Daily TIPs: Who’s Invading Your Privacy?, Bioterrorism, Building Green, & More

8/4/08

How Much Does Your ISP Know About You?

One perhaps overlooked aspect of the Federal Communications Commission’s warning to Comcast to stop slowing down file-sharing traffic is the way Comcast went about its throttling. In order to figure out who was using peer-to-peer services to share files, Comcast had to study the data packets machines were trading. GigaOm, which warns that this may be a privacy intrusion that’s not getting enough attention, lists three ways in which Internet service providers monitor user data.

Medical Blogs Spread Knowledge, Raise Privacy Issues

Doctors are increasingly blogging about their work lives, discussing both their successes and frustrations online for anyone to see. The Los Angeles Times reports that medical blogs are making medical practice more transparent to patients and helping doctors share insights. But at the same time, they raise concerns about the risk of violation patient confidentiality.

Get Ready For Web 3.0

If Web 2.0 was all about user-generated content, from blogs with feedback sections to YouTube videos, Web 3.0 is about user-generated software, says Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, in an essay on TechCrunch. He argues that code is being written using the shared resources of cloud computing, allowing programs to be developing more quickly and without regard to the expense of computing infrastructure. This development, he argues, is going to severely disrupt the traditional software industry.

Web Makes Criminal Records Easily Accessible

A newly created free search service will dig up police records of anyone you want to find out about in all 50 states, including traffic violations. An essay in the New York Times wonders if such services will upset a social balance where the privacy of minor infractions was protected by the difficulty of obtaining such records.

Bioterrorism Focus Leads to Modest Gains

The US has spent more than $57 billion on bioterrorism defense in the last seven years, from stockpiling drugs to setting up networks of bioweapon-sensors around major cities. The result of all that effort, says the Washington Post, is only a modest gain in preparedness. Experts say the country needs to develop a general-use anthrax vaccine and a new generation of sensors, as well as take other steps.

Do Biodefense Labs Help or Hurt?

One step the U.S. government has taken to contain the threat of bioterrorism is to build new biodefense labs to study potentially deadly biological agents. Wired’s Danger Room blog argues that such labs, rather than making us safer, are diverting money from research into real health threats, such as tuberculosis, while creating new risks from either the accidental release of deadly organisms or the work of a malicious insider.

Building Should Be All Green By 2030, Architect Says

Buildings account for almost half of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and consume more than three quarters of the electricity produced in American power plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. BusinessWeek tells us that New Mexico architect Edward Mazria is on a crusade to make people aware of those facts and do something about them. He wants the building industry to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, using only energy from renewable sources.

New Material Could Lead to Fuel-Cell Power Plants

Next-generation power plants that rely on fuel cells rather than turbines might become practical, thanks to a new electrolyte created by researchers in Spain. Technology Review reports that the electrolyte for solid-oxide fuel cells operates at temperatures hundreds of degrees lower than conventional electrolytes, which regulate the flow of electrical current in the fuel cells. The new material would work at just above room temperature, rather than the 700 degrees Celsius needed by conventional materials, thus reducing the need to use energy to generate that heat.

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