Gregory Ferenstein


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  • California’s Experiment With Massive Online Courses Restricted To University Students

    California’s Experiment With Massive Online Courses Restricted To University Students

    California’s radical experiment in massively open online courses (MOOCs) is not so radical anymore. San Jose State University will scale back the number of purely online courses and restrict them to enrolled students. “The goal right now is to focus on providing access to all CSU [California State University] students, including SJSU students,” San Jose State University… Read More

  • Obama’s NSA Task Force Recommends Major Reforms

    Obama’s NSA Task Force Recommends Major Reforms

    Today, the much-anticipated findings of President Obama’s National Security Agency task force have hit the wire [PDF]. The non-binding 200 page report of 40-plus recommendations calls for the end of many of the most controversial programs. Here are the big takeaways: 1. The government would no longer hold on to phone records in bulk. Instead, phone companies might warehouse the data… Read More

  • Read Snowden’s Appeal For Political Asylum To Fight The NSA From Brazil

    Read Snowden’s Appeal For Political Asylum To Fight The NSA From Brazil

    Notorious National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wants to move to the land of sunny beaches and micro-bikinis. In an open letter in the Brazilian newspaper Floha de Sao Paulo, Snowden argues that “permanent political asylum” would enable him to help the Brazilian government investigate unwanted spying from foreign governments. “If a mother in Porto Alegre calls… Read More

  • Premature Celebration: Today’s Anti-Spy Ruling Is Merely Symbolic For Now

    Premature Celebration: Today’s Anti-Spy Ruling Is Merely Symbolic For Now

    The news industry exploded today with headlines trumpeting a federal judge’s declaration that the National Security Agency’s phone data collection program was “unconstitutional”. The strongly worded anti-NSA opinion was quotation gold, but it won’t have much real-world impact for now. “It’s one judge’s view, and it will certainly be… Read More

  • Obama’s NSA Task Force May Recommend Meaningful Changes

    Obama’s NSA Task Force May Recommend Meaningful Changes

    President Obama’s surveillance task force will reportedly recommend that a civilian should direct the National Security Agency and that it should reform its mass data collection practices. An overview of the non-binding recommendations were described to The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, giving the eager public a glimpse of what might be in store. Unfortunately, the… Read More

  • Google-Backed Email Privacy Petition Gets 100K Signatures, But Will It Work?

    Google-Backed Email Privacy Petition Gets 100K Signatures, But Will It Work?

    Google put its significant digital soapbox behind an official White House petition on privacy, reaching the difficult 100,000 signature threshold today. Google, along with a host of civil liberty groups, hopes it will pressure the administration into back legislation to require a warrant for email spying (“ECPA reform“). Given the White House’s history addressing… Read More

  • NSA Reportedly Uses Google Cookies To Target Suspects

    NSA Reportedly Uses Google Cookies To Target Suspects

    According to information once again leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency secretly targets suspects using the same tool that allows advertisers to target consumers — small files known as “cookies.” In fact, the Washington Post has released more classified slides, revealing that the NSA has found a way to use Google’s own cookies… Read More

  • Tech Companies Outline More NSA Reform Demands

    Tech Companies Outline More NSA Reform Demands

    Before Congress’s holiday recess, Silicon Valley’s major tech companies have renewed calls for surveillance reform. Executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, Linkedin, Twitter, and (TechCrunch parent company) Aol have put their weight behind the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, publishing an open collective letter to Congress and President Obama. Read More

  • A Few Basic Science And Tech Facts Many Americans Don’t Know

    A Few Basic Science And Tech Facts Many Americans Don’t Know

    How does a power cord charge a cellphone? Magic, silly! According to a Pew poll, many of my fellow Americans are completely in the dark about how their world works, including the fact that carbon dioxide is a chemical responsible for some global warming. Readers can take the interactive quiz here before reading more. Pew’s quiz is especially salient this week, after another round of… Read More

  • Meet The Nate Silver Of Education. Bruce Baker Will Bring Sanity To Reform Hype

    Meet The Nate Silver Of Education. Bruce Baker Will Bring Sanity To Reform Hype

    Public school children have become lab rats of policymakers who are eager to see change faster than we can study what works. Experimental reforms are often founded on the lackluster research of ideological think tanks, who have filled the expertise vacuum left by academics unwilling to conduct policy-related research. “I’ve reviewed some just God awful stuff,” cringes… Read More

  • Skype’s Suspicious Absence From Microsoft’s Anti-NSA Promises

    Skype’s Suspicious Absence From Microsoft’s Anti-NSA Promises

    Microsoft’s public relations department was on encrypted cloud nine yesterday, riding a wave of high-five press reports for their swift action to protect consumers from National Security Agency surveillance. “We are taking steps to ensure governments use legal process rather than technological brute force to access customer data,” raged Microsoft General Counsel Brad… Read More

  • Google-Backed Anti-Patent Troll Bill Passes The House

    Google-Backed Anti-Patent Troll Bill Passes The House

    The most unproductive Congress in history is on a mini-roll: the House of Representative passed its second piece of tech legislation this week. The Google and White House-backed Innovation Act seeks to punish so-called “patent trolls” that make a living from intellectual property lawsuits. Read More

  • NSA Reportedly Tracking Cell Phone Location Data

    NSA Reportedly Tracking Cell Phone Location Data

    According to leaked documents from whistleblower and Russian residency enthusiast, Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency is tracking people’s whereabouts en masse. By collecting the location data from billions of cell phone records, the National Security Agency can map the relationships of suspects, reports The Washington Post. The Post even has a delightfully artistic explainer… Read More

  • House Approves Plastic Gun Ban, But Fails To Update Law For 3D Weapons

    House Approves Plastic Gun Ban, But Fails To Update Law For 3D Weapons

    The most unproductive Congress in history could not manage to update a ban on plastic guns for the era of 3D printed weapons. Today, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to extend the Undetectable Firearms Act but didn’t amend the law to require permanent metal inserts. As the law stands, gun manufactures abide by an honors system that they will promise to keep enough metal… Read More

  • Why It’s Never Mattered That America’s Schools ‘Lag’ Behind Other Countries [2013 Edition]

    Why It’s Never Mattered That America’s Schools ‘Lag’ Behind Other Countries [2013 Edition]

    *Editorial Note: Every year, the media generally reports international student test comparisons with the same narrative about how the US is losing at education. The new annual report out today from the OECD will no doubt fuel another round of that. So, we’re just reposting our story from last year below, solely updated with the new stats covering 2012. They’re italicized and… Read More

  • Healthcare.gov: Mission Accomplished

    Healthcare.gov: Mission Accomplished

    Apparently, no President is above the temptation of propaganda. Yesterday, the White House released a much-anticipated report on the beleaguered insurance e-commerce website, heatlhcare.gov, proudly declaring that “we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.” Compared to its opening launch of October 1st, the website… Read More

  • Supreme Court Refuses Consideration Of Amazon Sales Tax Case

    Supreme Court Refuses Consideration Of Amazon Sales Tax Case

    The Supreme Court has rejected Amazon’s calls to consider their case against New York State’s sales tax on goods sold outside of its borders. By effectively upholding a New York Court’s ruling, the Justices tacitly imply that they are fine paying sales tax on black body robes purchased online and shipped from outside the DC area. Ever since the 1992 Supreme Court case, Quill v. Read More

  • Three Problems Stopping Bezos’ Army Of Amazon Delivery Drones

    Three Problems Stopping Bezos’ Army Of Amazon Delivery Drones

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos isn’t the only one who wants to take to the skies. Most of Hollywood wants drones for making films, police want them to patrol the skies, the national guard needs rescue bots, journalists want cheap aerial footage, farmers would love unmanned crop dusters, and every college stoner glued to their couch would trade a vital organ for the Tacocopter. In short… Read More

  • Gift Guide: Be Super-Healthy On A Shoestring Budget

    Gift Guide: Be Super-Healthy On A Shoestring Budget

    Are you tired of watching expensive gadgets turn your friends into Abercrombie models? Well, my pudgy popper, we’ve got a holiday gift guide that’ll give you five more ab packs without breaking your piggy bank. Standing Desk Vs. Cardboard Box It’s well-known that sitting all day long is slowing killing us, so a few savvy furniture manufacturers have begun to market chic… Read More

  • Obamacare’s Online Enrollment For Small Biz Delayed

    Obamacare’s Online Enrollment For Small Biz Delayed

    In an era of Google Glass, Siri, and Snapchat, small businesses will still have to enroll for some new health insurance plans by paper or phone. The White House admitted that on-going problems with the federal e-commerce website, healthcare.gov, will delay the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchange until Nov 2014. “We’ve concluded that we can best serve small… Read More

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