Online Intimacy

All too often I follow the breadcrumbs wherever they lead me online. So I stumble across some pretty random stuff. Thus why my RSS reader contains way too much stuff to reasonably read. (That reminds me, I need to cull a couple hundred subscriptions again.)

Well, I found the anonymous blog of a woman in my extended social network (no, not the Web 2.0 sense). There is enough evidence to know who the owner is a specific person 2 degrees away. The one thing which confused me was her use of a pseudonym for talking about someone who was in the news.

Having read just posts covering the last 18 months, I don’t think I could meet her without bursting into tears. She has had a horrible time with three deaths of family or friends, a wedding which didn’t happen, and verbal abuse at work. Tragic stuff has just bombarded her. These horrible events interlacing insightful commentary about media make me sad. Yet I was only able to make myself stop in order to write this post.

Someone who invests the time and energy to publicly write about the difficult personal details of his or her life really impresses me. Years ago I kept journals which became where I expressed many of the emotions I ought to have instead given to the people around me. Whether positive or negative, people deserved to know how I felt about them. Instead pieces of paper received the intimate details of who I was. My friends got a Vulcan. This blog is rather impersonal because I figured out early on in blogging, people who know me would find an anonymous blog and read it for any mention of themselves.

At this point I no longer even try to hide. Anyone reading it knows in seconds Ezra writes it and whether or not they know Ezra. Then again, these cold emotionless bytes are for public consumption.

Irony would be if she reads this post and mentions it. The above details are obvious enough she would almost certainly know I am talking about her. I am relying on the same tricks of not using names of people and places to avoid making it too obvious. They didn’t work for her. So I have one last thing to possibly break the anonymity: We both use the words “rants” and “raves” in the blog titles/subtitles.

Racial Profiling

Walking home from the bus in high school, I saw police cars and officers in front of my house. Their presence made me extremely apprehensive. The only little assurance was my father talking to the officers. Someone broke into the house and stole some of our stuff.

We felt violated. Our own home was unsafe.

At the time however, the people with guns with a tendency to keep their hands near them were much more threatening than some anonymous teen who wanted some quick cash.

Police officers are the good guys.

Take this scenario:

  1. You’ve spent almost a full day on a plane or in airports flying from Shanghai to Boston so you are extremely jet-lagged.
  2. (SUGGESTED ADDITION) You picked up the flu while in China (remember Avian Bird Flu?).
  3. Your front door won’t open when you get home, so you end up gaining access to the house from the back door. Eventually with help you do get it opened.
  4. While calling someone to come fix the door, a police officer shows up to question you about being the owner of the house. (Let’s ignore that Harvard owns it. You just reside there.)

This is like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: “Nothing at all was right.” Except… This state of mind was interpreted by the police officer this way:

“From the time he opened the door it seemed that he was very upset, very put off that I was there in the first place,” Sergeant Crowley told the station, WEEI. “Not just what he said, but the tone in which he said it, just seemed very peculiar — even more so now that I know how educated he is.” NYT

This seems like the perfect opportunity to ask questions about Dr. Gates’ day to establish something of a rapport to ascertain why he might be so upset. It’s not so peculiar when the context is known. I bet if all this had been placed in context at the time, then this would not be front page news.

Confidentiality

A student wants Blackboard Vista to not reveal his or her last name. The student has already gone to the Registrar and gotten a confidentiality flag placed on the record. As I understand it, this flag in Banner is a FERPA protection to prevent the record from being provided to parties external to the university. It does not provide anonymity within the university. That electronic systems are being scrubbed of the student’s last name means something more than just confidentiality.

We only create new and not update from our student information system (SIS). So in general, the last name should not revert.

The instructor must know who the student is in order to correctly assign grades. If grades were automatically sent back to the SIS, then it would match the IMS id to the what is in the SIS. The user name or any other name is immaterial and not a confounder to the process. Unfortunately, our faculty has to manually transfer the grades. Some rely on the WebCT id / username. Others rely on the first and last name. I guess without names, this latter group is going to have to deal with relying on the WebCT id.

Only username, first and last name, and role are populated into the grade book. So moving the last name to another name field (like other, prefix, or suffix) would not help.

The last name appears to be part of their scheme for creating usernames, so they will likely need to change the username if the point is to not let anyone know what it is. The school in question does not appear to populate their Vista user records with a school email address. So I don’t know if the same would need to be done with it as well.

Blackboard Vista 3.0.7 does have issues with renaming the last name. While many things are immediately updated (good), some things are not. This is not a comprehensive list.

  1. The last name in the grade book was not updated. Removing the user from the section and restoring it to the section changed the name to the correct one.
  2. The last name in discussions was not updated.

So while renaming the account is easy to do, not everything takes place as quicklly as we would like.

Zemanta Pixie

Fall in Love With Cyberbullying

Kentucky’s Bill HB775 would require those operating web sites or blogs or message boards in the state to enforce a policy to collect legal names, postal addresses, and email addresses to use the service. The legal name would, of course, be posted on the web site. Should the poster cross someone else, then the operators have to hand over to the victim the identity of the poster. First offense at not having the poster’s identity is $500 ($1,000 each thereafter).

A policy to collect the information doesn’t mean the users of the web site must actually provide the information. Though it seems like this law is pointless unless it means the web site must force users to provide the information.

Any universities running a system like Blackboard Learning System Vista or CE editions (possibly others) probably would need to disable anonymous postings in the discussion board. The legal name of the poster would need to be visible. So, the system could not use nicknames the person would be addressed by in a face to face setting.

Universities typically have major difficulty getting students to correctly maintain their postal addresses. This is why many are turning to direct deposit of excess checks and email. This way the school avoids mail returns on thousands of addresses.

Worm Food

My next personal computer probably will be a Mac. However, I’m not sure whether I should be amused, terrified, or ambivalent about this Mac worm author receives death threats story.

The beef over news of a worm targeting Macs, and the identity of the researcher who claimed to have created the malware, took an even stranger turn Wednesday as death threats were allegedly posted to his or her blog, which was then reportedly hacked.

These are pretty gruesome for just reporting on a computer bug…. C’mon.

  • “You are lucky you are anonymous or I would put a bullet in your head for this!” — Anonymous
  • “I dare you to demonstrate this at Defcon you ***** Microsoftie. We will drag you out, put a bullet in you, and bury your body so deep it will take a nuclear blast to find your body.” — Anonymous

No More Public Anonymous Photos

Early in the history of the WWW, people thought a document which did not have an inbound link, a link from some external location to the file, was private. Search engines looked for content on web sites in locations for which there was not a link already pointing. To truly respect the privacy of those sites, these search engines would have only index content from sites which asked to be index AND only indexed content which that web site pointed a link.

Just because SiteB links to a location on SiteA doesn’t mean SiteA wished it to found in a search, an example is deep linking. Note the court cases (1, 2) in which judges rule in favor of the SiteAs who go to court about SiteBs who make such links. Note I made deep links in order to demonstrate the deep links. 🙂

On Privacy and Polar Rose – Polar Rose Blog : On Privacy and Polar Rose

It should come as little surprise that we believe that Polar Rose adds tremendous value to the photo web. We think we’re as harmful to the photo web, as Altavista, Yahoo!, and Google have been to the text web. By sorting the text web, these search engines exposed the wonderful resource of public documents that web had already become. The side-effect was that information which was not meant for public consumption, but which was kept private by obscurity, was suddenly exposed and searchable.

By Polar Rose’s logic, because people acclimated in general to losing textual anonyminity, they will do the same for facial recognition. Just what does the lack of a label mean? The photographer may be protecting the identity of someone, a minor for example. The uploader may be lazy. The uploader may not know. The uploaded may not own the copyright to the photo.

On the whole, I think facial recognition is a good thing. The cases in which there are likely going to be privacy concerns are going to be more likely uncommon than common. Those who it affects are going to be most upset all the same.

If anything, then I think we have a tendency to underestimate how badly such things are going to violate the privacy of our lives. For example, look how often search engines exposed Social Security Numbers on web sites.

Homer a Pseudonym for a Woman?

I have always considered the Illiad or the Odyssey to be among the best of love stories. True, there is lots of violence. True, the characters are mostly men. Love is the motivation and driving force behind the heros and why each is able to overcome and win.

If they were written by women, then that will not change my opinion about them being my favorites.

Discovery Channel :: News – History :: Scholar: Iliad, Odyssey Penned by Woman:

The author of the Greek epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey was probably a woman, according to an upcoming book by a British historian and linguist.

Andrew Dalby, author of Rediscovering Homer, argues that the attribution of the poems to Homer was founded on a falsehood.

Homer’s link to the poems, Dalby writes, stems from an “ill-informed postclassical text, the anonymous Life of Homer, fraudulently ascribed to Herodotus,” a respected Greek historian who lived from around 484-425 B.C.

Read more

New phishing scan

I know so many people who would jump at this…. This is disturbing.

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