Monday 7 December 2009

Article: Wikipedia in Court

An interesting paper posted on SSRN is titled Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate. The paper discusses how and when Wikipedia should be used in court and some of the controversies attached to it. According to the abstract, "Practitioners and courts are relying more and more on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Hundreds of court opinions, including at least one from every federal circuit court, and thousands of law review articles cite Wikipedia. Some opinions have relied on Wikipedia for technical information, although others only turned to the consensus website for background information on minor points." The authors lays out a process for determining when it is and when it is not appropriate to cite Wikipedia and other similar online sources. The authors are Jason C. Miller, law clerk to the Honorable Deborah L. Cook, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and Hannah B. Murray, Editor-in-chief, Michigan Telecommunications and Technology of Law Review.

ULS training sess on United Nations Resources this friday

This Friday, Dec. 11 at 2 PM the University Library System at Pitt is hosting a Public Services Training Group session on United Nations Resources. Tom Twiss, ULS's resident expert, will lead the session, discussing the variety of resources we have in our UN collection, the kinds of UN materials that are most frequently requested, how to search for UN publications, and the UN call number systems. The session will be held in the Amy Knapp Instruction Room, and can also be accessed remotely via Webex by going to the webex site for the session .

House of Representatives publishes financial disclosure records online

On November 30, the House of Representatives published its Members financial records of official expenditures online. The House administration office had previously only published the records in print form, but the records will now be released in downloadable PDF form too. The pdf, which is over 3,000 pages long, is broken into three parts of about a thousand pages each. It is browsable and searchable, and you can look up a particular Congressman's or Congresswoman's information through an alphabetical list in the table of contents.

New CRS report on Executive Branch lobbying rules

The Congressional Research Service issued a report called "Lobbying the Executive Branch: Current Practices and Options for Change" on December 1. The report discusses the Obama Administration's new lobbying rules for members of the executive branch of government. It concludes that the new White House rules have changed the game in Washington, noting that "Creation of restrictions on federally registered lobbyists' access to executive branch departments and agencies has already changed the relationship between lobbyists and covered executive branch officials."
The report also suggests that Congress might consider enacting similar restrictions on itself.

Friday 4 December 2009

New website gathers complaints about internet privacy (or lack thereof)

Technology Review reports that an internet freedom and privacy advocacy group in Washington D.C. called the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has created a new privacy complaint site that is meant to gather information and get Congress to pass privacy protection laws. The CDT guide to online privacy problems explains existing and often narrowly-written patchwork of court rulings and laws, most of them falling hopelessly behind rapid technological advances. "In the past ten years, the ability of Internet companies to collect and aggregate information has increased dramatically," says Leslie Harris, CDT's president. But while some states have taken action, Congress has not. "We see next year as the first time in a decade that we will have serious debate in Congress on whether we will have comprehensive privacy laws."

Thursday 3 December 2009

Digitized Civil War photo collection online

The Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) has created a digitized collection of approximately 23,000 vintage Civil War photographs from the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States from the Massachusetts Commandery. This collection is considered by historians the single best Civil War photograph collection in the world because of its complexity and completeness. Ken Burns and his staff spent six weeks going through this collection to pull illustrations for his popular PBS series on the Civil War. The collection is browsable and searchable (the link is to the main page of AHEC; click on the MOLLUS collection in the lower right corner of the screen).

Wednesday 2 December 2009

GWU has robot helping to digitize books

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog reports that George Washington University is testing out a robot to help digitize rare books. GW has announced that it will use an automated system to digitize rare Middle Eastern texts from its own library and from that of Georgetown University. Library staffers will digitize hundreds of works over the next two years, and when the project is completed, they will examine the associated costs. They hope to be able to tell other libraries which method of digitization is more affordable. Digitizing just one book can take a human being hours and can involve removing the binding and/or having someone turn the pages. The automated robot at GW uses a black plastic arm to turn pages, pauses as two cameras take pictures of both open pages, and then turns the page again. Air circulates through the arm of the machine, creating a gentle vacuum that can attract a page and guide it from the right side of the book to the left.

Convicted Sex Offenders have Facebook, MySpace accounts disabled in New York State

Slate reports that Facebook and MySpace, two popular social networking sites, have disabled the accounts of about 4500 registered sex offenders in New York State under a new New York law called the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (ESTOP). Under e-STOP, convicted sex offenders forced to register with the state must provide home addresses, e-mail addresses, site usernames, and online profiles as well. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wants other networking sites to follow the lead of My-Space and Facebook.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Sprint: 50 million customers, 8 million law enforcement GPS requests in 1 year

Graduate student Chris Soghoian has a sobering post on his "slight paranoia" blog. His summary of the information says "Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers' (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers. "
Chris is gathering and analyzing this information as part of his doctoral dissertation and welcomes constructive criticism from other "experts in the field".