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New Media and The Digital Natives – Reading Summary

Born Digital – John Palfrey

If you have any interest in Digital Natives – this 1 hour talk is very informative about what a digital native is, and the godfather of this topic, John Palfrey goes into great detail on his definition and how this generation will change the nature of how we see the internet in the future. It is a population of young people who are will impact they we think, work, and function on a day to day basis.

The Digital Natives are a group of people who are comfortable with sharing their daily lives on the net (ie flick, twitter, facebook) and were exposed to these technologies at a very young age. This population is typically born after 1980, have never known life without a computer, TV without a remote control, and never dialed on a rotary phone (not true since I was born after 1980!).

Presentation by John Palfrey – “As part of the Google D.C. Talks series, and in partnership with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Professor John Palfrey offers a sociological portrait of “digital natives” — children who were born into and raised in the digital world — with a particular focus on their conceptions of online privacy.”

There are a few points he clarifies in this video  -

  • This is a POPULATION, not a GENERATION
  • Born after 1980 – because this is when the advent of technology began
  • They have access to these technologies
  • 1 billion who have access (number is low due to digital divide)
  • This is not a DUMMY generation – they are very tech savvy.
  • Young people are INTERACTING, but in a different way – remixed, made in a different way.
  • We must teach digital media literacy

We are Digital Natives – Barrett Lyon

“A new class of person has emerged in the online world: Digital Natives. While living in San Francisco, I also live on the Internet. The Internet is now a place: a two dimensional world that has transcended the web; there is no government, and the citizens are Digital Natives.”

Lyon’s main point is that people are no longer citizens of the United States, or France, but also citizens of the internet. There are specialized groups within these digital natives such as game players, hackers, developers, and the social etiquette that is involved is much different than the physical reality we live in.

Some people choose to define themselves by the activities they take part in on the web – such as social online movements – ie Green Movement, Tea/Coffee Party, which are branches from physical political movements, but these started on the net.

“This scares the crap out of Governments all over the world, because they are ill prepared to deal with these situations. To government regimes that are comfortable asserting their control, this concept is terrifying. How do they counteract the changes online and the movements? Do they need to change their politics, defense, propaganda, and warfare?”

This statement displays that some of these online movements do have an affect on how governments think about the web. Many countries have harsh restrictions on what their citizens can view on the net, ie China, Iran, etc.

The Future of The Internet and How to Stop it – Jonathan Zittrain – Short Summary

This title is actually a book that JZ has wrote which is actually available on amazon if anyone would like to purchase. His main point is that collaboration is key in the survival of a productive internet and cites wikipedia as the main example. The first generation of products that have spear headed the internet have been Tivo, Ipods, and Xboxes, which are tethered appliances, meaning they are using net as their connection to their content/databases.

“The Internet’s current trajectory is one of lost opportunity. Its salvation, Zittrain argues, lies in the hands of its millions of users. Drawing on generative technologies like Wikipedia that have so far survived their own successes, this book shows how to develop new technologies and social structures that allow users to work creatively and collaboratively, participate in solutions, and become true ‘netizens.’

Cyberterrorism: Additional Reading Summary

What is cyberterrorism? Even experts can’t agree

By Victoria Baranetsky, The Harvard Law Record

Published: Thursday, November 5, 2009

No Consensus on a Definition

  • “We even lack a unified definition of cyberterrorism and that makes discourse on the subject difficult.”
  • “The FBI alone has published three distinct definitions of cyber-terrorism: “Terrorism that initiates…attack[s] on information” in 1999, to “the use of Cyber tools” in 2000 and “a criminal act perpetrated by the use of computers” in 2004.”
  • Two explanations on why it is difficult to agree on a definition:
    • “The interest in cyber issues only started in the nineties so the terms are still nascent.”
    • “The meaning [of cyberterrorism] depends on differing interests.”
  • Some believe that “terrorists will use any strategic tool they can” so “cyber” terrorism is no more important then other forms.

What is the goal and who is affected by cyberterrorism?

  • Like any form of terrorism, cyberterrorism aims to “cause severe disruption through widespread fear in society.”  Because we are so dependent on digital material and systems, we are very vulnerable to this type of terrorism.
  • The U.S. is particularly dependent on online systems.  Countries that don’t depend so strongly on digital systems have an opportunity to attack without the risk of suffering from similar counterattacks.

Richard Clarke On The Growing ‘Cyberwar’ Threat

From Fresh Air on NPR

April 19, 2010

Richard Clarke served as a counterterrorism adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.  Clarke predicted the 9/11 attacks but was not taken seriously.  Now he is focusing on the possibilities of computer-based terrorism attacks.

What kind of harm could a cyberattack cause?

According to Clarke, here are a few examples:

  • Disable trains all over the country
  • Blow up pipelines
  • Cause blackouts and damage electrical power grids so that the blackouts would go on for a long time
  • Wipe out and confuse financial records so that we would not know who owned what
  • Disrupt traffic in urban areas by knocking out control computers
  • Wipe out medical records

Where can attacks come from and how are they executed?

Cyberattacks are not limited by national boundaries, and just one person can cause much harm.  A large team is not necessary to successfully complete this type of attack.  “Malicious code may infect a computer via a security flaw in a Web browser, or it could be distributed through secret back doors built into computer hardware.”

The government does have security set up to protect military and intelligence networks, but Clarke “worries not enough is being done to protect the private sector — which includes the electrical grid, the banking system and our health care records.”

“One common attack is for hackers to take over a series of home computers through backdoor security exploits. For example, malicious software can be downloaded onto a hard drive after you accidentally visit a compromised website. Your computer can then be used in conjunction with other compromised computers to engage in a large-scale attack. The average computer user may not realize when their computer has been drafted into a cyberattack.”

Clarke’s recommendations on how to reduce your risk of an attack

  • Never use your work computer at home, where it may be unintentionally compromised by another member of your family.
  • Make sure your online banks have more than just a password for security protection.
  • If you’re going to buy things online, have a credit card for that purpose with a low credit limit.
  • Don’t do banking or stockbrokering online and have a lot of money at risk — unless your stockbroker gives you a two-step process for getting in.

Assessing The Threat of Cyberterrorism

From Fresh Air on NPR

February 10, 2010

James Lewis is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the co-author of the report “Security Cyberspace in the 44th Presidency.” He predicts that within a decade, Al Qaeda will develop capabilities to carry out attacks on the web.

“Every single day, sensitive information is stolen from both government and private sector networks as criminals become increasingly more sophisticated…

Recent breaches at Google and the Department of Defense have illustrated that the United States is not yet ready to deal with a large scale cyber-attack.”

The battle against cyberterror

By John Blau, Network World

November 29, 2004

The Good News

Experts “don’t think [would-be terrorists] have the technical ability yet – in other words, the combined IT and control system skills needed to penetrate a utility network.

The Bad News

Hackers “are beginning to acquire some of these skills… and in many parts of the world [people] are willing to peddle their expertise for the right price or political cause.”

The Worse News

  • “Few, if any, of the industrial control systems used today were designed with cybersecurity in mind because hardly any of them were connected to the Internet.”
  • “Many of the “private” networks now are built with the help of competitively priced fiber-optic connections and transmission services provided by telecom companies, which have become the frequent target of cyberattacks.”
  • Moreover, security isn’t necessarily related to a country’s wealth.  Levels of protection vary from country to country.

Surveillance Society & the Increasing Scarcity of Privacy

Below are some readings that dig into the increasing surveillance of today’s society. In many instances, these new surveillance methods are first being tested in Las Vegas & prisons, and then brought into every day life, most notably through companies searching for the next best way to track consumers.

Required Reading:

Recommended Reading:


Online collaboration–pre-conclusion.

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Sorry about this temporary conclusion. In the end, the project finally started to give some results, but very slolwly. There’s a lot to learn from that, too (I know there was a reason). I will definitely post my conclusion, but I thought I needed to wait a bit more and see if I could reach the final stage or not. Thanks, guys.

what makes people collaborate online?

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* Images by the members of Found in the Subway Facebook Fan Page, Raph Koster website, Aaron Alamo, Adarian Herschel, and Flickr groups participants.

Are Mobile Donations Safe? Why do they take so long? What can we do next?

Please Text SUMMARY to 89183.

A few references:

BBB Article

MMA Guidelines


What is Aardvark?

Aarkvard is a new social network that enables user to mobilize the skills of their social network to answer any of their questions from the most random (where to go to grab a good coffee in NYC?) to the most specific (What is Y. Benkler’s view on Open Source?).

The concept is based on the idea that asking someone will allow you to make the most of the Internet by obtaining the most trust worthy answer to your question.

Aardvark’s Ambition: being an alternative to Wikipedia, and the search engines based on algorithms.

Why did I have decided to look at it?

While many of us are already using a lot of social networks (Facebook etc…) I was curious to discover what could be the real input of this new tool? What would convince people to actually spend time using it…

As much as I was skeptical about this new tool, the very recent purchase of Aardvark by Google (for around $50 millions) convinced me that it should be worth it to inquire further…

And here we go! I signed in (almost 3 weeks ago) on their website vark.com.

Results of my first approach: MOSTLY DISAPPOINTING!

  • To be asked, your questions have to fit in certain requirements. Your question has to
    • be short
    • contain meaningful key words
  • I obtained relevant answers but the most interesting one contained a link to Wikipedia!
  • After a few days a lost interest in Aardvark and almost forgot that it was an option to find my way through the net.
  • Even if the answers I got were accurate and very useful, I had the feeling that Aardvark seemed to be far to be replacing Wikipedia or Google!

However I had to give it another try (for the sake of my travelogue at least)!

Looking for information I learnt that at first, Aardvark was not a website but something design to be added on IM. What if I had been turned of by their new website?

On my Gmail account I decided to install Aardvark on my Gchat contacts to make the full experience.

Results of my second approach: I discovered a new aspect of this social network that made me reconsider it. Here are some inputs of having aardvark embedded on your e-mail account:

  • No need to go on another website to ask a question.
  • Aardvark appears as a random contact, it is not pushy.
  • You can ask any question that goes through your head faster.
  • You do not have to worry about the format of your questions which you have to do to obtain a satisfying answer from any search engine.

Meanwhile, by connecting to Aardvark I discovered that my friend Harlo was actually an active user of this network. She uses it on a regular basis for about a month now and seems to be pretty happy about it. Talking to her made me realized that the Aardvark might actually have a real input: achieving to mobilize the appropriate person to answer to your specific question.

Indeed the real input of Aardvark relies on the information that their users feed about them. Each user feeds at least its gender, date of birth and location. And of course the more information you give about you and your “topics” of interest the more interesting this new tool turns out to be.

Using those data, Aardvark can determine who are the experts that are the most likely to provide a good answer.

Those 2 features regarding users’ profiles settings give a real advantage to Aardvark to compete with Google or Wikipedia… At least it is the reason why now I am almost converted to my new buddy!

Where’s the Transparency in the White House Visitor Logs?

In September of 2009, President Obama announced that he would release the names of White House Visitors. It was hailed both by the White House administration, as well as several reporters, newspapers and civic ethics groups as a landmark for transparency. It was “proof” that this administration would be more open and honest, and the first step towards releasing information that was formerly secretive. The decision to release the records was claimed to be voluntary, and it was announced that the visitor logs would be made available online.  And true to his word, beginning on January 29th, 2010, the White House did in fact begin to release the names of its visitor records. Since that time, names of visitors (which includes not only tourists, but also names of union leaders, Wall Street executives, lobbyists, party chairs, philanthropists and celebrities), have been released. The names are released in huge batches up to 75,000 names at a time. However, as I will show, within the sheer quantity of this data lies the problem.

But the honesty about the motives behind this effort as well as its extremely poor execution have been disappointing. There are several key areas that illustrate just how far off the White House is from maintaining an open and transparent effort:

  • There is no justification for waiting between 90-120 days to release this information. This is a huge burden that puts investigators at a serious disadvantage when accessing records. By the time the information is made public, it is clearly too late to do anything about it.
  • There is no ability to tell what visitor logs are considered “confidential” and therefore have been intentionally left off of this list, additionally, personal guests of the first family are left off – yet there’s no clear definition of what that means. There’s absolutely no indication of how many names have been left off – is it 100? 500? 1000? It may be cynical, but my guess is these aren’t all visitors whose names aren’t being released due to “security concerns.”
  • The data as its released is often incomplete. Although it logs the visitors first and last name, as well both the time they signed in and out, and who they met with, often times the reasons that they met with a particular person is left blank. Additionally, there is no affiliation of the visitor’s name listed. This is a serious problem, because unless journalists or activists know the name of the person they are looking for, it’s unlikely that they could identify anything of substance due to the sheer quantity of the data they are presented with.
  • Although the White House claimed the data release was voluntary, it’s looking more likely that the policy was the result of the Justice Department settling lawsuits brought by the “good government group” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) which had sought visitor’s logs from both the Obama and Bush administrations.
  • There is no accountability to the process. Citizens and journalists have no authority to request the names of unreleased visitors.
  • A conservative public interest group called Judicial Watch (which “investigates and prosecutes government corruption”)  filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Secret Service for denying Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for access to Obama White House visitor logs from January 20 to August 10, 2009. According to them, the Obama administration continues to advance the erroneous claim that the visitor logs are not agency records and are therefore not subject to FOIA. As Judicial Watch noted in its complaint, this claim “has been litigated and rejected repeatedly” by federal courts. Their complaint is that even though the Obama White House did voluntarily release a select number of White House visitor logs to the public, other records continue to be withheld in defiance of FOIA law.

Although these are some serious points of contention, there are reported instances where journalists have worked to troll through these lists to find valuable information, because there are certain examples of it, but as Mushon pointed out, it’s usually in a case of “gotcha journalism”, that is, journalists were  able to use the logs to prove a theory they already had about who visited Obama and when. In these cases the lists became valuable sources that investigative journalism could use to prove that President Obama or his advisers met with various labor union leaders, business executives, or specific members of Congress. However, even in cases where journalists have been able to pull out some important names, they’re linking them pretty tightly to policies or actions taken, but to a certain extent it’s largely speculation. In fact, it’s possible the whereabouts of these meetings would have been known without the White House visitor logs because so often people who meet with Obama disclose this information themselves. To be fair, the Obama administration made these searches available online and has made them fairly easy to navigate and to download and this marks a visible shift from previous administrations. This has allowed for innovation, such as the following networked map  put together by a blogger “The Networked Thinker” which showed some of meetings individuals had with certain members of the White House staff (click the thumbnail to enlarge or click here to see the original blog post).

Some would argue  it’s not the White House’s job to help the public go through these lists, and that they’ve done enough to release the data, but I feel strongly that they do have a responsibility to make sure they are accurate representations of who is coming and going and why!

The Obama administration may want to point these logs as examples of openness and a willingness to open its inner workings to the public, but so far, that transparency does not exist. Mainstream media has yet to seriously question both the validity of the information on these lists, as well as the White House’s motives and it’s sad that so very few are willing to ask the tough questions. Not until the administration can release the records in a much more timely and manageable way can we even start to understand this as an effort for to be more transparent. If the White House were to release the visitors at the end of each week say, it would be a much more manageable list that citizens and journalists could go through. Additionally, the White House should list the affiliations of the visitors, not only their names, but also who they work for. Perhaps have various types of visitors (eg Class A refers to tourists, Class B to lobbyists, Class C to political figures, etc) so that investigators would have some sort of reference to start looking for patterns, or particular visitors etc.

I have to say that I finish this travalogue at a very different point from where I started. When I first began to investigate this issue, I was pretty clearly the side of the Obama administration. I knew that there were going to be some problems with the data, but overall I did feel this was a good thingbut not anymore. In fact, the lists are so problematic that I fear the Obama administration has done a great disservice to the public by  claiming to have several values, which if evaluated solely on this project, they do not appear to have. Unfortunately by doing so, they’ve cheapened those values dramatically.

Aardvark case, back in the game!

Being a neophyte in the Web 2.0 world, when I became aware of this new network was to freak out : How can they pretend and make me believe that complete strangers to me will answer to all of my questions? I obviously got scared and attacked the computers in general (lol)

Both Dan and Mushon’s comments put me back on the right track. I was focusing on the wrong question regarding Aardvark. After all, Aardvark is just a new search engine, an alternative to Google, mobilizing people’s knowledge.

Indeed while most of search engines’ results rely on the Internet, Aardvark rely on people. It taps on your preexisting network of friends (by connecting with Facebook, your email account etc…)

The correct question would have been:

Aardvark, a trustworthy alternative to Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia ? Arkvaard versus Google?

I have to admit that my travelogue got me confused: as much as I was enthusiastic when I discovered it (enough to start my travelogue on it!), I was completely turned off by my user experience in the “long run”. Even if some specific answers were interesting there was nothing catchy. And reading strangers’ answers did not really raise my interest! Especially when those strangers send you a link to Wikipedia!

What do they think Aardvark’s input is then?

Looking for more information, I have learned that at the very beginning Aardvark was not a website it was just something you could put over IM and that enabled you to let your network of friends know that you were looking for an answer. But now that it is super easy to create an account on their web interface, anyone can answer your question.

So how are the answers you get supposed to be more reliable?

I am still wondering and will come up with an answer soon!

New developments in the “WebcamGate”

Last Thursday, two IT employees involved in the Harriton High School webcam scandal were placed on temporary leave while the investigations into the case continue. However, their lawyers claim that the technicians only turned on the tracking software when they believed that the computers were stolen.  They argue that the student who filed the lawsuit hadn’t paid a $55 insurance fee to take the laptop home, so technically there were authorized to track down the computer.

Justice in your own hands?

According to media reports, the Lower Merrian Police Department also knew about the software. In the case of a theft, the security feature would take every 15 minutes a photo with the webcam. Meanwhile, the company that sold the tracking feature to the Harriton High School, has changed the name of its program and its user policy; from now on, the end users can’t activate the remote webcam anymore. In the Harriton High case, a federal court judge banned the webcam activation of the school distributed laptops. Computer recovery softwares, like for example Prey (open source project!), seem to have become quite common. Even NYU offers such a service. This week, a techie made it into the headlines in Boston when he helped the police to recover his stolen computers. In this case, the victim had previously connected his home computer to his laptops (GoToMyPC is a software that would enable that), and could therefore access the stolen devices, and track their location. However, this feature has a flip side too. As the amateur techie observed, “[i]f (the family) had known what they were doing, they actually could have accessed my home computer from the laptop.” In addition, the question remains if individuals should be motivated to use this software. It is also debatable if evidence collected in this way would be admissible in court. First, it doesn’t prove who has actually stolen the computers; it only shows who the new user is. Second, isn’t first a warrant needed to follow up (even your own) computer?

Who knew what?

The are contrary statements on who knew about the school’s authority to track their computers. On one hand, the plaintiff argues that he was unaware of the feature. On the other hand, I contacted on Facebook a parent who sends his children to the Harriton High school, and he told me the following:

However, it is unclear if teachers have discussed the full implications of the tracking feature with its students, and pointed out the possible risk of privacy invasion. In addition,  as I outlined in my previous post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) believes that “private schools or employers can ask you to sign away your right to privacy, but not a government entity like a public school.“

Polarized reactions

The scandal has divided the school’s community. Students show their opposition to the schools policy with “LMSD [Lower Merion School District] is watching you” T-shirts. On the correspondent Facebook group, they refer to the school as a “prison.” I’ve contacted several students to get more details, but they haven’t got back to me (yet). Nevertheless, many parents and kids defend the school, and have formed different anti-lawsuit groups, like LMSDParents.org / “Reasonable LMSD parents refusing to rush to judgement” (to whom belongs Jan Klinkewicz), or Parents in Support of the Lowe Merrion School District, which collects signatures for a petition to fight the lawsuit. Concerned about the financial impact of a large class-action settlement, the group held a meeting in opposition to the lawsuit last Tuesday.

I’ve also detected ad-hominem attacks on the comment section of ABC’s local Philadelphia television statement, that seek to discredit the plaintiff’s family and imply that they are seeking personal financial profit from the affair. What should be the appropriate steps to follow? One commentator called willy25 underlines that “[o]nce one child’s rights have been violated, all children are at risk.” In any case, I believe that the most important step is to (re-)establish trust between the school and the students, indispensable for the success of the whole education system.