Enjoy The Silence

Posted on 4th May 2013

Unfortunately I've been having problems with my outbound mail from my personal mail server. I recently updated the server, and although the mail software was also updated, the problem seems to be regarding resolving IP addresses to the Virgin Media nameservers. I can resolve DNS lookups via my laptop, but the server gets stuck and times out :(

If I don't get it fixed soon, I'll have to look at using Gmail on a more permanent basis, so that I can at least reply to messages again and know they're going to get through. Although I don't mind using Gmail on occasions, storing all my mail with them does make me a little uncomfortable.

So if you haven't heard from me, and have been expecting a response, it's likely that I replied, but it never got through. By all means send me a reminder so I know to send a reply through Gmail to make sure you get the reply.

I've also been quiet on my blog for quite sometime. I have been rather busy with work, family, work, Perl, open source and work, and finding time to write here has been low on my list of things to do. However, I have a few posts coming soon to help redress the balance.

File Under: life
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I Am the One You Warned Me Of

Posted on 27th September 2011

To the right you'll see the identity page of my current UK passport. This is an official UK government issued photo identity, despite what any website may think. As you can see quite clearly, the name 'Barbie' does indeed appear as my name on my passport. Other names and numbers have been redacted, but these are considered private and not required to prove my identity except when required to do so by law.

Rules of a website are not law, but complying with their requests, I have submitted this to both Facebook and Google+. As I mentioned last week, Facebook have decided that they no longer consider this to be my legal name, and rejected my passport. As to why is a little confusing as they either don't consider the UK government to be a recognised world power, or don't recognise the passports issued by them. Despite several attempts to get a response, I am now being stone-walled and all attempts to contact them are being ignored.

This week, Google+ decided that they would follow suit and issued a suspension notice. Their link to lodge an appeal fails with an error message, and although the additional information form appeared to submit my passport and additional supporting links, I received no communication (either through my gmail account or my personal email) as to whether it was received. With such poor communication methods to appeal, I am not hopeful that my evidence even got through.

I still question why any social network requires anyone to expose personal information in order to use their site. It isn't required to provide functionality, as I have been using both sites for sometime now (Facebook for over 4 years, and Google+ for about 3-4 months). It isn't a legal requirement, as there is no such restriction for those registering profiles with fake names.

Google+ state that "The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile", which I do. Barbie is the name I am commonly known by. Of the several hundred people who follow me or know me offline, few have ever known my full name. In many cases now, if asked many will get my full name wrong. However, they all know me well as Barbie. CEOs, MDs, colleagues, friends and family have known me as Barbie for nearly 30 years. That's at least 15 years before I had a presence online.

Having an unusual name worked in my favour as people remembered me. As a roadie and lighting engineer for bands, I got asked to work gigs because people remembered me. Had I had a "normal" name I doubt I would have been so memorable.

Since Google+ opened up to the general public, it is noticeable how many spammers and scammers have suddenly joined with legitimate looking names and have started hassling users. Some have even got so sick of the spammers they are considering leaving Google+ anyway. It really is a sad state of affairs when Google choose to eject and alienate legitimate users, who can make Google+ the kind of place they want it to be, but welcome spammers and scammers with open arms, who are only likely to give those 750 million Facebook users a reason not to join.

In the case of Google+, what makes this even more gaulling is that Google have previously dealt with me personally as Barbie on several occasions. Firstly to handle sponsorship of YAPC::Europe 2006 in Birmingham, where I was met and thanked personally by the Google representatives for allowing them to be represented at the conference. At several times over the last 5 years or more I have been approached by Google recruiters, asking me consider working for the company. I'll be intrigued to see if they ever contact me again. In addition they use my work. I have heard from a few people that Google use my CPAN code in various projects, and that they use CPAN Testers too.

For a company who seem to have a hard time acknowledging me as a real person, they seem to know me well enough when it suits them!

I'm extremely disappointed with the lack of communication from both Google+ and Facebook too. When it is quite obvious you are dealing with a real person, it should be common courtesy to keep them informed of the processes and the state of their appeal. Instead I get a wall of silence. I'm not hopeful that I will get reinstate with either Social Network site, which will be a shame as I've established quite a presence on Facebook and was starting to on Google+.

I do find it scary that the vast majority of online users are giving away more and more personal details that really should be private. It will get to the point where some are going to find their privacy so exposed that their future is severely restricted and affected by it. A casual remark or photo that is suddenly public may hamper your chances of employment, even if it doesn't truly represent you. Employers use the internet to find out about you before deciding to employing you.

And what about protecting your privacy from those that you don't know but infiltrate your life with unwanted attention? I know of at least one person on Facebook who has to conceal their identity due to a stalker.

If these Real Name Policies were actually used against every user, with no expections, such that every user had to provide evidence of who they were, it would be a bit extreme, but at least it would be seen as fair. When these policies are only applied to users who have "funny" names, then its discrimination. Sadly with the bulk of users not caring how the minority are affected and the free element to subscriptions, those who are ejected have little or no power to change anything.

Adrian Short posted an interesting article in The Guardian recently, which features an interesting perspective; "If you're not paying for your presence on the web, then you're just a product being used by an organisation bigger than you."

File Under: facebook / google / life / privacy
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State Of The Nation

Posted on 19th September 2011

Sadly it seems history does repeat. Four years ago I was blocked from Facebook for having a fake name. However, since then I have changed my name by deed poll. My passport, bank accounts, etc all now have Barbie on official documents. I'm hoping that providing my passport provides the proof needed that Barbie is indeed my real name.

As with my previous post I still have to ask why social networks have to insist on full real names, when these are not used in real life. Certainly in the UK you are not under any obligation to use your full or even first name, even for official documents.

I don't use my surname as that is a family name, and not something that I publicly use. In fact many still don't know my surname. Some may know my old surname, while not knowing my new surname. It shouldn't be for social networks to decide how you are to be publicly exposed. It comes close to a witch-hunt.

There has been a campaign recently called My Name Is Me, which started thanks to an incident with Skud and Google+. It really is a shame that people have to start things like this just to protect their identity.

In Facebook's own Privacy Policy, it states quite clearly "Your privacy is very important to us." Except that's contradicted by them insisting that you use your full name when using their site. If your full name is not publicly known, isn't that a breach of privacy? Now I understand that these are their rules, but I still don't understand why they are needed. I've not seen any reason why publicly outing someone's full name is socially acceptable just to use a service.

Four years ago a developer at Facebook put forward my case to those who make these decisions within Facebook, and after being reinstated I became the only person (as far as I know) to have a single name on Facebook. I hope they agree to reinstating my account again, but sadly I don't feel so hopeful this time around. We shall see.

Seeing as Facebook has become the place to keep in touch with pretty much everyone, and pretty much everyone who has me as a friend only knows me as Barbie, it would be a shame to be forceably excluded from interacting with friends I don't get to talk to regularly around the world.

File Under: facebook / life
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Know Your Rights

Posted on 26th May 2011

The changes required as part of the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which I discussed last week, come into effect today (26th May 2011). The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) released a press release on their website stating that "Organisations and businesses that run websites aimed at UK consumers are being given 12 months to 'get their houses in order'." However, this statement only serves to confuse the issue more. Does this mean that individuals are not covered by the law (the directive implies they are) or does it mean that the leniency given to businesses does not apply to individuals, and thus the full weight of the law and fines will be imposed immediately. The press release also seems to imply that the new law only applies to businesses providing ecommerce websites, so does that mean other businesses and organisations are exempt?

Or, does it mean that those implementing the law and writing press releases are so eager to get something out, they have forgotten that their peace offering to (some?) businesses still leaves a gaping hole in their policy of adhering to the original directive.

And it gets worse. Reading an article on eWeek, George Thompson, information security director at KPMG, is quoted as saying "The new law inadvertently makes the collection of consent - yet another set of sensitive, customer data - compulsory. Companies need to tighten up their data management policies and make absolutely sure that every new data composition is covered." Which leads me to believe that you can now be fined if you don't ask the user to accept cookies, and can be fined if you don't record details of those who said they don't want cookies! Then I assume you can then be fined again if that data isn't securely stored away to adhere to the Data Protection Act.

Did no-one really sit down and think of the implications of all this?

The Register reports that only 2 countries within the EU have notified the Commision that all the rulings have been passed into law, with the other Member States possibly facing infringement proceedings. With such a weight of resistence, wouldn't it be more wise to review the directive properly so all Member States understand and agree to all the implications?

It's not all doom and gloom though. Another article by Brian Clifton on Measuring Success, looks at Google Analytics, and concludes that "Google Analytics uses 1st party cookies to anonymously and in aggregate report on visits to your website. This is very much at the opposite end of the spectrum to who this law is targeting. For Google Analytics users, complying with the ToS (and not using the other techniques described above), there is no great issue here - you already respect your visitors privacy...!" (also read Brian's car counting analogy in comment 3, as well as other comments). In fact Google's own site about Google Analytics supports Brian's conclusion too.

The BBC have posted on their BBC Internet Blog, explaining how they are going to be changing to comply with the law. To begin with they have updated their list of cookies used across all their services. Interestingly they list Google Analytics as 3rd-party cookies, even though they are not, but I think that comes from the misunderstanding many of us had about GA cookies.

Although the ICO website has tried to lead by example, with a form at the top of their pages requesting you accept cookies, this doesn't suit all websites. This method of capturing consent works fine for those generating dynamic websites from self controlled applications, such as ICO's own ASP.NET application, but what about static websites? What about off-the-shelf packages that haven't any support for this sort of requirement?

On the other side of the coin, the ICO themselves have discovered that a cookie used to maintain session state is required by their own application. Providing these are anonymous, the directive would seem to imply that these cookies are exempt, as being "strictly necessary" for the runing of the site. Then again, if they did contain identifying data, but the application wouldn't work without it, is that still "strictly necessary"? A first step for most website owners will be to audit their use of cookies, as the BBC have done, but I wonder how many will view them all as strictly necessary?

It generally means this is going to be an ongoing headache for quite sometime, with ever more questions than answers. As some have noted, it is going to take a legal test case before we truly know what is and isn't acceptable. Here's hoping it goes before a judge well versed with how the internet works, and that common sense prevails.

File Under: internet / law / life / website
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Close (To The Edit)

Posted on 8th March 2011

On Saturday March 5th 2011, a neighbour of ours, Kate Angel, took part in a sponsored head shave for Cancer Research UK. Her friend Angie was diagnosed with breast cancer last September and with Angie living in Blackpool, Kate felt she needed to do something to help her. Shaving her head to raise money and awareness seemed to be a positive and inspiring way to do it.

Cora Flowers, a professional hairdresser and neighbour, offered to shave Kate's head, and David Le Marchand, "another Dad", worked on the posters and flyers for the event. Having a video camera, Nicole offered my services to record the whole event as "The man across the road".

Having recorded the event, I then spent Saturday and Sunday having fun editing the video. The full edit came to 30 minutes, but I also managed to make a shorter edit at just over 12 minutes for YouTube, featuring the main highlights.

So far the online donations and the money raised on the day has raised nearly £1,500 (and is expected to be more with all the promotion of the videos). If you would like to donate an amount, please visit Kate's JustGiving page, and donate as little or as much as you can to a very worthy cause.

To see the event itself, watch the YouTube video.

File Under: family / health / life / people / rubery
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