Nerval's Lobster writes "Former vice president Al Gore sat down with Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at this year's SXSW conference to talk about the future — specifically, what Gore sees as the dangers and opportunities awaiting the planet for the next few years. Gore drilled down into what he referred to as the "stalker economy." The rise of apps such as SnapChat, which allows smartphone users to control how long friends can view messages, is emblematic of people reaching the "gag point" with pervasive recording and surveillance by government and business. "Our democracy has been hacked," Gore also told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as "our operating system." While there's never been a "golden age" of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. "If a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money," he said, they'll be more concerned about how what they're saying will appeal to those interests—rather than their constituents. In yet another tangent, Gore railed against genetic engineering, including Spider Goats, which are goats with spliced spider DNA that allows them to secrete spider silk along with their milk. The goats breed, extending that trait to future generations. Gore sees such things as a case of science run amok, alternately creepy and scary."
First time accepted submitter voul writes "Iran is at it again. Taking a page from China's playbook, Iran has moved to cut off illegal VPNs. 'Quite aware of the censorship they face, many Iranians use proxy servers over virtual private networks to circumvent government restrictions and mask their activities,' CNET reports. 'However, officials now say they have blocked use of the "illegal" tool.' Slashgear reports that users are 'unable to access social networks like Facebook and Twitter, or use services like Skype to make phone calls. Along with the blocking of the VPNs, the Iranian government have also blocked access to Google and Yahoo.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A popular Seattle bar and restaurant has posted a notice on its Facebook page warning patrons that wearing Google Glass will not be tolerated. 'Ass kicking will be encouraged for violators,' wrote Dave Meinert, owner of the 5 Point Cafe, perhaps in a mock aggressive tone. GeekWire reports that Meinert raised privacy concerns in an interview with a local radio station: 'People want to go there and be not known and definitely don't want to be secretly filmed or videotaped and immediately put on the Internet.' A subsequent FB post includes more Meinert musings on Google Glass: 'They are really just the new fashion accessory for the fanny pack & never removed Bluetooth headset wearing set,' along with unflattering photos of a pair of early adopters."
theodp writes "Taking a page from HP's playbook, Harvard University administrators secretly searched the emails of 16 deans last fall, looking for a leak to reporters about a case of cheating. The deans were not warned about the email access and only one was told of the search afterward. Dean and CS prof Michael Smith said in an email Sunday that Harvard will not comment on personnel matters or provide additional information about the board cases that were concluded during the fall term. Smith's office and the Harvard general counsel's office authorized the search, according to a Boston Globe report. Smith's Harvard bio notes that his entrepreneurial experience included co-founding and selling Liquid Machines, where Smith coincidentally invented a software technique designed to keep unauthorized people from reading electronic documents."
eldavojohn writes "More problems have surfaced as people attempt to bring soil pollution problems to light in China. From the article: 'When Pan sued the Hebei Department of Environmental Protection in 2011, he was given access to the environmental impact assessment that the environment ministry claimed it had done in the village. Pan discovered that the assessment, carried out by the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, had names of people who had left the village two decades previously and even a person who had been dead for two years — all "expressing favor" for the project. Pan surveyed 100 people in his village, showing them the purported environmental impact study. The majority of them gave him written statements that declared: "I've never seen this form," according to documents seen by Reuters.' Reuters has also discovered that China uses 'state secrets' labels to hide environmental studies and pollution numbers as well as using strong arm tactics to silence residents attempting to do their own studies."