Australian PM Named in Panama Papers

The Panama Papers data leak is proving to be one of the most sweeping revelations in terms of widespread tax fraud and evasion in data storage history. Heads are rolling, and as more and more of the papers are processed by media specialists, the number of higher ups with links to the offshore post will only increase further.

pmAustralian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has proven to be the latest world leader caught up in the scandal. He was named by the Panama Papers as a former director of a British Virgin Islands company set up and administered by law firm Mossack Fonseca with the intention of exploiting a Siberian gold prospect.

Turnbull and former NSW Premier Neville Wran joined the board of Star Mining NL on October 29, 1993. The Australian listed company hoped to develop a $20 billion Siberian gold mine called Sukhoi Log. According to the data, Turnbull and Wran were appointed directors of the Star Mining’s subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands, Star Technology Services, on December 3, 1993, just five weeks later. Star Technology Services held the group’s stake in the Sukhoi Log prospect.

A spokesman for Mr. Turnbull recently stated that the Prime Minister was not aware that the company had been administered by Mossack Fonseca as the registered agent in Road Town, Tortola. According to the spokesperson, none of the data implies that the PM acted improperly in any way.

However, Star Technologies has allegedly made donations to Russian politicians, an action that is unlikely to be coincidental to the fact that the gold mines were located in Siberia. The spokesperson then responded that Turnbull was not aware of any payments to political parties or to politicians made by Star during or prior to his time as director.

panama papersThe use of the British Virgin Islands company provided privacy to many of its users; according to spokespeople working for Emma Watson, her naming by the papers was due only to the star’s need for personal privacy and safety that companies could supply to her as a result of British law.

While Emma Watson’s involvement with the company may not be extremely incriminating, the Prime Minister’s seems more shady.

Turnbull’s use of the company made it so that his Australian shareholders couldn’t tell that Star Technology was investing in the gold mine in Siberia. Star Technology was listed as a subsidiary in Star Mining’s 1994 annual report with the note that it was a “controlled entity not required to be audited under British Virgin Islands requirements.”

Eventually the Prime Minister and Mr. Wran resigned from Star Mining no September 1, 1995 citing work commitments in Australia. They also stepped down from their posts at Star Technology on September 25. Turnbull & Partners and broker County NatWest were able to raise somewhere around $72 million for Star Mining in share placements in Ovtober of 1993. Eventually court decisions in Russia stripped Star Mining of its gold stake and the company was forced to write off $127 million on the failed venture in 1998.

Again, it’s not suggested that there was anything improper in the Prime Minister’s role in the company.

Google Glass Entering Medical Realm

Our understanding of autism now is very limited, in fact we know almost nothing regarding its cause, its apparent rise, or even how to help those who are affected by it. Our understanding is so limited in fact that the anti vaccination movement was able to have a foothold in the social discourse for a moment in the social consciousness to give some perspective this had absolutely nothing supporting the claims it made. But in the absence of knowledge we are eager to grasp onto whatever in the hopes of receiving some solace or hope for understanding. Although we have no idea what the cause and remedies for autism are we at least know what being affected by it looks like and in what areas the people are socially deficient. For instance what we do know is that kids with autism are often have difficulty with making eye contact in addition to recognizing emotion and social cues that occur with their exchanges with other people. The punchline of the tech world google glass may be the tool that can help these people better identify these conversational nuances and bolster their social aptitude in real time which is something light years ahead of anything being considered right now in regards to therapy for children with autism. Many prominent public figures have autism.  bderp

Stanford University graduate student Caitlin Voss is heading up the Autism Glass on campus. The 20 year old has some pretty lofty goals, and is getting help from an associate professor Dennis Wall. “The promise of using Google Glass is that it’s transportable out of a therapeutic setting into an everyday social situation, whether it be school or a birthday party…  But there are just not enough therapists to meet increasing demand, and flash cards are removed from real life.”

The implications here are immense and they are only in the very beginning stages and so they are poised with answering huge philosophical and informativeness questions such as, what is to be healthy mentally, what does it mean to be unset or happy, and if you can make this distinction to what degree are we made aware of it in our own case? these are but a few of the questions that need to be answered and reveal that this is not going to be any easy whattask. For instance, to say that you are giving the person what they don’t know in regards to the emotion does not solve the question. Think about it, if you are acknowledging the fact that they have a blind spot in their perception then they are not developing these skills, consider that these skills are not present to these people and you just say that they just are shown these things and you expect them to react in the way as if you did. For instance this may be a useful tool in regards to them being able to have a kind of flash card system wherein they are able to train ahead of time the normative responses to certain stimuli, but this obviously is not the whole picture, but it may be a start.

Hackers Threaten Ted Cruz

A few weeks back, hacker-vigilante group Anonymous issued an eerie warning to Ted Cruz demanding that he drop out of the presidential race or else face a damning revolution regarding him and a dark past involving prostitution.

“Mr. Cruz,” the narrator of a chilling video stated, “we are not demanding that you exit this race within 24 hours, or Anonymous will release all of the information we have found. It’s time that we tell America what’s hiding behind the curtain.”

ted“Have you heard of the expression ‘candy wrappers’?” asks the narrator, referring to a colorful term for a male contraceptive. “Do you recall visiting prostitutes?” the narrator continues, more to the point.

“Your so-called underground acts that you think were done in the dark, will be brought out for all the public to see. It will be sent to every media outlet to publicize your disgusting behavior. We assure you it will go viral on every social media platform in a matter of minutes. Mr. Cruz, your disgusting campaign ends now; your campaign to gain power with ulterior motives that include your wife will also be exposed.”

To end this chilling tirade, the narrator closes: “There is nothing from your past that won’t haunt you.”

Keep in mind that this all occurred over a week before the Enquirer came out with its articles regarding Cruz’s extramarital affair, and even before the #CruzSexScandal came to be.

Cruz of course claimed that the prostitution ring reports published by the National Enquirer were baseless and embellished, and even claimed that these accusations were all part of a larger and secretive attack planned by Donald Trump (who was already attacking Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi) and Cruz’s former consultant, Roger Stone.

It has since been concluded that the Enquirer‘s claims were false, but Anonymous has stated that it despite the report’s frivolous and incorrect details about Cruz’s secret affairs, there is legitimate evidence that these affairs occurred.

Anonymous claims to have incriminating evidence to prove that one affair, which allegedly occurred between Cruz and a Cuban mistress, legitimately occurred. Anonymous also revealed that the sex scandal claims are also more linked to Marco Rubio than to Donald Trump.

On the 22nd of this month, Anonymous released a video implying that they have acquired evidence regarding a prostitution ring secret and involves Ted Cruz, hoping to force Cruz to suspend his presidential campaign.

heidi cruzShortly after the video was released, the Breitbart News shared that it had been approached with a scandalous sex story regarding Ted Cruz but had decided not to run it due to a general lack of details regarding the circumstances surrounding the accusations. The News did reveal that the story came from a “Rubio ally.”

“It was too thin, so [Breitbart‘s Washington politcal editor Matt Boyle] decided not to runit. There was no way to verify the claims,” explained a source from the news outlet.

Despite this, Anonymous continues to claim that it has collected the accurate evidence to support their theories regarding Ted Cruz’s extramarital affairs.

Google EU to Offer: Right to Be Forgotten Next Week

Today, March 4, 2016, Google has confirmed that it shall get rid of some search results from all of its websites beginning next week (March 11, 2016) for searches that are conducted within the confines of the European Union Nations.  This comes on the back of a 2014 ruling on a European Union Supreme Court that decided Google is now hereby obligated to comply with requests to remove a certain amount of their search results placed forward by European complainants in a decision that has come to be know as the “right to be forgotten.” Per the stipulations of the ruling European internet users can put forth or submit a formal request to Google, that they deist the results that are no longer seen as having significance or reliance to their immediate search reliance and are for all intensive purposes deemed outdated. eu2

This is significant, because up until this point Google would only delist such results for a European Union site, per the request of the user. However, the information could still be accessed by private industries through several easily circumvented obstructions which effectively undermines the “removal” in the first place.

Googles offical EU spokesperson released a statement, “starting next week, in addition to our existing practice, we will also use geolocation signals ( like IP addresses) to restrict access to the delisted URL on all google Search domains, including google. com, when accessed from the country of the person requesting the removal… We’ll apply the change retrospectively, to all delisting that we have already done under teh European court ruling.”

Although this is a big step in terms of internet privacy and security in general, the looming problem in light of all of this remains that Google, if left to its own devices would see no value in enacting such restrictions upon themselves. Essentially, it were not until they were literally ordered by a court through a long drawn out legal battle that they are required to do so. as we can see no such law exists in other countries such as the US or Japan. Google-Pffffffffrivacy-1.jpg-1

That said it may be the catalyst to achieving a more private and respectful relationship between tech giants and their uses, however, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The very notion of privacy has changed more in the past 5 years than the proceeding 5,000. For many the it seems all to obvious that the Google and Facebooks of the world should adhere to a higher code of ethics, and not merely when ordered to by threat of law. But for many, primarily of the younger end of the millenial or post minileal class is that they simply do not care, that access to their intimate and person internet data by someone does not give them pause. whether or not one is right or more ethical remains to be seen, or perhaps it doesn’t. it maybe that this highly subjective notion has no more grounding in reality than the simply notion of something being good, or having quality in and of itself.

New Pact Saves Data Storage Companies After Safe Harbor Decision

Back in October, an agreement was reached between the United States and the European Union regarding American companies handling the personal data of overseas citizens.

This agreement created a “Safe Harbor” for U.S. businesses by decreeing that an American company could simply give its word that it planned to properly protect the data of Europeans (and would need no other form of assurance).

Promises are not generally taken at face value in the world of business, especially when it comes to data protection. However, this decision was more a symptom of desperate circumstances than thoughtful negotiation.

facebookBecause the European Union has passed much stronger sanctions protecting the data of its citizens than the United States has ever bothered to create, issues began to spring up regarding American companies (functioning under more lax American law) becoming responsible for data belonging to people who expect their privacy to be better protected. 

The European Court of Justice believed that the Safe Harbor Agreement was a band-aid solution to a deeper problem regarding world tensions around surveillance, terrorism, and privacy. In light of Edward Snowden’s outing of the United States government’s collection of massive, indiscriminate amounts of personal data via snooping on cloud service providers, the European court ruled that the Safe Harbor protections were not acceptable.

The court believed that there was a real threat that the United States government would ignore the Safe Harbor sanctions meant to protect the data of European citizens. The court also cited the fact that neither European individuals nor European privacy authorities had any real way to punish U.S. government agencies for snooping if they were caught in the act.

Accordingly, the ECJ declared the agreement invalid.

eu2This came as a shock for many European and American tech companies. The agreement was invalidated without the implication of any grace period, so a lot of company leaders are being forced to choose between shutting down their companies or risking potential liability.

HyTrust  Senior Vice President Fred Kost was skeptical about the decision:

“If companies want to completely comply, it likely means that they must examine what data they have from nations in the EU and begin moving the data to infrastructure housed in those nations or demonstrate that it is inaccessible if stored on infrastructure outside those nations via encryption or access controls,” Kost claimed. “The risk to companies lies in how quickly enforcement or legal action is taken.”

Accordingly, just yesterday the United States and the European Union made official a pact known as the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, which asserts that:

  • “Strong obligations on how Europeans’ personal data is handled and individual rights are guaranteed. The U.S. Commerce Department will monitor compliance with the obligations, and the Federal Trade Commission provide enforcement.
  • “A promise that access by U.S. law enforcement and national security agencies to Europeans’ personal data will be subject to clear limitations, safeguard and oversight mechanisms.
  • “Establishment of several forms of redress for Europeans who believe their data has been misused.”

The glaring issue is, of course, that American government agencies will monitor their own country’s compliance with the obligations.


Police Use Software to Calculate “Threat Score”

In Fresno, CA, police officers have begun to use software that determines a person’s potential for violence much like a bank might run a client’s credit. Its program scours data regarding arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social-media postings. With this information inputted, the man’s threat level was calculated to be the highest of three gradients the span from green to orange to red.

If a man has a firearm conviction, for example, or a gang association, that information is taken into consideration when determining his score. Police can then calculate his score upon being alerted of an issue and know whether or not they should send a negotiator or a squad unit to the scene of the crime.

fresnoThe algorithm used is all part of the Beware software, a tool being used by Fresno police that gives them unprecedented surveillance power. This makes many citizens uncomfortable, but police argue for its necessity given the Paris and San Bernadino terrorist attacks’ proof that more data must be collected to prevent mass shootings and equip officers with the information they need in times of emergency.

Civil libertarians and activists disagree. They claim that the Beware software is an intrusion on people’s privacy and has been deployed with little to know public oversight, meaning it has the potential to be abused.

In general, people don’t like discovering that law enforcement has been snooping on their lives without notifying them or, in some cases, having the proper warrants. People are just realizing that many departments were collecting massive amounts of cellphone data without search warrants. Some Authorities in Oregon are now facing an internal investigation after using social-media monitoring software to keep tabs on the activists involved in the Black Lives Matter protest. The software allegedly tracked hashtags related to the movement and who was saying them.

“This is something that’s been building since September 11,” claimed Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Lynch is a senior staff attorney dedicated to protecting civil liberties in the digital era. “First funding went to the military to develop this technology, and now it has come back to domestic law enforcement. It’s the perfect storm of cheaper and easier-to-use technologies and money from the state and federal governments to purchase it.”

Although most police departments refuse to discuss what surveillance tools they’re using, the Fresno police department was remarkably open about their Beware software, among other advances.

fresno2The Fresno cops also use something ShotSpotter, which can triangulate the location of a gunshot using microphones strung around the city. Media Sonar allows cops to leave social media scanning to programs, which turn up whatever illicit activity they find. Apparently it’s been incremental in helping Police, to monitor individuals, threats to schools and hashtags related to certain gangs. They can also dial up feeds from school and traffic cameras to try to search for particular license plates or criminals on the move. Apparently there are 200 police cameras and 800 feeds from city’s schools and traffic cameras, plus there will be 400 more streams once officers get body cameras.

Major Social Media Companies Agree to Remove Hate Speech in Germany

facebook3On Tuesday Germany announced that popular social networking and media websites YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have all agreed to remove any hate speech that appears on their networks within 24 hours of a removal request.

Unfortunately, the stream of over one million immigrants seeking refuge in Germany has triggered a sharp spike in anti-foreigner statements on the internet.

The regulation will not impede free speech so long as the speaker (or writer) is expressing an opinion that is “legitimate”, even if some might find it objectionable.

In the U.S., hate speech refers to any speech, gesture, conduct, writing or display that is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.

The Germans’ definition of hate speech was not outlined at the time of the announcement, and the particular methods by which “objectionable” opinions and hate speech will be differentiated have not yet been disclosed.

The terms of this agreement make Google, Facebook and Twitter responsible for providing user-friendly mechanisms for the submission of removal requests. They will also need to review specific reports of hateful content and incitement to violence via community guidelines and German law.

twitter3Although the specific “community guidelines” of each site may vary, they will need to be in concordance with section 130 of the German code which states, “Whoever disseminates, publicly displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (section 11(3)) capable of serving as an instruction for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) and intended by its content to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.”

Additionally, the statute states, “Whosoever

  1. disseminates publicly, displays, posts, presents, or otherwise makes accessible written material (Section ww(3)) capable of serving as an isntruaciton for an unlawful act named in section 126(1); or
  2. gives instructions for an unlawful act named in section 126(1) publicly or in a meeting,

in order to encourage or cause others to commit such an act, shall incur the same penalty.”

As stated before, when a removal request is received, dedicated teams at whichever respective company must review it and make a decision within 24 hours. They will have access to German experts and expert legal specialists if necessary.

Users can also have their accounts suspended if warranted.

Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, had this to say:

“While we understand companies’ compliance with the law, this sets a bad precedent in that it likely implements systems that could be used by other governments with less noble intentions.”

She continued to retort that such a ruling would never occur in the United States, where even hate speech has not been made illegal. According to York, even popular politicians espouse hate speech all the time.

The companies feel that they are doing the right thing by complying.

“There’s no place for content such as hate speech, incitement or glorification of violence on Facebook,” claimed company spokesperson Tine Kulow. “We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”


Get the Most Out of Google Calendar

From business executives to busy parents, an organized online calendar can make life a lot simpler. There are a variety of calendar programs available to the interested potential client, but Google Calendar may be the best option for you.

gcGoogle Calendar is free with a Google account, plus you don’t even need to download any programs or software because it is accessible via your web browser. Your information regarding appointments, birthdays, etc. are all stored within Google’s cloud computing system, so you don’t have to worry about losing all your info during a hard drive failure.

Another plus: because you’re storing your calendar on the internet, you can easily share your appointment information with other users. You can also schedule an event and create invitations online and have the event automatically appear on your friends’ online calendars should they RSVP. If you and your friends all share calendars, you can know exactly when they are free and schedule your friendship accordingly.

The Google Calendar is outfitted with a fairly simple interface that most users find intuitive enough. You can see a small, traditional calendar lay out on the leftmost bar of the screen that displays the current month and highlights the day. The majority of the rest of the screen is made up of a list of a calendar with the days of the current month listed top to bottom, starting with the current day. In this format, users can see their appointments listed chronologically for each day of the month.

Users can also choose to view their calendar by day, week, month, or a view that simply displays the next four days. An “agenda” lists all your events chronologically as opposed to day.

text notificationOnce you pick your favorite view, you can block out time on the calendar by clicking on the appropriate day and dragging it down. In the rectangle that forms, Google Calendar then allows you to fill in details about the appointment you’re creating. You can put in a subject header, or include the location as well as short description (name of person you’re meeting, parking info, directions, etc). You can also use a repeating function if the event happens every day, week, month or year such as a piano lesson, a yoga class, or a birthday. Through the month view, you can even block out time for multiple days, a useful feature for trips and vacations.

To be honest, most calendar programs actually offer all of these services. However, Google Calendar understands that and has taken steps to differentiate itself from the rest of its competitors. For example, it includes a search function that allows for you to search through not only your own calendar, but all public calendars that use Google’s system. This allows you to synchronize your own calendar with that of your favorite comedy club, a work conference, a sports team’s game schedule, whatever. The search function is also helpful if you like to have your own private calendar as well as several public ones; it makes it so you can quickly and efficiently sift through all of them.

Google Calendar can also send you text message reminders of appointments, attach photos and Google Maps directions to events, comment on public event entries and receive comments.

How Hard Disk Drives Use Magnetism to Store Information

Of all of the crazy things about our modern world, I’ve always been most amazed by the way that so many gadgets have become normalized to the point that society completely depends on them, yet only a tiny percentage of people have any idea how those gadgets function. For the most part, people don’t even know how their dimmers work, much less how their laptop accesses the internet. Of course, part of how our society works is by having individuals specialize, and then share the benefit of their knowledge (for a price). Just for the sake of being well-rounded then, here’s a little information about how your hard disk drive stores information.

magnetized nailInherent to your hard drive’s ability to store information is the physical concept of magnetism. You’ve probably fooled around with magnets some, and may have even done that experiment in school where you rub a magnet back and forth on an iron nail, effectively magnetizing it.

Magnetism has been harnessed by humans for a long time. A rather simple example is in the common junk yard, where large magnets are used to pick up large piles of scrap metal.

A use that is just as prevalent but less understood involves sending messages. Whether or not something is magnetized can imply information. Because computers store information using binaries, binary code can be matched to magnetized or not-magnetized microscopically small pieces of metal.

In your computer’s hard drive, these “pieces of metal” are actually magnetized areas embedded in the hard drive’s circular plate or “platter.” Each area can be independently magnetized (to store a 1) or demagnetized (to store a 0).

The platters are by far the most crucial aspect of the hard disk drive. They are generally made of glass or aluminum that is then coated with a thin layer of metal that can be magnetized or demagnetized. Smaller hard drives have only one platter, while larger drives could have entire series of platters staked on a central spindle with a small gap in between them. Platters need to rotate extremely quickly (up to 10,000 revolutions per minute) for the read-write heads to access the information stored on them.

hard drive2Once the 0’s and 1’s are stored, an arm mechanism moves a tiny magnet (called a read-write head) back and forth over the platters to either record or store information and act as a link between the hard drive and the rest of your computer.

Regardless of how many platters there are, there will always be two read-write heads for each platter. One is designated for reading the top surface of the platter and the other is designated to read the bottom surface. The read-write heads are mounted on an arm that can move from the center of the drive to the outermost parts. The read-write heads never touch the platter; there is always a layer of fluid or air maintained between them, at least in a functioning drive.

That’s all for now, but here’s a fun fact: magnetism is an excellent power to harness for computer storage because even when the power is shut off the data continues to be stored.

Big Data is Getting Bigger

In 2016, big data spending and the growth rate of investment in the big data industry is expected to hit an all-time high.

According to public sector IT distributor immixGroup, civilian big data spending could max out as high as $2 billion this coming year. Coupled with the defense sector, an annual total of $3.6 billion could be spent on big data by the US alone.

Word Cloud "Big Data"

“Big data” generally refers to extremely large data sets that are too massive to be run through traditional data processing applications. With the right IT equipment, the data can be analyzed computationally to reveal useful trends and associations, especially in business/human behavioral contexts.

Big data is commonly associated with web behavior and social network interactions, but more traditional data (regarding product transactions, financial records, etc.) also falls into the category of big data.

Big data can also be sorted into unstructured and multi-structured data.

Unstructured data derives its name from its disorganized nature and the inherent difficulty of inputting it into any pre-defined model. Often unstructured data comes in the form of text, whether it be metadata or a Twitter tweet.

Multi-structured data comes in many forms and is created by non-transactional systems such as machines, sensors, and customer interaction streams. The variety of the systems from which it is created makes it extremely expensive and difficult to use.

In 2013, Gartner estimated that 85% of the Fortune 500 will remain unable to exploit big data through 2015. The current velocity at which data is created and the diversity of its many forms present an unprecedented problem for businesses and government agencies alike. The information is there, and it is useful, but how to sort through all of it remains a largely un-cracked code.

That said, the U.S. federal government is on the case. The amount of information that federal agencies must collect, store, process and manage is, of course, unimaginably large, and due to the government’s surprising disparity of big data talent, the private sector is getting involved.

Global IT company Unisys Federal recently sponsored a survey that found that 46% of respondents (all IT managers of US federal agencies) “plan to increase their use of third-party consultants and contractors for big data initiatives in the coming year.”

big d

Considering the U.S. federal government now needs to take charge of exabytes (bytes in the quintillions) of data, those 46% might be onto something.

The movement towards implementing big data analysis has actually been a two-steps-forward, one-step-back type progression.

In 2012, federal spending attributed to big data topped out at $832 million. By 2013, that number had fallen to $693 million. 2014 saw gains again, with federal spending launching up to $1 billion.

Some analysts believe that big data for private and public sector use could reach as high as $3.9 billion by 2017 and $4.2 billion by 2018.

Big data analysis has a lot of ground to cover, but clearly money and expertise (at least in the private sector) is not in short supply.