I understand and appreciate the author’s sentiment about not reporting on closed-access academic work. In my own case, I just try to avoid reading or citing non-OA work. Not because closed-source stuff isn’t good, but because I don’t want to be citing material that I can’t re-read when I leave grad school. I have incredibly large amounts of stuff to read: I’m not sure that spending time reading soon-to-be-locked-away-knowledge is the optimal use of my time.
Alex Reid has written a short piece about his position concerning the question: if and academic speaks in public, is it right for members of the audience to record/write/talk about what was said?
While I can’t say that I agree with one of the positions he assumes - that as an academic you should exclusively be publishing close-to-complete work (i.e. drafts or early works in progress you don’t want talked about need not apply!) - it’s worth the read, especially in the context that many academics are loathe to have ‘early’ work broadcast beyond tightly controlled confines and populations.
Alex has a great punchline, emphasizing how academics are for the first time really, widely, seeing their work being public and thus critiqued/engaged with. It’s scary for a lot of people but it’s definitely the new reality of academe. The post is well worth the few minutes it’ll take you to read!
Sandra Fluke is a Georgetown law student who has been targeted by Rush Limbaugh since giving testimony about the importance of insurance policies providing contraceptive coverage. The academic community has issued a statement in response to the misogynistic attacks that have been launched by Limbaugh and his supporters. It’s available as a .pdf (with a list of signatories) here, and the statement text is below:
The undersigned faculty members, administrators and students of Georgetown University Law Center and other law schools strongly condemn the recent personal attacks on our student, Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke has had the courage to publicly defend and advocate for her beliefs about an important issue of widespread concern. She has done so with passion and intelligence. And she has been rewarded with the basest sort of name-calling and vilification, words that aim only to belittle and intimidate. As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them.
Limbaugh’s hateful attacks are despicable. I’m incredibly happy to see the academic community publicly rally behind Fluke and would be delighted if this kind of hate speech were prosecuted. If there’s any group that’s likely to have the chops to do this it’s the massive body of lawyers from around America who have stood up in support of Sandra. Losing advertisers and a poor apology aren’t enough: Limbaugh should be prosecuted for his intentionally slanderous and libel speech.
A really interesting paper on social authentication has just been released that looks at how facial identification ‘works’ to secure social networks from unauthorized access to profiles/records. The authors note that users of social networks are most concerned in keeping their interactions private from those who know the users. Specifically, from the abstract:
Most people want privacy only from those close to them; if you’re having an affair then you want your partner to not find out but you don’t care if someone in Mongolia learns about it. And if your partner finds out and becomes your ex, then you don’t want them to be able to cause havoc on your account. Celebrities are similar, except that everyone is their friend (and potentially their enemy).
Moreover, a targeted effort to identify a users’ friends on a social network - and examine their photos - will let an attacker penetrate the social authentication mechanisms. While many users would consider this a design flaw Facebook, which uses this system, doesn’t necessarily agree because:
[Facebook] told us that the social captcha mechanism was used to solve the problem of large-scale phishing attacks. They knew it was not very effective against friends, and especially not against a jilted former lover. For that, they maintain that the local police and courts are an effective solution. They also claim that although small-scale face recognition is doable, their scraping protection prevents it being used at large scales.
What Facebook is doing isn’t wrong: they simply has a particular attacker-type in mind with regards to social authentication and have deployed a defence mechanism to combat that attacker. Most users, however, are unlikely to consider that the company has a different attack scenario in mind than its end-users, leading to anger and concern when the defence for wide-scale attacks fails to protect against targeted attackers. While I don’t see this as a security or policy failure, it is suggestive that companies would be well advised to explain to their users how different security inconveniences actually interact with different hack/attack scenarios. Beyond educating users as to what they can expect from the various defence mechanisms, it might serve to raise some awareness about the different kinds of attackers that companies have to defend against. In an ideal world, this might serve as a beginning point in educating users to become more critical of the security models that are imposed upon them by corporations, governments, and other parties they deal with.