14 November 2010

Cyberspace November 2010

Domain name security

A blogger, Ben Metcalfe (http://benmetcalfe.com), announced that his domain name vb.ly was cancelled by the Libyan domain registry in September 2010. This was one of his organisation’s main domains, and it was seized apparently because his content ran afoul of Libyan Islamic law. The site merely converts long URLs into much shorter ones (which is why he registered this particular domain), and according to Metcalfe was in compliance with the Registry’s rules. The domain name was made available, along with other short names, for re-registration by Libyans.
Domain names can be a significant asset, and some emerging markets have produced interesting domain names, such as .fm and .am for radio stations, .it for IT professionals, .me for personal sites, .mo (a product site for the mower fly.mo?),  and someone already has calv.in, yet these are all actually country top level domains.

The lesson here is that some registries may be heavily influenced by their respective governments or other bodies, and simply don’t behave in ways that you might expect - but is perfectly in accordance with local custom. If you don’t know the country and its customs well, then investing heavily in a domain there may be as risky as investing in real estate without local advice.


This advice false into the category of “I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but...” Facebook recently introduced “Places” (http://www.facebook.com/places/) and I promply forbade my daughter from using it (it turned out I didn’t have to - she worked it out for herself). If you have a mobile phone such as an iPhone that has a GPS in it, you can just click a button to share on your Facebook feed exactly where you are at that moment. Conversely “When you use Places, you'll be able to see if any of your friends are currently checked in nearby and connect with them easily.” But you know what? If your friends are out and about without you then there might be a reason why you weren’t invited...

There are many other services like this, such as foursquare and GoWalla (Google introduced Latitude some time ago to deafening silence). While there are some fun or even useful possible scenarios for this (“I’m in a castle in Bacharach, Germany”, “Now I’m in a spa in Finland”), the opportunity for it to work out to your detriment is immense. It would be fun to brag on holidays but for a teenager who’s “friended” 500 people she’s never met, as well as a few enemies and stalkers, it’s a recipie for bullying and harrassment. Another problem with these products is that they are not always accurate - my phone sometimes shows me in the Sheraton across the street from my office. When I’m in the MLC centre, am I at a law firm, having lunch, shopping at Harvey Norman, or at my dentist? When I’m having a drink with a mate, why does it look like I’m at our competitor which is next door to the bar?

Careless friends

Friends can be unintentionally careless with information; “... when you share your information with a network, you’re trusting everyone on that network to protect your privacy ... there’s always the potential when using location-based social media that someone you don’t want to see could find your exact location.” (http://goo.gl/9boD). Unless your friends list is limited to a truly trusted set of people (assuming they care where you are anyway) then there is no reason to share anything at all. Being burgled while on holidays just isn’t fun.

If you really want to brag in style, set up a blog, snap a photo of that chateau and mail it to your blog with a few carefully chosen words. For more information read the EFF’s take on it (http://www.eff.org/wp/locational-privacy).

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