Sunday, April 24, 2011

It is gratifying to know that someone reads my Blog. Stephen Rynerson was kind enough to send me some support for my comment in yesterday's post ( Sealed Records Exposed In Major Court Gaffe) that it was quite unlikely that the Court would be unable to determine if their “sensitive information” had been viewed. It makes me feel that on occasion I do know what I'm talking about...

My two cents about the "likely impossible to determine if the sensitive information was viewed or disseminated" is that it is baloney unless the records were destroyed. PACER requires users to be registered and users are billed 8 cents for every page of a document viewed (capped at a cost of 30 pages for a single document). You are shown a receipt with the transaction information each time you access a document. I've pasted an example below. (I've replaced some information with asterisks in case you want to re-post the example elsewhere.) As you can see, it gives the user's login information, the client's billing code (if one is entered), the docket number (under what is called "Description") and the case number. I can't understand how this information wouldn't be available to investigators. (Admittedly, since law firms, libraries, and other institutional users often have a single login that is used by many people, you might not be able to identify the specific individual who looked at a document, but you should certainly be able to narrow down where the record was accessed from.)

The Cloud... An article for my Disaster Recovery students.

April 23, 2011

Report on Major Outage Impacting Cloud Computing Services

NYT: "As technical problems interrupted computer services provided by Amazon for a second day on Friday, industry analysts said the troubles would prompt many companies to reconsider relying on remote computers beyond their control... Amazon set up a side business five years ago offering computing resources to businesses from its network of sophisticated data centers. Today, the company is the early leader in the fast-growing business of cloud computing. In business, the cloud model is rapidly gaining popularity as a way for companies to outsource computing chores to avoid the costs and headaches of running their own data centers — simply tap in, over the Web, to computer processing and storage without owning the machines or operating software. Amazon has thousands of corporate customers, from Pfizer and Netflix to legions of start-ups, whose businesses often live on Amazon Web Services. Those reporting service troubles included Foursquare, a location-based social networking site; Quora, a question-and-answer service; Reddit, a news-sharing site; and BigDoor, which makes game tools for Web publishers."


EC2 Outage Shows How Much the Net Relies On Amazon

"Much has been written about the recent EC2/EBS outage, but Keir Thomas at PC World has a different take: it's shown how much cutting-edge Internet infrastructure relies on Amazon, and we should be grateful. Quoting: 'Amazon is a personification of the spirit of the Internet, which is one of true democracy, access to the means of distribution, and rapid evolution.'"

An article at O'Reilly comes to a similarly positive conclusion from a different angle.

Could be a useful source...

New organization to address online privacy invasion harm

April 23, 2011 by Dissent

A new organization aims to address a long-standing problem: how online invasion of privacy can cause harm to individuals. From their home page:

Without My Consent is a project to combat online invasions of privacy.

It’s no secret that the use of private information to harm a person’s reputation through public humiliation and harassment is an increasingly popular tactic employed by harassers. Because of the online (“cyber”) nature of the activity, victims are often left with no clear path to justice to restore their reputation, and overcome the serious harms caused by the harassment.

This website is intended to empower individuals harmed by online privacy violations to stand up for their rights. The beta launch of the site (set for Summer 2011) will focus on the specific problem of the publication of private images online. It will provide legal and non-legal tools for combating the problem. Our hope is that the site will also inspire meaningful debate about the internet, accountability, free speech, and the serious problem of online invasions of privacy.

See WithoutMyConsent and follow @WithoutConsent on Twitter.

“But everyone on Facebook is my Friend! They would never rat me out.” Not quite ready for the Darwin Award, still it's early days yet.

Teen denies crime, but admits it on Facebook

I am thinking of writing a book about all the faux pas people have committed on Facebook.

Here's another to add to my already large collection of stories for the book, provisionally entitled: "Face It, I'm a Half-wit."

According to the U.K.'s Portsmouth News, a 16-year-old with a clearly refined sense of humor decided to block all the water passages in a restroom at a public library.

Using all of the ingenuity at his disposal, he shoved toilet paper down the sinkholes and then turned on all the taps.

Being socially conscious, he did this late in the evening, so that water would happily pour away all night. Oddly, more than $200,000 worth of damage ensued from his amusement.

Naturally, he pleaded not guilty. This was until the prosecutor, who, having done what so many prosecutors do these days, showed that he had trawled Facebook for the accused's inner musings.

It seems that, though he had publicly protested his innocence, the accused had answered a question on Facebook as to whether he might be guilty. His reply: "Kind of, yeah. I've kept it to myself. A few mates know."

Clearly, these are good mates, the kind that don't rat out their buddies. Unfortunately, perhaps they might have to do a little work on their privacy settings.

I see much the same thing happening with Textbooks. Soon I will be able to mix and match “Chapters” dealing with a single subject – choosing the ones I think best describe the concepts I'm trying to teach.

What Is a Book? The Definition Continues to Blur

It used to be so easy to define what a book was: a collection of printed pages bound inside a cover (hard or soft) that you could place on a shelf in your library, or in a store. Now, there are e-books, and blogs that turn into books, and long pieces of journalism that are somewhere between magazine articles and short books — like the recent opus written by author John Krakauer, published through a new service called Byliner — and a whole series of ongoing attempts to reimagine the entire industry of writing and selling books. If you’re an author, it’s a time of incredible chaos, but also incredible opportunity.

Byliner is one of the most recent entrants into the micro-publishing field, offering a selection of longer works by well-known, non-fiction authors such as Krakauer, who wrote a long magazine-style article about the alleged irregularities involving a charitable effort by fellow mountain climber Greg Mortenson. The piece was available as a free download for the first 72 hours — and saw more than 50,000 copies downloaded — and then was expected to become a paid download. Byliner said it’s planning to publish original works soon by authors William Vollmann and Anthony Swofford as well.

In effect, Byliner is a publisher just like Random House or Macmillan, but it is going to publish small runs of e-books, like a micro-imprint would at one of the larger publishing houses. Because it’s online only, however, Byliner’s costs are likely orders of magnitude lower, and it shares the revenue from the books 50/50 with the author. In a way, the service is positioned midway between the magazine industry and the book-publishing business.

The site joins another boutique e-book publisher called The Atavist, which launched earlier this year and also focuses on long-form journalism — something between a magazine article and a short book-length project. But the Atavist has taken a real new-media approach, by offering its content through mobile applications for the iPhone and iPad, as well as offering multimedia (all stories are available as audio versions as well as print) and Kindle and Nook versions.

These two new ventures join a market where Amazon is already publishing what it calls “Singles,” or short book-length publications that virtually anyone can produce. To take just one example, blogger and founder Chris Dixon recently bundled all his blog posts about venture capital (he’s also an active angel investor) and published them as an Amazon e-book. Journalism professor Jay Rosen mused on Twitter about doing the same thing with his blog posts about the future of media. And the list of publishers grows every day, with the TED conference launching its own e-book imprint recently, and marketing maven Seth Godin starting a new micro-publishing venture (backed by Amazon) called Domino.

Meanwhile, some authors are making millions by self-publishing multiple inexpensive e-books: Amanda Hocking became famous in the industry over the past six months for making over $2 million by self-publishing a dozen fiction books for younger readers, and recently signed a hefty contract with an existing publisher based on that success. Others have gone in the opposite direction; author Barry Eisler, after publishing a number of books through the traditional route, said recently he’s going to start self-publishing, because he will have more control over the process and will keep more of the revenue.

After centuries of not changing very much at all, the book industry is going through the same kind of upheaval as newspapers, Hollywood and the music business are — and that means more uncertainty, but also more opportunity.

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