Tuesday, November 05, 2013

It's not that they can, it's that they can so cheaply!
Privacy advocates tend to know the following, but I suspect the general public doesn’t and would be a bit shocked. Laura Hutchinson of WWLP in Massachusetts, reported in a piece on medical identity theft:
The 22News I-Team did an experiment and found we didn’t have to pay any money at all to find out names of people in Massachusetts who are diabetics, the number of times a day they need medication, who their doctor is and where they live.
You’d like to think that those closed-door meetings with your doctor stay between you two, but as more hospitals and doctors’ offices put their records online, it’s becoming easier for people to access them.
Springfield consumer advocate Milagros Johnson says medical identity theft is getting worse and a 22News I-Team investigation reveals just how easy it is to get information.
We discovered websites that sell patient information. They appear to target medical supply companies, but there’s nothing stopping the general public from accessing the information as well.
The 22News I-Team e-mailed the company to ask what they could offer and for how much. They gave a list of prices but also supplied us with free samples: samples of names and personal information.
For no money at all, we were able to get the names of hundreds of patients, their home address and number, names of their doctors, how often they take medication, etc. Some of these people are right here in Western Mass.
If you don’t want such information being freely acquired and re-sold, then stop call us some of “privacy wingnuts,” and join us in trying to protect patient privacy.

I would have a few dozen questions too. Starting with the schools procedures for handling “false positives.” Do they tackle the “sex offender?” Are police called? Do they have any liability for the error?
Karen Ann Cullotta report:
When a trio of privacy rights activists dropped by a Wilmette School District 39 board of education meeting, they told officials that installing a security system that requires visitors to swipe their driver’s license before entering school buildings could prove both invasive and unconstitutional.
A school district spokeswoman said officials plan to review the concerns expressed by Wilmette resident Richard Sobel and fellow members of the Cyber Privacy Project.
But District 39 joins school districts across the north suburbs and the country in investing in a driver’s license scanning system aimed at preventing registered sex offenders from stepping inside a school building.
Read more on the Chicago Tribune.
I experienced one such system a few years ago in a school in my area of New York. Not surprisingly, I immediately asked a bunch of questions as to whether and how the information got processed and stored. I’m glad to see others raising questions, too.
It’s one thing to be asked to show your driver’s license or some identification if you’re entering a school, but it’s another thing to have school personnel running checks – even if automated – against databases. In this case, the school district is reportedly concerned about sexual predators. What if a district decided it was also concerned about determining who had a concealed carry permit? Or who might have a record of mental illness? “It’s for the children,” they’d say, right? But public schools are public property. Should a member of the public have to go through such checks just to enter a school? Where will it stop?
[From the article:
The LobbyGuard driver's license scanning system has been screening visitors against a sex offender data base prior to their entering New Trier Township High School District 203 buildings for five years, district spokeswoman Nicole Dizon said.
… Jim Vesterman, CEO of the Houston-based Raptor Technologies said the company's scanning systems are used in 10,000 schools across the U.S. and roughly 600 schools in Illinois.
Vesterman pointed to a September 2010 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling that upheld a school's right to determine whether a visitor is registered sex offender, and said requiring photo identification did not violate constitutional rights.

Once again I get to say, “I told ya so!” Simple rule: find something everyone hates the government for doing and build your business model around it. Government customers are sure to find you.
Michael B. Farrell reports:
The National Security Agency’s digital snooping may have inflamed a national debate over privacy, but it has been a godsend for a tiny start-up in Cambridge.
The company, Sqrrl Data Inc., was founded by six former employees of the spy agency. They had helped build the massive database the NSA uses to store and analyze the billions of bits of information it gathers on Americans and people around the world. Sqrrl (pronounced “squirrel”) had planned to release a new commercial version of the NSA database, called Accumulo, in mid-June, timed to a prominent technology conference that would be full of potential customers.
Read more on Boston Globe.

“If we started giving money to those who were injured, others would realize they had a case too. Then everyone who messed with your privacy would start suing...”
Greg Stohr reports:
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact Facebook Inc. (FB)’s $9.5 million settlement of privacy claims, declining to hear objections that none of the money was being paid to people whose rights were violated.
The justices today let stand a federal appeals court decision that upheld the accord, which resolved claims over Facebook’s discarded Beacon advertising program.
Read more on Bloomberg News.

This could be interesting to my Math students.
This fall GeoGebra released new apps for Android, iPad, and Windows 8. All three of the apps include the graphing and modeling tools available on your desktop. The apps also include GeoGebraTube in which you can search for the things that other GeoGebra users have created. The video embedded below provides an overview of the Windows 8 GeoGebra app (the video does not have sound).

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