Monday, May 17, 2010

Google's accidental snooping

On May 14, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and no doubt other sources, reported that Google's Street View cars had unintentionally collected snippets of information from unsecured WiFi routers. These two sources seem to be quoting from Google's own blog post on the topic. As I write, Google's post lists some 48 links in several languages back to the post, including one entitled "We No Longer Trust Google." (But they do trust Google enough to include a button allowing readers to add the post's URL to Google Bookmarks.)

Google has explained how it happened, outlined steps it is taking to dispose of the inadvertently collected data and make sure this doesn't happen again, and apologized: "We are profoundly sorry for this error and are determined to learn all the lessons we can from our mistake."

I  am not well informed of Google's other misdeeds, real or imagined, and I am not qualified to evaluate the ramifications of this incident, but standing on its own, it does not seem to me to carry the hallmarks of malicious activity. It is always a matter of alarm when the powerful make mistakes, though, because even innocent mistakes can have serious consequences. Let's hear it for vigilance.

But how many people do you suppose added security to their WiFi routers when they learned of this?

My thanks to Colin Allen for providing me with the links to the Huffington Post and Google blog posts.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Call for Papers: Ethical and social aspects of mobiles/ubiquitous computing

The Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics is seeking papers for a thematic issue on ethical and social aspects of mobiles/ubiquitous computing. I have this announcement from Colin Allen, to whom my thanks.

Guest editors: Charles Ess, May Thorseth and Johnny Hartz Søraker

Twenty-five years ago, William Gibson presented a futuristic account of “cyberspace:” This space contained a complete virtual world so rich and complex as to be capable of replacing a real world and embodied existence. What was once clearly science fiction now becomes ever more the reality of our lives as increasingly intertwined with the multiple interactions made possible by computer-based communication networks. We invite papers that help us explore the various ethical and social dimensions of the contemporary world of ubiquitous computing. We are interested in the transformative powers of various technologies like mobiles, computer games and social networking services. Possible topics include: changing senses of selves, social interactions, privacy, intellectual property; the blurring of borderlines of virtual and real social interaction, online and offline presence and interactions among humans. Papers should include examples of contemporary technologies, although speculative thought experiments are also encouraged.

Submit your paper to:
Deadline: July 1, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Geographic Information Ethics and GIScience

The 2010 meeting of the Association of American Geographers included a session on "Geographic Information Ethics and GIScience." The full results from the session can be found at 

Thanks to Dawn ("Deepsea Dawn") Wright, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, for sharing this information.

Ken Pimple, PAIT Project Director