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Comment Re:Formal review of changes would benefit everyone (Score 1) 103

There are always going to be churn and minor movements of users among services, but I think people who have a lot invested in a network, e.g. home pages, relevant postings, active participation in groups, many photos, lots of friends they actually do interact with, etc., probably aren't going to pick up and leave en masse unless there's some grossly distasteful change in the policies or terms of service. If you're providing the service, you don't make those grossly distasteful changes at once, you progress toward them in increments that each fall below users' overall threshold of discomfort.

Comment Formal review of changes would benefit everyone (Score 3, Interesting) 103

On the whole, we're still in the middle of a huge transition in the ways we communicate with each other, and the degrees to which we trust third parties with information that rightfully belongs to us. Facebook is no more accountable to its users than any other service; and no matter how much we might bitch and moan about changes in their privacy policies, the fact is that they are going to use our information in as many ways as they can to make money. Sharing information directly with third parties is the most obvious, but there are plenty of indirect means.

Now that we can't hide ourselves, we're bound to attract more friends. Every one of those relationships is a potential revenue stream, either directly or indirectly. Folks at MIT recently demonstrated that they can determine to a high probability who on Facebook is gay without knowing anything about them except their friends. I'm sure the same technique applies to religion, various types of hobbies, and a number of other things we don't always give as much thought to, like criminals, terrorists and the like. These affiliations and attributes have to be a gold mine for someone, and the policy changes are a new mother lode.

I'm glad that EPIC, FTC, etc., are interested in our privacy, as they can exert pressure to change things in ways that we as users cannot. What I'd really like to see out of all this might be some kind of formal privacy impact review before changes to social networking policies are made. Any change that degrades privacy would need to be identified by third parties, justified or mitigated by the social network, then reviewed again until it's clear that users will be better off after the change than they were before. I think that expecting users to flee a service following troublesome changes is unrealistic. The users are caught between a rock and a hard place, and Facebook will continue twisting their arms as long as the users are paying more attention to their friends and apps than they are to their privacy.

It will be sad, yet very interesting at the same time, to see what happens when lost privacy demonstrably results in crimes of various sorts. Facebook may find that its greed has a higher human price than it might ever have realized.

Comment If you're good at science... (Score 1) 368

Look for science gifts in areas that you know well. This way you can extend the teaching far beyond the instructions by showing the kids all the other things the gift can do. This means that you'll have fun too, and the kids will think you're really smart! You can also toss instructions you happen not to like for some reason.

Comment Better process is the solution, not censorship (Score 2, Interesting) 316

The genie is out of the bottle on this one. The document won't disappear, and even if it becomes illegal to host it, it'll continue circulating. The legislators need to accept this as a "teachable moment" and figure out ways to prevent it from recurring, perhaps through improvements in process and education of the folks producing the secure content.

Beyond "use better redaction", process improvements mean inserting a few steps between redaction and publishing.

The redacted document should go through a QA/review process that ensures it contains only content appropriate to the intended audience. The administrative review was undoubtedly done, but not a technical review. It's no secret that electronic documents have hidden data, whether it's redacted or whether it's document metadata, and there's no excuse for these not be examined as part of the release process.

The process should also ensure that the document is being posted only to the appropriate audience. If the document is meant to instruct contractors on security practices, then restrict access to the document so only those contractors can get it.

And now that some of the TSA's security practices are public knowledge, we'll have an opportunity to analyze and share concerns. A lot of this stuff is easily written off as security theater, but when decisions on who and who not to screen hinge on politics, something's clearly wrong and perhaps the legislators need to look at that instead of trying to undo this leak through unenforceable legislation.

Patents

Submission + - Patent Issued for Podcasting

pickens writes: EFF reports that a company called Volomedia just got the Patent Office to grant them exclusive rights to "a method for providing episodic media" that could threaten the community of podcasters and millions of podcast listeners. "It's a ridiculously broad patent, covering something that many folks have been doing for many years," writes Rebecca Jeschke. "Worse, it could create a whole new layer of ongoing costs for podcasters and their listeners." To bust this patent, EFF is looking for additional "prior art" — or evidence that the podcasting methods described in the patent were already in use before November 19, 2003 (pdf). "In particular, we're looking for written descriptions of methods that allow a user to download pre-programmed episodic media like audio files or video files from a remote publisher, with the download occurring after the user subscribes to the episodes, and with the user continuing to automatically receive new episodes."
Privacy

Submission + - E-mail Not Protected by 4th Amendment (volokh.com) 3

DustyShadow writes: In the case In re United States, Judge Mosman ruled that there is no constitutional requirement of notice to the account holder because the Fourth Amendment does not apply to e-mails under the third-party doctrine. "When a person uses the Internet, the user’s actions are no longer in his or her physical home; in fact he or she is not truly acting in private space at all. The user is generally accessing the Internet with a network account and computer storage owned by an ISP like Comcast or NetZero. All materials stored online, whether they are e-mails or remotely stored documents, are physically stored on servers owned by an ISP. When we send an e-mail or instant message from the comfort of our own homes to a friend across town the message travels from our computer to computers owned by a third party, the ISP, before being delivered to the intended recipient. Thus, “private” information is actually being held by third-party private companies."

Submission + - Brain scanners recreate the movie you are watching (newscientist.com)

ewenc writes: In the last few years, patterns in brain activity have been used to successfully predict what pictures people are looking at, their location in a virtual environment or a decision they are poised to make. The most recent results show that researchers can now recreate moving images that volunteers are viewing — and even make educated guesses at which event they are remembering.

Last week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, Jack Gallant, at the University of California, Berkeley, presented one of the field's most impressive results yet. He and colleague Shinji Nishimoto showed that they could create a crude reproduction of a movie clip that someone was watching just by viewing their brain activity. Others at the same meeting claimed that such neural decoding could be used to read memories and future plans — and even to diagnose eating disorders

Software

Submission + - Court rules for software ownership over licensing (out-law.com)

valderost writes: Out-law.com reports on a finding of the US District Court for the Western District of Washington, in favor of an individual reselling Autodesk's AutoCAD software in "his claim that he owned the software and had the right to sell it on." The decision hinges on some technicalities in the Autodesk license and conflicting precedents involving a Vanessa Redgrave film, but it's some good news for the idea that a software purchase is just that.
Security

Submission + - Modern Hydra - the new tricks of spammers and phis (heise-security.co.uk)

juct writes: "To shut down a botnet used to be easy: find the central Command&Control server and close it down. Fast Flux networks any more. heise Security describes how bot masters start to implement a new flexible layer of proxy intermediaries. These are numerous, and several replacements are available in the background should one of them be shut down — catch one, and two new ones will appear."
The Internet

Submission + - Looking for email to web service

An anonymous reader writes: The place where I work has blocked web access and I've been reduced to using an email to web service for web browsing. The biggest downsides to this are the dearth of servers as well as the slow response times of the ones that are available. I've considered setting up my own www4mail http://www.www4mail.org/ server but I've read that My provider (ATT) won't allow an email server on a home account. There are free hosting services that will allow tou to run scripts but again the email restriction applies there as well. Are there any other options I am missing?

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