Going to the doctor and worrying about cybersecurity

Jeremy Epstein:

For most people, going to the doctor means thinking about co-pays and when they’ll feel better. For me though, it means thinking about those plus the cyber security of the computer systems being used by the medical professionals.


I’ve spent more time than usual visiting doctors recently. I broke my hand – sure I’ll tell you how. It was a hit-and-run accident with a woodchuck.

I was riding my bike, the woodchuck ran in front of me, I ran over him, and he fled into the woods, leaving me lying on the ground moaning in pain. Okay now that we got that out of the way…

So the emergency room doctor ordered a CT scan (to check for a concussion and the presence of a brain) and various x-rays. I thought about the computer controls while in the CT scanner, but what was really interesting was when the hospital emergency room digitized the results and gave them me on a CD to provide to the orthopedist.

Before going to the orthopedist, they had me fill out a bunch of forms online. As I provided the detailed medical information, I wondered how secure the web interface is, and whether someone could attack the medical record system through the patient input interface.

Dems’ SOPA support risky in 2012

Ryan Rainey:

The technology industry might be crucial for the economy of Wisconsin’s second-largest city, but our congressional delegation has been reluctant to heavily contribute to the debate about SOPA and PIPA. It took until Wednesday’s online “blackout,” in which The Badger Herald participated, for Madison’s own Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin to release a statement announcing she would not support the legislation.

Last Tuesday, Baldwin’s press representative said she had “some reservations” about the legislation. Baldwin still was staying unusually quiet about the issue.

Baldwin has rightfully earned her title as one of the most effective progressive voices in the House of Representatives. However, her reluctance to be one of the major progressive voices to come out early against SOPA and PIPA exposes several important aspects of her position in Congress, her campaign for Senate and the disappointing representation of Congress’ Democratic caucus.

Ever since her first Congressional victory in the 1990s, Baldwin has essentially been a shoo-in to win Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. Still, she needs donations to keep her biannual campaigns afloat, and she predictably receives large donations from trade unions and equal rights advocacy groups.

A brief scan of the history of donations to Baldwin’s campaign committee might explain her reluctance to oppose SOPA immediately. In 2010, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association donated $10,000 to Baldwin’s campaign, tying it with three other unions as the top donor to the Baldwin campaign. Unsurprisingly, the NCTA is one of the many organizations affiliated with the entertainment industry that supports SOPA.

Stopping SOPA


The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy. Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to reddit and many other sites you use everyday. Internet experts, organizations, companies, entrepreneurs, legal experts, journalists, and individuals have repeatedly expressed how dangerous this bill is. If we do nothing, Congress will likely pass the Protect IP Act (in the Senate) or the Stop Online Piracy Act (in the House), and then the President will probably sign it into law. There are powerful forces trying to censor the Internet, and a few months ago many people thought this legislation would surely pass. However, there’s a new hope that we can defeat this dangerous legislation.

We’ve seen some amazing activism organized by redditors at /r/sopa and across the reddit community at large. You have made a difference in this fight; and as we near the next stage, and after much thought, talking with experts, and hearing the overwhelming voices from the reddit community, we have decided that we will be blacking out reddit on January 18th from 8am–8pm EST (1300–0100 UTC).

We Are All Just Data

Jack Kaufman:

Recently for English, we had to write a quick paragraph using a bunch of vocabulary words we had learned while reading American literature. I chose to write about a potential conversation that I would love to have with Larry Page. Here it is:

“I sat down in the theater for what would become an arduous, yet interesting conversation with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. I started off by asking him if the new social network Google had been working on was received with much approbation. He said it was doing great, with tens of millions of users and active engagement with everyone on the site, though Facebook’s new Timeline feature and Open Graph would require Google’s vigilance to come up with new innovations in the social space. My next question led to a change in his disposition, as I asked him whether “free” products such as the ones from Facebook and Google were artifices to gather immense amounts of data to give marketers super-focused ad placement. He then said that the usurpations I was alleging were incredibly false, that I was an insidious person, and that he was going to leave.”

On the historic context of institutionalized gathering of personal data

Tom O’Doherty:

As Dediu acknowledges, this in itself is not a new insight — there has been plenty of coverage of privacy controversies at Facebook, Google and other companies. What was interesting, however, was that he linked this to a larger historical context, referring to the process of institutions (state and private) gathering information about individuals over the last few centuries. This reminded me of an interview that Cabinet Magazine conducted with Valentin Groebner in 2006, about the medieval and pre-modern tracking of individuals.

Groebner,? Professor of History at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, is the author of Who Are You?: Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe, and his interview with David Serlin talks about the history of passports, in the context of larger historical surrenderings of privacy in the last two hundred years.

It is possible that the current wave of institutional data-hoarding may in effect be the last. The companies who are leading it are far more efficient than previous authorities — historically, state and church authorities. They are taking the data from people who are apparently far more willing to give it than in previous eras. And they are going to be able to analyse and process personal data far more finely than anyone else ever has. This is not really an alarmist conclusion — although the situation itself is alarming — but simply an acknowledgement of existing reality. Dediu’s comment that “this will become a political question” and that “these things are doomsday issues for some” is interesting in the context of the recent successes of the privacy-advocating Piratenpartei (Pirate Party) in the 2011 Berlin state elections.

Was Julian Assange Right About Facebook?

Micah Sifry:

OK, that headline is probably over the top, but after reading Dave Winer and Nik Cubrilovic’s warnings this past weekend about Facebook’s new “frictionless sharing” system, I was left wondering if Julian Assange of WikiLeaks wasn’t on to something when he said that “Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.”



Assange was talking about how Facebook collects information that people actively share about their relationships with each other (thus making such data prey to US intelligence prying), whereas Winer is raising the alarm about Facebook’s new policy of proactively sharing information about what websites people are visiting, without them even affirmatively entering any kind of data onto their Facebook page. Winer offers this hypothetical scenario:

Don Norman: Google doesn’t get people, it sells them

Bobbie Johnson:

“What is Google? What do they sell?” asks Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things and a demigod of the design world.



It’s a question that gets asked a lot, especially as the company’s power and products continue to expand. In a talk on Friday at the dConstruct conference in Brighton, England, he pointed out that –despite the complexity of the organization — the answer usually looks pretty simple.



“They have lots of people, lots of servers, they have Android, they have Google Docs, they just bought Motorola. Most people would say ‘we’re the users, and the product is advertising’,” he said. “But in fact the advertisers are the users and you are the product.”



Then he went further. “They say their goal is to gather all the knowledge in the world in one place, but really their goal is to gather all of the people in the world and sell them.”

Wikileaks Founder: Facebook is the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented

Matt Brian:

Despite awaiting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is still the subject of much media interest.
Russia Today (RT) interviewed Assange, getting his viewpoint on political unrest in Egypt and Libya, particularly probing what the Wikileaks founder makes of social media’s roles in the recent revolutions in both countries. In his interview, Assange focuses particularly on Facebook calling it the “most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented”.

GOP pushing for ISPs to record user data

Declan McCullagh:

he House Republicans’ first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.
A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users’ activities for later review by police.
One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.
Tomorrow’s data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users’ privacy by storing less data. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for “limited retention” of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

Amazing. I thought the economy was job #1 for the Republicans.

Antitrust bulldog Gary Reback pushes Google probe

James Temple:

In the 1990s, attorney Gary Reback helped goad the Department of Justice into launching the landmark antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft Corp. by hauling willing witnesses and damning information before any government body that would listen.
Reback, of Menlo Park law firm Carr & Ferrell LLP, is now waging a similarly relentless campaign against a technology giant of this era, Google Inc.
In an extensive interview with The Chronicle, he argued the Mountain View search company is engaging in a host of anti-competitive behaviors that are no less egregious than the earlier actions of Microsoft.
He also claims the Federal Trade Commission recently backed off an inquiry into certain of Google’s practices at the behest of the DOJ. It’s known to be conducting a separate investigation into, and possibly preparing to block, the company’s proposed acquisition of travel data company ITA Software. (Read on for his take on what that means.)