Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Podcasting What Goes On in the Classroom

I just returned from the Annual Conference for Law School Computing (2006 CALI Conference). This year's conference examined, among other things, the use of podcasting by law schools. Boiled down, podcasting works like this: professors record either their lectures, or summaries of their lectures, and upload them to the web. Students can then download the material onto their iPod or MP3 player and listen to the material while driving, exercising, or doing whatever. Many of the discussions centered around what faculty thought of this technology, and some focused on the student perspective. Some uses for the technology that everyone agreed on were using podcasts for review prior to exams and being able to hear what went on in class when a student has to miss a class.

One student has created podcasts of the courses he is taking and publishes them on his blog, Life of a Law Student. I listened to this student speak and he has an interesting perspective on fair use issues.

CALI sponsored a Legal Education Podcasting Project this spring and some of the law professors involved in the project shared their perspectives on podcasting and the learning experience, the benefits of podcasting, and what podcasting means for the future of law schools. Listen (and see an accompanying power point presentation) to podcast that was part of the project here.

Fair Use Network

The Fair Use Network was created to help people navigate the many questions that arise around IP and copyright issues. It is particularly useful for bloggers, artists, and writers, but may be of interest to law students as well. The site includes some basic legal guides covering such areas as fair use, copyright, and trademark law.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Getting the Best Results When Using Google

Many librarians don’t have a very high opinion of Google, and there are some good reasons for that bias; however, we won’t get into that discussion here. If you are using Google, there are some search methods that will produce more precise results. Read them here.

Changing U.S. Demographics

CRS has issued a report on the changing demographics of the United States. The country is growing, aging, and becoming more diverse. The report also discusses the impact that these changes will have in the future on social, economic, and policy issues.

Amnesty International 2006 Report on Human Rights

Amnesty International has published its 2006 report on human rights. The report is searchable by country, region, and topic.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Business Week Online has an article about NSA snooping into phone records of Americans. It likens the data mining to looking for a needle in a haystack and calls for enhancing privacy safeguards already in existence (FISA). Read the article here.

Source: beSpacific

Same-Sex Marriage

From Barclay Blog:

Findlaw has compiled a list of online resources on same-sex marriage and related issues. Categories include: articles, documents, legal analysis and commentary.

You can read the Democratic Policy Committee report on the Marriage Amendment here .
On June 5, the Cato Institute held a panel discussion of the Marriage Amendment being debated in the Senate this week. Read the Policy Analysis of one of the panelists, Dale Carpenter, associate professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Source: beSpacific

American Federalism

Amber, Golding, and Hofstetter, an Indianapolis law firm, has an interesting web site that includes an area for students. There you can review Cases and Materials on American Federalism, a pathfinder developed for use in American Government and Public Policy courses taught at Purdue University Calumet.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The 100 Best Products of the Year

PC World.com has released its list of the 100 best products of the year. See how many of them you have at http://www.pcworld.com/reviews/article/0,aid,125706,pg,2,00.asp.

Source: beSpacific

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Will Data Mining Phone Records Really Work to Keep America Safe?

Bruce Schneier wrote in an article published May 31 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Bruce Schneier: We're giving up privacy and getting little in return
Better to put people, not computers, in charge of investigating potential plots.

Collecting information about every American's phone calls is an example of data mining. The basic idea is to collect as much information as possible on everyone, sift through it with massive computers, and uncover terrorist plots. It's a compelling idea, and convinces many. But it's wrong. We're not going to find terrorist plots through systems like this, and we're going to waste valuable resources chasing down false alarms. To understand why, we have to look at the economics of the system.
Data mining works best when you're searching for a well-defined profile, a reasonable number of attacks per year, and a low cost of false alarms. Credit-card fraud is one of data mining's success stories: All credit-card companies mine their transaction databases for data for spending patterns that indicate a stolen card.
Many credit-card thieves share a pattern -- purchase expensive luxury goods, purchase things that can be easily fenced, etc. -- and data mining systems can minimize the losses in many cases by shutting down the card. In addition, the cost of false alarms is only a phone call to the cardholder asking him to verify a couple of purchases. The cardholders don't even resent these phone calls -- as long as they're infrequent -- so the cost is just a few minutes of operator time.
Terrorist plots are different; there is no well-defined profile and attacks are very rare. This means that data-mining systems won't uncover any terrorist plots until they are very accurate, and that even very accurate systems will be so flooded with false alarms that they will be useless.
Just in the United States, there are trillions of connections between people and events -- things that the data-mining system will have to "look at" -- and very few plots. This rarity makes even accurate identification systems useless.
Let's look at some numbers. We'll be optimistic -- we'll assume the system has a one in 100 false-positive rate (99 percent accurate), and a one in 1,000 false-negative rate (99.9 percent accurate). Assume 1 trillion possible indicators to sift through: that's about 10 events -- e-mails, phone calls, purchases, Web destinations, whatever -- per person in the United States per day. Also assume that 10 of them actually indicate terrorists plotting.
This unrealistically accurate system will generate 1 billion false alarms for every real terrorist plot it uncovers. Every day, the police will have to investigate 27 million potential plots in order to find the one real terrorist plot per month. Clearly ridiculous.
This isn't anything new. In statistics, it's called the "base rate fallacy," and it applies in other domains as well. And this is exactly the sort of thing we saw with the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program: The New York Times reported that the computers spat out thousands of tips per month. Every one of them turned out to be a false alarm, at enormous cost in money and civil liberties.
Finding terrorism plots is not a problem that lends itself to data mining. It's a needle-in-a-haystack problem, and throwing more hay on the pile doesn't make that problem any easier. We'd be far better off putting people in charge of investigating potential plots and letting them direct the computers, instead of putting the computers in charge and letting them decide who should be investigated.
By allowing the NSA to eavesdrop on us all, we're not trading privacy for security. We're giving up privacy without getting any security in return.
Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World."