Friday, June 3, 2011

Library Privacy in the Age of Information Sharing

Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society will be hosting Hyper-Public: A Symposium on Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World later this month. The Symposium will host
Discussions of privacy often focus solely on the question of how to protect privacy. But a thriving public sphere, whether physical or virtual, is also essential to society. The balance of social mores and personal freedom in these spaces is what makes cooperation and collective action possible.
The strength of networks is firmly rooted in the ability to share information freely and easily, but that is also a great weakness - creating opportunities for abuse and oppression by the strong against the weak.

Berkman fellow David Weinberger has written an excellent manifesto - Rebooting Library Privacy in the Age of the Network - for encouraging sharing information in libraries while maintaining a default position of strict privacy. Weinberger's scheme for protecting patron privacy while prmoting the value of information sharing is summer up by his Three Laws of Library Privacy:

1. Users own their data.

Users decide who has access to the data about their own interactions with the library and what may be done with that data.

2. The library fiercely protects the decisions made according to Principle #1.

The library enforces the user’s decisions about privacy, and enables public and social access in accord with the user’s decision.

3. The library is transparent, except where it affects Principles #1 or #2.

The library is transparent about its principles, and about how it is handling users’ decisions about privacy, except when such transparency would betray information users have decided not to make public or social.

I look forward to seeing what other great discussions come out of this exciting Symposium.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How (not) to tweet like a chatterbot

I'm still getting my feet wet with social media. I've been blogging about my professional experience as well as my thoughts on computers, technology, education and anything else that catches my fancy.

In an attempt to spread the word about my blog, I've been shortening the URLs (despite my reservations about URL shorteners, particularly ones with a .ly extension - I'll talk more in later posts about that) and tweeting them out to my social network. My first ham handed tweets were in the format:Note the self-consciously self promoting style. Starting my tweet with 'My latest tweet...' is like starting a sentence in a persuasive essay with 'In my opinion...' or 'I think...' - it's undermining my position and weakening my statement (not to mention wasting valuable characters).

After examining how Bruce Schneier tweets his blog posts, I decided to make some changes.

I realized that rather than letting you know that he was pointing at his own post, he merely gave a brief synopsis of his post and let you hover over or click through to see what he was citing. I decided to take a stab at it, which resulted in this.
Since my Twitter feed also rolls over to Facebook, I almost immediately recieved this message.

Clearly something was wrong.

Mistake #1: Too terse. I didn't give enough detail.

Mistake #2: No hash tags. I didn't provide any context.

Ultimately, my clumsy attempt resulted in me coming across as a chattebot trying to linkbait my friends into some ill advised web browsing.

I've cleaned it up and provided this Tweet.

After consulting with the management (my wife), I realize that I need to direct all of my tweets to her. If she wouldn't understand my tweet or follow my link, then it's no good.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Manage your home network like the pros

Researchers at Georgia Tech have just announced the release of Kermit, a project designed to help home Internet users monitor and manage their network traffic.

Kermit promises easy to read graphs and charts - helping you see if your ISP is delivering the level of service that you're paying for or if your network is slow because your teenager is torrenting too much TV. This tool is both a network probe that helps you analyze your network usage as well as a management tool that lets you shape network traffic. Want to keep the wife from sucking up too much bandwidth? Done. Want to make sure that the kids don't play WOW all night? Done.

This tool should bring professional enterprise grade network management to the home user. It might even be a good free alternative to expensive network management tools for small businesses and schools.

I can't wait to start playing with it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fake anti-virus targeting Macs

An old trick is being repackaged for Macs. A malicious program purporting to be an anti-virus program called MacDefender has been circulating around the Internet in the last few days and targeting Macs (this is why we recommend iAntivirus or ClamXAV for all Mac users). Make sure to be careful about downloading software from websites that you don't know and trust.

I anticipate that you will see many e-mails and websites in the next few days that include attachments claiming to be video of the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Please don't open any videos that are not posted to legitimate news sites.

For more information about these recent attacks, please take a look at these articles.

Educating children in South Sudan

My friend Nyuol Tong is the founder of Sudanese Education for Liberty Foundation ( This summer, he is building his first school in Ayeit, his village in soon-to-be-independent South Sudan. The Malualdit Ayeit Liberty Academy will educate Sudanese boys and girls, helping this impoverished region recover from years of civil war.

Nyuol has partnered with filmmaker Andrew Schoneberger to document the process of building the school. They have started fund raising through (

Please donate what you can to either of these worthy causes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Profile Viewers scam

A new scam has reared its ugly head on Facebook this month. The Top Profile Viewers app claims to let you see who on Facebook has visited your profile, however this is (a) a violation of the Facebook Terms of Service and (b) not technically feasible.

When you click the link to Top Profile Viewers, you will be prompted to fill out a questionnaire and required to click through a link 'to verify your account'. Finally, your friends on Facebook will be spammed with invitations to click the link too.

The purpose of this scam is to (a) gather personal information about you, (b) gain a commission when you click through their link and (c) propagate the scam on to your friends.

If you have clicked the link, you should go through your feed and remove any references to the scam and also remove the event that has been posted to your wall.

For more information about this scam, please consult the links below.

The next time you think about downloading the next free widget, remember that if you're not paying for it you are not the customer. You're the product.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

After our Oppenheimer Moment

After Stuxnet's 'Oppenheimer Moment' the risk of catastrophic technological failure is real. A hacker is no longer a pasty kid in his Mom's basement or a thug in a former Soviet Republic but could be an agent of state power, a hacktivist or corporate spy.

As an individual, you need to educate yourself about high risk threats and take reasonable precautions to protect yourself. As a civilization, we need to train up a generation of geeks to help mitigate the inevitable blowback of this strange new future.

My students have signed up for the SANS Cyber Security Challenge. If you know any high school aged people, I recommend that you encourage them to do the same.