Campus News Blog: Computer-Assisted Reporting: Pointless at SMU

April 23, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Liz Ford

One of the most agitating aspects of studying journalism at SMU is not the curriculum. It is not the teachers. It is not the work.

No, what will really make a j-student’s blood boil at SMU is the fact that the administration answers to no one.
Most schools have some sort of protection in the form of FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. In a nutshell, this protects student records from nosy little reporters like me.

But at SMU and other private universities, FERPA isn’t even needed. Private universities don’t have to tell you anything they don’t want to. Think the Freedom of Information Act will help? Think again. You can Google laws left and right and you’ll still be stuck without any records.

And don’t think you’ll find a lot online. If you do come across some piece of gold, consider yourself highly lucky. You’ve gotten farther than most of us.

So basically, you can go to the local or state courthouse to find almost whatever you want on criminal cases, but if you think you can ask the school how many fraternity violations there have been in the past two years you are in for a rude awakening.

So let’s review: FERPA, pointless. Freedom of Information Act, pointless. Computer Assisted Reporting classes, pointless. Gumshoe reporting, stopped in its tracks.

You’ll do much better looking up records for a police department online. You can find really grisly murder details.

Global News Blog: Toronto Uncovers Chinese Computer Espionage Scheme

March 31, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Madison Wertz

Cooperation, diplomacy, world peace! Are these not the themes that are supposed to embody our world’s global decree? Reported by the Vancouver Sun, University of Toronto has uncovered a broad Chinese espionage scheme that is focused on introducing viruses into foreign embassies and news service computers that will transfer information stored on the foreign computer back to the host computer.

This system, nicknamed GhostNet, would introduce Trojan horse malware into computers effectively gaining full control of the targeted computers, including searching and downloading specific files, covertly operating attached devices, and yes, access to microphones and web cameras. O yah and did I forget to mention, the software is not detectable by any anti-virus programs. Talk about invasion of privacy.

I think it is pretty understood that all of us countries are constantly spying on each other while shaking hands at the same time, but ladies and gentlemen I believe the game has been risen to a new level, yet again. The article reports that there is no direct connection to this program and the Chinese government, but even if an individual independently developed this program to sell the information shouldn’t there be some kind of international ethos that agrees this type of behavior is punishable?

It is important to recognize that this software could not only be used for government spy programs, but now that the system has the potential to be on the open market, could be used to gather information on businesses, used by terrorist organizations or even for governments to spy on it’s own citizens. How is the everyday computer users expected to protect their information and privacy with this type of system floating around?

I’m not clear on international law and legislation but I believe there will be a strong cry from the international community for a course of action. However, I can understand how incredibly complicated this will be because any law restricting the internet use comes with a Pandora’s box of violating free speech and innovation. Let me just say 10 points for University of Toronto and their research—you may have saved the little man as well as Big Brother.