Saturday, June 25, 2016

This does not happen often.  Is there more here than has been reported?
Paul Gattis reports:
Gov. Robert Bentley has fired a high-ranking official in the state department of finance and placed a second on leave after concerns of a computer security breach emerged.
The breach came to light following an investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, according to a letter Bentley wrote June 10 to the FBI.
Bentley has also requested that the FBI partner with the state of Alabama “to provide appropriate audit and investigative personnel to assist ALEA in determining the full scope” of the breach, according to the Bentley letter.
ALEA released the Bentley letter to on Friday as well as the termination letter to James Nolin, chief information officer in the finance department, of his “probationary state employment” and the letter advising Rex McDowell, assistant director of finance information/administrative services, that he has been placed on leave.

Another debate to follow?
Back in March, and due to a government redaction error, the world got confirmation that yes, Edward Snowden was the target of a controversial order and court battle involving Lavabit.  But it’s nice that the government has FINALLY ungagged Ladar Levison so that he can talk about the case.  Here’s his press release, issued today:
Alexandria, VA–Lavabit founder Ladar Levison can finally confirm that Edward Snowden was the target of the 2013 investigation, which led to the shutdown of the Lavabit email service.  The original case concerned law enforcement’s authority to compel the disclosure of an SSL/TLS private key, which belonged to Lavabit, and was used to protect the communications of all 410,000 customers, when only one of those customers was the subject of a criminal investigation.  After three years, and five separate attempts, the federal judge overseeing the case has granted Mr. Levison permission to speak freely about investigation.  The recently delivered court decision unseals the vast majority of the court filings, and releases Mr. Levison from the gag order, which has limited his ability to discuss the proceedings until now.
Mr. Levison has consistently relied on the First Amendment in his court filings, which sought to remove the gag orders entered against him.  He argued that such orders are an unconstitutional restraint against speech, and an afront to the democratic process.  He plans to use his newfound freedom to discuss the case during a planned presentation on Compelled Decryption at DEF CON 24 in Las Vegas, NV.
“One of the rights guaranteed to Americans, and a cornerstone for a functional democracy, is the freedom to speak the truth,” stated Mr. Levison in announcing the court decision.  “The First Amendment protects opinions, including those unfavorable to government, from injunctions against speech.  The gag orders in this case were a violation of that inalienable right.  No American should have to live for three years, gagged, with every word carefully weighed, when such opinions are concerned with such a public and controversial issue as state surveillance.  I believe the public only grants permission to be governed when it knows the means and methods its government uses to protect the body politic.  While I’m pleased that I can finally speak freely about the target of the investigation, I also know the fight to protect our collective freedom is far from over.  That is why I will continue to do everything within my power to protect our right to speak freely and privately.We must decide when speech is necessary.  Our rights must never be subject to the whims of those officials we seek to criticize.”
In order to continue the fight, Mr. Levison is forming the Lavabit Legal Defense Foundation (or “LavaLegal”), a non-profit organization founded to, among other things, protect service providers from becoming complicit in unconstitutional activities, and fight secret attempts aimed circumventing digital privacy or impinging upon the right of those involved to speak of the experience.  The foundation will be funded by donations from people and organizations all over the world that want to help protect digital privacy and bolster our collective defense against government overreach.  Donations can be accepted at the foundation’s page or through bitcoin donations at 1Bqqy3SxZ27ZUogEeiKHYqPsmFwuRTErMu.
For more information contact Lavabit founder Ladar Levison or Lavabit’s counsel, Jesse Binnall.

Great catch by Joseph Lorenzo Hall.  As seen in the Federal Register, DHS is proposing to amend forms that are used in travel arrival and departure records (Forms I-94 and I-94W) and Electronic System for Travel Authorization.  If they ask you nicely, will you tell them your Twitter handle and other social media usernames?  And how long before they stop making this “optional” and make it mandatory?
DHS proposes to add the following question to ESTA and to Form I-94W:
“Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”  It will be an optional data field to request social media identifiers to be used for vetting purposes, as well as applicant contact information.  Collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.  Show citation box
Current Actions: This submission is being made to extend the expiration date with a change to the information collected as a result of adding a question about social media to ESTA and to Form I-94W, as described in the Abstract section of this document.  There are no changes to the burden hours or to the information collected on Form I-94, or the I-94 Web site.
More information here.  You have until August 22 to submit your comments, while I wait for Joe Cadillic’s head to explode in 3…. 2….

Good summary of tracking tools & techniques.
FTC Guidance – Online Tracking
by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Jun 24, 2016
FTC – Online Tracking: “Have you ever wondered why some online ads you see are targeted to your tastes and interests?  Or how websites remember your preferences from visit-to-visit or device-to-device?  The answer may be in the “cookies” – or in other online tracking methods like device fingerprinting and cross-device tracking.  Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about online tracking — how it works and how you can control it…”

Never make a change so big that it signals your strategy, but make a thousand small changes that achieve the same end.
China Tightens Internet Rules For Search Engines, Announces Fresh Regulations For Paid Ads
In what is being perceived as another attempt to tighten its control over the internet, China’s internet regulator on Saturday announced new rules that ban search engines from showing subversive information and obligate them to clearly identify paid results.
   In addition, search engines would also be required to censor “rumors, obscenities, pornography, violence, murder, terrorism and other illegal information” — regulations that the Chinese government claims are needed to safeguard the security of its citizens.

Does this mean that no one really knows who is immigrating? 
How Much To Access Government Data On Immigration? Only $173,775
A little more than a year ago, Quartz’s David Yanofsky did what many data reporters do every day: He submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for a set of statistics from a government agency.  Yanofsky wanted immigration statistics about who enters the country from the International Trade Administration, the only government agency that compiles comprehensive records of this kind.
The ITA got back to him and said that he was welcome to the data set — all he had to do was cut a check for $173,775.  After weeks of paperwork and haggling with the agency, Yanofsky is now suing to get access, and to make a larger statement about the importance of open data for journalists and residents alike.
On this week’s What’s The Point, Yanofsky discusses his lawsuit, what he thinks is in the data, and why the information costs $173,775, anyway.
Stream or download the full episode above, or subscribe using your favorite podcast app.

For my Architecture students.  This happened in “highly mobile” India.  Any lessons for the rest of the world?
Why India’s Leading Fashion E-tailer Abandoned Its App-only Strategy
Earlier this year, a K@W article titled “Can an App-only E-commerce Model Succeed in India?” looked at the pros and cons of adopting an app-only e-commerce strategy.  The debate was sparked by Myntra, India’s leading fashion e-tailer, which had announced in May of last year that it was going the app-only route.  It claimed to be the first big web-based e-tailer, not just in India but globally, to adopt an app-only model.
However, now Myntra has reversed that decision: On June 1, it relaunched its desktop website.

I predict an immediate market for “eye protecting anti-smartphone lenses!”  Let’s be the first to start a KickStarter project!
Smartphone-Induced Temporary Blindness: Using Your Phone Before Bed Could Cause Vision Problems
Smartphones were recently named one of the most important inventions of the 21st Century and they have changed how we live our lives in countless ways.  Now everything from ordering food, sending work emails, and speaking with friends and family across the world can be accomplished with a single device.  However, a new report suggests that there may be unsettling health consequences linked to excessive smartphone use: temporary blindness.
According to the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two women in England may be the first patients ever to be diagnosed with smartphone-induced blindness.  Both women reported having temporary vision difficulties in only one of their eyes.

Some of these are free.  Try them and see what you see. 
7 Notable Data Visualization Tools

These might enliven my PowerPoint presentations (if I used PowerPoint)
5 Sites to Download Famous Sounds from Movies, Games, & More
   As with most things, such sounds have a home on the Internet. In some nook or corner, you can find the perfect ding of a game you love, a short dialogue from your favourite geeky movies, the ignition sequence from NASA, and much more.
It can be turned into the perfect ringtone or notification tone.  It can punctuate the point you’re making in a heated argument online.  Here’s where to find the right sound…

Might be worth a shot.
   Starting today, university faculty in the United States who teach courses in computer science or related subjects can apply for free credits for their students to use across the full suite of Google Cloud Platform tools, like App Engine and the Cloud Machine Learning Platform.  These credits can be used any time during the 2016-17 academic year and give students access to the same tools and infrastructure used by Google engineers.

Every week; amusement.
Hack Education Weekly News
   Law Schools Are Going Online to Reach New Students,” says The New York Times.
   Via the AP: “New for-profit medical schools springing up across US.”
   “A computer for every LA Unified student would cost $311 million,” says the LA School Report (which seems significantly less than the $1.3 billion it agreed to pay Apple/Pearson for iPads, but what do I know).
   Google announces “Google Cloud Platform Education Grants for computer science.”
   “Examining ethical and privacy issues surrounding learning analyticsby Tony Bates.

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