because MobileActive has gone on to run two more camps since then, in New York and Washington DC. Now Mobile Tech 4 Social Change is coming to London. I’ll be hosting this event on May 23rd in at Vodafone’s offices in London. For all the details and to register, go to MobileActive.org’s page on the event. If you’re interesting in helping to build a bridge between the mobile industry and the social activism / social development space then I encourage you to attend!

Here’s an interesting article on the unintended consequences of social networking. Basically, it is reported that the NSA is snooping social networking sites (with the juicy twist that it plans to do so using Semantic Web technology – more on that later). This seems to fit into the category of “examples of why it’s important to have some kind of user-controlled trust / privacy layer in the fabric of the Web.” Who should be able to see information you put online (including your links to others and the nature of these links) and who shouldn’t? P3P addressed some of these issues but it was never widely adopted. Liberty Alliance has built some interesting technology standards around federated identity, but they are not user-centric, they are provider-centric and they do not really cover privacy. An interesting effort called Dix seems to blend the two approaches, but after a quick read of some of their use cases, it doesn’t seem that they cover “prevent the government from snooping my network.” Or is laying ourselves open to government surveillance the price we pay for living more of our lives in the digital realm? Discuss! By the way, on the whole Semantic Web issue, I think the link they are drawing in this article is tenuous at best, but it is true that the Semantic Web architecture is likewise lacking a coherent identity and trust mechanism.

…that in October of last year I said that George Bush was putting my family at greater risk with this ill-conceived Iraq war. Last week’s bombing in London bears out those concerns. Instead of “making the world safer,” Bush has made the world even more dangerous by stoking the fires of extremism, through the Iraq war, prisoner abuse, etc… etc… But still he goes on with his “war on terror” message (he’s consistent, I’ll give him that). Unbelievable.

So every American should read this OSCE news releases. International observers (from the OSCE — Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) were monitoring our elections (invited by the U.S. State Department). This is a really good thing, because it helps to ensure transparency and fairness in the electoral process and it also sends a good message to the rest of the world. The news is actually pretty good, but the issues raised in their more detailed report are important ones to consider — especially allowing for greater access for international observers.

So if W wins the day, which looks inevitable at this point, what then? My worry is that the coalition of organizations that have come together in opposition of Bush in this last year have essentially “shot their wad.” What we will need is further organized resistance to Bush and his policies. I have been voting with my dollars and giving to Amnesty International since this summer and just now I became a member of the ACLU as well. Amnesty works around the world to oppose torture and human rights abuses and the ACLU works fights in the U.S. to preserve rights and liberties. Supporting the ACLU is especially important right now as they have recently withdrawn from a federal grant program because they refused to screen their current employees against a terrorist “watch list.” The strategy must be to marginalize and immobilize Bush and his cronies wherever possible – to oppose them at every turn. Otherwise, I worry very much that the America of four years hence will be quite unrecognizable. Looks like we’re in for a “long, hard slog.”