Choosing the ‘right Path’, githire.com isn’t the only answer to hiring programmers, when BIGGER is better, is the US killing freedom of religion?, the latest “did you know?” about Steve Jobs, and other stories
Today I thought I’d start with the continued sage of data privacy, and specifically with the PATH app. As most of you probably already know, Arun Thampi of Singapore inadvertently found out that the PATH app uploaded all his iPhone contacts to its server without his permission. How did this come about? Arun was using his mitproxy tool he had developed that “provides a console interface that allows traffic flows to be inspected and edited on the fly”. In other words, mitproxy allowed Arun to find out what information was being exchanged between his iPhone and PATH! The whole story unfolded when Arun noticed that one of various API (Application Programming Interface) calls being made from his iPhone to Path’s servers was a POST request https://api.path.com/3/contacts/add.
What is a POST request? It’s a method of request to an origin server (in this case, Path’s server), to accept the total contents within the request (in this case, Arun’s complete list of iPhone contacts). Arun did state that
“I’m not insinuating that Path is doing something nefarious with my address book but I feel quite violated that my address book is being held remotely on a third-party service. I love Path as an iOS app and I think there are some brilliant people working on it, but this seems a little creepy. I wonder how many other iOS apps actually do the same…”
I had heard good things about Path too, and had decided to upload it to my iPhone for future use. LUCKILY, I never did activate it, and when I found out that it might (still) be able to grab all my iPhone contacts without my knowledge (I, unlike Arun, am not a developer!), I immediately deleted it over the weekend (February 11, 2012). I too wonder if any other IOS apps might be doing this without users’ knowledge.
When I found out who the original developers of Path were, I was not at all surprised by this little unknown feature. Do YOU know who were its original developers? Shawn Fanning of Napster “infamity” (my made up noun for infamous) and Dave Morin, one of the original members of the Facebook team. Will they never learn?
For those of you who ARE developers, you might find Arun’s article “Path uploads your entire iPhone address book to its servers” most interesting. I’m not one, and I certainly did! Arun takes you through his Path experience, step by step.
How did Path respond to Thampi’s objections? CEO Dave Morin stated that the upload was supposed to make it easier for users to find their friends on Path. RIGHT. Subsequently, the Android version added an opt-in for this feature, and supposedly the iPhone version will also have one, and is awaiting approval from Apple.
The best part is, that this upload feature seems to violate Apple’s App Store guidelines. The App Store states that
“apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user’s prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used.”
Purportedly, there are other apps out there that do the same thing (although which ones they are have not been disclosed), and Brad McCarty said it best regarding our benchmark for acceptable personal data usage in his article “Path’s mistake shows a problem with Apple, Facebook…and us” in TheNextWeb:
“The problem is that almost all of us now base our ideas of personal data privacy off of our interaction with Facebook. The social network has, by and large, made very poor decisions about how it handles our personal info and we all are well aware that it’s using that information to sell us as products. Yet nearly a billion people continue to use Facebook every single month.”
© Maria Dorothea Campbell 2004
Talking about apps that “malfunction”, Citibank’s app for iPad was charging its users twice for a variety of transactions transmitted through the iOS device. This glitch began as far back as July and wasn’t caught until December! When the glitch was caught, however, the bank did promise to immediately re-imburse its customers including any extra fees, lost interest on “lost” money, and implement a “Thank You” program that gave the affected customers extra Citi reward program points. The number of customers affected was never revealed (although Citi did claim the number was less than 2 percent of total iPad transactions), and purportedly some customers who made ONLINE payments through the citi website also had experienced double charges. Which goes to show, we’re still not quite THERE yet!
Remember githire.com, the tech-job based site that “finds talented but unknown candidates employers probably wouldn’t be able to or perhaps have the time to discover themselves”? Well, there’s also a school in NYC that claims it can help solve the US tech-talent shortage called The Hacker School. It consists of a 3-month, full-time program to make established programmers BETTER programmers. The school IS free, but the students are carefully chosen at the discretion of the school. Founded in 2011 by David Albert, Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock, and Sonali Sridhar, of Silicon Valley VC firm Y Combinator, the program runs every four months, and meets Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11am-7pm. They are currently taking applications for the next round, AND they would love to have more women in the group! So if you are a female programmer, please visit:
for more information. This links to an article by Valerie Aurora of The Ada Initiative, a non-profit organization
“dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and other open data, and open social media”.
Application to the school is based on rolling admissions, but since they are eager to get more women, perhaps talented women programmers might get a nice little break!
How can The Hacker School afford free tuition? Because startups pay them to recruit. If a Hacker School student wants to find a job after attending Hacker School, the school will help the student find one. The school’s finder’s fee is $20,000, which they only receive if the student stays longer than 3 months. Purportedly, this amount is industry standard.
Much transpired in the world of women’s issues last week. Biggest and most controversial was the proposed contraceptive rule or Affordable Care Act, which would require that insurance carriers provide contraception coverage. It stirred much debate and opposition with religious institutions, and especially the Catholic Church. Originally the rule was going to require that employees of religious institutions be provided with contraception coverage by their insurance carriers, but religious institutions, and especially the Catholic Church, immediately opposed the rule. They thought that it was a violation of their right to religious freedom by forcing their payment of health insurance coverage of services that were counter to their religious beliefs. In the face of such opposition, Obama came out with an “accommodation” for religious organizations. According to this”accommodation”, which is based on the Hawaii health insurance coverage model in which employers are “responsible for referring employees to places where they can obtain the contraception”, insurance companies will reach out to women employees of exempted religious institutions to provide them with free contraceptive coverage independent of their employers’ insurance plans. Many opponents of ACA say that contraception is not free to manufacture, and that religious institutions would still be indirectly paying for contraceptive coverage through their payments of insurance premiums, even though contraception wouldn’t be technically included in their insurance plans. However, the argument at the core of the debate is violation of religious freedom (the ONE reason our first settlers came to the New World). It’s a sticky widget whichever way one looks at it. Both sides are right, but I firmly believe that politics and religion should not mix. The Church is constantly being reminded not to delve into the realm of politics, and now the federal government has been severely reminded not to dictate religious doctrine. Obama is doing the best he possibly can to placate both sides, but it just isn’t possible to please all of the people all of the time. The ACA issue is a case in point. Unfortunately, there are no winners in this battle. Everyone loses to a certain extent.
There were other women’s related issues of note that were addressed last week. One also regarded the intersection of secularity with religion that involved FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association). FIFA is banning muslim women from wearing hijabs, head coverings muslim women wear in public. The reason is purely a safety concern. IFAB (International Football Association Board), FIFA’s regulation arm, first banned the hijab in 2007, when an 11 year-old female muslim player, was banned from playing in a match by the Quebec Soccer Foundation when she refused to remove her hijab. Interestingly enough, Olympic sports such as rugby and tae kwon do do allow women to wear the hijab. According to the article “Hijab ban ‘turning women off football’” in Al Jazeera English, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA Vice President and proponent of the hijab, will be presenting the case for muslim women players to wear a velcro hijab of Dutch design that comes apart when pulled, on March 3, at an IFAB meeting. According to the article, 650,000,000 million muslim women all over the world wear the hijab.
“I think definitely, definitely. Just give them the opportunity and let them make their choices. It is a game for the world – that’s what makes football what it is, it is a very, very special game and therefore we should allow full participation,” stated Prince Ali.
Another women’s related issue involved the US military. According to Andrew Tighman’s article “Pentagon opens more military jobs to women” in The Military Times, the Pentagon will make more military combat jobs available to women, but the change will only comprise 1% of the total number of military jobs. According to Pentagon spokesman George Little,
“The services will continue to review positions and requirements to determine what additional positions may be opened to women.”
Speaking of the military, Apple is close to closing a deal with the US Air Force. According to Bloomberg, the Air Force might be buying as many as 18,000 iPad2s from Apple. It would be the largest tablet purchase made by the military to date. Why all those iPads? Each iPad would replace up to 40 pounds of manuals and navigation charts used by pilots and navigators in each aircraft. As some of you may already know, the airline industry already employs tablets in the cockpit. Last year, the FAA approved the use of iPads instead of up to 35 pounds of paper books and charts in cockpits. This should also result in huge savings on fuel as well.
Did you know that Steve Jobs had been considered for a White House appointment under George W. Bush? According to the article by Olivia Oran entitled “7 Most Surprising Things in Steve Jobs’ FBI File” for The Street, this tidbit wasn’t the only strange piece of information uncovered in his FBI file. Read Ms. Oran’s article in The Street, to learn more.
On the ACTA front, Germany has retracted its support of ACTA (Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement), citing that it would wait and see how the European Parliament votes on it before making its own decision on the treaty. The controversial issue surrounding ACTA is that it
Sometimes bigger IS better. When? In the case of digital data storage, for instance. Access Optical Networks (AON) of New Jersey has developed a 1 terabyte holographic data storage cube that transfers data at exceptionally high-speed and is only 1cm in size. Holographic storage systems aren’t anything new. It’s the size of this one that is new. A 1cm storage system can store 1 terabyte of data. AON’s “largest” storage system (still quite small) stores 10 terabytes. However, this form of storage comes at a pretty high price. It’s estimated that it would cost consumers $1 a gigabyte, so 1 terabyte of storage would cost approximately $1,000. Given the complexity of the technology, it might not seem much at first, but it is way above the cost for larger data storage systems. For example, 1 (much larger) terabyte external hard drives go for between $110 and $150 a pop. The concept of a miniscule storage cube that stores large amounts of data is ultra cool, but not practical or economically efficient. I personally am willing to wait until the price goes down…drastically!
It’s been a while since I’ve heard anything new from Barbie land, but these days she’s sporting a new look! Barbie’s been given a camera implant! She now has a 5 mega-pixel digital camera in her torso and an LCD (liquid crystal display) in her guts. She also carries 15 built-in photo effects, can store up to 100 shots, is powered by a re-chargeable battery, and costs only $50! Read Edgar Alvarez’s article “Barbie gets a camera implant to snap photos in style, we go hands-on” for engadget to learn more, and catch some fun photos of Digital Barbie in action. Barbie has adapted so well to these rapidly changing times that there is even a computer engineer Barbie!
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