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Privacy Advocates Press Washington to Probe Facebook Technology

Several privacy and consumer watchdog groups are pressing the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Facebook's facial-recognition technology. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have filed a complaint with the FTC regarding the implementation of facial recognition technology without Facebook user knowledge or consent. EPIC stated that without oversight, Facebook would “likely expand the use of the facial recognition database it has covertly established for purposes over which Facebook users will be able to exercise no meaningful control.” Security experts are concerned that the service is enabled by default. Elected officials, including Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), are also pressing the FTC to investigate. Facebook claimed the technology would allow people to more easily tag their friends’ photos when it was released in December 2010. In a statement released Tuesday, Facebook stated that it “should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process.” European privacy advocates and government officials, including those in the UK, Ireland, and Luxembourg as well as the EU, are investigating how Facebook uses personal information. (PC Magazine)(Computerworld)(PC World)

Corporate IT Reducing, Reusing, and Cashing In

Rather than paying exorbitant e-waste disposal fees, corporations are converting unused IT equipment into an asset, sometimes looking to third party firms to refurbish and resell items such as laptops and servers. GlaxoSmithKline, for example, earned US$1.8 million in a two-year period after using an asset recovery firm to clean up its unwanted computing equipment. Similarly, IBM’s Global Asset Recovery Service division is tasked with managing the disposal of internal equipment as well as that which IBM leases. Using a combination of remanufacturing, re-use and resale, as well as recycling IBM disposes of 35,000 machines each week. Less than 1 percent of its waste in 2010 went to landfills or was incinerated. Barbara Rembiesa, president of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, told Computerworld that large firms commonly see "savings in the millions of dollars” for refurbishing and resale. “That's a common number once they have a mature program in place. … It’s a matter of understanding the value [of IT assets] and bringing the value back to the company.” (Computerworld)(Recycling Today)

University of Illinois Researcher Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize

John Rogers, a materials scientist and physicist at the University of Illinois, has been awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for his interdisciplinary research that has created products used to monitor and improve human health as well as commercial fiber optics, semiconductor manufacturing, and solar power products. He is receiving the US$500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize in part for his ability to market the technologies he continues developing says Michael Cima, faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT program. Much of Rogers’ current work is in the area of biointegrated electronics. Rogers and his colleagues are working on electronic devices that mimic nature and are sufficiently flexible to conform to tissues’ contours including a cardiac catheter. Rogers is scheduled to accept the prize during the Lemelson-MIT Program EurekaFest 15-18 June at MIT. (Boston Globe)(MSNBC)(MIT)

US-Backed Internet in a Suitcase Provides Alternative Communications for Dissidents

The Obama administration is reportedly leading a global effort to establish “shadow” Internet and cell phone systems to help dissidents repressed by authoritarian governments. According to The New York Times there are several projects in the works, each of which is designed to allow dissidents to communicate despite government suppression of free speech and communications. One effort, backed by the US State Department, is an Internet in a suitcase that can be smuggled across a border. In concert with other devices, the suitcase contents become a mesh communications network. A single suitcase reportedly contains small wireless antennas, a laptop, thumb drives and CDs for distributing software and enabling encryption, and various other components. Another technology program, funded by the State Department and the Pentagon, is a US$50 million independent cell phone network in Afghanistan that uses towers erected on military bases. The Times reports these various efforts have created “an improbable alliance” that includes diplomats, military engineers, and young programmers and dissidents from roughly a dozen countries. (CNET)(Reuters)(New York Times)

New Dense, Superconducting Materials Discovered

Researchers have simulated three, new stable forms of pure carbon that could prove as hard as diamond, but denser than existing allotropes. An allotrope is one of many forms in which a chemical element occurs, but each has different physical properties. Coal is another form or allotrope of carbon, for example. These newly discovered allotropes are superdense and have attributes -- specifically band gaps – that could mean they can function as superconducting materials. This could enable the creation of new electronic materials. However, the research is theoretical at this stage. The full research results were reported in Physical Review B. (NewScientist)(Physical Review B)

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