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MIT Technology Review – Can privacy survive? “Every year, commercially available satellite images are becoming sharper and taken more frequently. In 2008, there were 150 Earth observation satellites in orbit; by now there are 768. Satellite companies don’t offer 24-hour real-time surveillance, but if the hype is to be believed, they’re getting close. Privacy advocates warn that innovation in satellite imagery is outpacing the US government’s (to say nothing of the rest of the world’s) ability to regulate the technology. Unless we impose stricter limits now, they say, one day everyone from ad companies to suspicious spouses to terrorist organizations will have access to tools previously reserved for government spy agencies. Which would mean that at any given moment, anyone could be watching anyone else..”
Vimeo video: The Library as a Movement – “A conversation between Marie Østergaard, Library Director Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark and R. David Lankes, Director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science on the idea that the library is a movement of communities members, librarians, politicians, partners and more.”
“As part of our ethos that technology can and should be a force for good. Our annual list of 35 innovators under 35 is a way of putting faces on that idea. In these profiles you’ll find people employing innovative methods to treat disease, to fight online harassment, and to create the next big battery breakthrough. You’ll find people using AI to better understand neurological disorders and to make cities more livable. This year’s list shows that even in our hard, cynical world, there are still lots of smart people willing to dedicate their lives to the idea that technology can make a safer, fairer world.”
“Since 2004, Pew Research Center has issued an annual report on key audience and economic indicators for a variety of sectors within the U.S. news media industry. These data speak to the shifting ways in which Americans seek out news and information, how news organizations get their revenue, and the resources available to American journalists as they seek to inform the public about important events of the day. The press is sometimes called the fourth branch of government, but in the U.S., it’s also very much a business – one whose ability to serve the public is dependent on its ability to attract eyeballs and dollars.
Over the years, the Center’s approach to these indicators has evolved along with the industry, carefully considering the metrics, sectors and format in which the data appear. Instead of a single summary report, our approach is to roll out a series of fact sheets showcasing the most important current and historical data points for each sector – in an easy-to-digest format – a few at a time. (State of the News Media reports from 2004-2018 are archived as PDFs and available here.)..”
Washington Post – “The Internet is increasingly populated with false and misleading videos. These videos — spread by politicians, advocacy groups and everyday users — are viewed by millions. The Fact Checker set out to develop a universal language to label manipulated video and hold creators and sharers of this misinformation accountable. We have found three main ways video is being altered: footage taken out of context, deceptively edited or deliberately altered. These categories are further broken down into subcategories… Missing Context – Deceptive Editing – Malicious Transformation…”
CNET: “Hackers have quietly infiltrated more than a dozen mobile carriers around the world, gaining complete control of networks behind the companies’ backs. The attackers have been using that access over the last seven years to steal sensitive data, but have so much control they could shut down communications at a moment’s notice, according to Cybereason, a security company based in Boston. On Tuesday, Cybereason said it’s been investigating the campaign, dubbed Operation Soft Cell, through which hackers targeted phone providers in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The hackers infected multiple mobile carriers since 2012, gaining control and siphoning off hundreds of gigabytes of data on people.
It constitutes a potentially massive breach — with more fallout still to come — as companies across different industries struggle with how to protect their customers’ data. The hackers also had highly privileged access to do more than steal information. “They have all the usernames and passwords, and created a bunch of domain privileges for themselves, with more than one user,” said Amit Serper, Cybereason’s head of security research. “They can do whatever they want. Since they have such access, they could shut down the network tomorrow if they wanted to.” ..
Politico: “As college costs rise to the top of the American political debate, the housing crisis faced by many students has recently begun to surface as an underappreciated crisis that can be far more harmful than even the high price of tuition. This week, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders revamped his “College for All” education plan to incorporate nontuition costs including housing — following the lead of Elizabeth Warren, who released a plan earlier this year that would also allow more federal aid to be used on housing. In the public imagination, the college “affordability” problem is still largely a matter of tuition, or rising fees. But a striking new study shows that housing costs can actually be one of the biggest burdens on students, and it’s among community college students where this problem hits the hardest. It also suggests that there are problems many “free college” proposals might not fix…”
Washington Post: “A federal appeals court has revived the chances of monetary awards being paid to federal employees and others whose personal information was exposed in hacks of two government databases that were revealed in 2015. The ruling criticized the Office of Personnel Management for failing to safeguard that information despite having been the target of prior hacking attempts and despite repeated warnings from its inspector general’s office that the databases were vulnerable. “OPM effectively left the door to its records unlocked by repeatedly failing to take basic, known, and available steps to secure the trove of sensitive information in its hands,” said the decision Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The OPM deferred a request for comment to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
The appellate court ruled that a federal district judge erred in dismissing a combined suit brought by two federal employee unions, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union…”
Vice: “Security through obscurity is out, security through tomfoolery is in. That’s the basic philosophy sold by Track THIS, “a new kind of incognito” browsing project, which opens up 100 tabs crafted to fit a specific character—a hypebeast, a filthy rich person, a doomsday prepper, or an influencer. The idea is that your browsing history will be depersonalized and poisoned, so advertisers won’t know how to target ads to you. It was developed as a collaboration between mschf (pronounced “mischief”) internet studios and Mozilla’s Firefox as a way of promoting Firefox Quantum, the newest Firefox browser…” “These trackers and these websites really commoditize you, and they don’t really make you feel like a person,” Daniel Greenberg, director of strategy and distribution for mschf, said in a phone call. “So we wanted to do something visceral that makes the user feel like they’re in control again.”..
NPR – “What is the president actually allowed to do under the U.S. Constitution? It’s a question that’s comes up from time to time at NPR, and when it does, we’ve turned to experts such as Kim Wehle, now a law professor and CBS News legal commentator. Now, she’s written a book about it. It’s called How to Read the Constitution — and Why. Wehle says that all the debates around the constitutionality of various Trump administration policies inspired her to write the book. She says she originally had a contract to write a book for an academic audience, but found herself writing for laypeople.
“I think it’s really important for people to be educated about not only about their constitutional rights, which is one part of the Constitution, but the structure — the structure of our government,” Wehle says. “And if we allow the government to consolidate power in one branch, one man, one party, then our individual rights break down. So it’s that message that I think is often lost in the day-to-day discourse about whatever that latest tree that’s on fire in the forest. I like to focus on the forest.”…
Via LLRX – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: It’s Time to Switch to a Privacy Browser; Adobe Develops Tool to Identify Photoshopped Images of Faces; Millions of Business Listings on Google Maps Are Fake and Google Profits; and Protect your online identity now: Fight hackers with these 5 security safeguards.
FTC – includes video tutorial: “Scammers can use technology to fake the name or number on your caller ID. Even when your caller ID shows a local number, it could be a scammer calling from anywhere in the world. The good news: You can block a lot of these calls with mobile apps, internet services, or call-blocking devices. Learn more at https://ftc.gov/calls…”
“Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) will introduce the Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act, bipartisan legislation that will require data harvesting companies such as social media platforms to tell consumers and financial regulators exactly what data they are collecting from consumers, and how it is being leveraged by the platform for profit. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here. Bill text is available here.
As user data increasingly represents one of the most valuable, albeit intangible, assets held by technology firms, shining light on how this data is collected, retained, monetized, and protected, is critical. The DASHBOARD Act will:
- Require commercial data operators (defined as services with over 100 million monthly active users) to disclose types of data collected as well as regularly provide their users with an assessment of the value of that data.
- Require commercial data operators to file an annual report on the aggregate value of user data they’ve collected, as well as contracts with third parties involving data collection.
- Require commercial data operators to allow users to delete all, or individual fields, of data collected – and disclose to users all the ways in which their data is being used. including any uses not directly related to the online service for which the data was originally collected.
- Empower the SEC to develop methodologies for calculating data value, while encouraging the agency to facilitate flexibility to enable businesses to adopt methodologies that reflect the different uses, sectors, and business models…”
“As of December 31, 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had 47,486 individuals in its custody. The number of ICE detainees was up 22 percent from the 38,810 persons ICE held at the end of September 2016. Results are based on case-by-case records recently obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. The most striking change over this 27-month period was a dramatic drop in the number of individuals held who had committed serious crimes. Despite the increasing number of individuals ICE detained, fewer and fewer immigrants convicted of serious felonies were arrested and held in custody by the agency. Their numbers had dropped by over twelve hundred (-1,253), while total ICE detainees ballooned by over eighty-six hundred (8,676) during the same period. Immigrants who had never been convicted of even a minor violation shot up 39 percent. Individuals were held by ICE in a total of 215 different facilities. ICE detainees increasingly were at facilities located in Texas, Georgia and Mississippi. In contrast, California, Washington and New York experienced a decline in the number of immigrants held at facilities in those states. The length of detention varied. One detainee had been locked up by ICE in October 2007 – more than eleven and a half years ago – and was still detained at the end of December 2018. While most had been recently detained, ten percent of immigrants according to ICE records had been held for 6 months or more.”
“The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched a new one-stop database where the news media, congressional staff, and the public can locate GAO subject matter experts. The new Find-an-Expert section on the GAO website is designed to improve access to the wealth of non-partisan, fact-based information GAO has developed over the years through its audits and investigations. [h/t Pete Weiss]
- Users can search the database by area of expertise and contact GAO executives directly with questions, or they can work with the Office of Public Affairs to find an expert. The Find-an-Expert page also lists GAO executives alphabetically by name, along with their areas of expertise and contact information. Clicking on a specific name will pull up additional biographical information, an official photo, and a list of recent reports that individual has directed. “
WatchBlog: Official Blog of the U.S. GAO – “The Office of Personnel Management receives over 100,000 federal retirement applications each year. But the time it takes to process these applications can often be delayed. In fact, between 2014 and 2017, OPM didn’t meet its goal of processing most applications within 60 days. Today’s WatchBlog explores some of the reasons why from our recent report… [h/t Pete Weiss]
OPM manages the federal retirement program, which covers more than 2.4 million active employees. Almost 32% of federal employees who were on board at the end of FY17 would be eligible to retire in the next 5 years. When employees are ready to retire, they submit retirement applications in paper form to their agency’s human resources office. The process is complete when an individual begins receiving regular monthly benefit payments…”
New England Is Losing Its Native Plants. Researchers Say It’s Time To Stop And Smell The Wildflowers
wbur – 90.9 – “Where have all the wild orchids gone? A recent study finds that about one quarter of native New England wildflower species have been lost in the last 150 years. This means that purple-fringed orchids and pink lady slippers — once abundant in the region — are disappearing from some areas, often replaced by non-native species. Researchers worry that this loss of biodiversity may harm local ecosystems. “Wildflowers are an important part of biological diversity; they’re an important part of the environment,” says Boston University biology professor Richard Primack, who co-authored the study in the journal Rhodora. “They provide us with clean water, clean air, they also support pollinators which also pollinate our crops.”
Researchers used botanical records from the 1800s documenting wildflowers at 13 different locations in New England and New York, and compared them to current wildflower observations. They found that native New England wildflower families — like lilies and orchids — are disappearing, while invasive species like purple loosestrife are moving in. (And Massachusetts’ state flower, the mayflower? Once abundant around Concord, these pale pink or white flowers are now hard to find, says Primack.)…”
Discovery and the Disciplines: An Inquiry into the Role of Subject Databases through Citation Analysis
College and Research Libraries Vol 80, No 2 (2019) – Discovery and the Disciplines: An Inquiry into the Role of Subject Databases through Citation Analysis – Alexa L. Pearce
“Libraries have adopted web scale discovery services with the goal of providing their users with a streamlined research experience. However, the single search box that characterizes web scale discovery is one option among many that libraries continue to provide, including subject databases and other legacy tools. Libraries lack evidence regarding which of these tools are best suited to the various stages and levels of expertise that may characterize a user’s research process. A case study approach, focusing on the field of academic history, is employed to test the discoverability of a subset of scholarly work across several search platforms.”
MakeUseOf (MUD): “lIf you’re concerned about how good about your antivirus software is, why wait until it’s too late? There are some safe ways you can test your antivirus to make sure it’s working properly. Here’s why you’d want to test an antivirus and how to put one through some tests yourself. Why You Should Test Your Antivirus Software – The most obvious reason why people test their antivirus is to check it’s working properly in the first place. Antiviruses work by scanning files as they arrive and blocking the ones that match its database of virus definitions. As such, the only way to know for sure if your antivirus is working is to test it. Of course, we would never recommend anyone visit dangerous websites to see if their computer can handle it. This is like testing out body armor by walking out onto a live battlefield. There are safe and benign ways a user can test their antivirus software, which they can use to see if their security is up to speed. Not everyone wants to just test the quality of the software, however. Sometimes, people have deployed the software under a specific environment, under certain rules, or with certain conditions. As such, performing these five tests are a great way to confirm that nothing can slip through the cracks…”
MuckRock: “A new field guide on bringing transparency into communities from the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and MuckRock Last August, with support from the Online News Association, we partnered with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism to explore new ways of teaching public records to students and the broader community. Five workshops, four articles, and a hundred public records requests later, our partners at the Engagement Lab have put together a new website, Make FOIA Work, and downloadable guide on what we’ve learned, ideas to make Freedom of Information work more exciting and accessible, and a blueprint for others to build on. Part of what made this project so exciting for us was that it tackled public records from a very different perspective than we usually see. Instead of the focus being on exemptions, appeals, and the tradecraft of requesting, we instead spent a lot of time talking with the public about what they wanted to see out of their government — and then helped them get answers. User-centered design was at the heart of the entire project, from talking with people about what issues they cared about to help develop the project’s focus on gun purchasing and campaign financing to participatory workshops that invited people to file their first requests or help sift through documents that lay at the heart of the project…”