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Have Questions For MIT's Aaron Swartz Review? 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the light-where-it-must-shine dept.
theodp writes "Explaining that it believes 'the most important questions are the ones that will come from the MIT community,' MIT announced that it won't be accepting questions from outsiders for its President-ordered 'review' of the events that preceded the suicide of Aaron Swartz. But if you feel the 25 questions asked thus far don't cover all the bases, how about posting additional ones in the comments where MIT'ers can see them and perhaps repost to the MIT site some that they feel deserve answers? Do it soon — MIT President Rafael Reif will be returning any day now from Davos, where he sat on a panel with Bill Gates, who coincidentally once found himself in hot water over unauthorized computer access. 'They weren't sure how mad they should be about it,' Gates explained in a 2010 interview, 'because we hadn't really caused any damage, but it wasn't a good thing. Computer hacking was literally just being invented at the time, and so fortunately we got off with a bit of a warning.'" Related: text has been published of public domain advocate Carl Malamud's remarks at Swartz's memorial. Quoting: "Aaron wasn't a lone wolf, he was part of an army, and I had the honor of serving with him for a decade. Aaron was part of an army of citizens that believes democracy only works when the citizenry are informed, when we know about our rights—and our obligations."
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Have Questions For MIT's Aaron Swartz Review?

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  • by An dochasac (591582) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:03PM (#42692255)
    What dividend should taxpayers expect when publically-funded funded MIT research is handed to private multinational companies?
  • by An dochasac (591582) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:21PM (#42692485)
    McDonalds, Starbucks, the local GasNSip and Grandma all have their Wifi secured with a minimum of WPA/WPA2, often with some kind of MAC filtering, encrypted traffic and IP address management. Why did MIT, one of the most prestigious technology campuses in the world, lack even some of the simplest internet security models? Is MIT unable to find qualified technical staff as McDonalds and Starbucks have? Is it not likely that MIT's students could sue for damage to their computers caused by internal and external abuse of such a tin-can and string network infrastructure?
  • by Aguazul2 (2591049) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:26PM (#42692551)
    <<Faced with adversity, he took the coward's way out.>> I'd say it takes more bravery than you imagine to commit suicide (especially when not in an emotional state -- and he chose the day, so it was more likely a conscious decision). You have to overcome all of your survival instincts to do it. So I would not call it the coward's way out. It is more like taking the suffering up front instead of deferring the suffering over a lifetime. A coward would simply go along with it and rot in jail and come out a bitter old man.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:42PM (#42692763)

    How about this:

    The "wiring closet" where Aaron's laptop was connected to the switch, was also used by a homeless man to store his property.

    If MIT knowingly permitted the homeless man to use the closet, why would MIT or the DOJ prosecute/persecute Aaron for similarly storing his laptop there?

    If Aaron reasonably concluded that the use of the wiring closet was NOT off-limits, how did this not factor into the decision(s) by all parties involved in indicting Aaron? Did MIT not participate in review of the prosecution, or were the MIT or DOJ representatives unaware of the (unlocked and occupied) closet factor?

    If the closet was unlocked, and used by non-MIT individuals with MITs knowledge and permission, how does connecting a laptop to a switch IN THE SAME CLOSET rise to the level of "unauthorized"?

    If I am somewhere that I am allowed to be, and there is a network port or network switch in front of me, it is reasonable to conclude that connecting a laptop to that port or switch is permitted.

    Any "authorized" or "unauthorized" would, at that point, be strictly a logical, rather than physical, issue - exactly the same as accessing a server over wifi.

    And, given that the wifi usage was open, and wired connections did not require authentication, again, how did that rise to "unauthorized"?

    Whose decision was it, and how was that decision validated?

    Did the person making that decision do so in a manner that exceeded his/her authority, or in a manner inconsistent with PUBLISHED policies?

    A published policy may hold more legal weight, than the interpretation of an individual if the two are in any manner inconsistent.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:52PM (#42692883)
    Internal hacks at MIT are a tradition. Good ones are celebrated. When an outsider physically entered a building and wiretapped a network to bypass a fire wall that was seen as an attack on property. In this case it got way overblown into a federal case. but there was still a crime here.
  • by Aguazul2 (2591049) on Friday January 25, 2013 @02:28PM (#42693333)
    I personally cannot survive without fresh air, natural surroundings and visiting mountains now and again. I feel a constant and increasing discomfort the longer I am away from that. If I was faced with 30 years away, then I'd be looking at 30 years of totally unbearable, 24-hours-a-day torture. There are more options for suicide before getting into the system ... The logic is undeniable. And if you've already made that decision, then you might as well make a statement with it and choose a symbolic day. That is how I personally can relate to Aaron's actions, although of course I have absolutely no idea what was actually going on in his head. (The other option of course is to compromise your morals and grovel and accept plea bargains and all the rest, but I don't think Aaron was up for that.)
  • Damage control? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cpghost (719344) on Friday January 25, 2013 @02:38PM (#42693507) Homepage
    1. What does MIT intend to do, to restore its reputation and the reputation of its Alumnis? Because, frankly, right now, it sucks to be associated with MIT, even retroactively.
    2. Historically, Universities used to keep the State out of the equation to foster a free(er) academic climate. What happened to this free culture at MIT, and when did it change so fundamentally?
  • Re:My Question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @04:00PM (#42694621)

    Pretty sure those people saw him as a hero before he committed suicide. Commiting suicide only made him a martyr.

    The whole spiel about the folks "doing their job" is utter BS. If these folks felt so strongly about the law, they should be prosecuting every person who unlocks a phone without carrier authorization and they most definetly should be going after those teenagers who drugged their parents for extended internet access. But going after those people wouldn't offer the same level of "prestige" as it would for going after someone as "dangerous" as Swartz.

    Make sure everyone of these people get felonies on their record and 14 days prison sentence per charge because they all broke the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act under fair reading.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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