US Agency Issues Draft Social-Media Guidelines for Drug Companies

After five years of work, the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has released draft guidelines outlining how drug companies should use social media in connection with their products. Of the 50 largest in the country, said the Wall Street Journal, half are not using social media, often for fear of running afoul of federal regulations related to permissible promotional activities. In part, the proposed new guidelines address how to use social media to present the benefits and side effects of a drug. For example, one proposal states that if a company can’t convey such information in one Tweet, then it should reconsider using Twitter. Another addresses how companies should correct misinformation on blogs and third-party websites such as Wikipedia. There will be a comment period before the FDA releases the final guidelines. Once approved, they could become effective within 90 days. The draft report, including information on where to submit comments, is at www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM401079.pdf. (Gizmodo)(The Verge)(The Wall Street Journal)

US Insurance Firm Creates Analytics Application to ID At-Risk Patients

Big Data is enabling a lot of interesting analysis and applications. And now, a health-insurance firm has developed an analytics program that collects many types of information—from sources such as public records and credit-card transactions—to identify patients at high risk of health problems. Carolinas HealthCare System’s program is evaluating information supplied by a data broker on 2 million of its patients using algorithms that, when added to its predictive models, produce a risk score. For example, the application will note if a patient regularly buys candy bars or lets a gym membership lapse. According to Carolinas HealthCare officials, this gives them more complete information than they could get from an office visit or lab tests. The company plans to share information it gathers with doctors and nurses who can contact at-risk patients and offer them advice before they experience health problems. Individuals and privacy advocates have expressed concern that applications like this could violate patients’ privacy. (Businessweek)(Gizmodo)

Developers Find, Patch Ruby on Rails Vulnerabilities

Developers of Ruby on Rails have found and patched two SQL injection vulnerabilities in the popular open-source Web development framework. These bugs enable SQL injection attacks, in which a hacker inserts a malicious SQL query from a client to an application with a database on the back end. Successful attacks let hackers read or modify information in a database, execute administration operations on the database, or even issue commands to the host machine’s operating system. The first vulnerability targets Rails 2.0.0 to 3.2.18 using the PostgreSQL database system and query bit string data types. The second affects applications running on Rails 4.0.0 to 4.1.2 when using PostgreSQL and querying range data types. To eliminate the problems, the Rails developers released versions 3.2.19, 4.0.7 and 4.1.3, and then versions 4.0.8 and 4.1.4 to fix a problem caused by the 4.0.7 and 4.1.3 updates. They released patches for users unable to immediately upgrade. (PC World)

Firefox, Safari Share of Browser Market Falls

A new study has found that Mozilla Firefox’s and Apple Safari’s share of worldwide desktop and mobile browser users has fallen in the past two months. According to the research by Web-market-analysis firm Net Applications, Firefox’s total overall market share for June 2014 was 12.9 percent, the lowest in five years. Computerworld said the problem is Mozilla’s “inability to attract a mobile audience.” Moreover, the Firefox desktop version’s user share has fallen for the eighth consecutive month, dropping to 15.4 percent. Safari attracted 12.3 percent of browser users, down from 13.1 percent two months earlier. Its market share among mobile-only users dropped 14 percent to 7.8 percent in 90 days, according to Computerworld, which looked at changes between the April and June Net Applications figures. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer leads desktop browsers with a 58.4 percent market share, up slightly from 57.8 percent in April 2014. However, its mobile browser use was static at only 2 percent. Its overall browser market share is unchanged since April at 48.4 percent. Google had a combined desktop and mobile market share of 22.6 percent, up 1.5 percent compared to two months earlier. Opera Software’s share rose from 1.8 percent in April to 2.2 percent in June. (Computerworld)

New DIY Computer Competes with Raspberry Pi

People interested in creating their own computing device have a new platform to work with. Currently, they have options such as the single-board Arduino and Raspberry Pi. The latest entrant is SolidRun’s HummingBoard, whose base model features a 1-GHz ARM v7 processor and lets users to replace the CPU and memory. The price ranges from $45 for the base model with 512 Mbytes of RAM to $100 for a version with a faster chip and 1Gbytes of RAM. (SlashDot)(Engadget)(SolidRun)

 

Tech Firms Form Internet of Things Consortium

Dell, Intel, and Samsung Electronics have formed a new organization to promote the Internet of Things (IoT) via interconnectivity among consumer smart devices. The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), which also includes chipmakers Atmel and Broadcom, could compete with the AllSeen Alliance, which is supported by companies such as LG Electronics, Microsoft, and Qualcomm. In an interview with Reuters, Intel Software and Services Group general manager Doug Fisher said the consortium will tackle security and other issues that alliance is not addressing. He said the OIC is not attempting to create competing standards but instead is just trying to meet the industry’s needs. Qualcomm Technologies senior vice president Rob Chandhok told Reuters he hopes the two groups can produce a common platform and avoid “a Prodigy and CompuServe of the Internet of Things.” In addition to the two industry groups, Apple and Google have their own IoT platforms: HomeKit and Nest, respectively. (Reuters)(The Telegraph)

Foxconn Moves to Robotic Assembly

Foxconn Technology Group, one of the world’s largest electronics manufacturers, plans to begin using robots to help assemble devices in its Chinese factories. Apple, which uses the company for making its iPhones and iPads, will be the first company to use the new robotic service. The company says it will initially use 10,000 robots, which cost about $25,000 each and which are being tested now. Foxconn says it wants to use robots in part to offset rising labor costs. (SlashDot)(Business Insider)

Chinese Hackers Shift Attentions to Iraq

A Chinese hacking group thought to be allied with the Chinese government and that so far has targeted the US, has become increasingly focused on Iraq as tensions in the Middle East have risen, according to security firm CrowdStrike. The firm stated that the Deep Panda hacking group, which has collected information related to the US’s Southeast Asia policies, is now focused on the US’s Iraq and Middle East policy. China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the report. CrowdStrike says Deep Panda is among the most sophisticated and difficult-to-penetrate hacking groups that it tracks. The security firm says Deep Panda has targeted the high-tech and financial services industries, think tanks, and government agencies since 2009, breaching email systems, directories, and files of victims. (Reuters)(Dark Reading)(CrowdStrike Blog)

YouTube Grades ISPs on their Video Services

Google’s YouTube now offers consumers the ability to see a grade for their ISP’s video-playback quality. A link that YouTube provides on its pages when a video experiences delays, asks, “Experiencing interruptions? Find out why.” Clicking on “find out why” takes users to the Google webpage at www.google.com/get/videoqualityreport, which displays a video-playback quality report card for their ISPs. Netflix recently offered similar messages when its video playback on Verizon systems slowed, saying “The Verizon network is crowded right now.” Verizon threatened legal action, and Netflix stopped the practice. All this appears to be the latest salvo in the US’s ongoing Net-neutrality debate. Net neutrality calls for ISPs to provide exactly the same level of service to all content, regardless of source, volume, or other factors. ISPs say they should be able to charge more for faster or higher-volume services that place more demand on their networks. Opponents say this would create a multitiered system in which only richer companies that can afford to pay ISPs will be able to offer better service. They say this would hinder competition and reduce the quality of service many people receive. A US judge recently ruled that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could not impose its existing Net neutrality rules because of the ways its policies were written. The FCC is considering new policies that would enable it to enforce some form of Net neutrality. (SlashDot)(Quartz)(re/Code)(Google)

Blue Shield of California Leaks Physician Data

Medical-insurance provider Blue Shield of California accidentally included Social Security numbers belonging to about 18,000 California physicians and other healthcare providers in monthly reports to the state’s Department of Managed Health Care submitted from February through April 2013. Blue Shield didn’t mark the information as confidential, so the state made it available under California’s public-records law. According to the Department of Managed Health Care, it responded to 10 public-records requests by making the reports available to insurance companies, their attorneys, and two members of the media. The agency is asking them to destroy the CDs containing the sensitive data in return for new CDs with the Social Security numbers deleted. The state notified Blue Shield, and they are working together to notify the affected healthcare providers, as well as offering a year of free credit monitoring. The Department of Managed Health Care agency says it is implementing new software and otherwise working to prevent such a problem from occurring again. (SlashDot)(IT World)

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