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June 18, 2013

Ghostery blocks ads and then sells your personal info to ad companies

A Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry | MIT Technology Review
Whenever discussion starts about how to hide from the tracking code that follows users around the Web to serve them targeted ads, recommendations soon pile up for a browser add-on called Ghostery. It blocks tracking code, noticeably speeds up how quickly pages load as a result, and has roughly 19 million users. Yet few of those who advocate Ghostery as a way to escape the clutches of the online ad industry realize that the company behind it, Evidon, is in fact part of that selfsame industry. Evidon helps companies that want to improve their use of tracking code by selling them data collected from the eight million Ghostery users that have enabled a data-sharing feature in the tool. That makes Evidon, which bought Ghostery in 2010, something of an anomaly in the complex world of online advertising. Whether in Congress or at the Web standards body W3C, debates over online privacy typically end up with the ad industry and privacy advocates facing off along clearly demarcated lines (see “High Stakes in Internet Tracking”). Evidon straddles both sides of that debate. “This is not a scheme,” says Scott Meyer, Evidon’s cofounder and CEO and formerly a senior figure in the New York Times Company’s online operations, when asked about that dual role. He says there is no conflict in offering a tool that helps users hide from the ad industry while also helping that same industry.

June 17, 2013

The new Xbox's always-online requirement makes it unsuitable for military personnel

How many hundreds of thousands of people have to be alienated before Microsoft changes their tune? The Escapist : News : Microsoft "Has Alienated" the U.S. Military With Xbox One
Players hoping to actually use the console for games will need a reliable online connection to check in with Microsoft on a daily basis. Failure to check in will disable gaming functionality, even for single player experiences. For members of the military, this requirement could wind up being a deal breaker. "Microsoft has single handedly alienated the entire military," said naval aviator Jay Johnson. "And not just the U.S. military- the militaries of the entire world." Johnson, who has spent the past three years deployed training at sea regularly relies on his Xbox 360 to unwind. "It is where I went to calm down after a long day of flying." The Xbox One's online requirements could make future similar experiences impossible for service members deployed to areas of the world with unreliable internet. Microsoft, which has previously suggested players with connectivity problems stick with the Xbox 360, has expressed sympathy for service members. "There was a person who said, 'Hey, I'm on a nuclear sub.' I don't even know what it means to be on a nuclear sub, but I've got to imagine it's not easy to get an Internet connection," said Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment division. "If I was on a sub, I'd be disappointed." Despite acknowledging the less than perfect nature of Xbox One for service members, Microsoft has yet to offer any viable solutions for the near future. "I don't have additional details to share and can't speculate on workarounds at this time," said Xbox rep Danica Stickel.

May 17, 2013

Could guns with biometric locks protect against gun violence?

Some violence? Sure. But how they would protect against massacres like Newtown or Aurora or Columbine is beyond me. Is The ‘James Bond’ Gun Bill A Silver Bullet Against Gun Violence? | ThinkProgress
You may start seeing more people carrying James Bond’s gun around — by law. A new proposed federal law would require that all new guns, and eventually all guns for sale, would be required to have “smart” identification technology that only allows specially authorized users to fire it, something the silver screen saw recently in Skyfall. The law is intended to crack down on gun accidents, thefts, and suicides, but its critics — including a major gun violence prevention group — worry that it might make the problem worse. Introduced by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 would require that all guns manufactured for sale or put up for sale, would have to have some kind of “personalized” technology that limited the ability to fire the gun to its owner and any individuals authorized. Since this technology is not widespread now, these requirements would kick in within two years for manufacturers and three years for sellers. Affected sellers include both federally licensed retailers and private sellers. The bill is technologically feasible. Several possible ways of building “smart” guns include firearms that only activate when you press a special ring into it, guns that won’t work until you enter a key code, guns that only fire if they detect a specific radio signal, and guns that recognize biometric info like fingerprints. Some smart guns are already available abroad, including one Irish design that automatically disables guns when they’re brought into properly equipped schools. There’s some reason to believe these measures could be effective in reducing gun violence. Roughly ten to fifteen percent of crime guns are acquired by theft; an average of 232,400 guns are stolen per year. Presumably, a smart gun couldn’t be used by a thief.