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Comment Re:Fake your data (Score 2) 97

I never saw any point to that location information at all, actually. Facebook as a means of performing mass interactive communication with a social group at least has utility. City location isn't precise enough to have people come visit or uniquely identify someone with a common name.

Comment Re:Fake your data (Score 2) 97

Both statements are incorrect. The only people who will ever see the fake posts are the fake accounts and the tracking code, and what you have down for physical location is really irrelevant for people communicating with you online. If they're actually friends, they'll know what's false or flatly implausible.

As for the second statement, avoiding Facebook does not prevent your name and photos of you from being placed on it by other people. Unless you are religiously using RequestPolicy or Ghostery or some such, it will not prevent Facebook from seeing when your IP address hits pages with Facebook buttons on it, and then buying IP to probable identity information from another broker who has the information from someone else you have done business with.

It's too late to prevent the world from tracking you, but it's not too late to screw with the data.

Comment Fake your data (Score 5, Interesting) 97

I discovered that if you fake your birthplace, workplace, and university to a country which doesn't primarily use Roman lettering, you get an advertisement bar mostly consisting of completely unintelligible script. It's almost as good as an ad-blocker.

If I ever get free time, I may go back and poke more at that script I started which takes random public Facebook and Twitter posts, feeds them into dadadodo, and then posts them as hidden to everyone except a list that only has fake alternate Facebook accounts in it.

We can't stop them from gathering data, but we can chaff it so badly that it's worthless.

Comment This is not that hard (Score 1) 483

I have never understood why killing someone cleanly is so complicated to get right in the modern era. The French solved this problem back in 1792, and it worked fairly well up until they finally decided that having the government kill people was inherently problematic. The USA being a country that loves its guns so much, it's almost incomprehensible that there hasn't been a freaking research paper on the optimal angle for a shotgun under the chin. We have all manner of chemical designed to render someone unconscious or completely insensible or incapable of feeling pain, and if your goal is to kill someone you don't need to worry about its long-term side effects. The fabled chloroform rag is half-mythical, but even that was actually used medically at one point for anasthesia and we only stopped because we... accidentally killed people. Oh no! Whatever will we do if we accidentally kill the person we're trying to execute before we administer the drug that's guaranteed to kill?

We might not even need to pay for any new drugs. We probably have enough confiscated heroin by this point to happily overdose everyone on death row, and going to sleep and forgetting to breathe is about as peaceful as you can get. It's even a poetic punishment for drug crimes that killed someone.

There are a lot of arguments about whether we ought to be having executions at all, and I'm not going to get into those here, but I can't really come up with any reason why we have to risk torturing someone to death other than someone wanting the chance of 'accidentally' torturing someone to death.

Submission + - Scientists Create Self-Healing Regenerative Plastic (

concertina226 writes: Researchers at the University of Illinois have managed to develop a type of plastic that is able to heal and completely regenerate all by itself, which could be a big benefit in situations where products are difficult to repair or replace, such as a part of an aeroplane or vehicle.

The team of researchers, led by Professor Scott White, have created a brand new system that imitates the way blood clots form in biological circulatory systems, taking a vascular approach whereby non-living, synthetic materials contain networks of capillaries that can jump into action when the material is damaged, even if it happens more than once.

Until now, self-repairing materials have only been able to bond microscopic cracks.

Comment Bad search terms get you bad results (Score 1) 163

I'm not sure why you would use 'app' as a search keyword. It's pretty much guaranteed to generate nothing more than noise. When I typed "parking garage" into Google Play, the first result that came back was the supposedly unfindable "Best Parking" app... and it was the *only* app on Bennett's list that actually made it into the top ten (the only other app actually related to finding parking was Parknav, not listed in the article.) If I refine that by changing the search term to "cheapest parking garage", "Best Parking" still shows up in first place, Parknav comes in at #2, and ParkMe comes in at #6 -- and the noted inferior apps don't place at all. (Some of the other results were games about parking. The things that people find entertaining boggle the mind.)

Given that 'app' is a discardable generic term, expecting mind-reading results from effectively searching for apps related to 'parking' isn't reasonable ("I wanted an app about parking domain names!"). If you do use reasonable terms, the results appear fairly decent. I don't have an iPhone to try this on, so maybe the Apple results are worse, but I'd be somewhat surprised.

As for why these apps aren't famous, if I hadn't gotten curious about the results being as bad as were claimed it would never have occurred to me to actually search for an app to do price comparisons on parking garages. I don't live a lifestyle where that's remotely relevant to me, and I suspect that it isn't a common problem except in very specific regions.


Submission + - Physician Suicides After Discovered Secretly Videotaping Patients for Years

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Doctors have been sanctioned for snapping photos of patients during surgery, for posting or writing anything with identifying information about patients or even for looking at their medical records out of curiosity. Now the Washington Post reports that for more than two decades, women came to see Johns Hopkins gynecologist Nikita Levy and trusted him with not only the most private parts of their bodies but also with their innermost secrets. This week patients were reeling from the news that their doctor had committed suicide after being accused of surreptitiously videotaping and photographing many of his patients. Police said they have removed nearly 10 image-filled computer hard drives from Levy’s home in Towson, Md. “Never in a thousand years would I have imagined such a thing,” says Deborah Doerfer, a certified nurse midwife who worked with Levy off and on for nearly 20 years. “He was incredibly compassionate. He was always there to take care of his patients. They expected him to be on call 24/7, and he was.” Police would not speculate how many images the hard drives may contain, nor when Levy allegedly began recording them. Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi says police found multiple cameras in at least one examination room, although he would not describe how they were hidden. “Everybody understands what’s at stake here," says Lois Shepherd, an expert on biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia. "Just like when we’re in surgery and under anesthesia, we trust that our body will be exposed as necessary for a procedure, but not more than necessary. And certainly not for people’s titillation, or even for their curiosity.” Johns Hopkins Medicine has set up a hotline that patients can call to arrange for counseling."

Comment Re:Screw that... (Score 1) 67

My sneaking suspicion is that cryptome was/is run with the full co-operation of your military-cia-fbi-industrial overlords to provide an outlet for paranoid and the tin-foil brigade, without actually doing anything that might hold them to public account.

While this isn't entirely unreasonable a response, my irony meter pegged for a moment at hearing you come up with a conspiracy theory that cryptome is just run to placate people clinging to conspiracy theories.


Submission + - Why Women in IT Need Men ( 1

onehitwonder writes: This is not your typical "Women in IT" story bemoaning the under-representation of women in the field. Rather, this story focuses on the critical role men can play in attracting women to--and keeping them in--IT careers by mentoring them. Women in IT need male mentors because there simply aren't enough female mentors. Are you man enough to mentor a woman?

Comment Re:Why is CP illegal? (Score 1) 714

This has happened at a minimum in England, New Zealand, and the United States. There are still easily findable references to a U.S. pornstar named Melissa Bertsch having to testify in court several times (once in England involving a military officer) about how old she was in a set of pictures.

(The English military officer in question was found not guilty, IIRC, though I can't find the outcome online. In another case in the U.S. the prosecutor wanted to keep prosecuting even after it was disclosed that the images were of a 20-year-old woman because the defendant thought it was child porn.)

In New Zealand, there was a recent (within the last few years) case of someone convicted for having had a collection of pictures of a model who was over 18, but looked younger. I can't find the reference. It was of interest because it was clearly presented that the model was over 18, and the court decided that it didn't matter. I don't remember the sentence, I'm afraid, though the Wikipedia page on the general laws implies that it may have just been a fine in that situation -- but note the relatively large number of countries on the list.

Comment This doesn't work (Score 4, Interesting) 111

I worked on an electronic voting system a few years back. What I did got accepted for use in a local academic department, and I even gave a WIP on it at a LISA conference once, and then I ran into the constraints of the real world when I tried to build it into something useful for a wider audience. They include the following:

1) You must not provide to a voter any form of receipt that can be used to determine how that voter voted. This is to prevent voter intimidation that has apparently turned into a major issue in places that did not abide by this constraint. If a hash can be used to verify that a vote was correct, it can be used to verify that a vote was what was required. I attempted to get around this by pre-seeding the vote results with a good number of copies of every possible result (which would cancel each other out), so you could take with you a vote receipt matching what you were required to do, but I couldn't come up with a way to make this idea scale, especially when any form of ranked voting was used.

Microsoft could get around this by giving only the hash, and not the vote record, with the receipt, but then you have no way to prove that your vote was recorded the way you input it -- the system could just as well record something else, and give you the hash matching that something else.

2) Even if you don't care about voter intimidation, and you give out receipts, not enough voters care enough to check that their votes were counted or registered correctly for crowdsourced verification to be all that useful. I remember an election irregularity report on one of the very few properly-done electronic voting systems -- backed by a printout under glass that could go either to the permanent record or the wastebin, and the UI directed the voter to carefully compare what was on the screen with the printout before accepting the vote. There was a malfunction at a station where the printer was completely nonfunctional. It wasn't even reported until an absurd amount of time after the poll opened (I can't remember the details, but many hours, and who knows how many voters). The Microsoft technique of using a running hash to prevent insertions, deletions, or alterations to a vote that is known will never be verified is nifty, but the odds are good that none of the votes in the last few hours of the day will ever be verified just because the verification count is so low, so you simply pick a spot and alter thereafter.

3) Even if a voter triggered an irregularity report by noting that the hash didn't match, there is no political will to invalidate an election. Almost no elections go by without irregularities. Some elections go through with absurd irregularities, things that obviously had the potential to change the result, or even things that definitely would have changed the result, and the result is let stand.

Discovery of the above three points made me give up on electronic voting as a solvable problem. The counted ballot has to be on a media not easily tamperable, and it must be independently verifiable by the interested parties, which, taken from a purely historical standpoint, do not appear to include the voters. Microsoft's bright idea (and I will give credit, it's not a bad thought when your only context is "how do I let a small sample detect tampering"), actually exacerbates problem #3 very badly by leading into #4:

4) Elections are expensive. You cannot build a system that lends itself to repeated invalidation. If you could ignore #1 through #3, a straight hash would still be of value, because you would only invalidate if enough people brought back signed hashes that did not match the published counted values, and a few forged receipts would not throw out all of the real resuls. Unfortunately, using a running hash over the course of the entire voting period means that the ability to tamper with a vote early in the day means you can invalidate *every vote that follows*, even if your technique was something that would only normally work on a single vote. This means that an early tamper of a single record serves as a denial of service on that voting location. I doubt that any voting machine manufacturers would ever be willing to risk a headline of "VotingCompany machine tampered with! 820,000 votes shown to be suspect!", and even if they did, local election officials will say "well, it might have been just one vote, so we can't prove the result would have changed" and you've just etched Problem #3 in stone.

Electronic tally of physical ballots is a solvable problem, especially with standardized ballots such that anyone can design and build their own tally machines to double-check. Electronic recording of votes is not, at least not of secret votes -- and we're not yet ready as a civilization to ignore a voter suppression risk.

Comment Re:Mercury retention (Score 5, Informative) 383

I do research in organic chemistry for living and a fellow organic chemist one time accidentally dropped a drop of Dimethyl mercury on her hand. It went through the gloves that she was wearing and onto her skin. Within several hours she was dead from what the doctors described in layman terms as "her brain melted".

*sigh* If that's what you know about it, she wasn't a "fellow" organic chemist except that she once worked in the same field. Her name was Karen Wetterhahn, and she worked at Dartmouth College. She died almost a full year after the accident, and she didn't even recognize the symptoms for months. If she had reported the spill and gotten treatment earlier, she might not have died. It wasn't as if mercury poisoning was something nobody knew about.

Her case was important because before her accident, latex gloves were considered sufficient protective gear (which is why she didn't think to report it and get tested). After she died, safety standards were changed to recommend much heavier-duty protective gear when possible, and she started showing up in cautionary lectures about safety (apparently with the facts being watered down into legend by the time they got to you).

I don't know where you got the bit about "her brain melted", which it wouldn't have, though there was certainly a lot of neurological damage, and history notes that her coma was a particularly ugly one.

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