Policy

Familial DNA Searching

Wired had an article last week entitled Your Relative's DNA Could Turn You Into a Suspect, in which they describe a of using familial DNA searching to locate suspects. There are interesting implications here, especially with regard to public DNA search resources like Ancestry.com.  
Thanks to Bruce Schneier's Blog for the link.

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Academia's Tug-of-war with the NSA over Encryption

There's an excellent article, Keeping Secrets, on medium today (originally from the November/December 2014 issue of Stanford Magazine) about the conflict between academic work on cryptography and the NSA's role in national security.   Most of the focus is on what happened and not on who was right or wrong.

FirstToDisclose.org repository for invention disclosure

Launched just ahead of the first move by the US to switch from first-to-invent to first-to-file, a new site, FirsttoDisclose.org has launched, with the idea of putting your materials in the public view in order to limit other people from attempting to claim patent protection for ideas you are using.   I'm not a lawyer, but from what I can see, this is mostly useful for forcing ideas to be disclosed for public use (i.e. intent to eventually place in the public domain).

Don't read this if you think TSA security works

The Atlantic has a scathing article about TSA airport security, citing a number of demonstrated attempts (with success) to get past the "security theater" that is our current airport security system. Don't read this article if you believe that TSA security works and you're safer because of it—it might be very disturbing.

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How much energy does Alaska produce?

OK, I'm still confused by this oft-quoted figure from the McCain/Palin campaign that "[Alaska] produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy." (Gibson interview with Palin, September 11, 2008, as noted on The Times). From my calculations, even when only Oil is taken into account, that number is off by quite a bit.

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FTC gets more serious on Do Not Call list

In some good news for consumers, the FTC has decided to get more serious about the Telemarketing Sales Rules that govern telemarketing phone calls. The decision is pretty readable, but the salient points are after the jump.

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Is the wrong federal agency policing net neutrality?

There's been a lot of commentary over the last few months about Comcast and their filtering/traffic manipulation/smoothing/whathaveyou. In general, customers are up-in-arms about one of their one-to-two choices for high-speed internet doing things behind their backs to change the way the internet appears to them. However, there's also been a ton of fear-mongering (on both sides) about what this action, and potential FCC reaction, means to the future of the Internet.

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Software Patent sanity

A good article from Ars Technica about the potentially weakening case for software patents and why it isn't the end of the world. Countering the fear-mongering piece by Duffy on the issue. For more of my thoughts on this, I posted an patent-related article on Cartographica earlier this month.

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The Free Software Foundation has gotten on my last nerve

Generally, I don't talk about the FSF (promulgators of the GNU "Free Software" license). The main reason is that I've spent most of my life writing software for a living and these folks are just plain wrong on how collaborative software should be done, in my humble opinion. However, this time they've gone too far and I'm not going to sit here and let this go unnoticed. If you've ever supported the FSF financially before, please stop. Why? Because they've made themselves into the PETA of the software. They're angry with Apple and to show it, they've engaged in what is appropriately referred to as a "denial of service attack" on Apple's technical support organization, the Genius Bar. Learn more after the link

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Google readying Net Neutrality tools

The Register had an article last week quoting Richard Whitt, senior policy director at Google saying that Google is creating a set of tools to allow users to determine if their ISPs are filtering their access to the Internet. This is going to raise the bar a little...

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