Aug 13

That’s a Whale of a Fail!

Blame Excel:

Due to an error in an Excel spreadsheet used to model risk, JP Morgan seriously underestimated the downside of its synthetic credit portfolio, which ultimately led to the bank to declare $6 billion in losses and could lead to another $600 million in fines. As James Kwak explains on Baseline Scenario, the errors stemmed from a combination of copy-paste mistakes and a faulty equation created to crunch the numbers.

Via Quartz.

Jun 13

Not lying. Technically.


Great news! The big tech companies are telling the truth when they say they are not giving the government all your digital data. Not Great News?  They might be giving it to a company that provides that data as a service to the government, via TPM.

By the way, if you are outraged, where were you in 2006?


Dec 11

Carrier Low-IQ

Here’s what you need to know…


CarrierIQ is what has been described as a rootkit which is installed on most cell phones.  When this news initially came out, CarrierIQ took some rather heavy-handed actions to silence the researcher looking into the application.

The concern amongst privacy activists (such as myself) is that 1) users have no ability to opt-out or 2) detect and deactivate CarrierIQ and 3) that CarrierIQ records EVERYTHING including keystrokes, text messages, phone numbers, and URLs, apparently in plain text.  The circumstances and conditions which cause CarrierIQ to ‘phone-home’ are unclear at this time.

As of this time, all of the major cellphone manufacturers are stating that they do not install CarrierIQ on their devices, and some cell phone carriers (from the UK via the Guardian as well as Verizon and Rogers) have explicitly stated that they do not use CarrierIQ.  CarrierIQ has been stated as being a tool which is installed by the carrier (ie. cell phone provider) and not phone manufacturers (ie. Motorola, HTC, Nokia, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, RIM, or Apple).   To Apple’s credit, they do provide a way to turn CarrierIQ off, with support being dropped on future versions of the iOS software. Verizon has stated that they do not use CarrierIQ, while Sprint and AT&T have used it in the past.

CarrierIQ has made a statement to clarify [pdf]:

Our software is designed to help mobile network providers diagnose critical issues that lead to problems such as dropped calls and battery drain.

CarrierIQ in turn has pointed their finger at the carriers [via Android Central]:

Carrier IQ acts as an agent for the Operators. Each implementation is different and the diagnostic information actually gathered is determined by our customers – the mobile Operators. Carrier IQ does not gather any other data from devices.

The United States Senate via Senator Al Franken has demanded answers [pdf].   Mashable has a good FAQ should you want to know more.  Public Intelligence links to corporate manuals.

Mar 10

Mobile Phones: Nothing to Lose?

Quick thought – both Palm and Microsoft are foundering in the mobile phone market. Why not cell unlocked phones directly to consumers? Also, why not sell data plan-only phones with VOIP?

Feb 10

Google and Facebook

During each of the user revolts which followed Facebook’s earlier redesigns, the official response from the top had been to dig in their heels and sell the changes they had made.

Google has had a very different response, having made many changes on a near-immediate basis to directly address user concerns and suggestions.

The impact of their differing philosophies may seem insignificant now, but stances like that are what define the differences between the Apple and Microsoft of an earlier time.