Monthly Archives: March 2014

The United States of Internet Censorship

Recently BGR reported that the United States is now on the official “Enemies of the Internet” list by watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.  This annual report generally details countries that inhibit the freedoms of it’s citizens from posting or viewing content on the internet the country deems undesirable.  The report named several alphabet agencies of both the US and the UK like the NSA and GCHQ as major reasons why a variety of new changes have been made to a list that regularly calls out countries like China and it’s great firewall.

The report specifically mentioned that we should not consider the United States government as a whole responsible for the listing, but the practices of many of it’s intelligence agencies.  Practices that massively collect data are new targets of the report, along with specifics such as the NSA’s Quantum Insert program and exposing the numerous times and people hacked for information by the NSA and GCHQ.

For the more visual learner created two infographics for BGR that include a detailed map of the world’s internet censorship and a related graphic about the 6 companies that secretly run the internet.  Check both of these out for some interesting information.

Bittersweet Symphony, copyright controversy

In 1997 an English alternative rock band named “The Verve” released a song named Bittersweet Symphony. The song would eventually reach number 12 on the Billboard 100 list in 1998. The song featured a sample from “The Andrew Oldman Orchestra” of The Last Time by “The Rolling Stones.” This 4-bar sample was used with the permission of both Andrew Loog Oldman and Allen Klein. Andrew Loog Oldman was the original manager of “The Rolling Stones” and the copyright holder of the orchestral version of the song. Allen Klein was also manager of “The Rolling Stones” for a period of time and his label, ABKCO Records, is copyright holder for the studio recording of The Last Time.

After the song was released, “The Verve” was sued for sampling too much of The Last Time by both Oldham and Klein. In the end “The Verve” lost composer credits for the song, copyrights and royalties. When Bittersweet symphony was nominated for a Grammy, the credits were given to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. The song was featured in a Nike ad, which had been refused when “The Verve” held rights to the song.

This scenario indicates to me that there is something wrong with the way copyrights work in America today. Without a doubt content creators deserve to be compensated for their work, but when they are given too much power, for too much time, copyrights stifle future creativity. In this case, two men who had no part in the production of the original work were able to file suit and take right for a derivative work.

Break old laws for better ones?

In today’s class, we talked about gay marriage and the rightness of making it legal. Similar ideas could also be in Why ‘I have Nothing to Hide’, which is required to read.

In the article the author pointed out that’ state of Minnesota legalized same-sex marriage this year’, and then he said ‘sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001′. Thus he gave out the questions that if the laws were perfect and 100% followed, then how could people still try homosexual relationship if they followed the law, which indicated the law is strictly correct?

The deduction he gave us seemed to be correct and reasonable, just as what we talked in class, and put old laws on the board of being broken. But what i wanted to point out here is that, long before the laws were made, homosexuality or same-sex relationship has been recorded objectively in history.

In ancient China, same-sex love was recorded around 600 BCE and described as “brokeback” while Japanese called it “shudo or nanshoku” and “This same-sex love culture gave rise to strong traditions of painting and literature documenting and celebrating such relationships.”

And in European , there are also many discussions about same-sex relationship, what i found was from Plato and Aristotle. And particularly, Aristotle pointed out that “barbarians like the Celts accorded it a special honour (2.6.6), while the Cretans used it to regulate the population”. And this could explain why countries like Russia tried to make gay marriage illegal as their population is decreasing each year.

Thus, my point here is that since gay relationship has been recorded way before the law was made. So we cannot say that we “secretly break the law to know about it ” and thus make better laws. Particular cases like homosexuality is not a good example.

Furthermore, from my point of view, we cannot label most of the laws good or bad laws as they all sever to regulate our societies and try meet the expectations of most or certain group of people. Because to me, laws are just some modified moralities written in paper as for most of the time we cannot come to an agreement of our moralities or ethics. We don’t know the principles we using is the one most accepted by people or the correct when we evaluate actions, thus we need a unified principle for this, which is law.

So when a new law comes out, it’s not the case that the old one is broken and new one replace it. It’s because people’s attitudes have changed, so we have the new one.

Studying Behavior Or Socially Constructing an Artifact?

In January, Ellen Coulter of ABC news in Australia covered CSIRO’s (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) latest micro-technology in her online article: “CSIRO, University of Tasmania scientists fit tiny sensors onto honey bees to study behavior.” Ellen underlines the whole procedure, and explains that 5000 bees are put to sleep, are then shaved, and a tiny sensor is placed on their head. These sensors record the movements and the behavior of the bees and are going to help the scientists understand optimal reproducing conditions, and to understand the effect of pesticides on bees. Article also explains that the future goal is to decrease the size of the sensor and fit it on flies and mosquitoes. The research covered in this article can be looked at the social construction (constructivism) of micro-sensors. Originally, the sensors were bigger and only a few bees were used; however, now 5000 are being used, and plans are being made to minimize the size of the sensors and to use them on flies and mosquitoes. The article leaves the reader with questions like what are the benefits of sensors on the flies and mosquitoes? The reader has a different technological frame, and based on his or her metaphors, may propose that the sensors could be used to not only gather agricultural data, but can be utilized in a wide variety of applications; for example, monitoring weather, surveillance, monitoring traffic, floods, etc. However, this artifact is socially constructed based on the needs of the scientific community working on the project. Although not explained, it is clear that planning to make the sensors smaller is going to serve important purposes far beyond the welfare of flies and mosquitoes. This type of development of an artifact by different actors in different technological frames, using their respective interpretative flexibility, into a technology that could be used in their specific fields is an example of constructivism. How these sensors are developed over time and are stabilized into a beneficial artifact by different social groups corresponds to the definition of constructivism: society constructs how science shapes our lives.


Bijker, Wiebe. 2012 [1987]. “The Social Construction of Bakelite: Towards a theory of invention.” In The Social Construction of technological systems, Anniversary Edition. Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor Pinch, eds. PP 155—182. Cambridge: MIT Press.


ABC News (2014). “CSIRO, University of Tasmania scientists fit tiny sensors onto honey bees to study behavior.” Online Article, <, > accessed 15 March 2014.

President Obama announces a proposal to end mass data collection by the NSA

Just last night, the New York Times posted a very timely article about President Obama announcing a proposal to end mass data collection by the NSA, particularly as it applies to section 215 of the PATRIOT Act with mass collection of metadata received from phone companies.

Later, the article goes on to say, “The Obama administration proposal…would retain a judicial role in determining whether the standard of suspicion was met for a particular phone number before the N.S.A. could obtain associated records.” This seems to suggests that instead of the routine data collection currently performed by the NSA, under the new proposal, there would be a targeted data collection system. The NSA would have to provide evidence to some judicial body that there is a “standard of suspicion” before they would be able to obtain any phone call data on the suspicious party. This would probably make a lot of public feel relieved and maybe even less paranoid since you would, under this proposal, need to be a suspicious target to have your phone usage data obtained by the NSA. They would no longer be able to routinely collect all phone usage data.

The article also says, “The government has been unable to point to any thwarted terrorist attacks that would have been carried out if the program had not existed, but has argued that it is a useful tool,” which was one of the points made in class against the NSA’s collection of metadata being morally right. This seems to give some credibility to the claim that the NSA’s actions have been unnecessary and that time and money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Netflix Reluctantly Pays for Faster Connections

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings accused internet service providers of demanding fees to ensure quick delivery of Netflix content.  He accused the ISPs of slowing users’ internet connection in order to extract funds from Netflix.  They did announce an agreement with Comcast, in which it would indeed pay for high speed connections for their users, and they are working on an agreement with Verizon as well.

Hastings accuses ISPs of abusing their market share to pretty much extort funds from Netflix.  ISPs, on the other hand, claim that Netflix users consume a large amount of bandwidth, and high-speed internet is expensive to deploy.  According to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, about one percent of broadband customers consume 40% of bandwidth going into homes.  ISPs point out that nearly one third on online traffic during peak hours is Netflix users streaming videos.

It only seems fair that Netflix pays a fee to internet service providers since their customers consume so much bandwidth.  The cost of providing high-speed internet is high, so they should be compensated accordingly.  Also, increased revenue should result in better internet service in the future.  Some other companies, such as Microsoft, Google, and Facebook already have deals with the major ISPs.

Body-mounted Cameras for Law Enforcement

Some U.S. police departments are experimenting with body-mounted cameras for police officers that will record their interactions with civilians. Supporters of this new technology say that it will aid in evidence gathering at a crime scene, and it also creates a record of officers’ behavior, which would cut down on the amount of unnecessary force and abuse of power.
The obvious concern about this new law enforcement technology is privacy. Without the proper laws, recordings taken by these cameras can leave open the possibility of abuse. A law pending in Pennsylvania has its opposition. The ACLU says that it “places too much power in the hands of officers and not enough in the hands of the public.” One issue that has already arisen is that some officers turned off their cameras during a confrontation with protesters.
Having police officers wearing cameras does have some benefits, but it can also lead to some unwanted consequences. It would definitely help with prosecuting criminals if actions were caught on video. But what if civilians start wearing cameras in response to law enforcement wearing them. If they can record us, why wouldn’t we be able to do the same. I suppose that we are already doing that, in a way. Most cell phones have cameras these days. And how many videos have been taken in public and posted to this website or that one. It seems that people are having less and less privacy as technology continues advancing.

Is the “Internet of Things” making us more vulnerable to hacking?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a general concept that refers to objects that have identifiable or machine-readable information, which can be managed by computers. The long-term goal is for every device and person to be equipped with identifiers that are all linked together.

The idea seems fascinating and innovative, but it raises a lot of issues, particularly issues related to security. For instance, last month we learned that the largest hacking scheme of Target’s financial system was done through a HVAC system. As things we use for everyday living begin to have online capabilities, our lives and the Internet of Things become increasingly interconnected. As we see now with the increased commercial use of things like NEST technology’s thermostat, we can control every system in our home without even leaving our seats. That sort of convenience helps its users but leaves the door wide open for those who have ill intentions.  IoT gives others the ability to hack in and control certain aspects of our lives, by unlocking our door, turning our lights on, or disabling security systems. They even have the ability to hack into our appliances. The biggest concern of all this is that your personal data can be compiled from IoT devices. IoT’s data includes information about its user’s location, how many people are in the home, when one arrives or leaves their home.

The IoT is an economically expanding system. With over 20 billion devices set to be “internized” by 2020, it creates a breeding ground for data collectors. Even software that allows users to counter security threats is still susceptible to hacking.

All we can hope for is that with the increase of “IoT”, there is an increase in security detail.  But even then nothing is guaranteed.  What do you think about “IoT”, and the concerns it raises? Would you want every device you own to be connected? How would we go about making sure our privacy, data, etc. are protected?

Data Brokers

I caught a glimpse of a 60 minutes segment that dealt with data brokers, which are people that track our internet history and other personal information in extreme detail to sell to others curious about us.60 Minutes explains that this data has been known to be collected for advertising, which brings to mind those “magical” Facebook ads that seem to know exactly what you have been looking and thinking about. This article makes it seem that this goes a little farther and this information to going to potential employers and the data being collecting isn’t something I expected. They mention products you buy, which I think we all know is tracked, but they somehow track other information such as, medical history, depression, cancer, genetic history, and even sexual orientation. Also, I didn’t realize that companies track your visits and clicks on other websites, Their example is Facebook tracking the and There are many others companies are in a crowd following your internet visits and every move you make on their websites. They also mention mobile devices and apps, Angry Birds and “Brightest Flashlight App” can access your GPS and track your movements, see where you are and your schedule.
Most of us know and understand that our internet traffic and other information can be tracked, but for information to be sold and especially when the information is commonly viewed as “private” like medical history, that seems a little unethical. I don’t quite understand why a company needs to track where you are and which places you commonly go to, it just seems like information that shouldn’t be known without explicitly asking me for that information. Companies, apps, and others need to be more open about what is being shared when you visit their website or use their programs.

Price of Online Anonymity

NPR interview with Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation author. 


Personal information is our ticket to ride in the “digital” era. Governments  survey for protection, companies survey for profit.  The public demands free apps on smart phones, free accounts on websites, location services for travel, etc.   All of these should operate cohesively, while not invading privacy.

Julia Angwin discusses information collection in her new book Dragnet Nation.  In her study, she concludes “there’s a price you pay for living in the modern world. And some of that has to do with — you have to share your data.”

Is this a fair trade?  What expressions of personal information are exhibited in our daily lives?  If you wear a Beatles t-shirt to a record shop and browse the hip-hop section, is it infringing on your privacy if the owner suggests you purchase Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, a Jay-Z Black Album/Beatles White Album mashup? How are YouTube’s ad suggestions different?

How conscious are you of current data collection?

“Retailers such as Whole Foods have used digital signs that are actually facial recognition scanners. Some car dealerships are using a service from Dataium that lets them know which cars you have browsed online, if you have given them your e-mail address, before you arrive on the dealership lot.”

“Your name, address, and other identifying details—even the location of your cell phone at any given time—are all stored in various databases that you cannot view or control.”

Data services perpetually track you, and presently, if you want to participate in the modern world, that’s the price you pay.

How do you feel about your present life and its relationship with technology?  Do you feel uneasy about using online resources?  I don’t regularly feel like my privacy is being invaded, but perhaps that’s because I don’t know the extent of my information’s collection.  If cooperation and happiness are optimal, can they both be attained while favoring corporate/governmental interests?  To some extent, it can be argued that is our established reality.

Read her findings and check out the comments section too where I found interesting thoughts and useful links: 

Blender – Anonymizes your Firefox browser

TrackMeNot – searches random phrases in Google for you, adding noise to your history


Mike Brazier

German Company sues Apple for $2 billion.

An article in USA Today dicusses how IpCom, a German patent holding company sued Apple for $2 billion. A “patent troll” is a term commonly used to describe the company because of its tendency to buy patents with no intent to use them. IpCom has over 1,200 patents with no plan for them in manufacturing.



The company benefits from the license fees and royalties that result from enforcing patents. The ethical question here is  deciding if IpCom’s actions are morally right. The Act Utilitarianism theory may say that the action is morally wrong because it creates more unhappiness because they are suing the company for producing a product that advances society that would not have gotten produced otherwise. While rule utilitarianism would have said they were morally right if the number one rule is something like, “do not violate the patent”.

$2 billion is a lot of money and IpCom was denied their claim. But were they morally right to sue Apple in the first place?