2015-01-08 Clean Email Day

When I learned about Email, I started using Emacs and soon switched from Elm to Gnus. When Spam started to be a heavy burden, I switched to Gmail. I didn’t want to run a spam filter. I didn’t want to run a mail server. I wanted to read my mail both at home and in the office.

With the NSA snooping scandals made public by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers (thank you!) I decided I was going to invest some time and energy into running my own mail server. I set up a Raspberry Pi with Dovecot and used Fetchmail to get my and mail, and to collect mail from all the other hosts I am running. I still didn’t want to run a spam filter. It’s taking me a lot of time. Maintaining the server. All the things I had to learn. All the spam I have to delete. I hate it.

So. I decided to give Gmail another try. I went to my Google Account page and used their Google Takeout page to download my stuff. I had about 2.2GB of mails to download the next day. I downloaded this archive and then I trashed it all on the server. Then I went to the trash and deleted it again. And I deleted all my contacts and all my contact groups.

A fresh start! ☭

I can still occasionally download and delete all my mails. I feel better about this because snooping agents won’t be able to look at every single thing I ever did. Or maybe they still can, if they keep a copy of the entire Internet traffic in Utah, but this at least I cannot change as long as I keep using unencrypted mail. And even if I do, Social network analysis will still work. For those occasions where I feel like annoying the agents, I can still send encrypted mail via Gmail using my Gnus setup.


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2013-12-01 Anonymizing the Oddmuse log files

I’ve just implemented a new non-optional Oddmuse feature. I’m removing all hostnames and IP numbers of older log entries. The log entries older than 90 days are stored in a different log file in order to speed up the generation of RecentChanges. During maintenance, these log entries are copied from one file to the other and I’m now taking advantage of this copying to remove the hostname or IP number.

Basically I find that as a person, I dislike invasions of privacy and I feel that in some small form, software engineers are inviting it because often it’s easier to do. We often model things to never forget, e.g. version control.

One of the important pages on Meatball was ForgiveAndForget. Forgetting is human.

At the same time, with Snowden and the NSA, I feel that as a hoster I’m more comfortable if I cannot provide the logs an agency is looking for.

Furthermore, I’ve had a very small number of emails from users asking me to remove their hostnames from the log files because they had accidentally edited the wiki from work. Pages containing their hostname will eventually be deleted but log entries were not. Now they’re anonymized and people can feel safer knowing that the traces will eventually disappear again.

The idea is that you would only need hostnames or IP numbers to fight spam and vandalism: Add regular expressions matching either hostname or IP number of spammers or vandals to your list of banned hosts and prevent the attack from continuing. After a few days, however, this information is no longer required. In this day and age of privacy invasion, I think software should take a pro-active stance. The log entries must be anonymized.

The existing log file for the older entries is not changed. If you want to do the right thing, there’s a script called in the contrib directory to do just that.

Just call it in your data directory. Example:

alex@psithyrus:~/oddmuse$ perl ~/src/oddmuse/contrib/ 
Wrote anonymized 'oldrc.log'.
Saved a backup as 'oldrc.log~'

See Oddmuse:Upgrading Issues for a more technical explanation of what’s going on.


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2012-05-07 iPhoto and Facebook Privacy Disaster

I created a new album on Facebook and picked a particular list of people to share this album with. I used iPhoto to share pictures on Facebook using this album. After some clicking back and forth I noticed that my album was no longer restricted the list of people I had picked! The album had been reset to the default visibility settings for albums.

What a major fuck-up! danger attention sucks evil

I have resolved to delete all the Facebook albums with non-standard permissions.


Comments on 2012-05-07 iPhoto and Facebook Privacy Disaster

das muesstest du speziell auf facebook publik machen! Die versuchen alles um an deine privat informationen zu kommen: und ich will nicht jedem auf facebook zugaenglich sein… also bitte von mir keine fotos auf facebook!

– mom 2012-05-08 20:56 UTC

Apart from the reprehensible FB behaviour, which is par for the course, after all, you are not the customer, you are the product being sold, how do you alter the letter spacing in “no longer” and “major fuck-up” ?

It’s a nice way of emphasis on the screen. It might not work so well in print. It showed up in the RSS feed too.

AlokSingh 2012-05-09 03:49 UTC

Ah, letter-spacing…

AlokSingh 2012-05-09 03:59 UTC

The emphasis style is called Sperrsatz and was used in German for fonts without italics. Some older fonts, like Garamond, didn’t have bold and italic variants if I remember correctly. Thus, some texts still use letter spacing for emphasis. To be honest, I’ve only seen it in reprints of philosophy books. Here’s an example from Nietzsche:

AlexSchroeder 2012-05-09 12:15 UTC

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2006-10-31 claimID for Big Brother

I wonder what claimID is all about. It seems to me that you can create an id on their site, and link to other resources of yours. What’s the point?

  1. You help other people find stuff by you, in a portfolio kind of way.
  2. If you use it as intended with a single identity however then basically you’re helping everybody else to track you.
  3. You’re making yourself more transparent. Unfortunately, the operation is not symmetric à la TransparentSociety: You’re not making anybody else transparent. Nobody watches the watchers.
  4. There’s no inverse operation: You cannot disclaim anything. (“No, this IRC log is not about me!”) It’s a one-way street. You can’t use it to hide parts of yourself. No cloaking.
  5. So when they say you should “reclaim some power back from the search engines” [1] what they are actually saying is “selectively helping them”.

I don’t like it.

The problem they are solving is not something that bothers me (link all my stuff to my name). They don’t solve the problem that does bother me (asymmetric & unvoluntary transparency).


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2006-10-08 Privacy Or Functionality

I’ve installed the Tor client on my laptop (it came bundled with Privoxy and a GUI), and a Firefox plugin to switch it on or off. Surfing with Tor is incredibly sluggish. I don’t think I can do this.

Am I a sell-out?


Comments on 2006-10-08 Privacy Or Functionality

“Am I a sell-out?”

Do you want an answer to that or is that a rhetorical question?

NoufalIbrahim 2006-10-09 07:01 UTC

Well, I guess I want to know what you think about it, and the most objective way of doing that would be checking how you handle privacy issues on the web:

  1. Do you surf via an anonymizer? I assume nobody does, but who knows. I guess I still don’t.
  2. Do you use Email services from one of the big corps? I know most of you do. I do.
  3. Do you store your pictures on one of the sites by the big corps? I know most of you do. I have tried them, but I’m still using my own site.
  4. Do you blog on one of the big corp sites? I know some of you do. I don’t.

Stuff like that. ;)

AlexSchroeder 2006-10-09 09:57 UTC

AlexSchroeder 2006-10-11 23:11 UTC

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2004-04-26 Privacy

Swiss privacy law [1] allows you to keep data on other people (such as using BBDB in Emacs) for your personal use as long as you don’t don’t communicate the data to a third person.


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