FindingSolo.com – An exploration of De facto Privacy and Online Data Mining – by “Sebastian P”

We’ve all seen the SNL skit for the “Damn it, my Mom is on Facebook filter,”  but what if the filter actually existed? Plenty of moms are on “the Facebook” and it certainly would be cool if there was an automated way to protect them from some of your more tasteless Facebook moments. On the other hand, similar software may allow advertisers to determine race or socio-economic status directly from photos or quickly determine what sports teams you follow based on wall posts and comments.  Employers could automatically pull suspicious content without the manpower needed to manually “stalk” potential hires. We explore the possibilities of such a filter at our site: FindingSolo.com.

On FindingSolo.Com, you’ll find two main products. The first, as our domain name implies, finds solo cups!

Coded in MATLAB, our solo cup detector knows when you’ve been partying. You simply run an image through its code and it’ll identify any solo cups present and replace them with more mom-friendly beverage containers.

We also created the Facebook Data Miner and Questionable Content Finder. A Google Chrome extension, the Facebook Data Miner adds a “Mine!” button to your Facebook page. Click “Mine!” to search for any questionable content on any profile page or news feed.

All of our code is released as an open-source project under GNU General Public License v3 (for more information about this license please click here). We have code repositories on code.google.com as well. You can find the links to them at http://www.findingsolo.com. On the website you can also view some cool screencasts demonstrating the software and giving instructions on how to download it for your own use.

Thanks, we hope you enjoy.

FindingSolo.Com Team:  Matthew Everts, Cameron Musco, Christopher Musco, Sebastian Park.

The Exploration of a Phenomenon: The Chin2 Meme and its Development – by “Stephanie R”

Introduction to Law and Technology Final Project

Joel Sircus and Stephanie Rivkin

When three former PayPal employees launched YouTube in 2005, they irreversibly revolutionized the digital world. With the company’s founding, everyone with access to a computer and Internet connection instantly became capable of writing, directing, and producing videos, then disseminating their creations to an audience on the order of one and a half billion people. Internet users started taking advantage of this interactive service, creating videos by the millions. What materialized was a culture of creators; a growing cadre of people who made movies running the full gamut from inane to genius. The Internet video meme – a movie posted to the Internet that accrues a large following and catalyzes many adaptations – became one of the pillars upon which YouTube achieved its unrivaled success.  While the creation of YouTube sparked the Internet meme boom, 2005 was not the movement’s genesis. Long before the do-it-yourself video posting service went live, perspicacious Internet users found alternate ways to create and broadcast videos, partake in the idolatry of the idiosyncratic, esoteric cultural movements, and, en masse, create numerous adaptations of these aforementioned movies.

Looking specifically at the development of one meme, entitled Chin 2, we question what are the underlying intentions of those who propagate and adapt these, at times, mindless videos? What, if anything, about a specific meme contributes to the fecundity of the original creation, and what do the adaptations say about the original meme? Lastly, what does this increasingly popular Internet trend say about us as a society and the path down which we are headed vis-à-vis our sources of entertainment and our searches for intellectual enrichment? By analyzing the original Chin2 video and many of its bastardized versions, we hope to shed light on what exactly defines an Internet video meme, why they are originally created, and how one specifically catches fire and is catapulted into digital stardom.

Through our research we communicated with the creators of two adapted versions and we filmed a video of our own.  Enjoy!

Original:

Our version:

Keller v. EA – by “Bill T”

Intro to Law and Technology Final Project from Nate Blevins on Vimeo.

Background on Keller v. EA: Samuel Keller is formerly the quarterback of Arizona State University’s team. He is suing Electronic Arts, the makers of several sports video games, for infringing several of his (and thousands of other college athletes’) rights in the production of NCAA Football. Through the creation of a realistic digital environment simulating everything from stadiums to weather to players uniform styles (though they omit players’ names), EA seeks to immerse its customers in the experience of college football. Keller alleges that the realistic models of players used in the game violate his Right to Publicity according to California Civil Code 3344. He further alleges that by enabling its users to share self-created rosters via “EA Locker” that they induce infringement of this right. Additionally in consideration in this case is the NCAA’s non-endorsement policy prohibiting its players from profiting from their images as football players. The case is currently before the US 9th Circuit court on appeal from the district court’s decision to deny EA dismissal for anti-SLAPP purposes. This project is an exploration of the policy-based arguments on both sides of the case.

Don’t Mess with that CSS – by “Daniel C”

Final Project Fall 2010

Don’t Mess with that CSS (feat. B-Rad)

Artists: MCSS and MC++

Don’t Mess with that CSS

Group Members: Logan Mohs, Jennifer Flynn, Jamie VanDyck, Adam Fishman, Maria Altyeva, Daniel Choi

Some background on the project:

Where we got our idea: We decided to make a modern version/parody of the original “Don’t Copy that Floppy” video from 1992.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up863eQKGUI)

Background on CSS:

CSS is a system incorporated into almost all commercially produced DVDs.  DVD players have a CSS Decryption system to recognize and allow the playing of these DVDs.  In 1999, Norwegian software engineer Jon Johansen created a decryption code called DeCSS that reverse engineered the algorithm.  DeCSS quickly became available to the public and DVD CCA (Copy Control Association) began suing individuals who helped distribute the source code and eventually arrested Johansen.  Some argued that DeCSS code belonged under First Amendment rights.  Ultimately, the Norwegian Supreme Court acquitted Johansen on all charges.  The court decided that Johansen was entitled to access information on a personally purchased DVD, and was therefore entitled to use DeCSS to break the code.  But don’t be mislead.  The bottom line is that DVDs should not be ripped for distribution, and should not be ripped if they are not your own DVD that you purchased.

Lyrics:

(intro)

[B-Rad]: Dude! Look what DVD I found! (Holding Along Came Polly)  Let’s copy it onto the computer!

[MCss]: (In agitated voice) Hey, man! Drop that DVD.

Verse:

Listen up B-Rad and be glad,

It’s only me mad, otherwise you’d find yourself in quite some trouble.

(B-Rad: Who are you?)

I go by the name of MCss,

My job is to make students like you second guess,

And realize that CSS is here to protect,

Before the Feds come and make you a criminal reject. (O-o-o-o background)

[MC++]: Um… wait a second I’d like to interject

[B-Rad]: Wow, another guy! And who are you?

[MC++]: (Rewind sound effect) Yo! Call me- MC++

When it comes to cracking code

I’ll show you wussup.

I run Clinics in linux,

I save Apples© for picnics,

I deCipher DOS scripts,

like Ancient hieroglyphics. (Wow!)

I’m like the architect of the Matrix,

I’ll take you back to the basics,

my coding is tenacious—let’s face it.

[MCss]:

Alright I’ll face it, his logic is tasteless,

And at best, his rap skills are only nascent.

In defense of Anti-circumvention, I need to mention

Salaries and pensions are incentives for invention.

A lot of work goes into a movie production,

Directors, actors, in conjunction to function,

Stiller and Aniston aren’t the only ones to suffer,

Think Friends without Rachel ([B-Rad]: but I love her!)

[Chorus 1] (lyrical in a minor key)

Comp hackers- don’t mess, don’t mess with that CSS,

Code Crackers, protest- Fight for your rights, if you know what’s best.

(harmonized) DON’T! Don’t mess, (Don’t Mess!) Take your hands off the keys and avoid arrest.

Disk Jackers, don’t mess, Let the Beat rest (beat drops—a cappella) and take a Moment to process.

[B-Rad]: (beat drops) But what is CSS?

[MCss]: (beat starts again) CSS is an acronym for Content Scramble System,

It’s a protective 40-bit stream cipher algorithm,

When you rip the system making movie incomes victim,

You break the key used for DVD authentication.

[MC++]

But it’s so easy; just use that DVD Rippa-

Put the movie on your hard drive and I’ll give you a sticka-

Don’t worry the code is protected under the First Amendment, (Is it?)

Now you can save a trip to Blockbuster and not have to rent it.

First take the DVD and convert to AVI,

Then maybe I, with Richard Stallman can help to legalize,

Software defying government Tony Stark style,

So that you can convert movies to versatile files.

My homie Seth Schoen wrote a CSS haiku,

He threw some writtens down like a verbal tycoon.

(MCss: Huh, Programming, poetic? Man that’s pathetic!)

[MC++]: Man, if you’z smarter you’d listen to my rhet’ric.

Now the Curse has been lifted and the Power has shifted,

we’re unLocking the content you greedy Fuckers encrypted.

Oh, what was that? Your DRM has been breached? (THAT’S RIGHT)

And you can’t do shit, cuz my Code is free speech

Put yo’ hands up (echo, PAUSE) in the air for generativity,

Creativity in code is expressive novelty,

Sorry b, if I offended you, you will soon see,

that the tides are shifting for expressive technology.

[MCSS]: Don’t listen to him B-Rad it’s not worth it!

[Chorus 2]

Comp hackers- don’t mess, don’t mess with that CSS,

Code Crackers, protest- Fight for your rights, if you know what’s best.

(harmonized) DON’T! Don’t mess, (Don’t Mess!) Take your hands off the keys and avoid arrest.

Disk Jackers, don’t mess, Let the Beat rest (beat drops—a cappella)

[B-Rad]: I need a moment to process…

[MCss]:

He says he can decode DOS like hieroglyphics,

But really he’s not thinking about you and missing the specifics, ([B-Rad]: You’re right!)

Since you found this DVD and personally don’t own it,

I can’t condone it, If I haven’t shown it, already.

Don’t distribute this DVD, that’s the take home lesson,

An authenticated DVD in your personal possession,

Is the only case, in which you can deface, erase, (Okay!)

The CSS for yourself and copy what’s encased.

Think about it. Is Along Came Polly really worth it? (What, What on the offbeats)

26 (percent) on rotten tomatoes, I would rather jerk it,

Shirkin’ your responsibilities with law isn’t workin’

Fill the shoes of movie workers; your mindset needs reworkin’

**violin vs. guitar battle** (G-minor trade-off)

[B-Rad]:

All right thanks you guys, I think I’ve heard enough,

This decision was real tough, you guys made it rough,

I’ll start with MC++, wussup, (MC++: Wut upp?!)

I’ll go over what you said—without the fluff.

I see your perspective that coding isn’t wrong,

That under free speech is where computer code belongs.

But I should use reason, And I should be heedin’

The advice of MC double S…yours is misleadin’

It’s not benign any more when it’s a crime,

Is it worth it to pay a fine for what isn’t mine?

I probably shouldn’t cheat and make movie workers resign,

This DVD isn’t mine so I shouldn’t this time.

I found this DVD in professor Torrent’s class,

I was walking down the aisle when I saw Lawrence flash,

A bunch of DVDs and he took his cash sash and last

-ly told me fast not to tell anyone as he passed.

All this DVD ripping is making me hectic,

And listening to all this rap is really infectious,

I didn’t know I had such miracle lyrical rap tricks,

Who needs Blockbuster anyways, I hacked my friend’s account on Netflix…WHAT

(Beat fades)

Brad’s friend: Are you serious man?!

B-rad: Yeah man, you’ve had the same password since like the 2nd grade…

In Between Technology and Creativity – by “Brian R”

Our current system of education—specifically below the college level—mediates the relationship between technology and creativity. While creativity has been one of the engines behind the progress of our technology and has generated the new ideas that manifest themselves as innovation, the mere growth of technology has led to the propagation of an education system that discourages divergent thought. One could almost say that creativity has facilitated the diminishment of its own role within society, and although this may be true, it most certainly should not be the case as we move forward.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, our American society—and many others around the world—has felt the need to have ever more “educated” citizens in order to feed the machines of industry, in order to sustain technological growth. Because of this, we have erected a sprawling education system that molds the minds of our youth, teaching them laws of science that were proven hundreds of years ago, shedding light on math corollaries authored by people long since dead, and so on and so forth.

In large part, this system has helped to maintain and speed up the progress of our nation and of the world. Just consider these facts for a second: in America in 1905, the literacy rate was 80%, the high school graduation rate stood at 6%, there were 8,000 primitive cars on the road, and 8% of homes had a telephone, which was then the most advanced means of communication (see http://dailyreckoning.com/100-years-of-progress/ for more facts). Contrast this with 2010: our literacy rate stands at 99%, 75% of American adults have graduated from high school, and, well, I think we can all see how saturated our society has become with similar technologies.

The fact that the increase in education has corresponded so directly with the rise of technology suggests an inherent connection between the two. Although there are undoubtedly other factors at play, a more educated citizenry has facilitated an increase in the sophistication of technology because every bit of education places people on a higher intellectual ground. For example, even basic math skills are essential to the production of today’s supercomputers. But our education system does have its limits, as people such as Sir Ken Robinson (http://sirkenrobinson.com/skr/who) are quick to point out. By condemning wrong answers and placing the arts at the bottom of an implicit hierarchy of subjects, the system stifles the types of creative and divergent thinking that have the most potential to revolutionize society.

In Robinson’s opinion, we are nearing a point where our system will bump up against its limits, where the discouragement of creative thought will finally begin to impede our technological progress. This is because our technology is evolving at an ever-increasing rate, so the jobs that our schools are preparing people for are vastly different from the jobs many people will actually have; a classic example is that, if you were to tell someone twenty years ago that they were going to work for Google, they would have looked at you like you were crazy, only partly because Google was founded in 1998. In these “new” jobs, classical knowledge only gets people so far and is secondarily important to adaptive and creative thinking. And because these new jobs are becoming ever the more common, the importance of these two skills, among others, will only increase as time marches onward.

In essence, our system of education may be too effective for its own good: the exponential growth of technology is outmoding the system of education that we put in place to foster it. In order to ensure that we can continue our growth, we need to revamp this system—below the college level, that is—and place a higher value on original thought. Only then can we ensure that we will not run out of ground-breaking technologies.

Here are some of Sir Ken Robinson’s Talks on this subject:

Changing Education Paradigms

Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity

Technological Advancement – by “Jennifer W”

When I began thinking about this blog post, I thought I’d find some fabulous article or research to post about. Then, I got a phone call asking me to be on a television show taping on the other side of the country; left the classroom for an ice rink and CBS television city; and began my own technology adventure — Skyping into classes, emailing assignments, overnighting art projects to campus, and generally exploring my studies as a ‘virtual’ student. And so, I sit down to write this blog today and it occurs to me, what better experience to write about than my own?

I’m experiencing a virtual education today. I awoke at 5am(PST), emailed my ‘bring to class’ assignments, turned on my Skype, and eagerly awaited my professors’ video calls. During class I used my chat box to send messages to my peer review group as they spoke back to me about both my drafts and theirs. In art class I viewed projects on my computer screen as my classmates critiqued them [hanging on the wall in front of them]. The only difference between being on campus and virtually present was the interaction with my classmates walking between buildings. For even when my instructor took a pole of students that had chosen a particular topic, via his computer screen, he saw me raise my hand.

Never has technology been as exciting as it is today. While interacting one-on-one with classmates is one of the most valuable experiences on campus, the ability to access vast wealths of resources is invaluable for those who encounter opportunities or struggles that limit their access to the on-campus experience. I for one know that there is nothing I’d trade for my education at Yale, but I also know that, as we heard many times in opening day speeches, we should not ‘let school get in the way of our education’. And education comes in many forms. The better able schools are to provide logistical help when it is needed via technological means, the more educational opportunities will be realized in society.

While there are many pitfalls to the online educational opportunities, both for the student and for the professor and institution, there are many benefits as well. The academic world will always need great institutions but mediocre establishments may, and possibly should, be feeling the pressure of technology bearing down on them as great intimations spread their ‘virtual wings’. No longer will working students be bound by their city limits in accessing great lectures or forced to pay for sub-par instruction simply because that is all that is locally available. The internet is bringing the opportunity for education to the masses. Those that choose to take that opportunity and run with it can success like never before.

I am thankful for the internet and the generous understanding of my professors and advisers in allowing me to fit other exciting opportunities into my schedule. I’ve not taken the help lightly, no exceptions from assignments have been requested. Instead, I’m present at every opportunity, if sometimes only virtually. From my stand point, I’d love to be in the chilly fall air of New England, but if that can’t happen, I guess I’ll have to listen to lectures from a hotel in sunny California.

“Them’s the Breaks!

New Laptops on a Sinking Ship – by “Charles A”

How would you feel if you were on a sinking ship and someone handed you a new laptop? Somehow I don’t think you would be too pleased. Yet somehow Nicholas Negroponte doesn’t see any problem waltzing into impoverished countries with failing education systems and handing out laptops directly into the hands of children. What good does this really do anyone? With no infrastructure to provide technical support or adequate training to help teachers integrate the technology into their lesson plans, how much good is One Laptop per Child really doing? The problem with education in many of these developing countries goes far deeper than a few laptops can fix. The XO netbook isn’t going to be a revolution for more reasons than one.

How many of you own an iPhone? How many of you have bothered to jailbreak them? Very few I’m guessing. By most accounts fewer than 10% of iPhone users have tried to jailbreak their devices. The truth of the matter is that most consumers simply can’t be bothered to go the extra step to get that extra utility from their phones. Yet Zittrain somehow expects that the kids receiving these XO netbooks will be driven enough to learn the programming skills necessary to make the device suit their needs. This seems highly unlikely.

Instead I propose a different idea. Whatever happens to all the computers on campus when Yale decides to replace aging units? An initiative to donate used computers to these developing countries would be far more sustainable than convincing a government that probably has many other issues on its plate to spend 200 dollars on a laptop that will then be handed over directly into the hands of children. More importantly educators need to be trained to use these devices to take advantage of the wealth of free digital educational resources available out there. Even if every child won’t be able to attend Khan University on their own personal laptops, teachers will at least be able to access free online classroom aides or learn new teaching methods from Khan’s short but sweet style.

There is definitely a huge gap between the wonderful educational resources available online and the people who need them the most. But putting a laptop into children’s hands simply doesn’t get the job done if the correct infrastructure isn’t there to support both the child and the device. Education is certainly the key to closing the gaps between the developed and developing worlds. But throwing cute little laptops at kids is a far too narrow solution to have any real effect.

The Book’s New Cover: A Computer Monitor? – by “Cordera W”

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative is a good one, but it definitely raises some red flags for me.  Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but the idea of a child’s primary education coming from a computer bugs me.  But, it’s not even as if these computer skills gained will be transferrable to other Windows, Mac, etc. computers.  The XO’s linux based operating system is one that only trains one how to use an XO.  On top of that, the XO is tethered in a way that would allow for the complete shutdown of the laptop from a remote location.  The criminally deterrent ramifications of this are an obvious plus, however, that comes with a downside as well.  Any information, books or otherwise, that a student may have saved on that device could be easily destroyed. I don’t know about you, but the idea of my favorite, thoroughly highlighted and annotated book potentially bursting into flames one day is unsettling.  The situation with stored data on the XO is much the same.

The main problem with this idea is that it presents a “cyberized” education as a child’s first education.  I make this distinction, because I think the utilization of technology in learning is a very good idea.  A shining example of this is Sal Kahn’s online academy.  He posts video mini-lectures on many educational disciplines and posts them online for all to see.  His idea overcomes barriers of distance and communication that would otherwise be insurmountable without technology.  However, the key thing that makes his method ok is the fact that the people utilizing it already have at least some form of education.  Their entire conception of learning isn’t going to be shaped and centered around his online videos.  The XO, however, gives first time learners a basis for understanding material that will be all but useless when applied to most real-world environment.  The benefits of using an XO immediately disappear when you try the laptop’s methods with a book or even another laptop with a more mainstream OS.

Overall, I applaud the effort, but the OLPC idea is simply too much too soon.  If the method is tried once the children have an educational foundation rooted in something useful outside the XO community, then I will support it.  Until then, I say that we stick to the good old bound paperback.

Online news makes our bad habits so easy – by “Thomas B”

Computers did us a great service in bringing together up-to-the-minute information in a (somewhat) easy to view format on the web.  These articles tend to be lower quality, which is understandable because they need to be written more quickly and their readers have shorter attention spans.  The problem is, now that low-quality information is widely available, many people just settle at that.  With the rise of sites like CNN.com, print news subscriptions have decreased dramatically (with a few exceptions that prove the rule).  More and more people, especially in my generation, get news exclusively from the web.

It’s like high school—when kids realize there are Spark Notes for a book in English class, it means a lot fewer kids read the book.  When people don’t have to read the paper to get the news, they can settle for these watered down news sites.  But unlike high school, where kids know they’re reading the Spark Notes, more often we’re just lowering the bar for “being informed.”  These websites don’t portray themselves as “supplements” or “previews” for the news.  They sell themselves as the whole deal, and they come with labels like The New York Times that many people trust.

Another option-related problem is that many people only read articles that confirm their existing political views.  Although this was possible before the web, for instance if one exclusively watched NBC news, the degree of choice has been dramatically increased.  A newspaper would usually provide several sides of an issue, but online it’s easy to see only conservatively-spun articles or liberal ones.  Of the growing number of people who get all of their info from the web, a large portion are just reading watered down Fox News.

It’s not that people today are lazier than their parents a few decades ago (although that may be the case).  And it’s not that computers are the source of the problem.  It just turns out that people are willing to settle for less when “less” is an option that’s available.  Whereas previous media helped saved us from ourselves, the web is an enabler for our bad habits.