January 24, 2004
Inexplicable airport "security"

Travelling back from Cape Town, and the fascinating IDLELO conference on the African digital commons (more on that later), I had to pass through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Apart from the glaring lack of wifi, the airport was notable for an odd addition to passenger screening: As we queued for the TSA belt, there was a foot-testing platform outside, where we could see for ourselves whether our shoes would beep in the screening line.

What purpose does the foot-tester serve, other than to illustrate the paradoxes of so-called security? I imagine passengers complained that they didn't know whether or not to remove their shoes, so someone decided to give them a helping foot.

But if the foot-tester device is accurate (and it'll cause more frustration than help if it's not), then it serves as an oracle, letting good guys and bad guys alike determine whether they're likely to be picked up. I stepped on and off several times without being questioned. A would-be shoe bomber could probably use a more sinister variation: If the machine beeps, walk away; try again later with cooler shoes; repeat until the machine stays silent. The tester makes it easier for bad guys to see the detection devices' limit and tailor their implements of destruction just below that cutoff.

I tend to doubt the value of most of the so-called security measures we're subjected to in airports, but I'd rather see them removed than modified in bizarre feel-good ways. As it is, this foot-tester seems to create more risks than it solves. Have I missed something?

Posted by Wendy at 05:49 AM
January 18, 2004
WHOIS Google update

Google appears to have removed the broken WHOIS search -- screenshot (though it's added other features such as UPC and area codes). Why the WHOIS went away, I'll have to investigate further when I return from Cape Town to a more regular 'Net connection.

Posted by Wendy at 12:54 AM
January 09, 2004
Whois google.com?

Ev notes that Google now offers WHOIS lookups. Type "whois google.com" into a Google searchbox, and the first result is an offer to show you the WHOIS data for the domain name registration.

Two questions:

  1. If you registered a domain name, did you know your personal information would be made so publicly accessible, or would you prefer to be able to register without giving out a home address and phone number?
  2. Why doesn't Google have a WHOIS provider that knows that NetSol is no longer the source for .ORG data? (See e.g. whois seltzer.org)
  3. ok, 3: Why does NetSol get to limit provision of WHOIS data by quantity requested, but not to help people keep their addresses private?
    The IP address from which you have visited the Network Solutions Registrar WHOIS database is contained within a list of IP addresses that may have failed to abide by Network Solutions' WHOIS policy. Failure to abide by this policy can adversely impact our systems and servers, preventing the processing of other WHOIS requests.

If you're unhappy about WHOIS and privacy or research, please help me add your thoughts to the ongoing ICANN task forces' consideration.

Posted by Wendy at 07:11 AM