ENTRIES TAGGED "privacy"

Four short links: 28 April 2014

Four short links: 28 April 2014

Retail Student Data, Hacking Hospitals, Testing APIs, and Becoming Superhuman

  1. UK Government to Sell Its Students’ Data (Wired UK) — The National Pupil Database (NPD) contains detailed information about pupils in schools and colleges in England, including test and exam results, progression at each key stage, gender, ethnicity, pupil absence and exclusions, special educational needs, first language. The UK is becoming patient zero for national data self-harm.
  2. It’s Insanely Easy to Hack Hospital Equipment (Wired) — Erven won’t identify specific product brands that are vulnerable because he’s still trying to get some of the problems fixed. But he said a wide cross-section of devices shared a handful of common security holes, including lack of authentication to access or manipulate the equipment; weak passwords or default and hardcoded vendor passwords like “admin” or “1234″; and embedded web servers and administrative interfaces that make it easy to identify and manipulate devices once an attacker finds them on a network.
  3. Postman — API testing tool.
  4. App Controlled Hearing Aid Improves Even Normal Hearing (NYTimes) — It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the latest crop of advanced hearing aids are better than the ears most of us were born with. Human augmentation with software and hardware.
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iBeacons, privacy, and security

The technology is at risk of dying off — and that would be a shame.

iBeacons and various BLE technologies have the potential to shake up many established ways of doing business by streamlining interactions. Although there are potentially many uses for iBeacons, much of the initial discussion has focused on retail. (I’ll follow up with some examples of iBeacon applications outside retail in a future post.)

As I described in my initial post in this series, all an iBeacon does is send out advertisement packets. iBeacon transmissions let a receiver perform two tasks: uniquely identify what things they are near and estimate the distance to them. With such a simple protocol, iBeacons cannot:

  • Receive anything. (Many iBeacon devices will have two-way Bluetooth interfaces so they can receive configurations, but the iBeacon specification does not require reception.)
  • Report on clients they have seen. Wi-Fi based proximity systems use transmissions from mobile devices to uniquely identify visitors to a space. If you take a smartphone into an area covered by a Wi-Fi proximity system, you can be uniquely identified. Because an iBeacon is only a transmitter, it does not receive Bluetooth messages from mobile devices to uniquely identify visitors.
  • Read more…

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Four short links: 22 April 2014

Four short links: 22 April 2014

In-Browser Data Filtering, Alternative to OpenSSL, Game Mechanics, and Selling Private Data

  1. PourOver — NYT open source Javascript for very fast in-browser filtering and sorting of large collections.
  2. LibreSSL — OpenBSD take on OpenSSL. Unclear how sustainable this effort is, or how well adopted it will be. Competing with OpenSSL is obviously an alternative to tackling the OpenSSL sustainability question by funding and supporting the existing OpenSSL team.
  3. Game Mechanic Explorer — helps learners by turning what they see in games into the simple code and math that makes it happen.
  4. HMRC to Sell Taxpayers’ Data (The Guardian) — between this and the UK govt’s plans to sell patient healthcare data, it’s clear that the new government question isn’t whether data have value, but rather whether the collective has the right to retail the individual’s privacy.
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Health IT is a growth area for programmers

New report covers areas of innovation and their difficulties

infofixO’Reilly recently released a report I wrote called The Information Technology Fix for Health: Barriers and Pathways to the Use of Information Technology for Better Health Care. Along with our book Hacking Healthcare, I hope this report helps programmers who are curious about Health IT see what they need to learn and what they in turn can contribute to the field.

Computers in health are a potentially lucrative domain, to be sure, given a health care system through which $2.8 trillion, or $8.915 per person, passes through each year in the US alone. Interest by venture capitalists ebbs and flows, but the impetus to creative technological hacking is strong, as shown by the large number of challenges run by governments, pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and others.

Some things you should consider doing include:

Join open source projects 

Numerous projects to collect and process health data are being conducted as free software; find one that raises your heartbeat and contribute. For instance, the most respected health care system in the country, VistA from the Department of Veterans Affairs, has new leadership in OSEHRA, which is trying to create a community of vendors and volunteers. You don’t need to understand the oddities of the MUMPS language on which VistA is based to contribute, although I believe some knowledge of the underlying database would be useful. But there are plenty of other projects too, such as the OpenMRS electronic record system and the projects that cooperate under the aegis of Open Health Tools

Read more…

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Wearable intelligence

Establishing protocols to socialize wearable devices.

The age of ubiquitous computing is accelerating, and it’s creating some interesting social turbulence, particularly where wearable hardware is concerned. Intelligent devices other than phones and screens — smart headsets, glasses, watches, bracelets — are insinuating themselves into our daily lives. The technology for even less intrusive mechanisms, such as jewelry, buttons, and implants, exists and will ultimately find commercial applications.

And as sensor-and-software-augmented devices and wireless connections proliferate through the environment, it will be increasingly difficult to determine who is connected — and how deeply — and how the data each of us generates is disseminated, captured and employed. We’re already seeing some early signs of wearable angst: recent confrontations in bars and restaurants between those wearing Google Glass and others worried they were being recorded.

This is nothing new, of course. Many major technological developments experienced their share of turbulent transitions. Ultimately, though, the benefits of wearable computers and a connected environment are likely to prove too seductive to resist. People will participate and tolerate because the upside outweighs the downside. Read more…

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Four short links: 31 March 2014

Four short links: 31 March 2014

Game Patterns, What Next, GPU vs CPU, and Privacy with Sensors

  1. Game Programming Patterns — a book in progress.
  2. Search for the Next Platform (Fred Wilson) — Mobile is now the last thing. And all of these big tech companies are looking for the next thing to make sure they don’t miss it.. And they will pay real money (to you and me) for a call option on the next thing.
  3. Debunking the 100X GPU vs. CPU Myth — in Pete Warden’s words, “in a lot of real applications any speed gains on the computation side are swamped by the time it takes to transfer data to and from the graphics card.”
  4. Privacy in Sensor-Driven Human Data Collection (PDF) — see especially the section “Attacks Against Privacy”. More generally, it is often the case the data released by researches is not the source of privacy issues, but the unexpected inferences that can be drawn from it. (via Pete Warden)
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Pursuing adoption of free and open source software in governments

LibrePlanet explores hopes and hurdles.

Free and open source software creates a natural — and even necessary — fit with government. I joined a panel this past weekend at the Free Software Foundation conference LibrePlanet on this topic and have covered it previously in a journal article and talk. Our panel focused on barriers to its adoption and steps that free software advocates could take to reach out to government agencies.

LibrePlanet itself is a unique conference: a techfest with mission — an entirely serious, feasible exploration of a world that could be different. Participants constantly ask: how can we replace the current computing environment of locked-down systems, opaque interfaces, intrusive advertising-dominated services, and expensive communications systems with those that are open and free? I’ll report a bit on this unusual gathering after talking about government.
Read more…

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What’s Up With Big Data Ethics?

Insights from a business executive and law professor

by Jonathan H. King & Neil M. Richards

Photo provided courtesy of Jonathan H. King.

Photo provided courtesy of Jonathan King

If you develop software or manage databases, you’re probably at the point now where the phrase “Big Data” makes you roll your eyes. Yes, it’s hyped quite a lot these days. But, overexposed or not, the Big Data revolution raises a bunch of ethical issues related to privacy, confidentiality, transparency and identity. Who owns all that data that you’re analyzing? Are there limits to what kinds of inferences you can make, or what decisions can be made about people based on those inferences? Perhaps you’ve wondered about this yourself.

We’re obsessed by these questions. We’re a business executive and a law professor who’ve written about this question a lot, but our audience is usually lawyers. But because engineers are the ones who confront these questions on a daily basis, we think it’s essential to talk about these issues in the context of software development.

Photo provided courtesy of Neil M. Richards.

Photo provided courtesy of Neil M. Richards.

While there’s nothing particularly new about the analytics conducted in big data, the scale and ease with which it can all be done today changes the ethical framework of data analysis. Developers today can tap into remarkably varied and far-flung data sources. Just a few years ago, this kind of access would have been hard to imagine. The problem is that our ability to reveal patterns and new knowledge from previously unexamined troves of data is moving faster than our current legal and ethical guidelines can manage. We can now do things that were impossible a few years ago, and we’ve driven off the existing ethical and legal maps. If we fail to preserve the values we care about in our new digital society, then our big data capabilities risk abandoning these values for the sake of innovation and expediency.

Read more…

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Four short links: 19 March 2014

Four short links: 19 March 2014

Legal Automata, Invasive Valley, Feature Creep, and Device Market Share

  1. The Transformation of the Workplace Through Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation — fascinating legal questions about the rise of the automated workforce. . Is an employer required to bargain if it wishes to acquire robots to do work previously performed by unionized employees working under a collective bargaining agreement? does the collective bargaining agreement control the use of robots to perform this work? A unionized employer seeking to add robots to its business process must consider these questions. (via Robotenomics)
  2. The Invasive Valley of Personalization (Maria Anderson) — there is a fine line between useful personalization and creepy personalization. It reminded me of the “uncanny valley” in human robotics. So I plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis. For technology to get vast access to data AND make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale.
  3. Coffee and Feature Creep — fantastic story of how a chat system became a bank. (via BoingBoing)
  4. The Rise and Fall of PCs — use this slide of market share over time by device whenever you need to talk about the “post-PC age”. (via dataisugly subreddit)
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Four short links: 10 March 2014

Four short links: 10 March 2014

Wolfram Language, Historic Innovation, SF Culture Wars, and Privacy's Death

  1. Wolfram Language — a broad attempt to integrate types, operations, and databases along with deployment, parallelism, and real-time I/O. The demo video is impressive, not just in execution but in ambition. Healthy skepticism still necessary.
  2. Maury, Innovation, and Change (Cory Ondrejka) — amazing historical story of open data, analysis, visualisation, and change. In the mid-1800’s, over the course of 15 years, a disabled Lieutenant changed the US Navy and the world. He did it by finding space to maneuver (as a trouble maker exiled to the Navy Depot), demonstrating value with his early publications, and creating a massive network effect by establishing the Naval Observatory as the clearing house for Navigational data. 150 years before Web 2.0, he built a valuable service around common APIs and aggregated data by distributing it freely to the people who needed it.
  3. Commuter Shuttle and 21-Hayes EB Bus Stop Observations (Vimeo) — timelapse of 6:15AM to 9:15AM at an SF bus stop Worth watching if you’re outside SF and wondering what they’re talking about when the locals rage against SF becoming a bedroom community for Valley workers.
  4. A Day of Speaking Truth to Power (Quinn Norton) — It was a room that had written off privacy as an archaic structure. I tried to push back, not only by pointing out this was the opening days of networked life, and so custom hadn’t caught up yet, but also by recommending danah boyd’s new book It’s Complicated repeatedly. To claim “people trade privacy for free email therefore privacy is dead” is like 1800s sweatshop owners claiming “people trade long hours in unpleasant conditions for miserable pay therefore human rights are dead”. Report of privacy’s death are greatly exaggerated.
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