Saturday, January 28, 2012

Censoring of Tweets Sets Off #Outrage; New York Times, 1/27/12

Somini Sengupta, New York Times; Censoring of Tweets Sets Off #Outrage:

"[T]his week, in a sort of coming-of-age moment, Twitter announced that upon request, it would block certain messages in countries where they were deemed illegal. The move immediately prompted outcry, argument and even calls for a boycott from some users.

Twitter in turn sought to explain that this was the best way to comply with the laws of different countries. And the whole episode, swiftly amplified worldwide through Twitter itself, offered a telling glimpse into what happens when a scrappy Internet start-up tries to become a multinational business...

The announcement signals the choice that a service like Twitter has to make about its own existence: Should it be more of a free-speech tool that can be used in defiance of governments, as happened during the Arab Spring protests, or a commercial venture that necessarily must obey the laws of the lands where it seeks to attract customers and eventually make money?"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Romney Ad Focuses on Gingrich’s Ethics Violation; New York Times, 1/26/12

Jim Rutenberg, New York Times; New Romney Ad Focuses on Gingrich’s Ethics Violation:

"Moving on to Phase 2 of its aggressive campaign to stop Newt Gingrich’s momentum before the primary here on Tuesday, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is beginning to show a new, bruising advertisement focusing on the Congressional ethics finding against Mr. Gingrich in the 1990s."

Scientist Plays Down Danger of Flu Strain; New York Times, 1/25/12

Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times; Scientist Plays Down Danger of Flu Strain:

"...[A] flu expert who serves on an American scientific advisory panel that looked at both Dr. Fouchier’s work and Dr. Kawaoka’s said the panel still believed key details should be censored from both papers before they are published to keep terrorists or rogue scientists from being to replicate the work, since the gene-manipulation techniques and intermediate mutations are as potentially dangerous as the end products.

Some scientists believe that Dr. Fouchier created what is potentially the most lethal virus in history — a flu that would transmit through a sneeze and kill more than 50 percent of those who caught it. That has led to calls for restrictions. Some — including the editorial board of The New York Times — have argued that the virus stocks should be destroyed; others want the virus restricted to a small number of laboratories with the highest biosecurity levels."

[Editorial] A Wisconsin Judge’s Refusal to Recuse; New York Times, 1/24/12

[Editorial] New York Times; A Wisconsin Judge’s Refusal to Recuse:

"Justice Michael Gableman of the Wisconsin Supreme Court announced last week that he will not retroactively recuse himself by taking back his vote in one of the court’s highly divisive recent cases. The decision is indefensible...

To regain the public’s trust, the court must disqualify him if he does not face up to his impropriety and recuse himself."

[Slideshow] Ten Surprisingly Banned Books;, 1/20/12

[Slideshow]; Ten Surprisingly Banned Books:

"Not that we’d ever advocate censorship, but some banned books you look at and think: yeah, I see why that’s ruffled a few feathers.

Salman Rushdie’s religiously provocative Satanic Verses is still being kept out of India – as is its author. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita was kicked out of France for two years in 1956 for a storyline that involved sex with a 12-year-old. And you can see why Walt Whitman’s poetry was considered a bit saucy for its day.

But the books on this list should come as much more of surprise. From beloved children’s classics to bestsellers you can’t go through an airport lounge without tripping over, these surprisingly banned books have all, for a variety of surprising reasons, been outlawed."

Who Gets to See Published Research?; Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/22/12

Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education; Who Gets to See Published Research? :

"The battle over public access to federally financed research is heating up again. The basic question is this: When taxpayers help pay for scholarly research, should those taxpayers get to see the results in the form of free access to the resulting journal articles?...

In Congress, meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Darrell E. Issa, a Republican of California, and Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat of New York, introduced the Research Works Act (HR 3699) last month. The bill would forbid federal agencies to do anything that would result in the sharing of privately published research—even if that research is done with the help of taxpayer dollars—unless the publisher of the work agrees first. That would spell the end of policies such as the National Institutes of Health's public-access mandate, which requires that the results of federally supported research be made publicly available via its PubMed Central database within 12 months of publication."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Google overhauls its privacy policies; San Jose Mercury News, 1/24/12

Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News; Google overhauls its privacy policies:

"Google (GOOG) on Tuesday said it would consolidate and simplify its large litter of privacy policies into a single umbrella statement, reflecting the company's plan to increasingly meld what were once separate services into a single experience.

But while the Internet giant is following a course recommended by many privacy advocates, it's unclear whether the new effort will find broad support among privacy advocates.

Google said it would consolidate more than 60 separate privacy policies into one, describing how Google collects and uses data from and about its hundreds of millions of users. The change cuts by more than 80 percent the number of words consumers will have to read. The company plans to put its new privacy policy into effect March 1."

Why Supreme Court's GPS ruling will improve your privacy rights; CNet, 1/23/12

Declan McCullagh, CNet; Why Supreme Court's GPS ruling will improve your privacy rights:

"This morning's unanimous ruling (PDF) says the customary law enforcement practice of installing GPS trackers without judicial approval--which has become more common as prices have fallen--violates Americans' Fourth Amendment rights to be free from warrantless searches.

That reasoning suggests police also need to obtain warrants before tracking the locations of cell phones and mobile devices, another contentious topic currently before the courts, said Greg Nojeim, an attorney at the Center for Democracy and Technology."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Scientists to Pause Research on Deadly Strain of Bird Flu; New York Times, 1/20/12

Denise Grady, New York Times; Scientists to Pause Research on Deadly Strain of Bird Flu:

"The scientists who altered a deadly flu virus to make it more contagious have agreed to suspend their research for 60 days to give other international experts time to discuss the work and determine how it can proceed without putting the world at risk of a potentially catastrophic pandemic.

Suspensions of biomedical research are almost unheard of; the only other one in the United States was a moratorium from 1974 to 1976 on some types of recombinant DNA research, because of safety concerns.

A letter explaining the flu decision is being published in two scientific journals, Science and Nature, which also plan to publish reports on the research, but in a redacted form, omitting details that would let other researchers copy the experiments."

I Disclose ... Nothing; New York Times, 1/21/12

Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times; I Disclose ... Nothing:

"IN New York and a growing number of American cities, diners are encountering sanitary grades in restaurants’ windows — A, B or C. That system is an example of helpful disclosure, researchers say: information that is simple and comprehensible, important to recipients and easily acted upon. I recently chose between outwardly identical Japanese noodle shops on East Ninth Street in Manhattan based on the system, walking into the A rather than the B.

But as greater disclosure has become the go-to solution for a wide range of problems — from unethical campaign financing to rising corporate carbon emissions — it has often delivered lackluster results, researchers say.

Just last week, the Obama administration announced plans to require drug companies to disclose a wide variety of payments and gifts to doctors, from speaking fees to the purchase of breakfasts for office staffs, in the hope of reducing commercial influence on prescribing practices. President Obama has promised to run the most open, transparent administration in history. But is more disclosure the solution?"

Potential SOPA/PIPA Revisions; New York Times, 1/22/12

Brian McFadden, The Strip, New York Times; Potential SOPA/PIPA Revisions

Saturday, January 21, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court won't hear appeals in students' online rants; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/18/12

Taryn Luna, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; U.S. Supreme Court won't hear appeals in students' online rants:

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused the school districts' request to hear the two cases and another of a West Virginia teenager who disparaged a fellow student online.

The Supreme Court decision upholds earlier rulings from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of the Pennsylvania students from June 2011.

The court had ruled that each district breached the student's freedom of speech when they were punished for actions that occurred off school grounds and on home computers."

Friday, January 20, 2012

For Online Privacy, Click Here; New York Times, 1/19/12

Tanzina Vega, New York Times; For Online Privacy, Click Here:

"On Friday, the Digital Advertising Alliance, a group of digital advertising trade organizations, will unveil its first ad campaign ever explaining what the icon is and how it helps users control ads they see online. The campaign, one of the largest domestic consumer privacy campaigns to date, comes as advertisers, technology companies and privacy advocates await a final report from the Federal Trade Commission on online privacy...

In addition to the commission’s final report, the White House is expected to prepare its own report on digital privacy."

What’s the Best Way to Protect Against Online Piracy?; New York Times, 1/20/12

New York Times; What’s the Best Way to Protect Against Online Piracy? :
"In response to online protests on Wednesday, several key Congressional lawmakers withdrew support for two anti-Web piracy measures — the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act — both of which have the backing of powerful commercial lobbies. Although the reaction was a victory for new media, online intellectual piracy remains a serious issue.

What’s the best way to protect against online piracy? Is there a better alternative to these two bills?"

Senate Postpones Vote on Internet Anti-Piracy Bill; New York Times, 1/20/12

Jonathan Weisman, New York Times; Senate Postpones Vote on Internet Anti-Piracy Bill:

"Taking to the medium that helped organize extensive protests against the legislation, Mr. Reid, Democrat of Nevada, announced a delay in the vote via the social media Web site Twitter. But he indicated the issue, which had been scheduled for a vote Tuesday, had not died...

In the House, Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called off plans to formally draft his version of the anti-piracy bill next month."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Can We Really Unplug?; Slate,com, 1/3/12

Katie Roiphe,; Can We Really Unplug? :

"We don’t use the Internet; it uses us. It takes our empty lives, our fruit fly attention spans, and uses them for its infinite glittering preoccupations. Solutions like Freedom or a couple of days at a Benedictine monastery can’t remake us into peaceful, moderate, contented inhabitants of the room we are in. If you ask any 60-year-old what life was like before the Internet they will likely say they “don’t remember.” How can they not remember the vast bulk of their adult life? The advent of our online lives is so transforming, so absorbing, so passionate that daily life beforehand is literally unimaginable. We can’t even envision freedom, in other words, the best we can hope for is Freedom."

How I’m Surviving (or Trying to) Without Wikipedia at My Fingertips; New York Times, 1/18/12

David Carr, New York Times; How I’m Surviving (or Trying to) Without Wikipedia at My Fingertips:

"Wikipedia is neither the definitive source nor the only one in a world with billions of links. As a matter of policy, my daughter can’t use a Wikipedia citation for schoolwork, and if I use the site as a primary source for my work, I will end up in the naughty corner. No, I can’t just lift stuff from there; all I can do with Wikipedia is gain an understanding of dozens of things I know nothing about...

Wikipedia is the Web, an amazing tool of digitally enabled networked intelligence. It may be one of humankind’s crowning achievements; most of us have come to think of it as a public utility and it generally pitches itself as one."

[Podcast] Pico Iyer On Unplugging; NPR's On Point, 1/17/12

[Podcast] NPR's On Point; Pico Iyer On Unplugging:

"We text, we tweet, we carry cell phones like they’re life lines. We check our e-mails, our Facebook pages, our online status six different ways. And then we start again. We’ve known for a while now that the digital world – great as it is – could be addictive. Overwhelming. An obsession. A leash. A prison.

Some people are breaking out. Letting go. Staying off. Travel writer Pico Iyer is one. He moved cell-phone-free to the boondocks of Japan for a reason. Better to go slow, go quietly, go off the digital grid."

[Podcast] Act One. Trickle Down History; This American Life, 1/14/11

[Podcast] This American Life; Act One. Trickle Down History:

"Reporter Starlee Kine observes what would have happened if the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983 had been decided not by Ronald Reagan, but by a bunch of middle schoolers...and she remembers a class trip to the Nixon library, where Nixon aide HR Haldeman spoke. (20 minutes)"

Young, in Love and Sharing Everything, Including a Password; New York Times, 1/17/12

Matt Richtel, New York Times; Young, in Love and Sharing Everything, Including a Password:

"The digital era has given rise to a more intimate custom. It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail, Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts...

Counselors typically advise against the practice, and parents often preach the wisdom of password privacy. Winifred Lender, a child psychologist in Santa Barbara, had her three sons sign “digital contracts” that outline terms for how much media they will consume, how they will behave online and that they will not share passwords."

Wikipedia goes dark for 24 hours to protest web piracy bills;, 1/18/12; Wikipedia goes dark for 24 hours to protest web piracy bills:

"Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day?

The online encyclopedia is one of the Internet's most visited sites, and at midnight Eastern Standard Time it began a 24-hour "blackout" in protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation that many leading websites -- including Reddit, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others -- contend will make it challenging if not impossible for them to operate."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Digitizing Health Records, Before It Was Cool; New York Times, 1/14/12

Milt Freudenheim, New York Times; Digitizing Health Records, Before It Was Cool:

"Ms. Faulkner understands why it’s taken much longer for the health care industry than, say, banks and airlines to move to electronic data. In banking, the types of data are much more limited and known, she says. In health care, by contrast, data is constantly changing based on information from doctors, nurses, patients and others. New discoveries, protocols and government requirements add even more complexity.

The way this data is stored and used can literally be a matter of life and death — which is why the transition to electronic health records is so sensitive. And why it’s so important, Ms. Faulkner says. Computerized record systems can actively search for and analyze information in ways that paper files never can, thereby improving patients’ health, she says...

Concerns about security are hardly groundless. A government Web site known as the “Wall of Shame” has documented hundreds of breaches that threatened patients’ privacy."

A TV Debate on Antipiracy; New York Times, 1/15/12

Brian Stelter, New York Times; A TV Debate on Antipiracy:

"A pair of bills that would strengthen antipiracy laws — and that could effectively censor the Internet, according to heavyweights like Google — have received scant coverage from the major television networks. The parent companies of the TV networks are among the chief supporters of the bills, having lobbied Congress to write them in the first place.

Those two facts, taken together, have caused conspiracy theories to flourish online about corporate interference in news coverage."

Fighting Antipiracy Measure, Activist Group Posts Personal Information of Media Executives; New York Times, 1/13/12

Amy Chozick, New York Times; Fighting Antipiracy Measure, Activist Group Posts Personal Information of Media Executives:

"In protest of antipiracy legislation currently being considered by Congress, the group has posted online documents that reveal personal information about Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, and Sumner M. Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation. Those companies, like almost every major company in the media and entertainment industry, have championed the Stop Online Piracy Act, the House of Representatives bill, known as SOPA, and its related Senate bill, called Protect I.P."

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do Robots Have Ethics?; NPR, 1/5/12

Barbara J. King, NPR; Do Robots Have Ethics? :

"Most scientists think a lot about ethics. We adhere to, and constantly work to improve, guidelines for codes of good conduct in our dealings with people and other animals.

And now, according to a new book edited by philosophers Patrick Lin and Keith Abney, and computer scientist George A. Bekey, more of us had better think about the ethics of dealing with robots, too."

Man Wins Web Squatting Suit Involving His Name; New York Times, 1/6/12

Brian X. Chen, New York Times; Man Wins Web Squatting Suit Involving His Name:

"A New York man on Friday won a lawsuit against a woman whom he accused of registering Web addresses incorporating his name and demanding $1 million for each of them."

Marine biologist could get 20 years in prison for feeding whales; Yahoo News, 1/6/12

Eric Pfeiffer, Yahoo News; Marine biologist could get 20 years in prison for feeding whales:

"A California marine biologist is facing up to 20 years in prison and half a million dollars in fines for allegedly feeding a group of killer whales and then altering footage of the incident and lying to authorities."

Friday, January 6, 2012

[Editorial] Judicial Ethics and the Supreme Court; New York Times, 1/5/12

[Editorial] New York Times; Judicial Ethics and the Supreme Court:

"It is not enough for the justices to rely on their own “constant vigilance and good judgment,” as Chief Justice Roberts contends. It is disingenuous for him to claim that “no compilation of ethical rules can guarantee integrity” when no code currently applies to the court. Adopting a conduct code would clarify the rules that apply to the justices and greatly bolster public confidence in the court."

Internet Access Is Not a Human Right; New York Times, 1/4/12

Vincent G. Cerf, New York Times; Internet Access Is Not a Human Right:

"Over the past few years, courts and parliaments in countries like France and Estonia have pronounced Internet access a human right.

But that argument, however well meaning, misses a larger point: technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Questions About Trips Sponsored by Education Publisher; New York Times, 1/1/11

Michael Winerip, New York Times; New Questions About Trips Sponsored by Education Publisher:

"For several weeks, New York State’s attorney general has been investigating similar trips involving two dozen education officials from around the country who traveled to Singapore; London; Helsinki, Finland; China and Rio de Janeiro as guests of the Pearson Foundation. The trips, and the fact that most of these officials come from states that have multimillion contracts with Pearson, were the subject of two of my columns this fall.

Last month, the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, issued subpoenas to the Manhattan offices of the Pearson Foundation and Pearson Education. Mr. Schneiderman is looking into whether the nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation, which is prohibited by state law from undisclosed lobbying, was used to benefit Pearson Education, a profit-making company that publishes standardized tests, curriculums and textbooks, according to people familiar with the inquiry."