Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All kinds of interesting questions arise. Do corporations have a right to privacy? Is any of this covered by whistle-blower laws? Is this a “security breach” that must be reported? Perhaps corporations will finally realize how important it is to know what data they have and who accesses it!

December 28, 2010

Forbes: WikiLeaks And The New Corporate Disclosure Crisis

WikiLeaks And The New Corporate Disclosure Crisis - Stephanie Nora White and Rebecca Theim: "If the scandals that have plagued corporate America in the past two years haven't gotten you thinking about your own company's vulnerabilities, then the latest revelations out of WikiLeaks certainly should. In an interview with Forbes' Andy Greenberg, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange declared that half the documents that have been fed to the organization are from corporations, and that sometime early next year his organization plans what presumably will be the first of many corporate disclosures. It will begin with information about one of the nation's leading banks. The target is rumored to be Bank of America, and the bank's stock tumbled 3% shortly after the rumors were publicized. Got your attention now? WikiLeaks is promising to give a voice to the disenfranchised, disgusted and disillusioned within Corporate America, those who have knowledge of company behavior ranging from distasteful to criminal. "Companies turn people into leakers by their failure to listen, look and respond," says business consultant and author Margaret Heffernan, whose forthcoming book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, will tackle the issue. In other words, it will no longer be a company's general counsel who will decide if and when something is disclosed to the public. Now, it's any insider with a flash drive who's troubled or disgruntled by an organization's conduct. And the types of information WikiLeaks is disclosing can be more damaging--and memorable--than a traditional corporate crisis."


The SEC Investigation Into Private Stock Sales Is All About The Glaring Lack Of Disclosure

The Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions about private stock markets like SecondMarket and SharesPost. The SEC has sent “information requests to several participants in the buying and selling of stock” to a number of companies, reports the New York Times (although private market SecondMarket says they have received no request from the SEC). [Corrected: An earlier version of this story indicated that the private markets themselves received the information requests from the SEC, but the New York Times does not specify which firms were contacted].

Over the past year, trading in shares of still-private companies such as Facebook, Zynga, and LinkedIn has skyrocketed, allowing employees and early investors to sell their shares even without an IPO. About $400 million worth of shares will pass hands this year on SecondMarket, which is the largest of the private exchanges, up from about $100 million in 2009. The lack of liquidity because of the general postponement of IPOs among many Internet startups is fueling this growth. Only qualified institutions and high net-worth individual investors are allowed to participate in these markets, but as more and more shares trade hands the SEC’s 500-shareholder rule could be triggered which would require the companies to report audited financial results just like a publicly-traded company.

… Facebook shares are the ones most in demand on these markets. They recently traded at an implied valuation of above $50 billion on SecondMarket, and $42.4 billion on SharesPost. A couple years ago, Facebook won an exemption from the SEC’s 500-shareholder rule by arguing that the shares were mostly held by employees, and it also changed the way it issued restricted stock.

...because if you shop at Harrods or subscribe to the Financial Times, you might be a terrorist!”

EFF: Government plans to pry into your privacy if you send any money overseas

Money laundering and terrorist financing are serious problems, but there are several troubling aspects in the new rules proposed by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN, a bureau of the Department of Treasury, proposed that the government should be told your name, address, bank account number, taxpayer ID, and other sensitive financial information if you electronically transfer any amount of money out of or into the country. Depending upon the type of transfer, these reports could also include passport numbers or alien ID numbers, the amount and currency of the funds transferred, and the name and address of the recipient.

We have the technology so we have to use it. It's for the children!”

UK: CCTV ‘used to monitor schoolchildren in toilets and changing rooms’

December 28, 2010 by Dissent

Graeme Paton reports:

Schools are using CCTV cameras to spy on pupils in toilets and monitor teachers’ performance in the classroom, according to an official report.

The use of video surveillance has evolved in recent years from a security measure to a tool to keep checks on children and staff, it was disclosed.

A report by the Information Commissioner’s Office warned that many schools were flouting guidance on CCTV which insists cameras should only be used to monitor behaviour in exceptional circumstances.


The latest study, which features contributions from a series of academics, said: “The use of CCTV has migrated from perimeter security and access control to monitoring pupil behaviour in public areas such as in corridors and playgrounds, and to more private realms such as changing rooms and toilets.”

Read more in the Telegraph.

Related: Information Commissioner’s report to Parliament on the state of surveillance , November 2010.

(Related) “We don't need no stinking 'due process!'”

MO: Cheerleaders Sue School to Get Back on Team

December 29, 2010 by Dissent

Anyone who knows me will know that I never aspired to be a cheerleader while in high school. While some of my peers were practicing kicks, flips, and waving their pom poms around, I was out organizing political protests and engaged in activities related to civil rights. How ironic, then, that over 40 years later, I would be writing about a case involving cheerleaders in support of their civil rights.

Joe Harris reports:

Two cheerleaders sued a southwest Missouri school district after being kicked off the squad for allegations of cyber-bullying. The cheerleaders say the Seneca school district violated their constitutional rights by booting them off the squad.

No charges were filed against the girls by the Newton County Sheriff’s Department after an investigation into the cyber-bullying allegations, according to the federal complaint.

The girls, identified only as P.A. and K.E., say they have suffered alienation from fellow students and cheerleaders since they were kicked off the cheerleading squad in June this year. They say they “were punished for conduct alleged, but yet not proven in any administrative hearing or court of law, to have occurred off campus and not on school time.”

Read more on Courthouse News.

This issue of whether schools can discipline students for behavior that occurs off-campus has been coming up more and more in the past two years. These cases raise issues about student privacy, the scope of a school’s authority, and issues of whether some conduct is protected speech. In this case:

The district’s attorney, Tom Mickes, told The Joplin Globe that several court rulings have found that extracurricular activities are not protected under the Constitution.

That may be true, but that doesn’t grant public entities such as school districts the ability to deprive children of public education or any benefits thereof based on any “policies” under color of state flag. Is this an “over-reach” of a school district’s authority?

Apart from the due process issues raised in the complaint in this case, what if a school district had a policy that said that students who engage in neo-Nazi groups outside of school are barred from school or participating in after-school clubs because it would create a “hostile” school environment for black or Jewish students? We’d all recognize the First Amendment issue.

Where is the line, if there is one, in determining what extra-curricular activity or speech can be used to deny a child of the full range of opportunities provided by taxpayer dollars-funded public education? Can public education be made contingent on compliance with a school’s “code of conduct” or “policies” applied to extra-curricular behavior if the behavior is not a violation of law? The complaint does not specify what behavior or “cyber-bullying” the plaintiffs allegedly engaged in outside of school, but if there has been no due process and no criminal charges ever filed, as alleged, on what basis does a district punish a student?

Sooner or later, this issue will get to the Supreme Court. For now, this is one of the cases I will be watching.

How good are Microsoft's lobbyists?

France Planning Non-Windows Tablet Tax?

"Lots of countries around the world have private copying 'levies,' which are effectively taxes on products that store data, which is put into a pool to be handed out to copyright holders, as a sort of payment for the 'copying' that individuals do. This was quite popular with blank CDRs, for example, but has been expanded in certain countries to cover hard drives, iPods and other such devices. Over in France, they're looking to expand the levy to tablet computers, but apparently if that tablet computer is running Microsoft Windows, it will be exempted from the tax. iPads and Android-powered tablets will have the tax. Why? Well, the argument is that if a tablet is running Windows, it's really a 'computer.' But if it's running one of those 'mobile' operating systems, suddenly it's a brand new category. Not surprisingly, makers of Android tablets — including the French company Archos — are not at all happy about this."

For my Ethical Hackers

Breaking GSM With a $15 Phone … Plus Smarts

Speaking at the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) Congress here Tuesday, a pair of researchers demonstrated a start-to-finish means of eavesdropping on encrypted GSM cellphone calls and text messages, using only four sub-$15 telephones as network “sniffers,” a laptop computer and a variety of open source software.

A true time saving technology! For everyone who expects lame Christmas gifts?

Amazon tech helps return gifts before you get them

Amazon might have a simple solution in store for those who get disappointed every holiday season by undesirable gifts.

The company has been awarded a patent that allows gift recipients to automatically exchange items before they receive them. The solution would offer those ungrateful recipients the opportunity to choose something else or get a gift card without necessarily indicating to the sender that it wasn't accepted.

Automating and off-shoring. I don't worry about this, I'm already egg shaped...

Korean schools welcome more robot teachers

If you thought your English teacher was a robotic bore, spare a thought for kids in South Korea. They're being taught by real robots.

The city of Daegu introduced 29 robot teachers in 19 elementary schools as part of a large-scale project to robotize teaching. The ambitious effort envisioned robots in all 8,400 kindergartens in Korea by 2013.

Kids at Hakjung Elementary School seemed thrilled to interact with robots like the globular Engkey (above and in the vid below). It's about 3.2 feet tall and rolls around the classroom on wheels, asking questions in English and dancing to music.

Developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) at a cost of some $1.39 million, Engkey is a telepresence bot, controlled by teachers in the Philippines.

A resource for my students.

Sixty Symbols

...a collection of videos featuring scientists at the University of Nottingham giving short, sometimes humorous, explanations of the symbols of physics and astronomy. [Including Einstein's favorite, the Vuvuzela Bob]

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