Monthly Archives: July 2009

Help is on the way

Wasting away in front of your computer? Marriage on the rocks? Can’t get any work done and it’s all because of playing too much MMOGs?

Help is on the way and you don’t even have to stop playing to get it:

“We will be launching this project by the end of the year. I think it’s already clear that psychiatrists will have to stay within the parameters of the game. They certainly wouldn’t be wandering around the game in white coats and would have to use the same characters available to other players,” said Dr Graham.

“We may have to work at that if we are going to get through to those who play this game for hours at end.”

Of course the cynic in me thinks this is really just a clever ploy on the part of some therapist to get paid to play WOW.

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On a first name basis

Here is an all too familiar tale of someone who penetrated a company’s email system because of lax passwords:

The message, he says, included the Web address to Sapphire’s e-mail server and the recruit’s new e-mail address and password. Goldenberg says he logged on as the recruit and quickly figured out the log-ons of three other employees. Like the recruit, they used their first name as part of their e-mail address – and as their password.

500 random thoughts

According to WordPress this is the 500th post on my idlogger blog. I would like to thank all my loyal readers for putting up with my rambling thoughts. Both of you are great!

School bullies

Here is a story about a school district that is being sued for punishing students based on information gleaned from Facebook after demanding the students login credentials:

In what may be the latest example, a suit was filed in Mississippi that alleges a school official—more specifically a teacher acting in her capacity as a cheerleading coach—demanded that members of her squad hand over their Facebook login information. According to the suit, the teacher used it to access a student’s account, which included a heated discussion of some of the cheerleading squad’s internal politics. That information was then shared widely among school administrators, which resulted in the student receiving various sanctions.

As we noted when Bozeman, Montana attempted to obtain login credentials from anyone applying for a municipal job, it’s easy for anyone to view pictures and text that a Facebook user has chosen to make public simply by signing up for an account with the service. By demanding login credentials, authorities gain access to materials that users have chosen to keep private. Whether this is done because people intend to get access to private data or because they are simply unfamiliar with how Facebook operates isn’t always obvious, and probably varies from case to case.

Here is a hint to school officials everywhere: anytime you undertake a course of action that involves demanding login credentials for a service unrelated to school activities, it will ultimately end badly for you. Although you have been granted the power by the supreme court to regular violate student’s privacy (unwisely in my opinion) there are limits. Even if the school wins ultimately wins this case the damage to its relationship with the students and parents is not worth whatever you think you are accomplishing. Which in this case seems to be punishing a student for gossiping.

Students are going to insult you behind your back. Get over it. Grow up or find another profession.

When to put in the circular file

Apparently Alexandra VA is making another stab at speed camera revenue enhancement (hat tip to DC Camera Fraud):

In two weeks, a for-profit company will begin mailing traffic tickets to the owners of vehicles passing through three Alexandria intersections. The private company, American Traffic Solutions, Inc., operates the traffic cameras, makes the initial decision who is guilty, mails the tickets, collects the fines and then gives the city a cut of the windfall.

This isn’t the first time Alexandria has tried to cash in on photo enforcement. Between 1998 and 2005, Alexandria’s cameras snapped more than 50,000 citations.

Make no mistake; this is all about the money. Everywhere speed cameras have been tried they have resulted in more accidents than before. But there is good news in VA at least. According to state law you really don’t have to pay the fines:

Fortunately, there is some good news for motorists who might receive a ticket in the mail after toodling through Old Town. As The Washington Times reported four years ago, state law says a private company may not simply drop a ticket in a mailbox and expect it to be considered valid service. Unless a driver receives a hand-delivered copy, the citation can be thrown away without consequence. Depriving Alexandria and its revenue-collecting partner of cash is the surest way to ensure this unsafe program disappears for good.

Vigilante privacy audits

Ian Glazer of the Burton Group has created a Facebook app called Privacy Mirror that explores Facebook app privacy behavior. His results are quite interesting:

Imagine that Alice and Bob are friends in Facebook. Alice decides to add a new application, called App X, to her profile in Facebook. (For clarity’s sake, by “add”, I mean that she authorizes the application to see her profile. Examples of Facebook applications include Polls, Friend Wheel, Movies, etc.) At this point, App X can see information in Alice’s profile. App X can also see that Alice is friends with Bob; in fact, App X can see information in Bob’s profile. Bob can limit how much information about him is available to applications that his friends add to their profiles through the Application Privacy settings. In this case, let’s imaging that Bob has only allowed 3rd party applications to see his profile picture and profile status.

After a while, Alice tells Bob about App X. He thinks it sounds cool and adds it to his profile. At this point if App X, via Alice’s profile, looks at Bob’s profile it will see not only his profile picture and status but also his education history, hometown info, activities and movies. That is significantly more than what he authorized in his Application privacy settings. What is going here?

It’s well worth reading the whole thing. In summary, Ian makes the point that there is no way a normal user of Facebook would understand what privacy policy is being applied to applications in this scenario.

Facebook needs to clarify their privacy policies. Or fix them.

Too good to be true

Robert Samuelson calls BS on the current health care reform:

The most misused word in the health care debate is “reform.” Everyone wants “reform,” but what constitutes “reform” is another matter. If you listen to President Obama, his “reform” will satisfy almost everyone. It will insure the uninsured, control runaway health spending, subdue future budget deficits, preserve choice for patients and improve quality of care. These claims are self-serving exaggerations and political fantasies. They have destroyed what should be a serious national discussion of health care.

It never hurts to remember that old saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is”. The current heath care reform promises the world. Everyone will get covered, you get to keep your current plan if you like it, and no one gets hurt by taxes (except for some rich folks you likely don’t know or care about). This is all based on the questionable assertion that the national health care system will be become more efficient with government oversight.

Sounds too good to be true.