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Post Election Bits & Bytes

Election ’08 is now in the history books – so I figured it’s time to take a look backward, and a look forward at some relevant headlines.

Hacking Democracy

First, we’ll take a look at one of the best kept secrets of the campaign season, from both sides, care of a Newsweek article published just today.  Over the summer, the FBI had its hands full with simultaneous cyber crime investigations: the hacking of the Obama campaign computer system(s), and the hacking of the McCain campaign computer system(s).  While the intrusions have been acknowledged,  little else has been released or confirmed yet.  At this point, it’s known for sure that the FBI was involved, that “a large number of files” were stolen from the Obama side, and that the attacks came from a “foreign entity” and definitely did not come from the opposing sides.  The McCain campaign systems were intruded on in a similar fashion as the Obama systems, but the extent of the compromise on their side was unmentioned.  The rest is speculation of course: security experts have suggested the attacks likely came from China or Russia, and anyone’s best guess is that the goal of such an intrusion was to gain an inside line on procedures and policies used by the campaigns for a leg up in future dealings with the to-be president. (H/T to Newsweek)

This of course wasn’t the only politically motivated cyber-crime this campaign season – I’m sure many recall the Sarah Palin e-mail intrusion back in September.  Though it’s significance is near nil at this point, we’ll remember it as the day our servers felt the shock wave of a web traffic explosion.  If anyone is still interested: David Kernell, a college student in Tennessee, and the son of Tennessee democratic representiative Mike Kernell, was indicted by grand jury in late October.  His trial begins on December 16th, and faces up to 5 years and fines.  Not so “anonymous” now, eh David?  A court has also ordered the e-mails in both of governor Palin’s Yahoo! accounts be preserved for further investigation.

Another dishonorable mention is the state of Ohio election information and registration website that also came under attack, and experienced some brief downtime in late October.  (H/T to Reuters)

Technology Promises

I also want to give a nod back to another item I’ve talked about here: Science Debate 2008.  We’ve got a list of policies and action-items promised to us from pre-president-elect Obama in the realm of technology.  I’ll be saving a copy and keeping score for the next four to eight years.

Along the same lines is Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” video on technology issues.  Maybe you missed it?  Don’t feel bad; for whatever reason, this wasn’t released until the night before the election, effectively burying it in the rest of the 11th hour buzz.

Hi-Tech Election Day Coverage

Election night itself was a grand display of technology as well.  CNN debuted it’s new “hologram” technology – much to the chagrin of pocket protector pencil neck purists who are still complaining two days later that the effect isn’t actually a hologram.  “True” hologram or not, I personally found it a bit silly.  We’ll see if CNN or others bother with this technique down the road.

Ratings speak volumes though, and CNN enjoyed second place of 14 major networks covering the event with 12.3 million viewers.  ABC was the victor, at just over 13 million viewers.  In all, it’s estimated about 71 million viewers tuned in on Tuesday to watch the results unfold.  As impressive at it sounds, it’s still over 25 million shy of this year’s past Super Bowl.  Apparently the world’s couch potatoes are still more interested in the Patriots than in patriotism. (Nielsen’s complete ratings here.)

Nielsen also kept an eye to the web to gauge coverage ratings in cyberspace.  There’s a comprehensive list here if interested; CNN, MSNBC and Yahoo! News being the top three destinations for surfers on Tuesday. The official campaign sites also received a boost on Tuesday, with Obama’s site receiving 1.2 million unique visitors, and McCain’s site receiving 479,000 unique visitors.

The Future

Lastly, let’s look ahead to some new developments that will affect us going forward.

While not related to presidential politics per se, this is still a governmental policy decision that flew under the radar with all the elections buzz, that could mean huge developments in the wireless arena.  On Tuesday, the FCC approved a measure to free up “white spaces” for unlicensed (read: free but regulated) use.  In short, this means unused areas of the wireless spectrum in the general area of digital TV transmissions can be used by consumer devices.  This coveted piece of intangible mathematical electromagnetic real estate means higher bandwidth (faster) transmission of information to and from consumer devices, at greater distances than the current public bands allow.  It’s been a long fought battle mostly centered around issues of interference with licensed bands (at least, that’s the PR friendly argument – it’s probably been a long fought battle because telecommunications companies have sunk billions into competing technologies that may have just been rendered obsolete.)  To appease the interference complaints (some of which are probably valid), devices will have to be extremely smart: they’ll be required to be GPS aware, and to communicate over the Internet with a central database to announce their position and ask permission for an interference free frequency.  There’s a loophole for less intelligent devices, though they’ll have to pass some pretty rigorous interference tests.  You can read more here.  Dell claims to have laptops with “white space radio” already in the works that you can learn about here.

The last “bit” we have to pass on is some news about some technology related appointments to the Obama transition team.  Named to the team include Google philanthropy officer Sonal Shah, and Julius Genchowski who is a former IAC executive and former chief council to former FCC chairman Reed Hundt.  Rumors abound about Google CEO Eric Schmidt may be in the running for U.S. Chief Technology Advisor as well.