Office of the Privacy Commissioner » Blog Archive » Report of Findings with respect to Facebook

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has issued a Report of Findings with respect to Facebook. The OPC investigated Facebook after a complaint by Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)and concluded that four aspects of the complaint were well founded. In some cases Facebook has agreed to change things, but they have not agreed to recommendations about third-party applications which have access not only to your information, but that of friends who have not agreed.

When users add an application, they consent to giving the application’s developer access to some of their personal information, as well as that of their “friends.” Moreover, the only way that users can refuse to share personal information when their friends add applications is by opting completely out of all applications, or blocking specific applications.

Michael Geist has a nice summary of the finding at Privacy Commissioner Finds Facebook Violating Canadian Privacy Law, though he doesn’t mention explicitly what bothers me – the ability of an application to mine information about me if a “friend” agrees. There is, in the comments, a discussion of what can be done if Facebook doesn’t comply that is interesting.

YouTube: Possible ou Probable

The French publishing company editis put together a short video about books, Possible ou Probable (in French.) The video presents a world where different formats of e-book readers exist. You can go to a bookstore and scan the bar code of a paper book and then buy the electronic version. You can edit your own guide books or scrap books. The e-book readers, like an iPhone, actually are touch-screen tablets for reading, editing, and multimedia.

The video is professionally done and takes place in Paris and Bruges. Thanks to Stéfan and Matt K for this.

Enter the Game | Ludiciné

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Bernard Perron, who, along with Bart Simon, gives some of the best talks about computer games (because he shows precise clips of the moments of games he is talking about) has a web database I just discoved called Ludiciné. Ludiciné is a bilingual reference database on the intersection of play, games and cinema.

Also on the site is a Filmography of Early Interactive Cinema which documents such games like the 1992-3 The 7th Guest which made extensive use of video overlays in this horror adventure game. The Filmography database has lots of clips from the games/interactives so you can get a sense of the interactive video. Now I too can give talks like Perron.

the Man-Machine

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Willard posted an interesting note on Humanist 23.167 about human-machine interaction before cybernetics. He mentions how the cyborg argument was in circulation before Wiener and gives as an example from Life Magazine in 1944, “Mechanical Brains: Working in Metal Boxes, Computing Devices Aim Guns and Bombs with Inhuman Accuracy.” While the article isn’t on line there are Alfred Crimi drawings in the Hagley Digital Archives for the article. The images, as Willard says are startling. They show man-machine more than any explanation I can come up with.

Then again there is Randall Jarrell’s poem “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” which is also about just such a Sperry turret,

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Note that for Jarrell the machine is the State of which the bomber is but a belly.

Tofu: text viewer with columns

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Christian sent me a link to a Mac application, Tofu which presents text in a view with narrow columns of text so you scroll right rather than down. The application makes an interesting point about reading on the screen – why do we have to scroll down? The author, Amar Sagoo, puts it thus,

Tofu is a novel application to address the common problem that people don’t like reading text on the screen.

Why is that anyway? I believe there are two main reasons: line width and visual instability.

Text is usually very wide on the screen, which makes going from the end of one line to the beginning of the next difficult. That’s why newspapers have narrow columns: It makes them faster to read.

Saving Texts From Oblivion: Oxford U. Press on the Google Book Settlement

Tim Barton, the president of Oxford University Press has written a thoughtful article for the Chronicle on the Google Book Search settlement, “Saving Text From Oblivion: Oxford U. Press on the Google Book Settlement.” Barton makes the point that,

What once seemed at least debatable has now become irrefutable: If it’s not online, it’s invisible. While increasing numbers of long-out-of-date, public-domain books are now fully and freely available to anyone with a browser, the vast majority of the scholarship published in book form over the last 80 years is today largely overlooked by students, who limit their research to what can be discovered on the Internet.

Barton argues for accepting the settlement, even if it is imperfect. This came to me via Twitter from Andrew Logemann.

CAUT/ACPPU: Arbitrator Dismisses Google Grievance

Our CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin has a front-page story about the Lakehead Faculty Association grievance against Lakehead for moving everyone onto gmail. While the arbitrator decided to dismiss the grievance, I doubt this will go far – I suspect all sorts of bodies from Faculty Associations to student unions will start pressuring their univeristies to protect our privacy better. Here is a quote from the story.

In his decision, arbitrator Joseph Carrier acknowledged the university exposed its aca­demic staff to greater danger because “…the likelihood of such incursions by U.S. authority into a private e-mail system (Lakehead’s own former system) was marginal compared to what might occur in the presence of the Google system.”

He also commented favourably on the opinion of Stephen Schulhofer, the faculty association’s expert witness and the Robert B. McKay Professor of Law at New York University.

“I am satisfied Professor Schulhofer’s opinion was valid and more than adequate to confirm that e-mail originating within Canada and coming within the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities would be open to surveillance by agencies of that country and, but for safeguards here, would expose the author to potential consequences of the U.S. antiterrorism legislation,” Carrier’s decision states.

Yet, the collective agreement language does not prevent the employer from endangering the privacy of LUFA members because the agreement does not specify the obligation to ensure “absolute privacy to faculty members,” Carrier argues. (Page A1, “Arbitrator Dismisses Google Grievance”, Vol. 56, No. 6, June 2009)

Writing as Programming as Writing

Stephen Ramsay has created a xtra normal movie of our Untitled #4 (PDF) dialogue on Writing as Programming as Writing. xtr normal lets you create a movie from text using text-to-speech with virtual characters – an interesting variant on visualization and a different way of representing a text. I want it known that I look nothing like the character he chose for me.

Update: The dialogue is now up on YouTube in two parts. See Part I and Part II.