“Towards Better Usability, Security and Privacy of Information Technology”

Towards Better Usability, Security and Privacy of Information Technology” is a great survey of the state of usable security and privacy:

Usability has emerged as a significant issue in ensuring the security and privacy of computer systems. More-usable security can help avoid the inadvertent (or even deliberate) undermining of security by users. Indeed, without sufficient usability to accomplish tasks efficiently and with less effort, users will often tend to bypass security features. A small but growing community of researchers, with roots in such fields as human-computer interaction, psychology, and computer security, has been conducting research in this area.

Regardless of how familiar you are with usable security, this report is a worthwhile read.

Grope-a-thon: Today’s TSA roundup

Israeli Draft, Facebook and Privacy

A senior officer said they had found examples of young women who had declared themselves exempt posting photographs of themselves on Facebook in immodest clothing, or eating in non-kosher restaurants.

Others were caught by responding to party invitations on Friday nights – the Jewish Sabbath. (“Israeli army uses Facebook to expose draft dodgers,” Wyre Davies, BBC)

What’s interesting to me about this story is that it illustrates how part of the cost of using Facebook is the occluded future. If you’d asked me if Facebook impacted on military draft, I’d have said no. Predictions are hard, especially about the future. And the young women in question probably didn’t think that their use of a social networking site would cause them to be drafted.

A second interesting aspect to this is that it indicates that one’s Facebook profile, in aggregate, is a religious identifier. That’s interesting because religious information is categorized specially under the Canadian privacy act (PIPED) and possibly also under European data protection laws. I haven’t seen this aspect covered in the analyses that I’ve read from those regulators. (Admittedly, I have not read all of those analyses.)

Animals and Engineers

It’s been hard to miss the story on cat tongues (“For Cats, a Big Gulp With a Touch of the Tongue:)”

Writing in the Thursday issue of Science, the four engineers report that the cat’s lapping method depends on its instinctive ability to calculate the balance between opposing gravitational and inertial forces.

…After calculating things like the Froude number and the aspect ratio, they were able to figure out how fast a cat should lap to get the greatest amount of water into its mouth. The cats, it turns out, were way ahead of them — they lap at just that speed…The engineers worked out a formula: the lapping frequency should be the weight of the cat species, raised to the power of minus one-sixth and multiplied by 4.6. They then made friends with a curator at Zoo New England, the nonprofit group that operates the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, Mass., who let them videotape his big cats. Lions, leopards, jaguars and ocelots turned out to lap at the speeds predicted by the engineers.

I was also listening to the Quirks and Quarks story on “Wet Dogs Rule,” in which the researchers have used high speed photography figured out that dogs (and other animals) shake water out at a precisely optimal rate for energy invested versus surface tension and other factors that keep the water in their fur.

What’s surprising to me is the surprise that … “they lap at just that speed.” As anyone who’s ever read Darwin knows, any animal that expends extra energy on something, be it drying off or drinking water, will be disadvantaged compared to one that spends less energy for the same benefit. And over time, the animal that spends its energy more efficiently will have more energy to reproduce. To the extent that such strategies are influenced by genes, those genes that drive better strategies will spread. So I’m surprised that engineers are surprised that they can’t improve on millions of years of evolution.

Incidentally, congratulations to the CBC for being a news site that clearly links to the real academic work and researchers web sites.

Grope up: Enough is Enough edition

Daily Grope Up

On a personal note, I sent email to a social mail list at work, and I’ve never gotten so much positive response. People care deeply, and haven’t known where to go to complain or how.

You are being tracked

In this instance, it’s for science, helping a friend do some work on analyzing web traffic. If you don’t like it, please install software that blocks these 1 pixel images from tracking you.

Edit: removed the web bug

It’s time to call your Senator!

There’s no news roundup today, the stories are flying, unlike people, who are sick and tired of the indignities, the nudeatrons and the groping. If you want to see them, you can follow me on twitter or National Opt Out day

Tomorrow, there’s a Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing whose only witness is TSA Administrator John Pistole. The good fellow over at opt out day has a list of Senators on the committee:

The committee chair is Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) phone (202) 224-6472. The ranking member is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922.

The subcommittee chair is Sen Byron L. Dorgon (D-ND) phone (202) 224-2551. The ranking member is Sen Jim DeMint (R-SC) phone (202) 224-6121.

Regardless of your home state, call the chairpersons to ask whether recent TSA abuses are on the agenda for the oversight hearing. Ask to speak with the staffer responsible for dealing with issues related to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Here is a list of committee members, their homepage and phone number. If one of these people is your Senator, please also phone them, either at the number below or look online to find their nearest local office – you can even visit in person. A constituent who knows a senator’s committee assignments and addresses issues for the agenda for a scheduled hearing gives him/herself an educated and powerful voice.

If none of these people is your senator, contact the committee chairs. Also contact your own senators and representative . They still need to hear your opinion, it’s just that they won’t be at this hearing.

D-AK Mark Begich (202) 224-3004

D-AR Mark Pryor (202) 224-2353
D-CA Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553
D-FL Bill Nelson 202-224-5274

D-HI Daniel K. Inouye (202) 224.3934
D-MA John F. Kerry [(202) 224-2742
D-MN Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244

D-MO Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154
D-ND Byron L. Dorgon phone (202) 224-2551
D-NJ Frank R. Lautenberg (973) 639-8700, (888) 398-1642

D-NM Tom Udall (202) 224-6621
D-VA Mark Warner 202-224-2023
D-WA Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441

D-WV Jay Rockefeller (202) 224-6472

R-FL George S. LeMieux (202) 224-3041
R-GA Johnny Isakson (202) 224-3643

R-KS Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
R-LA David Vitter (202) 224-4623
R-ME Olympia J. Snowe (202) 224-5344, (800) 432-1599

R-MS Roger F. Wicker 202-224-6253
R-NE Mike Johanns (202) 224-4224
R-NV John Ensign (202) 224-6244

R-SC Jim DeMint phone (202) 224-6121
R-SD John Thune (202) 224-2321, 1-866-850-3855
R-TX Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922

Daily Grope-Up: The Groping Will Continue Until You Drive Edition