1. v. The act of writing a weblog or 2. n. Toby’s weblog.

MPs' Expenses

A quick, but important, post. First a quote from Barack Obama, today:

“And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

Whilst this was said, our MPs here in the UK are pushing to hide the details of their expenses (that is: the money that we let them spend) from us, eroding even more the trust between the government and its owners and continuing the chipping away of democracy in the UK.

If you are a member of facebook then please join this group. Either way have a read of this and follow their helpful three step plan.

I’ve written to my MP. Have you?

UPDATE 2009-01-21 13:20: Good news from The Open Rights Group: the amendments have been killed.

Published on 2009/01/20 at 18:14 by Toby, tags , , , ,

Coz' the Facebook ain't listening...

So, Channel 4 has quizzed facebook about just why they make it so hard to delete an account. For those of you just catching up, facebook allow you to ‘deactivate’ an account very easily but not delete all the data that you have put into their system. In order to fully delete the account, you need to manually delete every single item that you have placed into their care. They have said in the past that this is to make it easy to reactivate your account should you suffer a change of heart.

They make the following point:

Facebook does not use any information from deactivated accounts for advertising purposes.

They have to say this. One of the major value proposition of facebook is that they give you a useful tool to do what you want with in return for making money off your personal data from advertising revenue. I feel that it would be very wrong for them to farm out your data if you are no longer getting some benefit from it.

So, why keep it, and why make it so hard to properly remove yourself from their servers? I really hope the reasons are technical and that the database design has been organically grown or designed such that there is no referential integrity, thus making it harder to traverse down the various content stores working out who owns what.

At the risk of calling down the ire of facebook (and yes, I would be temporarily lost without it) I am seriously beginning to consider whether I want to give my data to this company no matter how granular the access controls are when there are some interesting alternatives (and no, I’m not talking about the excerable myspace).

So, we shall see. This isn’t yet my ‘turn off facebook moment’ but it may well not be far around the corner…

[Edited to add – this is an interesting take as well which makes one wonder – they say they don’t use deactivated information for advertising purposes. However, that answer very effectively excludes the many, many other uses the data has. Worrying.]

Published on 2007/11/21 at 18:21 by Toby, tags ,

TCSOTD 2007-11-21

Ebay sale for two CD’s with some sort of database on them
… Ha ha ha ha ha

Merry Mithras

Data lost by HMRC

B3ta’s reaction to the HMRC data loss here

More serious reactions from ORG
and Professor Ross Anderson, which is particularly worth reading.

Facebook is causing a different privacy row
Channel 4 has a take on it too

Spheres of Chaos now free

TCSOTD 2007-09-26

Nick Drew on how Gordon’s blatent borrowing against the future and off balance sheet shenanigans are slowly coming home to roost

The Usmanov Affair hits Slashdot

Michael Robertson on why AnywhereCD failed

Microsoft to buy minority stake in facebook

Apple: firmware update likely to make unlocked iPhones ‘permanently inoperable’
… or: Apple: This phone you bought from us, right? You can’t do what you want with it.

Statewatch analyses The EU’s draft Reform Treaty

Burmese riot police attack monks

Euro realist MEP Tom Wise uses parliamentary privilege to spell out the allegations against Alisher Usmanov

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Allow the Red Arrows to Fly at the 2012 Olympics

Twitter to facebook status ruby script

UPDATE 2007-09-30: You can now make the twitter facebook application update your status, so this is now redundant!

UPDATE 2007-09-09 (Cribbed from Christian’s site as I couldn’t put it any better): It is with great disappointment that I must make this announcement. Facebook has requested that I remove the code from my website. They have also contacted everyone else who has found my code and publicly mentioned that they are using it.

I am saddened at this turn of events because the idea behind the code was to extend Facebook’s current service and fill in the gap that their API had. The API still does not provide a means for updating ones status.

I’ve been wanting to update my facebook status with my twitterings for some time now. Unfortunately facebook do not provide an API for setting the status so I have been thwarted. Until now. Yesterday I accidentally found Christian Flickinger’s blog entry where he has found a way to update facebook status using php. At the end of his blog he writes:

Anyone with some experience could easily use the above code to check Twitter and (if updated) push to Facebook. Happy mashing!

I know how the twitter api works and I’m a big fan of ruby so I thought I would pick up the gauntlet and hack up a quick ruby script to do just that.

You’ll need to install the json and curb gems for it to work. Then copy and paste the below code into a file called fbTwit.rb in a suitable place on your unix box (it writes state down so you may want it in it’s own directory), edit the variables so that they are correct for your accounts, run it by hand to check it works for you and then set it to run every (say) 10 minutes via cron with something like the following in your crontab:

00,10,20,30,40,50 * * * * cd [directory]; ./fbTwit.rb 2>&1 > /dev/null

  1. Code removed at the request of facebook.

The quality of the code probably isn’t that great: it only took a short time to write, but it works (for me).

[2007-08-01] Yesterday this stopped working, along with the SSL login for I have changed it to use the http login which still works, although whether you want your password sent in the clear is up to you.

Published on 2007/07/13 at 11:50 by Toby, tags , , , ,

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