Friday, July 20, 2012

Small but interesting. Being vulnerable to undocumented threats is one thing. Randomly distributing personal information is another (and takes some non-trivial programming, so I doubt that's what actually happened)
By Dissent, July 19, 2012
Leslie Bridgers reports:
A glitch in the Department of Health and Human Services’ computer system exposed the personal information of public assistance applicants, including Social Security and bank account numbers.
Information from 31 applications submitted online was sent out between December and June to 39 random addresses in the department’s system, said Dale Denno, director of the department’s Office for Family Independence, which reviews public assistance applications.
He said the information came from 24 new applications for public assistance and seven recertification forms, which recipients are required to submit annually to continue getting benefits.
The personal information of 79 people was exposed, as some applications included multiple members of a household, Denno said. In some cases, he said, the same information was sent to multiple addresses.
Read more on The Morning Sentinel.

Consequences? What a concept!
NZ: Winz staff fired over privacy breaches
July 19, 2012 by admin
Jared Savage reports:
Ten Work and Income staff members have been sacked after two inquiries into breaches of privacy for beneficiaries.
The national review of the Ministry of Social Development was launched last December after an investigation into staff at the Manukau branch office.
Seven were dismissed for “appalling” breaches of the code of conduct which included improper use of private files belonging to family and friends, as well as inappropriate email use. An allegation that a staff member sold personal details of a client to a debt collection agency was not proven.
Read more on The New Zealand Herald.

Oh! I want one!
California Starts Up a Privacy Enforcement Unit
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Thursday she’s created a unit intended to actually enforce federal and state privacy laws.
“The Privacy Unit will police the privacy practices of individuals and organizations to hold accountable those who misuse technology to invade the privacy of others,” California’s top attorney said in a statement.

So maybe your DNA is like your fingerprints. The argument should be about why you were a suspect, right?
Chief Justice allows DNA samples from Maryland suspects
July 20, 2012 by Dissent
Sung Un Kim reports:
US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday temporarily stayed a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that police could not collect DNA from individuals arrested for violent crimes and burglaries. The appeals court struck down the DNA collection law in April, finding a violation of the arrestee’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Roberts’ one-sentence decision will remain in effect at least until July 25 when a response is due from the defendant, Alonzo Jay King. The court may agree to hear the case when it reconvenes in October.
Read more on JURIST.

Another “reality check” for those not concerned with “all that Privacy stuff.”
"People are not going to, nor should they have to, start walking around outside with a bag over their head to avoid security cameras capturing images of them. Yet 'face recognition allows for covert, remote and mass capture and identification of images — and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person's face but also how she is dressed and possibly whom she is with. This creates threats to free association and free expression not evident in other biometrics,' testified EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch. There are 32 states that use some form of facial recognition for DMV photos. Every day, Facebook happily slurps up and automatically scans with facial recognition software about 300 million photos that users upload to the social networking giant. 'Face recognition is here to stay, and, though many Americans may not realize it, they are already in a face recognition database,' Lynch said. In fact, when you stop to consider Facebook "at least 54% of the United States population already has a face print." Now it purchased which had 31 billion face images profiled."

Fight the good fight?
"Twitter plans to appeal a ruling to turn over the once-public tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester charged with disorderly conduct, a case the company says threatens the First Amendment rights of its users. A New York Criminal Court judge ruled last month that Twitter should turn over the tweets of Malcolm Harris, since his messages were public and are not the same as an email or a private chat, which would require a search warrant."

“We have determined that you do not need to call 911 at this time.”
Device Jams Drivers’ Phone Signals, Alerts Police, Public and Passengers
There’s no shortage of devices that supposedly prevent drivers from talking or texting by blocking mobile phone signals or that alert parents and employers about the behavior. But the Cellphone Accident Preventer (CAP) from a trio of researchers at an Indian university takes preventing behind-the-wheel mobile phone use to a new Orwellian level by making distracted-driving indiscretions public – and automatically ratting them out to the police.
Abdul Shabeer and two of his colleagues at India’s Anna University of Technology primarily developed CAP to combat the 20 percent of fatal road accidents involving trucks and other heavy vehicles caused by driver mobile phone use. [Interesting statistic Was there a massive increase in accidents when cellphones were introduced? Bob] Like other systems, CAP jams phone signals, using a small antenna above the driver seat, which the researchers claim only disables the driver’s phone, while passengers are free to call, text, tweet and Facebook at will.
But by using RFID technology, CAP can also alert the police, the general public or other passengers in the car if a driver is trying to discreetly check his phone when his hands should be on the wheel. If CAP detects that driver is using a cellphone, “The vehicle license plate information, which is already stored in the system, will be transmitted to a receiver placed on the traffic signal post, which in turn displays the license number in an LCD display so that police can take legislative action against the driver,” Shabeer told Wired. “At the same time, a warning message or sound will be given to passengers sitting inside the vehicle indicating that the driver is using a cellphone.”

Is this technology for those who text but can't read? (Is this their “save the company” idea?)
RIM Wants Your Friends to Know When You’re Rage Texting
… A just-surfaced patent application from Research in Motion (RIM) details a smartphone feature that determines a sender’s emotional state while texting. The smartphone would be able to determine the sender’s state of mind using internal sensors, and the tapped-out text would be presented differently to indicate a particularly emotional moment.

Fly Nude! (I proposed that back at the inception of TSA) I'll need to check with my lawyer friends, but there seems to be no clear ruling that allows me to stand around a TSA checkpoint and laugh...
Judge OKs Nudity at TSA Checkpoint
An Oregon man was cleared of indecent exposure charges Wednesday when a local judge said his protest of Transportation Security Administration screening procedures was constitutionally protected speech under state law.

OH MY GAWD! It's the end of the world! Or at least the end of the PC Era.
Microsoft’s First-Ever Loss Doesn’t Faze Wall Street

(Related) Maybe it is time for PC Era investors to panic.
AMD has scary things to say about the PC market
… "For the first time since 2001, client PC shipments have declined sequentially for three consecutive quarters-and have been below historical averages for the last seven quarters," AMD CEO Rory Read said during the chip supplier's second quarter earnings conference call.

A new form of business for the Education Age?
Singularity University Converging Into Capitalist Machine
Singularity University was established in 2008 to “prepare humanity for accelerating technological change.” At the time, this seemed like a charitable mission, but today university overseers see room to make money too. The University’s leaders are drawing up plans to convert the non-profit university into a for-profit corporation under a new category of socially responsible business. Some believe it will happen by the end of the year.
The corporation has already been formed, according to state records, under the name Singularity Education Group. Key trustees say what remains is a delicate legal process to transfer the university’s assets from a 501(c)3 non-profit into a brand new type of California entity, the benefit corporation, a socially-conscious business framework only available since the start of this year. The benefit corporation framework was designed to allow corporate executives more freedom to pursue objectives beyond maximizing investor returns.
… The argument in favor of a for-profit conversion, according to Simpson and other trustees, is to make it easier for Singularity University to share some of the money some students and faculty trace back to projects they create for classes, as well as to reward longtime faculty and staff with equity or options in the university and its spinoffs. [I like it! Bob]

Global Warming! Global Warming! These are facts (interesting facts) but they really prove nothing going forward.
Does New Tree Ring Study Put the Chill on Global Warming?
… The tree rings "prove [the] climate was WARMER in Roman and Medieval times than it is now," the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported last week, "and [the] world has been cooling for 2,000 years."

For my Students
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Readcube is a desktop tool (available for Mac and Windows) that aims to help students and teachers search and organize their research more effectively. I wrote this review of Readcube last month. This week Readcube launched Readcube Boot Camp to help users use Readcube better. Right now the Boot Camp has four video tutorials offering tips for searching, annotating, and organizing.

For my earphone wearing students...
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Sound Gecko is a free service that turns text articles into MP3 files. Using Sound Gecko you can take an article from a website, paste its URL into Sound Gecko, and then listen to a reading of that article. The conversion isn't instantaneous, but it is relatively quick. You do have to enter an email address in order to get the MP3 file. To remove the copy and paste part of the process you can install the Sound Gecko Chrome extension.
Sound Gecko does offer an iPhone app that you can use to organize and listen to playlists of the articles you've converted into MP3 recordings.


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