Posts Tagged internet

‘Tweeting’ medics expose patients (BBC)

Twitter homepage

Twitter content is user-generated

Medics posting messages on networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are breaching patient confidentiality, a leading journal reveals.

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found examples of web gossip by trainee doctors sharing private patient stories and details.

Over half of 78 US medical schools studied had reported cases of students posting unprofessional content online.

One in 10 of these contained frank violations of patient confidentiality.

Most were blogs, including one on Facebook, containing enough clinical detail that patients could potentially be identified.

‘Blue’ blogs

Many postings included profanity and discriminatory language.

Sexually suggestive material and photos showing drunkenness or illicit drug use were also commonplace.

While most incidents resulted in informal warnings, some were deemed serious enough to lead to dismissal from medical school.

But few of the medical schools had policies that covered online social networking and blogging.

Patient confidentiality is paramount and medical students and doctors obviously need to be very careful about any information they post online
A British Medical Association spokesman

The investigators, led by Dr Katherine Chretien of the Washington DC VA Medical Center, said medical students may not be aware of how online posting can reflect negatively on medical professionalism or jeopardise their careers.

Similarly, patient confidentiality breaches may be unintentional.

“Sharing patient stories that are de-identified and respectful, as health professionals might do on personal blogs, can encourage reflection, empathy and understanding.

“However, content may risk violation of patient privacy, even without using names or other identifiers,” they warned.

Also, the line separating freedom of speech and inappropriate postings can be unclear – for example, derisive comments about a student’s institution or profession might not be considered unprofessional by some, they said.

Dr Chretien’s team say medical students should be taught as part of their training about the risks associated with making postings on the Internet.

As a matter of course, students should be shown how to elect privacy settings on social networking sites and should be told to perform periodic Web searches of their own name to vet listed online content.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: “Patient confidentiality is paramount and medical students and doctors obviously need to be very careful about any information they post online.”

The UK’s regulator of doctors, the General Medical Council, does not have guidance that covers medics’ blogging.

But a spokeswoman advised doctors: “You must make sure that your conduct at all times justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.”

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‘Open internet’ rules criticised (BBC)

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

Man using phone on the move, AFP/Getty

Studies show 60% of users are interested in mobile internet access

Mobile providers have said that US proposals to ensure all traffic on the internet is treated equally should not be applied to wireless traffic.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants rules to prevent providers blocking or slowing down bandwidth-heavy usage such as streaming video.

Providers claim a two-tiered system is essential for the future vitality of the net.

Mobile operators said any regulation would damage innovation.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said doing nothing was not an option.

In his first major speech since his appointment earlier in the summer, he told an audience in Washington that the rules were “not about government regulation of the internet”.

“History’s lesson is clear. Ensuring a robust and open internet is the best thing we can do to promote investment and innovation,” he told the audience at Washington think tank the Brookings Institution.

“And while there are some who see every policy decision as either pro-business or pro-consumer, I reject that approach; it’s not the right way to see technology’s role in America.”

The FCC’s proposals are meant to ensure that internet service providers cannot block or slow down traffic, such as bandwidth-hogging video downloads. Operators must also be transparent about network management, it said.

But providers have argued that a two-tiered internet is essential to effectively manage their networks.

‘Phenomenal success’

Almost as soon as Mr Genachowski stepped off the podium, industry critics condemned the inclusion of wireless traffic in the new policy proposals.

Ethernet cable

The FCC says the internet is at a crossroads

“We are concerned the FCC appears ready to extend the entire array of net neutrality requirements to what is perhaps the most competitive consumer market in America – wireless services,” said AT&T’s Jim Cicconi.

“The internet in America has been a phenomenal success that has spawned technological and business innovation unmatched anywhere else in the world,” said David Cohen, executive vice-president at Comcast.

“So it’s still fair to ask whether increased regulation of the internet is a solution in search of a problem.”

Verizon, the nation’s biggest cellphone operator, said it believed the FCC had no reason to impose “a new set of regulations that will limit customer choices and affect content providers, application developers, device manufacturers and network builders”.

Politicians also weighed in on the proposals.

Six Republican senators introduced a measure that would cut the FCC’s funding to “develop and implement new regulatory mandates”.

Meanwhile, the two Republicans on the FCC’s board said they were not convinced that there were widespread problems of internet providers blocking or slowing traffic that needed to be addressed with new rules.

‘Pivotal moment’

However, just as many supporters as critics stood up to praise the FCC’s move.

iPhone (Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

Touch screens are changing the way people use mobiles

The FCC “took an important step in… ensuring that the internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression”, wrote Google internet evangelist Vint Cerf, on a company blog.

Consumer groups saw the move as a victory.

“This is a tremendous day for millions of us who have been clamouring to keep the internet free from discrimination,” said John Silver, executive director of advocacy group Free Press.

Mr Genachowski said the increasing number of people who went online using their mobile phones could not be ignored.

“The revolution in wireless technologies and the creation of path-breaking devices like the Blackberry and iPhone have enabled millions of us to carry the internet in our pockets and purses.”

Gigi Sohn of digital rights group Public Knowledge told BBC News the move was necessary given that “wireless is the next frontier and where the great growth of internet access is going to come from”.

Mr Genachowski said he wants as much feedback from consumers, the industry and others on the proposals.

“This is about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the internet,” said the FCC chairman.

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Microsoft increases search share (BBC)

Bing.com

Microsoft recently introduced visual search

Microsoft’s Bing search engine is making inroads into Google’s dominance of the search market according to data from US net measurement firm ComScore.

Its latest figures show Microsoft’s share of the search market has grown from 8.9% in July to 9.3% in August.

The news saw Microsoft’s shares rise while Google’s dipped slightly.

Microsoft’s modest 9.3% share of the US search market is small but is a significant increase for a new entrant, say analysts.

The Bing search engine was launched by Microsoft in June 2009 and was followed in July by a search tie-up with rival Yahoo.

Google is still far and away the search leader, with 65% of the US market.

Tiny ripple

The fact Google is losing any market share to Microsoft could indicate that it is no longer the immediate choice for everyone, thinks search expert John Batelle.

“I think the service is starting to gain footholds with users who see it as a regular alternative to Google,” he wrote in his blog.

He is a fan of Bing’s newly-released visual search interface.

“I think it augurs some serious new – and useful – approaches to sifting through massive amounts of related data,” he said.

In the UK, Bing has also made small inroads into Google’s market share.

In August the number of searches on Bing increased by 5%, while Google searches were down 1.7%, according to UK online measurement firm Nielsen.

“It is a very tiny ripple but reflects that Microsoft has done a lot of marketing around it and that people are curious about anything new that is launched,” said Alex Burmaster, communications director at Nielsen.

Google is already working on an update to its current search engine.

Nicknamed “Caffeine” the new version is still in the testing phase and will replace the current engine once tests are complete.

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‘Next generation’ wi-fi approved (BBC)

laptops

manufacturers have been selling 802.11n products for many years

The next-generation of wi-fi technology has finally been approved for use, despite being on sale in laptops and other equipment for several years.

The 802.11n technology, as it is known, was ratified by the IEEE, a body that oversees all wi-fi standards.

It was conceived seven years ago and offers speeds at least six times faster than current approved technology.

Electronics firms have sold PCs and routers using the standard for many years, labelled “802.11n draft”.

But without the IEEE’s approval, there were no guarantees that future networking equipment would be compatible with the devices.

The IEEE’s rubber stamp has changed that.

All existing draft 802.11n wi-fi products will work with the final standard, according to the Wi-Fi Alliance, a group that tests wireless products to ensure compliance.

“This was an extraordinarily wide-ranging technical challenge,” said Bruce Kraemer of the IEEE.

“When we started in 2002, many of the technologies addressed in 802.11n were university research topics and had not been implemented.”

Under ideal conditions, 802.11n technology can offer speeds of 300 megabits per second (Mbps) and above, many times higher than the previous 802.11g, which operates at speeds of up to 54 Mbps.

It is also able to transfer data over distances of 90m (300ft) indoors, double that of previous technologies.

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Flight site hacker ‘identified’ (BBC)

Avsim logo

Avsim is one of the largest sites serving the flight sim community

The publisher of a flight simulator site targeted by a hacker in May says it has presented a file of evidence to UK police identifying the perpetrator.

Avsim said it had “incontrovertible evidence” about the hacker’s identity.

The attack wiped data held on two servers and “effectively destroyed” the site, which is still being rebuilt.

The US firm said it expected the criminal complaint, filed with London police, to lead to the alleged hacker spending “time behind bars”.

“We will not name any names, but have incontrovertible evidence of the individual that performed the hack,” said Tom Allensworth, the publisher and CEO of Avsim.

“We have protected the forensic evidence and provided that evidence to the London police. We are committed to bringing justice to bear on this case.”

Mr Allensworth told BBC News that the evidence was submitted on Monday to the Southwark division of the Metropolitan Police, which was “acting on behalf of another constabulary”.

‘Next level’

The US site, launched in 1996, covers all aspects of flight simulation, although its main focus is on Microsoft’s Flight Simulator.

In addition it hosts a forum and allows enthusiasts to download extra content for flight simulations, such as new landscapes.

The firm claims it is the most-visited flight simulation site on the internet.

“Its contribution has been immeasurable,” said Derek Davis, editor of PC Pilot magazine, following the attack.

The firm said it had spent $50,000 (£30,000) to bring Avsim back online since the 12 May attack, including $25,000 from users.

It said it had filed the criminal complaint after giving the alleged hacker “two opportunities to settle” the case.

“The individual did not avail himself of the opportunity – in fact, he has ignored our proffers,” Mr Allensworth said in the statement.

“We are now doing as we promised this person we would do: ratcheting this up to the next, criminal, level.”

“We fully expect that the criminal complaint…will result in the perpetrator spending some time behind bars – under UK law.”

The firm said it was seeking prosecution under laws that “deal with unauthorised use of a computer, unauthorised and criminal theft of data, and numerous other violations of other computer and online laws”.

The Metropolitan Police could not confirm whether it had received the complaint.

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Websites ‘breaking consumer laws’ (BBC)

Phone and keyboard

The investigation covered 28 European countries

More than half of websites selling electronic goods were breaking European laws aimed at protecting consumers, according to an EU investigation.

The analysis of 369 websites selling mobiles, DVD players and games consoles in 28 European countries found that 203 of them held misleading information.

The biggest failure surrounded the right to return a product bought on the internet within seven days.

Any websites which continue to break the law face fines.

“We know from the level of complaints coming into European Consumer Centres that this is a real problem area for consumers,” said EU consumer commissioner Meglena Kuneva.

“We discovered that more than half of the retailers selling online electronic goods are letting consumers down.”

Sweep

Authorities, such as trading standards departments, carried out the investigation in May. They were checking to see if the websites followed rules on providing clear information about the trader, the product, the price, and customers’ rights.

There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe’s consumers deserve better
Meglena Kuneva, EU consumer commissioner

Some 369 websites – across 26 EU member states (all members except Slovakia) as well as Norway and Iceland – were checked as they sold electronic goods including digital cameras, mobile phones, personal music players, DVD players, computer equipment and games consoles.

Two hundred of the sites were chosen because they were the biggest in the EU and another 100 were checked because they had been the subject of previous consumer complaints.

Of the 203 cases facing further investigation:

  • Two-thirds (66%) failed to adequately explain that consumers had seven days to return a product bought over distance for a full refund and without giving a reason. Others failed to explain the right to have a faulty product repaired or replaced for at least two years after sale
  • Details about extra delivery charges were missing or difficult to find on the website in 45% of cases
  • A third (33%) did not fully outline the trader’s name, address or email details so they could not be contacted if there was a problem.

All of these traders will now be contacted by the authorities and asked to clarify the position or correct the problems identified in the investigation.

Meglena Kuneva

Meglena Kuneva is the EU consumer commissioner

Any website that fails to make corrections could face warning letters and then enforcement action. If this was ignored the operators could be prosecuted and face fines.

“This is a Europe-wide problem which needs a European solution. There is a lot of work to be done in the months ahead to clean up this sector, Europe’s consumers deserve better,” said Ms Kuneva.

Every website checked in Cyprus and Hungary during the sweep was found to require further investigation. Six of 14 websites checked in the UK revealed irregularities.

Only Iceland, Norway and Latvia have published a list of the websites that will face further investigation.

About one in four consumers across the EU who has ever bought anything on the internet bought an electronic product, according to the European Commission. The market is valued at an estimated 6.8bn euros (£5.9bn).

Some 34% of complaints about online shopping in 2007 featured the sale of electronic equipment.

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Home fibre plans survive downturn (BBC)

Telephone cables, BT

The benefits of fibre to the home go beyond speed

More than two million people in Europe now have fibre broadband direct to their home, suggests a survey.

The latest figures on superfast broadband delivered by fibre to the home (FTTH) shows 18% growth over the last survey compiled in late 2008.

The continued growth suggests that the global economic downturn has not hit plans to build a fibre infrastructure.

Sweden tops the list of nations rolling out the technology, with 10.9% of its broadband customers using fibre.

Karel Helsen, president of Europe’s Fibre-To-The-Home Council, said the growth matched predictions that were revised when the credit crunch started to make itself felt.

TOP FIBRE NATIONS
1) Sweden – 10.9%
2) Norway – 10.2%
3) Slovenia – 8.9%
4) Andorra – 6.6%
5) Denmark- 5.7%
6) Iceland – 5.6%
7) Lithuania – 3.3%
8 ) Netherlands – 2.5%
9) Slovakia – 2.5%
10) Finland – 2.4%

“The numbers in 2009 are in line with the latest forecasts,” said Mr Helsen.

By 2012, the FTTH Council expects that 13 million people across 35 European nations will have their broadband delivered by fibre. Such services would start at speeds of 100 megabits per second (mbps), said Mr Helsen.

Around Europe more than 233 projects were underway to lay the fibres that would connect homes or buildings to the net, said Mr Helsen. Many of those, he said, were being operated by local governments or smaller net firms.

Local governments were interested in FTTH because of the economic and social benefits it brought in its wake, said Mr Helsen.

The low latency or delay inherent in high-speed fibre networks made possible novel uses of broadband, he said.

“No delay is very important,” he said, “specifically if you talk about applications that are time dependent such as personal communications, conference calls or video calls where delays cause a lot of interference.”

While early FTTH services were concentrated in cities, said Mr Helsen, many more were reaching out to rural areas for e-health and e-learning projects.

Separate studies show that an FTTH infrastructure can have a direct impact on local economic output, said Mr Helsen.

The UK, France and Germany have yet to break into the list of top ten FTTH nations.

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Japan looks to robots to fill jobs (BBC)

By Robin Lustig
BBC News, Tokyo

Robots

Robots may help elderly people in need of company

One of the biggest questions hanging over the newly elected Japanese government is what it intends to do about its rapidly diminishing workforce.

Japan’s population is both ageing and shrinking at a dangerous rate. It will have halved by the end of the century, according to one estimate.

So who is going to do the work as the country gets steadily older?

The first thing the government plans to do is increase the child allowance to 25,000 yen ($270, £166) per child per month – the hope is that will encourage couples to have more babies.

But if that does not work, there are two other options – build more robots to do the work there are not enough people to do, or allow in millions more workers from overseas.

I met a couple of robots in Arai Sadahiro’s robot shop in Tokyo.

They talked and sang to him just as they would to a lonely elderly person in need of company.

Mr Sadahiro insists that, although of course it would be better if a real friend or relative were available, the robots are not a bad second best.

Jagmohan Chandrani

Indians have IT skills needed by Japan, says Mr Chandrani

For social and medical care, robots are already in use. There are robots that can lift patients out of bed, carry them if necessary, even act as receptionists in a hospital or doctor’s surgery.

But would it not be even better to import more workers from abroad?

After all, Japan has the lowest rate of foreign workers among the world’s major developed economies – making up less than 2% of the workforce, compared with close to 15% in the US, or 10% in Britain.

Centenarians

The biggest number of migrants come from Korea and China, many on government-sponsored three-year training programmes meant to equip them with new skills to take back home.

But some migrant workers say the training schemes can sometimes be little more than a way of exploiting low-paid migrants.

One Chinese worker, who chose to remain anonymous, said he felt “tricked” when he found he was expected to pick strawberries all day with no training on offer.

Other foreign workers have a much better experience – such as Indian businessman Jagmohan Chandrani, who has lived in Japan for more than 30 years.

He runs a tea-importing business and a restaurant, and says the big advantage that Indians have here is that many possess valuable Information Technology skills that Japan needs.

So what will it be? More robots, or more foreign workers? My guess is that it will be both.

Something certainly needs to be done. The United Nations estimates that by the middle of the century there will be more than a million Japanese who are over 100 years old.

And someone will have to look after them.

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Russia ship mystery editor flees (BBC)

Mikhail Voitenko at a press conference in Moscow, 18 August 2009

Mr Voitenko said it was nonsense to suggest pirates had been involved

A journalist has fled Russia after suggesting the Arctic Sea cargo ship that was apparently hijacked in July may have been carrying illegal weapons.

Mikhail Voitenko said he had been told to leave Moscow or face arrest.

The editor of Sovfracht, an online maritime journal, fled on Wednesday, saying he may not be able to return as his life would be in danger.

Eight men, mainly from Estonia, have been charged with hijacking and piracy over the case.

The men are suspected of seizing the ship and its 15-man Russian crew after raiding it disguised as police.

The alleged hijackers were taken to Russia after the ship was spotted 300 miles (480km) off the west coast of Africa on 16 August.

Secret shipment

Mr Voitenko – who was among the first to cast doubt on official explanations about the ship’s disappearance – told the BBC it was nonsense to suggest pirates had been involved.

Suspected hijacker of the Arctic Sea being escorted in Moscow, 26 August 2009

Eight men have been charged with hijacking and piracy over the case

Instead he suggested the ship may have been carrying a secret shipment of weapons as part of a private business deal by state officials.

Speaking to the BBC from Turkey, Mr Voitenko said he had received a threatening phone call from “serious people” whom he suggested may have been members of Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB.

The caller told Mr Voitenko that those involved in the mysterious case of the Arctic Sea were very angry with him because he had spoken publicly, and were planning on taking action against him, he said.

“As long as I am out of Russia I feel safe,” Mr Voitenko told the BBC. “At least they won’t be able to get me back to Russia and convict [me].”

He also said Nato knew exactly what had happened to the Arctic Sea.

A Nato spokesman said the alliance had been in contact with Russia throughout the crisis, but would not say anything more.

The FSB refused to comment on the allegations.

Further inspection

Mystery continues to surround the ship’s disappearance, amid speculation the ship may have been intercepted by Mossad – Israel’s foreign intelligence service – in order to prevent a shipment of illegal arms to the Middle East.

Arctic Sea, file image

There has been much speculation over what actually happened on the ship

The 4,000-tonne Maltese-flagged vessel vanished in July days after leaving Finland with an apparent cargo of timber worth $1.8m (£1.1m), destined for the Algerian port of Bejaia.

Observers have questioned why the alleged hijackers would risk seizing the Arctic Sea in one of Europe’s busiest shipping lanes for a relatively inexpensive cargo.

Russian authorities said nothing suspicious was found aboard the ship when it was found last month, but have said a more thorough inspection would be carried out when the Arctic Sea arrives in the Russian port of Novorossiisk.

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EBay to sell Skype stake for $1.9 billion (Reuters)

Tue Sep 1, 2009 10:39am EDT


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NEW YORK (Reuters) – EBay Inc plans to sell a 65 percent stake in its online phone unit Skype for $1.9 billion to private investors including Silver Lake and a venture firm run by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.

Shares in eBay rose 40 cents or 1.8 percent to $22.54 on Nasdaq after the news.

The deal values Skype at $2.75 billion, according to the Internet auction house, which had bought the phone company in 2005 for about $3.1 billion.

The group buying Skype also includes London-based Index Ventures and the Canada Pension Plan, in addition to Silver Lake and Andreessen’s firm Andreessen Horowitz.

The deal lets eBay focus on its PayPal electronic payments service as well as its flagship auction service, the company said.

EBay originally planned to spin off Skype next year. John Donahoe, eBay’s chief executive, said in May that a $2 billion valuation would be low for the growing Internet telephone business.

In 2007, eBay wrote down about $1.4 billion of its investment in Skype, conceding it did not fit in with the rest of its online auction business.

“Skype is a strong standalone business, but it does not have synergies with our e-commerce and online payments business,” Donahoe said in a statement.

EBay expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter. The transaction is not subject to a financing condition.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York and Ajay Kamalakaran in

Bangalore, editing by Will Waterman and Derek Caney)

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