Goodbye Google Glass

“Google Glass is finally dead,” said Will Oremus in Slate.com. This week, Google suspended sales of the “semifunctional and socially controversial” high-tech eyewear and all but admitted it was “going back to the drawing board.” Launched in 2013, Glass proved “a public relations disaster” from the start. The device was banned in bars, restaurants, and much of Las Vegas over privacy concerns, and early adopters were widely mocked as “Glassholes.” Some might argue that Google Glass was “too far ahead of its time for its own good,” said Rick Aristotle Munarriz in DailyFinance.com. But in truth, the specs were simply too “creepy” to catch on. No one wanted to sit next to a Glass-wearing stranger, wondering if his or her every move was being recorded, or put up with a Glass-bedecked dinner companion who might be secretly reading emails or even “watching porn.” And at $1,500 a pop, Glass was far “too expensive” and odd looking for a product that still had plenty of kinks.

Ignore these “premature obituaries,” said Fred O’Connor in PCWorld.com. Even though Google will no longer sell the specs in their current form, the company isn’t killing the project, just shifting it out of the company’s incubator, Google X, and into a stand-alone unit. The fact that Glass will now be overseen by Tony Fadell, an early designer of the iPod who is more recently responsible for the popular digital thermostat, Nest, also suggests Glass’s “future as a consumer device might not be over.” In the immediate term, analysts believe Google will redesign Glass for the workplace, since groups like “surgeons and engineers” have been far more embracing of the technology than everyday users.

If Google is smart, it will ditch the embedded camera altogether, said Jake Swearingen in TheAtlantic.com. Smart glasses are a promising type of wearable, since they give users “a hands-free way to look at a screen.” But new technology involves new social norms, and having a recording device attached to everyone’s faces is too much, too fast. Let this be a lesson to Silicon Valley about the “perils of developing hardware whose purpose isn’t clear,” said Conor Dougherty in NYTimes.com. Compared with the iPhone, which “cleverly combined products people already understood and used,” Glass has a value that has always seemed a little vague. In order for Google to be “the gateway through which people live every aspect of their lives,” the company must be smarter about creating products “that aren’t just useful but have more ethereal qualities like beauty and coolness.” Only time will tell if Google takes this “humbling retreat” to heart.

-As seen in The Week
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I’m a sucker for the conveniences of modern digital life, but...

A guest post from my favorite magazine The Week. Like most Americans, I’m a sucker for the conveniences of modern digital life. I bank on my phone, upload photos to the cloud, and keep my address saved with online retailers to save a few minutes at checkout.

I’ve also come to assume that my personal data have wound up in the hands of a hacker somewhere. I’d be a fool not to. Every week, it seems, there’s a data breach at a big corporation or a new leak of stolen celebrity nude selfies. JPMorgan Chase became the latest victim in 2014, revealing that the accounts of 84 million customers had been digitally ransacked.

Security experts say we should all simply presume our digital data have been stolen. But unless you’re Jennifer Lawrence or the head of IT at a megabank, it’s hard to get worked up about these breaches. For most of us, they mean a canceled card here, a changed password there. The hacks have become so commonplace that we’ve become numb to their dizzying scales and potential danger. Call it a case of data breach fatigue.

Psychologists would call it habituation—we sit up and take notice the first time something happens but tune out after the fourth or fifth occurrence. It’s that effect that causes the nation to collectively shrug when it hears about the latest major car recall, crisis in the Middle East, or tragic school shooting.

When consumers are asked why they tune out to massive data theft, they say the breaches are simply “unavoidable.” Yet it’s that same complacency that allows companies—and political leaders—to perpetuate the status quo. On second thought, excuse me while I go change my passwords.
- Carolyn O’Hara

-As seen in The Week
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The Best Wearable Tech

The best of...

Wearable tech

Reebok Checklight

This skullcap “appears to work quite well” in performing its purpose: It monitors impacts to the head and indicates with a blinking yellow or red light if an athlete sustains a moderate or severe blow.
$150, reebok.com
Source: Engadget.com

Nod Gesture Control Ring

“Make a phone call, change TV channels, and more” by simply waving your hand. This Bluetooth-enabled ring communicates with multiple devices and is scheduled to ship sometime in the fall.
$149, hellonod​.com
Source: Consumer Reports

Tory Burch Fitbit Bracelet

Fitness trackers just went “from plain to pretty.” This fall, Tory Burch is releasing three bracelets designed to be used with a Fitbit monitor (sold separately). The delicate solid brass band is a “standout.”
$195, toryburch.com
Source: LAMag.com

Narrative Clip

This tiny device, which clips onto a shirt pocket, takes a 5-megapixel photograph every 30 seconds. It’s billed as a way to create photo diaries and pairs with software to help users search the results.
$279 per year,getnarrative.com
Source: Wired.com

Sensoria Socks

An anklet worn with this sock mates with sensors in the fabric to monitor a runner’s technique and cadence while also measuring distance traveled. Four pairs are included in each package.
$200, sensoriafitness.com 
Source: Wall Street Journal

-As seen in The Week
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Google Glass may not be inevitable after all

A guest post from my favorite editor William Falk of The Week. In these grim times, there is some hope for our species: Google Glass may not be inevitable after all.

Mat Honan of Wired, the bible of the technorati, spent a year trying out Google Glass, a futuristic pair of eyeglasses equipped with a voice-activated wireless computer and camera and a tiny Internet display in one lens. The trial didn’t go well. Honan reports back that the Glass’s ostentatious techiness—and its ability to photograph or video anything the wearer wants—made him the subject of derision and threats wherever he went. People “talk about you openly,” Honan marvels; he got used to hearing himself called a Glasshole. And despite some “cool” features, Honan found Glass “more novelty than utility”—just another way of “documenting rather than experiencing.”

You need not be a Luddite to be heartened by the Glass rebellion. It suggests we haven’t yet been seduced into surrendering the last vestiges of privacy and spontaneity. In recent months, young techies have been publicly questioning the toll that constant connectivity has taken on their relationships, their attention spans, and their ability to sit quietly with their thoughts. Burnouts are treating themselves to Internet “holidays” or checking into retreats promising “digital detox.” Last week, Web journalist David Sessions published a mea culpa in which he called much of Web journalism “stupid and worthless,” saying it “exists simply to produce the act of clicking.” His chastened advice: “New tools should be scrutinized intensely and skeptically, as should the people who stand to gain vast new forms of power and wealth when they are widely adopted.” Wise words, which I immediately shared with everyone I know via the Internet.

-As seen in The Week
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Drones: Google’s sky-high ambitions

Google is spreading its wings, said Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic. The tech giant unveiled a drone delivery project called Project Wing last week, which aims to use “self-flying vehicles” to transport and deliver goods. The project has been in development for two years at Google X—the research lab responsible for Google’s self-driving cars and the Google Glass headset—and has run more than 30 test flights in Queensland, Australia, delivering items such as radios, candy bars, and cattle vaccines to farmers. With a wingspan of 5 feet and a weight of 19 pounds, the Project Wing drones take off vertically and then hover and winch packages down to the ground. Though Google says it will be years before the vehicles are ready for commercial use, it imagines a future in which its drones help reduce the carbon footprint of traditional delivery vehicles like planes and trucks, and goods can be delivered mere minutes after orders are placed.

Google is clearly trying to give Amazon a run for its money, said Will Oremus in Slate.com. The Internet retailer announced its own drone delivery ambitions last year, with plans to develop a system that could deliver orders to customers within half an hour. Both companies’ commercial aims are years away, but the drones they develop could have other applications, such as delivering emergency relief more efficiently or letting people rent certain items, like a power drill, “for only the few minutes that they need them before sending them on their way.” It’s too early to say how Google’s efforts stack up against Amazon’s. But one thing is clear: The drone war has begun.

Amazon may have at least one advantage, said Alex Wilhelm in TechCrunch.com. The company is already experienced in sourcing, shipping, and delivering goods. Still, “non-military drones remain a nascent area of technology,” and Google could quickly catch up. For now, both companies will face similar challenges if they want their drone experiments to really take off. That means building “fleets that are safe, and useful enough for the average consumer to want to summon,” but also economically viable. Government regulations will make that tough task more difficult, said Conor Dougherty in The New York Times. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned commercial drones in the U.S. pending new rules that are due next year, and the vehicles haven’t been tested in densely populated cities. That won’t stop Google or Amazon from moving forward, but the days of receiving “dog food, toothpaste, or whatever else a modern family might need” via hovering drone are still a distant prospect.

-As seen in The Week
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As governments invade privacy, tools for encryption grow more popular

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA collecting massive amounts of user meta-data, many people went in search of safer, more secure ways to use the internet anonymously. Once thought to be something only used by the tech-savvy, increased interest in end-to-end e-mail encryption has prompted both Google and Yahoo to develop user-friendly versions of the protocol that would, in theory, make personal messages exceedingly difficult to intercept.

GeeksPhone, a Spanish hardware manufacturer, and Silent Circle, U.S. communication firm, promise to provide the same kind of privacy with Blackphone, the first fully encrypted smartphone meant for the average consumer. While technically an Android device, Blackphone runs a forked version of the operating system called PrivatOS that rids the phone of any and all connections to Google’s servers.

Encrypting e-mail is effective, but requires that both the sender and recipient of a message use the same specific encryption protocol to maintain privacy. Blackphone, for all of the protection that it provides, cuts users off from most of the services–like games, maps, and other functions–so as to make sure that there are absolutely no gaps through which information might be extracted.

The Onion Router also known as Tor, a browser designed keep users entirely anonymous, is something of a happy medium, and the NSA is actively trying to scare people away from it. Tor guides its internet traffic through complex networks of layered encryption that hide a computer’s physical location and make it nearly impossible to monitor the IP addresses that it visits.

Post-Snowden, Tor saw a substantial increase in the number of people using its browser and network, undoubtedly in-part due to privacy concerns. Documents published by The Guardian revealed that the NSA were actively engaged with attempting to infiltrate Tor’s network, and considered the browser to be “the king of high-secure, low-latency anonymity.” Following widespread, successful-attempts at tracking Tor users’ activity, the FBI openly admitted to exploiting a loophole in Tor’s infrastructure as a part of a larger operation in pursuit of a child pornography ring.

Authorities have justified their pushes into the “anonymous internet,” asserting that by and large, much of Tor’s traffic is related to illegal activities, but that seems to be changing. Richard David James, better known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is a fixture in the electronic music scene. Earlier this week James announced his latest album using a website that could only be accessed using Tor, drawing in a significant number of pageviews in a single day.

The attention, says Tor executive director Andrew Lewman, is both a blessing and a curse. While Tor’s network was able to handle the 133,000 visits that Aphex Twin drew, he doubts whether it could withstand the kinds of gargantuan traffic that Facebook sees on a daily basis. Tor users, comparatively speaking, are rare–a fact that Lewman asserts is what makes them targets for governmental organizations.

“It’s been co-opted by GCHQ and the NSA that if you’re using Tor, you must be a criminal,” Lewman explained to The Guardian. “I know the NSA and GCHQ want you to believe that Tor users are already suspect, because, you know, god forbid who would want their privacy online, they must be terrorists.”

Proponents of Tor and other forms of ubiquitous encryption have called for the public to adopt the technologies on a larger scale, logic stating that if everyone is using encryption, then no one can be singled out for it. Rather than adopting the small, experimental proofs of concept like Tor, Lewman says, true privacy on the internet will come when internet juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter, and Google incorporate the technology into their platforms, making them the standard rather than the exception.

-As seen on PBS
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Facebook ready to spend billions to bring whole world online

Facebook is prepared to spend billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday.

"What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world," Zuckerberg said at an event in Mexico City hosted by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

"Even if it means that Facebook has to spend billions of dollars over the next decade making this happen, I believe that over the long term its gonna be a good thing for us and for the world."

Around 3 billion people will have access to the Internet by the end of 2014, according to International Telecommunications Union (ITU) statistics. Almost half that, 1.3 billion people, use Facebook.

Facebook, the world's largest social networking company, launched its Internet.org project last year to connect billions of people without Internet access in places such as Africa and Asia by working with phone operators.

"I believe that ... when everyone is on the Internet all of our businesses and economies will be better," Zuckerberg said.

-As seen on Reuters
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California passes law mandating smartphone kill switch

Smartphones sold in California will soon be required to have a kill switch that lets users remotely lock them and wipe them of data in the event they are lost or stolen.

The demand is the result of a new law, signed into effect on Monday, that applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in the state.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the state’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user, will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to reinstall the operating system.

Police can also use the tool, but only under the conditions of the existing section 7908 of the California Public Utilities Code. That gives police the ability to cut off phone service in certain situations and typically requires a court order, except in an emergency that poses “immediate danger of death or great bodily injury.”

The law doesn’t specify how the system locks the phone, nor what happens to the data on the phone when it’s locked. Each manufacturer can come up with their own system.

The law follows pressure on phone makers from the state’s law enforcement community to do something about rising incidents of smartphone theft, which has become one of the most prevalent street crimes in the state.

Apple has already responded and added a feature called Activation Lock into its iOS 7 operating system, which meets all requirements of California’s kill switch law bar one—it doesn’t come enabled in new phones. That will have to change.

Both Google and Microsoft have said they are introducing similar features in upcoming revisions to their smartphone operating systems.

“California has just put smartphone thieves on notice,” California State Senator Mark Leno, the sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement. “Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities.”

The law makes California the second state in the U.S. to pass legislation aimed at reducing smartphone theft. Minnesota passed a law in June, but it doesn’t require the kill switch to be enabled as default. Law enforcement says that’s key because it will increase the chance that a new smartphone has the kill switch enabled, hopefully reducing its attractiveness to thieves.

The kill switch function was actively opposed by the wireless industry until earlier in 2014, when carriers and their lobbying group reversed course and came out in favor of the plan. They received more persuasion in the form of two additional bills introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.

- As seen on PC World
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Goodbye To MSN Messenger, An Aughties Relic

Call it the Gchat effect.

MSN Messenger, the ubiquitous instant messaging platform of the early aughties, is no more. After 15 years of facilitating hookups between high school kids, Microsoft will finally pull the plug on its online chat program this fall.

Windows Live Messenger (as it's currently known) will officially be put to bed on October 31. And, while many believed it already extinct, it is still operational in China.

At its peak, Messenger claimed 300 million users, and held the title of the most widely used messaging service in the world. However, as Microsoft began focusing its attention on Skype — after purchasing the video chat platform for $8.5 billion — and Google unveiled their acclaimed Gchat, Messenger suddenly felt antiquated.

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2014 Survey: The Year of Encryption

Market survey 2014: The Year of Encryption[Source: Egress Software Technologies Ltd.]

People like Emojis, I prefer Emoticons :-)

Hieroglyphics are making an unlikely 21st century comeback, and it's all thanks to millennials' insatiable appetite for texting. Young people might hate history class, but they can't get enough of the cute little characters known as emoji, according to Daniel Wroclawski by Reviewed.com.

You're probably familiar with the bright yellow smiling, winking and frowning faces that seem to follow every text message these days. You probably even use them yourself. But you might not be aware that there are more than 1,500 to choose from.

Designed to symbolize everyday objects, expressions and ideas, they range from smiley faces, to foods, to sporting equipment, to holiday decorations and everything in between. And they're expressive enough to act as stand-ins for words or entire phrases.

Their eye-catching designs have propelled them to pop-culture fame, and that's made them fertile ground for research and experimentation by academics and artists. Just last summer, Emoji Dick, a translation of Moby Dick into emoji, was accepted into the Library of Congress. In December, the first all-emoji art exhibition was held in New York City.

Perhaps more important, the sheer diversity of emoji makes them a viable tool for crossing language and cultural barriers -- and could see them effectively become a pidgin language of their own. Italian art director Giorgio Mininno recently used emoji to help teach Chinese students about art, even though he couldn't speak a word of their language.

"The emoji helped them to find new ideas and facilitated the communication with us, sometimes breaking the language gap," Mininno told us. Eventually, he asked his students to create art out of the universally understood characters.

But while the characters seem simple, their meanings can vary in surprising ways.

"An emoji can mean a completely different thing to completely different people," said Nick Kendall. He's the co-creator of Emojicate, an app that asks its users to communicate solely through emoji.

Kendall has noticed this effect while chatting with his friends. Take the dumbbell emoji: Some friends use it to say, "Let's go to the gym," while others use it to tell him to "toughen up."

Despite their global appeal, emoji actually originated in Japan, and their unique cultural roots have created confusion over the intended meaning of certain symbols. Take the icon that depicts a woman with one hand outstretched, palm up. The official name of this emoji is "information desk person."

"There's something about her pose or the look on her face that people have read into," said Matthew Rothenberg, creator of Emojitracker. The site monitors emoji use on Twitter, revealing both real-time and long-term usage trends. "Everyone I know who uses that one, they use it to mean like ... she's the 'whatever' girl. Like, whatever."

(He pronounced that last "whatever" in a dead-on valley girl accent.)

But for all their diversity and flexibility, Mark Davis, president of the Unicode Consortium, says it doesn't take long before emoji users hit a conversational wall. There are only so many ideas the tiny pictographs can convey.

Still, that hasn't stopped people from trying. Some teenagers and young adults routinely converse using more emoji than words -- a trend reflected in the emoji-heavy lyric video for Katy Perry's 2013 hit single Roar.

While the video shows the pop star texting with the well-established WhatsApp messenger, new apps like Emojicate and an upcoming competitor called Emojli are swooping in to capitalize on the fad with specialized, emoji-only chat services.

Emojicate founder Kendall thinks emoji are especially useful because of their artful economy.

"Ten or 15 years ago, the idea that everything can be condensed into a 140-character tweet seemed ridiculous," Kendall said. But a single-character emoji, he argued, can convey the same information as 10 or more letters.

Unicode's Davis said he thinks emoji will be around for the next few years. What they'll evolve into after that is anyone's guess. For now, 1,500 emoji characters will have to do. Which do you prefer, emojis or emoticons?

- As seen in USA Today
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The Selfie Boom: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Infographic courtesy of TeenSafe.com

Apple and Home Depot Tread Lightly on Hacking Attacks

Don’t blame us. That’s what Apple is saying in a very carefully worded statement about the hacking of nude photos of celebrities. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone,” the company says.

According to a report filed by Richard Davies of ABC News Radio, if any weaknesses or bugs in Apple’s cloud-based systems were found, it would be a major embarrassment. The attacks come less than one week before Apple shows off its new iPhone.

“After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet,” Apple said in a statement. “To protect against this type of hacking attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification.”

Apple says the hacking attack involved user names, passwords and security questions of specific celebrity iCloud accounts.

ABC News’ Alex Stone reports: “In 2012, a Florida man admitted to – and was sent to prison for – hacking into celebrity email accounts and stealing nude photos,”

“He would get a celebrities’ email address and then click Forgot Password on the email welcome screen. When prompted to answer security question – like a mother’s maiden name – he was able to find the answers online and then gain access.”

Home Depot is also dealing with a possible hacking attack. The No 1. home improvement retailer says “we’re looking into some unusual activity.” The company is working with banks and law enforcement, including the Secret Service, after reports of a major credit card breach. “Protecting our customers’ information is something we take extremely seriously, and we are aggressively gathering facts at this point,” a spokeswoman said.

Hackers have broken security walls for several big retailers in recent months – including Target. The rash of breaches has rattled shoppers’ confidence in the security of their personal data and pushed retailers, banks and card companies to increase security by speeding the adoption of microchips into U.S. credit and debit cards.

Supporters say chip cards are safer because, unlike magnetic strip cards that transfer a credit card number when they are swiped at a point-of-sale terminal, chip cards use a one-time code that moves between the chip and the retailer’s register. The result is a transfer of data that is useless to anyone except the parties involved. Chip cards are also nearly impossible to copy, experts say.

The possible data breach at Home Depot was first reported by Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security, a website that focuses on cybersecurity. Krebs said multiple banks reported “evidence that Home Depot stores may be the source of a massive new batch of stolen credit and debit cards” that went on sale on the black market.

The breach may have affected all 2,200 Home Depot stores in the United, Krebs says. Several banks that were contacted said they believe the breach may have started in late April or early May.

“If that is accurate — and if even a majority of Home Depot stores were compromised — this breach could be many times larger than Target, which had 40 million credit and debit cards stolen over a three-week period,” the Krebs post said. Krebs said that the party responsible for the breach may be the same group of Russian and Ukrainian hackers suspected in the Target breach late last year.

It’s an open question whether repeated reports of hacking will change consumer behavior. Periodic cases fuel outrage, but there’s no retreat from digital engagement or any imminent promise of guaranteed privacy.

“We have this abstract belief that privacy is important, but the way we behave online often runs counter to that,” said author Nicholas Carr, who wrote the 2010 book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.

“I’d hope people would understand that anything you do online could be made public,” Carr said. “Yet there’s this illusion of security that tempers any nervousness. It’s hard to judge risks when presented with the opportunity to do something fun.”

-As seen on ABC
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Could Wearable Tech Like Google Glass Play a Role in Connected Education?

Google Glass Education
Guest post by: Online-PhD-Programs.org

Searching for better selfies

The world needs more selfie-friendly smartphones, said Molly Wood in The New York Times. For whatever reason, smartphone-makers haven’t “gotten the memo and made great forward-facing cameras.”

Selfies remain “unfocused, pixelated, dark, blown-out, backlit, grainy, and worst of all, distorted.” Part of the problem is that better cameras demand “bigger sensors and bigger optics, and that leads to thicker phones.”

Slender devices still dominate the market, “but bigger phones are becoming the rage.” In the meantime, customers looking to take better self-portraits should consider models with more megapixels, such as the HTC One or Nokia Lumia 1020. These cameras can’t take “good” photos, but they’re better than the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone, which both present would-be selfie-snappers with chronic focus and lighting issues. C'mon, get with the program!

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Apps: Why you should be wary of health trackers

The use of fitness apps “has exploded in recent years,” but you aren't the only one keeping an eye on the data.

The use of apps that track your health and fitness “has exploded in recent years,” said Emily Steel and April Dembosky in the Financial Times. But do you really know who else is keeping an eye on how much you run, sleep, eat, smoke, and weigh? According to new research our newspaper commissioned, health and fitness apps routinely share user data with digital analytics and advertising firms; one of the most popular, MapMyRun, shares data with 11 outside companies.

The developer, like most others in the sector, says that only aggregated data is sold to advertisers, and that no “personally identifiable information” goes to third parties without the user’s explicit permission. In fact, that’s how many of the apps make money. Developers often profit from actively collaborating with insurance firms, which use authorized personal data to set fitness and health goals for employee health plans. “When users meet certain fitness benchmarks, they are offered discounts on their health premiums.” Some employers even offer incentives like “vacuum cleaners or luxury vacations.”

“This isn’t a surprise,” said Stuart Dredge in The Guardian (U.K). In this privacy day and age, data sharing is inevitable. “Developers know this, and so do tech-savvy app users.” But providing—or selling—data to insurance providers is clearly “a particularly sensitive area.” Not everyone will want such information to get out. That’s why app developers “should be as transparent as possible with their users about how their data is being shared.” And before you start oversharing with your health app, ask yourself who might own that data down the road. “If your favorite fitness apps take off, they may be acquired by bigger fish in the health-care or insurance industry in the next few years.” Your data may well be part of the deal.

There are ways to minimize the risk of your health data going where you don’t want it to go, said Ann Carrns in The New York Times. Consumers should “consider the credibility of the health apps they choose.” Look for apps from better-known brands that have a track record and “more resources to spend on comprehensive data security.” Smaller developers might not encrypt your data before transmitting it to their servers, for instance. Inspect an app’s privacy policy; you may be able to opt out of certain information-sharing practices that raise a red flag. But don’t count on the law to be on your side—“there’s little regulatory protection for health information shared over consumer apps.”

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3 Good Reasons Why You Need to Like RATS

Of course no one likes actual rats, but since we have social-media-savvy tweens and teens, we do need to Recognize Acronyms and Text Shorthand (RATS  is my creative acronym, not the nasty rodent).

Could you spot a good acronym if you saw it? No, not LOL. I mean one that adolescents use with each other (FYI LOL is DOA with teens). Take this quick quiz to see how many acronyms or shorthand symbols you recognize (the answers are at the end of this post).

1) DDAS
2) 9
3) WRUDATM
4) ASL
5) BTOIYA

How do you think you did? Could you spot them in a text and know what they mean? I borrowed these from a website called NetLingo.com. Click here for the thorough list of chat acronyms and text shorthand. If your child uses odd letters and numbers in texts and chat messages, then this list will solve the mystery of the message. Get ready…it’s a long list and if you are like me you’ll shake you head at the lengths some will go to come up with certain words so they don’t have to type it out. You will also be shocked at the foul language and sexual innuendoes that have acronyms. They are horribly inappropriate! SMH!

Here are 3 reasons why we, as parents, need to watch out for odd combinations of letters and numbers within texts and chat messages:

1)  Our kids could be victims of bullying or they could be bullying others.
2) They could be dealing with pressure from their boyfriend/girlfriend to do something they shouldn’t do. They could also be the ones pressuring the boyfriend/girlfriend.
3) They are making bad choices with drugs, alcohol, child groomers or simply using inappropriate language that is not inline with your family values. The reasons vary in degree from family to family.

Granted, most of the acronyms and shorthand are light-hearted and innocent so 9 times out of 10 there is no reason for alarm. However, as a parent with a tween or teen, we need to have all the information we can get to keep our head above the water when it comes to social media.

Quiz your kids to see how many they know. My guess is they won’t know all of them but they are so used to seeing acronyms that they can figure them out quickly. *WARNING: many of them are inappropriate.

Let us know how you did on the quiz in the comments!

Answers to the quiz: 1) Don’t Do Anything Stupid; 2) parent is watching; 3) What Are You Doing At The Moment; 4) age/sex/location; 5) Be There Or It’s Your A** (sorry for that one but I wanted to give an example of the language that bullies could be using with other kids).

This is a guest post from our friends at CyberForward!

 

Cybersecurity: The vulnerability of online media

The Syrian Electronic Army struck us last year, said Matt Buchanan in NewYorker.com. If you were on Twitter or NYTimes.com, you may well have seen the mysterious hacker collective’s coat of arms instead of the news you sought. Twitter recovered quickly, but the Times’ website remained down for almost a day. It’s far from the first time the SEA has waged war on media organizations. Last year, it hijacked Al Jazeera’s website, Twitter accounts, and SMS text service.

It also commandeered the Twitter accounts of numerous media outlets, and directly vandalized sites belonging to Time, CNN, The Washington Post, and NPR. In its most recent attacks, it gained access to an Australia-based domain-name registration service used to manage the Times’ and Twitter’s Web addresses, a feat one Times official compared to “breaking into Fort Knox.” Its method was surprisingly simple: It acquired a legitimate login for the Melbourne facility by spear phishing, or tricking people “into voluntarily revealing information in response to what appears to be a message from a legitimate website or service.”

Here’s more proof, as if we’d needed it, that borders in cyberspace are “badly defended,” said James Lewis in CNN.com. The message of these most recent attacks on Western media has been “one of scorn, ridicule, and belittlement.” But make no mistake—these attacks can have consequences. When the SEA hijacked the AP’s Twitter account in April and tweeted, “Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and Barack Obama injured,” the Dow Jones industrial average briefly plunged more than 150 points, temporarily wiping out $136.5 billion in stock value. And “if the Syrian Electronic Army can slip by feeble defenses to make fun of the media, someone else might be able to get in and cause more serious disruption.”

Website owners should take the hint, said Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols in ZDNet.com. All employees should be warned against phishing emails and reminded to always double-check emails and links from service providers or websites to make sure they’re not handing over passwords to hackers or thieves. There’s an easy fix to make sure your website doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Times’: Ask your domain registrar to set up a “registry lock,” which prevents anyone from making changes alone. If you don’t take that precaution, maybe you’ll risk only the inconvenience of your site being down for a few hours. But there could be a far higher cost: “having your online reputation ruined and your customers buried in malware.”

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Encryption: Are there any secrets on the Web?

The NSA has cracked common forms of encryption used not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

Is anything online safe? asked Larry -Seltzer in ZDNet.com. Last week, a joint report from The Guardian, The New York Times, and ProPublica.org revealed that the National Security Agency had managed to crack many common forms of encryption used on the Internet not just by terrorists, but also by regular consumers and businesses.

The NSA’s efforts appear mostly geared “to get around the cryptography rather than to break it directly,” often using “black hat methods.” The truly upsetting revelation is that the NSA is allegedly working hand in hand with tech companies to gain backdoor access, allowing analysts “to sniff traffic to these sites unimpeded by encryption.”

Let’s not freak out, said Sean Lawson in Forbes.com. “The fact is that the NSA is not likely to want into your, or my, computer.” The real problem is that other people might. It now appears that some common tools—like the encryption many companies use to protect their private networks and the 4G/LTE encryption used by wireless carriers—might be vulnerable to NSA intrusion.
But such encryption can still “provide protection against the more likely threat, which is a malicious actor in the coffee shop sniffing traffic and stealing personal information from other users.” The key to personal Internet security is to stay vigilant. It makes no sense to abandon tools that enhance your privacy out of concern over “a ubiquitous adversary that is likely not targeting you, and that you likely could not stop anyway.”

And there are plenty of such tools at your disposal, said Bruce Schneier in The Guardian. As long as you’re using the latest software, the best encryption available, and a strong password, odds are your data will be safe, at least from the garden-variety hackers that do the most damage. But if you’re concerned, start using software like Tor, which anonymizes your network activity. Hackers and the NSA might target Tor users and others who encrypt their communications, “but it’s work for them.”

And by taking those precautions, “you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.” For the absolute highest security, break the chain of transmission with an “air gap.” That is, buy a new computer that has never been connected to the Internet and transfer files only on physical media, such as USB sticks. And don’t trust commercial or proprietary security software, especially from larger vendors. “My guess is that most encryption products from large U.S. companies have NSA-friendly back doors.” Open-source products are much more difficult for hackers to secretly infiltrate or modify.

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The Largest List of text & Chat acronyms is available as a book!

Ever seen an acronym you didn’t know? Are you a parent or teacher with kids online? Are you a business professional trying to stay savvy? Or just someone who loves to get online…

In an age where everything from job searching to dating is interactive, knowing how to communicate in your online life is a must.  There are new technologies, new online services, and new lingo created every day. If you think it's tough to keep up with it all, you’re not alone.

Welcome to the weird, wonderful world of online jargon ;-) Not only has the Internet and texting changed the way we communicate, it has spawned an entirely new language that is growing every day.

That’s why there is NetLingo, to keep track of new terms and organize it in a way that is useful to you. Whether you're a professional who feels like you're on information overload, or a power user who wants more, or a parent who wants to keep up with your kids, NetLingo.com can help.

NetLingo published a second book “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms” and it contains all of acronyms and abbreviations you’ll see in text messages, email, IM, social networks, websites, dating sites, job sites, auction sites, discussion forums, gaming sites, chat rooms, blogs… oh, and in the real world too.

The updated 2014 version of “NetLingo: The List” (136 pages) defines the crazy array of letters, numbers and symbols that comprise our new conversations. Known as acronyms, abbreviations, SMS talk and leetspeak, these terms are used by millions of people in a variety of online settings. This edition contains French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Welch, Czech and Chinese text terms too!

See if you know any of these popular acronyms and text codes
POTATO
BRB
LOL
IRL
w00t!
POS
DRIB
GR8
ROTFL
WTF
OMW
WSUP
BOHICA
PDOMA
WOMBAT
pron
S2R
solomo
w’s^
ysdiw8
?^
143
182
303
404
459
53X
831
88
9
What are acronyms and why are they so popular?

With millions of people texting and instant messaging every day, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code. Acronyms are an integral part of computer culture and grew rapidly on the Internet. Now, along with an alphabet soup of abbreviations and symbolic messages, this online jargon has become a language of its own.

So what are acronyms? Shorthand? How do you begin to understand a new language?

Let’s start with the basics: An acronym is derived from the first letters of a phrase and is pronounced as a new word, for example POTATO stands for “People Over Thirty Acting Twenty One” and is pronounced "potato."

Shorthand refers to an abbreviation, or initialism, that is pronounced by saying the letters one-by-one, for example FYI is pronounced "F-Y-I" and BRB is pronounced "B-R-B".  There are, of course, exceptions. Some acronyms go both ways, such as FAQ, which can be pronounced "fak" or "F-A-Q".

It should also be noted that acronyms are generally typed IN ALL CAPS (not to be confused with SHOUTING) whereas shorthand is often typed in all lowercase.

Now let’s start to mix things up. Sometimes the shorthand isn't shorter than the original phrase, for example "dewd" means "dude" and "kewl" means "cool" and :::poof::: means "I'm gone".

Now let’s add some symbols and numbers! Leetspeak is the name for a type of symbolic jargon in which you replace regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words, for example:

·      backward and forward slashes create this shape "/\/\" to stand for the letter M;
·      numbers and symbols often replace the letters they resemble (for example the term "leetspeak" is written as "!337$p34k");
·      letters can be substituted for other letters that might sound alike (such as "ph" is transposed with "f" so "phear" is used instead of "fear"); and
·      common typing errors such as "teh" instead of "the" and “pwn” instead of “own” are left uncorrected.

The result is a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. In fact, the culture of online jargon encourages new forms of expression and users will often award each other's individual creativity.

So what makes texting and instant messaging so popular?

In short, it’s fast, cheap, and cool. itz hw 2 tlk w/o bng hrd ;-)

Texting lets you finalize last-minute plans, track down friends, send pictures, correspond while traveling, and pass on information with just a few clicks of the cell phone keypad. IM lets you have real-time conversations with friends or colleagues or several people at once on your computer screen. Texing and IM are popular because they are private: no one can hear you “talking.” Acronyms and smileys are popular because they’re short and they bring emotional expression into a written world. 

Face it, communication is changing. It’s becoming quicker and less formal, and while it’s impossible to capture every instance of every text message out there, this is the definitive list. Many people at some point will use or see a variation of a term in this book, often without the vowels so as to keep the text or IM short. Such as: omw, meet me n frnt pls -or- got ur vm, thx 4 info, ttyl

Think it’s tough to understand? It’s not, take this test:

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghi t pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh?

Like most new things, communicating in abbreviations may seem strange at first but then fun after awhile. Get copies of “NetLingo: The List” for anyone you know who loves to get online! Not recommended for children under 14 due to serious adult humor, it will entertain you as you look up and translate the chat acronyms and text symbols you come across in your life online. The one place to learn all of the online terms you’ll ever need to know is NetLingo.com.

Erin Jansen is founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo: The List - The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.” Sign up for the free Acronym of the Day!

The economics of Netflix: Making a $100 million show

Economics of Netflix
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

The Internet: Is the U.S. losing control of the Web?

According to some experts, Internet freedom is in danger. L. Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration announced plans to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, an international consortium of business groups and government agencies that assigns and maintains Web addresses and domain names. But the move will invite “Russia, China, and other authoritarian governments” to “fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.” Russia and China have already pushed to get rid of ICANN altogether, looking to replace it with a group that would outlaw anonymity on the Web and tax sites like Google and Facebook to “discourage global Internet companies from giving everyone equal access.”

“Hold on a minute,” said Katherine Maher in Politico.com. “No one actually ‘€˜controls’ the Internet.” ICANN’s job is to coordinate the names and numbering system used to “match human-readable domains” with their number-based Internet Protocol addresses. And while ICANN is technically based in California, the organization has offices all over the world and commercial and noncommercial members from 111 countries and international organizations. That’s why ceding U.S. control of ICANN is the right move, said Edward J. Black in HuffingtonPost.com. With each new revelation of online surveillance and censorship, it’s becoming clearer than ever that Internet freedom “faces unprecedented challenges.” By “strengthening a multi-stakeholder group like ICANN,” the Obama administration is trying to pre-empt a political standoff with other world powers over Internet access for the general public. After all, “we do not‘€”and should not‘€”try to retain or expand the role of any governments seeking to control” the Internet, including our own.

But try telling that to lawmakers, said Brian Fung in WashingtonPost.com. Politicians worry that a multi-stakeholder system “could enable foreign governments to impose regulations on the Internet.” They just don’t get that the United States’ oversight of ICANN has been mainly symbolic. In fact, it is precisely our government’s nominal position atop the addressing system that “gives Russia and China the grounds to call for a different” one. Ceding control doesn’t open the floodgates for Russia, or China, or even North Korea to “run roughshod over the Web.” Instead, it evens the playing field. And since ICANN is specifically set up to prevent “any one actor from dominating what happens,” any fears about a foreign takeover of the Web are pretty far-fetched. What’s more, ICANN so far has proved rather effective at “keeping Russia, China, and other authoritarian regimes in check.”

- As seen in The Week
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You’re under surveillance: Dragnet Nation

In ‘private’ online forums, at malls, and even at home, Julia Angwin reports, someone is tracking you.

Sharon and Bilal couldn’t be more different. Sharon Gill is a 42-year-old single mother who lives in a small town in southern Arkansas. She ekes out a living trolling for treasures at yard sales and selling them at a flea market. Bilal Ahmed, 36, is a single, Rutgers-educated man who lives in a penthouse in Sydney, Australia. He runs a chain of convenience stores.
Although they have never met in person, they became close friends on a password-protected online forum for patients struggling with mental health issues. Sharon was trying to wean herself from anti-depressant medications. Bilal had just lost his mother and was suffering from anxiety and depression.

From their far corners of the world, they were able to cheer each other up in their darkest hours. Sharon turned to Bilal because she felt she couldn’t confide in her closest relatives and neighbors. “I live in a small town,” Sharon told me. “I don’t want to be judged on this mental illness.”

But in 2010, Sharon and Bilal were horrified to discover they were being watched on their private social network.

It started with a break-in. On May 7, 2010, PatientsLikeMe noticed unusual activity on the “Mood” forum where Sharon and Bilal hung out. A new member of the site, using sophisticated software, was attempting to “scrape,” or copy, every single message off PatientsLikeMe’s private “Mood” and “Multiple Sclerosis” forums.

PatientsLikeMe managed to block and identify the intruder: It was the Nielsen Co., the media-research firm. Nielsen monitors online “buzz” for its clients, including drugmakers. On May 18, PatientsLikeMe sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nielsen and notified its members of the break-in.
But there was a twist. PatientsLikeMe used the opportunity to inform members of the fine print they may not have noticed when they signed up. The website was also selling data about its members to pharmaceutical and other companies.

The news was a double betrayal for Sharon and Bilal. Not only had an intruder been monitoring them, but so was the very place that they considered to be a safe space. 

Even worse, none of it was necessarily illegal. Nielsen was operating in a gray area of the law even as it violated the terms of service at PatientsLikeMe. And it was entirely legal for PatientsLikeMe to disclose to its members in its fine print that it would sweep up all their information and sell it.

We are living in a Dragnet Nation—a world of indiscriminate tracking where institutions are stockpiling data about individuals at an unprecedented pace. The rise of indiscriminate tracking is powered by the same forces that have brought us the technology we love so much—powerful computing on our desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Before computers were commonplace, it was expensive and difficult to track individuals. 

Governments kept records only of occasions, such as birth, marriage, property ownership, and death. Companies kept records when a customer bought something and filled out a warranty card or joined a loyalty club. But technology has made it cheap and easy for institutions of all kinds to keep records about almost every moment of our lives.

The combination of massive computing power, smaller and smaller devices, and cheap storage has enabled a huge increase in indiscriminate tracking of personal data. The trackers include many of the institutions that are supposed to be on our side, such as the government and the companies with which we do business.

Of course, the largest of the dragnets appear to be those operated by the U.S. government. In addition to its scooping up vast amounts of foreign communications, the National Security Agency is also scooping up Americans’ phone calling records and Internet traffic, according to documents revealed in 2013 by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Meanwhile, commercial dragnets are blossoming. AT&T and Verizon are selling information about the location of their cellphone customers, albeit without identifying them by name. Mall owners have started using technology to track shoppers based on the signals emitted by the cellphones in their pockets. Retailers such as Whole Foods have used digital signs that are actually facial recognition scanners. 
 
Online, hundreds of advertisers and data brokers are watching as you browse the Web. Looking up “blood sugar” could tag you as a possible diabetic by companies that profile people based on their medical condition and then provide drug companies and insurers access to that information. Searching for a bra could trigger an instant bidding war among lingerie advertisers at one of the many online auction houses.

In 2009, 15-year-old high school student Blake Robbins was confronted by an assistant principal who claimed she had evidence that he was engaging in “improper behavior in his home.” It turned out that his school had installed spying software on the laptops that it issued to the school’s 2,300 students. The school’s technicians had activated software on some of the laptops that could snap photos using the webcam. Blake’s webcam captured him holding pill-shaped objects. Blake and his family said they were Mike and Ike candies. The assistant principal believed they were drugs.

Blake’s family sued the district for violating their son’s privacy. The school said the software had been installed to allow technicians to locate the computers in case of theft. However, the school did not notify students of the software’s existence, nor did it set up guidelines for when the technical staff could operate the cameras.

An internal investigation revealed that the cameras had been activated on more than 40 laptops and captured more than 65,000 images. Some students were photographed thousands of times, including when they were partially undressed and sleeping. The school board later banned the school’s use of cameras to surveil students.

On April 5, 2011, John Gass picked up his mail in Needham, Mass., and was surprised to find a letter stating that his driver’s license had been revoked. “I was just blindsided,” John said.
John is a municipal worker—he repairs boilers for the town of Needham. Without a driver’s license, he could not do his job. He called the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and was instructed to appear at a hearing and bring documentation of his identity. They wouldn’t tell him why his license was revoked.

When John showed up for his hearing, he learned that the RMV had begun using facial recognition software to search for identity fraud. The software compared license photos to identify people who might have applied for multiple licenses under aliases. The software had flagged him and another man as having similar photos and had required them to prove their identities.
John was a victim of what I call the “police lineup”—dragnets that allow the police to treat everyone as a suspect. This overturns our traditional view that our legal system treats us as “innocent until proven guilty.”

The most obvious example of this is airport body scanners. The scanners conduct the most intrusive of searches—allowing the viewer to peer beneath a person’s clothes—without any suspicion that the person being scanned is a criminal. In fact, the burden is on the individual to “prove” his or her innocence, by passing through the scanner without displaying any suspicious items.
John Gass luckily was given a chance to plead his case. But it was an absurd case. He was presented with a photo of himself from 13 years ago.

“It doesn’t look like you,” the officer said.

“Of course it doesn’t,” John said. “It’s 13 years later. I was a hundred pounds lighter.”

John presented his passport and his birth certificate, and his license was reinstated. But the officers wouldn’t give him any paperwork to prove that it was reinstated. He wanted a piece of paper to show his boss that he was okay to drive again. 

John filed a lawsuit against the RMV, claiming that he had been denied his constitutionally protected right to due process. The RMV argued that he had been given a window of opportunity to dispute the revocation because the letter had been mailed on March 24 and the license wasn’t revoked until April 1. John didn’t pick up his mail until April 5. The Suffolk County Superior Court granted the RMV’s motion to dismiss. Gass appealed, but the appellate court also ruled against him.

John felt betrayed by the whole process. He now is very careful around state police because he worries that he won’t be treated fairly. “There are no checks and balances,” he said. “It is only natural humans are going to make mistakes. But there is absolutely no oversight.

These stories illustrate a simple truth: Information is power. Anyone who holds a vast amount of information about us has power over us.

At first, the information age promised to empower individuals with access to previously hidden information. We could comparison shop across the world for the best price, for the best bit of knowledge, for people who shared our views.

But now the balance of power is shifting, and large institutions—both governments and corporations—are gaining the upper hand in the information wars, by tracking vast quantities of information about mundane aspects of our lives.

Now we are learning that people who hold our data can subject us to embarrassment, or drain our pocketbooks, or accuse us of criminal behavior. This knowledge could, in turn, create a culture of fear.

Consider Sharon and Bilal. Once they learned they were being monitored on PatientsLikeMe, Sharon and Bilal retreated from the Internet. Bilal deleted his posts from the forum. He took down the drug dosage history that he had uploaded onto the site. Sharon stopped using the Internet altogether and doesn’t allow her son to use it without supervision.

They started talking by phone but missed the online connections they had forged on PatientsLikeMe. “I haven’t found a replacement,” Sharon said. Bilal agreed: “The people on PLM really know how it feels.”

But neither of them could tolerate the fear of surveillance. Sharon said she just couldn’t live with the uncertainty of “not knowing if every keystroke I’m making is going to some other company,” she said. Bilal added, “I just feel that the trust was broken.”

Sharon and Bilal’s experience is a reminder that for all its technological pyrotechnics, the glory of the digital age has always been profoundly human. Technology allows us to find people who share our inner thoughts, to realize we’re not alone. But technology also allows others to spy on us, causing us to pull back from digital intimacy.
When people ask me why I care about privacy, I always return to the simple thought that I want there to be safe, private spaces in the world for Sharon and Bilal, for myself, for my children, for everybody. I want there to be room in the digital world for letters sealed with hot wax. Must we always be writing postcards that can—and will—be read by anyone along the way?

As seen in The Week, excerpted from Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin. Published in February 2014 by Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. ©2014 by Julia Angwin. All rights reserved.


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