Thursday, December 12, 2013

You can find a good laugh everywhere. (Who would you nominate?)
Stewart Baker writes:
It’s time to recognize just how stupid privacy law is getting. And what better way than by acknowledging the most dubious achievements of the year in privacy law?
First I should explain why I think privacy law so often produces results that make no sense. After all, most of us think privacy is a good thing. We teach our kids to respect the privacy of others, just as we teach them good manners and restraint in drinking alcohol. At the same time, no one wants courts and legislators to punish us for rudeness or prohibit us from buying a drink. We’ve already tried mandating abstinence from alcohol once. It didn’t work out so well. And it’s unlikely that Prohibition would have worked better if we’d made it illegal to drink to excess.
The problem is, some rules just don’t translate well into law. We know rude behavior when we see it, but no one wants a Good Manners Protection Agency writing rudeness regulations – or setting broad principles of good manners and then punishing a few really rude people every year. The detailed regulations would never capture the evolving nuances of manners, [interesting phrase Bob] while selective prosecution of really rude people would soon become a tool for punishing the unpopular for their unpopularity. All that seems obvious in the case of drinking and rudeness, but when it comes to privacy, proposals for new legal rules seem endless. In fact, though, privacy is every bit as malleable and context-sensitive as good manners, and efforts to protect it in law are inevitably either so general that anyone can be prosecuted or so ham-handedly specific that they rapidly fall out of date. Either way, instead of serving the public interest, privacy laws often end up encouraging official hypocrisy and protecting the privileges of the powerful.
Read more on The Volokh Conspiracy.

No problem reading between the redacted lines.
Secrecy News – Redacted Budget Book Provides a Window on NRO
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 11, 2013
“The National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates U.S. intelligence satellites, has just released the unclassified portions of its FY 2014 Congressional Budget Justification, a detailed account of its budget request for the current year. Although more than 90% of the 534-page document (dated April 2013) was withheld from public release under the Freedom of Information Act, some substantive material was approved for public disclosure, providing a rare glimpse of agency operations, future plans and self-perceptions. Some examples:
  • NRO says it recently achieved an “88 percent reduction in collection-to-analyst dissemination timelines,” facilitating the rapid dissemination of time-sensitive data.
  • The 2014 budget request “represents the biggest restructure of the NRO portfolio in a decade.”
  • The NRO research agenda includes “patterns of life.” [Automatically flags me when I DON'T stop for donuts in the morning. Bob] This refers to the “ability to take advantage of massive data sets, multiple data sources, and high-speed machine processing to identify patterns without a priori knowledge or pattern definition… to detect, characterize, and identify elusive targets.”
  • Other research objectives include development of technologies for “collecting previously unknown or unobservable phenomena [X-ray sensors? Bob] and improving collection of known phenomena; providing persistent surveillance; reducing satellite vulnerability; … innovative adaptation of video game and IT technologies…” and more.
  • “A primary responsibility of the NRO is ensuring that the entire NRO [satellite] constellation is replenished efficiently and in time to guarantee mission success.”
  • The NRO’s implementation of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE), an effort to establish a common IC-wide IT architecture, is discussed at some length. “The DNI’s IC ITE architecture paves the way for a fundamental shift toward operating as an IC Enterprise that uses common, secure, shared capabilities and services.”
  • With respect to security, NRO employs “automated insider threat detection tools, analyzes collected data in conjunction with disparate data sources to produce investigative leads, [and] performs assessments to rule out malicious activity occurring on NRO networks.” NRO counterintelligence activities “concentrate on insider threat, traditional, and asymmetric methodologies.”
  • The National Reconnaissance Office has an annual budget of approximately $10 billion ($10.4 billion in FY 2012), according to classified budget documents obtained by the Washington Post. It employs around 975 people.” [Covering 200,000,000 square miles. That's over 205,000 square miles per employee (assuming no managers) Bob] [Secrecy News Blog]

Another interesting infographic (The NSA v. Total eMails statistic might be a bit off)
How Safe Are Your Email Attachments?

For the day when my students create their textbook as they go...
Three Good Tools for Creating Multimedia Books Online
Twice this week I've been asked for alternatives to iBooks Author that students can use to create multimedia books. This is probably a good time to share the three options that I usually recommend. These are listed in the order in which I typically recommend them.
Simple Booklet is a service offering free online booklet creation and publishing. To create a book using Simple Booklet just sign-up for a free account and click create. Select the layout template that suits your needs. To add content click anywhere on the blank canvas and a menu of options will appear. You can add text, images, audio files, videos, and links to each page of your booklet. In the field for adding text there is an option to copy from Word documents.
Each page of your Simple Booklet can have multiple elements on it. To include videos you can upload your own files or select from a variety of provides including SchoolTube, TeacherTube, YouTube, and others. To add audio to your pages you can upload your own files or again select from the online hosts, Sound Cloud, or Mix Cloud. When you're done building pages in your Simple Booklet you can share it online by embedding it into a webpage or you can share the unique link generated for your booklet.
Widbook is a platform designed to help people collaboratively create multimedia books. The service is part multimedia book authoring tool and part social network. Mashable called it "the YouTube of books." On Widbook you can create a digital book that contains text, images, and videos. Widbook is collaborative because you can invite others to make contributions to your books. To use Widbook you have to create a profile on the service. The books that you create become a part of your profile. If you allow it, other Widbook users can add content and or comments to your books. Likewise, you can search for others' books and make contributions to their books.
Glossi is a service for creating digital magazines. Glossi magazines can include images, videos, audio files, and links to external sources of information. The magazines that you create are displayed with page-turning effects. Your magazines can be embedded into your blog. Learn more about Glossi in the video below.

The nominations are done, so this is a very current list of useful blogs!

Dark, very dark. (an excerpt)
Once upon a database query, while I pondered weak security,
And many avenues of access via backdoor,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a wiretapping,
As of some one gently sniffing, sniffing at our server's door.
“‘Tis some hacker,” I muttered, “tapping at our server door
Or just a virus, nothing more.”


I have to admit, most of my students already get this, OR they wouldn't be MY students.
Why Every Student Should Learn Computer Science
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, two of the fastest-growing occupations are in computer science and related fields – expected to grow 53.4% by 2018. Nearly 90 percent of high school graduates say they’re not interested in a career or a college major involving science, technology, engineering or math, according to a survey of over one million students who take the ACT test. The number of students who want to pursue engineering or computer science jobs is actually falling, precipitously, at just the moment when the need for those workers is soaring. (Within five years, there will be 2.4 million STEM job openings.)

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