"If the U.S. is serious about housing the world’s greatest technology sector — and it should be, because it’s undoubtedly the most important economic sector of the future — then it is going to need to get more serious about fostering it and viewing it as more than just a place for whistle-stop tours for candidates to raise campaign funds. This isn’t to say that the government should do whatever the sector asks, but rather that it needs to be incredibly considered in the rules it imposes and the asks that it makes of the sector — because each of these are going to be closely scrutinized by every other country in the world. The principles that the U.S. lives by are the ones that the rest of the world will adopt. In the case of San Bernardino, the FBI may find the answers it wants in that single cell phone, or it may not. But the government needs to be very clear that it’s not just Apple being dragged into this trial — it’s the entire U.S. tech sector, and by extension the future of the U.S. economy itself."
Monday, February 29, 2016
James Allworth, Harvard Business Review; How the Apple/FBI Fight Risks the Whole U.S. Tech Industry:
Libraries’ Love Your Data Week raises awareness among research universities; Penn State News, 2/5/16
Penn State News; Libraries’ Love Your Data Week raises awareness among research universities:
"During the week of Feb. 8, university research libraries across the United States, including Penn State’s University Libraries — @psulibs on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — are participating in a grassroots social media campaign to spread awareness about the importance of documenting, sharing, preserving and making available research data. Love Your Data Week — hashtag #lyd16 — is about recognizing the ways in which individuals can start caring for data now, adopting consistent practices, modeling and implementing them for generations to come. Managing data in a conscionable way, with attention as well to affordances for reuse, is both a responsibility to the scholarly record and an important public good. University students, in particular, are learning and researching in an era of increasing compliance with federal funding agencies’ requirements for public access to research results, including data. The themes of Love Your Data Week prompt faculty and staff to ask: How do we teach students to be responsible stewards of their scholarly outputs? How do we instill in them an awareness of potential future users of their work — a perspective that affects how data gets shared or not, is made accessible or not?"
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Lily Hay Newman, Slate.com; Obama Says People Who Give Genetic Samples for Research Should Own the Data:
"On Thursday the White House held a summit to discuss progress on its Precision Medicine Initiative, first announced last year. The program has consistently emphasized that privacy and security are among its priorities when it comes to research data, but on Thursday President Barack Obama waded deeper into a debate about rights and ownership when subjects contribute their genetic information to studies. But amid hopeful suggestions about how this data could improve medicine in the future, Obama pointed to an inherent tension in collecting the data. "It requires, first of all, us understanding who owns the data," Obama said. "And I would like to think that if somebody does a test on me or my genes, that that's mine. But that's not always how we define these issues, right? So there’s some legal issues involved.""
Meg Halverson, New York Times; 360 Reviews Often Lead to Cruel, Not Constructive, Criticism:
"Given the time and cost involved in such reviews — each one takes about three weeks to complete including soliciting and collating the feedback, writing the review and prepping the manager — I’ve decided they are seldom worth the investment. Probably because of the anonymous and generic nature of the feedback, the whole process misses the mark in terms of its goal: to make people better at their jobs. If you want feedback, do what one senior executive I know does: ask for it directly after meetings, interviews and tough conversations with customers or employees. You might be surprised what people will share, and how helpful it can be."
Saturday, February 27, 2016
The Economist; Taking a bite at the Apple:
"“WE FEEL we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the US government.” With those words Tim Cook, head of Apple, the world’s biggest information-technology (IT) company, explained on February 16th why he felt his firm should refuse to comply with an FBI request to break into an iPhone used by Syed Farook, a dead terrorist. Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, who were sympathisers with Islamic State, shot and killed 14 people in California in December, before both were themselves killed by police. The FBI’s request, Mr Cook said, was “chilling”. Ever since 2013, when Edward Snowden’s leaks pushed privacy and data security into the public eye, America’s IT firms have been locked in battle with their own government. The issue at stake is as old as mass communication: how much power should the authorities have to subvert the means citizens and companies use to keep their private business private?"
Michael D. Shear and Katie Benner, New York Times; Apple’s Privacy Fight Tests Relationship With White House:
"Current and former White House officials say Mr. Obama appreciated the attention that Mr. Cook brought to issues like immigration, gay marriage and climate change. When Mr. Obama solicited Apple and other companies to support his ConnectED program for technology in schools, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Cook’s decision to pledge $100 million worth of iPads and MacBooks, calling it “an enormous commitment.” There were also tensions. White House officials were not happy about Apple’s decision to shelter billions of dollars in offshore accounts and have repeatedly pressed Mr. Cook to explain the company’s need to build its blockbuster products in China rather than in the United States. But the encryption debate, and the government’s legal action against Apple last week, are testing the relationship with the company more than any other. “A company thinks very hard before it defies the government,” said Nicole Wong, who was Google’s lead lawyer when Google resisted a Justice Department request for user data. But if a disagreement happens, “it’s not bad for this policy conversation to happen transparently in a court proceeding.”"
The Economist; Time to fire Trump:
"The things Mr Trump has said in this campaign make him unworthy of leading one of the world’s great political parties, let alone America. One way to judge politicians is by whether they appeal to our better natures: Mr Trump has prospered by inciting hatred and violence. He is so unpredictable that the thought of him anywhere near high office is terrifying. He must be stopped."
David Brooks, New York Times; The Governing Cancer of Our Time:
"We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society — politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics. Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate. The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal. But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way."
Friday, February 26, 2016
The Sara Fine Institute presents, "Digital Privacy Workshop for Librarians"; iSchool at Pitt, 3/31/16
The Sara Fine Institute presents, "Digital Privacy Workshop for Librarians" :
"Amelia Acker and Leanne Bowler will be co-hosting a Digital Privacy Workshop for Librarians on Thursday, March 31, 2016; 1:00 – 4:00 PM. Students are welcome. The workshop will be presented by Alison Macrina of Library Freedom Project and Bruce J. Boni, attorney and president of the ACLU-PA Greater Pittsburgh Chapter. They will present a hands-on, "know your privacy rights" workshop for librarians, demonstrating strategies to help keep library patrons safe from surveillance. Topics include: the government's major surveillance programs and authorizations, federal and local privacy law, and information on how to respond when served with a government information request. The workshop includes a demonstration of practical privacy-enhancing technology tools that can be installed on public PCs or taught to patrons in computer classes. Details about the workshop and how to register can be found here: https://tockify.com/ischool/detail/168/1459443600000
Thursday, February 25, 2016
David W. Craig, Nature.com; Understanding the links between privacy and public data sharing:
"Researchers are obligated to share results while maintaining reasonable expectations of privacy. However, there are particular challenges in areas of precision medicine where publically shared data sets are both complex and highly dimensional. In the initial genome-wide association studies, it was assumed that aggregating data into summary statistics such as allele frequencies de-identified individuals from clinical cohorts2. However, work from our lab in 2008 showed that this assumption is surprisingly incorrect and that given a person's genotype data, it is possible to determine cohort membership from single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) allele-frequency data3. In 2012, Im et al.4 extended these concepts to other summary-level measures such as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs), correlating genotype and expression data to determine study participation. Harmanci and Gerstein focus on another type of privacy breach, linkage attacks, in which sensitive personal data are linked to exploit correlated features across different data sets (reviewed in ref. 5)."
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
George Russell, FoxNews.com; Patent scandal: Secret probe of top UN official completed:
"The WIPO staffers allegedly victimized by Gurry had also left the agency. They became embroiled in the alleged break-ins after anonymous letters circulated that made vague charges of financial impropriety against Gurry and his wife, in advance of his initial election as WIPO chief. The DNA evidence collected against the staffers formed part of the tests subsequently performed by Swiss police on the staffers -- their diplomatic immunity was temporarily lifted to let that happen -- to determine their guilt or innocence in the letter-writing episode. They were cleared of being involved. And it was when the staffers discovered mention of the DNA samples in testing paperwork that they said they realized it had come from illegal entry of their offices."
William New, Intellectual Property Watch; US Congressional Hearing On WIPO Accountability This Week:
"Several subcommittees of the United States Congress have scheduled a joint hearing this week on accountability and possible mistreatment of staff and whistleblowers at the UN World Intellectual Property Organization. The witness list for the hearing includes several high-level critics of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry who used to work for him. Meanwhile, observers are questioning what has happened to the report from an official UN investigation of WIPO. The Joint Subcommittee Hearing: Establishing Accountability at the World Intellectual Property Organization: Illicit Technology Transfers, Whistleblowing, and Reform, is scheduled for Wednesday, 24 February. The hearing is expected to be publicly webcast."
Farhad Manjoo, New York Times; The Apple Case Will Grope Its Way Into Your Future:
"To understand what’s at stake in the battle between Apple and the F.B.I. over cracking open a terrorist’s smartphone, it helps to be able to predict the future of the tech industry. For that, here’s one bet you’ll never lose money on: Digital technology always grows hungrier for more personal information, and we users nearly always accede to its demands. Today’s smartphones hold a lot of personal data — your correspondence, your photos, your location, your dignity. But tomorrow’s devices, many of which are already around in rudimentary forms, will hold a lot more... But if Apple is forced to break its own security to get inside a phone that it had promised users was inviolable, the supposed safety of the always-watching future starts to fall apart. If every device can monitor you, and if they can all be tapped by law enforcement officials under court order, can anyone ever have a truly private conversation? Are we building a world in which there’s no longer any room for keeping secrets? “This case can’t be a one-time deal,” said Neil Richards, a professor at the Washington University School of Law. “This is about the future.” Mr. Richards is the author of “Intellectual Privacy,” a book that examines the dangers of a society in which technology and law conspire to eliminate the possibility of thinking without fear of surveillance. He argues that intellectual creativity depends on a baseline measure of privacy, and that privacy is being eroded by cameras, microphones and sensors we’re all voluntarily surrounding ourselves with."
Cecilia Kang, New York Times; Bridging a Digital Divide That Leaves Schoolchildren Behind:
"With many educators pushing for students to use resources on the Internet with class work, the federal government is now grappling with a stark disparity in access to technology, between students who have high-speed Internet at home and an estimated five million families who are without it and who are struggling to keep up. The challenge is felt across the nation. Some students in Coachella, Calif., and Huntsville, Ala., depend on school buses that have free Wi-Fi to complete their homework. The buses are sometimes parked in residential neighborhoods overnight so that children can connect and continue studying. In cities like Detroit, Miami and New Orleans, where as many as one-third of homes do not have broadband, children crowd libraries and fast-food restaurants to use free hot spots. The divide is driving action at the federal level. Members of the Federal Communications Commission are expected to vote next month on repurposing a roughly $2 billion-a-year phone subsidy program, known as Lifeline, to include subsidies for broadband services in low-income homes. “This is what I call the homework gap, and it is the cruelest part of the digital divide,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission who has pushed to overhaul the Lifeline program."
President Obama Announces His Intent to Nominate Carla D. Hayden as Librarian of Congress; WhiteHouse.gov, 2/24/16
WhiteHouse.gov; President Obama Announces His Intent to Nominate Carla D. Hayden as Librarian of Congress:
"Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Carla D. Hayden as Librarian of Congress. President Obama said, “Michelle and I have known Dr. Carla Hayden for a long time, since her days working at the Chicago Public Library, and I am proud to nominate her to lead our nation’s oldest federal institution as our 14th Librarian of Congress. Dr. Hayden has devoted her career to modernizing libraries so that everyone can participate in today's digital culture. She has the proven experience, dedication, and deep knowledge of our nation’s libraries to serve our country well and that’s why I look forward to working with her in the months ahead. If confirmed, Dr. Hayden would be the first woman and the first African American to hold the position – both of which are long overdue.” Carla D. Hayden, Nominee for Librarian of Congress, Library of Congress: Dr. Carla D. Hayden is CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, a position she has held since 1993. Dr. Hayden was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010 and was confirmed by the Senate in June 2010. Prior to joining the Pratt Library, Dr. Hayden was Deputy Commissioner and Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993. She was an Assistant Professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991. Dr. Hayden was Library Services Coordinator for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago from 1982 to 1987. She began her career with the Chicago Public Library as the Young Adult Services Coordinator from 1979 to 1982 and as a Library Associate and Children’s Librarian from 1973 to 1979. Dr. Hayden was President of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004. In 1995, she was the first African American to receive Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outreach services at the Pratt Library, which included an afterschool center for Baltimore teens offering homework assistance and college and career counseling. Dr. Hayden received a B.A. from Roosevelt University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Graduate Library School of the University of Chicago."
Sara Fine Institute presents: Christine Borgman, "Big Data, Open Data, and Scholarship": Mon Feb 29th 3.00pm - 5.00pm, University of Pittsburgh
Sara Fine Institute presents: Christine Borgman, "Big Data, Open Data, and Scholarship" :
"Monday Feb 29th 3.00pm - 5.00pm University Club, Ballroom A, 123 University Pl, Pittsburgh, PA 15260 "Big Data, Open Data, and Scholarship" by Christine L. Borgman Distinguished Professor & Presidential Chair in Information Studies University of California, Los Angeles Scholars gathered data long before the emergence of books, journals, libraries, publishers, or the Internet. Until recently, data were considered part of the process of scholarship, essential but largely invisible. In the “big data” era, the products of these research processes have become valuable objects in themselves to be captured, shared, reused, and sustained for the long term. Data also has become contentious intellectual property to be protected, whether for proprietary, confidentiality, competition, or other reasons. Public policy leans toward open access to research data, but rarely with the public investment necessary to sustain access. Enthusiasm for big data is obscuring the complexity and diversity of data in scholarship and the challenges for stewardship. Data practices are local, varying from field to field, individual to individual, and country to country. This talk will explore the stakes and stakeholders in research data and implications for policy and practice. Join us Feb. 29, 2016 at 3pm at the University of Pittsburgh’s University Club (Ballroom A). This event is free to attend and no RSVP is required. A reception will follow."
Univ. of Houston Faculty Devises Pointers on How to Avoid Getting Shot by Armed Students; Slate.com, 2/23/16
Elliot Hannon, Slate.com; Univ. of Houston Faculty Devises Pointers on How to Avoid Getting Shot by Armed Students:
"If having armed students seems like it would pretty significantly alter the balance of power and academic freedom in a college classroom, you need look no further than the Univ. of Houston. The university’s faculty senate held a meeting recently with a Powerpoint presentation aimed at assisting faculty in adapting to the new gun-toting normal. Here’s a slide that pretty much sums it up..."
Monday, February 22, 2016
Fair Use Week at Carnegie Mellon University Libraries: February 22-26, 2016:
Thanks to Pitt SIS alumnus Andy Prisbylla with CMU Libraries for this information on CMU's Fair Use Week, February 22-26, 2016: "CMU will be having student demonstrations of work that incorporates Fair Use and a digital exhibit will be playing on the flat-screens here as well."
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Librarians Find Themselves Caught Between Journal Pirates and Publishers; Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/18/16
Corinne Ruff, Chronicle of Higher Education; Librarians Find Themselves Caught Between Journal Pirates and Publishers:
"The rise, fall, and resurfacing of a popular piracy website for scholarly-journal articles, Sci-Hub, has highlighted tensions between academic librarians and scholarly publishers. Academics are increasingly turning to websites like Sci-Hub to view subscriber-only articles that they cannot obtain at their college or that they need more quickly than interlibrary loan can provide. That trend puts librarians in an awkward position. While many are proponents of open access and understand the challenges scholars face in gaining access to information, they are also bound by their contracts with publishers, which obligate them to crack down on pirates. And while few, if any, librarians openly endorse piracy, many believe that the scholarly-publishing system is broken."
Ari Shapiro, NPR; Apple's Standoff With FBI Raises Questions About How Americans View Privacy:
"NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Lee Rainie, director of Internet, Science and Technology at Pew Research Center, about the general public's opinion on digital privacy and government surveillance."
Editorial Board, New York Times; Why Apple Is Right to Challenge an Order to Help the F.B.I. :
"Even if the government prevails in forcing Apple to help, that will hardly be the end of the story. Experts widely believe that technology companies will eventually build devices that cannot be unlocked by company engineers and programmers without the permission of users. Newer smartphones already have much stronger security features than the iPhone 5c Mr. Farook used. Some officials have proposed that phone and computer makers be required to maintain access or a “back door” to encrypted data on electronic devices. In October, the Obama administration said it would not seek such legislation, but the next president could have a different position. Congress would do great harm by requiring such back doors. Criminals and domestic and foreign intelligence agencies could exploit such features to conduct mass surveillance and steal national and trade secrets. There’s a very good chance that such a law, intended to ease the job of law enforcement, would make private citizens, businesses and the government itself far less secure."
Hilary Hanson, Huffington Post; Selfie-Crazed Beachgoers Kill Rare Dolphin:
"A mob of beachgoers desperate to take photos with two small dolphins killed at least one of the animals on a beach in Buenos Aires last week. “This is more than upsetting,” Lori Marino, executive director of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, told The Huffington Post in an email. “It is an indictment of how our species treats other animals -- as objects for our benefit, as props, as things with value only in relation to us. This is a terribly painful story but it goes on, writ large, every day all over the world.”"
Tim Cook, Apple; A Message to Our Customers:
"The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge. Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government. We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications. While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect. Tim Cook"
Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Hartman, New York Times; Blacks See Bias in Delay on a Scalia Successor:
"After years of watching political opponents question the president’s birthplace and his faith, and hearing a member of Congress shout “You lie!” at him from the House floor, some African-Americans saw the move by Senate Republicans as another attempt to deny the legitimacy of the country’s first black president. And they call it increasingly infuriating after Mr. Obama has spent seven years in the White House and won two resounding election victories."
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Parmesan cheese you sprinkle on your penne could be wood; Bloomberg News via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/16/16
Lydia Mulvany, Bloomberg News via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Parmesan cheese you sprinkle on your penne could be wood:
"Acting on a tip, agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration paid a surprise visit to a cheese factory in rural Pennsylvania on a cold November day in 2012. They found what they were looking for: evidence that Castle Cheese Inc. in Slippery Rock was doctoring its 100 percent real Parmesan with cut-rate substitutes and such fillers as wood pulp and distributing it to some of the country’s biggest grocery chains... Some grated Parmesan suppliers have been mislabeling products by filling them with too much cellulose, a common anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp, or using cheaper cheddar, instead of real Romano. Castle president Michelle Myrter is scheduled to plead guilty this month to criminal charges. She faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. German brewers protect their reputations with Reinheitsgebot, a series of purity laws drawn up 500 years ago. Champagne makers prohibit most vineyards outside their turf from using the name. Now the full force of the U.S. government has been brought to bear defending the authenticity of grated hard Italian cheeses."
Katie Benner and Eric Lichtblau, New York Times; Apple Fights Order to Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone:
" Apple said on Wednesday that it would oppose and challenge a federal court order to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. On Tuesday, in a significant victory for the government, Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the District of Central California ordered Apple to bypass security functions on an iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who was killed by the police along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, after they attacked Mr. Farook’s co-workers at a holiday gathering. Judge Pym ordered Apple to build special software that would essentially act as a skeleton key capable of unlocking the phone. But hours later, in a statement by its chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, Apple announced its refusal to comply... As Apple noted, the F.B.I., instead of asking Congress to pass legislation resolving the encryption fight, has proposed what appears to be a novel reading of the All Writs Act of 1789. The law lets judges “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”"
Balancing Benefits and Risks of Immortal Data Participants’ Views of Open Consent in the Personal Genome Project; Hastings Center Report, 12/17/15
Oscar A. Zarate, Julia Green Brody, Phil Brown, Monica D. Ramirez-Andreotta, Laura Perovich andJacob Matz, Hastings Center Report; Balancing Benefits and Risks of Immortal Data: Participants’ Views of Open Consent in the Personal Genome Project:
"Abstract An individual's health, genetic, or environmental-exposure data, placed in an online repository, creates a valuable shared resource that can accelerate biomedical research and even open opportunities for crowd-sourcing discoveries by members of the public. But these data become “immortalized” in ways that may create lasting risk as well as benefit. Once shared on the Internet, the data are difficult or impossible to redact, and identities may be revealed by a process called data linkage, in which online data sets are matched to each other. Reidentification (re-ID), the process of associating an individual's name with data that were considered deidentified, poses risks such as insurance or employment discrimination, social stigma, and breach of the promises often made in informed-consent documents. At the same time, re-ID poses risks to researchers and indeed to the future of science, should re-ID end up undermining the trust and participation of potential research participants. The ethical challenges of online data sharing are heightened as so-called big data becomes an increasingly important research tool and driver of new research structures. Big data is shifting research to include large numbers of researchers and institutions as well as large numbers of participants providing diverse types of data, so the participants’ consent relationship is no longer with a person or even a research institution. In addition, consent is further transformed because big data analysis often begins with descriptive inquiry and generation of a hypothesis, and the research questions cannot be clearly defined at the outset and may be unforeseeable over the long term. In this article, we consider how expanded data sharing poses new challenges, illustrated by genomics and the transition to new models of consent. We draw on the experiences of participants in an open data platform—the Personal Genome Project—to allow study participants to contribute their voices to inform ethical consent practices and protocol reviews for big-data research."
[Letter to the Editor] Julia Brody, New York Times; Sharing Health Data Online:
"Doctors and scientists have an ethical duty to explain to patients the implications of online data sharing, and to explain them well. In our recent study, we interviewed participants in the Personal Genome Project and found that when researchers are completely open about the risks and benefits of making their genetic and health data public, participants were often willing to consent because they wanted to help advance science. It is up to scientists, then, to make good on their promise to accelerate discovery in the treatment and prevention of diseases, by ensuring that patient data is properly stored and managed so that other researchers can use it. At the same time, more needs to be done to minimize the risks, like privacy violations, through better data security and legal protections for study participants. JULIA BRODY"
David Ignatius, Washington Post; In Munich, a frightening preview of the rise of killer robots:
"The Munich Security Conference is an annual catalogue of horrors. But the most ominous discussion this past weekend wasn’t about Islamic State terrorism but a new generation of weapons — such as killer robots and malignly programmed “smart” appliances that could be deployed in future conflicts. Behind the main events at the annual discussion of foreign and defense policy here was a topic described in one late-night session as “The Future of Warfare: Race with the Machines.” The premise was that we are at the dawn of an era of conflict in which all wars will be, to some extent, cyberwars, and new weapons will combine radical advances in hardware, software and even biology."
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Tom Phillips, Guardian; Chinese journalist banned from flying to US to accept a prize for his work:
"Since Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012 academics, journalists, authors, lawyers and activists have all complained of increasing pressure from authorities. Experts say many talented young Chinese journalists are abandoning the profession, partly because of their frustration at intensifying censorship. Historians meanwhile complain that securing access to government archives containing material about sensitive periods such as the Great Famine has become increasingly difficult. In the introduction to the English edition of his book, Yang said his 15-year inquiry into the famine was an attempt to expose how a totalitarian system had attempted to forcibly eradicate all memory of the disaster. “A tombstone is memory made concrete. Human memory is the ladder on which a country and a people advance,” he wrote. “I erect this tombstone so that people will remember and henceforth renounce man-made calamity, darkness and evil.”"
Monday, February 15, 2016
George Dvorsky, Gizmodo; Leading Scientific Institutions Agree to Share Zika Research Data:
"Scientists are typically tight-lipped when it comes to their research, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In an effort to battle the ongoing Zika epidemic, a number of global health bodies—including academic journals, charities, and institutes—have committed to sharing data on the virus. The statement, signed by over 30 organizations, is meant to ensure that any information relevant to combating Zika is made freely and openly available to the international community as “soon as is feasibly possible.” Signatories include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, PLOS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (along with the Chinese equivalent), the JAMA Network, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Researchers who signed the agreement were assured that their work would still be eligible for publication in science journals. “Research is an essential part of the response to any global health emergency,” said Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust and a signatory of the statement. “This is particularly true for Zika, where so much is still unknown about the virus, how it is spread and the possible link with microcephaly.” It’s critical, he said, that results are shared rapidly and in a way that’s “equitable, ethical and transparent.” This move follows a recent WHO consultation held in early September 2015 in which leading international stakeholders agreed that the “timely and transparent pre-publication” of scientific data and results “must become the global norm.”"
Rally held against defacement of LGBT-friendly banner on North Side; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/15/16
Karen Kane, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Rally held against defacement of LGBT-friendly banner on North Side:
"Determined to transform a “message of hate” to a “message of hope,” about 75 people attended a rally Sunday that involved signing their names and well-wishes on a North Side banner that had been vandalized Friday with words derogatory to the homosexual community. “[The rally] was about hope and healing and moving forward. It was about bringing people together to send a message that all people need to be treated with dignity and respect. We wanted to say that we're not going to let this incident determine who we are and what we’re about,” said Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development with the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a leading organization in Western Pennsylvania dedicated to improving the lives of the LGBT community. The vandalized sign had been hanging outside the Central Wellness Outreach Center on Anderson Street. The center, open since August, provides medical care for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, specializing in the areas of Hepatitis C, HIV and transgender. Ms. Bryan said the cloth banner, which measures about 12 feet wide by 3 feet tall, had contained the name of the center and its logo. A vandal added a profane, homophobic phrase. On Sunday, the same banner became a canvas for messages of inspiration and support."
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Bob Allen, KDKA; Defaced LGBT Sign Prompts Rally For Acceptance:
"The Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church is taking a stand against hate, while calling for diversity and acceptance. The morning church service ended with members signing the flag for the Central Outreach Wellness Center after someone defaced it with hate speech on Friday... The Central Outreach Wellness Center offers medical care to members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Graffiti scrawled on the flag was aimed at patients, and some believe those words have a uniting effect on the community. “I think the Dignity & Respect Campaign along with a number of members in the community we are all about trying to let people know that one incident doesn’t define the community, doesn’t define the organization and it surely doesn’t define who we are in the city of Pittsburgh,” said Candi Castleberry-Singleton, CEO of the Dignity & Respect Campaign. In a show of support, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed the flag. “We’re a city and a region again that’s attracting people. It’s attracting young people, it’s a attracting people from all over the world and we want to make sure when people come here they feel welcome,” Fitzgerald said."
[Video and Article] WPXI; Rally held after business sign defaced with LGBT hate speech:
"A rally was held Sunday after a North Side business sign was vandalized with LGBT hate speech on Friday. Dozens of people gathered to show their support after a sign at the Central Wellness Outreach Center’s was found with LGBT hate speech... A “Hope Against Hate” rally was held, and attendees signed the sign that was defaced in hate. "We've really turned it into a positive message when we've all come together today to show them that they're not going to win," Lane said."
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Karlin Lillington, Irish Times; Ethical issues are tripping up tech firms and the backlash can be abysmal:
"Now, Europe is trying to regain the socio-political upper hand, having previously left the whole environment in the hands of the corporate world, Floridi says. “But that is so much not the issue. The real issue is, how do you re-establish an accountable, elected, socio-political control of the internet – of what is really, the essential blood of our society. That doesn’t seem to be very clear as a problem.” Many of the current tensions between the US and EU over issues such as corporate taxation, data protection, and privacy stem from such concerns. Floridi was recently appointed to the EU’s new ethics advisory group, set up by European data protection supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli to consider some of these fraught areas, within the ethical dimensions of data protection. The group has 18 months to tease out the relationships between privacy, business models, technology, human rights, and markets and their implications for privacy and data, before reporting back with a white paper... “But we need an ethical understanding, so that can inform the political and legal side, which can then regulate digital technologies in Europe.”"
BBC News; The challenge of saving lives with 'big data' :
"As part of the soon-to-be-opened Big Data Institute in Oxford, more than 500 scientists will take up the challenge of handling the Biobank data and analysing it. Before, researchers were full of questions they wanted to ask about human health - but had to wait years to find out the answers. "They now have the opportunity to ask those questions in rapid time," Prof Landray says... Research based on small numbers of patients contains too many errors, particularly when it comes to analysing the risk factors for diseases. "We crave information about large numbers of people over long periods," he says. "That way, you get rid of the play of chance." In the US, President Obama recently launched a Precision Medicine Initiative which plans to gather "big data" to develop more individualised care. In China, a study of 500,000 people is doing something similar which means it will be possible to compare and contrast the health of entire populations in the not too distant future."
Philip Kennicott, Washington Post; A Microsoft billionaire gives the public a rare view of his art:
"What have we learned? That a man who scored big with Microsoft more than a quarter century ago loves classic paintings of places he has visited. He can’t really say why, or even why it should matter, but he has enough money to pursue his passion on a grand scale. It’s good that he’s sharing it with us, but it comes packaged with a theme so transparently factitious that one can’t take it seriously. Curating and scholarship have been reduced to putting a sprig of parsley on the plate. In the end, we’re supposed to feel grateful. But I don’t feel grateful. I resent the fact that when this show is over (it will travel to Minneapolis, New Orleans and Seattle through 2017), all of the art will remain in the private collection of Paul G. Allen. And I can hear the retort: That’s life, that’s capitalism, and get over it because at least it’s not in Qatar. But the problem with collecting masterworks of great artists is that the act of ownership is in itself a kind of theft, stealing from the public commons of genius. Put another way, once a work of art is important enough to be of interest to a man like Allen, it belongs to all of us. He may not know that, but we do. And so when the show is over and the art is subsumed back into the private palaces of plutocracy, one feels its loss more keenly than any fleeting gratitude to the person who made it temporarily accessible."
Eddie Small, DNAInfo New York; ATTENTION: Library Toilet Paper Thieves, You've Been Warned:
"Although patrons can be banned for stealing library property, this is used as a last resort, and toilet paper theft likely would not qualify, according to NYPL spokeswoman Angela Montefinise. Staffers at the Morrisania branch put the sign up three months ago but took it down Friday — after DNAinfo New York asked about it — because it is not an official library sign, she continued. However, if you remain responsible with your toilet paper usage anyway, we're sure Elaine Benes will appreciate it."
Alan Yuhas and Kamala Kelkar, Guardian; 'Rogue scientists' could exploit gene editing technology, experts warn:
"A senior geneticist and a bioethicist warned on Friday that they fear “rogue scientists” operating outside the bounds of law, and agreed with a US intelligence chief’s assertion this week that gene editing technology could have huge, and potentially dangerous, consequences... Recent advances in genetics allow scientists to edit DNA quickly and accurately, making research into diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and cancer, easier than ever before. But researchers increasingly caution that they have to work with extreme care, for fear that gene editing could be deployed as bioterrorism or, in a more likely scenario, result in an accident that could make humans more susceptible to diseases rather than less. Earlier this week the US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, testified before the Senate as part of his worldwide threat assessment report that he considers gene editing one of the six potential weapons of mass destruction that are major threats facing the country, alongside the nuclear prospects of Iran, North Korea and China. Bioethicist Francoise Baylis, who also spoke at AAAS and who took part in the international summit that debated gene editing last year, said the technology behind gene editing could be dangerous on a global or individual level."
Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge; Science Alert, 2/12/16
Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert; Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge:
"A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers. For those of you who aren't already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it's sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn't afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it's since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science."
Dan Majors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Defaced sign won't deter medical practice from its mission:
"Dr. Lane, who specializes in care to the LGBT community, said the homophobic and profane graffiti saddened her. But she has a message that is more important and will connect with more people, she said... “Unfortunately, many people that I serve are used to being victimized and marginalized,” she said. “They’re used to having to deal with this on some low level regularly in their lives. That saddens me deeply, that this happened in my space. We intentionally try to make a space that’s welcoming, where this doesn’t happen.” Dr. Lane said the only change she anticipates in the wake of the incident is the purchase of four more signs — to show that her work will go on. “I think that awareness that these kind of things still go on is important for Pittsburgh, as a city and us as a community, to realize,” she said. “There are people still out there that hate for no good reason. “Many people have felt marginalized at some point in their lives, probably including the people that write these type of messages. I would encourage all people to take a good look at themselves and their lives and their families. I would think that most of us would be hard-pressed to have a family that doesn’t have someone that doesn’t necessarily fit into the box that the rest of us fit into. “We have to remember that we don’t have to like each other. We don’t have to agree with each other’s opinions. But we do have to treat each other with dignity and respect.”"
Taylor Mulcahey, The Pitt News; Pitt to merge SIS, CS department:
"Within the next year and a half, Pitt’s computer science department and school of information science will become one. The new undergraduate school, the School of Computing Informatics, is slated to accept its first students in the fall of 2017 and will combine the 32 SIS faculty with the 18 CS faculty and distribute the 50-person staff in three new departments: computer science, informatics and network systems and information culture and data stewardship... A “shift from a singular focus on high performance computing to embracing big data, data analytics, [and] the interaction between computation and information, is driving the department merger,” Larsen said. A growing number of other universities around the country, such as University of California, Irvine, University of Michigan, Indiana University and Drexel University, have reorganized their programs in similar ways. For Pitt, the change comes as the University looks to shift its focus to big data projects. In March 2015, Pitt teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC to form the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance, a partnership to find new ways to use large sets of patient data in health care. In October 2015, Pitt collaborated with UPMC, CMU and other city and county officials to open the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, which has published city and county data, such as logs of the city’s 311 calls and information about opioid deaths, online."
Friday, February 12, 2016
Darwin Day Revelation: Evolution, Not Religion, Is the Source of Morality; HuffingtonPost.com, 2/12/16
Clay Farris Naff, HuffingtonPost.com; Darwin Day Revelation: Evolution, Not Religion, Is the Source of Morality:
"Murder stands as most heinous of immoral acts, yet we find that the countries with the lowest murder rates include those with the lowest rates of religiosity: Sweden, Japan, Britain, and the Czech Republic, to name a few. Murder rates in medieval Europe, when religion was universal, were ten times modern rates. Within the U.S., states that have the highest rates of religiosity also tend to have the highest murder rates. Homicide is not an exception; this pattern holds for other crimes. Are we perhaps capturing an affluence effect? Nope. Vietnam is a poor country (per capita GDP ~ $5,000). It is both moderately religious and murderous -- but still has a lower homicide rate than the wealthier and more devout United States. So where does morality come from? Evolution. This is as close to certain as science gets.. Human universals are pretty good evidence for a start. It turns out that a prohibition on murder is found in every known culture. (Of course there are individuals -- drug dealers, dictators, and fanatics, for example -- who use murder as a tool of their trade, but they are the exceptions.) Most human universals are not moral matters. Jokes, tools, and aesthetics have no inherent moral valence. That we can pick out some behaviors as morally relevant is a clue. That we can pick out some behaviors as morally relevant is a clue. It points to the fact that we have evolved moral instincts. At root they are empathy, disgust, and fairness."
David Masci, Pew Research Center; On Darwin Day, 5 facts about the evolution debate:
"Today is the 207th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a day now celebrated by some as Darwin Day. Darwin, of course, is best known for his theory of evolution through natural selection. When Darwin’s work was first made public in 1859, it shocked Britain’s religious establishment. And while today it is accepted by virtually all scientists, evolutionary theory still is rejected by many Americans, often because it conflicts with their religious beliefs about divine creation. While not an official holiday, Darwin Day has been adopted by scientific and humanist groups to promote everything from scientific literacy to secularism. This year, more than 100 events have been planned worldwide, many of them anchored by scientific talks or symposia. Others, such as a children’s scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., are a little less serious. Here are five facts about the public’s views on evolution as well as other aspects of the debate in the U.S. and elsewhere:"
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Dave Lee, BBC News; Facebook ‘colonialism' row stokes distrust in Zuckerberg:
"The suggestion by Andreessen that India, with its history, should somehow be pro-colonialism was treated by many as absurd. In centuries gone by, colonialism was about exploitation of resources. In the modern world, it's digital - moving in, setting up companies and building insurmountable user bases before any other company can. That's arguably an extreme interpretation of the purpose of Free Basics - but it's the argument made by local businesses to India's telecoms regulator. An Indian social network wouldn't stand a chance against free Facebook, they said, and websites that are not part of the Free Basics scheme would lose out. The regulator agreed when it ruled in favour of net neutrality. As did many Western onlookers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigns for an open internet, said Facebook was doing what it could to open up the Free Basics scheme to local companies, the inherent flaw of the program was that Facebook remained the sole gatekeeper."
Manslaughter charges possible in Flint water crisis, says top investigator; Washington Post, 2/10/16
Michael E. Miller, Washington Post; Manslaughter charges possible in Flint water crisis, says top investigator:
"Flood described a number of possible outcomes of the investigation. He said it could turn out that the crisis was simply a result of “honest mistakes,” the Associated Press reported. But it could also turn out that city, county or state officials were guilty of a “breach of duty” or “gross negligence,” exposing them to possible criminal or civil actions, he said. Flood said that the severest possible charge, manslaughter, was “not far-fetched.” He compared charging officials with manslaughter over the water crisis to charging construction workers with the same crime for leaving open manholes unattended, resulting in death. He said he could also pursue restitution against both private companies and governments on behalf of Flint residents affected by the water crisis, according to the Detroit News."
Sam Thielman, Guardian; The internet of things: how your TV, car and toys could spy on you:
"Can your smart TV spy on you? Absolutely, says the US director of national intelligence. The ever-widening array of “smart” web-enabled devices pundits have dubbed the internet of things [IoT] is a welcome gift to intelligence officials and law enforcement, according to director James Clapper. “In the future, intelligence services might use the [internet of things] for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials,” Clapper told the Senate in public testimony on Tuesday. As a category, the internet of things is useful to eavesdroppers both official and unofficial for a variety of reasons, the main one being the leakiness of the data. “[O]ne helpful feature for surveillance is that private sector IoT generally blabs a lot, routinely into some server, somewhere,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “That data blabbing can be insecure in the air, or obtained from storage.”"
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic; Not Another Net-Neutrality Story:
"There are implications for other countries, too. Part of Facebook’s strategy for global expansion just failed, or at least suffered a serious blow, in a key country. Here’s how Kevin Roose, a writer at Fusion, puts it: “If a group of activists could successfully reframe Free Basics as an insidious land grab, rather than an act of corporate largesse, and mobilize a country against it, what’s to stop them from resisting elsewhere?” And as Ingrid Burrington wrote for The Atlantic in December, various mobile carriers in the United States offer “free” video streaming as a way to attract customers—free, in that data use doesn’t count toward a person’s monthly allotment. “It really seems too obviously out of line to be true,” Burrington wrote, “Mobile carriers are literally partnering with large media companies to subsidize data-devouring streaming services, while what might be considered the ‘open Internet’ remains a paid service.” In a Facebook post on Monday, Zuckerberg wrote that he is “disappointed” but committed to keep working toward connectivity goals in India. In his earlier essay, for the Times of India, he was less restrained: “Who could possibly be against this?”"
Stephanie Strom, New York Times; Chipotle Meeting Outlines Food Safety to Workers and Message for Public:
"Chipotle Mexican Grill closed its more than 2,000 restaurants for four hours on Monday to hold a “virtual” town hall meeting with its employees about steps it said it was taking to improve food safety and regain consumers’ trust... Marketing experts applauded the company for its transparency about the meeting, but said the company would need to do a lot more to win back the trust of consumers. Chipotle has experienced six food safety failures involving norovirus, salmonella and E. coli since July, with more than 500 customers reporting that they fell ill afterward. Most of those illnesses were associated with two outbreaks of norovirus. “Whether that’s sufficient to persuade consumers to come back in a significant way is questionable,” said Allen Adamson, founder of BrandSimple, a marketing consultancy. “It’s going to take significant meaningful action that goes beyond telling employees to be more careful and, unfortunately, some time before consumers start to believe it.” Mr. Adamson said the best example of a company regaining consumer trust was of Tylenol in 1982 after seven people died after taking medicine that had been tampered with... Chipotle has started its most expensive marketing and promotion campaign ever and plans to spend some $50 million to try to lure existing customers back into its restaurants and communicate the steps it has taken to improve its food safety practices."
Reuters via Voice of America; China Indicates Fate of 3 Missing Hong Kong Booksellers:
"Chinese police have confirmed for the first time that three of five Hong Kong booksellers who went missing were being investigated for "illegal activities" in China, according to a letter sent to Hong Kong's police Thursday. The disappearances have prompted fears that mainland Chinese authorities may be using shadowy tactics that erode the "one country, two systems" formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to China from British rule in 1997."
Greg Torode, Reuters via Japan Times; China faces diplomatic crisis over missing Hong Kong booksellers:
"For years Gui Minhai, a China-born publisher of tabloid books on China’s leaders, had believed he could live and work overseas on a Swedish passport without fear of persecution by Chinese authorities, which ban such works on the mainland. However, his disappearance from Thailand last October and his tearful appearance last month on Chinese state television have undermined confidence among some diplomats in the protections afforded to hundreds of thousands of holders of foreign passports in Hong Kong and China. Reuters has confirmed that at least eight governments — including Germany, Japan, Australia, Canada and the United States — have in private raised concerns with Chinese officials, saying that detaining Gui and his associates breaches the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been governed since its return to China."
French privacy regulator cracks down on Facebook's use of personal data; Reuters via Guardian, 2/8/16
Reuters via Guardian; French privacy regulator cracks down on Facebook's use of personal data:
"The French data protection authority on Monday gave Facebook three months to stop tracking non-users’ web activity without their consent and ordered the social network to stop some transfers of personal data to the US. The French order is the first significant action to be taken against a company transferring Europeans’ data to the US following an EU court ruling last year that struck down an agreement that had been relied on by thousands of companies, including Facebook, to avoid cumbersome EU data transfer rules."
Monday, February 8, 2016
David B. Agus, New York Times; Give Up Your Data to Cure Disease:
"HOW far would you go to protect your health records? Your privacy matters, of course, but consider this: Mass data can inform medicine like nothing else and save countless lives, including, perhaps, your own. Over the past several years, using some $30 billion in federal stimulus money, doctors and hospitals have been installing electronic health record systems. More than 80 percent of office-based doctors, including me, use some form of E.H.R. These systems are supposed to make things better by giving people easier access to their medical information and avoiding the duplication of tests and potentially fatal errors. Yet neither doctors nor patients are happy. Doctors complain about the time it takes to update digital records, while patients worry about confidentiality. Last month the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons went so far as to warn that E.H.R.s could “crash” the medical system. We need to get over it. These digital databases offer an incredible opportunity to examine trends that will fundamentally change how doctors treat patients. They will help develop cures, discover new uses for drugs and better track the spread of scary new illnesses like the Zika virus."
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Alina Selyukh, NPR; How Limited Internet Access Can Subtract From Kids' Education:
"Researchers from Rutgers University and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop collected dozens of stories like Uribe's for a new study focused specifically on lower-income families with school-age children. They surveyed nearly 1,200 parents with kids between 6 and 13 years old, whose income is below the national median for families with children. They found that even among the poorest households, nine in 10 families do have some access to the Internet, but in many cases that means dial-up or a mobile data plan. "Our data is one of the first, if not the first time that we can really comprehensively look at whether or not having mobile-only access — meaning that you don't have it through a computer or a desktop — whether or not it's equivalent. And what our findings show is that it is not," says co-author Vikki Katz. The study puts in a new light the important progress that smartphones brought to many disconnected households... And digital equity experts say, the most important thing will be changing the way we think about the issue: no longer the question of if there's access, but what's the quality."
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Mitch Smith, New York Times; As Flint Fought to Be Heard, Virginia Tech Team Sounded Alarm:
"But as government officials were ignoring and ridiculing residents’ concerns about the safety of their tap water, a small circle of people was setting off alarms. Among them was the team from Virginia Tech. The team began looking into Flint’s water after its professor, Marc Edwards, spoke with LeeAnne Walters, a resident whose tap water contained alarming amounts of lead. Dr. Edwards, who years earlier had helped expose lead contamination in Washington, D.C., had his students send testing kits to homes in Flint to find out if the problem was widespread. Lead exposure can lead to health and developmental problems, particularly in children, and its toxic effects can be irreversible. Their persistence helped force officials to acknowledge the crisis and prompted warnings to residents to not drink or cook with tap water. Officials are now scrambling to find a more permanent solution to the problem than trucking in thousands of plastic jugs, and are turning to Virginia Tech for advice. The scientists “became the only people that citizens here trust, and it’s still that way,” said Melissa Mays, a Flint resident who has protested the water quality."
Madasyn Czebiniak and Anya Sostek, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Humane Society boss resigns after petition demands her removal:
"The head of the Western PA Humane Society has resigned, days after she was put on administrative leave. Joy Braunstein had been under pressure after an online petition demanded her removal was circulated. Statement from Joy Braunstein: In a statement this afternoon, Ms. Braunstein said: “Given the present circumstances, I have made a personal choice to step away from The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and resign my position effective immediately out of respect for my family and out of respect for the organization. I wish the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society well and will continue to be a supporter of the organization. At this time, I have not decided what I plan to do next professionally. Before I do, I plan to take some time with my family. I want to thank the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society for my time there and everyone else for their concern, but I have no further comment.” Former employees estimate that in Ms. Braunstein’s 13-month tenure as executive director of the Western PA Humane Society, more than a third of the roughly 60-member staff was either fired or quit."
David Brooks, New York Times; A Question of Moral Radicalism:
"There’s a philosophy question: If you were confronted with the choice between rescuing your mother from drowning or two strangers, who should you rescue? With utilitarian logic, the rational saint would rescue the two strangers because saving two lives is better than saving one. Their altruism is impartial, universal and self-denying. “The evil in this world is the creation of those who make a distinction between the self and other,” one man MacFarquhar writes about says. Others Wolf calls loving saints. They are good with others’ goodness, suffering in others’ pain. They are the ones holding the leper, talking to the potential suicide hour upon hour. Their service is radically personal, direct and not always pleasant. This sort of radical selflessness forces us to confront our own lives. Should we all be living lives with as much moral heroism as these people? Given the suffering in the world, are we called to drop everything and give it our all? Did you really need that $4 Frappuccino when that money could have gone to the poor?"
New York Times; Sexual Harassment in the Sciences: Readers React on Social Media:
"On Tuesday, Amy Harmon reported that a prominent professor at the University of Chicago had stepped down in response to accusations of sexual harassment. The article ignited a heated discussion on Twitter, with some readers sharing their experiences of harassment in the science field. The professor, Jason Lieb, a molecular biologist, made unwelcome sexual advances to several female graduate students at an off-campus retreat of the molecular biosciences division, according to a university investigation letter obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Lieb, 43, also engaged in sexual activity with a student who was “incapacitated due to alcohol and therefore could not consent.” The article highlighted an increasingly tense debate over how universities deal with harassment claims in their science departments. Students and faculty members at the University of Chicago blamed the school, saying it overlooked previous accusations against Mr. Lieb when he worked at the University of North Carolina, and did not find out why he resigned abruptly from Princeton University after just seven months. Below is a selection of the responses to the article on Twitter."
Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Richard Perez-Pena, New York Times; Wildly Popular App Kik Offers Teenagers, and Predators, Anonymity:
"...experts in Internet crime caution that the app is just one of many digital platforms abused by all manner of criminals, from small-time drug dealers to terrorists. But law enforcement officials say Kik — used by 40 percent of American teenagers, by the company’s own estimate — goes further than most widely used apps in shielding its users from view, often making it hard for investigators to know who is using it, or how. (Yik Yak is another popular app under fire for its use of anonymous messages.)... Founded in 2009 and based in Canada, Kik aspires to become the Western version of WeChat, the hugely successful messaging service in China that offers free texting, e-commerce and content delivery. Its main appeal is privacy and anonymity: The app is free, and allows people to find strangers and communicate with them anonymously, through a user name."
Friday, February 5, 2016
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.net; Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning:
"Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. O'Neill recounts an exercise to improve service to homeless families in New York City, in which data-analysis was used to identify risk-factors for long-term homelessness. The problem, O'Neill describes, was that many of the factors in the existing data on homelessness were entangled with things like race (and its proxies, like ZIP codes, which map extensively to race in heavily segregated cities like New York). Using data that reflects racism in the system to train a machine-learning algorithm whose conclusions can't be readily understood runs the risk of embedding that racism in a new set of policies, these ones scrubbed clean of the appearance of bias with the application of objective-seeming mathematics. We talk a lot about algorithms in the context of Big Data but the algorithms themselves are well-understood and pretty universal -- they're the same ones that are used in mass-surveillance and serving ads. But the training data is subject to the same problems experienced by all sciences when they try to get a good, random sampling to use in their analysis. Just like bad sampling can blow up a medical trial or a psych experiment, it can also confound big data. Rather than calling for algorithmic transparency, we need to call for data transparency, methodological transparency, and sampling transparency."
Twitter says it’s shut down more than 125,000 accounts promoting ISIS since mid-2015; Washington Post, 2/5/16
Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post; Twitter says it’s shut down more than 125,000 accounts promoting ISIS since mid-2015:
"Twitter has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for promoting terrorism related to ISIS since the middle of 2015, the social media firm announced Friday. The news comes as Obama administration officials have appealed to tech companies such as Twitter to help counter violent extremism online. The company has also been under pressure from groups that track jihadi activity on the Internet to do more to remove ISIS propaganda from its platforms."
KJ Dell'Antonia, New York Times; When a Public Family Is Publicly Attacked:
"While Ms. Howerton and her supporters report Twitter accounts for abuse, she is also asking YouTube to take down the video commentary that makes use of her video and other family images. She has filed a privacy complaint, which YouTube rejected, and is waiting for it to respond to her new complaint, alleging copyright violation. Neil Richards, a law professor at Washington University and author of “Intellectual Privacy: Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age,” said he thinks Ms. Howerton’s belief that she can regain control of the footage may be overly optimistic. “The use of home video and family images for political debate is something that has real consequences,” he said. “She has made her life choices, her experiences, her children’ experiences, a matter for public debate. When people do this they do expose themselves to criticism and attacks and some of them are quite unpleasant.” Eric Goldman, a professor of law and director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, agreed that because Ms. Howerton herself used family video as part of a political discussion, she may have little legal recourse when that video is used as part of a larger video engaged in social commentary on the same topic. In many situations, videos or pictures posted online can become “fair game” for critics to use in online attacks against the poster’s position or for other undesirable political or social statements, Mr. Goldman said in an email."
Jackie Calmes, New York Times; Senator Rob Portman to Oppose Pacific Trade Pact:
"In a clear sign of the trouble facing President Obama’s trade pact with Pacific Rim nations, one of the most influential congressional Republicans on trade issues announced on Thursday that he would oppose it unless significant changes were made. The lawmaker, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who was a trade ambassador under President George W. Bush, objects to the accord’s provisions on currency manipulation, auto parts and pharmaceutical industry protections. Lawmakers in both parties have raised the same issues, but Mr. Portman’s authority on trade is certain to carry extra weight with colleagues... The separate objection of many Republicans, that the pact weakens patent protections for pharmaceutical companies to make drugs more affordable and accessible globally, has been led by Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Senate committee responsible for trade, a longtime proponent of the drug industry... Only Malaysia has ratified it so far."
Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; State police investigating suspected cheating at its academy:
"The head of the Pennsylvania State Police says that the agency is investigating suspected cheating at its academy, and that anyone found to have cheated would “face swift and certain discipline.” State Police Commissioner Tyree Blocker said in a statement Thursday that at the end of December, internal affairs at the state police initiated “a full and comprehensive investigation” into the suspected cheating... Allegations that as many as 40 cadets from the 144th class, scheduled to graduate in March, may have cheated on tests were first reported by ABC27 News in Harrisburg."
Alex Koma, FedScoop.com; Cops will adapt big data platform to secure Super Bowl:
"Law enforcement agents and first responders in Northern California are turning to some software that harnesses the power of data to help keep fans safe at the Super Bowl, one of the most daunting security challenges of the year. The state first started using the program last year — known as the “California Common Operating Picture” and powered by Haystax Technology’s “Constellation” analytics platform — and now law enforcement agencies of all shapes and sizes are preparing to use it to collect thousands of pieces of data about potential threats ahead of the big matchup in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. In a briefing here at Haystax’s headquarters, Chief Technology Officer Bryan Ware laid out just how federal, state and local agents across the region have been using the system to keep a close eye on potential trouble makers and targets ahead of the Super Bowl, and how 13 different monitoring centers run by various government agencies will use it the night of the game to stay ahead of any security concerns."
Madasyn Czebiniak, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Humane Society boss on leave says she is victim of smear campaign:
"The allegation in the change.org petition that has drawn by far the most attention concerns Ms. Braunstein’s decision to purchase the collie for her family, reportedly for $1,000. It’s an allegation that is, on its face, “bizarre,” said George Loewenstein, Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, speaking just as an observer. “Ridiculous conflicts are not generally about the conflict itself, but an internal power struggle,” he said. “When people are really beloved, it’s unbelievable the things they can do and get away with, but if there are people who don’t like them, then any misstep will bring them down.” From an ethical perspective, what Ms. Braunstein does in her private life shouldn’t matter, he said. “Should the director of an adoption agency not have biological children? Should an indie filmmaker not go to Hollywood movies? It’s absurd to hold people up to such a rigid standard of behavior.” But for some observers in the field of animal rescue, Ms. Braunstein’s advocacy position means that even her private actions send a message."
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Sarah Jeong, Motherboard; If China Ever Uses Copyright to Censor Tank Man, It Will Be America’s Fault:
"Imagine a future where news agencies, historical archives, academic resources, and humanitarian organizations across the world all receive the same US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice, sent by a Chinese firm: Take down the Tank Man photo, or be sued for copyright infringement. There is perhaps no better-known image associated with the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre: an unknown man in a white shirt and black trousers, grasping a bag in one hand, stands in front of a line of tanks, halting their progress. Tank Man is a subversive image for the Chinese government, and for internet users in that the country, the photo—like many other references to the 1989 protests—has been censored by the authorities. It would be insanity if copyright were used to expand that censorship beyond China’s borders, but thanks to the United States copyright lobby, this absurd hypothetical is a little more realistic than you’d expect. There’s more than one photograph of Tank Man, but for such a long, momentous stand-off, the photographs are surprisingly few. At least one of these photographs now belongs to Visual China Group, which purchased it from none other than Bill Gates himself, included inside of a massive bundle of copyrights to “historic news, documentary, and artistic images” that includes images of the Tiananmen Square protests. Visual China Group has announced a partnership with Getty to license the images, so censorship doesn’t look like it’s in the cards."
Ben Quinn, Guardian; Google to point extremist searches towards anti-radicalisation websites:
"Users of Google who put extremist-related entries into the search engine are to be shown anti-radicalisation links under a pilot programme, MPs have been told by an executive for the company. The initiative, aimed at countering the online influence of groups such as Islamic State, is running alongside another pilot scheme designed to make counter-radicalisation videos easier to find. The schemes were mentioned by Anthony House, senior manager for public policy and communications at Google, who was appearing alongside counterparts from Twitter and Facebook at a home affairs select committee hearing on countering extremism. “We should get the bad stuff down, but it’s also extremely important that people are able to find good information, that when people are feeling isolated, that when they go online, they find a community of hope, not a community of harm,” he said."
Julia Carrie Wong, Guardian; The Intercept admits reporter fabricated stories and quotes:
"Digital magazine The Intercept has fired reporter Juan Thompson after discovering “a pattern of deception” in his reporting. In a note to readers, editor-in-chief Betsy Reed revealed that Thompson had fabricated quotes in several stories and created email accounts in order to impersonate people. “Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods,” Reed wrote. Following an investigation into Thompson’s reporting, the publication is retracting one story in its entirety and appending corrections to four others. Among the inconsistencies The Intercept discovered were quotes “attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed” and quotes that could not be verified."
Amy Harmon, New York Times; Chicago Professor Resigns Amid Sexual Misconduct Investigation:
"Both the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology have fielded criticism recently for failing to publicly acknowledge their own conclusions that a prominent male scientist on each faculty had harassed female students until the details were uncovered by news media. A third case was reportedly unearthed only because of a bureaucratic error at the University of Arizona. “Although institutions proclaim that they have zero tolerance for abuse of the policies that they claim to enforce, too often their primary concern seems to be secrecy and reputation management,” the science journal Nature wrote in a Jan. 20 editorial headlined “Harassment Victims Deserve Better.” At Chicago, students praised the university for swift and decisive action. But some students and faculty members also raised pointed questions about whether the university had placed female graduate students at risk by hiring Dr. Lieb, who brought scientific cachet and a record of winning lucrative grants to a department that had recently lost two of its stars to other institutions. He was put on staff despite potential warning signs. Before he was hired, molecular biologists on the University of Chicago faculty and at other academic institutions received emails from an anonymous address stating that Dr. Lieb had faced allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct at previous jobs at Princeton and the University of North Carolina."
Mona Eltahawy, New York Times; My Secret Policeman:
"I joke with friends that a phone call is a promotion of sorts. From the start of my journalism career in Egypt in the early 1990s, I joined the many journalists and activists who are surveilled by the government. Sometimes, a state security officer would send a note inviting me to tea — what a perfect euphemism for an interrogation — at headquarters... I often wonder if Omar Sharif made the transition from one to the other. And I worry what he and his colleagues are doing with the Egyptian government’s increasing ability to trawl data from applications like Skype, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with the help of See Egypt, the sister company of the American-based cybersecurity firm Blue Coat. National Security is also busy rounding people up. Four members of the April 6 Youth Movement’s political bureau were recently taken from their homes in middle-of-the night raids. The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also targeted Facebook group administrators, a publishing house and an art gallery in a crackdown ahead of last month’s anniversary of the 2011 revolution."
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Mark Scott, New York Times; U.S. and Europe in ‘Safe Harbor’ Data Deal, but Legal Fight May Await:
"European officials on Tuesday agreed to a deal with the United States that would let Google, Amazon and thousands of other businesses continue moving people’s digital data, including social media posts and financial information, back and forth across the Atlantic.With billions of dollars of business potentially at stake, the data-transfer deal was the result of more than three months of often tense negotiations between United States and European Union policy makers, who have clashed over what level of privacy individuals can expect when companies and government agencies follow ever-expanding digital footprints. Part of the challenge is balancing individuals’ privacy concerns with national security obligations, particularly in light of mounting fears about international terrorism. The agreement announced on Tuesday aims to address those privacy concerns and strike that balance by including written guarantees by the United States — to be reviewed annually — that American intelligence agencies would not have indiscriminate access to Europeans’ digital data when it is sent across the Atlantic. Whether that provision will reassure privacy-rights groups remains to be seen."
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times; Menacing Video Posted by Chechen Leader Alarms Critics of Putin in Russia:
"Members of Russia’s political opposition reacted with fear and outrage on Monday after one of President Vladimir V. Putin’s most loyal and aggressive allies posted a menacing video online that appeared to show a Kremlin critic in the cross hairs of a sniper’s rifle. The video, posted to the Instagram account of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, shows Mikhail M. Kasyanov, a former prime minister of Russia turned Putin critic, on a visit to Strasbourg, France, with another opposition politician, Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kadyrov, a former Islamist rebel, has repeatedly criticized opposition figures as traitors trying to undermine Russia for the benefit of their Western masters, and has called for the use of Soviet-era tactics against “enemies of the people,” who he has said should be put on trial or committed to psychiatric wards... The video, posted on Sunday, received more than 17,500 likes in 24 hours before it was removed on Monday. Mr. Kadyrov seemed to accuse Instagram of censoring him because of his anti-American views. “As soon as I said a few words about the U.S. hellhounds, they have deleted my post on Instagram,” he wrote, referring to Mr. Kasyanov and Mr. Kara-Murza. “Here you have it, the celebrated American freedom of speech!” A spokeswoman for the social network said in an email that the post was removed because it violated Instagram’s guidelines against threats or harassment."