Friday, February 28, 2014

Secure Communication Channels Over Any Network With Telehash

Much like after 911, things will never be the same on the Internet after the Snowden-NSA revelations. Our delusional belief that the Internet is by default “open”, has been crushed, and corporate and government surveillance is now an expected part of daily life--there is no going back! To help me move forward, I'm exporing possibilities for what is next, which has led me back to a communication protocol called Telehash.

I first learned about Telehash several years ago, as I was doing the same research on the future of APIs, and in 2014 I’m picking up where I lef off with my education. My friend Jeremie is working hard on pushing the communication protocol forward, and e needs help funding his work, as well as attracting active technical contributors—I am doing what I do best, tell stories around what is possible with Telehash.

There are several key characteristics of Telehash that stand out for me, and make it something I can't get out of my head:

  • Communication channels are encrypted all the time - there is no unencrypted mode
  • Each application instance or device generates its own public/private keypair, they cannot be impersonated and security is not dependent on trust in certificate authorities
  • Network addresses are generated from public key fingerprints, not centrally managed as with IP addresses
  • Routing is based on a globally distributed hash table (DHT), not a central authority or managed hierarchy
  • Uses a dual JSON/binary packet format
  • Bindings to Bluetooth, IEEE 802.15.4, and other low-layer transports are also on the way

You see all of the elements of what is needed for a next generation communication protocol in there. This isn’t just about privacy and security, it is about us defining our own networks, whether that is on existing Internet infrastructure or adhoc device or an Internet of Things (IoT) defined network.

Telehash is not just some random side project, it is the complete focus of Jeremie (@jeremie), who also helped found Jabber/XMPP, which is the backbone of common messaging apps today, including the now infamous WhatsApp that Facebook just acquired for $19B.  Telehash is building on what we already know, but introducing the key ingredients we WILL depend on for messaging in the future.

As I did with Telehash Node Runners in Egypt, I’m going to continue to craft stories that help us understand how Telehash can be applied, which is already pushing my understanding of what a network can and should be, and how us humans, and our devices can safely communicate on the open Internet, as well as our own privately defined, trusted networks.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Are We Not Innovating On The Big Problems?

As I scan my news feeds I constantly see talk of all the innovation going on—everyone is doing it! In the same feeds I see lots of really big problems like people out of work, mega-drought in California, heating fuel shortages in rural areas, power grid issues, and the list goes on and on.

On side of my news feed showcase how we are innovating with technology in so many new ways, and the other side just tells how screwed we are. Which is it? Are we innovating or are we drowning in big problems?

I’m not saying that there aren’t interesting innovations coming out of the tech sector. I’m saying that I think much of what we claim to be innovations is wasted on non-problems, and potentially profitable ways, not on the real problems we actually face as a society.

How do we incentivize entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to turn their attention to the biggest problems like water, energy, the environment and other critical areas of our world? If we can do this, then I think we can proudly showcase our work as innovation.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Thoughtful Use of JavaScript When Designing Embeddable Tools

One of the security blogs I follow is Schneier on Security from Bruce Schneier. If you want to understand what is going on around the NSA and security, Bruce is the guy. I was tweeting out a story from his blog today and noticed his share buttons:

You have to actually enable the buttons before you can click, protecting you from the common monitoring we face everyday through JavaScript. It is a simple, but very powerful concept when thinking about how we use JavaScript.

This approach represents a very thoughtful use of JavaScript, something I would like to do more of, and is something we should all be doing as we are building embeddable JavaScript tools.

Thanks Bruce!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Essential Variable in Big Data Algorithm: Transparency

It is easy to get excited about the potential around “big data”. Many individuals and companies feel this latest trend is all about offering up big data solutions with business models that are built around algorithms, that founders consider their “secret sauce”.

I don't have a problem with this, more power to you, however I personally feel big data solutions, especially those within government should be more transparent than many of the secret sauce, big data approaches we’ve seen to date.

Alex Howard (@digiphile) has a great post at TechRepublic, called data-driven policy and commerce requires algorithmic transparency, which outlines this very well. Alex uses the the phrase "algorithmic accountability”, which I think sums all of this up very nicely.

When it comes to big data solutions, especially in the public sector, it is fine to collect large amounts of data, offer up analytics, visualizations and other big data tools, but algorithmic accountability is something that will be essential in moving forward and building trust across all indusries when it comes to big data.