Some Thots on Online Anonymity

I found this idea sprouting in my cereberal loam and transplant is into yours: Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte have been discussing the topic of the DNT header and congruent proposed privacy legislation. They are worried that the notion of tracking cookies will either be legislated to present manditory EULA agreements before acceptance, or that semi-anonymous tracking information might become legally encumbered. The effect being that advertisering agencies will not have low-friction mechanisms to identify semi-unique visitors. In Leo and Steve’s estimation, it is possible that the ability to calculate unique impressions for ads will become crippled, resulting in the advertising economics that often fund todays online independent broadcasts evaporating.

Two or three points of view occur to me. First: there are no good impression mechanisms for television, radio or newspaper–todays “netcasts” are offer an unprecidented resolution for advertising impressions. Is it possible to go on without it?

Second: the notion of cookies and headers, and privacy on the internet is exhaustively discussed. Our fundmental technical structure was not designed for anonymity, and whenever we create a login, we erode that notion ourselves. Do you think it is possible that we could design a web protocol that preserves anonymity, and is it possible to suppliment it with a perishable anonymous identity created by third (non advertising) parties in order to present a hollow avatar to the Internet? Thus, instead of using OpenID providing by wordpress or yahoo, we could use a token associated with a random identity provider that would last a season, which is often long enough to outlive our relationship with many online serivces.

And thirdly, the market for uniquely identifying visitor impressions in a semi- or mostly- anonymous manner that respects privacy obviously exists. You have looked into this for your own podcast, as you’ve mentioned. The poison pill in the flagon with the dragon is mostly the commercial entities aggregating advertising cookies across (all) Internet domains to the degree that these largely unaccountable companies cannot help but have no degree of anonymity left to their data. I have heard of methods of splitting data among multiple parties such that no two of three holders of the data can fit their pair of bits together to guess the third, and thus there is little hope for one holder of a stripe of bits to interpret identity from it. I presume that some basic changes to web client behavior would have to support this.

Not only is this concept applicable to assigning cookies to browsers, it is also governable, and it is also taxable. Do you think it is possible that multiple public institutions could curate fractional-cookie sets such that advertisers could pay them to compute uniques impressions from a set of cookie-shards?

I don’t assume I’m the first to consider these ideas. What of them are already out there?

Bike Lanes on Northwest (Bellingham)

This was forwarded from Dan who organized the recent meeting at city hall:

Good day,  here’s a little update on what’s happening around getting bike lanes on Northwest Ave., Elm St. and Dupont St. and three simple things you can do to help make it happen.

The short version of how you can help:

  1. Send an email to the four addresses below.  Let them know you support cycling in Bellingham and want to see the Northwest/Elm/Dupont corridor improved  THIS YEAR.
  2. Spread this email far and wide.  Get as many people as possible to do item 1 at least, and hopefully item 3 as well.
  3. If you can make it, come to the open house that Public Works will host at Shuksan Middle School, Wednesday, March 23, 7-9pm.   Tell someone from PW why you’re there.

That’s it.  So simple.  Please, send one short email to these four addresses.  Let your desires be known to our local policy makers.  We need to impress upon them that there is a large constituency of citizens who want this.  They need to hear the message in big numbers.

Send your message to:
And use the subject line:    Northwest/Elm/Dupont Bike Lanes

The long version (’cause I just love to type):

Bellingham City Council has proposed installing bike lanes on Dupont St., Elm St. and Northwest Ave from downtown to I-5.  This could be one of the biggest bike projects ever in Bellingham.  But it is not a done deal.  You can help make it happen.  Mayor Pike and Public Works would prefer to put the project off until 2012 and expand the scope and cost of it significantly beyond bike lanes.  Details of what else they want to include are not yet available, except that Public Works is seeking $20,000 for the design work alone.  I can only speculate that additions might include bus pull-outs, cross-walks, and bulb-outs at intersections.   Those would be good additions in the long run, but striping bike lanes thissummer does not preclude building these other elements next summer.  And, most importantly, I think, is that there is no guarantee that following this fall’s election we will still have the relatively bike-friendly mayor and council that we do now.  I hope we do, but as they say: elections have consequences.  Putting this off for another year may mean it doesn’t happen at all, especially as the price grows to a politically unpalatable scale in tight times.  A different mayor and council next year may say “Too big, too expensive” and cancel the whole thing.  The bike lanes alone are very inexpensive and easily engineered.  This much can be done this year without limiting what can be added next year.

A few other random talking points:

  1. $4/Gallon.
  2. The only viable cycling route from downtown to Whatcom Community College, Bellis Fair, and Cordata.  Give Northside residents an alternative means to come into town finally.
  3. Some say the climate is changing.
  4. Six schools along this route and childhood obesity.
  5. Good for the local economy (gas money leaves the community immediately, money NOT spent on gas is more likely to stay local).
  6. Good for NW Ave businesses (cyclists are statistically more likely to stop at the businesses they pass than to go out of their way).
  7. It is in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
  8. Approved by the Birchwood and Columbia Neighborhood Associations

They need to hear the message.  In big numbers.  Send the emails.  Please.  And have a great ride today.   Thanks  -Dan


Inverviews on Peak Oil

Below is a 20 minute video featuring interviews with Noam Champsky and Bill Mckibben and others on why the US seems legally bound and why CEOs may be too frightened to honestly confront peak oil and climate change.

Actuary Report: Obesity costs $300BN

Actuary Report, quote from the summary:

…the total economic cost of overweightand obesity in the United States and Canada caused by medical costs, excess mortalityand disability is approximately $300 billion per year. The portion of this total due to overweight is approximately $80 billion, and approximately $220 billion is due to obesity. The portion of the total in the United States is approximately 90 percent of the total for the United States and Canada.

No wonder our insurance is going up. How long before insurance companies give serious plan incentives for companies to hire employees that have a spouse at home cooking organic meals and live car-lite?

Are Workplaces Incentivizing the Ride? (Commute by Bike)

I’d like to think that bike commuting would be that much more obvious for businesses to encourage.