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Comment It really is too bad (Score 1) 120

You know, it seems fairly simple to conceive of some kind of storage medium for solar energy that is cheap, easy, and environmentally sound. If only there were a way to gather up immense amounts of solar energy and store it in some medium that had a reasonably high energy density, was easy to store and cheap to maintain in storage, and where it was quite easy to extract the stored energy, that could even be stored as solid fuel. If only there were a way to easily manufacture such a fuel locally, at or near the point of consumption, and even better, without the use of harsh chemicals and boatloads of energy.

It's too bad nothing even remotely like that exists today.


How Facial Analysis Software Could Help Struggling Students 90

moon_unit2 writes "Tech Review has a story on research showing that facial recognition software can accurately spot signs that programming students are struggling. NC State researchers tracked students learning java and used an open source facial-expression recognition engine to identify emotions such as frustration or confusion. The technique could be especially useful for Massive Open Online Courses — where many thousands of students are working remotely — but it could also help teachers identify students who need help in an ordinary classroom, experts say. That is, as long as those students don't object to being watched constantly by a camera."

Comment Technically illegal (Score 1) 104

It is illegal to obscure your identity in a public place, because it is illegal to interfere with the investigation of a crime. Since almost all criminal investigations involve looking for a missing suspect, obscuring your identity prevents law enforcement determining whether you are the suspect, and therefore in doing so you are committing Obstruction of Justice.

At least, that will be the government's reasoning in arresting people as "terrorists" who wear masks in public.

Comment No expectation of privacy (Score 1) 276

You have no expectation of privacy in a public place, nor do you have an expectation of privacy when engaged in a privileged activity while driving. By signing your name on your license you are agreeing to abide by the State's conditions, which may include placing a license plate with personally identifiable information on the outside of your vehicle.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Comment Re:FCC is not considering anything. (Score 1) 371

It is not the petitioner's responsibility to consider all possible use cases for a new policy and to resolve problems that arise from such. If that were where the bar was set for petitioning government, nobody except well-trained attorneys would be able to do it, and they would still fail 100% of the time because it is impossible to write a perfect law that addresses a problem while at the same time is perfectly immune to abuse.

In any case, to address your proposed abuse case, there would be no need to encrypt communications during an exercise or drill under his proposition because no PHI would need to be communicated during those drills. With no real emergency and no real PHI, the exception to the prohibition on encrypted communications would not apply.

The error in this petition does not lie with potential abuse cases. The error lies in the fact that it is moot on its face because it does not address a problem that actually exists.

Comment Re:FCC is not considering anything. (Score 1) 371


After reading all of the available materials, I think you have mischaracterized the petition and have missed the mark as to why this petition should not be accepted. The petitioner is not asking for encryption to be allowed for all traffic on all ham bands, as you have suggested at your site:

"FCC is currently processing a request for rule-making, RM-11699, that would allow the use of Amateur frequencies in the U.S. for private, digitally-encrypted messages."

This is a grossly misleading statement, as it overbroadens the actual scope of the petition. When boiled down, the petition is really only asking for one new thing:

"(c) intercommunications when participating in emergency services operations or related training exercises which may involve information covered by HIPAA or other sensitive data such as logistical information concerning medical supplies, personnel movement, other relief supplies or any other data designated by Federal authorities managing relief or training efforts "

For (c) to be valid, there must be emergency services operations happening. No encrypted operations would be authorized at any other time, and certainly there would be no general authorization to send encrypted traffic over Amateur Radio except under these narrowly-defined circumstances.

That said, this is still a bad idea, except for other reasons. The potential for abuse here is not in the use of Amateur Band by unauthorized persons. The potential for abuse here lies in the misuse of the Amateur Bands as a Law Enforcement or Emergency Services medium, which is completely contrary to the mission and purpose of Amateur Radio. Indeed, all emergency services are already granted their own spectrum, upon which encryption is allowed. Anyone acting in a medical emergency service who could possibly be the authorized recipient of PHI is going to also be equipped with a radio operable in these bands.

In essence, this proposal would serve to "militarize" Amateur Radio in times of emergency, and possibly be abused by the State to quash the voices of Amateur Radio operators during a declared emergency, and even prevent them being able to lend assistance.

Furthermore, it would appear that the petition is moot, since HIPAA already has provisions for the "incidental disclosure" of PHI during the treatment of patients. These provisions were included to address the specific problem this petition seeks to address, which is the use of unencrypted radio systems to communicate between emergency services personnel to facilitate the treatment of patients in the field. So, there is no need to allow encryption to "protect" those who are authorized to transmit and hear PHI under HIPAA. They are already protected.

Amateur Radio operators have no business participating either directly or indirectly in the treatment of patients outside of rendering first aid or other Good Samaritan works that are already completely protected from liability by Law.

In conclusion, the laws as they are written today provide for the communication and indirect disclosure of PHI by emergency services personnel over unencrypted radio systems, and Amateur Radio rules allow non-Amateurs to use the Amateur Bands under the supervision of a licensed operator. There is nothing that needs to be done, and the petition should be dismissed as moot.

Comment Re:Emergencies and Regulations (Score 1) 371

In an emergency or disaster, you are specifically authorized to use whatever means necessary to get your message across, so whatever you do will not be in violation of the rules. However I cannot envision a scenario where the use of encryption would be necessary to facilitate communication, but if such a scenario exists, you could easily argue the point and it is likely you would not get a green slip for it, let alone a NAL.

In any case, I agree with you that this is a bad idea.

Encryption IS allowed on Amateur Radio as a means of "access control," so most of the petitioner's points are moot, and his complete lack of understanding of how HIPAA works makes his privacy point irrelevant.

Besides, this is just a petition that will be hopefully swept right into the garbage bin. As I said in another post, the fact the petition has been filed does not, I repeat, does NOT mean the "FCC is considered allowing encryption for ham radio." It means "someone filed one of many many petitions received by the commission that day."

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"Being against torture ought to be sort of a multipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer, as amended by Jeff Daiell, a Libertarian