Links for 2014-12-06

  • State sanctions foreign phone and email tapping

    Well, this stinks.

    Foreign law enforcement agencies will be allowed to tap Irish phone calls and intercept emails under a statutory instrument signed into law by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. Companies that object or refuse to comply with an intercept order could be brought before a private “in camera” court. The legislation, which took effect on Monday, was signed into law without fanfare on November 26th, the day after documents emerged in a German newspaper indicating the British spy agency General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had directly tapped undersea communications cables between Ireland and Britain for years.

    (tags: ireland law gchq surveillance mlats phone-tapping)

  • “Looks like Chicago PD had a stingray out at the Eric Garner protest last night”

    Your tax dollars at work: Spying on people just because they demand that the government’s agents stop killing black people. […] Anonymous has released a video featuring what appear to be Chicago police radio transmissions revealing police wiretapping of organizers’ phones at the protests last night the day after Thanksgiving, perhaps using a stingray. The transmissions pointing to real-time wiretapping involve the local DHS-funded spy ‘fusion’ center.

    (tags: imsi-catcher stingray surveillance eric-garner protests privacy us-politics anonymous chicago police wiretapping dhs)

  • When data gets creepy: the secrets we don’t realise we’re giving away | Technology | The Guardian

    Very good article around the privacy implications of derived and inferred aggregate metadata from Ben Goldacre.

    We are entering an age – which we should welcome with open arms – when patients will finally have access to their own full medical records online. So suddenly we have a new problem. One day, you log in to your medical records, and there’s a new entry on your file: “Likely to die in the next year.” We spend a lot of time teaching medical students to be skilful around breaking bad news. A box ticked on your medical records is not empathic communication. Would we hide the box? Is that ethical? Or are “derived variables” such as these, on a medical record, something doctors should share like anything else?

    (tags: advertising ethics privacy security law data aggregation metadata ben-goldacre)

  • Stellar/Ripple suffer a failure of their consensus system, resulting in a split-brain failure

    Prof. Mazières’s research indicated some risk that consensus could fail, though we were nor certain if the required circumstances for such a failure were realistic. This week, we discovered the first instance of a consensus failure. On Tuesday night, the nodes on the network began to disagree and caused a fork of the ledger. The majority of the network was on ledger chain A. At some point, the network decided to switch to ledger chain B. This caused the roll back of a few hours of transactions that had only been recorded on chain A. We were able to replay most of these rolled back transactions on chain B to minimize the impact. However, in cases where an account had already sent a transaction on chain B the replay wasn’t possible.

    (tags: consensus distcomp stellar ripple split-brain postmortems outages ledger-fork payment)

  • the “Unknown Pleasures” cover, emulated in Mathematica

    In July 1967, astronomers at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, observed an unidentified radio signal from interstellar space, which flashed periodically every 1.33730 seconds. This object flashed with such regularity that it was accurate enough to be used as a clock and only be off by one part in a hundred million. It was eventually determined that this was the first discovery of a pulsar, CP-1919.  This is an object that has about the same mass as the Sun, but is the size of the San Francisco Bay at its widest (~20 kilometers) that is rotating so fast that its emitting a beam of light towards Earth like a strobing light house! Pulsars are neutron stars that are formed from the remnants of a massive star when it experiences stellar death. A hand drawn graph plotted in the style of a waterfall plot, in the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, later became renown for its use on the cover of the album “Unknown Pleasures”  by 1970s English band Joy Division.
    The entire blog at http://intothecontinuum.tumblr.com/ is pretty great. Lots of nice mathematical animated GIFs, accompanied by Mathematica source and related ponderings.

    (tags: maths gifs animation art unknown-pleasures mathematica cp-1919 pulsars astronomy joy-division waterfall-plots cambridge blogs)

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