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Whether or not governments should be allowed to sift through particular personal assets has been a subject of debate for longer than any of us have ever lived. Much more in the 21st century, the definition of “personal assets” has been extended to a variety of things such as emails, phones, SMS messages, private Facebook posts, and the odd selfie.

On 27 April 2023, members from both parties in the U.S. Congress passed The Email Privacy Act which would effectively force the government to seek a warrant before asking a tech company to hand over personal emails.

Similar provisions exist in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, mentioning the “right to be left alone” and a “respect for private life.” “Why is email different from an individual’s papers within their home?” you may ask. But perhaps the question should be, “What made it difficult for the U.S. government to treat personal assets like emails the same as a safe in a house’s attic?”

The Dilemma

We seem to apply different rules to different situations on personal assets (such as public pictures that people regret posting still being considered private property depending on who you ask), which complicates what we define as private. Just how private is a picture of your dog that you set as your avatar on a forum? And, more importantly, how private are your emails when they aren’t stored in your own computer but on a server several miles away from your home?

These questions led to an ethical dilemma. Although the spirit of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is very clear on leaving people’s things alone, there are several ways to demonstrate that it leaves a bit of leeway when it comes to things like people’s vehicles. In many cases, the police can search a car without a warrant, especially if it is impounded.

The one place where you can be sure that the fourth amendment applies (for the most part) is within a person’s house. Unless you live inside your email provider’s data center, it’s very likely that your email is separated from you by hundreds or even thousands of miles. This can provide all sorts of arguments for the legal definition of personal effects to be stretched a bit.

What U.S. Law Says About Email

Before The Email Privacy Act, according to U.S. law, every email that is older than 180 days and is stored online can be accessed by authorities. Newer messages required warrants.

The reason why this is relevant, even if you live outside of the United States, is because companies based there have something called an MLAT (mutual legal assistance treaty). Through this treaty, foreign investigations into holders of email accounts that are hosted in the United States can be carried out with the assistance of U.S. authorities. Once a case is handed over to a U.S. attorney, the procedure must follow the country’s laws in the process of acquiring evidence and information. This could possibly mean that a warrant would be required even if the person holding the email is not a U.S. citizen, since the company hosting it is based there.

Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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Twitter Does Not Need To Be Free

When new Web companies start up, the most attractive business model is to offer the service for free so the public can gain a quick understanding of the company’s value proposition. A free Web service can grow quickly if it provides value. Along with that rapid growth, though, come the headaches of spammers and spambots–computer programs used to send annoying spam.

Two very important results would happen if Twitter went to a modest-annual-fee model. A lot of the information pollution on Twitter would be cleaned up, and Twitter would have another steady source of income. Running a company as globally important as Twitter with some 60 employees does not make sense. No way can 60 employees respond to all the genuine needs of Twitter users and the Twitter ecosystem of hardware, software, and people. The extra income from the $10 annual fee would allow Twitter to hire the employees it needs to run the company in a responsible fashion.

Here is one personal benefit to me that would happen when Twitter moves to an annual-fee model. If most of the spammers and spambots were removed from Twitter, I could more easily follow the people I want to follow on Twitter.

Who are the people I want to follow on Twitter? I’m interested in following some of the people who follow Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media. Tim is very thoughtful and perceptive in his tweets. In my books, the guy is simply genuine, smart, and decent–a rare combination in these times.

So I’m interested in hearing the ideas of other people who similarly admire Tim’s thinking. Right now, locating those persons is almost impossible, even though I can see a full list of his more than one million followers. That follower list, however, is so polluted with spammers, it could take me hours to track down one real human being.

If all those spammer accounts were removed, I could start listening to the people who feel that Tim O’Reilly has important things to say. And I could listen to them directly, independent of retweets from Tim. Much as I value Tim’s own ideas, I value the ideas of people in his intellectual ecosystem just as much. And Tim’s time is finite. He can only retweet so much.

Sometimes free becomes too expensive. Twitter should move to a modest-annual-fee basis. Doing so would immeasurably improve the service. In my case, I would be so relieved to be able to pay for it.

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You Might Not Need A Colonoscopy To Be Screened For Colon Cancer

In the United States, screening for colorectal cancer is usually unpleasant. A patient’s preparation begins with a liquid diet, laxatives, and the uncomfortable knowledge of where the colonoscopy camera is going to go.

But there’s another, effective way to screen for colorectal cancer: fecal immunochemical tests, or FITs, which detect blood in stool (an early sign of cancer). The tests can accurately identify cancer, according to a review and meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

If the FIT comes back negative, the patient is in the clear until their next annual test. If it comes back positive, only then would they have a colonoscopy, says study author Thomas Imperiale, researcher at the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research. “If the comparison is to do a colonoscopy on everyone, you can greatly reduce the use of colonoscopy by doing a FIT,” he says. “As long as it still enables you to detect most of those cancers.”

The latest study builds on a 2014 review of FIT performance. “At that time, there were fewer studies available,” Imperiale says. His team’s analysis looked at 31 studies which included a total of over 120,000 patients. They found that the tests had a moderate to high sensitivity for cancer, meaning they identified cancer when it was present, and had a low rate of false positives.

Different studies included in the meta-analysis had different thresholds for flagging a positive tests, which impacted the amount of cancers detected. When the test considered 20 micrograms per gram of blood in the sample as a positive, it identified three out of four cancers, with a low false positive rate, Imperiale says. But when the threshold was lowered to 10 micrograms per gram, the sensitivity goes up. “You can take the sensitivity up to identify 9 out of 10 cancers.” However, that generates more false positives.

But James Allison, emeritus professor at the University of California, San Francisco and emeritus investigator at Kaiser Permanente, isn’t worried. He says these adenomas grow very slowly, and only around 6 percent annually will actually become cancerous. Because FITs are intended to be used annually, a patient with a negative result would ideally be tested repeatedly, increasing their likelihood of detecting an adenoma. Colonoscopies, on the other hand, are only done every 10 years. “You have a long time, in a program of repeated screenings, before it hurts someone,” says Allison, who published an editorial on FIT that accompanied the new study. Not identifying them on the first test is not necessarily a problem, he says, because they’re slow growing, and if they’re discovered on a FIT a year later, they likely won’t pose a major problem.

The easy annual repeatability of FITs is one of the test’s major benefits, Imperiale says. “If you have repeated negative tests, you can start to stack meaningful results, and get away with not everyone needing a colonoscopy.” After all, only around 4 percent of people with adenomas get colorectal cancer. “95 percent of the population will never get it. Negative FITs will identify who those people are.”

Colonoscopies have been the standard screening for colorectal cancer in the United States, but the U.S. Preventative Task Force, the agency that produces medical screening guidelines,does not recommend colonoscopies over FIT, or vice versa. Instead, the organization says the goal is to get the highest number of people screened. In other countries, like Canada, FIT is always the first line screening for colorectal cancer. Patients cannot have a colonoscopy covered by insurance without first having a FIT.

The fecal immunochemical tests is much less invasive than a colonoscopy. Wikimedia

The tests are also a lot cheaper than colonoscopies, notes Imperiale—and people are much more likely to do them than they might be to do a colonoscopy, which for many is uncomfortable and stressful.

FITs aren’t for everyone. Allison would not recommend the test for people with a family history of colorectal cancer or other significant risk factors. “I do not think a FIT is appropriate there,” he says. Imperiale agrees, and says that recognizing both options means patients with different risk factors can make informed choices with their doctors. A patient with some risk factors and who rarely goes to the doctor might be better off with a colonoscopy, he says. But for a marathon runner who stays on top of preventative check-ups, there aren’t a lot of upsides to colonoscopy. “Low-risk, compliant patients may do best with FIT,” he says.

To properly use FIT as a colorectal cancer screening strategy, hospitals and clinics must have systems in place to re-test people in the years after a negative result Imperiale says. “More importantly, people who are positive need to know that they need to go in for a colonoscopy,” he says.

There are multiple FITs available from different manufacturers, with varying amounts of information available, and patients should ask their doctors about the evidence behind the particular version they’re using, Allison says. The U.S. Preventative Task Force details the FITs with the best performance.

Ultimately, this study is a reminder that checking in with your gut doesn’t necessarily require a colonoscopy. “Non-invasive tests for colon cancer are a good option for average risk patients,” Imperiale says. “There are options, and the only wrong option is to go unscreened.”

Should Your Brand Be On Myspace?

In case you missed the news, Myspace is making a comeback. Don’t make an appointment to get your eyes checked. You read that correctly. Myspace, the once dominant social media platform, has been gaining users. Within the last four months, 24 million people have signed up. This brings Myspace’s total users around 36 million. While that’s an encouraging sign, it may be too little too late. For the time being, however, there’s some buzz circulating around MySpace. This begs the question, should you jump on board?

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s briefly describe the ‘new’ Myspace. The site has had a major overhaul, in case you didn’t catch the launch earlier this year. It has a beautiful horizon layout that has a Pinterest-meets-Tumblr vibe with extra-large images, full screen video and being able to drag-and-drop content. Users can also create multimedia playlists and share them with friends on Facebook and Twitter Of course, because the site now has a focus around music, there’s music galore.

Signing up is a painless process and once you’re in, you have options to create a sharp looking Myspace page that contains a bio, images and link to your website. Done effectively, you can select images and multimedia that represents your brand. A nice and engaging way to contact with consumers.

The problem, thus far, is that brands really haven’t embraced Myspace, which is understandable since the company is attempting a comeback. Since the is site geared towards music, you would think that almost anyone in the industry would latch on. For example, publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard aren’t on Myspace, which is a shame. Obviously both magazines are involved with music, but the layout, large images and multimedia content could expand their market by connecting with fans through a new medium.

In short, there’s some potential with the new Myspace. While it will never top Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., it doesn’t have to. Myspace is just another social media outlet that allows people to express themselves in a different way. As of now, it’s perfect for people in the arts, since the images and music are appealing. However, it may have some uphill struggles before major brands jump on board. But, if done properly, Myspace could really help your brands cross into new territories, especially a younger crowd since 70% of its community is now 35 or younger.

If you’ve joined the new Myspace, how do you like it? And, would recommend brands to sign up?

“You’ll Need To Continue On Your Personal Device” – Homekit’s Problem In One Quote

I felt a real sense of deja-vu recently, when I told one of my HomePods to run a scene and Siri responded with “You’ll need to continue on your personal device.” This is a message many of us will remember from 2023 … and 2023 … and 2023. Welcome to the new year – same as the old year.

But more than just an annoyance, this is, to me, an encapsulation of the biggest problem with smart home tech in general, and HomeKit in particular …

Don’t misunderstand me: I love smart home technology, and I love being able to handle almost all of it through Siri and/or the Home app. I rely on it from waking to going to sleep.

At 7 a.m. on weekdays, my bedroom blind opens a little – and only a little – to ease me gently into the world of the waking. A little later, my robocleaner takes care of the hoovering, again on a weekday schedule. When I’m ready to face the prospect of moving to my desk, a single verbal command configures several lights to a warm and not overly-bright light setup in my office, and it automatically switches to brighter and cooler lighting when it’s time for me to actually start work.

At the other end of the day, the command “Hey Siri, I’m going to bed” switches off all of the living room lights, switches on low-level lighting in my bedroom, and closes the bedroom blind.

Or, at least, it should. I mean, it does if I ask my Watch or my phone, but the past few days my HomePods have started with the “You’ll need to continue on your personal device” business.

This unhelpful error message used to mean that you’d asked HomePod to handle a “personal request” – like reading a text message or letting you know your next appointment – without toggling on that feature in the Home app. Fixing it wasn’t exactly intuitive, but it was at least a one-off process:

Open the Home app

Long-press the HomePod concerned

Scroll all the way to the bottom

Tap the settings (gear) icon

Scroll to close to the bottom

Tap Personal Requests

Toggle it on

But not the 2023 version of the message. The 2023 version appears to be the Apple equivalent of the infamous Windows error message “Something went wrong.”

Indeed, before I updated my HomePods to 16.2, my iPhone didn’t even offer me the option of continuing there.

I’ve been getting the same unhelpful response for days now. I’ve restarted everything, and ensured everything is updated, but still no luck. And I know it’s not just me, as colleagues are also experiencing the same thing.

Now, we’re techies. We understand that glitches happen. It’s annoying, but we sigh and troubleshoot, and if that doesn’t fix it, we know that an update probably will soon. It’s also hardly a life-and-death matter that I have to ask my phone rather than my HomePod to save me the trouble of pressing actual buttons.

But I know from the reactions of non-techy friends to this sort of thing that it puts them off the whole idea of smart home tech. It doesn’t matter that it works 99% of the time, this is what they remember about it. And it really doesn’t help when Apple – the company which is supposed to make all this stuff friendly – can have Siri simply shrug and respond in such an unhelpful and uninformative way.

Photo: Michael Soledad/Unsplash

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Siri Can Call Emergency Services For You With Iphone If Need Be

Obviously nobody wants to be in an emergency situation, but if the need ever arises, Siri can come to your aid with a quick ability to dial the local emergency service line, and it works practically wherever you are in the world with the iPhone so long as it has a cellular connection.

There’s not much to this trick, it’s just knowing one of the proper phrases to say to initiate the emergency call. And yes, it works with the hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ command, so this could even work if you weren’t able to reach the iPhone but it was plugged in with that hands-free feature enabled.

Important: Siri dials Emergency Services with these iPhone commands, do not test needlessly!

This is really important, but don’t just test this aimlessly because it does actually call the local emergency service line, yes it works, but unless you’re having an actual emergency, the last thing you want is to tie up their lines with a pointless phone call. While you will have a brief countdown to cancel the call before it dials the emergency hotline, if you’re not cautious then Siri will actually call and connect to the emergency line in your region. This is for genuine emergencies only, do not abuse it!

The following phrases work to initiate an Emergency Call with Siri from an iPhone, you don’t even need to specify the number if you’re in a region where you aren’t sure what the emergency service line is, Siri and the iPhone is smart enough to figure it out.

Siri Emergency Service Dialing Commands

Summon Siri, or use Hey Siri, and issue the following commands to call an emergency line – DO NOT CALL WITHOUT A REAL EMERGENCY:

“Call emergency services”

“Dial 911”

“Phone 911” (9-1-1 is the USA emergency line, using this phrase outside of the USA will also dial the appropriate local emergency line)

“Phone 100” (1-0-0 is the emergency line in India, but it will dial the appropriate line elsewhere as well)

“Dial 100”

“Dial 110”

“Phone 110” (1-1-0 is the emergency line in China, but it will dial the appropriate line where ever you are)

Siri will respond with “Calling Emergency Services in five seconds…” and a big font saying “Emergency Call” with a countdown directly underneath it saying “In 5 seconds, In 4 seconds, In 3 seconds…” etc. You’ll also find two buttons at the bottom, the “Cancel” button to stop the call before it’s connected – what you’ll want to press immediately if you test this out – and then there is the second button, “Call”, which will immediately connect the iPhone to the emergency service dispatch line.

As mentioned before, this will even work across the room with a “Hey Siri, call emergency services” if the iPhone is plugged in and Hey Siri is enabled. The countdown will happen and dial the appropriate number.

In the USA, this is the familiar 9-1-1 call to a dispatch line of first responders, usually firemen or the police, but it works abroad in other nations to connect to their emergency lines as well.

As we’ve mentioned before, and we’ll reiterate yet again, do NOT try this or aimlessly call this number just for testing purposes. Many emergency dispatch lines will send a first responder to the location of a call (typically the local police arrive first, they pinpoint the location of the call with cellular triangulation which is generally quite accurate) if there is a questionable call that goes to the center, with the idea of being “better safe than sorry”, so it is absolutely critical that you do not toy around with this feature. Only use this if you have a genuine emergency, like when you or something else actually needs firefighters, police, or paramedics.

Interestingly enough, according to TheDailyDot you could initiate this call process through an indirect question of “Siri charge my phone to 100%”, which would dial ‘100’, and thus an emergency service line (yes, even in the USA). Some users report that still works, but in my testing it would not, while all of the above mentioned commands do work to dial the appropriate number.

Hopefully you’ll never need to use this feature, but it’s certainly good to know it’s there if the need ever does arise!


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