Reading 14 Response

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Reading 14 Response

After reading the articles, do you believe that coding is the new literacy? Should everyone be exposed or required to take a computer science or coding class?

I absolutely support increased education (specifically earlier education) in Computer Science. Computer Science Degree Hub writes that “[t]he computer science industry is projected to grow much faster than other industries over the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” The rate at which the industry is growing creates an undeniable need to have a larger push in computer science education, let alone a basic coding/computer literacy. And this need can be seen in the efforts of companies to bring in more young people to computer science based careers. Ina Fried writes for Axios that google announced “a new five-year, $1 billion program to help close the global education gap. Part of the program was a new “Grow with Google” program to work with U.S. cities as well as a $10 million grant to Goodwill that will see Google employees working with the nonprofit to train people in digital skills.” This interest in digital skills from companies can help to fund public schools and build interest in an ever growing part of the economy. However not everyone is in support of an increase in CS funding. The increased abstraction of coding languages and analytics are quickly making coding easy and unnessecary to teach, according to Jason Bradbury. Additionally, funding problems and lack of teacher qualification also make it difficult.

When it comes to a person’s ability to program, there are many that do have a natural talent for it. Much like many that do better in math, or are more talented in sports, naturally talented individuals can find it easier to participate in computer science as well. Does this mean that not everyone can code? No. With access to a computer (and ideally the internet), which is not to be taken for granted, anyone can learn to code with enough practice and dedication. That’s not saying that it’s for everyone, and many people that are good at it might not enjoy it. But the growing access to computers and sites that teach coding make it possible for many people to start to develop on their own. Should everyone learn to program? As technology continues to creep more and more into our lives and apps take up more and more of our time, I believe it’s important to be literate in what makes them run, why they work, and what they do. It’s important to understand how an app might manipulate a user, what kind of data it uses about you, and how it might disrupt daily life. Programming and learning to code are the stepping stones to this literacy. I realize that a high level overview like this is certainly not coding, but the teaching of programming spreads this way of thinking and analyzing new technologies. Tasneen Raja writes for Mother Jones that “It turns out that rather than increasing the number of kids who can crank out thousands of lines of JavaScript, we first need to boost the number who understand what code can do.” At least understanding the power and capability of a computer should be the first step to increasing and educating about computer science.

Reading 13 Response

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Reading 13 Response

From the readings, what exactly are patents? What are the ethical, moral, economic, or social reasons for granting patents?

A patent is a set of rights granted to the owner of the patent that allows them to exclusively own an idea. Basically, if someone patents an invention, they’re the only ones allowed to make it. This presents several issues. At first glance it looks like patents help to protect the ideas of others. In episode 551 in Planet Money it is explained that patents reward inventors and give incentive to continue innovating. However in the same episode it is argued that “in the vast majority of cases, patents do way more harm than good.” Take the Wright brothers inventing the airplane. Their airplane was poorly made, flew low, and was difficult to land. However they received a patent for it, keeping anyone from improving on it. Planes with higher maneuverability and better landing were first invented by the french. Patents can block innovation and bloat prices of products in many areas. This can especially be seen in the healthcare industry. I believe patents hinder innovation, bottle-necking new methods to be worked on and improved on by a single entity, one that might not be able to see the full uses of its invention.

This belief extends to software patents. Large software companies with thousands of patents are blocking small businesses from entering and competing in their markets. Timothy Lee writes for ARS Technica that when Microsoft was a small company, “Microsoft feared the incumbents they were trying to displace would use the patent system to fortify their dominant positions in their respective markets. They thought their chances in the marketplace were better than their chances in the courtroom.” And now that Microsoft is a large company, “Microsoft is the incumbent, and their dominance is being challenged by smaller, more nimble companies.” This ability of a larger company to stop a startup in its tracks is degrading the culture of innovation. Tangible or intangible artifacts, I don’t think patents should be used at all. The existence of patent trolls only solidifies this belief.

According to eff.org, “a patent troll uses patents as legal weapons, instead of actually creating any new products or coming up with new ideas. Instead, trolls are in the business of litigation (or even just threatening litigation). They often buy up patents cheaply from companies down on their luck who are looking to monetize what resources they have left, such as patents.” These patent trolls are popping up everywhere, especially in software. Companies that pour more money into their legal departments than their research and development in order to eliminate competition through sheer size. A system that was created to give incentive to invention and creation is now harming it, strangling small companies that do their best to come up with something new. As a person interesting in possibly starting my own business eventually, the idea that a large company would bar me from entry into the market or extort me for new ideas is disheartening. Either the patent system needs to be revisited or it needs to be shut down.

Reading 11 Response

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Reading 11 Response

From the readings, what is artificial intelligence and how is it similar or different from what you consider to be human intelligence?

According to Kris Hammond on ComputerWorld, “artificial intelligence is a sub-field of computer science. Its goal is to enable the development of computers that are able to do things normally done by people — in particular, things associated with people acting intelligently.” When many people imagine AI, they imagine sentient robots they might see in sci-fi movies or dystopian fiction. Simply put, AI is teaching a computer to work intelligently, like a human. While we may get to a sentient robot rebellion sometime in the future, there’s nothing to worry about in the near future.

Technology emerging nowadays offer proof of the effectiveness of AI. While there were supposed jumps in AI like the Deep Blue computer that beat the best chess player at chess, this turned out to be more of an interesting gimmick. However recently a system called AlphaGo did something more impressive. Michael Nielsen writes for Quantamagazine that “the Go-playing system that recently defeated one of the strongest Go players in history” shows incredible potential in AI. Not only is Go a more difficult / intricate game than chess, but it requires an intuitive sense to understand where the game might be heading. It seems that developers have achieved this sense with AlphaGo, a much more complicated feat than it seems. This leap could lead to things like emotional interpretation and expression.

The Turing Test seeks to measure if an AI is passable as a human by placing it in a human conversation. A human with have a digital chat with both an AI and another human. If the proctor of the test can’t tell who is who, the AI has passed. The Chinese Room is a counter argument to this. It says that If the conversation were in Chinese and with a person that only spoke English, given an English to Chinese dictionary, a person would basically be acting as a computer, following steps to transcribe the meaning of the words coming in and going out. Since this is simple computation, it is weak AI and does not pass. However it seems this school of thought overlooks the intricacies of human conversation. Understanding the tone of a conversation, subtext of a statement, and choices in punctuation / grammar can change a conversation astutely. Because of this, according to Phillip Ball at BBC, “researchers have devised new variants of the Turing Test that aren’t about the capacity to hold a plausible conversation.” While it might be a good tell, there is more to AI than just conversation, and the Turing Test needs to be updated if it is to keep up.

Could a computing system ever be considered a mind? A question such as this makes a lot of people uneasy. It ventures beyond technological philosophy and into religious and spiritual beliefs of people. Can a human program another sentient being? Would that be playing God? Would that being have a soul? Tamia Lombrozo writes for edge that “one advance in how we think about thinking has come from recognizing and abandoning the idea that “thinking like I do” is the only way to think about thinking, or that “thinking like I do” is always the best or most valuable kind of thinking. In other words, we’ve benefited from scrutinizing the implicit assumptions that often slip into discussions of thinking, and from abandoning a particular kind of thinking chauvinism.” She says that humans have not monopolized what thought is, so why should we limit computers to only be able to “think” the way we do? Animals and insects think, why can’t a smartphone? Thought evolves, just as nature has. Have humans developed a way for thought to evolve past our own minds? There’s no way of knowing that now, but I do know that our machines have their own method of thinking, and in a sense, their own minds.

Reading 12 Response

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Reading 12 Response

Self-driving cars are quickly popping up more and more. Tesla already has a self-driving feature available in commercial vehicles, Google is developing their own AI, and companies like Uber and Lyft are beginning to invest more and more into self-driving research. The benefits of such technology are clear. Tesla writes on their website that “full autonomy will enable a Tesla to be substantially safer than a human driver, lower the financial cost of transportation for those who own a car and provide low-cost on-demand mobility for those who do not.” A self-driving AI is much safer than a human driver. Google has driven 1.8 million miles with autonomous vehicles, and not once has their car been the cause of a fender-bender. Additionally, ride share programs can implement AI to significantly drop costs for passengers. This makes safe, affordable transportation much more easy to obtain. As with anything, there are downsides. Precisely proving the reliability of a self-driving fleet will take a long time. Jonathan Gitlin writes for ars technica that according to RAND, in order to prove AI is statistically safer than human drivers, companies would need “a fleet of 100 autonomous vehicles being test-driven 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at an average speed of 25 miles per hour, this would take about 12.5 years.” While general speculation tells us that they are safer, the only way to be sure is to deploy fleets in real life, which is not something people are ready to jump into.

The social dilemma of self-driving cars is the inevitable time when a self-driving car is involved in a fatal accident. As a programmer, this can be a daunting thing to approach. Do you want to have part in building a system that people put their lives on the line using? This type of question can be found in plenty of other types of engineering. When building a bridge, or designing a huge machine, or building a plane, engineers know that their work can influence the lives of the people using these structures. The answer is the same across all fields: you build your system, and check it against coworkers, historical data, and regulation. In the end, failures will happen, especially for such a wide scale project, but if you followed regulation and built the system to the best of your ability, than there is no fault of your own. Accidents happen, and there’s no way to prepare against every single one.

The ramifications of self-driving cars extend past the technological sphere. Politics is already involved in this innovation. David Shepardson at Reuters writes that “the U.S. House on Wednesday unanimously approved a sweeping proposal to speed the deployment of self-driving cars without human controls by putting federal regulators in the driver’s seat and barring states from blocking autonomous vehicles.” This is a great sign for the support behind autonomous vehicles. It means that the government sees the need for such technology, and also the need for regulation in a speedily growing sector. While regulation is not everyone’s favorite thing, the spotlight is good for AI in cars. It indicates that there is support in DC for the technology and that all eyes are on its growth. the economy will be influenced as well. While autonomous cars will initially be pricey, public transportation will not shy away from participating and purchasing fleets. This will help transportation costs go down, allowing those that can’t own a car to have access to previously too-far-away destinations. Big changes are coming, and it’s important to consider how this huge paradigm shift might influence yourself.

I would want a self-driving car. On top of the initial convenience of not having to have my full attention on the road, I have full trust that the products being put out by these companies (and their software developers) are well-tested and safer than human intuition. Additionally, participating in and encouraging the growth of new technology helps the industry, in turn helping promote further advancements and technological breakthroughs.

Reading 10 Response

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Reading 10 Response

From the readings and from your experience, what exactly is trolling? How does this behavior manifest itself and what are its causes and effects? Likewise, what is cyberbullying and how is it different from regular bullying?

Trolling is an online form of harassment that has the benefit of being anonymous. A person can harass and pester someone from the comfort of their home without revealing their identity all because of the explosion of social media and online communication forums. This type of behavior manifests itself because of this anonymous nature; a person is typically not as bold to attack others like this in real life. The effects of this harassment vary depending on the severity, however all are negative. Jake Swearingen writes about the prevalence of such bullies: “one out of every four women between 18 years old and 24 years old reports having been stalked or sexually harassed online. Two out of five people said they’d been victims of some form of online harassment. And nearly three-quarters of responders said they’d witnessed harassment online.” These numbers only go over how many have experienced it, not the effect on the mental health and general wellness of victims. Trolling can be scary and devastating to wellness and mental health.

Cyberbullying is another online form of attacking a person. Along with the popularity and accessibility of internet connected devices came a new wave of cyberbullying. It can be anonymous or not, but it has all the same effects of verbal abuse in reality. In many ways, it can be more damaging: internet and social media notifications have the ability to constantly follow you around, making it more relentless. While there is no worry of immediate physical abuse, threats, nasty language, and name-calling all effect the brain in similar ways. Additionally, victims are less likely to come forward about it. George Beall wrote for The Next Web that “[f]ewer than half of younger kids who experience cyberbullying from peers tell their parents, and the number gets smaller as victims get older. Of adults who experienced harassment online, only 39% took steps to respond.” This frightening statistic highlights the hidden dangers of what clearly is not a tamer form of bullying. Especially for kids, who are growing up, building their confidence, and learning about the being social both online and personally, a consistent and more subtle form of bullying can have devastating effects on their development.

Anonymity is a the burden of the internet. At times it can be fun to assume a separate identity and be silly or just experience things differently. But this doesn’t make up for the fact that people abuse their lack of accountability for their words and actions. The “no strings attached” attitude to saying hurtful, untrue, or inappropriate things unfortunately fosters a toxic atmosphere. While this isn’t the case for every forum, heavily regulated or not, there is no denying that people take things way too far, and regularly do and say things that they wouldn’t dare do or say to someone. However, as Jake Swearingen writes, “ending online harassment isn’t an easy tech fix. Tweaking human behavior, especially behavior masked by anonymity, is much, much tougher than adjusting an algorithm.” It’s a difficult issue, raising several concerns about privacy, regulation, and freedom of speech. The first and most important step, however, is to teach people (especially children) the best way to handle these situations. We need to educate people how to emotionally handle it, what their options are, and most significantly, to not be afraid to come forward and identify yourself as a victim. Once a stronger focus is put on this education, I believe the public eye can shift towards talking about more regulation and changes in policy. This damaging behavior can’t be totally eliminated, but we can teach each other how to be strong in the face of a bully behind a keyboard.

Project 03 Reflection

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Project 3 Reflection

The rampant popularity of the cloud has undoubtedly come along with a general lack of concern for personal data. Many people don’t know how the cloud work, who manages, and who has access to it. When utilizing these powerful services, we make several trade-offs. In exchange for extreme convenience, compatibility, and accessibility, all backed by the expertise of professionals, we forfeit our own personal information and security to the servers of our cloud service providers. If you use GMail, while they say they respect your privacy, they can access your personal email information anytime they want. They can research you, build your profile, tailor ads best to you. Additionally, you trust them completely to keep this information secure. You have to follow their security optoins and protocols, and any attack on Google subsequently means that your information is being attacked. While these trade-offs seem intense, the reality of the situation is much different. Google employs cyber-security experts to protect your data; most experts are more knowledgeable and better than you at protecting your data. They’ve done this their entire life. Trusting Google to protect your information is likely much more safe than the security that you can provide on your own email server. Additionally, Google has vastly superior resources when it comes to storage. Storage for individuals is expensive and can lead to high personal computer cost. Google offers several gigabytes worth of housing, all outside of your own machine, for free. The expertise in data management and price difference vs uses resources on your own machine make this advantage clear. While their might be skepticism around cloud computing because of widely publicized breaches, in reality, cloud services do their job well and justify their own use.

Considering all the advantages and the difficulties of setting up your own cloud services, I don’t see it worth your while to invest in self-hosted cloud services currently. This could easily change, though. Small changes in privacy policy from any cloud service could prompt a huge change in data housing and security. If Google decided to sell my information to companies rather than keep it secure, I would never use their service again. It all comes down to the amount of privacy a service offers, and on top of that, the trust that they’ve built with their customers. At this point in time, Google has my trust, and considering how powerful their services are, I hope that trust will persist.

As with any online service, there are terms and conditions when I sign up. Cloud services offer terms and conditions when you agree to let them house your data. Assuming, hypothetically, that I was a person that read those terms and conditions, and agreed with them, then I would have the moral standing to complain about encroachment on my security, should it violate those terms. In the end, it’s about being knowledgeable of who you’re giving your data to. If you decide to give your data away without fully understanding the terms, which most people do, including myself, then you have no room to complain that companies are using your data for what they said they would. I agree that encroachments on privacy are scary and can be dangerous, but the onus lands on the consumer to understand what they agreed to and what right they have to action.

 

Project 3 Written Tutorial

Michael O’Malley, Michael Sills, Jose Badilla, Owen Phelan

Option 3: Privacy and Cloud Computing

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iRedMail Written Tutorial

iRedMail is a open-source, self-hosted mail server that allows user to be in complete control of their emailing information. All email info and security is stored and hosted on your own machine, rather than being hosted by services like GMail or Yahoo. The following is a tutorial for how to setup your own iRedMail server.

 

Prerequisites

iRedMail doesn’t work on Windows or MacOS, it requires linux. Additionally, it is highly recommended that your linux installation is clean, meaning that it is relatively new with few extra installed packages. This is important: one of our team members tried to set up the mail server on the linux distribution he uses regularly, and already existing packages like mysql and MongoDB would not let the server run properly.

If you don’t run linux, that’s okay, installation will just take a few more steps. You’ll have to install a virtual machine. Follow the next steps to set up your own linux virtual machine:

 

  1. Download VirtualBox for your OS.
    1. https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads
    2. The above download page has choices for Windows and Mac. Select the correct OS and the installer will download.
  2. Install VirtualBox
    1. Open the installer you just downloaded by clicking on it.
    2. Follow the prompts, installing where you want, and click install.
    3. The following link does a great job explaining how to download and install VirtualBox: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eno4l6pKQHc
  3. Download an image of Linux
    1. There are several different distributions of linux that can use iRedMail:
      1. RedHat
      2. CentOS
      3. Debian
      4. Ubuntu
      5. FreeBSD
      6. OpenBSD
    2. For our installation, we used Ubuntu 16.04 LTS because it is familiar with many of us. You can choose to use a different flavor, but this guide might not be exactly correct for you in that case.
    3. To download Ubuntu, follow this link: https://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop
    4. Click download. The download is several gigabytes, so it will take a while.
  4. Create your virtual machine
    1. Open VM VirtualBox,  which you downloaded and installed earlier.
    2. In the top left corner, click the “New” button
    3. Choose a name for your VM, we chose MailServer
    4. Under type, change Windows to Linux. Make sure Version says Ubuntu (64-bit)
    5. Select whatever amount of RAM you want to allocate to the VM while it’s running. We selected 4096 MB (4GB), which allows the VM to run relatively fast, but slows down our outer system significantly (8GB).
    6. Create a virtual hard disk that is a VDI.
    7. Decide whether to dynamically allocate memory or keep it fixed. Fixed memory takes a while to make and definitively sections off a portion of your computer’s memory, but it runs much faster. Dynamic allocation is made instantly and only takes up as much memory as is used in the VM, but it runs slower. We chose dynamic allocation.
    8. Choose a total amount of memory to allocate to the VM.
    9. Create the VM
  5. Set the VM to use Ubuntu and start it
    1. Click on the newly created VM once and select “Settings” in the upper left corner
    2. Go to the Storage tab. Under storage devices,  select “Empty” under “Controller: IDE”
    3. On the right, for the Optical Drive option, click the CD icon to the right. Select “Choose Virtual Optical Disk File…”
    4. Find and select the Ubuntu image that you downloaded earlier
    5. Select OK to set the settings.
    6. Select the VM and press the green “Start” arrow in the top bar
  6. Follow the Ubuntu installation prompts
    1. Ubuntu will lead you through several prompts to set up the OS correctly. Remember that a VM acts like its own computer, so when it says erase disk and replace with Ubuntu, that will not change your computer, just the VM.
    2. Remember the superuser password you set. Once done, restart the VM.

Congrats! You have a new Virtual Machine with Ubuntu installed.

 

iRedMail Server Installation

The following steps walk you through how to set up your own iRedMail server and begin using it. For a great online guide (and an additional tutorial that goes over better security), visit the following link: https://www.linuxbabe.com/mail-server/ubuntu-16-04-iredmail-server-installation

  1. Set your hostname
    1. Open a terminal: ctrl + alt + t
    2. Move to the /etc directory: cd /etc
    3. Open the hostname file and set your hostname (you’ll have to enter your superuser password): sudo nano hostname
    4. Once inside the file, delete the current hostname and change it to whatever you like. We made ours mail.omalley.com since the VM was on Michael O’Malley’s computer.
    5. Save the file and exit.
    6. Open the hosts file: sudo nano hosts
    7. After 127.0.0.1 and before localhost, add the hostname that you just set
    8. Save and exit
    9. To verify that the hostname is now set and correct, type the command: hostname -f
    10. If it is correct, return to the home directory: cd ~
  2. Download the iRedMail directory
    1. Download the iRedMail tarball: wget https://bitbucket.org/zhb/iredmail/downloads/iRedMail-0.9.7.tar.bz2
    2. Extract the tarball: tar xvf iRedMail-0.9.7.tar.bz2
    3. Move into the iRedMail directory: cd iRedMail-0.9.7/
  3. Run iRedMail configuration
    1. Make the iRedMail config file executable: chmod 755 iRedMail.sh
    2. Run the config file. The setup wizard will take a minute to open: ./iRedMail.sh
    3. Follow the prompts according to the installation you want
      1. Select yes on the opening screen
      2. Select where you want to store the mail information, we kept it set to the default
      3. Select your webserver, we chose Apache because it is familiar
      4. Select your database, we chose MySQL because it is familiar
      5. Pick a password for your database
      6. Pick your first email domain, we chose michaelmail.com
      7. Set an admin password (we’re not going to tell you what we chose for this one
      8. Select all the optional components to use and continue
    4. Now the configuration will begin. This takes a while, for us it took 10 minutes.
    5. At the end of configuration, press y and enter twice to accept the iRedMail firewall security protocols
    6. All the information from configuration can be found in the iRedMail.tips file
    7. Restart the VM before continuing
  4. Sign in, add users, send mail
    1. Open a web browser and navigate to https://your-domain/iredadmin
    2. Sign in with the username and password from the iRedMail.tips file
    3. Do whatever you like as admin!
      1. We decided to add a user and proceed as that user to send mail
    4. Navigate to https://your-domain/mail
    5. Sign in with the admin or with the new user
    6. Navigate the User Interface, explore, and learn. You’ve finished setting up your iRedMail server and are ready to use it.

Once again, additional security measure can be added by following the guide in this link: https://www.linuxbabe.com/mail-server/ubuntu-16-04-iredmail-server-installation

Otherwise, you’re ready to send mail on your own personal email server.

Reading 07 Response

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Reading 07 Response

From the readings and in your experience, what exactly is Cloud Computing and what are some ethical issues or concerns regarding it?

Cloud computing is the practice of using computational resources over the internet. So, instead of storing 10 gigs of personal pictures and videos on your phone, you might decide to free up space and store it in the iCloud instead. Apple has servers that you place this data on, and you have access to it over an internet connection. It is also used a lot in different industries. I interned for a company that large but varying computational demands. Not only did they have terabytes of data coming in daily in need of storage, they also need to perform computations on this data and produce analytics. Using cloud services allowed the company to scale up whenever they needed without having to pay for the labor and infrastructure that came with that.

As a developer, there are many advantages that can be gained from using cloud services. Cade Metzwrites for Wired that “Netflix and Dropbox, for example, built two of the world’s biggest online empires atop Amazon’s cloud services.” The ability to build websites with extensive backend support without having to buy, setup, and maintain your own hardware is amazing. It helps developers focus purely on the software. Before services like AWS or Azure, companies that wanted a website and to run analytic software had to make the costly investment of buying their own servers and hiring people to setup and keep them running. This often included opening an entire new division. And if you decided to have inexperienced employees do it instead of hiring experts, you could easily have security and maintenance problems. There are some disadvantages from the developer side as well. Developers have to learn / take courses in order to fully grasp and understand how to implement the services properly (in fact, AWS certification is a nice thing to have on your resume). A company that didn’t use cloud services would likely have an expert take care of all hardware activities, leaving the developers to focus on developing.

From a singular consumer perspective, the cloud offers most of your storage needs. If you want to store photos or videos, but can’t afford a computer with a large enough hard drive, cloud services are cheap and easy to obtain (often times, the first few gigabytes are free). From an industry standpoint, companies can spin up more hardware resources without having to wait for an order or for setup. They also don’t have to worry about wasted cost / resources if they need to scale down. There are some disadvantages though. John Brodkin wrote in an article on ars technica that “[a] days-long Amazon outage took down sites including Reddit, Foursquare, and Quora back in 2011, and outages continue to pop up from time to time.” Sites that rely on services like AWS have no control over outages. As an industrial consumer, this can be disastrous for your business, especially if it is a web based service. While blackouts can happen without cloud services, it’s easier to know when you’ll be back online with your own hardware. On top of this, security is up to the service provider. While security has improved, the overwhelming proof of both personal and industrial leaks adds to the skepticism of how secure the cloud can be.

At the end of the day, I trust the cloud. The services it provides far outweigh the disadvantages. From someone who will love to build their own company, cloud services allow an inexpensive way to build a hardware foundation, at the speed you deem necessary. It puts you in control of exactly how much hardware you need for your business needs, while simultaneously delegating the job to experts that have spent their lives securing and maintaining servers. If I were to start a business, whether it was web-based are not, I would definitely utilize cloud services.

Reading 06 Response

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Reading 06 Response

From the readings and in your opinion, is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? Should the US government pardon him for any possible crimes or should they pursue extradition and prosecution for treason?

In 2013, Edward Snowden, a contractor for the CIA, leaked confidential NSA information to the newspaper known as The Guardian. He told reporters that the NSA used a secret court order to force Verizon to hand over all its telephone data. Additioanally, he revealed the existence of a program called Prism, which supposedly gave the NSA direct access to the data of huge tech firms like Google and Facebook. These leaks happened in interviews held in Hong Kong, outside of US jurisdiction. It was there that Snowden also decided to identify himself, a statement he felt reflected on his innocence. The US responded by charging Snowden with espionage and asking for his extradition.

Analyzing the morality of Snowden’s situation is next to impossible. Morality is not a single, immutable document to which everyone can refer; it is relevant to the individual. Snowden would not have leaked NSA information if he did not think it was his moral duty. His morality dictates that it was his duty to notify the American people of this gross violation of our privacy. Others would disagree. Michael Hayden wrote in an article for CNN that “there is the undeniable operational effect of informing adversaries of American intelligence’s tactics, techniques and procedures.” One can understand from this different moral viewpoint, Snowden did place enough focus on American safety, just on privacy. In pursuit of protection, the American government needs to keep it’s methods and procedures confidential. Regardless of legality, the moral ambiguity surrounding Snowden’s situation continues to stoke the flames of national debate, even 4 years afterward.

Snowden’s leaks caused a lot of conversation in America. Matthew Jaffe writes in an article for CNN that “[Eric] Holder emphasized, ‘I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate.'”. Snowden believes that the national debate he sparked was worth the consequence of his actions. And the consequences of such a debate are undeniable: heavy focus has been placed on privacy violation and the constant surveillance on our increasingly technological lifestyles. People are becoming more aware of the tactics that both government agencies and corporations are employing to use our information for their needs. However the cost to American security was also great. Another bit from Michael Hayden’s article states that “there are already reports of counterterrorism targets changing their communications patterns.” The reveal of how the NSA operates has exposed secret procedures used in safety surveillance. In his haste to warn the American people of their privacy, Snowden gave enemies of the US an extra advantage. This doesn’t address the legality of his situation, either. Zachary Keck writes for The Diplomat that “a true patriotic whistleblower believes in his or her cause enough to be willing to accept the punishment their disclosures bring.” Snowden fled the US in order to expose the secrets, an continues to evade extradition and opportunities to return to the US to face punishment. His actions encourage the betrayal of US law without facing the punishments that we, as American people, have chosen. Edward Snowden’s actions illuminated unfair treatment to the American people by the government, but that does not make up for the damage he did to couterterrorism infrastructure. Reading about this and learning of the political consequences of Snowden’s actions, rather than just engaging in the national debate of privacy, has helped me to better understand what he did from a global standpoint. Edward Snowden was trying to alert the American people of a breach on their privacy, but in doing so, compromised global (not just american) security.