Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

101 posts categorized "Web/Tech"

October 28, 2007

Pseudo-CNN page frames Hispanic group for wildfires

Speaking of fake news... Someone registered the domain name "cnnheadlienews" on Oct. 25 2007, to run a bogus news story alleging that Hispanic separatist group had claimed responsibility for setting the California wildfires.

The page is dummied up to look like a CNN web page. There's no other content on the site. A WHOIS search reveals that the page is registered to something called "Bleach Boy Manufacturing."

There is no such corporation on file with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

Katharine Zalecki of Huffington Post reports that some anti-immigrant websites cited the story as fact, without noticing or caring that the url was a dead giveaway.

October 13, 2007

Baton Rouge to add gunshot location to video surveillance

Interesting. reported on Wednesday that the city of Baton Rouge is planning to add gunshot-locating technology to its video surveillance system.

September 24, 2007

Federal agent indicted for cyber-stalking with DHS database

A federal agent with the Department of Commerce was indicted by a federal grand jury in California on 19 September for using a Department of Homeland Security database to cyber-stalk his former girlfriend:

According to the indictment, Mr. Robinson was sworn in as a Special Agent for the Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement, Bureau of Industry and Security, on March 31, 1997. In November 2002, Mr. Robinson began a romantic relationship with a person identified in the indictment by her initials, S.S. The relationship lasted approximately seven months and ended acrimoniously. The indictment alleges that, during the course of their relationship and after S.S. tried to end it, Mr. Robinson made numerous threats to S.S., including threatening to have her deported and to kill her and her family.

The indictment further alleges that from approximately May 2003 through March 2004, Mr. Robinson accessed a government database known as the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS) at least 163 times to track the travel patterns of S.S. and her family. Federal agents are authorized to use that database only in the performance of their official duties and not for personal reasons. In addition, law enforcement agents receive training in TECS security and privacy, and are issued unique passwords to access TECS so that their use of the system can be monitored.

The indictment further alleges that on June 1, 2004, agents from the Department of Commerce interviewed Mr. Robinson, and he admitted that he had accessed the TECS database approximately ten to fifteen times to track S.S.’s travel in and out of the United States. In fact, at the time Mr. Robinson made that statement, he was well aware that he had accessed the system at least 163 times between May 1, 2003 and March 22, 2004. [US DOJ]

Robinson is scheduled to appear in court on October 11.

August 21, 2007

CIA to launch "Facebook for spies"

The CIA is planning to launch the espionage equivalent of Facebook to help its employees process information collaboratively:

The CIA is to open a communications tool for its staff, modeled on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, the Financial Times reports.

The project, known as A-Space, aims to improve the way that intelligence agents communicate, it said.

Officials believe that the online workplace will allow staff to better analyse information together.

However to ease fears of undercover workers having their cover blown, participation will be voluntary. [BBC]

A-Space is scheduled to go live in December.

August 08, 2007

Bay Ridge tornado, via Bejing

The Phantom is in China this week.

While he was away, a tornado struck his block in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

He's still abroad, but he's covering events in his own neighborhood from Bejing.

June 10, 2007

"Pro-life" e-Cards


Post-abortion greetings from the head Heather. She cares about you, really.

The above is one of the many online greetings available from The Pro-Life ECard center where you can "show your love and concern by sending a FREE e-card to a mother or father who has lost a baby to abortion."

June 09, 2007

Federal charges for threatening emails

Sometimes threats have consequences:

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ A college professor accused of launching a campaign of threatening e-mails and phone messages after losing his job last year was tracked down with the help of former colleagues and arrested, authorities said Friday.

Xiang Li, a 42-year-old Chinese national who worked at Morrisville State College during the 2005-2006 school year, is being held on federal charges he made interstate threats to injure or kill another person.

David Rogers, the school's dean, said Li was enraged when told his temporary contract as a professor of computer information technology was not going to be renewed because students found him abusive and sometimes belligerent.

"This isn't over yet. People who hurt me, I hurt them. And this isn't over," Rogers recalled Li saying.

Li was fired and barred from the campus after the confrontation with Rogers in May 2006. He then moved out of New York and began threatening Rogers and others at the school in September, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Among the messages were threats to castrate a former colleague and to kill the child of another and the taunt, "Do you think they can protect you from a man who wants to die and wants to kill you?" [AP]

Computer science profs teamed up with the FBI to track Xiang Li down. He was arrested by U.S. Marshals last month in a Pittsburgh airport.

May 22, 2007

Doctors push back on drug company data mining

Three weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that New Hampshire's ban on drug company data mining was unconstitutional.

As I learned when I worked in pharmaceutical advertising, the prescribing report is one of the most powerful tools in a sales rep's arsenal. I used to write the canned scripts that helped them turn those numbers into prescriptions.

Drug salesmen walk into doctors' offices knowing exactly how many prescriptions that doctor for which drugs. Often, doctors don't even realize that the rep has their complete prescribing stats. The reps use this information to strong-arm doctors into prescribing more of their medications.

A favored tactic is to make the doctor conversationally commit to prescribing the rep's drug more frequently. Doctors wouldn't be so quick to say "yeah, yeah, how 'bout a penlight?" if they realized that the rep can track whether they follow through or not.

Despite the legal setback, opponents of the practice haven't given up the fight.

"We don't like the practice, and we want it to stop," said Jean Silver-Isenstadt, executive director of the National Physicians Alliance, a two-year-old group with 10,000 members, most of them young doctors in training. (Thakkar is on the group's board of directors.) "We think it's a contaminant to the doctor-patient relationship, and it's driving up costs."

The American Medical Association, a larger and far more established group, makes millions of dollars each year by helping data-mining companies link prescribing data to individual physicians. It does so by licensing access to the AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors. [WaPo]

New Hampshire plans to appeal the federal court ruling.

May 06, 2007

Dahlia Lithwick on threats

Dahlia Lithwick discusses threats against female bloggers.

With all due respect to Graff, it seems to me that there are important differences between threats received over the Internet and sexual harassment at work. It starts, obviously, with a total lack of context. Women have accumulated at least some skills in figuring out when face-to-face sexual innuendo or threats are serious, joking, or pathological. True, we are sometimes tragically wrong. But for the most part, we can tell whether Jeff from accounting needs a restraining order or just a stern "no." An anonymous sexual threat on a blog could come from anywhere, and it's virtually impossible to determine whether or not the poster is serious. For the recipient, it's a bit like walking blindfolded through what might be a construction site, a retirement home, or a pick-up basketball game between two teams of recovering rapists. [Slate]

Why isn't Lithwick on the editorial page of the New York Times?

May 01, 2007

Think before you stalk, dude

This public service announcement from the Ad Council is supposed to educate the MySpace generation about the importance of protecting their personal privacy online. That's a worthy goal. These days, managing your reputation online is an important aspect of street smarts.

Unfortunately, this ad does nothing to empower kids to stay safe. Instead, it sends the message that girls who are being harassed by adults brought their misfortune on themselves.

The ad shows a girl called Sarah silently enduring public harassment from a series of progressively older and creepier strangers who have been reading her webpage.

Predictably, the Ad Council's message is "Think before you post, little girl." Just once I'd like to see a campaign called "Think before you stalk, dude." Or:  "Just because a minor posted this  doesn't give you the right to throw it in her face, creepy adult."

I'm especially disturbed by the scene where the school coach yells "Loved your tattoo, Sarah" as the main character walks by football practice. In real life, such a coach would be fired for harassment.

Why is the AC making it seem as if clear-cut sexual harassment is a natural "consequence" of posting personal info online?

This campaign is obviously supposed to help minors avoid adult sex predators. It's irresponsible for the AC to present the image of a student suffering in silence as men catcall and harass her.

The take home message is straight out of Ann Althouse: If the internet becomes your scarlet letter, it's your own damned fault.

The irony is that this message is probably supposed to be aimed at boys and girls--but it's backfiring because it's sending kids, especially boys, the message that it's okay victimize people who are indiscreet.

I can think of lots of funny and effective tropes ways to drive home the importance safeguarding one's privacy online. Why is the Ad Council stooping to such crude, sexist propaganda?