It’s pretty well recognized now that making protocols “transparent” is good.
By transparent, we mean- a person can read them, and it makes sense.
For example, this…
<iq type="set" from="email@example.com" to="pubsub.jabber.org" id="create1"> <pubsub xmlns="http://jabber.org/protocol/pubsub"> <create node="generic/pgm-mp3-player"/> </pubsub> </iq>
…is much more transparent than this:
0A 3F 46 2D 36 51 69 FF 34 23 A4
Now I’m thinking: “We can take transparency further.”
The above it good, if you can get access to that message flying through. But- it’s like that message is passing underground. It’s hard to see it, unless you have some special Jabber interface on hand, to show you the messages passing through.
What if you could just pass a web browser over the event server, and see the traffic as it came in?
That’d be pretty cool! It’d be really transparent! But, you’d have a problem: You could only see traffic as it can through.
So, we’d like the wire (in this case, and IntComm:EventServer?) to keep a log of the last few things happening over it, so that you don’t have to be there as the message comes through.
This is exactly what we’ve done.
Check it out!
How does it work?
Some people are going to think this is really gross, and I think it’s gross myself, but it works- so here goes: Messages are self-documenting! Yep! That’s right! You put an entire plain-text description of the message into the message itself. And, if you want to, you can put in a nifty HTML self-description as well.
In the future, I hope that the message includes a link to some RDF nodes. The RDF nodes would have all the information in the world that you could use to decode and display messages. That way, you could have nifty 2D schematics appear, with the specifics of your message filled in, and all sorts of other coolness mixed in. Of course, we’ll have to advance our visualization technique a zillion times, to get there, but- don’t worry. We’ll get there.
You’ll be able to say, “Show me messages coming in and going out.”
You’ll have a special privacy bit, for saying, “Don’t let people see this.”
But other than that, you’ll be able to watch the traffic going in and out, at a code level.
I’d like to hook it up to wiki pages, so you can describe message presentation in a description on a wiki page. Hmm…
Just updated the page to reflect the new code. Yay!
(Is there a better wiki to discuss this sort of thing? Futures:TransparentSociety, perhaps? A wiki on computer security?)
Someone recently posted – to a mailing list I’m on – a link to a “great deal” on one particular piece of softare. Yes, I suppose “free” is a good deal. But I was surprised at what this software does:
“The best way to protect your children online … If your kids (or spouse!) are spending too much time chatting via instant message, or you suspect they’re engaged in dangerous conversations, … ChatChecker? is … virtually invisible on the PCs it’s monitoring. No one will know how their instant messaging is being checked, and it doesn’t stop working until you shut it off. … The conversations are stored at the ChatChecker? website … visit the ChatChecker? website and sign-in. You don’t need any other software on your PC to view the messages at the ChatChecker? website. … the product is good and necessary to parents who care.”
For the moment, let’s skip over any ethical or security issues associated with the parents, and look ahead a few years. I assume at least some kids are going to figure out (or at least suspect) that this software has been installed on their computer(s). So some children are going to grow up knowing (or at least suspecting) that every letter they type in IM is being recorded. In other words, they will grow into adults that have already lived all their lives in something close to a BookShelved:TransparentSociety. Will those people expect that every “good” parent will read every word their child? Will this make those adults fight even more strongly against any further erosion of privacy? Will they be offended by the “lack of trust” shown by spouses/companies/governments when they discover similar software on their personal computers after they get married / get a job / ? Or will they adapt to the situation, figure out ways to compensate, and shrug off wiretapping etc. as the natural order of things, not significantly different from what they’ve always known?
OK, back to the ethical and security issues. What is “dangerous conversation”, and does it have any relation to “freedom of speech” ? If this kid is giving away private information to some random stranger, how does recording every detail on some central web server – where anyone one who can guess the password can read everything – protect that kid? Does helps at all in protecting the kid? If the parent decides to turn off the software, how does the parent know whether or not it’s really turned off?
It should be obvious that I’ve already rejected the marketing hype that this is the “best way” to protect children. I wonder if there is a growing gulf between people who expect others to tell the truth, and people like me who receive dozens of blatant lies and scams via email every week.
I see I’ve been ranting and raving. Someone please clean up my mess.