Assorted Stupidity #57 [Correction]

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  • Do you have a right to read the laws that govern you, or is that a privilege you should have to pay for? thinks it's a right, and has been publishing digital versions of various laws and codes not otherwise available for free. As Boing Boing reports, it is being sued in Germany for doing this, and its lead archivist is being threatened with jail time. That is utterly shocking, outrageous, and unworthy of any civilized democracy.
  • In a hopefully unrelated story, I just wrote a book that quotes a bunch of current laws and codes not otherwise available for free, and I didn't pay anybody for the right to do that. Oops?
  • Correction: According to a couple of messages I've received, the German case is in civil court and so the only risk of jail would be for contempt of any resulting order or judgment. If so, that risk would exist in any civil case, but we wouldn't call that "being threatened with jail time." Also, what Public Resource has done in the U.S. is publish "privately-produced technical public safety codes that have been incorporated into U.S. federal law." That would effectively make them law. It may be (I'm checking) that the German case involves standards that aren't incorporated, but are more like advice on complying with legal requirements. That would probably be different.
  • It's basic security advice not to use easily guessed passwords, and yet passwords like "password" and "12345678" are still common. Turns out this isn't a new problem. According to this article, for almost 20 years the military had some relatively important passwords set to "00000000." If you think nuclear-armed-ICBM launch codes are important, anyway.
  • Speaking of security, the TSA still isn't providing any, but it is taking a lot of your money to pretend to do so. For example, so far it's spent about $1 billion on "behavior detection" (looking at people to see whether they are bad), which, as this recent GAO report concluded, doesn't work. In fact, GAO cited 400 studies over the past 60 years that have shown this doesn't work. TSA has been unable to provide any evidence that it does work, but will keep doing it anyway. It really is just junk science, and it's astonishing that they are allowed to do this.
  • A handful of people who play videogames do very bad things. Tens of millions of people who play the very same videogames don't do any bad things at all. Therefore, we should spend a lot of money to study whether videogames cause people to do very bad things. Yes? No.