by Jillian York and Trevor Timm
In a recent Washington Times editorial titled “Internet trolls, Anonymity and the First Amendment,” Gayle Falkenthal declared that “the time has come to limit the ability of people to remain anonymous” online. She argued that any benefit to online pseudonyms has long since dissipated and anonymous commenters have polluted the Internet “with false accusations and name-calling attacks.” Newspapers, she wrote, should ban them entirely.
This argument is not only inaccurate, it's also dangerous: online anonymity, while allowing trolls to act with impunity, also protects a range of people, from Syrian dissidents to small-town LGBT activists and plenty of others in between.
Unfortunately, many newspapers have already banned anonymous comments, and while not all have offered an explicit reasoning for their policies, "civility" is often cited as justification in discussions on online anonymity.
Of course, online civil discourse is something to strive for. Anyone who’s spent time reading YouTube comment threads is aware of the vitriolic bile spewing from the keyboards of largely anonymous masses. And it is a truism that when people speak using their true identity, they are more likely to think about the consequences of their speech.
But while identification brings about a greater sense of safety for some, for others, it presents a great risk. Think, for example, of victims of domestic abuse, whose online safety is predicated on not revealing their identity or location. Or the small-town schoolteacher who fears revealing her political views to her local community but seeks solidarity online. Or the gay teenager who wants to explore communities online but isn’t quite ready to come out. Or the myriad other examples compiled by the Geek Feminism blog.
Contrary to Ms. Falkenthal’s assertion that “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, but not anonymity,” the Supreme Court has made these same arguments about safety and anonymity for decades. In 1960, the Court explicitly upheld a speaker’s right to remain anonymous,
In Talley v. California, Justice Black wrote “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures, and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all.”
And in 1995, the Court upheld online speakers’ First Amendment right to remain anonymous, emphasizing, “protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse.” The court went on to say anonymous speech “exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation…at the hand of an intolerant society.”
These principles are, of course, nothing new and date back to our country’s birth. Yet Ms. Falkenthal says, “When our nation was being formed, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin stood behind their incendiary, treasonous views in public even at the risk of being hanged for what they said,” implying that the Founding Fathers would be against online anonymity if they were alive today.
However, Ms. Falkenthal herself later admits that Paine actually wrote his most influential work Common Sense anonymously, just as Franklin got his start writing under a name that was not his own, the pseudonym “Mrs. Silence Dogwood.”
But no example illustrates the importance of anonymity more than The Federalist Papers. The series of essays, published in the nation’s most popular newspapers in 1778 under the pseudonym “Publius,” were instrumental in the ratification of the Constitution. Yet it was not until after Alexander Hamilton’s death in 1804 that the public discovered the essays had been written by Hamilton, along with James Madison and John Jay.
Lest readers believe that the age of the pseudonym is dead, more recently, the right to anonymity was vital for protesters in the Arab Spring: Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was detained for more than a week in the height of Egypt’s uprising, had anonymously created the Facebook page “We are all Khaled Saeed,” widely credited as the driving force behind the successful revolution.
Bloggers in Syria are now faced with the same risks as Ghonim amidst a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
The complex questions currently faced by newspapers have been addressed before. One event in the earlier, pre-social media days of blogging brought to the forefront a discussion around online civil discourse. Back in 1997, following anonymous death threats made to prominent blogger and game developer Kathy Sierra, publishing magnate Tim O’Reilly proposed a Blogger’s Code of Conduct to improve discourse in the blogosphere. Though the code would have prohibited anonymity, requiring users to sign up with an e-mail address, it allowed one to display publicly a handle or username in lieu of a "real" name.
Sierra recently weighed in on the debate, stating “I am for preserving pseudonymity, and believe that eliminating it will never stop the worst of the trolls, griefers, haters, and stalkers. There are far better ways to help reduce the worst of anonymity-fueled behavior online including plain old moderation.”
Indeed, comment moderation is a simple and low-resource method by which newspapers can ensure comments remain civil. Most newspapers with large online readership, from the New York Times, to the UK’s Guardian, implement comment moderation in some form.
There will always be those for whom a name is not a barrier toward acting abusively; for those with little to lose, there’s no reason to hide. Inversely, those who stand to lose a lot by identifying online are those who need pseudonyms the most, to speak their mind freely, without fear of retribution.
By Glenn Greenwald
In this Nov. 8, 2010 file image taken from video and released by SITE Intelligence Group on Monday, Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message posted on radical websites.
It was first reported in January of last year that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki. No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was "considering" indicting him). Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt. When Awlaki's father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were "state secrets" and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts. He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner. When Awlaki's inclusion on President Obama's hit list was confirmed, The New York Times noted that "it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing."
After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.). It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its. The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world. The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.
What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President's ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki -- including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry's execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists -- criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.
From an authoritarian perspective, that's the genius of America's political culture. It not only finds way to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process). It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.
* * * * *
In the column I wrote on Wednesday regarding Wall Street protests, I mistakenly linked to a post discussing a New York Times article by Colin Moynihan as an example of a "condescending" media report about the protest. There was nothing condescending or otherwise worthy of criticism in Moynihan's article; I meant to reference this NYT article by Ginia Bellafante. My apologies to Moynihan, who rightly objected by email, for the mistake.
UPDATE: What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process. Remember all that? Yet now, here's Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President -- even Barack Obama -- vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process.
Also, during the Bush years, civil libertarians who tried to convince conservatives to oppose that administration's radical excesses would often ask things like this: would you be comfortable having Hillary Clinton wield the power to spy on your calls or imprison you with no judicial reivew or oversight? So for you good progressives out there justifying this, I would ask this: how would the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process look to you in the hands of, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann?
By Jared Keller
Sep 29 2011, 12:36 PM ET 58 By harnessing the vast wealth of publicly available cloud-based data, researchers are taking facial recognition technology to unprecedented levels
"I never forget a face," goes the Marx Brothers one-liner, "but in your case, I'll be glad to make an exception."
Unlike Groucho Marx, unfortunately, the cloud never forgets. That's the logic behind a new application developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College and Google that's designed to take a photograph of a total stranger and, using the facial recognition software PittPatt, track down their real identity in a matter of minutes. Facial recognition isn't that new -- the rudimentary technology has been around since the late 1960s -- but this system is faster, more efficient, and more thorough than any other system ever used. Why? Because it's powered by the cloud.
The logic of the new application is based on a series of studies designed to test the integration between facial recognition technology and the wealth of data accessible in the cloud (by which we basically mean the Internet). Facial recognition's law enforcement uses -- to identify criminals out of a surveillance video tape, say -- have always been limited by the criminal databases available for reference. When Florida deployed Viisage facial recognition software in January 2001 to search for potential troublemakers and terrorists in attendance at Super Bowl XXXV, police in Tampa Bay were only able to extract useful information on 19 people with minor criminal records who already existed in any database they had access to. But the Internet was a much smaller place in 2001; Google was in its infancy, and the sheer volume of data available in a simple search simply didn't exist.
Often, the problems with facial recognition are rooted in the need for greater processing power, human and machine. After revelers rioted in the streets of Vancouver following the Canucks' defeat in the Stanley Cup, Vancouver police received nearly 1,600 hours of footage from bystanders furious with their fellow citizens; the department was woefully inequipped to handle the sudden influx of data, anticipating that it would take nearly two years to analyze all the information. Vancouver's Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab was able to cut the processing time to a mere three weeks with a relatively small 20-workstation lab.
With Carnegie Mellon's cloud-centric new mobile app, the process of matching a casual snapshot with a person's online identity takes less than a minute. Tools like PittPatt and other cloud-based facial recognition services rely on finding publicly available pictures of you online, whether it's a profile image for social networks like Facebook and Google Plus or from something more official from a company website or a college athletic portrait. In their most recent round of facial recognition studies, researchers at Carnegie Mellon were able to not only match unidentified profile photos from a dating website (where the vast majority of users operate pseudonymously) with positively identified Facebook photos, but also match pedestrians on a North American college campus with their online identities.
The repercussions of these studies go far beyond putting a name with a face; researchers Alessandro Acquisti, Ralph Gross, and Fred Stutzman anticipate that such technology represents a leap forward in the convergence of offline and online data and an advancement of the "augmented reality" of complementary lives. With the use of publicly available Web 2.0 data, the researchers can potentially go from a snapshot to a Social Security number in a matter of minutes:
We use the term augmented reality in a slightly extended sense, to refer to the merging of online and offline data that new technologies make possible. If an individual's face in the street can be identified using a face recognizer and identified images from social network sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, then it becomes possible not just to identify that individual, but also to infer additional, and more sensitive, information about her, once her name has been (probabilistically) inferred.
In our third experiment, as a proof-of-concept, we predicted the interests and Social Security numbers of some of the participants in the second experiment. We did so by combining face recognition with the algorithms we developed in 2009 to predict SSNs from public data. SSNs were nothing more than one example of what is possible to predict about a person: conceptually, the goal of Experiment 3 was to show that it is possible to start from an anonymous face in the street, and end up with very sensitive information about that person, in a process of data "accretion." In the context of our experiment, it is this blending of online and offline data - made possible by the convergence of face recognition, social networks, data mining, and cloud computing - that we refer to as augmented reality.
While private organizations may vie for a piece of PittPatt's proprietary technology for marketing or advertising purposes, the idea that such technology could be utilized by a tech savvy member of the public towards criminal, fraudulent, or extralegal ends is as alarming as the potential for governmental abuse. England saw this in the wake of the rioting, looting, and arson that swept across the country when a Google group of private citizens called London Riots Facial Recognition emerged with the aim of using publicly available records and facial recognition software to identify rioters as a form of digital vigilantism. The group eventually abandoned its efforts when its experimental app, based on the much maligned photo-tagging facial software Face.com, yielded disappointing results. "Bear in mind the amount of time and money that people like Facebook, Google, and governments have put into work on facial recognition compared to a few guys playing around with some code," the group's organizer told Kashmir Hill at Forbes. "Without serious time and money we would never be able to come up with a decent facial recognition system."
The research team at Carnegie Mellon understand the potential problems posed by this convergence of facial recognition technology and the vast Web of publicly available information. Alessandro Acquisti told Steve Hann at Marketwatch after a demonstration that the prospect of selling his new app or making it available to the public "horrifies him." And while there are certainly limits to what software like PittPatt can distill from the cloud, the closing gap between life offline and life in the cloud is becoming more observable with each progressive breakthrough:
So far, however, these end-user Web 2.0 applications are limited in scope: They are constrained by, and within, the boundaries of the service in which they are deployed. Our focus, however, was on examining whether the convergence of publicly available Web 2.0 data, cheap cloud computing, data mining, and off-the-shelf face recognition is bringing us closer to a world where anyone may run face recognition on anyone else, online and offline - and then infer additional, sensitive data about the target subject, starting merely from one anonymous piece of information about her: the face.
I'm reminded in particular of this quote from Google's then-CEO Eric Schmidt during a 2009 CNBC special report on the company:
I think judgment matters. If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines -- including Google -- do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.
People need to accept the fact that we are moving into a new era in which the majority of people no longer need to work in order to produce food, clothing, shelter and entertainment for everyone. Today more than 81% of the workforce works in what are called “service industries” while agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction, the industries that actually make stuff and build stuff, comprise less than 19% (source). And if trends continue, this might even decline further. And these industries actually produce more than we already need. Even poor Americans are fat because food is so cheap. People live in McMansions when they don’t really need that much space. People own multiple cars, which they use to drive to their mostly unnecessary jobs in the service industry.
What will happen when we are able to produce robots that can do even more jobs currently done by humans?
The prevailing wisdom is that people will move on to higher level work, like robot engineering and programming or creating art and literature. But that ignores the truth of HBD. Most people aren’t smart enough to do any of these things. And as far as robot engineering goes, I suspect that smart Chinese engineers will do this for a lot less money than smart Americans.
The standard libertarian response is “don’t worry, the free market will take care of everything,” but believing that the free market can take care of everything is almost like believing that God will take care of everything. Libertarians already vastly overestimate the efficiency as well as the actual freeness of the market, and we are moving into uncharted territories here.
I think that with the libertarian model, as the majority of humans become useless, we will, quite ironically, be afflicted with mass poverty even though we have moved into an era in which vast amounts of goods can be produced with hardly any labor. What incentive will there be to give the poor people even a fraction of this bounty if their labor contributions are worthless compared to more efficient robots?
This is a system that will never work in a democracy, because eventually the poor people will vote for someone who promises to fix the system and redistribute the wealth.
* * *
Commenter “Rob” recommends an online book by Dwight Murphey. I read the first chapter, and it’s pretty good. He explains that demand for work is diminishing in advanced economies because of cheap foreign labor, but se we are also on the verge of it diminishing because of automation, robotics, and other futuristic technologies. Here’s a sample:
As the demand for work diminishes, remuneration will spring more and more not mainly from “work,” but from “capital.” This will make it essential that, to live, people in general will need to be plugged into the vast flow of wealth that can be created by the technology. They will need to be plugged in especially if they are no longer able to sustain themselves through jobs. This second phase of reducing the need for work is already long underway, even though it is nevertheless accurate of think of it as still in its incipient stages.Even though I enjoy thinking and writing about this problem and possible solutions, I am pessimistic that world governments will be able identify the problem and then work out a solution. Government couldn’t even prevent the housing crisis, which should have been pretty obvious.
. . .
Although large international companies will reap enormous benefit from the new labor-saving technology, the displacement of many millions of people will create a crisis of legitimacy for the global market system – and for the entire classical liberal theory of a market-centered free society – unless a society becomes structured in a way that will allow everyone to share in the productivity of the economy.
We also need to examine what “capital” means today and in the future. I would define “capital” as being anything that enables you to make money in excess of one’s value-creating work. This is a much broader definition than defining capital as ownership of shares in public companies, I mistake I think that Dwight might be making (although I have to read more into the book). While theoretically, the profits of companies are supposed to go the shareholders, we have been seeing a transformation in which more of the profits go to stakeholders such as C-suite executives and financial industry bigwigs rather than the people who own stock in the company, and we should assume this trend will continue until it stops doing so. Insulating yourself from the coming changes to society is not as simple as saving your money and investing it in the stock market. The companies you invest in could go bankrupt while other stakeholders associated with the bankrupt company mysteriously walk away rich.
Once more into the breach goes the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, resubmitting its sweeping revision of Canadian digital copyright law for Parliament's consideration.
"Our Government received a strong mandate from Canadians to put in place measures to ensure Canada's digital economy remains strong," declared James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages as he introduced the announcement of law C-11—The Copyright Modernization Act. "This bill delivers a common-sense balance between the interests of consumers and the rights of the creative community."
News accounts say that C-11 is an exact duplicate of Bill C-32, which croaked when the 2010 Parliament dissolved without passing the bill. Now, as then, one of the biggest points of contention will be the provisions regarding "digital locks." These add up to a Canadian version of the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act, with its DRM anti-circumvention provisions that make a variety of fair dealing (or fair use) activities untenable.
But critics of that portion of the legislation, such as Canadian law professor Michael Geist, suggest that this time around, the government will get its way.
"After years of false starts, it is clear that this copyright bill will pass, likely before the end of the year" Geist writes. "While there is much to like in the bill, the unwillingness to stand up for Canadians on digital locks represents a huge failure. Moreover, it sends the message that when pressed, Canada will cave."
The pressure to give in comes in part from the White House, revealed by a WikiLeaks cable to have been quite actively lobbying Canada to get on the IP enforcement bandwagon for years. Around 2007, the Canadian Prime Minister's office went so far as to share with the US the mandate letters it sent to two key ministers on copyright, according to the dispatch.
Designed to hack
Here are some of the highlights of digital lockdown section of the proposed law. C-11 makes unlawful the "manufacture, sale and distribution of devices that are primarily designed to hack digital locks." No circumventing or bypassing technologies allowed, and no offering services that do this bypassing either, with civil and criminal penalties for offenders. Even if the resulting use of the material would be legal, digital locks trump user rights.
Digital locks can only be hacked under the following conditions:
- law enforcement and national security activities;
- reverse engineering for software compatibility;
- security testing of systems;
- encryption research;
- personal information protection;
- temporary recordings made by broadcast undertakings;
- access for persons with perceptual disabilities; and
- unlocking a wireless device.
As for flexibility in the digital lock provisions? The notice says that the government "will also retain the ability, through regulatory power, to provide new exceptions to the digital lock prohibition to ensure access where the public interest might be served or where anti-competitive behaviour arises." So presumably the issue will be thrown to various Ministries to consider, following C-11's passage.
Notice and notice
The proposed law also ups the pressure on ISPs regarding accusations of copyright infringement by subscribers:
Because ISPs are often the only parties that can identify and warn subscribers when they are being accused of infringing copyright, the new provisions will compel all ISPs to participate in the "notice and notice" regime. In other words, when an ISP receives notice from a copyright owner that one of its subscribers is allegedly hosting or sharing infringing material, the ISP will be required to forward the notice to the subscriber and to keep a record of such relevant information as the identity of the alleged infringer. ISPs that fail to retain such records or to forward notices would be liable for civil damages.
But there are also measures friendly to journalists, artists, librarians, and educators:
- Wider fair dealing exemptions: Parody and satire are added to the list.
- Half a century: The bill sets performer/production copyright protection for sound recordings at "50 years from the time of publication of a musical performance. "
- Internet mashups: They're ok as long as done for non-commercial purposes, the material was "legitimately acquired," and "the work they create is not a substitute for the original material, and does not have a substantial negative impact on the markets for the original material, or on the creator's reputation. "
- Online classrooms: Copyrighted material used in lessons conducted over the 'Net permitted for teachers and students. The summary offers examples: "This allows music students—both those in the classroom and those who are participating from a remote location—to perform a copyright-protected song together as part of a lesson. "
- Current events: Schools won't have to pay royalties to record a broadcast of a news or public affairs program for educational purposes. Big exception—this doesn't count for documentaries.
- Libraries: The law lets librarians digitize content and electronically send it to patrons via interlibrary loan. "The requesting client could either view the material on a computer or print one copy." Also, libraries, archives, and museums will be able to duplicate copyright material in an "alternative" format "if there is a concern that the original is in a format that is in danger of becoming obsolete. "
The time has come for software liability laws.
One score and seven years ago, Ken Thompson brought forth a new problem, conceived by thinking, and dedicated to the proposition that those who trusted computers were in deep trouble.
I am, of course, talking about Thompson's Turing Award lecture, "Reflections on Trusting Trust."2 Unless you remember this piece by heart, you might want to take a moment to read it if at all possible.
The one sentence in Thompson's lecture that really, REALLY matters is: "You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself."
This statement is not a matter of politics, opinion, taste, or in any other way a value judgment; it is a fundamental law of nature, which follows directly from pure mathematics in the general vicinity of the works of Turing and Gödel. If you doubt this, please (at your convenience) read Douglas Hofstadter's classic Gödel, Escher, Bach, and when you get to the part about "Mr. Crab's record player," substitute "Mr. Crab's laptop."
Gödel, Escher, BachHofstadter's book, originally published in 1979, does not in any way detract from Ken Thompson's fame, if, indeed, his lecture was inspired by it; 1979 was a long time ago, and it's possible that not every reader may know of—much less have read—this book. My editor proposed that I summarize or quote from it to make things clearer for such readers.
Considering that Gödel, Escher, and Bach are all known for their intricate multilayered works and that Hofstadter's book is a well-mixed stew not only of their works, but also of the works of Cantor, Church, Gantõr, Turing, and pretty much any other mathematician or philosopher you care to mention, I will not attempt a summary beyond: "It's a book about how we think."
The relevant aspect of the book here is Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which, broadly speaking, says that no finite mathematical system can resolve, definitively, the truth value of all possible mathematical conjectures expressible in that same mathematical system.
In the book this is illustrated with a fable about Mr. Crab's "perfect record player," which, because it can play any and all sounds, can also play sounds that make it resonate and self-destroy—a vulnerability exploited on the carefully constructed records of Mr. Crab's adversary, Mr. Tortoise.
Mr. Crab tries to protect against this attack by preanalyzing records and rearranging the record player to avoid any vulnerable resonance frequencies, but Mr. Tortoise just crafts the sounds on his records to the resonance frequencies of the part of the record player responsible for the rearrangement. This leaves Mr. Crab no alternative but to restrict his record playing to only his own, preapproved records, thereby severely limiting the utility of his record player.
Malware-scanning programs try to classify executable code into "safe" and "unsafe," instead of mathematical conjectures into "true" and "false," but the situation and result are the same: there invariably is a third pile called "cannot decide either way," and whatever ends up in that pile is either a security or a productivity risk for the computer user.
Amusingly, malware scanners almost unfailingly classify malware-scanner programs, including themselves, as malware, and therefore contain explicit exemptions to suppress these "false" positives. These exemptions are of course exploitable by malware—which means that the classification of malware scanners as malware was correct to begin with. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (Who will guard the guards themselves?)
Back to ThompsonIn 1984, the Thompson lecture evoked wry grins and minor sweating for Unix system administrators at universities, because those were the only places where computers were exposed to hostile users who were allowed to compile their own programs. Apart from sporadic and mostly humorous implementations, however, no apocalyptic horsemen materialized in the sky.
In recent years, there have been a number of documented instances where open source projects were broken into and their source code modified to add backdoors. As far as I am aware, none of these attacks so far has reached further than the lowest rung on Ken Thompson's attack ladder in the form of a hardcoded backdoor, clearly visible in the source code. Considering the value to criminals, however, it is only a matter of time before more advanced attacks, along the line Thompson laid out, will be attempted.
The security situation with commercial closed-source software is anyone's guess, but there is no reason to think—and no credible factual basis for a claim—that the situation is any different or any better than it is for open source projects.
The now-legendary Stuxnet malware incident has seriously raised the bar for just how sophisticated attacks can be. The idea that a widely deployed implementation of Java is compiled with a compromised compiler is perfectly reasonable. Outsourced software development does not make that scenario any less realistic, likely, or scary.
We Have to do SomethingWe have to do something that actually works, as opposed to accepting a security circus in the form of virus or malware scanners and other mathematically proven insufficient and inefficient efforts. We are approaching the point where people and organizations are falling back to pen and paper for keeping important secrets, because they no longer trust their computers to keep them safe.
What Can We Do?Ken Thompson's statement, "You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself"—points out a harsh and inescapable reality. Just as we don't expect people to build their own cars, mobile phones, or homes, we cannot expect secretaries to create their own text-processing programs nor accountants to create their own accounting systems and spreadsheet software. In strict mathematical terms, you cannot trust a house you did not totally create yourself, but in reality, most of us will trust a house built by a suitably skilled professional. Usually we trust it more than the one we might have built ourselves, and this even when we may have never met the builder and/or when the builder is dead. The reason for this trust is that shoddy construction has had negative consequences for builders for more than 3,700 years. "If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then the builder shall be put to death." (Hammurabi's Code, approx. 1700 BC)
Today the operant legal concept is "product liability," and the fundamental formula is "if you make money selling something, you'd better do it properly, or you will be held responsible for the trouble it causes." I want to point out, however, that there are implementations of product liability other than those in force in the U.S. For example, if you burn yourself on hot coffee in Denmark, you burn yourself on hot coffee. You do not become a millionaire or necessitate signs pointing out that the coffee is hot.
Some say the only two products not covered by product liability today are religion and software. For software that has to end; otherwise, we will never get a handle on the security madness unfolding before our eyes almost daily in increasingly dramatic headlines. The question is how to introduce product liability, because just imposing it would instantly shut down any and all software houses with just a hint of a risk management function on their organizational charts.
A Software Liability LawMy straw-man proposal for a software liability law has three clauses:
Clause 0. Consult criminal code to see if any intentionally caused damage is already covered.
I am trying to impose a civil liability only for unintentionally caused damage, whether a result of sloppy coding, insufficient testing, cost cutting, incomplete documentation, or just plain incompetence. Intentionally inflicted damage is a criminal matter, and most countries already have laws on the books for this.
Clause 1. If you deliver software with complete and buildable source code and a license that allows disabling any functionality or code by the licensee, then your liability is limited to a refund.
This clause addresses how to avoid liability: license your users to inspect and chop off any and all bits of your software they do not trust or do not want to run, and make it practical for them to do so.
The word disabling is chosen very carefully. This clause grants no permission to change or modify how the program works, only to disable the parts of it that the licensee does not want. There is also no requirement that the licensee actually look at the source code, only that it was received.
All other copyrights are still yours to control, and your license can contain any language and restriction you care to include, leaving the situation unchanged with respect to hardware locking, confidentiality, secrets, software piracy, magic numbers, etc. Free and open source software is obviously covered by this clause, and it does not change its legal situation in any way.
Clause 2. In any other case, you are liable for whatever damage your software causes when used normally.
If you do not want to accept the information sharing in Clause 1, you would fall under Clause 2 and have to live with normal product liability, just as manufacturers of cars, blenders, chainsaws, and hot coffee do. How dire the consequences and what constitutes "used normally" are for the legislature and courts to decide.
An example: A salesperson from one of your longtime vendors visits and delivers new product documentation on a USB key. You plug the USB key into your computer and copy the files onto the computer. This is "used normally" and should never cause your computer to become part of a botnet, transmit your credit card number to Elbonia, or send all your design documents to the vendor.
The majority of today's commercial software would fall under Clause 2. To give software houses a reasonable chance to clean up their acts and/or to fall under Clause 1, a sunrise period would make sense, but it should be no longer than five years, as the laws would be aimed at solving a serious computer security problem.
And that is it, really. Software houses will deliver quality and back it up with product liability guarantees, or their customers will endeavor to protect themselves.
Would it Work?There is little doubt that my proposal would increase software quality and computer security in the long run, which is exactly what the current situation calls for.
It is also pretty certain that there will be some short-term nasty surprises when badly written source code gets a wider audience. When that happens, it is important to remember that today the good guys have neither the technical nor the legal ability to know if they should even be worried, as the only people with source-code access are the software houses and the criminals.
The software houses would yell bloody murder if any legislator were to introduce a bill proposing these stipulations, and any pundits and lobbyists they could afford would spew their dire predictions that "this law will mean the end of computing as we all know it!"
To which my considered answer would be: "Yes, please! That was exactly the idea."
References1. Hofstadter, D. 1999. Gödel, Escher, Bach. Basic Books.
2. Thompson, K. 1984. Reflections on trusting trust. Communications of the ACM 27 (8): 761-763; http://m.cacm.acm.org/magazines/1984/8/10471-reflections-on-trusting-trust/pdf.
LOVE IT, HATE IT? LET US KNOW
As part of the effort to support the happiness, well-being and freedom of children, we are committed to protect society and its children from the dangers of sexual harm. We are also committed to preserve civil liberty and genuine criminal justice. We believe many aspects of the current approach to sex offenders seriously undermine justice and make our society less compatible with the welfare of young people. These include state and national sex offender registries as currently structured, life-time civil commitment statutes for sex offenders after completing prison sentences, and the public shaming of anyone accused of illegal sexual activity. We support carefully limited laws that target harmful acts, not whole classes of people, and which rehabilitate rather than vindictively punish and shame offenders. We assert that only by supporting justice for all people can we maintain a safe society.
We speak out against the mounting panic which vaguely defines sexual dangers and ostracizes and scapegoats a wide range of people who have been labeled "sex offenders."
There are now Sex Offender Registries in every state and at the Federal level.1 Most people convicted of any illegal sexual act or of owning, making, or selling illegal erotic material are required to submit to state and/or federal registries for classification. Those classified as "predators," as dangerous offenders, or as offenders against children must register frequently, often for life, with police or registry officials and must submit personal information including a photograph, residential address, employment, telephone, and email. This information is then made public; that is, it is posted on the Internet, published in newspapers, or noted on billboards or flyers distributed in the neighborhood. Often, such public notification includes persons whose alleged crimes are labeled violent but where no force or violence occurred.2 In some jurisdictions, public notification includes those accused of possessing a single photograph of a naked child, accused of public urination,3 or accused of "unwanted affection" involving persons under eighteen.
There are now about 750,000 persons --adults and children-- who are identified as sex offenders, either in prison, on parole, registered, or being sought as unregistered,4 and upwards of two million family members living with the consequences of the sex offender registries.
In many states and nationally, registration and classification is required of persons under eighteen, including children as young as eleven years old,5 and including minors convicted of consensual sex with other minors.6 They, too, are sometimes subject to public posting of their photographs, addresses, and other personal information.7
Many places severely limit the residence, travel, and work of sex offenders and place them under constant surveillance.
Many states and municipalities forbid sex offenders to live in certain areas near schools or day care centers8 and otherwise limit the travel of sex offenders within states and across state lines.9 Registered sex offenders are often required to wear ankle bracelets with global positioning units that trace their every move.10 Some jurisdictions have considered mandatory implantation of electronic chips into the bodies of offenders for similar surveillance.11 In some states, the residential limits are so severe that sex offenders have great difficulty finding housing. Some towns and cities make it virtually impossible for registered sex offenders to live there.12
"Sex offender" now refers to a class of people virtually without rights and whom it is difficult to defend as citizens deserving respect.
Almost all notion of rehabilitation and reintegration into society has been discarded for sex offenders. The term "sex offender" includes an extremely wide range of people who have been judged guilty of behaviors from bad taste to serious abuse,13 yet public hysteria has reached the point that all persons so labeled are demonized, whatever the specific circumstances. In the public mind (and sometimes in the statements of public officials), every sex offender is a person considered to have committed heinous crimes.
Confused concepts of pedophilia and the dangers posed by strangers causes exaggerated alarm.
Perhaps the key to this panic about sex offenders is that they are often assumed to have raped children. That is, "sex offender" is often equated with a violent "pedophile." The term pedophile itself has become a stereotype of a person who violently rapes young children. In fact, the vast majority of persons attracted to children are not violent.14 Though a pedophile is defined medically as a person primarily attracted to children under puberty (about 12),15 it is confounded with anyone ever attracted, however minimally, to any "minor" or person under the age of consent, which has been set in federal sex laws at eighteen.16 Although a great many sex offenders were never convicted of crimes that had anything to do with children or older juveniles,17 hysteria about defending children from pedophiles has broadened to a wider hysteria about all sex offenders, which is fanned by sensationalist media. Repeated research studies firmly establish that most sexual violation of children is by family members, not strangers.18 Recidivism rates for sex offenders against children have also been shown in these studies to be quite low.19
Sexual harm to children must be combated, but we must also fight other severe forms of harm to children.
While sexual violence is monopolizing our attention, we often forget about other very serious forms of harm to children and young people.20 It is important to speak out against sexual harm, which has often remained hidden and denied within families and communities. However, non-sexual violence within families is also extremely prevalent,21 poses a serious threat to many children, and is often ignored. Poverty, malnutrition, ethnic discrimination, poor education, and inadequate health care traumatize millions of young people in our affluent nation. Yet there is little national commitment to halt these sometimes deadly and pervasive forms of harm to children. Instead, our attention is riveted by any case involving sex while other forms of harm are largely disregarded.
Even as we speak of older and older youth as children in need of protection, younger and younger children are treated as adults when accused of sex offenses.
If convicted, they are often forced to comply with the same public registries and life-time commitment as adults.22 If considered a "victim," the child’s identity is protected. If a "perpetrator," the same child will be publicly exposed. Teens and children may now be criminalized and forced to register for activities considered experimentation or play since the dawn of history and in most cultures.23
Demonizing any class of people as devoid of humanity and beyond redemption is wrong.
Any law is wrong that permanently takes away the rights or liberty of offenders, whether by life-time incarceration by civil commitment after sentences or by public registry, shaming, and limitation of residence. Demonization is destructive even when applied to truly violent offenders. Those who commit sexually violent crimes do not come out of a vacuum. They come out of our communities and families. To view dangerous offenders as totally ‘other’ than us prevents us from getting at the roots of such crimes. Permanent stigmatization not only makes impossible re-integration into society of those who are rehabilitated, but also it signals a breakdown in civil society.24
Demonizing sex offenders has many other negative effects on society. As used to be the case for homosexuals, sex offenders can now be called "perverts," "deviants," and "perps" by the news media. This breaks down civil discourse and poisons it with pejorative speech. Reporting laws now turn doctors, social workers, and therapists into agents of the state, as they are required to report anyone mentioning past, present, or possible "abuse" in previously confidential settings.25 This discourages people in need of counseling for sexual problems from seeking out professional help.26
Extreme measures now include abolition of statutes of limitation, retroactive registration, life-time incarceration without parole, and even the death penalty.
Most states and the federal government have abolished or are considering abolishing statutes of limitation.27 Retroactive registries seem to violate the Constitutional rubric against ex post facto laws.28 Several courts have ruled this not to be the case because registration is not viewed as a punishment. Yet public registration, including shaming, humiliates and endangers those who are labeled and whose photographs and addresses are made public. This is a severe form of further punishment for offenders who have completed their sentences. Six states attempted to institute the death penalty for nonviolent sex offenses involving children until it was struck down by the Supreme Court.29 Mainstream legal scholars are debating whether pedophiles should receive death or life-time incarceration in camps.30 Red flags raised about all this by human rights advocates attract little attention.31 Unfortunately, this is quite similar in nature to previous panics aimed at other groups.
These assaults on civil liberties have befallen us because few have been willing to risk being seen as ‘soft on child molesters’ or on sex offenders generally.
It is now the case, that almost no politician - liberal or conservative - dares oppose any measure against sex offenders, however extreme.32 We hold that civil liberties are indivisible. As soon as one class of people is scapegoated and separated from "decent citizens" in terms of rights, other classes of offenders - such as drug dealers and users, political dissidents, or "dead-beat dads" - may be similarly deprived of all rights. However much we oppose specific, perceived wrong-doings, or even threats to society such as terrorist attacks, in a free society we cannot allow such deterioration of due process. We argue that these trends in sex offender laws have breached our legal system in an extremely serious way. Repressive state powers cannot be neatly applied only to ‘bad’ people. They threaten us all.
It is possible to make society and our children safe without eroding due process and civil liberties.
Canada and some other countries have registration requirements for genuinely violent sex criminals after their release from prison, but they do not allow public notification or publishing of offenders’ photographs and personal information. They also severely limit civil commitment after sentences to persons judged to be a real and extreme threat to society, and they assure that such commitment is temporary and regularly reviewed.
Therefore, we call for the immediate reform of America’s sex offender laws,33especially the state and Federal sex offender registries and the life-time civil commitment laws.We support the following immediate actions:
- Abolish all provisions of state and Federal sex offender registries that publicly shame offenders. There should be no internet or other public posting of the identity, photograph, address, workplace or personal information of any offender, nor should this information be available to the public at police stations or registry offices. In cases of genuinely violent sex crimes, especially against young children, and with a specific finding of a likelihood to re-offend, registration may be required, but information will be shared only among police officials, or if a court rules it appropriate, with institutions serving children or others who might be vulnerable to abuse. Strong penalties should be levied against police or others privy to the registration information who violate the privacy of the offenders.
- Abolish all life-time civil commitment for sex offenders34 who have completed prison sentences and/or parole and probation. In cases of violent offenses and specific findings of a likelihood to re-offend, carefully constructed court hearings, with medical advice and full due process, should determine if the person may be further incarcerated, and then only for a short time and with regular review. The ultimate goal of all measures aimed at sex offenders should be their return to the community when they are not likely to re-offend.
- Stop public vilification and demonization of sex offenders. Oppose the use in the media or by public officials of obviously pejorative language with regard to offenders. Label only actually violent acts as violent crimes - define violence simply and logically as a physical attack or threat that causes real harm.35 Use of the term "pedophile" should be extremely limited and accurate.36 Children should be defined as persons under the age of puberty.
- De-criminalize all consensual sexual activities among teenagers.37 Stop all required sex offender registration for minors.38
- Abolish all laws that provide the death penalty* or life in prison without parole for sex offenders.
- Support broad sex education to promote a healthy society.
- Provide accurate information and support valid research about sex offender characteristics39 and recidivism rates.40
- Help sex offenders re-enter society by abolishing measures which make it difficult for them to find a place to live41 and a decent job.42 Encourage support groups for sex offenders, including help with finding housing, employment, and effective treatment, before their release and afterward.
by Fred E. Foldvary
On Tuesday, June 9, 1998, the Berkeley City Council will consider eliminating the right to trial by jury and a repeal of the city's obligation to respect constitutional rights. A joke that has been going around is that there are only three places left in the world which practice state socialism: Cuba, North Korea, and Berkeley, California. Berkeley has had one of the strongest rent-control laws in the United States, and taxes are high, but in the area of civil liberties, there was a tradition of respect for free speech.
This may end on June 9. Agenda item 85 on the "Action Calendar" for the city council meeting are revisions to the ordinance banning nudity in Berkeley. The ban was enacted in 1993 as a misdemeanor. A trial of two women for nudity ended in a hung jury in 1997. The city then enforced the law as an infraction, like a traffic ticket, which is not eligible for trial by jury. But a judge ruled in April 1998 that the law did not authorize the city to enforce the nudity ban as an infraction.
With summer approaching, some city officials feel the need to eliminate the threat of bares in Berkeley. To prevent the people of Berkeley from getting naked, the mayor, city attorney, and city manager will on June 9 propose a revision to the Berkeley anti- nudity law, Berkeley Municipal Code (BMC) Section 13.32 (Ordinance No. 6199-N.S.) that will, first, "provide that it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction in the discretion of the prosecutor." Secondly, the revision will "repeal BMC Section 13.32.020D creating an exemption for conduct to which it would be unconstitutional to apply the Ordinance."
Infractions are violations that are not eligible for trial by jury. These are usually for violating traffic laws, which may be appealed to a judge, but not to a jury of one's peers. It would be costly to have trial by jury each time someone goes through a stop sign or turns left without signalling. But there is a way to preserve the right to trial by jury for traffic laws: allow a jury trial at the expense of the defendant. If the defendant loses, he must then pay the cost of the jury trial. This would eliminate the cost to the city while preserving the rights of the people to a jury trial.
But City of Berkeley may instead go in the opposite direction, extending infractions to laws relating to free speech and property. The Berkeley ban on nudity goes beyond naked folks sitting in a hot tub in their back yard. According to the law, one is in "public view" even inside one's house if there is a window in the room through which somebody could look. Berkeley has a temperate climate most of the year, so most people do not have any air conditioning. When it gets hot inside, some folks just take off their clothes. They then become criminals inside their own home. Even people who just step out of the shower into the bathroom are violating the law if there is a window with the curtains open. A nasty neighbor could call the police and have them cited.
Berkeley officials have been frustrated in the enforcement of the nudity ban. In May 1998 there was even a celebration of the anniversary of People's Park that included a nude performance, and the police did not even bother to cite the performers. By revising the law to enforce it as an infraction, the City will strip Berkeley nudists of their legal right to a trial by jury. Most people are not nudists, and think the law will not affect them. But extending infractions to areas of civil liberties is a dangerous precedent. Once this is established for nudity, the city can then make public protests an infraction, to save costs.
The repeal of exemptions for constitutionally protected conduct is also a dangerous precedent. Once this is established for nudity, the city can then easily claim that its police powers override the rights to the freedom of speech and assembly in general. If people lose their constitutional rights just by removing their clothing, then these rights also do not exist when they are dressed. In addition, constitutional property rights would no longer be respected; the police would be able to crash into somebody's house to arrest them if they suspect that the people inside are naked.
The very idea that the city council can use its police powers to override civil liberties and property rights, enforced without jury trials, violates the whole concept of the rule of law. Trial by jury is the bedrock of our liberty and of justice. It is judgment by our peers, our fellow citizens, rather than by government authority. This is what separates free societies from the totalitarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union. If the City of Berkeley adopts the enforcement of conduct by infraction, it will truly deserve the name, The People's Republic of Berkeley.
Why is there so much bullshit? Of course it is impossible to be sure that there is relatively more nowadays than at other times. There is more communication of all kinds in our time than ever before, but the proportion that is bullshit may not have increased. Without assuming that the incidence of bullshit is actually greater now, I will mention a few considerations that help to account for the fact that it is currently so great.
Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person’s obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled — whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others — to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen in a democracy to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country’s affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person’s opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it is his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.
The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality, and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These “antirealist” doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore instead try to be true to himself.
But it is preposterous to imagine that we ourselves are determinate, and hence susceptible both to correct and to incorrect descriptions, while supposing that the ascription of determinacy to anything else has been exposed as a mistake. As conscious beings, we exist only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know. Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial — notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.
– Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit
We need 'social business' to couple the human heart to the capitalist system.
By Muhammad Yunus
Bill Gates caused a stir in Davos last month with his call for "creative capitalism." He pointed out that while capitalism is "responsible for the great innovations that have improved the lives of billions ... to harness this power so it benefits everyone, we need to refine the system.
I see traditional capitalism as a half-developed structure. It ignores the humanity within all of us.
Moneymaking is an important part of humanity, but it is not the only part. Caring, concern, sharing, empathy – all of these aspects also must be considered when developing an economic framework that takes the whole person into account.
Enter the missing piece of the global development puzzle: social business.
Social business – not a charity
A social business is not a charity. It is a nonloss, nondividend company with a social objective. It aims to maximize the positive impact on society while earning enough to cover its costs, and, if possible, generate a surplus to help the business grow. The owner never intends to take any profit for himself.
As evidenced every day by religious ministers and practitioners, social activists, and philanthropists, making money is not always the only driving force. They may be a special group of people who makes it visible, but the desire to help others exists in various degrees in every human being.
Traditional capitalism doesn't tap into that universal desire. Capitalism delivers limited results because it takes too narrow a view of human nature, assuming people are one-dimensional, concerned only with maximizing profits.
Capitalism has long been a source of prosperity, spurring industrial, technological, and social progress in North America and Western Europe. But even as standards of living rise, large numbers of people are still left behind.
While free markets have ushered in many benefits, these gains have bypassed too many of the world's people, especially the poor.
And yet, in recent decades, powerful tools have been developed that leverage capitalism's strengths to enrich the lives of those who get left behind.
Take microcredit. It has been a powerful tool in combating poverty, enabling the poorest of the poor to change their lives and provide for their families. Through these small, collateral-free loans with a nearly 100 percent return rate, borrowers – mostly women – have been able to harness entrepreneurial abilities inherent in them.
Microcredit is just one example of how a business approach can help alleviate poverty when we move beyond the idea that business by definition has to mean making financial profit for the owner.
We need social businesses to couple the human heart to the capitalist system. This is a sure way of meeting needs that either remain unmet or are met extremely inadequately through the efforts of philanthropy, charity, or welfare.
Traditional philanthropy and nonprofits generate a social gain, but they do not design their programs as self-sustaining business models. A charitable dollar can be used only once. A dollar invested in a self-sustaining social business is recycled endlessly.
A social business is designed to be both self-sustaining and to maximize social returns like patients treated, houses built, or health insurance extended to people who never had this coverage. An investor in a social business retains an ownership interest to hold management accountable and to get the investment back over time, but no dividends are expected, and any profits should be reinvested in the business or used to start new similar businesses.
Social businesses could be viewed akin to investment accounts, where the money is returned over time but the interest is paid in social dividends, rather than in economic profit.
While both personal entrepreneurship and social businesses need to be profitable, the bottom line for a social business is how much impact it makes on society,not how much money it returns to the investors. This represents an opportunity for the extension of capitalism to meet the social needs that are not currently met.
As an investor in a social business, I expect my investment money to come back to me, but the real reason for my investment is to see that it benefits society, as opposed to my pocketbook.
A profit-maximizing business owned by the poor can be considered a social business. The Grameen Bank is an example of a social business that is both owned by its poor borrowers and that seeks to maximize the benefits for those borrowers.
Another well-known example of social business is Grameen Danone Foods (known as Dannon in the US). It was inaugurated in 2006 as a partnership between Grameen Bank and Groupe Danone of France.
Groupe Danone produces and distributes Danone yogurt and Evian bottled water throughout the world. The mission of Grameen Danone Foods is to manufacture nutrient-rich, fortified yogurt in small local plants that minimize the need for expensive refrigeration and to sell it at a low price to improve the diets of rural children in Bangladesh.
By investing in this joint venture with Grameen Group, Groupe Danone can help to eradicate malnutrition in Bangladesh, one of the least developed countries in the world, by doing business, not by simply donating the money.
The experiment is a win-win situation and the first of many multinational social businesses that Grameen would like to partner.
The current capitalist framework does not allow us to fully mobilize mankind's will to do good.
Tap into the urge to do good
Because we are creatures who are motivated to solve the problems of the world, we need to add a new component. Capitalism has the capacity to do good in the world, provided we recognize that the motivation for the entrepreneur need not be exclusively economic and personal.
The urge to do good exists in all of us – right along with self-interest. We can harness that urge to do good in addition to human ingenuity to help the world's poor become self-sustaining with dignity and self-respect.
Thirty-one years ago, when I launched the Grameen microcredit program, no one in the banking world thought low-cost loans for poor people would be viable on a large scale. I was not sure myself how large it could grow.
Just as microcredit has proved to be a success, so, too, can social business. Working together, we can expand the predominant view of capitalism and enterprise to include social business.
This new perspective will move us one step closer to bringing all people into prosperity, and one step closer to a world without poverty.
• Muhammad Yunus is the founder and managing director of Grameen Bank and the author of "Creating a World WithoutPoverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism." He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work on microcredit.
The full report can be downloaded HERE. Energy benchmarking survey.
What kind of facility has lighting as intense as that found in an operating room (500-times more than needed for reading), 6-times the air-change rate of a biotech laboratory and 60-times that of a home, and the electric power intensity of a datacenter?
The emergent industry of indoor Cannabis production results in prodigious energy use, costs, and greenhouse-gas pollution. Large-scale industrialized and highly energy-intensive indoor cultivation of Cannabis is driven by criminalization, pursuit of security, and the desire for greater process control and yields. The practice occurs across the United States and in many other countries.
The analysis performed in this study finds that indoor Cannabis production results in energy expenditures of $5 billion each year, with electricity use equivalent to that of 2 million average U.S. homes. This corresponds to 1% of national electricity consumption or 2% of that in households. The yearly greenhouse-gas pollution (carbon dioxide, CO2 ) from the electricity plus associated transportation fuels equals that of 3 million cars. Energy costs constitute a quarter of wholesale value.
In California, the top-producing state—and one of 17 states to allow cultivation for medical purposes—the practice is responsible for about 3% of all electricity use or 8% of household use. Due to higher electricity prices and cleaner fuels used to make electricity, California incurs 70% of national energy costs but only 20% of national CO2 emissions.
From the perspective of individual consumers, a single Cannabis cigarette represents 2 pounds of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours with average U.S. electricity (or 30 hours on California’s cleaner grid). Each four-by-four-foot production module doubles the electricity use of an average U.S. home and triples that of an average California home. The added electricity use is equivalent to running about 30 refrigerators. Processed Cannabis results in 3000-times its weight in CO2 emissions. For off-grid production, it requires 70 gallons of diesel fuel to produce one indoor Cannabis plant, or 140 gallons with smaller, less-efficient gasoline generators.
Minimal information and producer consideration of energy use, coupled with adaptations for security and privacy, lead to particularly inefficient configurations and correspondingly large energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions. If improved practices applicable to commercial agricultural greenhouses are any indication, the energy use for indoor Cannabis production can be reduced dramatically. Cost-effective efficiency improvements of 75% are conceivable, which would yield energy savings of about $25,000/year for a generic 10-module growing room. Shifting cultivation outdoors eliminates most energy uses (aside from transport), although the practice can impose other environmental impacts.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the purpose of this study?
This study simply aims to quantify a previously undocumented component of energy demand in the United States, to understand the underlying technical drivers, and to establish baseline impacts in terms of energy use, costs, and greenhouse-gas emissions. This study does not pass judgement on the merits of Cannabis cultivation or make recommendations for how to reduce this energy use, but observes that many reversible inefficiencies are embedded in current practices.
Has the media covered the story accurately and responsibly?
The problem is a lot more complicated and nuanced than most pundits in the blogosphere make it out to be, and most in the mainstream media have actually missed the real story (a roster of articles is provided at the bottom of this page). Among the (few) relatively thorough, non-selective, and un-spun stories are those in the New York Times, FastCompany, Southern California Public Radio, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the Huffington Post. First place for the most inane coverage is an editorial from the Calgary Herald. The Week did a particularly inept job at providing an objective cross-section of the coverage.
What’s missed or bungled:
•A number of media reports inaccurately associate the work with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The work was conducted independently of LBNL on the author’s own time.
•Most media reports have sensationalized the numbers without putting them in perspective or looking at solutions. If the media applied the same concern to greenhouse-gas emissions for all human activities as they have to the release of this report we would be well on our way towards addressing the climate change problem.
•This isn’t simply a California issue, let alone a “counter-culture” or “hippie” issue. Its mainstream and it’s pervasive. The UN says 10% of North American citizens use Cannabis on a regular basis, and most of the production is actually not even in California any more…. Only 1/5th of national Cannabis-related emissions come from California (and an unknown fraction of that is for products consumed outside the state).
•Some observers have spun the story into a blame-game rather than a “what do we do about this problem?” challenge, with responsibility being dumped exclusively on the growers’ doorstep rather than the consumers and others who can powerfully influence the energy choices being made.
•Few of the reports recognize that there are solutions here. There’s a lot of room for a more virtuous cycle…. Using good-old market forces (see final entry on this FAQ page). This is an energy-using sector that has almost uniquely been passed over by decades of efforts from many quarters to improve efficiency …. The time for that has come and there is a lot of low-hanging fruit, which is good news to everyone concerned.
•Legalization is a simplistic answer. The reality is that people will seek to grow indoors irrespective of their legal status. More has to be done if carbon emissions are to be curbed. More on this below....
Who is the author of this report and who sponsored it?
The research described in this report was conducted and published independently by Evan Mills, Ph.D., with no external sponsorship or institutional affiliation. Dr. Mills is a scientist specializing in energy analysis and the role of energy in climate change, with a focus on the efficiency of energy use as the number-one strategy for reducing climate change. He has been working in this field for 30 years and is currently a scientist at one of the national laboratories as well a Research Affiliate with the Energy and Resources Group at U.C. Berkeley. However, this study was done on the author’s own time. More information on the author is available here.
What information sources were used for this work?
Data and assumptions for building the energy-demand model were drawn from the open literature, trade press, equipment specifications, and interviews with horticultural equipment retailers. A detailed list of sources and technical assumptions are provided at the end of the report and in the notes to the data tables.
Does this report pertain only to medical Cannabis?
No. A number of media reports have misreported this. The analysis pertains to all Cannabis production.
Isn’t the solution to just grow outdoors?
Complicated. Many of the issues, and emerging opportunities (including achieving comparable quality in vs out) are discussed here.
How does the energy use of this sector compare to others?
The approximately 22 billion kilowatt-hours/year estimated for indoor Cannabis production is about one/third that of US data centers or one-sixth that of US household refrigerators. The shares would be much higher in states where Cannabis cultivation is concentrated. Automobiles are responsible for about about 33% of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, which is 100-times as much as indoor Cannabis production (0.3%).
You say that the resulting electricity intensities are 200 watts per square foot. This is absurd.
The 200W/sf value is a side note, and not integral to the energy and emissions calculations, which has somehow been misinterpreted as being the constant rate of energy use for lighting. It's actually the installed power density of lighting plus all other equipment, and none of those "watts" are assumed to be running 24x7. For example, for lighting this assumes 600W-MH (37.5 W/sf) for the vegetative stage and 1000W-HPS (62.5W/sf) for flowering (summing to ~100W per the definition of power density -- but for energy calculation purposes the 600W and 1000W devices are never drawing power simultaneously). The rest of the demand is for all the other loads (AC, dehumidification, fans, ballasts, etc.).
Why are you singling out Cannabis when so many other things use more energy?
The study hardly singles out Cannabis. On the contrary, there has been a de facto double standard for decades in which virtually every other energy use has been met with efforts to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. Cannabis should no more be singled out for attention than it should be overlooked.
Doesn’t the mainstream pharmaceutical industry use more energy?
From a "carbon-accounting" it would be challenging--if at all possible--to meaningfully go about the comparison to other Pharma, since to do that you'd have to have an apples and apples comparison not only of the energy/carbon (relatively easy) but also the impact benefit at the macro level. In any case, "two wrongs don't make a right" and the extreme inefficiency of this process should be reduced. The good news is that this is quite possible if there is the will and the right information. Arguably, the mainstream Pharma industry already does much more than the Cannabis industry to reduce its carbon footprint... It has been reported that the Viagra market is about the same size as the medical Cannabis market; i will leave it to others to debate the relative carbon footprints.
Is Cannabis production intrinsically polluting?
No. Like virtually any other energy-using activity (driving, preparing food, making aluminum, heating a home) energy is commonly wasted and used inefficiently. And, as observed in virtually every energy use domain, there are enormous prospects for improving efficiency and using low- or no-carbon energy sources. Outdoor production involves particularly low energy inputs, although when mismanaged, the practice imposes other environmental impacts.
Does this study enable or endorse illegal activity?
No. On the contrary, the analysis sheds light on certain adverse consequences of indoor cultivation in its current form. Moreover, an increasing fraction of Cannabis cultivation is legally sanctioned at the state level (17 states at present, and many more deliberating), which places the related use of energy in the same domain the many other energy-intensive activities routinely addressed by energy policies such as codes, standards, incentives, and labeling.
Does this study support the case for criminalization?
No. In fact, many argue that criminalization is an important driver towards energy-intensive indoor production. Criminalization also contributes to many of the energy inefficiencies in the process, including long driving distances, noise and odor suppression measures that undercut ventilation efficiencies, and off-grid power production that is far less efficient produces more greenhouse-gas emissions than many electric grids. Moreover, decades of criminalization has resulted in this energy-using sector being passed over by massive efforts to incentivize and mandate efficiency improvements. The analysis does suggest a role for improved management of energy use, in much the same way that we address the energy use and fuel economy of our cars, buildings, and appliances.
Does this study support the case for decriminalization or legalization?
Not really. People grow indoors for many reasons aside from criminalization, e.g., quality control, pest control, and year-round yield. Many legally sanctioned producers choose to grow indoors. It is not known whether decriminalization will reduce or increase the rate of indoor cultivation. That said, in a scenario where production is legalized it is, in principal, easier to address the energy issues.
How significant are the energy costs for producers?
The answer varies widely depending on the production method, prevailing energy prices, and wholesale prices of the final product. Averaged nationally, about one-quarter of the wholesale price is attributed to energy costs. In regions with high electricity tariffs or the use of inefficient off-grid power generators, this value can approach half the total cost.
Wouldn’t just “going solar” solve this problem?
Nope. Using solar to power inefficient systems is a waste. A costly, mega-sized solar system to run a bunch of inefficient lights, fans, and chillers in a single house would just give solar a bad name. For the same investment, many dozens of conventional houses could be made highly energy efficient and then be solar-powered all the way to zero carbon emissions. This would provide much more carbon-bang for the buck.
How does this energy intensity compare to that for other indoor horticultural practices?
Good question. According to one study, the energy use for indoor horticulture (all crops) is 7% of total energy use in the Netherlands. According to research from the Netherlands, the production of ornamental flowers is 2.2 GJ per 250 flowers. This translates to about 1,200 kilowatt-hours (including indirect embodied energy for fertilizer, pesticides not counted in the Cannabis analysis). For comparison, the annual kilowatt hour use of a 4x4x8-foot Cannabis cultivation module is estimated at about 13,000 kWh. It is hard to identify the right “apples-to-apples” comparison metrics. Another study for Belgium places national energy use for greenhouses at about 1000 MJ/m2, which is 1% that of indoor Cannabis production.
Are we barking up the wrong tree? Doesn’t law enforcement spent even more energy on suppression and eradication?
Not likely. Certainly a study in and of itself, but per a quick look: Total federal government energy expenditure for vehicles for all purposes is less than half that of Cannabis production and jet fuel for aviation, including military (see page 96 of this report) is “only” $7 billion per year (including overseas operations) -- that was FY 2007, so maybe more now. Total federal government for aviation gasoline (small planes0 is $10 million/year... In any case, two wrongs don’t make a right - seriously. We need to reduce emissions wherever they occur. If we do nothing but point to others who emit more we will never get out of the greenhouse.
What can be done with the results?
The study is policy-relevant, but is not policy prescriptive. Carbon footprint could be reduced by 75% without even shifting production outdoors (which reduces emissions almost completely). Top-level pathways to reducing the carbon footprint of indoor production include:
•Growers selecting better, commercially available equipment.
•Equipment vendors developing even more efficient equipment, and educating their customers.
•Reducing the use of off-grid power generators fired with fossil fuels. The worst case is a gasoline-fueled generator, which results in 140 gallons of fuel burned to produce each plant.
•Applying science to understanding how to achieve necessary environmental conditions in a less energy-intensive manner.
The opportunity to influence a constructive, climate-friendly response rests with all involved parties.
•Producers lack information, motivation, and market or regulatory pressure to improve.
•Designers and manufacturers of the energy-using equipment could more precisely analyze and consider the issues from an engineering and market standpoint.
•Medical dispensaries could support more responsible consumer decision-making, by providing disclosure of product carbon content and other dimensions of environmental footprint.
•Planning and building officials at the city, state, and federal level may choose to seek better understanding of the energy and safety consequences of this activity in their localities. Some (Berkeley, Boulder, Fort Bragg) have already made steps in this direction.
•Electric and gas utilities have already begun to recognize legal producers, granting them lower (agricultural) tariffs in exchange for safety inspections.
•Energy providers, policymakers, and forecasters could better account for this particular driver of energy demand, and thus more accurately evaluate the effects of unrelated programs and policies on the consumption of energy at the macro scale.
•Consumers and the general public can become informed about the carbon footprint associated with this practice and better consider the environmental consequences of their actions.
MEDIA COVERAGE - US
Atlantic - How much electricity does indoor-grown pot use?
Atlantic - Marijuana growing consumes 1 percent of nation's energy
Bay Citizen - Study: one joint equals two pounds of greenhouse gases
Bay Guardian - Cool, efficient plasma lighting technology comes online
Bay Guardian - Green Buds: Environmental cost of growing indoors is luring the marijuana industry back into the sunshine
Berkeley Daily Planet - City Council fails to pass sustainable medical marijuana ordinance
Boston Business Journal - Up in smoke
California Watch - Pot growers burn through energy
Cannabisfantastic.com - The carbon footprint of cannabis
CBS Television - Smoke on this: marijuana growers use one percent of U.S. electricity supply
Chicago Tribune - National Marijuana Day: not as green as you might think
Columbus Dispatch - Indoor marijuana's carbon footprint is extra large
Consumer Reports - Growing marijuana gets you high ... energy costs, study finds
Culture - In a brand new light
Daily Californian - Growing marijuana indoors could damage environment
Daily Kos - The carbon footprint of Cannabis
Denver Post - Growing pot, guzzling energy
Discovery News – Pot growers not so green
Environmentalguru.com - Pot: the hidden power hog
Fast Company - Buzzkill of the day: U.S. marijuana industry responsible for $5 billion in energy Consumption
Forbes – New study reveals massive energy consumption of pot industry
Freakonomics - The $5 billion carbon footprint of indoor marijuana
Good - Not so kind: weed growers suck down 1 percent of all U.S. electricity
Grand Rapids Press - Report: indoor marijuana growing consumes 1 percent of U.S. electricity
Green Economy Post - Grass is not so green: marijuana has a huge carbon footprint
Green Tech Media – Marijuana, top US crop, has a $5B power bill
Grist.org - Climate change kills our buzz, and vice versa
Honolulu Weekly - How green is your pot?
Huffington Post - Marijuana carbon footprint: indoor pot production uses 1 percent of U.S. electricity, study says
KALW Radio - Connecting the dots
KCBS Radio - Pot growers account for 8 percent of household electricity use in CA
LA Weekly - Marijuana grown indoors is bad for the environment: could legalizing it change that?
National Geographic - The energy drain of recreational drugs
New York Times - Marijuana growing gobbles electricity, study finds
New York Times - Study: pot growers inhale 1% of U.S. electricity, exhale GHGs of 3M cars
Next 100 - Pot: the hidden power hog
NPR - Marijuana not so green: study finds growing pot indoors Is energy intensive
Philly Inquirer - Pot farms burn $5B of US electricity/year: report
Press Democrat - North Coast: Pot-growing power grab
Redheaded Blackbelt - Buy only sustainably grown marijuana and reduce america’s dependence on foreign oil
Redheaded Blackbelt - Their weed habit causes a Fukoshima worth of power every year.
Richmond Confidential - City council fails to pass sustainable medical marijuana ordinance
San Francisco Business Times - Marijuana causes global warming, uses 1% of U.S. electricity
San Francisco Chronicle - Pot grow houses eat 8 percent of California's residential electricty use
Seattle Post Intelligencer - Dude, your marijuana grow is sucking up megawatts (NY Times)
Southern California Public Radio - Greener pot: is there such a thing as energy efficient Cannabis?
The 420 Times - Indoor marijuana growing accounts for 1% of U.S. energy use
The Week - Marijuana isn't 'green?'
Treehugger.com - Marijuana industry responsible for 1% of US electricity consumption, has $5 billion energy bill
Tuscon Citizen - Marijuana causes global warming
WSBT - A study finds that indoor marijuana grows consume a staggering 1 percent of nation’s electricity
MEDIA COVERAGE - International
Austria - Ein Prozent des US-Stroms für Marihuana Belgium - Le joint est mauvais pour l'environnement Brazil - Plantio de maconha nos EUA alimenta efeito estufa, diz cientista Canada - Calgary Herald - Grass is not green
- Boston Globe and Mail - The cost of growing marijuana
France - La culture du cannabis : une mauvaise chose pour l'environnement ? - La culture de cannabis aux Etats-Unis représente 1 % de la consommation
- Fumer un joint est mauvais pour l'environnement Germany - Energiefresser Marihuana
Greece - Η μαριχουάνα προκαλεί παγκόσμια υπερθέρμανση! Iceland - Good - Not So Kind: Weed growers suck down 1 percent of all U.S. electricity
Italy - La marijuana fa male: ai consumi energetici Mexico - Consume cultivo de mariguana en interiores 1% de la producción de electricidad en EU Poland - Zaskakujące badanie nt. marihuany
Portugal - EUA: Produção caseira de cannabis representa 1% de todo o consumo de electricidade
Romania - Marijuana provoacă încălzirea globală - Producatorii de marijuana din SUA consuma energie de 5 miliarde de dolari Sweden - Cannabisodlare hot mot miljön Turkey - Esrar küresel ısınmaya sebep oluyor