Thursday, June 21, 2012

“No hacking skills required.”
"Hacker group Rex Mundi has made good on its promise to publish thousands of loan-applicant records it swiped from AmeriCash Advance after the payday lender refused to fork over between $15,000 and $20,000 as an extortion fee — or, in Rex Mundi's terms, an 'idiot tax.' The group announced on June 15 that it was able to steal AmeriCash's customer data because the company had left a confidential page unsecured on one of its servers. 'This page allows its affiliates to see how many loan applicants they recruited and how much money they made,' according to the group's post on 'Not only was this page unsecured, it was actually referenced in their robots.txt file.'"

“If you have nothing to hide...”
“We promise not to snoop if you haven't committed a crime.”
License Plate Recognition Logs Our Lives Long Before We Sin
June 20, 2012 by Dissent
Jon Campbell of the L.A. Weekly has a chilling report in tomorrow’s edition on license plate readers used by California law enforcement and the “BOSS” database that is being developed. Here’s a snippet:
L.A. Weekly has learned that more than two dozen law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County are using hundreds of these “automatic license plate recognition” devices (LPRs) — units about the size of a paperback book, usually mounted atop police cruisers — to devour data on every car that catches their electronic eye.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department are two of the biggest gatherers of automatic license plate recognition information. Local police agencies have logged more than 160 million data points — a massive database of the movements of millions of drivers in Southern California.
Each data point represents a car and its exact whereabouts at a given time. Police have already conducted, on average, some 22 scans for every one of the 7,014,131 vehicles registered in L.A. County. Because it’s random, some cars are scanned numerous times, others never.
The use of the system has expanded significantly since its first introduction in 2005:
In 2005, when LPR made its debut here, police agencies generally threw out all of the unneeded information that wasn’t tied to a stolen or otherwise wanted vehicle.
Now there’s a lot of cheap digital storage space, so LAPD holds all of its data for five years, Long Beach for two, the Sheriff’s Department for two.
But Sgt. John Gaw, with the Sheriff’s Department, says, “I’d keep it indefinitely if I could.”
ACLU’s Bibring calls these long retention times “exceedingly troubling,” and state Sen. Joe Simitian has introduced legislation setting a 60-day retention limit, which copies the California Highway Patrol.
Police officials are quick to note that the information being gathered isn’t private. License plates are owned by the DMV and routinely recorded by police — that’s one of the main reasons they exist.
“It’s not Big Brother,” Gaw says. “It’s doing what a deputy normally does in his routine duties.”
So this is what it comes down to if there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in public. The police can record and store millions of data points about you and figure out your location for any point in time for the last few years?
Legal, perhaps, but very very creepy.
Read more on the L.A. Weekly.

(Related) We may need a Philosophy of Privacy
Facial recognition software’s privacy concerns
June 21, 2012 by Dissent
James Temple writes that facial recognition technology has outpaced policy on its use:
There are obviously useful applications, like automatically tagging your buddies in a social-network photo or – on an entirely different scale – recognizing known terrorists at airports. But there are frightening ones as well: allowing authoritarian states to identify peaceful protesters, enabling companies to accrue ever greater insight into private lives or empowering criminals to dig up sensitive information about strangers.
“Facial recognition blows up assumptions that we don’t wear our identities on our person; it turns our faces into name tags,” said Ryan Calo, director of privacy at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society. “It can be good and helpful, or it can be dangerous.”
At a minimum, the technology demands a serious policy debate over the appropriate ground rules for this tool. But, of course, government officials are still grappling with online privacy questions from a decade ago, as private industry and law enforcement happily march ahead.

I think I mentioned that I'm teaching Statistics this Quarter... (Although I'm not sure this is real) Here's another “Improbable things happen” story.
Lucky 19: Vegas Roulette Wheel Hits Same Number Seven Times in a Row
A roulette wheel in Las Vegas reportedly hit the number 19 an incredible seven times in a row Monday night. As if that wasn't astounding enough, after the streak was broken by the wheel landing on 15, it hit 19 yet again on the very next spin!
… Just how rare is this? According to the Las Vegas Sun, the odds of this happening are 3 billion to one. [This is incorrect. I'll have my students calculate 1/38 to the seventh power Bob] The Rio has yet to verify the event... in fact, until the Sun contacted the casino on Tuesday, Caesars Entertainment officials weren't even aware that this had happened. [This makes me suspect it is a fake Bob]

Just what I need for my Math students. I have found that if they work too long on Math without a break, their heads explode.
The Pomodoro technique is a very popular method for effective time management. It requires you to work on a task for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5 minutes before resuming your task. Plus, for every 2 hours you work, you take a longer break. The tool PomodoroTimer lets you do that with ease.
Just browse to the tool and click “start” to turn the timer on. Once 25 minutes are over, the tool will notify you so you can take a break. Once the break is over, you can resume your task again. The tool is very simple and doesn’t have any extensive features or functionality, and this simplicity actually helps you focus more on the task at hand.

Fortunately for me, I rarely give papers as assignments in my Math classes.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
This morning in a workshop that I facilitated with Greg Kulowiec there was a great discussion about copyright, Creative Commons, and fair use as it relates to using media in iBooks Author. During that conversation, Common Craft's explanation of Creative Commons was helpful. Later in the day I had a conversation with a couple of teachers who were also concerned about students plagiarizing work when constructing iBooks. That conversation prompted me to dig up some resources fore teaching students what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, and how to detect it.
Education is the best prevention.
These are resources that can be helpful in explaining to students what plagiarism is and how they can avoid it.
2. The Purdue OWL website 
Tools for detecting plagiarism. 
4. a quick search on Google. well as on Google Scholar.
6. Plagiarisma 
7. Paper Rater 

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