Sunday, August 29, 2010

Aren't they supposed to spend the stimulus funds on making education better?

U.S. schools: grooming students for a surveillance state

August 28, 2010 by Dissent

Schools are increasingly invading student privacy both in school and outside of school. Are schools grooming youth to passively accept a surveillance state where they have no expectation of privacy anywhere? A commentary.

The increasing use of student surveillance and intrusion of school districts into students’ extra-curricular conduct should alarm us all. Whether it is a district surveilling students in their bedrooms via webcam, conducting random drug or locker searches, strip-searching students, lowering the standard for searching students to “reasonable suspicion” from “probable cause,” disciplining students for conduct outside of school hours, searching their cellphones and text messages, or allegedly forcing them to undergo pregnancy testing, student privacy is under increasing threat.

The other day I mentioned a Connecticut school district that wanted to require students to carry an ID card with an RFID chip so that they could track their location. The surveillance capability included locating the student if they were off school premises and in town. Today, I came across another news story from earlier this month that also involves tracking students. KTVU in California reported that the Contra Costa County School District began introducing a tracking system for preschool students that would alert staff when a student leaves school premises. In order to accomplish that, students will reportedly be required to wear a jersey that contains the RFID tag that uses Wi-Fi to send signals to sensors located throughout the school.

I realize that some might argue that these are just little pre-schoolers and of course, we want to protect their safety, etc., but keep in mind that one of the major justifications for the program is to save staff time in terms of having to manually record attendance, etc. In exchange for that time and cost-saving, what price do we pay psychologically as a society? It strikes me that schools are grooming our youth to simply accept being tracked and monitored wherever they go and that anything they do, anywhere, can be used against them in school or elsewhere.

Is this really how we want to raise our children? To be sheep who accept being tracked and who have little sense of privacy or entitlement to privacy?

A study released last year by Fordham Law’s Center on Law and Information Privacy found that the education sector was not doing enough to protect the privacy of student information. It did not, however, look at the question of whether schools were actually invading student privacy and systematically eroding student privacy rights and autonomy. It’s time for a national dialogue about student privacy, while there are still some remnants of it left.

Do we really need new laws when marketing starts calling “outsourcing” by a new name?

Major cloud computing privacy legal issues remain unresolved

August 29, 2010 by Dissent

Steve Gantz writes:

… From a legal standpoint, it appears that while many opinions exist on how privacy can be protected in the cloud, who should ultimately be responsible for that protection, and how law enforcement agencies and other government entities should treat cloud environments, there are more unresolved issues than there are settled ones. One significant area that serves as an example of the inability of legislation and jurisprudence to keep up with the rapid pace of technological evolution is the extent to which reasonable expectations of privacy will apply to data stored in the cloud. A large proportion of seemingly relevant jurisprudence has considered privacy protections only in the context of emails, text messages, and other online methods of communication, but no substantial case law exists that addresses general personal information stored in the cloud, which by its nature cannot necessarily be viewed analogously to data stored in file folders on hard drives owned or maintained by the parties to whom the data belongs. [Nonsense. It is exactly like data stored by your email host (Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) or by any other provider (Google Docs, etc.) But jurisdiction question aside, what else changes? Bob] One of the more comprehensive treatments of this topic comes in the form of an article published in the Minnesota Law Review last year by David A. Couillard, then a third-year law student, that provides an analysis of privacy expectations in the cloud in the context of Fourth Amendment principles and case law. Couillard’s article examines the reasoning applied by various federal courts in determining the reasonableness of privacy expectations associated with personal possessions, computers, and various forms of communication, and concludes with a set of recommendations on how courts might apply Fourth Amendment precedents to cloud computing.

Read more on Security Architecture.

You have to be considering some very interesting scenarios to justify something like this...

Congress may sneak through Internet ‘kill switch’ in defense bill

August 29, 2010 by Dissent

Daniel Tencer reports:

A federal cybersecurity bill that critics say creates a presidential “kill switch” for the Internet could be added on to a defense spending bill and passed without much debate, technology news sources report.

Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), one of the sponsors of the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, told that the Senate is considering attaching the bill as a rider to a defense authorization bill likely to pass through Congress before the mid-term elections.

It’s hard to get a measure like cybersecurity legislation passed on its own,” Carper said. [Not for a “Real” politician... Bob]

Carper, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), introduced the bill in June in an effort to combat cyber-crime and the threat of online warfare and terrorism. Critics say the bill would allow the president to disconnect Internet networks and force private websites to comply with broad cybersecurity measures. Future US presidents would have those powers renewed indefinitely.

Read more on Raw Story.

An expansion of the executive’s powers deserves its own bill and debate. Tacking it on to a must-pass bill is just politics as usual.

For my geeks

Customize The Windows Task Manager To Your Liking with Task Manager Modder

What many users don’t realize, however, is that Windows Task Manager can be customized in numerous ways. You can even customize how it looks – if you don’t mind downloading a third party program capable of controlling the visuals.

… This requires a third party program called Task Manager Modder. This program lets you change the way the graphs look in the Performance tab, so you can customize it to something more agreeable (i.e. not neon green).

(Related) I have my Swiss Army folder...

IObit Toolkit – A Portable PC Toolbox For Your Thumbdrive [Windows]

Every geek has one: a collection of portable applications for fixing PCs. Most carry them around on a USB key, ready in case some computer problem comes up.

The trouble is, such kits take quite a while to build up. If you want such a kit, but don’t want to build it yourself, check out the IObit Toolbox. You’ll have a bunch of computer repair and optimization tools in a single download, ready to be used.

Occasionally I need to walk my students through a complicated process.

How To Edit & Enhance Screenshots In MS Paint

There’s a thousand and one screen capture utilities around the web, including quite a few commercial applications. Windows’ built-in Microsoft Paint can actually be used as a decent screenshot utility that you can start using without having to download extra software or spend money, particularly if you know a few tricks.

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