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How Laptops in Education Can Help Dictators, Hurt Learning 122

holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports on worries that the OLPC's BitFrost security protocols could hand a ready-made surveillance system to controlling 3rd world governments. The laptops identify themselves regularly to a server that can disable individual machines reported stolen — a system that hands a government a kill switch for every unit. BitFrost also has the potential to have machines attach a unique ID to every internet transaction, helping out anyone wanting to track net internet use. A freely available paper from a recent USENIX conference spells out the concerns." Relatedly, an anonymous reader points out a story at Slate about a study which examined the impact that free PCs had on poor students in Romania, writing that "giving the kids machines without a corresponding level of parental supervision just resulted in distractions which ultimately damaged academic performance. By contrast, allowing children access to machines in a supervised setting, say an after school program via school labs, might mitigate some of the negative effects."

Google Admits China Censorship Was Damaging 205

pilsner.urquell writes to let us know about a wide-ranging interview with Google's founders from Davos, Switzerland. Larry Page and Sergey Brin admitted that allowing China to censor its search engine did harm to the company in its Western markets. Quoting the Guardian article: "Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr. Brin admitted yesterday: 'On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative.'" The reporter concludes that Google is unlikely to revise its Chinese censorship policy any time soon.

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