President Obama’s recently trip to Cuba has opened the door for US based internet companies to do business with the island.

Obama’s visit is the first by a US president since the communist revolution of 1959. Since 1962, the US has imposed trade and travel restrictions that have kept US based companies out of Cuba. But since 2008, the Bush and Obama administrations have overseen a slow return to diplomatic relations with Cuba. Now that there is more communication between the two countries, industry experts are concerned about a virtual land grab by companies like Google and Airbnb.

During the President’s visit to Cuba, he announced that Google would be expanding wi-fi in Cuba. Other companies like Airbnb and are also looking to take advantage of the thawing climate between the US and Cuba. These US companies are attracted to Cuba’s lucrative tourism industry, and are quickly trying to claim their stake in this new market. The time is ripe for these technology companies to take advantage of the coming opportunities.

Cubans have limited access to the internet. Only about 25 percent of the population is currently online and only a little over 12 percent of the households have a computer at home. This is expected to shift as Google provides more wi-fi and broadband access across the country.

Airbnb has been operating for about a year already, allowing Americans to book accomodations in Cuba. Although technically travel to Cuba has been illegal except under special circumstances, 161,000 Americans were among the 3.5 million tourists from all over the world who visited Cuba last year. Commercial flights are expected to resume in the fall, giving way to a larger market for sites like In the coming weeks, its parent company Priceline will begin allowing US customers to book vacations in Havana and plans to sign deals with existing hotels and tourism countries.

Article via Cnet, 21 March 2016

Photo: Press conference, Havana by IIP Photo Archive [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Researchers have begun to dive into studies of how the objectification of women in sexist ads portray the way society sees them in real life.

In late 2015, Madonna Badger, ad agency co-founder and creative director of Badger & Winters took part in the #WomenNotObjects campaign. As a result, she came across an endless number of ads that exploited women’s bodies simply because “sex sells.” In the campaign video, the majority of the women mocked each ad as the video progresses, but one said, “I’m only here for your entertainment,” which ironically is the hard truth behind these ads.

In honor of Badger’s late daughters, who passed in an unfortunate event in 2011, she compiled a video to step forward in the campaign. Badger wanted to make a change and help young women.

“I want my life to have a purpose,” said Badger. She wanted to expose the ad industry for its objectification of women and the negative effects it puts on youth.

“I love my job but I don’t want to do if it if hurts anyone.”

Ad models know that they are there to make the product look good by looking good. They step into the scene fully understanding the exploitation of their sexuality, but that does not mean they agree with it.

Badger hopes to raise awareness of this culture by the use of the hashtag #WomenNotObjects as a conversation starter.

“I am your mother, daughter, sisters, coworker, manager, CEO,” a mantra used to help kill the culture of objectification of women.

In order to teach society to respect women, we need to start from the root. Children of this decade are born and raised into this culture, so if there is any method — it is simply teaching children to respect women from a young age so that they can grow to be a better generation.

Article via Mashable, 27 January 2015
Photo: Racy chewing gum ad in London by Todd Mecklem [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

A new Federal Communications Commission report states that around 10 percent of Americans have no access to broadband, translating to around 34 million people without the ability to use high-speed Internet. The FCC defines “broadband” as Internet service that facilitates download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps.

This year’s definition is controversial because of its new, higher standards. Last year the FCC classified broadband as Internet that enabled 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Critics argue that the FCC will create stricter requirements for Internet providers, who have already released statements saying that the new report on American access to high-speed Internet “lacks credibility.”

The United States Telecom Association, a trade group that represents telecommunications-based organizations in the U.S., states that the FCC is using the report as an excuse to extend its influence on Internet providers. “This annual process has become a cynical exercise, one that… is patently intended to reach a predetermined conclusion that will justify a continuing expansion of the agency’s own regulatory reach,” said US Telecom on Friday.

However, the FCC’s role is not limited to the chastisement of big-business Internet providers. The government will be taking several actions to increase access to high-speed Internet throughout the country, including the reformation of a low-income telephone subsidy program and the allocation of millions of federal dollars to Internet providers’ construction projects.

“Advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans,” stated an FCC factsheet.

Article via The Washington Post, 8 January 2016

Photo via country road by Remko Tanis

Internet security is an important topic to address for anyone who surfs the web. Many of us want to be sure that our private data is being handled securely. The most popular way to protect our data online is through encryption. Encryption of data simply means that the information is encoded so that it can only be read by a key used to decode it. It sounds like super spy stuff, and in a way it is (that is a German enigma machine pictured above). In this article, we will discuss some of the ways that encryption is used to protect our data on the internet.

Computer encryption is based on cryptography, the practice and study of techniques to secure information. If you have ever heard of the Caesar cipher, that is a form of encryption. In our modern era, computers are generating complex algorithms that are used as the ciphers that crack the code.

There are two main modes of encryption: symmetric key and public key.

Symmetric key encryption

Caesar Cipher by prize Lerthirunvibul

The Caesar cipher is a great example of this. A letter is written to a friend, but all the words are spelled out by rotating the letter in the alphabet 4 spaces. This makes the letter nonsensical to anyone who intercepts it. But the friend it was written to knows the code (shift 4 spaces) and can therefore decode the letter.

The same happens in computing. Each computer has a secret code. The is a packet of information that is transported between the two computers. Once the transfer is complete the second computer decodes the encrypted packet.

Examples of this type of encryption: Hard drives, Private networks


Public key encryption

public key encryption
PublicKeyEncryption by Kalani Hausman

Sometimes this is called asymmetric key encryption. The main difference here is that each party does not have the same code to encrypt the message. Instead this method uses two different keys at once, a public key and a private key. The private key is know only to your computer. While, the public key is given to any computer that may want to communicate with it.

To decode a message a computer must use the public key (provided by the computer that it is communicating with) and it’s own private key.

In the example, Sally wants to send Bill a message. To do that, Sally needs to use Bill’s public key which is available to anyone. When Sally uses the public key it encrypts the message so that no one can read it. The only way that Bill will be able to see the message is when he uses his private key, the one that only he has (and is the only way to decode the encryption).

The message is available to anyone because all you need is the public key to pick it up. But, you won’t be able to read that message without a private key. The keys are a long string of numbers, and since they are based only on prime numbers, it makes this system very secure.

Examples of this type of encryption: Digital banking, Secure websites(https, SSL)

Photo Caesar Cipher by prize Lerthirunvibul

Photo PublicKeyEncryption by Kalani Hausman

Photo: WW2 Encryption: Enigma German Machine – cover off by Anthony Catalano [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Facebook’s initiative to provide Internet to developing parts of the world, Free Basics, has been met with substantial criticism from those who believe that the service violates Net Neutrality. This Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the service in an opinion article in the Times of India.

Zuckerberg’s effort to offer free Internet throughout India was obstructed by the country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority’s request that Facebook discontinue the program. India has 132 million active Facebook users, the second largest population of Facebook users behind the Unite States’ 193 million users.

Critics argue that Free Basics, the website that offers Internet services, provides more content from Facebook than from other sources. When Zuckerberg visited India in October, however, he implied that the Facebook service did not breach Net Neutrality when he said that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally.

“Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic Internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims—even if that means leaving behind a billion people,” Zuckerberg said. “Who could possibly be against this? Choose facts over false claims. Everyone deserves access to the Internet.”

Article via CNET, December 28, 2015

Photo: Mark Zuckerberg via Mathieu Thouvenin [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

The Harvard library is where one may find shelves of books unearthed with valuable resources that include nearly every territorial and tribal judicial decision since colonial times. It provides priceless information for everyone from legal scholars to defense lawyers trying to challenge a criminal conviction. Now, Harvard librarians are taking off the spines of all but rarities and running them through a high-speed scanner. This would allow a complete searchable database of American case law available on the Web. Retrieval of these vital records were once usually paid for. Now they will be completely free.

“Improving access to justice is a priority. We feel an obligation and an opportunity here to open up our resources to the public.” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law school.

Though the primary documents can be found in the public domain, it’s not in a convenient format, if at all. Legal groups spend approximately thousands to millions of dollars a year depending on the size of the office to find cases and trace doctrinal strands. Harvard’s “Free the Law” project can offer a floor of crucial information and offer sophisticated techniques for visualizing relations among cases and searching for themes.

“Complete results will become publicly available this fall for CA and NY, and the entire library will be online in 2017,” said Daniel Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of Ravel Law, a commercial start-up in California that has teamed up with Harvard Law for this project. The cases will be available at Ravel is paying millions of dollars to support the scanning project. The cases will be accessible in a searchable format and will be presented with visual maps developed by the company. It hopes to make money by offering more advanced analytical tools still being developed, like how judges responded to different motions in the past all for a fee.

Legal aid lawyers and public criminal defenders called the Harvard project a welcome development that may save them money and make the law more accessible to struggling lawyers, students and even inmates who try to mount appeals from barren prison libraries.

Alex Gulotta, executive director of Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, CA, called the project “brilliant” and put it in a broader context of making government information more readily available. “Knowledge is power. People will always need lawyers, but having resources available for self-help is important.”

Article via NY Times, October 28, 2015

Photo: Law books 2 via Eric E. Johnson [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]