Saturday, 8 June 2013

The US Government's Data Mining Program

Unless you're living in a cave, you've probably heard about the US government's classified data mining program known as PRISM. First discovered when we learned that the US government required Verizon to tun over all of their customer's call data on a daily basis, PRISM is a NSA intelligence program that, well, we'll let the NSA's leaked slides explain for themselves.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Why my two-year old is calling adult services on the iPhone

I'm pretty steamed about this. My two-year old daughter, like most children, loves playing with our phones. We try to limit the time, but when she plays with them, we do have age-appropriate applications for her. One of these applications is the Baby Flash Cards application by eFlashApps, LLC. We downloaded the free version to try it out and our daughter loves it. Here's what one of the animal flash cards looks like:

There are several interesting things to note about this. First, the "previous" and "next" buttons are new. This app used to be far more user-friendly: you could swipe or double tap that picture to get to the next animal. Guess which is easier to use for a baby? Obviously the prev/next buttons are going to be very difficult for a baby to navigate, but you notice how they are so close to that ad?  By making the app harder to use, the company made it much more likely that your baby would click on the ads when using free version.

And you know what? I sort of sympathize with the company on that one. It's not a nice thing to do, but when you use the free version of an app, you accept this sort of thing. It did mean, however, that we were not going to buy the application. If it's hard to use when free, there's no point paying for it.

 It was hard enough for our daughter that we were going to get a different flash card app, but our daughter got the hang of those buttons (a younger child might not of), so we let it slide. We figured that for learning English (we live in France), if she sometimes clicks an ad, that's a small price to pay.

We were wrong.

If you look at the above screenshot, you'll notice the ad at the bottom. I'm not typing out the URL or even the name because I don't want that company to get more exposure, but here's what their Web site looks like:

If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you don't read French, but you can guess whether or not the above Web site is age appropriate for a two-year old (the buxom brunette has dialog about buying a sex toy). This is some Web site about making prank phone calls. However, it's worse than you would imagine.

The ad on the iPhone doesn't go to this Web site, it directly makes a phone call. And it charges €1.35 to do so ($1.76 USD, if you're curious).

That's right. An advertisement on an iPhone advertisement targeting babies charges you for phone calls for an adult-oriented service.

Our call logs on the phone indicate that this is not the first time our daughter has "dialed" this number (the first time that we've found is last Friday).

I'm guessing that eFlashApps didn't do this deliberately, but I'm not sure. My wife points out that different versions of this ad are showing up on different pages of this app. Even if the company didn't do this deliberately, by making their user interface harder for babies to use, they made it easier for this to happen. I'm not sure how Apple managed to approve an advertisement that can make phone calls to an adult-oriented service, but given that it wound up on a baby application is pretty rotten.

Meanwhile, can someone please tell me where on the Apple Web site I can flag an app/advertiser for inappropriate content?

Monday, 25 February 2013

These are the men who will choose the next pope

Who will replace this man?
Photo by Kancelaria Prezydenta RP
I went and started digging on the backgrounds of the men who will vote for the next Pope. It's pretty horrifying, particularly in light of the Catholic child abuse scandal. While many of the Cardinals seem like decent people, some of them are absolutely horrifying and the large number of men who've protected pedophiles is disgraceful. I've tried to be fair in choosing some to call out, but virtually no one who has an interest in this matter could call me fair. I'm likely either too harsh or too lenient. I've elected to leave out some of the controversies and focus on the more serious ones. The fact that there are this many disgraceful men choosing the next Pope is heartbreaking.

Note that I've only listed clear controversies. Some have contraversies that were harder to verify and others have probably skeletons that are hard to dig up. I've also skipped some mention of Cardinals who support controversial figures.

It's important to note that there are some very, very decent men in the Catholic Church. In particular, I should point out Cardinal Wuerl, whose famous "zero tolerance" policy for child abuse and stance on putting victims first should be applauded. Don't let this list lead you to believe that all Catholic priests are criminals. Instead, ask yourself "why does the church tolerate this sort of behavior?"

  1. Cardinal Roger Mahoney. Fought hard for years to keep word of pedophile priests from the public. Urged at least one priest to not seek counseling over fears that the counselor would tell the police. Widespread controversy over his insistence upon traveling to Rome and voting for the new Pope.
  2. Cardinal Godfried Danneels. Protected pedophile priests and urged at least one victim to remain silent.
  3. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re. Cardinal Re has defended the Vatican's decision to excommunicate two doctors who performed an abortion on a 9 year old who was abused by her step father.
  4. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. He's a very disgusting piece of work. Amongst his many charming comments, he blames homosexuality for priest's pedophilia.
  5. Cardinal Sean Brady. Irish Cardinal knowingly withheld information from police regarding a list of children who were being raped by a priest. Widespread controversy over his insistence upon traveling to Rome and voting for the new Pope.
  6. Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Was instrumental in paying pedophiles $20,000 each to leave the church quietly rather than turning them over to police.
  7. Cardinal William Levada. Has repeatedly denied that there is a pedophilia problem in the church and allegedly shielded a pedophile for nine years, leading to the bankruptcy of the Portland diocese (PDF).
  8. Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez. Has referred to gay people as "maricón" (Spanish word for "fag") and  claimed Mexico's Supreme Court was bribed to uphold same-sex marriage laws. He also suggests that women's clothing may be to blame for rapes.
  9. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo. Refers to homosexuality as one of the most heinous sins on earth.
  10. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco. Compares homosexuality to incest and pedophilia.
  11. Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez. Refers to gay marriage as a "comedy" and calls its supporters hypocrites and degenerates.
  12. Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. Has upset some by refusing to condemn Hezbollah and appearing to support their right to arm themselves.
  13. Cardinal Joachim Meisner. A German who created a political firestorm by using a Nazi-Era term to describe art. (Truth be told, this could have been a completely innocent and unfortunate term caused by speaking off the cuff)

This list is almost 10% of the men who will choose the next Pope. Note that I've not listed any of the financial scandals and I'm sure I've missed (and possibly mislabeled) some of the scandals involved.

And remember that the Pope they're replacing is Cardinal Ratzinger, the man responsible for enforcing the Crimen Sollicitationis, a secret order from the Catholic church to impose absolute secrecy for sex crimes committed by priests.