Tuesday, July 17, 2012

There is more than one way to target voters...
Elections Ontario reveals privacy breach of voter data
July 17, 2012 by admin
From CBC News:
Elections Ontario has discovered a privacy breach that involves the personal information of voters in up to 24 provincial ridings.
CBC News has learned that memory sticks containing personal information about voters have gone missing from the office of the chief electoral officer for Ontario.
The information on the missing memory sticks includes the full name, address, gender and birth date of voters and may also include information on whether or not these same individuals voted.
Read more on CBC News. The story says the data were encrypted, which means this may not be a breach at all, by most definitions. An investigation is under way.

What a surprise!
Drone Records Gush from FAA Spigot, But Privacy Issues Not a Priority
July 16, 2012 by Dissent
Scott Shackford writes:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration over drone records bore fruit Friday and lots of it. The EFF reports receiving thousands of documents connected to 125 certificates to authorize the use of drones by agencies big and small across the United States. EFF has posted .zip files containing documents from some of the agencies for public review (some of the files would not open, though). [Never blame intransigence for what can be attributed to incompetence Bob]
EFF Staff Attorney Jennifer Lynch blogged Friday that the foundation hadn’t had the chance yet to really delve into the records documents but said there are still a lot of privacy questions about the use of drones. Indeed, after looking over documents by several agencies requesting certification for drone use, I’m not seeing any sort of documented discussion about privacy issues at all. There are maps documenting the flight areas for each drone, but that information is provided for safety and logistics purposes, not as a disclosure indicating limits of surveillance intentions. The documents show a lot of planning on training, safe use, and dealing with emergencies, but very little discussion of privacy.
Read more on Reason Online.

Maybe the Supremes weren't “serious about dat?”
ACLU Files Brief Opposing Warrantless GPS Searches
July 17, 2012 by Dissent
Andrew Crocker writes:
In 2010, the FBI attached a GPS device to the car of a man named Fred Robinson and continuously monitored his whereabouts for nearly two months—all without getting a warrant. Now Robinson is on trial, and on Friday, the ACLU and its affiliate, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, filed an amicus brief in his case, United States v. Robinson, which raises important Fourth Amendment issues about police use of GPS trackers for surveillance.
Although the Supreme Court addressed this subject in its landmark decision in United States v. Jones earlier this year, the government still maintains that GPS tracking without a warrant is constitutional.
The problem (as we discussed here) is that Jones did not fully settle the warrant issue. Interpreting the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the Supreme Court has developed a two-part inquiry to determine the constitutionality of surveillance practices. First, a court must determine whether the practice constitutes a “search” at all. This is answered byJones; all nine justices unanimously held that the GPS tracking at issue was a search covered by the Fourth Amendment.
However, Jones did not reach the second half of the question: whether GPS tracking is an unreasonable search when conducted without a judicial warrant. In our Robinson brief, we argue that especially for invasive searches like GPS tracking, the lack of a warrant should be fatal.
Read more on ACLU.

Article: The Fourth Amendment in a World Without Privacy
July 17, 2012 by Dissent
Omer Tene points us to an article he wrote, “The Fourth Amendment in a World Without Privacy.” The article was published in Mississippi Law Journal, Vol. 81, No. 5, p. 1309, 2012.
Here’s the Abstract:
This Article explores the relationship between private and public surveillance. Every year, companies spend millions of dollars developing new services that track, store, and share the words, movements, and even the thoughts of their customers. Millions now own sophisticated tracking devices (smart phones) studded with sensors and always connected to the Internet. They have been coaxed to use these devices to access fun and valuable services to share more information, more of the time. Our country is rapidly becoming a surveillance society. [“Becoming?” Bob]
Meanwhile, the police can access the records that the surveillance society produces and stores with few impediments. Current Fourth Amendment doctrine — premised on the reasonable expectation of privacy test and elaborated through principles such as assumption of risk, knowing exposure, and general public use — places far fewer hurdles in front of the police when they use the fruits of somebody else’s surveillance than when they do the surveillance themselves. As the surveillance society expands, the police will learn to rely more on the products of private surveillance, and will shift their time, energy, and money away from traditional self-help policing, becoming passive consumers rather than active producers of surveillance. Private industry is destined to become the unwitting research and development arm of the FBI. If we continue to interpret the Fourth Amendment as we always have, we will find ourselves not only in a surveillance society, but also in a surveillance state.
If we believe that the Fourth Amendment can and should survive the coming reach of private surveillance, it is not enough to prescribe mild tweaks to the third-party doctrine. A more thorough reinvention of the Fourth Amendment is in order. We should rebuild the Fourth Amendment atop a foundation of something other than privacy, and this Article extends the work of other scholars who have convincingly suggested that the Fourth Amendment was originally intended and is better interpreted to ensure not privacy but liberty from undue government power.
You can download the full article from SSRN.

So, what am I worth?
As Andrew Lewis once said “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”.
… More accurately, the product is our personal data, which is being sold to advertisers, collected in massive databases, and used to target advertising and built up detailed profiles on us.

I'm beginning to think my Statistics class should learn to make pretty pictures to explain all that Math.
July 16, 2012
Census Bureau Launches Infographic on U.S. Veteran Population
"This month as we celebrate our nation's Independence, we reflect on the original veterans who helped found this country. How do we know about today's heroes? This new infographic provides a statistical snapshot of our veterans from the American Community Survey (conducted annually) and the Survey of Business Owners (from the five-year economic census). This summer, the Census Bureau will provide more infographics and interactive features that will answer the question, “How Do We Know?” Visit to learn more about “How Do We Know?” and follow @uscensusbureau on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest (#HowDoWeKnow) for updates."

(Related) Statistics for my CS geeks, but without the pretty pictures. (All in spreadsheets for easy number crunching)
July 16, 2012
Census - Computer and Internet Use at Home: 2010 These tables provide information about computer and Internet use
  • "These tables provide information about computer and Internet use from the Current Population Survey (CPS) School Enrollment and Internet Use Supplement. The tables display national and state level data and examine householder and individual characteristics by school enrollment, age, race, sex and Hispanic origin. Additional tables use data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to examine how and why people connect to the Internet. The CPS has been collecting data on computers and Internet use periodically since 1984. SIPP data on this subject have been collected since 1998."

(Related) I have enough trouble explaining that half the world is below average...
2 percent of Americans trust everything on the Web
A survey performed on behalf of Mancx, a community for business answers, says that 98 percent of people distrust information they find online. Should we care about the 2 percent?
… Indeed, many, many Americans are skeptical about whether information they find online is outdated (56 percent), or whether the presence of too many ads suggests bias (59 percent). They worry that, in seeking answers, the results they are given are being promoted by interested parties (53 percent).
The startling headline Mancx offers from this work is: 98 percent of Americans distrust the information they find on the Internet.

Students: All your skills (and all your MS Textbooks) are once again obsolete!
July 16, 2012
Microsoft Launches the new Office
News release: "Today, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, available at office.com/preview. The next release features an intuitive design that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date."

For my students
July 16, 2012
UK Government to open up publicly funded research
"The government has announced that it will make publicly funded scientific research available for anyone to read for free, accepting recommendations in a report on open access by Dame Janet Finch. This will likely see a major increase in the number of taxpayer-funded research papers freely available to the public...Science Minister David Willetts said: “Removing paywalls that surround taxpayer funded research will have real economic and social benefits. It will allow academics and businesses to develop and commercialise their research more easily and herald a new era of academic discovery."

For my students: Watch the video.
Tech Minute: Learn a new language via Google
These days, we turn to Google for help with just about everything. So why not use it to help learn a foreign language? Google is in the middle of experimenting with a new, free program that immerses you into your foreign language of choice while you surf the Web.

A simple summarizing tool? I see a research project coming soon...
Monday, July 16, 2012
MindMaple is a desktop mind mapping application that recently released a free product for Windows users. MindMaple Lite is a free download for Windows users who want to create mind maps on their desktops.
Like any good mind mapping tool Mind maps created with MindMaple Lite can include images, links, and text. One of the handy features of MindMaple is the ability to draw loose elements into a group. In other words, you don't have to construct elements in a connected sequence. You can move elements of your mind map into groups after you've put them on the canvas. Completed mind maps can be exported to Microsoft Office.
I don't think that MindMaple is superior to any of these web-based mind map creation tools, but if you're looking for a mind mapping tool that runs on a desktop, give MindMaple a try.

Whatever you do, make sure our secretaries don't see today's Dilbert.

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