Category: policy

  • the responsibility we have as software engineers

    I had the chance to chat this week with the very awesome Kate Heddleston who mentioned that she’s been thinking a lot about the ethics of being a software engineer, something she just spoke about at PyCon Sweden. It brought me back to a post I wrote a few years ago, where I said: There’s this…

  • Letter to President Obama on Surveillance and Freedom

    Dear President Obama, My name is Ben Adida. I am 36, married, two kids, working in Silicon Valley as a software engineer with a strong background in security. I’ve worked on the security of voting systems and health systems, on web browsers and payment systems. I enthusiastically voted for you three times: in the 2008…

  • The Onus is on Scientists – Shame on the AAAS

    The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has just come out against California’s Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of genetically-modified foods. In my opinion, the AAAS has failed its duty as promoters of Good Science. The question is not whether genetically-modified foods are safe. I see the benefits, and I see…

  • an ode to lessig’s optimism, taking on gigantic challenges… and a quibble

    Last night, I went to see Lessig pitch his latest book, Republic, Lost. His latest spiel is fantastic, fine-tuned, gripping, thrilling, inspiring. I’ve been an avid fan of Lessigian story-telling for 13 years now. The way he sets up his argument, the way he goes far beyond the obvious, far beyond the quick fix, and…

  • with great power…

    When Arvind writes something, I tend to wait until I have a quiet moment to read it, because it usually packs a particularly high signal to noise ratio. His latest post In Silicon Valley, Great Power but No Responsibility, is awesome: We’re at a unique time in history in terms of technologists having so much…

  • intelligently designing trust

    For the past week, every security expert’s been talking about Comodo-Gate. I find it fascinating: Comodo-Gate goes to the core of how we handle trust and how web architecture evolves. And in the end, this crisis provides a rare opportunity. warning signs Last year, Chris Soghoian and Sid Stamm published a paper, Certified Lies [PDF],…

  • i changed my mind on nuclear power

    Until this recent catastrophe in Japan (it’s awful, please consider helping out), I was very pro nuclear-power. I’ve never been afraid of technology, and I was raised in France, where 80% of electricity comes from nuclear power and there has been no serious safety problem with it. Plus, nuclear power can be green. And with…

  • Wikileaks — not ideal, but a force for good in the end

    I’ve found myself quite conflicted over the latest Wikileaks “dump”, specifically the hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables. On the one hand, there is no doubt that the mainstream press is failing miserably in its role of investigating and breaking stories about illegal secret activities. We’ve seen numerous high-profile publications delay stories for fear…

  • devices, payload data, and why Kim is (in part) right.

    A few days ago, I wrote about privacy advocacy theater and lamented how some folks, including EPIC and Kim Cameron, are attacking Google in a needlessly harsh way for what was an accidental collection of data. Kim Cameron responded, and he is right to point out that my argument, in the Google case, missed an…

  • Privacy Advocacy Theater

    Ed Felten recently used the very nice term Privacy Theater in describing the insanity of 6,000-word privacy agreements that we pretend to understand. The term, inspired by Bruce Schneier’s “security theater” description of US airport security, may have been introduced by Rohit Khare in December 2009 on TechCrunch, where he described how “social networks only…

  • if you’re outraged by accidental breaches, you’d better sit down

    A few days ago, a security bug was discovered on Facebook, whereby users could see the chat transcripts of their friends talking to other friends. Then, another security hole was discovered where a problem at Yelp revealed email addresses of Facebook users. And today, Google realized that they accidentally collected network traffic from open wi-fi…

  • “It’s a tradeoff” and other uni-dimensional thinking

    Many folks, like John Gruber, are responding to criticisms of the iPad’s closed ecosystem with the “it’s a tradeoff” idea: to have such a great computer, you need to lock it down. Some use the argument that Linux has never conquered the desktop, so there, open is incompatible with good usability (I’m looking at you…

  • The Accidental Tinkerer, Unexpected Lock-in, and Fatherhood

    Ben Fry recently explained his concerns about the iPad: I want to build software for this thing. I’m really excited about the idea of a touch-screen computing platform that’s available for general use from a known brand who has successfully marketed unfamiliar devices to a wide audience. [..] It represents an incredible opportunity, but I…

  • The Great Content Lockdown of 2010

    I had an invigorating and thought-provoking chat with my good friend Oliver Roup today. We agreed that the Apple iPad is going to be an unbelievable success. I’ve thought from day one that it would be huge, but I think it will be bigger than huge. Before the end of the summer, millions of people…

  • Taxing Human Transactions – Part 1

    The worst part of my job is dealing with the mess of document formats and coding systems in healthcare. The acronym soup is insane: HL7, CCD, CCR, CDA, Green CDA (which I just heard about from John Halamka’s blog but… no link!), and that’s just the document formats. Then there are coding systems like LOINC,…

  • Buzz Kill

    Everyone is talking about the privacy disaster that was the Google Buzz launch, and oh my goodness it was. I’ve never been so thankful that I don’t use gmail. I’m frankly surprised that they didn’t do a smaller beta first, or that there isn’t a group at Google charged with thinking about the privacy implications…

  • I was wrong about the iPad

    So I made a couple of predictions about the iPad, Apple’s tablet, and I realize in retrospect that, while I got some of the details right, I got the gist completely wrong. I thought it was going to be a special-purpose device. And most commentators are saying just that. But I was wrong and they…

  • a prediction regarding the Apple “Tablet”

    Why a prediction? Eh, cause it’s fun and cause I think the Apple Tablet will have a large impact on consumer computing. I think Apple will launch a tablet computer in January that will be aimed at saving TV and print journalism. On-demand video and on-demand print magazines and newspapers will be at the forefront.…

  • The first good mainstream article on vaccines in a while

    I meant to mention this a while ago, but I keep forgetting. Amy Wallace at Wired wrote a fantastic piece on how irrational fears of vaccination are putting us all at risk. The feedback to Ms. Wallace has been enormous, and although tilted towards the positive, the negative feedback from the anti-vaccination crowd is insulting,…

  • Apple fanboy delusions, the Palm Pre is looking mighty tasty

    On many issues, I’m an Apple fanboy. On the issue of the iPhone, less and less. Here’s the short version of the story: Apple produces iTunes, which manages all of your music and videos, and syncs them to your iPod/iPhone. Very cool software, magnificently built, great experience overall. I’ve been using this setup for 6+…

  • Open Licensing in Health IT

    John Halamka, renowned CIO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), is a blogger, and he just added a Creative Commons license after making the following remarks: I want my blog to be used for education, training, and research. I hope that its contents appear in derivative works such as other blogs, websites, and…

  • Empowering the Patient vs. Enabling an Artificial Monopoly

    Health Information Technology is moving along fairly quickly, with the stimulus money and the rise of Personally Controlled Health Records (Indivo/Dossia, Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault). I’m quite optimistic about the future of health data: there is a growing effort to free the data in order to empower patients. And then there are some really boneheaded…

  • Shieber on Open Access

    Stuart Shieber, the architect of Harvard’s Open Access policy and a colleague at Harvard’s Center for Research on Computation and Society, has started a new blog on open-access academic publishing. Worth keeping an eye on if you want to understand the politics, mechanics, and economics of the issue.

  • Engaging Data Forum @ MIT in October

    I’m on the Program Committee for a new conference being held at MIT in the Fall, the Engaging Data Forum. A number of fascinating topics around the issues of managing personal electronic information. Of course I’m focused on the security, privacy, and interoperability aspects, but there’s more, including geolocation, collection from portable devices, etc… Send…

  • Creative Commons Tech Summit, June 26th

    Creative Commons is holding its third technology summit on June 26th. The previous two have been lots of fun, very productive, with a unique mix of policy-oriented tech folks. Plus, it’s in Italy! How can you go wrong?

  • Owning Genes

    At some point in the history of patents, something went a little nutty: it became possible to patent genes themselves. Not “a method for extracting” a gene. Not “a method for synthesizing” a gene. But the gene itself. As a result, a number of biotech companies own human genes. If you want to find out…

  • We do (should) not torture

    Major credit goes to Shep Smith of Fox News for this: Fox News is generally right-wing propaganda, but credit is due here, and I completely agree with Shep Smith. It doesn’t matter if it works. We do not torture. Well, we should not torture, because it’s fairly clear now that we did, and that is…

  • Warrantless Wiretapping is not OK, even when Obama does it

    I’m a big supporter of Obama, I volunteered for him, and I donated money to his campaign. And I’m proud of just about everything he’s been doing as President so far. But not everything. It seems that the Obama administration is angling to continue warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, as per the EFF’s analysis. It…

  • Does CVS provide a CSV?

    Over the last two years, I’ve spent most of my time on… not elections believe it or not, but rather the personal control of health data over at Children’s Hospital, Boston, with a fantastic crew. And so now it turns out that health data is super cool, what with the Obama recovery plan and the…

  • Disturbing Apple Trends

    I’ve long been an Apple fan. It is somewhat dissonant with my strong attachment to open-source/free software, but I’ve learned to live with it because I am significantly more productive on Mac OS than on Linux, and I still have to work with plenty of MS Office (and no, Open Office doesn’t cut it.) That…