Which Companies Protect Your Data? 3

The Electronic Frontier Foundation took a look at several companies and rated them based on how they fared regarding user privacy against unreasonable requests from the government. I included their criteria and results below but on a quick summary, the one company that surprised me in doing really well? Dropbox. One that I was really disappointed in? Foursquare.

The companies were evaluated based on the following criteria:

1. A public commitment to inform users when their data is sought by the government. To earn a star in this category, Internet companies must promise to tell users when their data is being sought by the government unless prohibited by law. This gives users a chance to defend themselves against overreaching government demands for their data.

2. Transparency about when and how often companies hand data to the government. This category has two parts. Companies earn a half-star in this category if they publish statistics on how often they provide user data to governments worldwide. Companies also earn a half-star if they make public any policies they have about sharing data with the government, such as guides for law enforcement. (If a company doesn’t have law enforcement guidelines at all, though, we don’t hold that against them). Companies that publish both statistics and law enforcement guidelines receive a full star.

3. Fight for users’ privacy rights in the courts. To earn recognition in this category, companies must have a public record of resisting overbroad government demands for access to user content in court. Not all companies will be put in the position of having to defend their users before a judge, but those who do deserve special recognition.

4. Fight for users’ privacy in Congress. Internet companies earn a star in this category if they support efforts to modernize electronic privacy laws to defend users in the digital age by joining the Digital Due Process coalition.

 

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation


Civilized Discussion on Religion & Politics 7

When meeting someone after many years, there aren’t many times I would recommend discussing religion and politics but that was part of a rather pleasant conversation I found myself in recently. My friend’s mother who I possibly had not seen since my high school years was genuinely curious about how I felt about the aforementioned topics but that left me in a curious spot about whether I should say the politically correct answer or go with what I really felt. I decided that since my friend usually has no filter and is often pretty blunt with statements, it would probably make sense to go with the no non-sense, brutally honest approach in hopes of having a genuinely good dialogue… and I’m glad I did.

One of the first things I was asked was what my religion was and subsequently a follow-up on what my thoughts were about how I was treated in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 – much of which I already provided in greater details (September 11th Aftermath – My Story) on how I was treated but can be summarized that no matter how great everyone may be, there are always a few bad apples which you can’t always avoid. As we continued the discussion, we moved onto topics about why groups like al-Qaeda on what I thought about their affiliation with the religion immediately made me think of a reference back to West Wing that I used and which I have linked below:

The conversation did take a turn towards racial profiling and when it may be beneficial for authorities to do their jobs without sacrificing civil liberties or breaking laws. Having agreed on majority of the topics of discussion like the treatment of Muslims after 9/11 and how religious fundamentalists isn’t limited to just Islam, I would say the one thing I did disagree on was the effective use of racial profiling in catching criminals or potential-criminals. One thing that I took away immediately was having to explain the difference between the terms Islam and Muslims which is maybe something I took for granted.

Regardless, it was simply enjoyable to have a civil conversation with people I don’t regularly speak to on topics that have the potential to get very heated and one, that I hope I could have again in the future.


The Unlikely Trip To Mont Tremblant 2

Now here is a trip that if you had asked me about two months ago, I would have said would never happen let alone me going on it with people I knew from high school, university and some that I had never met before including the one passenger in my car. Excuse me for any glaring typing mistakes as I wrote this in literally fifteen minutes while I am waiting for my car being serviced.

The last week or two leading up to my trip had been so hectic that I didn’t even get a chance to view videos on the basic fundamentals on what to do. I had been tied up at work and then went south of the border for a few days. Ultimately, that probably had little to do with my failures on the first day but that might be normal to expect since it was the very first time I had ever gotten on a snowboard.

It hadn’t snowed much the night before our first run and that probably made the falls that much more painful on my entire body. We went straight for the green trail which was a much longer trail then I was expecting for a first run but better than the bunny hills because that was just way too short for me to do anything on. Naturally, it ended up taking us nearly two hours to complete the first run. It was tiring and painful but the mountain was scenic and enjoyable to be on. There were definitely moments I was afraid of what was going on and let that allow me to fall instead of fighting through it and get into it more. My issue wasn’t about gaining speed or learning how to turn, both of which I was surprisingly decent at, but I couldn’t get myself to slow down or stop without my legs giving out and taking a fall. I think if I didn’t have a friend who was just as new to this as I was, I wouldn’t have willed myself to go out again the second day — the first day was just that bad. It was crucial to have a buddy though because we would alternate going in front of each other and continue to call each other names as a means of motivating one another (we did occasionally say nice things to each other too but that’s just not our nature).

Just as importantly, it was so helpful to have someone who was better than we were every step of the way. It almost served as a light at the end of the tunnel when I was struggling on the first day to look up and see them stopped ahead waiting for us to catch up and then urging us to continue forward on what seemed on the first day to be a never-ending trail.

As bad as the first day was, I would say the second was that much better, if not more. We got a little delayed start in the morning but by the time we got out there, I was much more relaxed and ready to let it all go. Lighter traffic even for a Saturday might have played a role in me becoming more comfortable too and along with the conditions getting softer with the snow overnight and the fact that I was falling less, made for a much drier morning the second time around. We planned on cutting our time down the mountain by half from the first day which seemed very ambitious but not only did we reach that goal, we shattered it comfortably on the very first run of the morning (not that it is anything to brag about but I would call that significant progress).

I was practicing more on slowing down and stopping and not just speeding, falling and struggling to gain any momentum on the straight stretches, which turned out to be a much more effective way to get up and about. All the practice in the world probably doesn’t matter when you’re coming up with a little speed behind someone and they turn right into your path and lead to a wipe out. I’m glad it was someone I knew and that it was described by another watching as a “moment of embrace” as we hit the ground gracefully, making a potentially dangerous moment into something we can laugh about. As disappointed as I am of no video footage from my first time out, I am just glad this moment was never recorded.

Leading up to the last run on the final day, I was probably feeling the best I had and that was a good thing because I would need every ounce of that good feeling to get through the last run. The conditions had gotten much more terrible with the snow and wind picking up, fatigue was starting to settle in and for me, I couldn’t see anything through my fogged up goggles. As awful as it may sound, I must admit, I enjoyed that last run more than any because I was going through it without much complaining even though my body was ready to give out from being tired which is more than what I can for my other newbie friend.

Admittedly, I wasn’t in the greatest of physical shapes which led to my legs being extremely sore, my arms being dead from picking myself up all weekend but I wish I had done this up sooner and I would enjoyed it even more than I already did. There are some picture below, no videos unfortunately, which did have its pros and cons.

I had always joked with my roommates from university every time someone mentioned a trip up to Canada that I would believe it when I saw it. I would have never expected the trip would ever materialize let alone getting 11 people ranging from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Toronto and all meeting up in Mont Tremblant without losing anyone or anything.

Can’t wait to go again next year. Whistler, anyone?

 


The Light Bulb Effect 11

We all have a teacher that we look back to and say that was the moment that changed me in school — my first one would probably be back in 5th grade but the one that left the greatest impact would be one from high school. Now this story may not end up being anything like that but it is worth noting that it is from the perspective of a teacher and how teaching something to students gives them reward as well. I rarely read stuff from this perspective and found it really interesting.

Give this a read, a little on the longer side but worth it. Let me know what you think or if you have a story like this.

 

So for the most part, this student is pretty immature.  He makes inappropriate jokes, crawls on the floor, and does this thing where he sticks he tongue out at me and wiggles it…he says it looks like something a devil would do, lovely.Today during math, we were learning about angles, and measuring angles, and drawing angles, and estimating the measurement of an angle by looking at it.  I helped him a lot because his motor skills aren’t
really all there, so drawing a straight line is tough for him.  He also struggled with the concept of angles greater than 180 degrees. He got confused a lot, so I showed him a few things to clear everything up for him, and it seemed to work.

After the kids had finished working on their workbook page, the teacher asked the kids to think of 2 tips they would give someone if they had to draw or measure an angle.  It’s important to understand that this student does not really participate.  Unless there is something in it for him—like a sticker–or some kind of reward.  The teacher doesn’t do anything like this, so the student just sits there–and most of the time I can tell he is zoning out, thinking about football, or bay blades, or how long until gym class.  Sometimes I make him admit to it too, haha.  And if he does have something to say, he rarely raises his hand.  Sometimes he will, but if he is not called on first, he gives up, and says it is not worth it to sit there and wait to be called on.

Today he raised his hand…and not in a lame way.  His hand was straight in the air.  And kept it raised while 2 people explained their tips. Thankfully, he got called on.  He wiggled in his seat, sat up straight, cleared his throat, and began to eloquently explain some of the things that I worked on with him.

When he normally speaks in class, he tries to be funny.  Sometimes he will do an accent to make everyone laugh, and distract everyone.  Not this time.  He was a professor.

He demonstrated angles by using his hands…and talked about how right angles look like the letter L. “If you put your hands together like this (wrist to wrist, palms facing each other), and bring them closer, that is an acute angle. And if you open them up wide, that is an “abuse” angle.  UGHHH, I cannot pronounce that word!!!!    And straight lines, are, well, straight.  So you put your hands like this.  And then if you make an angle bigger, your hands kind of have to go backwards.  Let’s say I look at angle like this *draws an acute angle, not realizing no one could see it but him*.  Well, I can see that it is SMALLER than a right angle, so you know, that makes it easier for me to guess how much it is, because at least I know it is less than 90 degrees….” (I was teary by this time.)

The teacher attempted to respond…”Very good!  Boys and girls, he is saying tha—-”

But he cuts in to go into further detail, not letting the teacher talk.   (Thatta boy!)  (I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this point.)

I helped him finalize his words, and he explains that the right angle can be used as a guide to determine whether an angle is acute or obtuse and then the approximate angle.  “And if you know these things, and that an acute angle is smaller than 90 degrees and an obtuse angle is bigger than 90 degrees, basically, you know, you will get an A on the test!”

And then he put his hand down, and sat there, like everything he said was just no big deal, except it was, because he was 110% accurate.

 
And he had the attention on every single kid in the room.  Because when he speaks for real–and isn’t trying to be the funny guy—he commands the room in a natural way.And after this, I just stared at the kid, in shock.  And it didn’t matter how he behaved for the rest of the day, because in my opinion, that moment was worth every time I have had to tell him to raise his hand, sit up straight, hold his pencil the right way, pay attention, write this down, write that down, writer neater, stop writing ‘poop’ in your notebook, stand still, sit still, make a better choice, show respect, no we cannot play 52 card pickup, no we cannot talk about football right now, stop calling me by my first name, give your friends some space, I don’t care if you don’t feel like doing this right now, and yes you have to listen to me, etc.  Because he had just done everything perfectly, and maturely, and like a 4th grader.

And that is why I teach.  Because nothing beats the feeling of one of your kids having a ‘light bulb moment’…where for just one moment, everything seems to click, and success is achieved…and the kids may not even notice it…but I do, because that is what we have been working towards for the past five and a half months.  And it is just enough to make you want to tackle the next obstacle the next day.  And for me, apparently it is enough to make me want to cry, because I am emotional like that.  I call it the light bulb effect.


Fight For The Future 2

With all the news about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) which would allow the US government as well as the copyright holders to seek court orders against websites they felt were infringing on such rights. The bill also would make legal the ability to refuse payment of online advertising networks and stop companies like PayPal from conducting business with “the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites”.

“The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for 10 pieces of music or movies within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.” – [Source]

Proponents of SOPA say it serves to protect the intellectual interest, property and revenue of the copyright holder and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws while the opponents of the act say that it infringes on First Amendment rights, is Internet censorship and is the next step to threaten whistle-blowing and other forms of free speech. 

All that said, it was especially refreshing to get the following email 1&1 Hosting this morning:

 

Dear Sir/Miss,

You may have heard about Protect-IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act
(SOPA) currently under consideration in Congress. If passed, among other
things, SOPA requires Web hosting companies like 1&1 to police websites in
order to prevent them from communicating copyrighted information on the
internet. We would like to make sure you are aware of 1&1’s official
position on SOPA.

As a global provider of domains and hosting services, we oppose the Stop
Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or Protect-IP (PIPA) Acts currently under
consideration. While we observe the concerns of those who are troubled by
the potential impact on protecting intellectual property online, 1&1 feels
there is an urgent need to strike a balance between dissemination of and
access to information and protection against its illegal use within the
public domain.

The US government is currently reviewing SOPA and PIPA as possible ways to
prevent unlawful distribution of copyrighted materials available on the
internet. These current proposals, if passed, would allow for significant
interventions into the technological and economical basis of the internet.
This could put the vast benefits and economic opportunities of entirely
legal and legitimate e-business models at risk. Generally, companies
offering technological services should not be forced to be the executor of
authority in such matters. If they were to act upon every implication of
content infringement without any judicial research into the actual usage of
its customers, the integrity behind their customer’s freedom of
information and speech would be enormously harmed.

1&1 Internet, Inc. has worked through associations and with related
companies to ensure that these aspects are taken into account. Thus, we
welcome the serious consideration by the US Congress of the potential
harmful effects on Internet freedom should SOPA and / or PIPA be passed as
law, and hope the stability of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS)
remains intact.

We encourage every Internet user concerned about these plans to contribute
to the debate and to raise their voice with their local representatives in
the House or Senate. One way to express your concerns could be to use one
of the websites that emerged to protect user interests in the current
legislative debate, such as http://fightforthefuture.org/.

At 1&1 we support you, our customer, and an open internet. If you find that
you are supporting a company that encourages SOPA and wish to drop them as
a provider, please follow the simple instructions contained on the website
linked below.

Thank you for being one of our extremely valued customers, and for taking
the time to read this.

Best regards,

Frederick Iwans
General Manager 1&1 Internet Inc.