Sunday, September 26, 2010

Long time, no news. But when it comes it isn't pretty...

LM could be facing a new webcam suit

The Lower Merion School District could be facing a third lawsuit related to its on-going battle over the webcam issue, according to documents obtained Thursday by Main Line Media News.

In a letter written in June to district Supt. Christopher McGinley, attorney David Arnold wrote, “I am writing to place Lower Merion School District on notice of a claim that will be asserted by ....” The name of the client has been redacted and is being referred to as Student Doe.

Student Doe was the subject of improper surveillance on his school issued laptop computer from approximately December 14, 2009, through February 18, 2010,” Arnold wrote in the letter. “The surveillance followed Lower Merion's improper interrogation of Student Doe at Lower Merion High School during the morning of December 4, 2009.” No other details are listed in the letter regarding what Arnold meant when he wrote improper interrogation.

… According to a review of the Ballard Spahr report, only one student had a computer with the security feature turned on and off on the dates listed in Arnold's letter, Dec. 14, 2009 through Feb. 18, 2010. The student with the appropriate activation dates has only been identified in the report only as student number 139. In the report, the forensic team recovered 371 webcam photos and 358 screenshots that were taken from this student's computer. The computer that corresponds with the correct dates was listed under computers that were reported to the district as missing. Sources have told Main Line Media News that the student in this case never reported the computer missing.

I don't understand the logic. (“We've got cameras now, so we have to change to allow the technology to work?”)

Whittling away at library privacy in Austin

September 25, 2010 by Dissent

Libraries are among the last bastions and heroes of privacy. And yet, as John Kelso comments, at least some libraries have decided to sacrifice privacy for security theater:

Thanks to the Austin Public Library’s new conduct policy, you could get tossed from the library for refusing to take off your ball cap.

You heard that right. Starting next Friday, Austin’s libraries will begin enforcing a dress code that prohibits ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies. You’re asking why. It’s the same reason given for about everything else that goes down these days: keeping you safe.

Hey, I’m kept so safe these days that I’m almost afraid to leave the house.

The city’s library system has put up bumper sticker-style signs at all of its 21 branches, the history center and its Recycled Reads bookstore on Burnet Road. These signs show international “no” signs over illustrations of ball caps, sunglasses and hoodies.

The library came up with the rule so that customers can’t hide their faces, said Toni Grasso, the libraries’ administrative manager in the office of programs and partnerships.

“We have security cameras in place, so like banks and courthouses, we’re asking people to remove sunglasses and anything that hides the face, for the security of staff and customers,” Grasso said.

So if you’re up to something funny, they want to know who you are. Let’s hope something funny never includes taking out the wrong book.

Read John’s complete commentary on (via @SLWorona).

I am really sorry to hear that the library system has taken this step, as surveillance cameras will likely record who is reading what or looking at what bookshelf, etc. And that raises serious privacy concerns. Will people now have to hide their library books inside plain brown wrappers to keep their reading choices private from spying eyes? Will they be afraid to go look up something for fear of being caught on camera?

No, I’m not happy about this at all

Bonjour, Messr. Le Crook!

French court orders Google Inc to pay libel damages: report

September 25, 2010 by Dissent

A French court has ordered Google Inc to pay 5,000 euros ($6,672) in libel damages to a man who claimed that searches for his name automatically yielded a list of harmful suggestions.

The man, whose name was not given, said the suggested terms that came up when typing his name on — including the words “rape,” “rapist” and “prison” — were damaging for his reputation, court documents showed.

Read more on Reuters. A copy of the ruling (in French) can be found on

Via @LawandLit

[From the article:

A Google spokesperson said the firm would appeal the decision.

"It is important to point out that Google Suggest is an aggregate of the most popular searches based on past requests from users. Google does not suggest these terms," the company said in an email.

Procedures are in place for a reason. Ignore them at your peril...

Woman Sues Dallas Hospital Over ID Mixup

DALLAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ―A North Texas woman is suing Medical City Dallasfor ruining her reputation, credit history and medical record following an alleged records mix-up.

The woman asked CBS 11 News to withhold using her name. We will call her "B".

"B" said the trouble began in July 2009. Dallas police escorted a woman, with the same first and last name, to Medical City Dallas for psychiatric evaluation. When the hospital tried to admit her, though, she had no identification.

There were, however, three women in the hospital's computer system who had the same first and last name. "One was African-American, one was older," explained "B".

The third person in their records was "B".

It just so happens "B" and the woman admitted were about the same age. "If they had asked her birth date, middle initial or followed their procedures…they would have known it wasn't her," said "B".

According to the Medical City Dallas website, the hospital requires a social security number, all active insurance cards, picture identification and any paperwork given to a patient by their physician.

Huh... Isn't Facebook intended to be “public” like a phone book? So this revolves around “contacting other” not Facebook, right? I wonder if she had mentioned her medical condition and financial problems on her Facebook page?

Woman sues debt collector for contacting her family via Facebook

September 25, 2010 by Dissent

Curtis Krueger reports:

Melanie Beacham is on Facebook, the social networking site “that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.” Unfortunately for her, those “others” include bill collectors.

Beacham, 34, of St. Petersburg, said she already had called her car finance company last summer to let people know she was on medical leave from her job, and getting a little behind on payments.

The company not only called her repeatedly to get her to pay up, she says, but it also looked at her Facebook page and found her sister and cousin.

Then the company sent Facebook messages to them, which worried the two, which led them to talk to other relatives, who got even more worried, she said.

“It was very stressful, it still is very stressful,” said Beacham. “It was humiliating.”

Beacham is suing Mark One Financial of Jacksonville seeking damages, and also seeking to prevent it from contacting “any friends and family members of the plaintiff, through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking sites.

Read more in the St. Petersburg Times. The company may find itself in trouble with the regulatory authorities if it violated any laws about contacting others.

And of course, if they violated Facebook’s TOS, that would be a crime, if you believe Facebook.

We would never do this ourselves, but since we had the hacker on felony jaywalking charges, we negotiated a plea bargain whereby he hacked the bank in exchange for a reduced sentence.”

UK Pursues Tax Evaders Using Stolen Bank Details

Posted by timothy on Sunday September 26, @01:57AM

"The UK taxman (HM Revenue & Customs) is reportedly using a stolen list of bank details to pursue wealthy individuals with off-shore accounts. The list was stolen by an employee of HSBC, and gave details of the bank's customers with money in Swiss accounts. The bank employee fled to France, and the authorities there passed the details on to the UK tax collection agency."

Statistics for my Computer Security students. If you have a population of 800,000,000,000, can you tell a targeted attack for a random event? (Hint: Yes!)

Google Warning Gmail Users On Spying From China

Posted by timothy on Saturday September 25, @05:35PM

"Google is using automated warnings to alert users of its Gmail messaging service about widespread attempts to access personal mail accounts from Internet addresses in China. The warnings may indicate wholesale spying by the Chinese government a year after the Google Aurora attacks or simply random attacks. Victims include one leading privacy activist. Warnings appeared when users logged onto Gmail, encountering a red banner reading 'Your account was recently accessed from China,' and providing a list of IP addresses used to access the account. Users were then encouraged to change their password immediately. Based on Twitter posts, there doesn't seem to be any pattern to the accounts that were accessed, though one target is a prominent privacy rights activist in the UK who has spoken out against the Chinese government's censorship of its citizens. A Google spokesman declined to comment on the latest warnings specifically. The company has been issuing similar warnings since March when it introduced features to identify suspicious account activity."

Gee Professor, I know I haven't been in class much and I haven't submitted anything online, but do I have enough time to complete everything and still get an “A”?”

CountDownTimer: Simple Count Down Timer In Your Browser

For all those times when you need to keep track of time counting down but you don’t have a gadget to do that, CountDownTimer is an excellent tool. It is a simple countdown timer that starts a timer for whatever duration you enter at the end of the URL.

  • Keep track of the percentage of time elapsed.

  • Screen turns to red once the timer reaches zero.

  • No registration required.

Similar tools: EggWatchers, ClockEasy, AlarmTube, OnlineClock, Countdown2Zero and E.ggTimer.

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