Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Judge: Annotations to Georgia Law Are Protected by Copyright; Associated Press via U.S. News & World Report, March 28, 2017

Kate Brumback, Associated Press via U.S. News & World Report; 

Judge: Annotations to Georgia Law Are Protected by Copyright

"A federal judge has ruled that annotations to Georgia's legal code can be copyrighted and that a nonprofit organization's copying and distribution of them isn't protected by fair use laws.

The state in July 2015 sued Public.Resource.Org Inc. in federal court in Atlanta. The nonprofit is run by Carl Malamud, an internet public domain advocate who argues for free access to legally obtained files."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Who Oversees The President's Ethics? Here's Our List; NPR, March 27, 2017

Alina Selyukh, Lucia Maffei, NPR; 

Who Oversees The President's Ethics? Here's Our List

"As NPR and other media outlets continue to cover these concerns and conflicts of interest, a question frequently arises: Who oversees the ethics of the president and other high-ranking officials? Who has the power to investigate or enforce ethics rules and laws?

The answer can be as entangled as the government bureaucracies involved. Of course, the media, whistleblowers and the courts are key elements of the accountability ecosystem. A number of agencies or government bodies also have a hand in holding presidents and appointees accountable on ethics and conflicts of interest. But a few play an outsize role — though only some of them have direct purview over the activities of the president.

Below is a reference sheet."

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations; Guardian, March 28, 2017

Victoria Hermann, Guardian; 

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

"The consequences of vanishing citations, however, pose a far more serious consequence than website updates. Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.

We’ve seen this type of data strangling before.

Just three years ago, Arctic researchers witnessed another world leader remove thousands of scientific documents from the public domain. In 2014, then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper closed 11 department of fisheries and oceans regional libraries, including the only Arctic center. Hundreds of reports and studies containing well over a century of research were destroyed in that process – a historic loss from which we still have not recovered. 

These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs. 

In a remote region where data is already scarce, we need publicly available government guidance and records now more than ever before. It is hard enough for modern Arctic researchers to perform experiments and collect data to fill the gaps left by historic scientific expeditions. While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice."

Uber Needs To Do Better When It Comes To Diversity; Huffington Post, March 28, 2017

Ryan Grenoble, Huffington Post; 

Uber Needs To Do Better When It Comes To Diversity

"After years of keeping its diversity data hidden away, Uber released its first diversity report Tuesday, under the direction of its new Chief Human Resources Officer Liane Hornsey.

The report revealed that Uber employees are mostly white and mostly male, especially at the more senior levels of the company. A full 78 percent of Uber’s workers at the director level or above are men, and 76.7 percent of the company leadership is white.

Tuesday’s disclosure is part of a concerted PR effort to right the ship at the company after a series of scandals. Uber has faced allegations of rampant sexual harassment from former employees; a high-profile lawsuit that contends Uber stole trade secrets from a Google-founded competitor; numerous high-profile departures; and a video showing CEO Travis Kalanick telling off a driver.

“​This report is a first step in showing that diversity and inclusion is a priority at Uber,” Kalanick said in a statement. “I know that we have been too slow in publishing our numbers — and that the best way to demonstrate our commitment to change is through transparency.”"

Republicans are poised to roll back landmark FCC privacy rules. Here’s what you need to know.; Washington Post, March 28, 2017

Brian Fung, Washington Post; Republicans are poised to roll back landmark FCC privacy rules. Here’s what you need to know.

"What is the House voting on, exactly?

Technically known as “a joint resolution of congressional disapproval,” what the House is voting on is a measure that would repeal what policy experts refer to as simply the FCC's broadband privacy rules. If successful, the vote would send the measure to the Oval Office."

‘I’m not afraid’: The president of tiny Estonia gives a giant lesson in leadership; Washington Post, March 28, 2017

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post; ‘I’m not afraid’: The president of tiny Estonia gives a giant lesson in leadership

"“No, I’m not afraid. … I trust NATO.”...

Kaljulaid is the first woman and youngest person to ever be elected president of Estonia. What makes her ascension even more remarkable is that she is in a job she did not initially seek. Kaljulaid was in her 12th year on the European Court of Auditors when the Estonian Parliament, which elects the head of state, turned to her as a compromise candidate in October...

And during the Brussels Forum, the president of the young, free country rose up to deride the consumerism that defines democracy today. “Too many people in the world associate democracy with their ability to go and buy more and more every year,” Kaljulaid said. “I come from a country where it’s much more popular to remind people that democracy is available at every income level and this is something which you need to protect … The freedom of speech. The freedom of thinking. The freedom of coming and going.”

Monday, March 27, 2017

"Counting on Nobody "Fact-Checking" It"; Blondie, March 27, 2017

Blondie; "Counting on Nobody "Fact-Checking" It"

Scott Pelley is pulling no punches on the nightly news — and people are taking notice; Washington Post, March 26, 2017

Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post; Scott Pelley is pulling no punches on the nightly news — and people are taking notice

"Pelley, and others at CBS, declined to comment for this column, saying the work speaks for itself. There is clearly every wish to avoid setting up CBS as anti-Trump or as partisan.

But, accepting Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite Award last November, Pelley tipped his hand: “The quickest, most direct way to ruin a democracy is to poison the information.”"

The Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate; New York Times, March 24, 2017

Paul Krugman, New York Times; The Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate

"There’s an important lesson here, and it’s not just about health care or Mr. Ryan; it’s about the destructive effects of false symmetry in reporting at a time of vast asymmetry in reality.

This false symmetry — downplaying the awfulness of some candidates, vastly exaggerating the flaws of their opponents — isn’t the only reason America is in the mess it’s in. But it’s an important part of the story. And now we’re all about to pay the price."

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Push for Internet Privacy Rules Moves to Statehouses; New York Times, March 26, 2017

Conor Dougherty, New York Times; Push for Internet Privacy Rules Moves to Statehouses

"Last year, Nebraska and West Virginia passed laws that limit how companies can monitor employees’ social media accounts, while legislators in Hawaii, Missouri and elsewhere are pushing similar bills for employees, as well as for students and tenants.

“More and more, states have taken the position that, if Congress is not willing or able to enact strong privacy laws, their legislatures will no longer sit on their hands,” said Chad Marlow, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Online privacy is the rare issue that draws together legislators from the left and the far right. At the state level, anyway, some of the progress has come from a marriage between progressive Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans, who see privacy as a bedrock principle, Mr. Marlow said."

Don’t Discriminate Against Mutants Like Me; New York Times, March 23, 2017

Louise Aronson, New York Times; Don’t Discriminate Against Mutants Like Me

"Bottom line? If Congress passes this law, it will be opening the door to state-sanctioned health discrimination. And if employers can get and act upon workers’ private health information, everyone will be in trouble, not just mutants like me. The overweight, pregnant, diabetics, people with high blood pressure or poor exercise habits — all could potentially be penalized."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Leadership through ethics; Arab News, March 25, 2017

Khalid Abdulla-Janah, Arab News; 

Leadership through ethics

"The fact is that leadership by example is the only model that can deliver real, meaningful and sustainable results — as demonstrated many times over through history and across regions, religions and ideologies.

You can call for greater transparency, but if you are not yourself transparent, the call will not succeed. You can demand ethics, but if you are not yourself ethical, the demand will not succeed. You can initiate reform, but if you are not prepared yourself to reform, all other forms of reform will not succeed. There is a clear and obvious pattern here: You simply cannot succeed in trying to enforce two sets of moral standards. Not in this age.

To have any chance at all of success, we must practice what we preach. This is as true for those put in political leadership positions as it is for those put in all other types of leadership positions, including the business, theological and intellectual elite."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Senate votes to kill privacy rules meant to protect people's sensitive data from their Internet providers; Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2017

Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times; Senate votes to kill privacy rules meant to protect people's sensitive data from their Internet providers

"The rules, which have not yet gone into effect, require AT&T Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and other broadband providers to get customer permission before using or sharing sensitive personal data, such as Web browsing or app usage history and the geographic trail of mobile devices.

Companies use consumer data to target advertising. Privacy advocates worry that Internet service providers are assembling detailed dossiers on their customers without their consent...
Republicans and broadband companies opposed the rules because they imposed tougher restrictions on high-speed Internet providers than on websites and social networks, which also collect and use such data."

Ivanka Trump’s West Wing job isn’t just unethical. It’s also dangerous.; Washington Post, March 23, 2017

Helen Klein Murillo and Susan HennesseyWashington Post; Ivanka Trump’s West Wing job isn’t just unethical. It’s also dangerous.

"The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is set to join his administration in an unspecified, but reportedly influential policy role. She claims she will not be a government employee despite having an office in the White House, holding a high-level security clearance and performing government work.

In a statement, Ivanka Trump concedes that there is “no modern precedent for an adult child of the president” but pledges to “voluntarily” comply with ethics rules. What the first daughter fails to acknowledge is that the very nature of her proposed role breaches ethical standards to which previous administrations have adhered for generations. That ethical breach does more than “shake up Washington” by breaking with norms and decorum — it threatens our national security."

Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn didn’t sign ethics pledge; PBS NewsHour via Associated Press, March 22, 2017

Stephen Braun and Chad Day, PBS NewsHour via Associated Press; 

Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn didn’t sign ethics pledge

"President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn did not sign a mandatory ethics pledge ahead of his forced resignation in February, raising questions about the White House’s commitment to the lobbying and ethics rules it imposed as part of the president’s promise to “drain the swamp.”

Flynn “didn’t have the opportunity to sign it,” said Price Floyd, a spokesman for the retired Army general. “But he is going to abide by the pledge” and has not engaged in any lobbying work since leaving the White House that would have violated the pledge, Floyd said."

A Scholarly Sting Operation Shines a Light on ‘Predatory’ Journals; New York Times, March 22, 2017

Gina Kolata, New York Times; 

A Scholarly Sting Operation Shines a Light on ‘Predatory’ Journals

"The open-access business model spawned a shadowy world of what have been called predatory journals. They may have similar names to legitimate journals, but exist by publishing just about anything sent to them for a fee that can range from under $100 to thousands of dollars."

Monday, March 20, 2017

San people of Africa draft code of ethics for researchers; Science, March 17, 2017

Linda Nordling, Science; 

San people of Africa draft code of ethics for researchers

"Earlier this month the group unveiled a code of ethics for researchers wishing to study their culture, genes, or heritage.
The code, published here on 3 March, asks researchers to treat the San respectfully and refrain from publishing information that could be viewed as insulting. Because such sensitivities may not be clear to researchers, the code asks that scientists let communities read and comment on findings before they are published. It also asks that researchers keep their promises and give something back to the community in return for its cooperation...
The code does not place unrealistic demands on scientists, says Himla Soodyall, director of the Human Genomic Diversity and Disease Research Unit at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. But others point out that the code focuses on past transgressions, and doesn’t refer to recent efforts to respect and involve communities, such as guidelines for genomics work on vulnerable populations prepared in 2014 by the Human Heredity and Health in Africa program. As a result, the code may present an overly negative view of researchers and discourage communities from participating in studies, says Charles Rotimi, founding director of the National Institutes of Health Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health in Bethesda, Maryland."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so’; Guardian, March 19, 2017

Andrew Anthony, Guardian; 

Yuval Noah Harari: ‘Homo sapiens as we know them will disappear in a century or so’

"Is being compassionate and empathetic a major flaw in human evolution? Is psychopathy the future for our species?
Dominic Currie, reader

No, I don’t think so. First of all, if it is, then it’s going to be quite a terrible future. But even if we leave aside the moral aspect and just look at it from a practical aspect, then human power comes from cooperation, and psychopaths are not very good at cooperation. You need empathy and compassion, you need the ability to understand and to sympathise with other people in order to cooperate with them effectively. So even if we leave aside all moral issues, still I don’t think that empathy is bad for us or that psychopaths are the future of humankind."

One Way To Force Down Drug Prices: Have The U.S. Exercise Its Patent Rights; NPR, March 16, 2017

Alison Kodjak, NPR; 

One Way To Force Down Drug Prices: Have The U.S. Exercise Its Patent Rights

"...Trump already has a weapon he could deploy to cut the prices of at least some expensive medications.

That weapon is called "march-in rights."...

...[L]ower prices could also make drug companies less eager to invest lots of money in new medications.

That's the trade-off the government has always had to wrestle with. But it's one Trump could very well decide is worthwhile.

"Perhaps we as a country would rather have lower drug prices and a little less innovation," [Sara Fisher] Ellison [an economist at MIT] said."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

‘Marketplace’ host David Brancaccio to give lecture on ethics and technology; Portland Press Herald, March 15, 2017

Portland Press Herald; 

‘Marketplace’ host David Brancaccio to give lecture on ethics and technology

"David Brancaccio, host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report” and a former resident of Waterville, will be the featured speaker at the University of New England’s Paul D. Merrill Business Ethics Lecture...

Brancaccio’s lecture, titled “From Self-Driving Cars to Self-Driving Business Ethics,” will explore the implications for human decisions when ethical rules are woven into artificial intelligence and other new technology, according to a release from the university. He is expected to discuss the current ethics environment and how building ethical decision-making into advanced machines could spark new approaches to ethics in business and beyond.

“Given current debates about conflicts of interest in Washington, you might think we are not living in a golden age for ethics,” Brancaccio said in the release. “Yet right now there is a flourishing of ethics as it applies to machines, from self-driving cars to medical equipment and robots that must be taught to make ethical decisions. I believe that thinking about ethical behavior in machines can also raise standards for human ethics, in business and beyond.”"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Blind Theatergoer's 'Hamilton' Lawsuit Aims Spotlight On Broadway Accessibility; NPR, March 14, 2017

Jeff Lunden, NPR; 

A Blind Theatergoer's 'Hamilton' Lawsuit Aims Spotlight On Broadway Accessibility

""I think what this suit brings to light is that you have a hidden population out there that is not gaining the full access to Broadway," says attorney Scott Dinin, who is representing Lasser in the class-action suit against the show's producers and theater owner...

"Certainly once a show sets up a sustained run — and when we look at musicals that run five, 10, 15, 20 years — it really is a very small price to pay for opening up a show to a much, much wider audience," Sherman says.

That's really what Dinin, Lasser's attorney, is trying to say with this legal action. He is not seeking damages for his client — he can't, under the terms of the ADA. He is trying to make sure that theater becomes more inclusive, by spotlighting the problem, using Broadway's biggest hit.

"Audio description is so necessary," Dinin says. "It's the right thing to do. It's not that expensive. And it's just a thinking process. It's a mindset. We have to get a mindset: How do we increase inclusion? It should be top-of-mind. Equality, accommodation and respect. Because once people put that at the decision-making table, all the services will flow from that.""

How to make sure the Kremlin remembers Boris Nemtsov; Washington Post, March 15, 2017

Vladimir V. Kara-Murza, Washington Post; How to make sure the Kremlin remembers Boris Nemtsov

"Nemtsov did not become president. But for many people in my country, he became the symbol of a different Russia — more democratic, more hopeful, more European, one at peace with itself and with its neighbors.

The renaming of diplomatic addresses has a precedent that was also set by Congress and that was also connected with Russia. In 1984, an amendment to the D.C. appropriations bill offered by Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato (R-N.Y.) changed the address of the then-Soviet Embassy on 16th Street NW to 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza, in honor of the Russian dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was being kept in internal exile in Gorky (the Soviet-era name for Nizhny Novgorod). Few could have thought then that less than a decade later, Russian diplomats would display a bust of Sakharov in the embassy itself.

There will come a day when Russia takes pride in having Boris Nemtsov’s name on its embassy letterhead. It will also be grateful to those who, in difficult times, did not allow it to forget."

Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use; NPR, March 14, 2017

Camila Domonoske, NPR; 

Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use

"The makers of the We-Vibe, a line of vibrators that can be paired with an app for remote-controlled use, have reached a $3.75 million class action settlement with users following allegations that the company was collecting data on when and how the sex toy was used...

The lawyers for the anonymous plaintiffs contended that the app, "incredibly," collected users' email addresses, allowing the company "to link the usage information to specific customer accounts."...

Standard Innovation also agreed to stop collecting users' email addresses and to update its privacy notice to be clearer about how data is collected."

Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Document; New York Times, March 14, 2017

Danny Hakim, New York Times; 

Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Document

"In one email unsealed Tuesday, William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, told other company officials that they could ghostwrite research on glyphosate by hiring academics to put their names on papers that were actually written by Monsanto. “We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” Mr. Heydens wrote, citing a previous instance in which he said the company had done this.

Asked about the exchange, Monsanto said in a second statement that its “scientists did not ghostwrite the paper” that was referred to or previous work, adding that a paper that eventually appeared “underwent the journal’s rigorous peer review process before it was published.”

David Kirkland, one of the scientists mentioned in the email, said in an interview, “I would not publish a document that had been written by someone else.” He added, “We had no interaction with Monsanto at all during the process of reviewing the data and writing the papers.”

The disclosures are the latest to raise concerns about the integrity of academic research financed by agrochemical companies. Last year, a review by The New York Times showed how the industry can manipulate academic research or misstate findings."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Workplace Genetic Testing Isn’t Just Unethical, It’s Scientifically Unsound; Huffington Post, March 14, 2017

Erin Schumaker, Huffington Post; 

Workplace Genetic Testing Isn’t Just Unethical, It’s Scientifically Unsound

"The dangers of inaccurate genetic testing

Genetics is based on probabilities, not certainties. So, although a test may find that you have an increased risk of breast cancer, to use one example, that does not mean you are certain to get the disease. 
“It may push people into seeking out untested treatments or treatments that they really don’t need because they come from a low-risk family,” Ross said. “It’s not good medical practice.”"

Monday, March 13, 2017

High Above, Drones Keep Watchful Eyes on Wildlife in Africa; New York Times, March 13, 2017

Rachel Nuwer, New York Times; 

High Above, Drones Keep Watchful Eyes on Wildlife in Africa

"Perhaps the biggest challenge is that conservationists do not know how to most effectively put anti-poaching drones to use, because there have been no rigorous long-term evaluations.

South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research conducted a two-month trial with U.D.S. and concluded that the technology is “a remarkable support tool,” but officials have yet to release the data supporting those findings.

Most evidence supporting drones is anecdotal: Mr. Coetzee said he has seen a significant reduction in park incursions when and where drones fly, but added that other factors could have been at play. Drones may deter trespassers, he said, but they may simply go elsewhere in the reserve.

W.W.F. plans to tease out the answers to these questions by evaluating the drones’ effectiveness against poachers here in Liwonde."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

That Health Tracker Could Cost You; Bloomberg, February 23, 2017

Cathy O'Neil, Bloomberg; 

That Health Tracker Could Cost You

"Say, for example, left-handed people with vegetarian diets prove more likely to require expensive medical treatments. Insurance companies might then start charging higher premiums to people with similar profiles -- that is, to those the algorithm has tagged as potentially costly. Granted, the Affordable Care Act currently prohibits such discrimination. But that could change if Donald Trump fulfills his promise to repeal the law.

Think about what that means for insurance...

If we're not careful, pretty soon it’ll be almost like there's no insurance at all."

Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill; Washington Post, March 11, 2017

Lena H. Sun, Washington Post; Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill

"Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law.

In general, employers don't have that power under existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around those obstacles if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

China defends its Trump trademark approvals as in line with law; Reuters, March 10, 2017

Reuters/Jason Lee; 

China defends its Trump trademark approvals as in line with law

"China's trademark office in recent weeks green-lighted 38 trademark applications linked to Trump, giving the U.S. president and his family protection were they to develop the "Trump" brand in the market.

The ties between politics and business have, however, prompted concern from politicians and rights groups who say the president could face potential conflicts of interest related to the extensive business affairs of his family...

Trump and his family, like many business owners, hold trademarks around the world, from business sectors such as apparel in the Philippines to golf clubs in Australia and property in Japan and South Korea."

Cop Who Tried To Keep Driver From Filming Reignites Debate Over Police Privacy; Huffington Post, March 11, 2017

Andy Campbell, Huffington Post; 

Cop Who Tried To Keep Driver From Filming Reignites Debate Over Police Privacy

"Critics are wary of any legislation that blocks access to public documents. But those laws are often grounded in legitimate concerns for officers, Burke said. He noted that officers sometimes face threats of violence and property damage after a video is released, before and regardless of whether any wrongdoing is established.

The laws are a mess. But the silver lining, as Burke and ACLU officials note and as has been said before, is that there’s a national discourse in the first place and real attempts to make legislation that works for everyone.

“There are always going to be unanswered issues, and nothing should be cut in cement,” Burke said. “But we need to have something in place, and we need to revisit it ... we hold ― and should hold ― police officers to a higher standard, but they’re in the job to enforce the laws, not to be abused.”

Just to reiterate: You can record your interactions with police. While there are no uniform federal rules on recording police specifically and federal appeals courts in some areas of the country haven’t ruled on the matter, you do have the right to film in a public space. In general, that includes filming police, unless you’re actively hindering an investigation."

Friday, March 10, 2017

With the latest WikiLeaks revelations about the CIA – is privacy really dead?

Olivia Solon, Guardian; 

With the latest WikiLeaks revelations about the CIA – is privacy really dead?

"In the week that WikiLeaks revealed the CIA and MI5 have an armoury of surveillance tools that can spy on people through their smart TVs, cars and cellphones, the FBI director, James Comey, has said that Americans should not have expectations of “absolute privacy”.

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America: there is no place outside of judicial reach,” Comey said at a Boston College conference on cybersecurity. The remark came as he was discussing the rise of encryption since Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of the NSA’s mass surveillance tools, used on citizens around the world...
So, where does this leave us? Is privacy really dead, as Silicon Valley luminaries such as Mark Zuckerberg have previously declared?
Not according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s executive director, Cindy Cohn.
“The freedom to have a private conversation – free from the worry that a hostile government, a rogue government agent or a competitor or a criminal are listening – is central to a free society,” she said."

Should an artificial intelligence be allowed to get a patent?; Robohub, March 9, 2017

Ronald Yu, Robohub; 

Should an artificial intelligence be allowed to get a patent?

"Returning to the original question about patent rights for an A.I., perhaps the question we should ask is not whether an A.I. should be able to get a patent, but whether an A.I., given current technology, can create a patentable invention in the first place and if the answer to that question is ‘no’, then the question of granting patent rights to an A.I. is moot."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trump’s actions raise fears about access to government data; The Spokesman-Review, March 8, 2017

Stuart Leavenworth and Adam Ashton, The Spokesman-ReviewTrump’s actions raise fears about access to government data

"Wondering who is visiting the White House? The web-based search has gone dark. Curious about climate change? Some government sites have been softened or taken down. Worried about racial discrimination in housing? Laws have been introduced to bar federal mapping of such disparities. Federal rules protecting whistleblowers? At least one has been put on hold.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has made a series of moves that have alarmed groups with a stake in public access to information – historians, librarians, journalists, climate scientists, internet activists, to name a few. Some are so concerned they have thrown themselves into “data rescue” sessions nationwide, where they spend their weekends downloading and archiving federal databases they fear could soon be taken down or obscured...

“What is unprecedented is the scale of networking and connectivity of groups working on this, and the degree it is being driven by librarians and scientists and professors,” said Alex Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group that tracks transparency in government."

Open-data contest unearths scientific gems — and controversy; Nature, March 8, 2017

Heidi Ledford, Nature; 

Open-data contest unearths scientific gems — and controversy

"Now one-third of the 60 papers that Wright's team had planned to publish are in jeopardy of being scooped. “I think the incentives to do these trials will be dramatically lessened if this is going to be the expectation going forward,” he says. “It's a huge time commitment.”

But others favour making data from trials publicly available as soon as possible. Doing so, they argue, opens up the possibility of a wide range of additional analysis, and speeds up analyses that can yield important clinical insights. “Clinical trial data are quite valuable, but usually they're kept locked away,” says Sandosh Padmanabhan, a participant in the competition who researches cardiovascular genomics at the University of Glasgow, UK. “Everybody who does clinical trials needs to open up their data for everybody to use.”"

With WikiLeaks Claims of C.I.A. Hacking, How Vulnerable Is Your Smartphone?; New York Times, March 7, 2017

Steve Lohr and Katie Benner, New York Times; 

With WikiLeaks Claims of C.I.A. Hacking, How Vulnerable Is Your Smartphone?

"If the documents are accurate, did the C.I.A. violate commitments made by President Barack Obama?

In 2010, the Obama administration promised to disclose newly discovered vulnerabilities to companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft. But the WikiLeaks documents indicate that the agency found security flaws, kept them secret and then used them for surveillance and intelligence gathering.

Why is it so hard to keep these cyberweapons under wraps?

Unlike nuclear weapons, which can be guarded and protected, cyberweapons are “just computer programs which can be pirated like any other,” WikiLeaks notes. “Since they are entirely comprised of information they can be copied quickly with no marginal cost.”

There is a growing black market dedicated to trading these weapons, and government agencies from around the world will pay well for their discovery."

FBI's James Comey: 'There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America'; Guardian, March 8, 2017

Julian Borger, Guardian; 

FBI's James Comey: 'There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America'

[Kip Currier: 2,000th post since starting this Ethics Blog in 2010. Very thought-provoking privacy (are we now in a "post-privacy world"?) quote by FBI Director Comey--great fodder for Information Ethics class discussions, as well as around "the dinner table" and workplace water cooler/caffeine dispenser!]

"“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” the FBI director, James Comey, has declared after the disclosure of a range of hacking tools used by the CIA.

Comey was delivering prepared remarks at a cybersecurity conference in Boston, but his assessment has deepened privacy concerns already raised by the details of CIA tools to hack consumer electronics for espionage published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday.

“All of us have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, and in our devices. But it also means with good reason, in court, government, through law enforcement, can invade our private spaces,” Comey said at the conference on Wednesday. “Even our memories aren’t private. Any of us can be compelled to say what we saw … In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any of us to testify in court on those private communications.”"

Public interest groups urge officials to protect net neutrality; The Hill, March 7, 2017

Harper Neidig, The Hill; 

Public interest groups urge officials to protect net neutrality

"A coalition of 171 public interest groups sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission and Senate leaders on Tuesday urging them not to dismantle the net neutrality rules from 2015.

The ACLU, Greenpeace, and Public Knowledge were among the groups signing on to the letter favoring the regulations, which prohibit internet service providers from discriminating against traffic to certain sites.

“Protecting net neutrality is crucial to ensuring that the internet remains a central driver of economic growth and opportunity, job creation, education, free expression, and civic organizing for everyone,” the letter reads.

The message was addressed to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson(D-Fla.)."

WikiLeaks Releases What It Calls CIA Trove Of Cyber-Espionage Documents; NPR, March 7, 2017

Camila Domonoske, NPR; 

WikiLeaks Releases What It Calls CIA Trove Of Cyber-Espionage Documents

"WikiLeaks has released thousands of files that it identifies as CIA documents related to the agency's cyber-espionage tools and programs.

The documents published on Tuesday include instruction manuals, support documents, notes and conversations about, among other things, efforts to exploit vulnerabilities in smartphones and turn smart TVs into listening devices. The tools appear to be designed for use against individual targets, as part of the CIA's mandate to gather foreign intelligence."

No One Should Give In to Cyber Extortion Unless It's a Life or Death Situation; Slate, March 7, 2017

Josephine Wolff, Slate; 

No One Should Give In to Cyber Extortion Unless It's a Life or Death Situation

"Paying ransoms and caving to extortion demands just encourages more of the same activity, directed at both previous victims and new ones. The only way to effectively discourage this kind of crime is to make it so fruitless, so unprofitable, so profoundly ineffective that the perpetrators find a new outlet for their energies. And the only way to do that is to stop relying on individual victims and organizations to make these choices themselves and implement policies that explicitly penalize the payment of online ransoms in most circumstances."

"Bullhorn vs. Internet"; Bizarro, March 5, 2017

Dan Piraro, Bizarro; "Bullhorn vs. Internet"

Dan Simpson: Ethics, schmethics; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 8, 2017

Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 

Dan Simpson: Ethics, schmethics

"The idea that the president’s choice to be U.S. attorney general, the nation’s top law enforcement official, would lie under oath to the Senate committee considering his nomination — people who were his colleagues as senators for 20 years — is stunning and possibly a sign of just how far down the standard of ethics in Washington has descended.

Nonetheless, that is exactly what Jefferson B. Sessions, who went on to be voted into office as attorney general, did. Asked a direct question about the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, he replied, “I did not have contact with the Russians.” It turns out subsequently, after the Senate had approved his nomination, that he did, on two occasions, once in his own office.

One of the problems of the descent of a nation, particularly one as large and important as the United States of America, is that the fall can occur, step by step, in the form of death by a thousand cuts. I am not saying that it is all over for us yet, but I am saying that Mr. Sessions’ lie to the senators, the position he was being considered for and the subsequent so-far refusal of President Donald Trump to fire Mr. Sessions for what he did, are grave evidence of the low state of ethics at the very top of our government."