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Would you give your Facebook Password?

Say you’re at a job interview. You’re chatting with an HR rep, and all’s going well when your interviewer asks you for … your Facebook password.

Assuming you’ve misheard, you ask, “My Facebook username?”

Nono, your interviewer replies, breezily. Your password. Your Facebook password.

Yes. Apparently, for the 95 percent of employers who use social media sites to glean information about job candidates, the intelligence available for public perusal is no longer enough. Prospective employers now want to see inside your profiles. They want to see into your very soul.

Take the case of Robert Collins, the Maryland man who was forced to reveal his Facebook password during an interview with the state’s Department of Corrections — and who, as Alexis Madrigal reported, has the ACLU arguing on his behalf. Or take the tale of Justin Bassett, a New York statistician who ended a job interview after he was asked to provide his Facebook password during its proceedings. These cases, the AP notes, aren’t mere anomalies. These are not rogue or clueless HR reps. “In their efforts to vet applicants,” reporters Manuel Valdes and Shannon McFarland put it, “some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person’s social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around.”

The whole thing is, on the one hand, comical. “It’s akin to requiring someone’s house keys,” law professorOrin Kerr notes. (More specifically, I’d add, it’s akin to requiring the keys to a house where everyone you know and care about is permanently gathered.) But the whole thing is also, more importantly, worrying. It’s striking how deep the divide can be between our conceptions of online privacy: To me, an interviewer asking for my password — Facebook or any other — would be a fairly shocking imposition. To Justin Bassett’s interviewer, though, it was a question like any other. Common standards about what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to online privacy have yet to solidify in the social environment that Facebook and other networks provide. Which leads to confusions … and to violations.

And also, in this case, to ironies. Employers are asking for applicant passwords — in part — because those applicants have availed themselves of social media sites’ privacy features. Savvy interviewees have made their profiles viewable only to friends and family; employers, on the other hand — who have gotten used to social media recon as an integral aspect of the hiring process — are looking for ways to reclaim the insights those profiles can provide. The Awkward Password Ask is their way of doing that.

The problem has become widespread enough that lawmakers are proposing legislation to fight against it. In Maryland, House Bill 364 (pdf), proposed in January, would prevent employers from discriminating against job applicants who refuse to provide access to their social media profiles. Illinois House Bill 3782, introduced in early March, would do the same. Protections like these, if they’re passed into law, will likely prove important — not just for job-seekers and their online connections, but for the everyday privacy standards that are solidifying as Facebook and its fellow networks make their way from an innovation to a way of life.

(From the Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/03/would-you-give-job-interviewers-your-facebook-password-because-they-might-ask/254810/)

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Britannica Online!

If you think about it, it is a really important development. Here is a video and an article about it.

There can be no clearer evidence of the swift and steep decline of the printed reference book than these figures taken from a recent New York Times: In 1990, the Encyclopedia Britannica sold 120,000 sets (each set comprising 32 volumes) in the USA. That turned out to be its peak year. Since its last revision in 2010, it has sold only 8,000 sets in the same market. Another 4,000 sets lie in a warehouse. When the last of those goes, the paper-and-ink Britannica will be no more. This week its publisher announced that future editions will appear exclusively online, bringing to a close a printing history that began in Edinburgh in 1768.

The news prompted some retrospection and analysis about what the Britannica had stood for – not so much the meaning of what was inside it as what owning it signified. Aspiration was particularly remembered. Many people who bought Britannica imagined that books containing “the sum of human knowledge” opened the way to a prosperous enlightenment. That at least was the message of the salesman who called, to be treated more reverently than the other men who bent down on the doorstep to open a suitcase and speak warmly of Brasso or Mansion furniture polish. Perhaps he arrived by appointment. Certainly he was honoured as a gentler type and given a seat in the living room, where he sat for what seemed like hours, smiling at any child present and speaking of him or her as an extra special reason for the potential purchaser to part with a couple of months’ wages, to be paid in weekly instalments that stretched to the crack of doom. The sacrifice would be worth it. On the tilting deck of the SS Ignorance, so the salesman implied, it was a father’s duty to stand back and make sure his children had seats in the lifeboats marked Knowledge and Opportunity.

We were never a Britannica family. The salesman went away with no forms signed, leaving us to get by with what we already had: a mid-Victorian edition of Chambers EncyclopediaArthur Mee’s Children’s EncyclopediaPears Cyclopedia, the Vimto Book of Knowledge. All had their drawbacks. The dozen volumes of Chambers had been acquired secondhand before the war and looked splendid in their gilt-lettered spines and marbled endpapers, but the source of the Nile was only one of many discoveries that came too late to be found in their pages. And while the Children’s Encyclopedia undeniably belonged to the 20th century, and had pictures of biplanes to prove it, its sentimentality and capricious arrangement – not so much A to Z as M to C via Y – made it a poor source of information. Pears had a nice frontispiece, Bubbles by Millais, and was good as far as it went (one volume, so not very far). All I can remember about the Vimto book was that it was really just a pamphlet of odd facts and figures, and had a detailed engraving of the Vimto factory, smoking away busily somewhere in Lancashire.

The Britannica would have been a vast improvement, but expense ruled it out. And so we contrived to look down on it – for behaving treasonably and becoming “too American” in ways my father never specified, or for its role as an ornament in houses where, we were sure, nobody ever bothered to disturb its military uprightness on bookshelves that contained no other books. Then one day my father’s closest friend came to visit and announced he was about to buy the Britannica, just like that, and not because he wanted his family to do better than he had – he and his wife had no children – or because he imagined the books would enhance his social status. He would buy the Britannica to read it from beginning to end, for no other reason than to be better informed. This mission impressed my father, who himself was no slouch as an autodidact, and from then on we saw the Britannica in a kinder light.

My father’s friend, Sandy Paterson, needs a little description, because almost nobody like him is still alive. Like my father, he left school at 14, served a factory apprenticeship and found work as a fitter. They had a mutual enthusiasm for cycling, which was how they met in a small Scottish border town in the 1920s when they were both far from home on a long ride; my father parked his bike against another outside a grocer’s shop and went inside to find a young man standing on a biscuit box and declaiming a Burns poem to the shopkeeper. In my father’s words, “That was Sandy all over”, meaning it was typical of somebody who talked with lively good humour to anyone he came across, who in his 50s could still jump on to the kitchen table from a standing start, who shot rabbits, who made violins as well as played them (purely for the fun of both activities), and who dashed off high-spirited letters that made their recipients laugh.

He and his wife, who’d been crippled with arthritis as a young woman, lived in a small West Lothian village. This was shale-oil country: pink waste heaps rose above fields and woodland, while narrow-gauge railways ran through cuttings to the mines. We would visit as a family by taking a ferry and then the bus, and then climbing the stairs to their flat above the village shop. There was no electricity; not even gas. When it got dark, Sandy would pump up the Tilley lamp, which then hissed in the background all evening as the adults’ conversation moved from the personal and present to the general and historic, from (say) the alleged misrule of the local landlord, the Marquess of Linlithgow, via Kant to the reign of the pharaohs. Sandy did most of the talking, but nobody minded – he was so amusing and vivid. He sucked at cigarettes and threw their ends impatiently into the fire.

I realise I’m in danger here of creating a kitsch version of a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby, but it really was as I describe. When Sandy consulted the Encyclopedia Britannica and read aloud a passage from one of its entries, the decoration on the binding would glisten in the light of the Tilley lamp. How much of it he managed to read eventually I have no idea, but he wasn’t a man to give up lightly on a self-improving ambition.

Information – “the sum of human knowledge” – had a different shape then, and for 40 years after. Rather than an invisible omnipresence that can be tapped into wherever a laptop or a phone can find a signal, it lived like miser’s gold in hard, little piles that were distributed unevenly throughout the country. The Britannica gave Sandy one such pile. To find another in his vicinity might have been difficult. You might have needed to take the bus all the way into Edinburgh, where the piles turned into towers in libraries, bookshops and museums. To the city, in fact, where 244 years ago a baker’s son and a wigmaker’s son got together to publish the first instalment of the work they called an encyclopedia, printing summaries of knowledge alphabetically in the belief that people liked to find out.

(From the Guardian Online – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/16/encyclopedia-britannica-sum-of-human-knowledge)

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“On the one hand, the communication shift from books and the printed press to the television and the Internet has brought about an unimagined broadening of the media sphere, and an unprecedented consolidation of communication networks. Intellectuals used to swim around in the public sphere like fish in water, but this environment has become even more inclusive, while the exchange of ideas has become more intensive than ever. But on the other hand the intellectuals seem to be suffocating from the excess of this vitalising element, as if they were overdosing. The blessing seems to have become a curse. I see the reasons for that in the de-formalisation of the public sphere, and in the de-differentiation of the respective roles. Use of the Internet has both broadened and fragmented the contexts of communication. This is why the Internet can have a subversive effect on intellectual life in authoritarian regimes. But at the same time, the less formal, horizontal cross-linking of communication channels weakens the achievements of traditional media. This focuses the attention of an anonymous and dispersed public on select topics and information, allowing citizens to concentrate on the same critically filtered issues and journalistic pieces at any given time. The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralised access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus.’

Jurgen Habermas

The blessing becomes a curse – Habermas on the Internet

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The E-book Debate

Here is an interesting article for the advantages of the e-book.

http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/feb/15/ebooks-cant-burn/

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Amasia – The New Continent

Geologists have long predicted that North and South America will eventually fuse together and merge with Asia, forming a new supercontinent along the lines of the ancient Pangea — the precursor to today’s great land masses, which separated about 200 million years ago.

Here are two interesting links about the future continent.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/science/amasia-supercontinent-will-form-in-the-arctic-geologists-predict.html

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/meet-amasia-the-next-supercontin.html

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The Green (?) Image of Netherlands

So is this country as green and environmental as we think? Let’s see…

 

http://www.economist.com/node/21546053

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Everyone is a winner in this tiny village

An interesting article from NewYork Times about a tiny village in Spain, when everyone won the Christmas lottery; apart from one!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/world/europe/tiny-village-of-sodeto-wins-big-in-spains-lottery.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

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