Monday, December 8, 2014

French Official Campaigns to Make ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Global; New York Times, 12/3/14

Mark Scott, New York Times; French Official Campaigns to Make ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Global:
"Europe is pressing for its ‘‘right to be forgotten’’ ruling to go global.
The privacy decision, which allows individuals to ask that links leading to information about themselves be removed from search engine results, has been gaining traction worldwide ever since European officials released guidelines last week that demanded Google and others apply the ruling across their entire search empires.
And on Wednesday, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, who heads the French data protection authority and has campaigned heavily for expanding the ruling, defended European efforts to force search engines to apply the ruling to search results outside of Europe."

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Research Is Just the Beginning: A Free People Must Have Open Access to the Law; Electronic Frontier Foundation, 10/23/14

Corynne McSherry, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Research Is Just the Beginning: A Free People Must Have Open Access to the Law:
"The bad news: the specter of copyright has raised its ugly head. A group of standards-development organizations (SDOs) have banded together to sue Public.Resource.Org, accusing the site of infringing copyright by reproducing and publishing a host of safety codes that those organizations drafted and then lobbied heavily to have incorporated into law. These include crucial national standards like the national electrical codes and fire safety codes. Public access to such codes—meaning not just the ability to read them, but to publish and re-use them—can be crucial when there is an industrial accident; when there is a disaster such as Hurricane Katrina; or when a home-buyer wants to know whether her house is code-compliant. Publishing the codes online, in a readily accessible format, makes it possible for reporters and other interested citizens to not only view them easily, but also to search, excerpt, and generate new insights.
The SDOs argue that they hold a copyright on those laws because the standards began their existence in the private sector and were only later "incorporated by reference" into the law. That claim conflicts with the public interest, common sense, and the rule of law.
With help from EFF and others, Public.Resource.Org is fighting back, and the outcome of this battle will have a major impact on the public interest. If any single entity owns a copyright in the law, it can sell or ration the law, as well as make all sort of rules about when, where, and how we share it."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How Sacred Are Our Patrons’ Privacy Rights? Answer Carefully; Library Journal, 10/23/14

Rick Anderson, Library Journal; How Sacred Are Our Patrons’ Privacy Rights? Answer Carefully:
"This month I want to address the issue of patron privacy in the context of the recent revelations about privacy incursions in the latest version of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE)—specifically, the fact that version 4 of the e-reader software gathers highly specific data about individual users’ reading behavior and transmits it, unencrypted and with all identifying information included as well as other data culled from the user’s machine, back to Adobe. (A very useful running summary of the issue and details about how the situation is quickly evolving can be found at the Digital Reader blog.)
Understandably and rightly, the fact that this is happening has ignited something of a firestorm in the library world and elsewhere."

Widespread Nature of Chapel Hill's Academic Fraud Is Laid Bare; Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/23/14

Jack Stripling, Chronicle of Higher Education; Widespread Nature of Chapel Hill's Academic Fraud Is Laid Bare:
"An academic-fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took root under a departmental secretary and die-hard Tar Heel fan, who was egged on by athletics advisers to create no-show classes that would keep under­prepared and unmotivated players eligible. Over nearly two decades, professors, coaches, and administrators either participated in the scheme or overlooked it, undercutting the core values of one of the nation’s premier public universities.
Such are the sobering findings of an eight-month investigation led by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a longtime official of the U.S. Justice Department who was hired by the university to get to the bottom of a scandal that came to light four years ago."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Readers Debate Online Piracy and the Future of Digital Entertainment; New York Times, 9/29/14

Jenna Wortham, New York Times; Readers Debate Online Piracy and the Future of Digital Entertainment:
"On Sunday, The New York Times published the story of a popular — and illegal — website that let people stream and download movies and television shows at their leisure. The site was taken offline in 2010 by the federal government, and the administrators behind the site were charged with conspiracy and copyright infringement. Nearly all served time in prison. The article touched a nerve among Times readers, eliciting hundreds of reactions about copyright infringement and intellectual property, and how the digital world complicates both.
Here is a sampling of their comments..."

What Kind of Town Bans Books?; New Yorker, 10/1/14

Annie Julia Wyman, New Yorker; What Kind of Town Bans Books? :
"The Highland Park Independent School District, and all the other American institutions that still censor books, grapple with a set of very old and perhaps unanswerable questions: What is art, anyway? Must it be good for us? Do we accept a character’s moral flaws if we read about them? Must we experience everything an author puts into a book, or can we skip the things that disturb us or with which we disagree? On one side of the cultural divide, the pro-books side, our answers align against moralistic messages, against utility, against excisions of any kind. We feel that, while art is so powerful it can change lives, it is also so fragile and precious that it badly needs our protection. But there are other answers to these old questions—new perspectives that literary culture allows us to access. The dog from Garth Stein’s novel thinks, “I learn about other cultures and other ways of life, and then I start thinking about my own place in the world and what makes sense and what doesn’t.”* That’s exactly the kind of openness that I want to teach, and exactly what I learned in the place where I grew up."

The Censor in Each of Us; New Yorker, 5/6/14

Colm Toibin, New Yorker; The Censor in Each of Us:
"...we understood two things.
First, that the urge to riot in a theatre to stop actors being heard, the urge to ban books, the urge to threaten to cut subsidy are almost built into our nature, they lurk always in the shadows, especially in societies where there are divisions and pressures and fears or sudden and uneasy change, but maybe they lurk everywhere.
Second, the need to resist these urges, urges that can be both shadowy and substantial, both threatening and pressing, which weaken and poison the richness and potential of our lives, requires single-mindedness, vigilance, cunning, knowledge that the enemy is within as well as without, an absolute belief in the idea of the glittering mind and the power of the shifting and uncertain image, and a belief in the challenge of the word and the often awkward presence of the new. The doctrine that these things are fundamental to us, to our way of living in the world, to our humanity, means then that we must work, using examples from the past, toward the right for others, as well as ourselves, to be let alone to imagine, to write, to read, to share, and to be heard."

Monday, September 29, 2014

China Scrambles To Censor Social Media; Reuters via HuffingtonPost, 9/29/14

Paul Carsten, Reuters via HuffingtonPost; China Scrambles To Censor Social Media:
"Chinese censors and opponents of the protests sweeping Hong Kong are engaging in a cat-and-mouse game with demonstrators and commentators in a bid to stop news of the unrest spreading online and, in particular, reaching the mainland...
The intervention is beyond what is normal for the usually free-talking Hong Kong, even as people are used to Chinese censors scrubbing the Internet in the mainland when mass demonstrations erupt.
On Sunday, users reported that Facebook Inc's photo sharing app Instagram was inaccessible on China's mainland.
Chinese websites, including Baidu Inc's search engine and the Twitter-like Weibo Corp microblog, have set about deleting references to the Hong Kong demonstrations.
Others have reported messages on Tencent Holdings Ltd's hugely popular WeChat messaging app being removed."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Unrepentant Bootlegger; New York Times, 9/27/14

Jenna Wortham, New York Times; The Unrepentant Bootlegger:
"To the government, Ms. Beshara was a thief, plain and simple. The Motion Picture Association of America alerted the federal government to NinjaVideo and nine other movie-streaming sites, and they all went dark at the same time. The raids were carried out by several federal agencies working to combat counterfeiting and piracy, and the scale of the operation was meant to send a warning that the government wasn’t ignoring the freewheeling world of illegal online streaming and downloading.
Ms. Beshara, however, still can’t accept that what she was doing deserved the heavy hammer of the law. She served 16 months in prison for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, but she still talks about NinjaVideo as something grand. It was a portal that spirited her away from the doldrums of her regular life as a receptionist living with her parents to an online community that regarded her as its queen. Sure, she showed movies that were still playing in theaters, but it seemed like harmless, small-stakes fun.
“In hindsight — I know it’s naïve — but I never imagined it going criminal,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it was something to be bothered with. Even if it is wrong.”
She is not the only one who feels that way. It has proved very difficult to reverse a pervasive cultural nonchalance about what constitutes intellectual property theft on the web. Despite the government crackdown in 2010 and subsequent efforts to unplug websites that host or link to illegal content, new sites have emerged that filled the void that NinjaVideo left behind.
Online piracy is thriving. File-sharing, most of it illegal, still amounts to nearly a quarter of all consumer Internet traffic, according to Cisco Systems’ Visual Networking Index. And a recent report from Tru Optik, a media analytics firm, said that nearly 10 billion movies, television shows and other files, including games and pornography, were downloaded globally in the second quarter of 2014. Tru Optik estimates that about 6 percent of those downloads were legal. In July, a high-quality version of “The Expendables 3,” the Sylvester Stallone action comedy film, surfaced online and was downloaded millions of times, well before its release in theaters."

A Stolen Video of My Daughter Went Viral. Here’s What I Learned; New York Times, 9/26/14

Carrie Goldman, New York Times; A Stolen Video of My Daughter Went Viral. Here’s What I Learned:
"In early September, someone downloaded my video of Cleo, stripped it of all identifying information, changed the title from “Cleo on Equality” to “Wisdom of a 4-Year-Old”, and re-uploaded it to YouTube, passing it off as his or her own video. A woman in Amsterdam posted an embedded version of the stolen video to her Facebook page, from which it went viral. Within a matter of days, the stripped-down version of the video had been shared over 80,000 times.
I only learned about it when the pirated video began appearing in the news feed of people who recognized Cleo and noticed that it was not linked to any of my accounts. I felt sick on multiple levels. I have always known, of course, that the mere act of uploading a video to any digital site means potentially losing control over that content. But now it had happened, and even though the shares appeared to be harmless — approving, even — it was still terrifying. What if someone decided to do something creepy with it?
There was also a part of me that saw all the comments lauding Cleo’s grasp of acceptance, and I wanted those people to be linked back to my anti-bullying work. I missed the opportunity to share what I do for a living with a wide audience. I was sad and confused. Was I upset because the video was out there being viewed by tons of strangers, or was I upset because it was out there and I wasn’t getting credit? Both, probably...
I knew I had rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Since I speak to students and teachers all the time about good digital citizenship, I knew what steps to take next:
• Do not retaliate against someone online
• Take a screen shot and record the evidence
• Use this online form to report the violation to Facebook.
• Use this online form to report a copyright infringement on YouTube."

The Wilds of Education; New York Times, 9/27/14

Frank Bruni, New York Times; The Wilds of Education:
"WHEN it comes to bullying, to sexual assault, to gun violence, we want and need our schools to be as safe as possible.
But when it comes to learning, shouldn’t they be dangerous?
Isn’t education supposed to provoke, disrupt, challenge the paradigms that young people have consciously embraced and attack the prejudices that they have unconsciously absorbed?
Isn’t upset a necessary part of that equation? And if children are lucky enough to be ignorant of the world’s ugliness, aren’t books the rightful engines of enlightenment, and aren’t classrooms the perfect theaters for it?
Not in the view of an unacceptable number of Americans. Not in too many high schools and on too many college campuses. Not to judge by complaints from the right and the left, in suburbs and cities and states red and blue.
Last week was Banned Books Week, during which proponents of unfettered speech and intellectual freedom draw attention to instances in which debate is circumscribed and the universe sanitized. As if on cue, a dispute over such censorship erupted in the affluent Dallas-area community of Highland Park, where many students pushed back at a recent decision by high school administrators to suspend the teaching of seven books until further review. Some parents had complained about the books."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Online Renegade, Wanted in U.S., Shakes Up New Zealand Election; New York Times, 9/18/14

Jonathan Hutchison, New York Times; Online Renegade, Wanted in U.S., Shakes Up New Zealand Election:
"It was not an ordinary political rally, but it has been anything but an ordinary election.
The hundreds of people who packed Auckland Town Hall on a recent evening were regaled by speeches by Glenn Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist; Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder; and Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, the last two appearing by Internet video link. Mr. Greenwald and Mr. Snowden said the New Zealand government had carried out, or at least participated in, mass domestic surveillance.
But at the center of the show was the event’s organizer, Kim Dotcom, an Internet entrepreneur accused of mass copyright theft whose fledgling Internet Party stands a chance at winning seats in Parliament in the national elections on Saturday.
“We are going to work really, really hard to stop this country from participating in mass surveillance,” Mr. Dotcom told the crowd. “And we’ll close one of the Five Eyes,” he added, referring to the intelligence alliance that consists of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. The crowd erupted in cheers."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Data Scientists Want Big Data Ethics Standards; Information Week, 9/17/14

Jeff Bertolucci, Information Week; Data Scientists Want Big Data Ethics Standards:
"The vast majority of statisticians and data scientists believe that consumers should worry about privacy issues related to data being collected on them, and most have qualms about the questionable ethics behind Facebook's undisclosed psychological experiment on its users in 2012.
Those are just two of the findings from a Revolution Analytics survey of 144 data scientists at JSM (Joint Statistical Meetings) 2014, an annual gathering of statisticians, to gauge their thoughts on big data ethics. The Boston conference ran Aug. 2-7."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Privacy, Security and GPS-Based Apps: An Inside Look From SCRUFF; Huffington Post, 9/10/14

Eric Silverberg, Huffington Post; Privacy, Security and GPS-Based Apps: An Inside Look From SCRUFF:
"SCRUFF wants to ensure our members both who live in these countries and who travel to these countries stay informed, and in an upcoming release we will be enabling "hide distance" by default for people in these regions.
In addition, we've struck an innovative partnership with ILGA, a non-profit that publishes an annual report of gay and lesbian rights worldwide. Coming soon, when a user travels to a country included in the ILGA report and launches SCRUFF, he will see an alert informing him of the presence of local laws criminalizing homosexual activity. By increasing awareness about these laws, we hope to keep our members vigilant and raise the global pressure for reform.
Ultimately, the possibility of location discovery is something we all must consider whenever we use location-based apps for dating, traveling, hooking up, or making friends. As the stakes have increased, app designers must meet the challenge of building robust systems that incorporate advanced location obfuscation techniques. Though today's headlines happen to target gays, the challenges of location security affect any religion, gender, sexuality or minority group who finds community through location-based apps."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reddit and 4chan Begin to Button Up; New York Times, 9/8/14

Mike Isaac, New York Times; Reddit and 4chan Begin to Button Up:
"Reddit said its moderators were unable to keep up with a torrent of requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to remove the images, made by those who own rights to the photos. After a moderator removed a post in response to a D.M.C.A. request, another post would pop up in its place. Taking down the entire forums, Reddit said, was the only way to avoid playing a never-ending game of “whack-a-mole.”
The moves came amid an continuing debate over the role websites play in hosting objectionable content online, and how much user-generated content platforms should or should not interfere with what their users post. Twitter, for instance, has faced increasing pressure to protect users from abuse and hate speech on its service, while YouTube has been used at times for distribution of horrifying videos.
Despite its content removal, Reddit continues to maintain its hard-line stance on issues of free speech, even as it decided to take down the forums in question. The company said it had always dealt with D.M.C.A. removal requests by redirecting rights holders to the companies that host the photos on their servers. It has also held a zero-tolerance policy toward some content, such as child pornography.
“We uphold the ideal of free speech on Reddit as much as possible not because we are legally bound to,” said Yishan Wong, Reddit’s chief executive, but because the company believes that the user “has the right to choose between right and wrong, good and evil,” and that it is the user’s responsibility to do so. His company blog post was titled “Every Man Is Responsible for His Own Soul.”"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Officials Pledge Tighter Ethics Rules in Virginia; Associated Press via ABC News, 9/5/14

Alan Suderman, Associated Press via ABC News; Officials Pledge Tighter Ethics Rules in Virginia:
" "This is a dynamite charge blowing up Virginia political culture," said Robert D. Holsworth, a Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor who sat through most of the five-week federal trial.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of doing favors for wealthy vitamin executive Jonnie Williams in exchange for more than $165,000 in gifts and loans they admitted taking. During the trial, Bob McDonnell spent five days on the stand carefully detailing how he didn't substantively break Virginia law.
While captivating a state audience with its soap opera-like details of marital discord, the McDonnell trial also highlighted the yawning gulf between what a federal jury thinks is acceptable behavior for a public official versus what Virginia law allows. And it's a gap that caused a growing chorus of calls from public officials both for new limits on what they can take, as well as for greater disclosure requirements.
"We need ethics reform here in the commonwealth," said Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who signed an executive order capping gifts at $100 for himself, his family and his staff shortly after taking office. "You go into office, you have to serve the public good. Nobody should be giving you anything of value.""

Thursday, September 4, 2014

"Captain America," "Hulk" & More to Feature Anti-Bullying Variant Covers in October;, 9/3/14

Steve Sunu,; "Captain America," "Hulk" & More to Feature Anti-Bullying Variant Covers in October:
"In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month and Blue Shirt Day World Day of Bullying Prevention in October, Marvel Comics -- in partnership with STOMP Out Bullying -- will release special anti-bullying variant covers for seven select titles, including "Rocket Raccoon" #4 and "Hulk" #7 by Pascal Campion, "Guardians of the Galaxy" #20, by Stephanie Hans, "Avengers" #36 by Sean Chen, "Inhuman" #7 by John Tyler Christopher, "Captain America" #25 by Kalman Andrasofszky and "Legendary Star-Lord" #4 by Paul Renaud.
"The center of Marvel’s storytelling history is the eternal struggle between good and evil, with many of its greatest Super Heroes having to contend with -- and rise above -- bullying, in all its forms," Marvel EiC Axel Alonso said via Press Release."

Open data's Achilles heel: re-identification; ZDNet, 9/3/14

Rob O'Neill, ZDNet; Open data's Achilles heel: re-identification:
'Governments around the globe are embracing the mantra of open data and talking up its productivity benefits, but none have so far made the re-identification of this mass of anonymised data illegal... The possibility of outlawing re-identification is now being discussed in New Zealand, with both the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, and a May report (pdf) from the New Zealand Data futures Forum suggesting legal protections against re-identification may be necessary.
Edwards told ZDNet he is trying to look towards the future and ensure that the value in government data can be safely extracted in ways that maintain public confidence.
“One of the methods might be a prohibition on re-identification. If we did that we would be world leaders," he said.
Similarly, the Data Futures Forum report said it is necessary to develop a "robust data-use ecosystem" and to get the rules around open data right. This should include a data council to act as guardians and advisers, and a broad review of legislation."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

You Should Have a Say in Your Robot Car’s Code of Ethics; Wired, 9/2/14

Jason Millar, Ethics; You Should Have a Say in Your Robot Car’s Code of Ethics:
"We Must Embrace Complexity
If we embrace robust informed consent practices in engineering the sky will not fall. There are some obvious limits to the kinds of ethics settings we should allow in our robot cars. It would be absurd to design a car that allows users to choose to continue straight only when a woman is blocking the road. At the same time, it seems perfectly reasonable to allow a person to sacrifice himself to save a child if doing so aligns with his moral convictions. We can identify limits, even if the task is complex.
Robots, and the ethical issues they raise, are immensely complex. But they require our thoughtful attention if we are to shift our thinking about the ethics of design and engineering, and respond to the burgeoning robotics industry appropriately. Part of this shift in thinking will require us to embrace moral and legal complexity where complexity is required. Unfortunately, bringing order to the chaos does not always result in a simpler world."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases; New York Times, 8/14/14

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times; Web Trolls Winning as Incivility Increases:
"But Dr. Phillips, of Humboldt State, pointed out that many efforts to curb trolling ran into a larger problem: “To what extent do you want to make it harder for people to express themselves on the Internet?” she asked.
“This is not the good-faith exchange of ideas,” she said. “It’s just people being nasty, and if anything, it might encourage marginalized groups to not speak up.” She added, “On the other hand, by silencing that valve, there’s a lot of other stuff that is important culturally that might also be minimized.”
If there’s one thing the history of the Internet has taught us, it’s that trolls will be difficult to contain because they really reflect base human society in all its ugliness. Trolls find a way.
“It’s not a question of whether or not we’re winning the war on trolling, but whether we’re winning the war on misogyny, or racism, and ableism and all this other stuff,” Dr. Phillips said. “Trolling is just a symptom of those bigger problems.”"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Senator Quits Montana Race After Charge of Plagiarism; New York Times, 8/7/14

Jonathan Martin, New York Times; Senator Quits Montana Race After Charge of Plagiarism:
"His withdrawal from the race comes about two weeks after The New York Times reported that in 2007 Mr. Walsh plagiarized large sections of the final paper he completed to earn his master’s degree at the prestigious Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. In his statement, Mr. Walsh expressed no contrition for the plagiarism, saying only that the “research paper from my time at the U.S. Army War College has become a distraction from the debate you expect and deserve.”...
The War College commenced its own investigation into Mr. Walsh immediately after the Times article was published, and it made a preliminary conclusion that there was evidence of plagiarism. An academic review board at the college will convene next month to reach a conclusive determination, a decision that could result in the senator’s losing his degree."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’?; New York Times, 7/7/14

Peter Ross Range, New York Times; Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’? :
"Since then, although “Mein Kampf” has maintained a shadow presence — on the back shelves of used bookstores and libraries and, more recently, online — its copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, has refused to allow its republication, creating an aura of taboo around the book.
All that is about to change. Bavaria’s copyright expires at the end of 2015; after that, anyone can publish the book: a quality publisher, a mass-market pulp house, even a neo-Nazi group.
The release of “Mein Kampf” into Germany’s cultural bloodstream is sure to be a sensational moment. In a nation that still avidly buys books — and loves to argue in public — the book will again ignite painful intergenerational debates on talk shows and in opinion pages about how parents and grandparents let themselves be so blindly misled.
Like the 1996 uproar caused by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s controversial book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” which accused ordinary Germans of being capable of mass-murdering Jews, this publishing event will shape contemporary politics and feed Germany’s deep-rooted postwar pacifism."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Big Data Comes To College; NPR, 7/4/14

Anya Kamenetz, NPR; Big Data Comes To College:
"So academics are scrambling to come up with rules and procedures for gathering and using student data—and manipulating student behavior.
"This is a huge opportunity for science, but it also brings very large ethical puzzles," says Dr. Mitchell Stevens, director of digital research and planning at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education. "We are at an unprecedented moment in the history of the human sciences, in which massive streams of information about human activity are produced continuously through online interaction."
Experts say the ethical considerations are lagging behind the practice. "There's a ton of research being done...[yet] if you do a search on ethics and analytics I think you'll get literally seven or eight articles," says Pistilli, who is the author of one of them.
Large Ethical Puzzles
In June, Stevens helped convene a gathering to produce a set of guidelines for this research. The Asilomar Convention was in the spirit of the Belmont Report of 1979, which created the rules in use today to evaluate research involving human subjects...
Asilomar came up with a set of broad principles that include "openness," "justice," and "beneficence." The final one is "continuous consideration," which, essentially, acknowledges that ethics remain a moving target in these situations."

Privacy Group Complains to F.T.C. About Facebook Emotion Study; New York Times, 7/3/14

Vindu Goel, New York Times; Privacy Group Complains to F.T.C. About Facebook Emotion Study:
"The group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Facebook had deceived its users and violated the terms of a 2012 consent decree with the F.T.C., which is the principal regulatory agency overseeing consumer privacy in the United States...
And on Thursday, the journal that published the study, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, issued an “expression of concern” regarding Facebook’s decision not to get explicit consent from the affected users before running the study.
“Obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out are best practices in most instances under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Policy for the Protection of Human Research Subjects,” Inder M. Verma, the journal’s editor-in-chief, wrote in the note.
Although academic researchers are generally expected to follow the policy, Facebook, as a private company, was not required to do so, Mr. Verma said. “It is nevertheless a matter of concern that the collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out,” he said."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Did Facebook's experiment violate ethics?; CNN, 7/2/14

Robert Klitzman, CNN; Did Facebook's experiment violate ethics? :
"Editor's note: Robert Klitzman is a professor of psychiatry and director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia University. He is author of the forthcoming book, "The Ethics Police?: The Struggle to Make Human Research Safe." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author...
In 1974, following revelations of ethical violations in the Tuskegee Syphilis study, Congress passed the National Research Act. At Tuskegee, researchers followed African-American men with syphilis for decades and did not tell the subjects when penicillin became available as an effective treatment. The researchers feared that the subjects, if informed, would take the drug and be cured, ending the experiment.
Public outcry led to federal regulations governing research on humans, requiring informed consent. These rules pertain, by law, to all studies conducted using federal funds, but have been extended by essentially all universities and pharmaceutical and biotech companies in this country to cover all research on humans, becoming the universally-accepted standard.
According to these regulations, all research must respect the rights of individual research subjects, and scientific investigators must therefore explain to participants the purposes of the study, describe the procedures (and which of these are experimental) and "any reasonably foreseeable risks or discomforts."
Facebook followed none of these mandates. The company has argued that the study was permissible because the website's data use policy states, "we may use the information we receive about you...for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement," and that "we may make friend suggestions, pick stories for your News Feed or suggest people to tag in photos."
But while the company is not legally required to follow this law, two of the study's three authors are affiliated with universities -- Cornell and the University of California at San Francisco -- that publicly uphold this standard."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Facebook’s Secret Manipulation of User Emotions Faces European Inquiries; New York Times, 7/2/14

Facebook’s Secret Manipulation of User Emotions Faces European Inquiries:
"In response to widespread public anger, several European data protection agencies are examining whether Facebook broke local privacy laws when it conducted the weeklong investigation in January 2012.
That includes Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, which regulates Facebook’s global operations outside North America because the company has its international headquarters in Dublin. The Irish regulator has sent a series of questions to Facebook related to potential privacy issues, including whether the company got consent from users for the study, according to a spokeswoman.
The Information Commissioner’s Office of Britain also said that it was looking into potential privacy breaches that may have affected the country’s residents, though a spokesman of the office said that it was too early to know whether Facebook had broken the law. It is unknown where the users who were part of the experiment were located. Some 80 percent of Facebook’s 1.2 billion users are based outside North America...
The Federal Trade Commission, the American regulator that oversees Facebook’s conduct under a 20-year consent decree, has not publicly expressed similar interest in the case, which has caused an uproar over the company’s ethics and prompted the lead researcher on the project to apologize."

Why I Left 60 Minutes: The big networks say they care about uncovering the truth. That’s not what I saw; Politico, 6/29/14

Charles Lewis, Politico; Why I Left 60 Minutes: The big networks say they care about uncovering the truth. That’s not what I saw:
"Many people, then and since, have asked me what exactly I was thinking—after all, I was walking away from a successful career full of future promise. Certainly, quitting 60 Minutes was the most impetuous thing I have ever done. But looking back, I realize how I’d changed. Beneath my polite, mild-mannered exterior, I’d developed a bullheaded determination not to be denied, misled or manipulated. And more than at any previous time, I had had a jarring epiphany that the obstacles on the way to publishing the unvarnished truth had become more formidable internally than externally. I joked to friends that it had become far easier to investigate the bastards—whoever they are—than to suffer through the reticence, bureaucratic hand-wringing and internal censorship of my employer.
In a highly collaborative medium, I had found myself working with overseers I felt I could no longer trust journalistically or professionally, especially in the face of public criticism or controversy—a common occupational hazard for an investigative reporter. My job was to produce compelling investigative journalism for an audience of 30 million to 40 million Americans. But if my stories generated the slightest heat, it was obvious to me who would be expendable. My sense of isolation and vulnerability was palpable.
The best news about this crossroads moment was that after 11 years in the intense, cutthroat world of network television news, I still had some kind of inner compass. I was still unwilling to succumb completely to the lures of career ambition, financial security, peer pressure or conventional wisdom.
Just weeks after I quit, I decided to begin a nonprofit investigation reporting organization—a place dedicated to digging deep beneath the smarminess of Washington’s daily-access journalism into the documents few reporters seemed to be reading, which I knew from experience would reveal broad patterns of cronyism, favoritism, personal enrichment and outrageous (though mostly legal) corruption. My dream was a journalistic utopia—an investigative milieu in which no one would tell me who or what not to investigate. And so I recruited two trusted journalist friends and founded the Center for Public Integrity. The Center’s first report, “America’s Frontline Trade Officials,” was an expanded version of the 60 Minutes “Foreign Agent” story. Not long after this report was published, President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order banning former trade officials from becoming lobbyists for foreign governments or corporations."

Online, the Lying Is Easy: In ‘Virtual Unreality,’ Charles Seife Unfriends Gullibility; New York Times, 7/1/14

[Book Review of Charles Seife's VIRTUAL UNREALITY: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It’s True?] Dwight Garner, New York Times; Online, the Lying Is Easy: In ‘Virtual Unreality,’ Charles Seife Unfriends Gullibility:
"Mr. Seife’s new book, “Virtual Unreality,” is about how digital untruths spread like contagion across our laptops and smartphones. The author is unusually qualified to write on this subject, and not merely because his surname is nearly an anagram for “selfie.”
A professor of journalism at New York University, Mr. Seife is a battle-scarred veteran of the new info wars. When Wired magazine wanted to investigate the ethical lapses of its contributor Jonah Lehrer, for example, it turned to Mr. Seife, whose report pinned Mr. Lehrer, wriggling, to the plagiarism specimen board...
In “Virtual Unreality,” Mr. Seife delivers a short but striding tour of the many ways in which digital information is, as he puts it in a relatively rare moment of rhetorical overkill, “the most virulent, most contagious pathogen that humanity has ever encountered.”...
One of Mr. Seife’s bedrock themes is the Internet’s dismissal, for good and ill, of the concept of authority. On Wikipedia, your Uncle Iggy can edit the page on black holes as easily as Stephen Hawking can. Serious reporting, another form of authority, is withering because it’s so easy to cut and paste facts from other writers, or simply to provide commentary, and then game search engine results so that readers find your material first."

On the Next Docket: How the First Amendment Applies to Social Media; New York Times, 6/30/14

Adam Liptak, New York Times; On the Next Docket: How the First Amendment Applies to Social Media:
"Mr. Elonis was convicted under a federal law that makes it a crime to communicate “any threat to injure the person of another.” The sentence was 44 months.
The case is one of many recent prosecutions “for alleged threats conveyed on new media, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” according to a brief supporting Mr. Elonis from several First Amendment groups.
In urging the Supreme Court not to hear Mr. Elonis’s case, the Justice Department said his intent should make no difference. A perceived threat creates “fear and disruption,” the brief said, “regardless of whether the speaker subjectively intended the statement to be innocuous.”
Mr. Elonis’s lawyers did not deny that their approach would allow some statements with “undesirable effects.” But they said the First Amendment should tolerate those effects rather than “imprisoning a person for negligently misjudging how others would construe his words.”
The First Amendment does not protect all speech. There are exceptions for libel, incitement, obscenity and fighting words, and one for “true threats,” which is at issue in Mr. Elonis’s case."

Here Are All the Other Experiments Facebook Plans to Run on You: An exclusive preview; Slate, 6/30/14

David Auerbach, Slate; Here Are All the Other Experiments Facebook Plans to Run on You: An exclusive preview:
"Facebook and two outside social scientists recently published a scientific paper in which they revealed that they had manipulated users’ news feeds to tweak their emotions. Since then, there has been a growing debate over the ethics and practice of Facebook experimenting on its users, as chronicled by Slate’s Katy Waldman. In response to these concerns, this morning Facebook issued the following press release—although I seem to be the only journalist who has received it. Coming hot on the heels of Facebook’s carefully unapologetic defense of its emotion research on its users, I share the press release as a glimpse of Facebook’s future directions in its user experiments."

Facebook experiment may have broken UK law; Aljazeera, 7/2/14

Aljazeera; Facebook experiment may have broken UK law:
"A British data regulator has been investigating whether Facebook Inc broke data protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 users of the social network, the Financial Times reported.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which monitors how personal data is used, is probing the controversial experiment and plans to ask Facebook questions, the newspaper reported on Tuesday."

Facebook’s experiment is just the latest to manipulate you in the name of research; Pew Research Center, 7/2/14

Rich Morin, Pew Research Center; Facebook’s experiment is just the latest to manipulate you in the name of research:
"But is what Facebook did ethical? There is a good amount of discussion about whether Facebook was transparent enough with its users about this kind of experimentation. They did not directly inform those in the study that they were going to be used as human lab rats. In academic research, that’s called not obtaining “informed consent” and is almost always a huge no-no. (Facebook claims that everyone who joins Facebook agrees as part of its user agreement to be included in such studies.)
The question is now about how, sitting on troves of new social media and other digital data to mine for the same kind of behavioral analysis, the new rules will need to be written.
Experimental research is rife with examples of how study participants have been manipulated, tricked or outright lied to in the name of social science. And while many of these practices have been curbed or banned in academe, they continue to be used in commercial and other types of research."

Should Facebook Manipulate Users?: Jaron Lanier on Lack of Transparency in Facebook Study; New York Times, 6/30/14

Jaron Lanier, New York Times; Should Facebook Manipulate Users?: Jaron Lanier on Lack of Transparency in Facebook Study:
"Research with human subjects is generally governed by strict ethical standards, including the informed consent of the people who are studied. Facebook’s generic click-through agreement, which almost no one reads and which doesn’t mention this kind of experimentation, was the only form of consent cited in the paper. The subjects in the study still, to this day, have not been informed that they were in the study. If there had been federal funding, such a complacent notion of informed consent would probably have been considered a crime. Subjects would most likely have been screened so that those at special risk would be excluded or handled with extra care.
This is only one early publication about a whole new frontier in the manipulation of people, and Facebook shouldn’t be singled out as a villain. All researchers, whether at universities or technology companies, need to focus more on the ethics of how we learn to improve our work.
To promote the relevance of their study, the researchers noted that emotion was relevant to human health, and yet the study didn’t measure any potential health effects of the controlled manipulation of emotions."

Facebook Study Sparks Soul-Searching and Ethical Questions: Incident Shines Light on How Companies, Researchers Tap Data Created Online; Wall Street Journal, 6/30/14

Reed Albergotti and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Wall Street Journal; Facebook Study Sparks Soul-Searching and Ethical Questions: Incident Shines Light on How Companies, Researchers Tap Data Created Online:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Facebook Added 'Research' To User Agreement 4 Months After Emotion Manipulation Study; Forbes, 6/30/14

Kashmir Hill, Forbes; Facebook Added 'Research' To User Agreement 4 Months After Emotion Manipulation Study:
"Unless you’ve spent the last couple of days in a Faraday pouch under a rock, you’ve heard about Facebook’s controversial ‘emotion manipulation’ study. Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer ran an experiment on 689,003 Facebook users two and a half years ago to find out whether emotions were contagious on the social network. It lasted for a week in January 2012. It came to light recently when he and his two co-researchers from Cornell University and University of California-SF published their study describing how users’ moods changed when Facebook curated the content of their News Feeds to highlight the good, happy stuff (for the lucky group) vs. the negative, depressing stuff (for the unlucky and hopefully-not-clinically-depressed group). The idea of Facebook manipulating users’ emotions for science — without telling them or explicitly asking them first — rubbed many the wrong way. Critics said Facebook should get “informed consent” for a study like this — asking people if they’re okay being in a study and then telling them what was being studied afterwards. Defenders said, “Hey, the Newsfeed gets manipulated all the time. What’s the big deal?” Critics and defenders alike pointed out that Facebook’s “permission” came from its Data Use Policy which among its thousands of words informs people that their information might be used for “internal operations,” including “research.” However, we were all relying on what Facebook’s data policy says now. In January 2012, the policy did not say anything about users potentially being guinea pigs made to have a crappy day for science, nor that “research” is something that might happen on the platform.
Four months after this study happened, in May 2012, Facebook made changes to its data use policy, and that’s when it introduced this line about how it might use your information: “For internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”"

Monday, June 30, 2014

Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones: Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant; New York Times, 6/25/14

Adam Liptak, New York Times; Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones: Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant:
"In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.
While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.
“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Blocked in China; New York Times, 6/27/14

Jane Perlez, New York Times; Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Blocked in China:
"The new memoir of Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Hard Choices,” which gives blow-by-blow accounts of tough discussions with Chinese officials, particularly on human rights, has been blocked in China, according to the American publisher.
No Chinese publisher made an offer to buy the rights for the book to be translated into Chinese for sale on the mainland, said Jonathan Karp, president of Simon & Schuster, which published the American edition.
The English version of the book was delisted from Amazon China on June 10, the day of publication in the United States, a move that effectively barred wide distribution in China, Mr. Karp said.
In Beijing, Gu Aibin, the head of Yilin Press, the state-owned publishing house that published Mrs. Clinton’s earlier book, “Living History,” said “Hard Choices” was different. “Some of the content was not suitable,” Mr. Gu said. “The company decided not to buy the copyright.”"

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stem-cell advances may quell ethics debate; (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal via USA Today, 6/22/14

Laura Ungar, (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal via USA Today; Stem-cell advances may quell ethics debate:
"Recent strides in stem-cell research show adult stem cells to be ever-more-promising, many scientists say, quelling the controversy steeped in faith and science that has long surrounded embryonic stem cells.
In fact, University of Louisville researcher Scott Whittemore said the debate is almost moot.
"Realistically, (many scientists don't use) the types of stem cells that are so problematic anymore," he said, adding that adult stem cells can now be reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells. "The field has moved so fast."
In addition to these genetically reprogrammed adult cells — known as induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells — scientists are on the cusp of being able to turn one type of cell into another in the body without using stem cells at all. They shared some of the latest research last week at the annual International Society for Stem Cell Research in Vancouver.
"IPS cells overcame the main ethical issues," namely the use of embryos some Americans consider sacred human life, said Brett Spear, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the University of Kentucky who uses iPS cells to model liver disease.
But other scientists argue that embryonic stem cell research remains important."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Unblinking Eyes Track Employees: Workplace Surveillance Sees Good and Bad; New York Times, 6/21/14

Steve Lohr, New York Times; Unblinking Eyes Track Employees: Workplace Surveillance Sees Good and Bad:
"A digital Big Brother is coming to work, for better or worse.
Advanced technological tools are beginning to make it possible to measure and monitor employees as never before, with the promise of fundamentally changing how we work — along with raising concerns about privacy and the specter of unchecked surveillance in the workplace.
Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank’s call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover.
Yet the prospect of fine-grained, digital monitoring of workers’ behavior worries privacy advocates. Companies, they say, have few legal obligations other than informing employees. “Whether this kind of monitoring is effective or not, it’s a concern,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco."

‘Klinghoffer’ Composer Responds to Met’s Decision; New York Times, 6/18/14

Michael Cooper, New York Times; ‘Klinghoffer’ Composer Responds to Met’s Decision:
"Mr. Gelb, a champion of Mr. Adams’s who was the first to bring his operas to the Met stage, has faced sharp criticism for canceling the “Klinghoffer” transmission from some music critics and arts administrators. (Nicholas Kenyon, the managing director of the Barbican Center in London, posted on Twitter that the Met’s decision was “shocking shortsighted and indefensible.”)
Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of the PEN American Center, which promotes free expression, called the decision troubling. “We are deeply troubled by the decision of an arts organization to withhold a performance not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because someone, somewhere might misconstrue it,” she said in an email.
Mr. Gelb said that the Met remains committed to the work.
“The Met is resolute on going forward with it, and the fact that we offered this compromise outside the United States doesn’t mean that we’re prepared to compromise on artistic integrity inside the opera house,” Mr. Gelb said in an interview on Tuesday. “This is a great work of art that should be seen and heard at the Met, where it belongs.”
Mr. Adams, one of America’s foremost composers, said that he did not understand why the cinema transmission and radio broadcast were still being canceled if Mr. Gelb and the Anti-Defamation League agreed that the work is not anti-Semitic, though some critics have said otherwise. And he said he had been concerned by what he called “the really completely unjust charges” about his opera, especially by people who have not heard it."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy; New York Times, 6/9/14

Michael Paulson, New York Times; Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy:
"Similar conflicts are playing out on a handful of campuses around the country, driven by the universities’ desire to rid their campuses of bias, particularly against gay men and lesbians, but also, in the eyes of evangelicals, fueled by a discomfort in academia with conservative forms of Christianity. The universities have been emboldened to regulate religious groups by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that found it was constitutional for a public law school in California to deny recognition to a Christian student group that excluded gays...
Cal State officials insist that they welcome evangelicals, but want them to agree to the same policies as everyone else. “Lots of evangelical groups are thriving on our campuses,” said Susan Westover, a lawyer for the California State University System. However, she said, there will be no exceptions from the antidiscrimination requirements. “Our mission is education, not exclusivity,” she said.
At Vanderbilt, the decision to push groups to sign antidiscrimination policies was prompted by a Christian fraternity’s expulsion of a member who came out as gay. About one-third of the 35 religious groups on campus have refused to sign and are no longer recognized by the school; they can still meet and recruit informally, and the campus Hillel has even opened its building for meetings of one of the Christian groups.
“I am hopeful for a better future, but I’m not naïve, there are some issues that are irresolvable,” said the Vanderbilt chaplain, the Rev. Mark Forrester, who is a United Methodist minister. “This is a larger social and ethical struggle that we as a society are engaged in.”"

Kennedy letters fiercely protected for decades; Boston Globe, 6/10/14

Matt Viser, Boston Globe; Kennedy letters fiercely protected for decades:
"In 1966, in a letter to a friend in Ireland, Jacqueline Kennedy seemed to see her future. She described her “strange” world, one in which “privacy barely exists, and where I spend all winter in New York holding my breath and wondering which old letter of mine will come up for auction next!”
All these years later, her family is still carefully guarding her legacy — and launching a new attempt to prevent the auction of letters she wrote to an Irish priest.
Caroline Kennedy has gotten involved in trying to establish ownership over the batch of more than 30 deeply personal letters that her mother had written to the Rev. Joseph Leonard over nearly 15 years. Those letters — in which Kennedy revealed some of her most private thoughts on marriage, motherhood, and death — had been set to be auctioned.
But under questions of ownership, copyright, and morality, the letters were pulled. The same day that attorneys for Caroline Kennedy contacted the Irish auction house planning to sell the letters, the auction was canceled. And the financially strapped college that discovered the letters and was hoping for a windfall — All Hallows College in Dublin — is now planning to close some 172 years after it opened."

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Why freelancers need a code of ethics; Forbes, 5/30/14

Vickie Elmer, Forbes; Why freelancers need a code of ethics:
"In a business world filled with ambiguity, creating clarity around your ethical or behavioral standards can seem like a quaint notion from a bygone era. Yet freelancers and independent contractors need these "rules of engagement" to establish boundaries and general "rules of the road," says Sara Horowitz, president of the Freelancers Union...
Independent contractors have begun to ask the Freelancers Union to develop a code that addresses how the business world ought to relate to them. "We will start the conversation" on topics around what it means to be a good freelancer and how payment should work, Horowitz says. The organization expects to develop a code to help freelancers work with one another and with businesses later this year...
Many professional associations have developed ethical codes, from the American Academy of Actuaries to the National Association of Realtors, and the American Translators Association, all of which address client confidentiality and negotiation for recognition. These codes serve as starting points and can be adapted to fit an individual's brand and needs.
Those who work in multiple jurisdictions -- whether it's Texas and Oklahoma, New York and New Jersey, or simply two hospitals with different ethical guidelines -- may need room for variation."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Season of Protest, Haverford Speaker Is Latest to Bow Out; New York Times, 5/13/14

Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times; In Season of Protest, Haverford Speaker Is Latest to Bow Out:
"Haverford College on Tuesday joined a growing list of schools to lose commencement speakers to protests from the left, when Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, withdrew from this weekend’s event.
Some students and faculty members at Haverford, a liberal arts college near Philadelphia, objected to the invitation to Mr. Birgeneau to speak and receive an honorary degree because, under him, the University of California police used batons to break up an Occupy protest in 2011. He first stated his support for the police, and then a few days later, saying that he was disturbed by videos of the confrontation, ordered an investigation...
On Tuesday, Daniel H. Weiss, president of Haverford, sent a message to students and staff members that Mr. Birgeneau had pulled out of Sunday’s event. Mr. Weiss wrote that while he appreciated the views of the protesters, “it is nonetheless deeply regrettable that we have lost an opportunity to recognize and hear from one of the most consequential leaders in American higher education.”

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding; New York Times, 5/10/14

Matt Richtel, New York Times; Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Lately, Coding:
"The spread of coding instruction, while still nascent, is “unprecedented — there’s never been a move this fast in education,” said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the University of Michigan. He sees it as very positive, potentially inspiring students to develop a new passion, perhaps the way that teaching frog dissection may inspire future surgeons and biologists.
But the momentum for early coding comes with caveats, too. It is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, Dr. Soloway said, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills.
Some educators worry about the industry’s heavy role: Major tech companies and their founders, including Bill Gates and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have put up about $10 million for The organization pays to train high school teachers to offer more advanced curriculums, and, for younger students, it has developed a coding curriculum that marries basic instruction with video games involving Angry Birds and hungry zombies."

Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm; New York Times, 5/17/14

Jennifer Medina, New York Times; Warning: The Literary Canon Could Make Students Squirm:
"The most vociferous criticism has focused on trigger warnings for materials that have an established place on syllabuses across the country. Among the suggestions for books that would benefit from trigger warnings are Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” (contains anti-Semitism) and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” (addresses suicide).
“Frankly it seems this is sort of an inevitable movement toward people increasingly expecting physical comfort and intellectual comfort in their lives,” said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit group that advocates free speech. “It is only going to get harder to teach people that there is a real important and serious value to being offended. Part of that is talking about deadly serious and uncomfortable subjects.”...
Meredith Raimondo, Oberlin’s associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the guide was meant to provide suggestions, not to dictate to professors. An associate professor of comparative American studies and a co-chairwoman of the task force, Ms. Raimondo said providing students with warnings would simply be “responsible pedagogical practice.”...
But Marc Blecher, a professor of politics and East Asian studies at Oberlin and a major critic of trigger warnings at Oberlin, said such a policy would have a chilling effect on faculty members, particularly those without the job security of tenure.
“If I were a junior faculty member looking at this while putting my syllabus together, I’d be terrified,” Mr. Blecher said. “Any student who felt triggered by something that happened in class could file a complaint with the various procedures and judicial boards, and create a very tortuous process for anyone.”

Thursday, May 1, 2014

U.S. Attorney Subpoenas Records of Ethics Panel; New York Times, 4/30/14

Susanne Craig and William K. Rashbaum, New York Times; U.S. Attorney Subpoenas Records of Ethics Panel:
"The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, who sharply criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s shutdown of a commission he had formed to investigate political corruption in New York State, is now seeking records from the state’s ethics panel.
The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics received a grand jury subpoena recently from the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, for all complaints the commission has received on public corruption, according to two people briefed on the matter but not authorized to speak on the record.
The commission, whose members are appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, is the state’s ethical and lobbying enforcement agency.
The action by Mr. Bharara’s office came a month after Mr. Cuomo cut a deal with top state lawmakers to shut down the so-called Moreland Commission he had convened last year to investigate public corruption in the state. In exchange for terminating the panel’s work, the governor said he had won tougher laws on bribery and corruption and improved enforcement of election law."

Monday, April 28, 2014

The real tragedy of Donald Sterling's racism: it took this long for us to notice: The LA Clippers owner made his millions off racist housing policies. Where was the NBA and presidential outrage then?; Guardian, 4/28/14

Kevin B. Blackistone, Guardian; The real tragedy of Donald Sterling's racism: it took this long for us to notice: The LA Clippers owner made his millions off racist housing policies. Where was the NBA and presidential outrage then? :
"Neither the league, nor the players, nor the sports media paid much if any attention to Sterling's agreement in 2003 to pay upwards of $5m to settle a lawsuit brought by the Housing Rights Center charging that he tried to drive non-Korean tenants out of apartments he bought in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. Only a few observers noted in 2006 that the Justice Department sued Sterling for allegations of housing discrimination in the same neighborhood. The charges included statements he allegedly made to employees that black and Hispanic families were not desirable tenants.
And while a handful of us in the media excoriated Sterling and the NBA in 2009 when Sterling settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $2.73m following allegations he refused to rent apartments to Hispanics, blacks and families with children, the story didn't resonate – despite it being the largest housing discrimination settlement in Justice Department history...
But pro sports have their own legacy of ignorance as bliss.
The sudden Sterling backlash exposed a mythology that we've allowed to grow in sport's billion-dollar commercial industrialization: sport leads social change. In many cases, however, such as the blind eye cast to racial discrimination of prodigious proportion, sport is a laggard in social reform, its leaders tacit supporters – if not propagators – of unethical and immoral behavior."

Open data: slow down Whitehall's approach has the subtlety of a smash-and-grab-raider and it must take its own advice on best practice; Guardian, 4/18/14

Editorial, Guardian; Open data: slow down Whitehall's approach has the subtlety of a smash-and-grab-raider and it must take its own advice on best practice:
"Open data is potentially of incalculable value. The capacity to merge and manipulate information from a range of public bodies is already delivering wider benefit that ranges from better policing to environmental protection. It will lead to sharper policy making, cheaper drugs and improved health strategies. More contentiously, it could also develop into a valuable revenue stream for government. Whitehall is understandably excited about the potential. But it is approaching the whole open data project with the subtlety of a smash-and-grab raider...
A year ago, the government's own review into open data was published. Its first call was for a National Data Strategy, open to audit, that would set out what data should be released and in what form. Other recommendations included a focus on security, releasing anonymised data only into "safe havens" and introducing tough penalties on end users that fail to safeguard it. This may be part of the best practice HMRC insists it is committed to observing, but external experts are sceptical. Whitehall needs to take its own advice. It needs a strategy, one that explains exactly what the criteria for release of data are, sets out security safeguards that withstand challenge and introduces tough penalties for any breach that demonstrate a genuine respect for privacy."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Disturbing Tape and a Potential Moral Quandary: Comments Linked to Sterling Put Clippers Players in Ethical Bind, 4/26/14

William C. Rhoden, New York Times; A Disturbing Tape and a Potential Moral Quandary: Comments Linked to Sterling Put Clippers Players in Ethical Bind:
"In one of his popular songs of black consciousness, Curtis Mayfield asked: “If you had a choice of colors, which one would you choose, my brothers? If there was no day or night, which would you prefer to be right?”
The question might now be asked of Los Angeles Clippers players faced with a potential moral quandary about how to react if racist sentiments captured on an audio recording were, in fact, made by the Clippers’ owner, Donald Sterling.
Do the players boycott the rest of their playoff series against Golden State? Do they write their boss a letter of protest and dismay? Do they simply soldier on without comment?
During the 10-minute conversation, reportedly between Sterling and a female friend, the owner asks her why she insists on parading her friendships with blacks, and at one point asks her not to bring “them” to Clippers games...
The more compelling question for the league’s players is whether they will speak out — or act out — against Sterling. And what about the league’s other owners? How will they respond? Will they remain silent? Will they issue a collective statement?...
The Clippers’ players find themselves in a no-win predicament: play it safe and keep quiet, or speak out and take a stand on principle."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

DuckDuckGo: the plucky upstart taking on Google with secure searches; Guardian, 4/4/14

Alex Hern, Guardian; DuckDuckGo: the plucky upstart taking on Google with secure searches:
"DuckDuckGo bills itself as "the search engine that doesn't track you". After the revelations in the US National Security Agency files, that sounds tempting.
Named after the playground game duck duck goose, the site is not just banking on the support of people paranoid about GCHQ and the NSA. Its founder, Gabriel Weinberg, argues that privacy makes the web search better, not worse. Since it doesn't store your previous searches, it does not and cannot present personalised search results. That frees users from the filter bubble – the fear that, as search results are increasingly personalised, they are less likely to be presented with information that challenges their existing ideas.
It also means that DuckDuckGo is forced to keep its focus purely on search. With no stores or data to tap, it cannot become an advertising behemoth, it has no motivation to start trying to build a social network and it doesn't get anything out of scanning your emails to create a personal profile.
Having answered one billion queries in 2013 alone, DuckDuckGo is on the rise. We asked Weinberg about his website's journey."

Sweeping Away a Search History; New York Times, 4/2/14

Molly Wood, New York Times; Sweeping Away a Search History:
"YOUR search history contains some of the most personal information you will ever reveal online: your health, mental state, interests, travel locations, fears and shopping habits.
And that is information most people would want to keep private. Unfortunately, your web searches are carefully tracked and saved in databases, where the information can be used for almost anything, including highly targeted advertising and price discrimination based on your data profile.
“Nobody understands the long-term impact of this data collection,” said Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of Disconnect, a company that helps keep people anonymous online. “Imagine that someone has 40 years of your search history. There’s no telling what happens to that data.”
Fortunately, Google, Microsoft’s Bing and smaller companies provide ways to delete a search history or avoid leaving one, even if hiding from those ads can be more difficult."

Ex-Ethics Chief in Ga. Wins Retaliation Lawsuit; Associated Press via ABC News, 4/4/14

Kate Brumback, Associated Press via ABC News; Ex-Ethics Chief in Ga. Wins Retaliation Lawsuit:
"Jurors awarded the former director of Georgia's ethics commission $700,000 on Friday, ruling in her favor in a lawsuit in which she said her salary was cut and a deputy removed for investigating complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.
The jury sided with Stacey Kalberman after more than two hours of deliberations, also deciding she would receive attorney's fees and back pay.
Kalberman claimed in her suit against the commission and its current director that commissioners had slashed her salary and eliminated her deputy's post after the two sought approval to issue subpoenas as part of the agency's investigation into Deal's 2010 campaign reports and financial disclosures.
The state argued that the personnel actions were motivated by budget concerns.
Deal, a Republican bidding for another term, was later cleared of major violations in the ethics probe and agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Price of a Slur; New York Times, 4/2/14

David Treuer, New York Times; The Price of a Slur:
"On March 24, Mr. Snyder announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, a charitable organization with the stated mission “to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.” To date, the foundation has distributed 3,000 winter coats, shoes to basketball-playing boys and girls, and a backhoe to the Omaha tribe in Nebraska.
The unstated mission of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation is clear: In the face of growing criticism over the team’s toxic name and mascot imagery, the aim is to buy enough good will so the name doesn’t seem so bad, and if some American Indians — in the racial logic of so-called post-racial America, “some” can stand in for “all” — accept Mr. Snyder’s charity, then protest will look like hypocrisy...
Seldom has the entwined nature of ethics and money and influence been revealed as so unavoidably intestinal in its smell and purpose: to consume the material, to nourish the host and to expel the waste. American Indians — who do not see or refer to ourselves as “redskins” and who take great exception to the slur — are that waste."

G.M. Secrecy on Crashes Adds to Families’ Pain; New York Times, 4/2/14

Rachel Abrams and Danielle Ivory, New York Times; G.M. Secrecy on Crashes Adds to Families’ Pain:
"There is anger that General Motors did not come forward sooner with information about its faulty cars. There is grief that loved ones were lost in crashes that might have been preventable. And there is outrage that federal safety regulators did not intervene.
But what is now most upsetting to many relatives of people killed in accidents involving recalled G.M. cars is the uncertainty and secrecy surrounding the crashes — the fact that G.M. won’t tell them what they most want to know.
Not only has G.M. twice adjusted the number of deaths it says are linked to an ignition switch defect, but it has also refused to disclose publicly the list of the confirmed victims, now said to be 13. The enduring mystery has left scores of grieving families playing a guessing game, including the relatives of one accident victim, identified by The New York Times and confirmed by the office of Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, to be among the 13."

Ethics report could help NASA weigh risks of long-term space travel; Los Angeles Times, 4/2/14

Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times; Ethics report could help NASA weigh risks of long-term space travel:
"As NASA plans to send astronauts to an asteroid or even to Mars in the coming decades -- missions that could last well beyond 30 days -- they’re grappling with an ethical dilemma. How do they handle decisions on long-distance space exploration when it could expose astronauts to high or unknown health hazards?
To help develop an ethical framework for venturing into this unknown territory, the space agency asked the Institute of Medicine to convene a panel of experts to offer some helpful guidelines. The results in a 187-page report were released Wednesday...
Among the report's recommendations: Avoid harm by minimizing risk to astronauts. Missions should be valued for the benefits they provide. Make sure the benefits outweigh the risks enough for the mission to be worthwhile. Operate in a transparent and accountable way, and keep astronauts informed of the risks they face. Basically: Act in a responsible and transparent manner."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ; Guardian, 2/27/14

Spencer Ackerman and James Ball, Guardian; Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ:
"Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy"."

Big Data Means Big Questions on How That Information Is Used; New York Times, 3/3/14

Natasha Singer, New York Times; Big Data Means Big Questions on How That Information Is Used:
"With the success of its free open online course system, called MITx, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds itself sitting on a wealth of student data that researchers might use to compare the efficacy of virtual teaching methods, and perhaps advance the field of Web-based instruction.
Since its inception several years ago, for instance, MITx has attracted more than 760,000 unique registered users from about 190 countries, university officials said. Those users have generated 700 million interactions with the school’s learning system and have contributed around 423,000 forum entries, many of them quite personal.
As researchers contemplate mining the students’ details, however, the university is grappling with ethical issues raised by the collection and analysis of these huge data sets, known familiarly as Big Data, said L. Rafael Reif, the president of M.I.T.
For instance, he said, serious privacy breaches could hypothetically occur if someone were to correlate the personal forum postings of online students with institutional records that the university had de-identified for research purposes."

Pitt faces animal rights scrutiny; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/2/14

Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Pitt faces animal rights scrutiny:
"An animal rights group has filed a letter of complaint against the University of Pittsburgh, asking that the school be fined for violations against the federal Animal Welfare Act in its research labs.
The group, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, charges two rabbits died while being used in Pitt experiments and that there were several instances of primate escapes and other infractions, based on information Pitt voluntarily reported to the National Institutes of Health.
The group is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which enforces the Animal Welfare Act, to fine Pitt $80,000 -- the maximum for what it counts as eight infractions.
Pitt acknowledges that "minor violations" occurred but said the violations already had been investigated by the NIH and that the agency did not find cause for further action."

F.D.A. Weighs Fertility Method That Raises Ethical Questions; New York Times, 2/25/14

Sabrina Tavernese, New York Times; F.D.A. Weighs Fertility Method That Raises Ethical Questions:
"The Food and Drug Administration is weighing a fertility procedure that involves combining the genetic material of three people to make a baby free of certain defects, a therapy that critics say is an ethical minefield and could lead to the creation of designer babies.
The agency has asked a panel of experts to summarize current science to determine whether the approach — which has been performed successfully in monkeys by researchers in Oregon and in people more than a decade ago — is safe enough to be used again in people.
The F.D.A. meeting, on Tuesday and Wednesday, is meant to address the scientific issues around the procedure, not the ethics. Regulators are asking scientists to discuss the risks to the mother and the potential child and how future studies should be structured, among other issues."

Friday, February 28, 2014

At Newark Airport, the Lights Are On, and They’re Watching You; New York Times, 2/17/14

Diane Cardwell, New York Times; At Newark Airport, the Lights Are On, and They’re Watching You:
"To customers like the Port Authority, the systems hold the promise of better management of security as well as energy, traffic and people. But they also raise the specter of technology racing ahead of the ability to harness it, running risks of invading privacy and mismanaging information, privacy advocates say.
Fred H. Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, described the potential for misuse as “terrifying.”
His concern derived not from the technology itself but from the process of adopting it, driven by, he said, “that combination of a gee-whiz technology and an event or an opportunity that makes it affordable.” As a result, he said, there was often not enough thought given to what data would actually be useful and how to properly manage it.
At Newark Airport, the Port Authority will own and maintain the data it collects. For now, it says, no other agencies have access to it, and a law enforcement agency can obtain it only through a subpoena or written request."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Chilling Phone Call Adds to Hurdles of Publishing Xi Jinping Book; New York Times, 2/19/14

Chris Buckley, New York Times; A Chilling Phone Call Adds to Hurdles of Publishing Xi Jinping Book:
"The exiled writer Yu Jie takes a bleak view of President Xi Jinping of China. In his latest book, still awaiting publication, Mr. Yu describes Mr. Xi as a thuggish politician driven by a dangerous compound of Maoist nostalgia and authoritarian, expansionist impulses.
No wonder Mr. Yu’s jeremiad, “Godfather of China Xi Jinping,” has no chance of appearing in mainland Chinese bookstores. But Mr. Yu, who lives in Virginia, has said plans to publish the book have encountered worrisome hurdles in Hong Kong, the self-administered territory that preserved a robust tradition of free speech after returning to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. One Hong Kong publisher who planned to issue the book was arrested when he visited mainland China, and now a second has abandoned plans to publish it after receiving a menacing phone call, Mr. Yu said."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Education in Ethics;, 2/25/14

John T. Delaney,; An Education in Ethics:
"...The Wolf of Wall Street demonstrates why ethics is another tool whose importance cannot be overstated.
Some students are skeptical about how ethical scenarios presented in class apply to real life, and there is debate among faculty about whether or not ethics can be taught to college students. While it is agreed that everyone will face an ethical dilemma at some point in their career, their degree of difficulty will vary. These situations aren't convenient, often require quick and strong action and can cause much collateral damage if handled improperly...
Despite the obstacles, ethical education is more important than ever. Tomorrow's business leaders must deal with technological intrusions and vulnerabilities that were not imagined 10 years ago, as well as the wake of ethical lapses that caused the 2008 financial crisis. Business schools have given lip service to ethics for more than 50 years. We must begin to walk the talk or we will continue to see ethical lapses and greater government regulation."

Monday, February 24, 2014

Concern Grows Over Academic Freedom in Egypt; Chronicle of Higher Education via New York Times, 2/23/14

Ursula Lindsey, Chronicle of Higher Education via New York Times; Concern Grows Over Academic Freedom in Egypt:
"The indictment here of a well-known professor on charges of espionage has sparked new concerns about academic freedom in Egypt. The military-backed government is carrying out a widespread crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that until last year governed the country. Some political scientists say they can no longer speak freely for fear of being accused of supporting the Brotherhood.
That is what Emad el-Din Shahin, a professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo, said happened to him. Mr. Shahin, editor in chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Politics and a former visiting professor at Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame, is a defendant in what prosecutors have dubbed “the greatest espionage case in the country’s modern history...”
The Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America issued a statement this month calling on the Egyptian government to drop the charges.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Edward Snowden leaks spur new privacy industry; Financial Times, 2/21/14

Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times; Edward Snowden leaks spur new privacy industry:
"The Edward Snowden leaks revealing a US mass surveillance programme have helped kick-start a new privacy industry as companies rush to fulfil a rising demand for products that protect privacy."

Booksellers bare all to protest censorship attempt of ‘Everybody Gets Naked’ children’s book; New York Daily News, 2/20/14

Michael Walsh, New York Daily News; Booksellers bare all to protest censorship attempt of ‘Everybody Gets Naked’ children’s book:
" Book lovers would rather be stripped of their clothes than their right to read freely.
A group of French booksellers and publishers took off their clothes Wednesday to protest conservative politician Jean-François Copé's call to censor a children's book from 2011 called "Everybody Gets Naked" (Tous à Poil), the Local reported.
The storybook shows that everyone takes off their clothes sometimes to calm children's fears about their own bodies, according to authors Claire Franek and Marc Daniau."

Some Bot to Watch Over Me; New York Times, 2/19/14

Steven Kurutz, New York Times; Some Bot to Watch Over Me:
"No parent wants a child smoking pot in the den with a gang of delinquents while he or she is at work. Still, is it a good thing that parents can so effortlessly watch children who are at home and unsupervised?
Torin Monahan, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the co-author of “SuperVision,” a book about surveillance in society, said that today’s youth are almost inured to being monitored, particularly when it comes to social media. But the justifications for doing so in this case are questionable, he said, because they are fear-based. And because of that there are developmental implications: “We don’t allow youth as much agency as perhaps they need to develop identities fully apart from their families.”
“Invariably people will spy on family members,” Mr. Monahan added. “I worry it could undermine trust relationships in families.”
Adam Sager, a security-industry veteran and one of the creators of Canary, disagrees with that assessment.
“The way we look at it — and we feel strongly about this — we believe Canary brings families and people closer,” Mr. Sager said."

Microsoft denies global censorship of China-related searches; Reuters, 2/12/14

Paul Carsten, Reuters; Microsoft denies global censorship of China-related searches:
"Microsoft Corp denied on Wednesday it was omitting websites from its Bing search engine results for users outside China after a Chinese rights group said the U.S. firm was censoring material the government deems politically sensitive., a China-based freedom of speech advocacy group, said in a statement on Tuesday that Bing was filtering out both English and Chinese language search results for terms such as "Dalai Lama", the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whom Beijing brands as a violence-seeking separatist, charges he denies.
Microsoft, responding to the rights group's allegations, said a system fault had removed some search results for users outside China. The company has in the past come under fire for censoring the Chinese version of internet phone and messaging software Skype."

Bing censoring Chinese language search results for users in the US; Guardian, 2/11/14

Dominic Rushe, Guardian; Bing censoring Chinese language search results for users in the US:
"Microsoft’s search engine Bing appears to be censoring information for Chinese language users in the US in the same way it filters results in mainland China.
Searches first conducted by anti-censorship campaigners at FreeWeibo, a tool that allows uncensored search of Chinese blogs, found that Bing returns radically different results in the US for English and simplified Chinese language searches on a series of controversial terms.
These include Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate, a popular internet workaround for government censorship."

Muzzling Speech in India; New York Times, 2/20/14

Editorial Board, New York Times; Muzzling Speech in India:
"The decision last week by Penguin India to withdraw from publication and pulp copies of “The Hindus: An Alternative History” is only the latest assault on free speech in India. The publisher’s move is likely to encourage more demands for censorship.
India’s 1949 Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression. But colonial-era laws restricting that freedom are eagerly being exploited by self-appointed guardians of religious orthodoxy. Penguin India said it pulled the book by Wendy Doniger off the market because it faced criminal and civil suits under a 1927 amendment to British India’s 1860 penal code, which makes it a crime to outrage “the religious feeling” of Indians. Both Hindus and Muslims have invoked this law to ban books they deem offensive."

College could see funds cut for choice of gay-themed ‘Fun Home’;, 2/20/14

Kevin Melrose,; College could see funds cut for choice of gay-themed ‘Fun Home’ :
"A South Carolina university that came under fire over the summer for including the gay-themed Fun Home as recommended reading for incoming freshmen now may see its state funding reduced for the decision.
The Charleston Post and Courier reports the state House Ways and Means committee on Wednesday approved a budget that would cut $52,000 from the College of Charleston’s summer reading program in retaliation for recommending Alison Bechdel’s Eisner Award-winning 2006 memoir as part of “The College Reads!” (Contrary to widespread reports, the graphic novel wasn’t required reading.)
According to the newspaper, the 13-10 vote came after a lengthy debate in which “some House members accused the college of promoting a gay agenda and forcing pornography on its students.”