Roland’s Sunday Smart Trends #182
September 30th, 2007

Universal DNA database would make us all suspects

Imagine being a potential suspect for every crime committed in your country. That would be the logic if DNA from all of a country’s citizens were stored in police DNA records, claims a report published this week by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, which advises the UK government. “It treats all citizens as potential suspects rather than as ‘citizens of goodwill and intent’ as at present,” says Carole McCartney of the University of Leeds and project manager for the report. While more crimes might be solved, the loss of personal liberty, autonomy and privacy would be disproportionate, the report says.
Source: news service, September 25, 2007

Measuring Green

At the annual meeting of the Carbon Disclosure Project — a non-profit investor organization devoted to greater transparency in greenhouse gas emission statistics — Sun Microsystems released a set of open-source software tools that companies can use to track carbon emissions. The software will be hosted at, a sort of social-networking site for businesses designed to foster communication about measuring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: Andy Greenberg,, September 25, 2007

Using Spam Blockers To Target HIV, Too

A Microsoft researcher and his team make a surprising new assault on the AIDS epidemic. Early this decade, Heckerman was leading a spam-blocking team at Microsoft Research. To build their tool, team members meticulously mapped out thousands of signals that a message might be junk. An e-mail featuring “Viagra,” for example, was a good bet to be spam–but things got complicated in a hurry.
Since then, the 50-year-old Heckerman and two colleagues have created their own biology niche at Microsoft, where they build HIV-detecting software. These are research tools to spot infected cells and correlate the viral mutations with the individual’s genetic profile. Heckerman’s team runs mountains of data through enormous clusters of 320 computers, operating in parallel. Thanks to smarter algorithms and more powerful machines, they’re sifting through the data 480 times faster than a year ago. In June, the team released its first batch of tools for free on the Internet.
Source: Stephen Baker and Jay Greene, BusinessWeek Magazine, Oct. 1, 2007 issue

A cell phone without borders

It’s amazing the way the Internet keeps toppling traditional businesses. Telegrams have gone away. Music CD sales are tanking. Newspapers are hurting. One especially lucrative business, however, has somehow escaped the Internet’s notice so far: international cellphone calls. That’s about to change. Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone.
Source: David Pogue, The New York Times, September 19, 2007

Police to be armed with 10,000 handhelds

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to arm police with thousands of “handheld computers” so officers can make more effective use of their time and increase the amount of frontline policing they do. Brown, who was making his maiden speech as leader to the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, said: “We will provide hand held computers – 1,000 now, by next year 10,000 right across the country – cutting paperwork so that officers can log crimes on the spot, stay on the beat and not waste time returning to the station to fill out forms.”
Source: Natasha Lomas,, September 26, 2007

IBM software to scan Chicago streets

For the past few years Chicago has been rolling out thousands of video surveillance cameras linked by fiber-optic cables. This Operation Virtual Shield system is intended to give the city’s emergency response coordination agency the ability to remotely keep track of emergencies in real time. Now, with the help of IBM Corp., Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) is looking to expand the system’s capabilities so that IBM’s software can analyze the thousands of hours of video being recorded by Operation Virtual Shield.

Source: Robert McMillan, IDG News Service, September 27, 2007

Virtual Tokyo is Japan’s answer to Second Life, but not so wild

Orderly, pornography-free and safe for children, “meet-me,” an online interactive virtual Tokyo, is Japan’s answer to Second Life. Or so its creators hope. Kunimasa Hamaoka, who oversees meet-me at digital marketing company Transcosmos, is banking on the cultural differences between Japanese and Americans to compete against the world’s top virtual community. Japanese are so well-behaved and conformist, he says, they would prefer a more predictable and secure virtual environment over the free-spirited anything-goes of Second Life, created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab.
Source: Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press, September 28, 2007

Online Game Helps People Recognize Internet Scams

Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists have developed an interactive, online game featuring a little fish named Phil that can teach people how to better recognize and avoid email “phishing” and other Internet scams. In testing at the Carnegie Mellon Usable Privacy and Security (CUPS) Laboratory, people who spent 15 minutes playing the Anti-Phishing Phil game were better able to identify fraudulent Web sites than people who spent the same amount of time reading anti-phishing tutorials or other online training materials.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University news release, September 24, 2007

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