New Rules for Black Boxes in Cars

The EFF is calling for comments on proposed new federal regulations for black-box data recorders in all new cars and trucks.  It’s a good read, and something to keep in mind if you are planning to buy a new car.

The NHTSA states that it is agency policy “to treat EDR data as the property of the vehicle owner.” That’s not enough. There needs to be a clear statement, both in the regulation itself, and in the owners manual, that any data recorded by the EDR are the sole property of the vehicle owner, and that the owner may expect that the EDR data remain private except if he or she consents to its disclosure.

Next Steps?

If hundreds of recess appointments in the executive branch were unconstitutionally made over the last 30 years,  does that mean that every action taken by those appointees is now subject to challenge?

Harvard Professor Doesn’t Understand AdSense

The BBC has an article posted today about a research paper that offers some provocative conclusions.  The premise is that a Harvard professor did a study which purports to show that Google searches on people’s names return results with a racial bias, based on stereotyped racial associations of the names themselves:

She found that names like Leroy, Kareem and Keisha would yield advertisements that read “Arrested?”, with a link to a website which could perform criminal record checks.

Searches for names such as Brad, Luke and Katie would not – instead more likely to offer websites that can provide general contact details.

“There is discrimination in the delivery of these ads,” concluded Prof Sweeney, adding that there was a less than 1% chance that the findings could be based on chance.

The article also contains this response attributed to Google:

“It is up to individual advertisers to decide which keywords they want to choose to trigger their ads,” the search giant said.

It seems the real issue here is that the prof doesn’t understand how A/B testing for AdSense advertising works.* Continue reading Harvard Professor Doesn’t Understand AdSense

Attention Makers: $20,000 Prize From Engadget

Applications are due February 8.


So I hear Michigan has a new law that says employers are not allowed to ask employees for their facebook passwords. Maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I can’t think of a legitimate context in which an employer could claim it was appropriate to ask an employee, or a potential employee, to give up their password to any email or personal social network account. *

Although employees have more protections, the new law doesn’t prevent employers from gaining access to any electronic devices they provide such as an iPad, laptop or cellphone. Which is why employers should have a clear policy so employees know what to expect when they use company-owned technology.

Employers can still restrict and prohibit access to certain websites on electronic devices if they pay for them in whole or part.

I mean, come on guys.  That’s pretty entry-level stuff.  Employees don’t have an expectation of privacy covering activity on work computers.  And if you don’t have a policy prohibiting pr0n at work or on company devices, maybe that’s something you should think about.  And if you have managers who claim the need to snoop through your employees’ social media use to decide whether or not they can be trusted with a company cell phone, it seems like your organization might have larger problems to address.
I guess I could understand exceptions for government security clearances or FBI background checks.  But those entities can just go to FB (and Google and Yahoo and your cell phone provider) and obtain your data without permission anyway.  So they don’t need a password to get the goods.  And all this really means is that for everyone else (as I have discussed previously here and here) if you really need to know, you should outsource it.

*yes yes I understand that some people are professional in-house paid marketeers and the company wants access to accounts registered in those people’s personal names.  But that’s not a “personal” account in the sense I mean to use it here.

3D Printed Phone Cases? Why Not?

I can only think that we’ll start seeing a lot more of this sort of thing.  It doesn’t really cost the OEM anything extra to release the .stl files to the public, and it buys them a lot of goodwill with nerds like me who like to hack their own stuff.

Nokia has just released a “3D-printing Development Kit” with all the documentation you’ll need to create a custom backing for yourself. It’s available for download from the source links below, and contains “3D templates, case specs, recommended materials and . . . → Read More: 3D Printed Phone Cases? Why Not?

Bag ——-> Cat

So, these guys exist:

Defense Distributed is organized to produce and publish information related to the 3D printing of firearms. [...] the first order production goal remains the same: produce and publish a file for a completely printable gun

And then this happened:

the 3D-printing firm Makerbot has deleted a collection of blueprints for gun components from Thingiverse, its popular user-generated content website that hosts 3D-printable files.

And, in the wake of a soul-rending tragedy wrought by a man with a gun, someone who doesn’t understand how the internet works suggested the solution should be new laws:

U.S. Representative Steve Israel (D-Huntington, N.Y.) plans to propose a ban on creating gun magazines with 3-D printers. The bill is still in the drafting stage, but Israel intends to make sure existing legislation includes consideration for this new kind of homemade firearm.

and the DefDist guys responded.

So, now this is happening:

We’re not sure how this site might fit into Defense Distributed’s efforts, but know that THIS place, if there will be no other, IS a home for fugitive information. No object file will be censored unless it is malicious software. When we say freedom of information, we mean it.

and with a manifesto like that, naturally, comes this.  And so the cat is officially out of the bag, forever.

Continue reading Bag ——-> Cat

Amazon Tries Redux

Ars points out the same thing I thought when I first heard about Amazon’s new AutoRip service- this is basically the same thing that got sued out of existence the first time it was tried.  That was way back in the heady days of 1999, when the internet would make everything possible, even before the record labels killed Napster.

Licensed services like iTunes were still years in the future, largely because labels were skittish about selling music online. But Robertson believed he didn’t need a license because the service was permitted by copyright’s fair use doctrine. If a user can rip his legally purchased CD to his computer, why can’t he also store a copy of it online? Robertson didn’t see himself as facilitating copyright infringement. He just wanted to give users a more convenient way to get music they had already paid for.

But the courts disagreed, ruling that needed licenses from copyright holders to operate the service. And the labels simply weren’t interested in Robertson’s vision of convenient and flexible music lockers. So was driven into bankruptcy, and the “buy a CD, get an MP3″ concept fell by the wayside.

and here we are again, everything old . . . → Read More: Amazon Tries Redux

Something New (at least, new to me)

Apparently they have been around for a while, but until about a month ago, I had never heard of a Delta robot.  For me, this video was kind of an Arthur C. Clarke 3rd law moment:

Although, strictly speaking, since I don’t  believe in magic I assumed this tech was created by aliens.  Boy did I feel silly when I realized this control system has been around for long enough that people are using it to stack mass-produced pre-cooked pancakes on . . . → Read More: Something New (at least, new to me)

DIY laser cutter on Kickstarter is getting kickstopped

Sad, because I wanted one. Looks like this is not going to . . . → Read More: DIY laser cutter on Kickstarter is getting kickstopped