Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition!
I already did. It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Nanotechnology updates, 07, 2010

Nanotechnology is used more and more. However how do we know it's safe? Seriously?
I'm not against nano-technology AT ALL. What I'm against is it's absolutely random use by any company that liked the texture some nanoparticles give to a face cream or whatever. That's irresponsible! The main point is always the same - simply the knowledge that certain material is safe in general, doesn't mean it will be safe in it's nano version. Because nanoparticles often have difference properties than their "big" versions. And some of them can be quite dangerous for humans. I post 2 articles to support that. The moral of the first is that 1) inhaling nanoparticles is as bad as getting them injected 2) the nanoparticles tend to form different structures when in touch with different solutions and they CHANGE their original properties. In a way that we don't know yet. Now this is quit important, because this point is often skipped even for more mundane substances like the chemical add-ons in our food or cosmetics. The reason behind it is simple - it's hard to impossible to know all the possible reactions that those chemicals may or may not form. However for me one thing is pretty clear - a little simulation can tell us the more likely reactions so that they are tested. Obviously very little of them are directly lethal so far, but that doesn't mean they are not killing us more or less slowly or that they are no damaging to the next generations. And we have the technology to know which one are good and which one are bad. Why nobody is funding such research? I can tell you why. Because it's expensive. However, isn't it more expensive to give all those money on health care? And isn't human life ultimately the most valuable thing for us?

On recent request by EC to regulate nanoparticles in cosmetics, the producers cried out as loud as they could. I doubt it that the idea was abandoned, maybe only until new evidences are gathered. But from the second article it becomes clear that there are such evidences. Some nano-particles are TOXIC! As you can read, some nano-silver was found in the fish's embryo! That's certainly not a place for any toxic material to be. But there it is. How do you know we all don't have nano-silve in our eggs and sperm? And who tested if that's safe in the long run?! I think it's important to know what's good for us and what's bad and to use only the good stuff. Finally, the third article studied how nano-particles aggregate to form bigger structures. Those structures haven't been tested by companies that use nano-particles. And they should be tested.

I believe in technology to make our life better. What I don't believe in, however. is people. People who always go for the cheap option when it's much more expensive in the long run. But they don't care because someone else will pay the price. Ultimately, we all pay it.
Now we have the technology to know the difference. Then why don't we simply use it?

Engineers explore environmental concerns of nanotechnology

February 1, 2010

Linsey Marr and Peter Vikesland, faculty members in the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, are part of the national Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2008. CEINT is dedicated to elucidating the relationship between a vast array of nanomaterials — from natural, to manufactured, to those produced incidentally by human activities — and their potential , biological effects, and ecological consequences. It will focus on the fate and transport of natural and manufactured nanomaterials in ecosystems.


A challenge in tests of nanoparticles' toxicity has been that very small particles like to form aggregates, so testing interactions of the smallest particles with cells requires special approaches.

In their preliminary studies, results indicate that "oxidation does impact solubility, as absorbance after resuspending in water is lower for fullerenes exposed to ozone." The implication is that reactions in the atmosphere can transform nanoparticles and make them more likely to dissolve in water once they deposit back to earth. There, they can travel farther and come in contact with more organisms than if they were stuck to soil.
Already, the biomedical, optoelectronics, sensors and cosmetics industries are among the users of the C60 fullerene.
One of the components of natural water is natural organic matter (NOM). When the C60 fullerene is released in water, it forms "highly stable dispersed colloidal C60 aggregates or nC60," Vikesland explained. These aggregates can exhibit significant disparities in aggregate structure, size, morphology, and surface charge and behave very differently than the C60 alone.
The problem with NOM is its randomness, resulting in diverse characteristics of the aggregates that form when they mix with the C60.

These acids may significantly affect any conclusions ultimately reached regarding the impact of the C60 fullerene into the environment.  source


Popular nanoparticle causes toxicity in fish, study shows

March 2, 2010 by Brian Wallheimer
(PhysOrg.com) -- A nanoparticle growing in popularity as a bactericidal agent has been shown to be toxic to fish, according to a Purdue University study.
Tested on fathead minnows- an organism often used to test the effects of on aquatic life -- nanosilver suspended in solution proved toxic and even lethal to the minnows. When the nanosilver was allowed to settle, the solution became several times less toxic but still caused malformations in the minnows.
"Silver nitrate is a lot more toxic than nanosilver, but when nanosilver was sonicated, or suspended, its toxicity increased tenfold," said Maria Sepulveda, an assistant professor of forestry and natural resources whose findings were published in the journal Ecotoxicology. "There is reason to be concerned."
Sepulveda and doctoral student Geoff Laban exposed fathead minnows to nanosilver at several stages of their development, from embryo to the point where they swim up from the bottom of their habitats to eat for the first time. Even without sonication, nanosilver caused malformations that included head hemorrhages and edema, and ultimately proved lethal.
Using electron microscopy, Sepulveda was able to detect nanosilver particles measuring 30 nanometers or less inside the minnow embryos.
Nanosilver is growing in popularity as a component of many products. It is used to kill bacteria in goods such as odor-control clothing, countertops, cutting boards and detergents. Currently, there are few regulations for nanosilver's applications in products, but Ron Turco, professor of agronomy and the paper's co-author, said the Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the situation.source

Chemists make breakthrough in nanoscience research

July 12, 2010
A team of scientists led by Eugenia Kumacheva of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto has discovered a way to predict the organization of nanoparticles in larger forms by treating them much the same as ensembles of molecules formed from standard chemical reactions. source

And finally (and not very related):

Army Corps critic sues La. university over firing

February 14, 2010 By CAIN BURDEAU , Associated Press Writer
(AP) -- Ivor van Heerden, a Louisiana State University scientist and a widely cited expert on levee failures after Hurricane Katrina, sued his college on Wednesday, alleging he was fired for his criticism of the Army Corps of Engineers.
 source

Google's new screw-ups, 07, 2010

Hello to everyone.
I spent 10 days in Mexico, so I couldn't post at all, but now I'm back here. Maybe I'll write a little bit more about my stay there, but not today. Today is all about Google, because yesterday when I checked my mail, I found some rather interesting articles.
I find it hard to decide what exactly is the role of Google in our society. It's obvious that they have played a very positive role in opening and expanding Internet to the people. However, I find their behavior more and more questionable these days.
What I mean are mostly three cases - first the way they resumed work in China - they just gave up to the censure. I mean what's the point of showing links that the users can't open? Getting them into more trouble trying to find a proxy that will work and thus attracting the government's attention? It's just not so good idea. At least not on first thought. I may be wrong, I don't know. But still, it doesn't make sense first to tell everybody how you intend to black mail China into removing censure, to wave your flag and then to beg for renewal of your license? Come on.
The second MAJOR screw up was the deal with Google Streets View. The whole gathering of data is no way accidental as I wrote in another post. That much is clear. Well, in this case, I simply cannot believe them. Because you don't gather such data, on such scale, just for the fun of it. It had reason and I cannot see any good reason behind it. I won't even go into conspiracy theory, it's obvious. And I don't like it. And what I like even less is the next thing, that unfortunately connects way too well with this screw up.
The Android applications news!
This one was somehow underestimated, but if you ask me is the BIGGEST news about Google. The thing is that they announced some security breaches in Android's application and how they will REMOTELY remove such dangerous applications from users phones. Oh, thank you Google. How about to tell me what the fuck do you have to do with my phone and with the applications on it. You don't have the right to delete remotely ANY applications unless I required assistance or opted-in for such service. However the article doesn't mention opt-in or opt-out. It says that the user will get a notification about the removed applications. Well, thanks!
I don't know if you realise how bad it is. Google actually have access to the data on your phone (because that means remote access) and that they are able to delete ANY data on your phone. Does this sound normal? Even Microsoft didn't do something so bad. And Google, the major competitor of M$ just proved that they are not much better.
For me personally, this news is very important. It means that Google are simply not ready for the power they already have. Because it's obvious they can do a lot of nasty stuff with very good intentions. The point of being mature is to know where to stop. You can't mess with your users data just to make sure they are safe. You're not their parent, but a provider of a service. I can't think of someone that will want his or her data to be accessible remotely and deleted with only a notification. It may sound good at first, but hey, have you read your Google TOS? If you have not, do it! Because it's very clearly said - you don't have rights. Google can do whatever they please under the cover of good intentions and if they do you good, ok. If they do you wrong, however, you cannot do anything. You're just helpless. Think about it. If Google deletes something important for you from your phone claiming it's for your own protection, how would you feel? And last but not least, remote access means also remote monitoring. Do you want your data to be constantly monitored? Well, I don't. So for me it's clear. Google has a long way to go until they understand that with power comes responsibility. And nobody can limit my options in life, claiming it's for my own good. I decide what's good for me.

Today:

  1. Google Found In Violation Of Australian Privacy Act
  2. Google Gives In To European Regulators
  3. China Renews Google's Internet License
  4. Google Removes Questionable Apps from Android Market

Google Found In Violation Of Australian Privacy Act

Friday, July 9, 2010
Google's indiscretions with regards to WiFi data collection have earned it - for now - three years of close supervision in Australia.  That appears to be about the maximum penalty Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis can impose after determining the company violated a privacy law.

Still, Google will have to perform (and share) Privacy Impact Assessments whenever it alters its Street View data collection practices.  The company's supposed to have regular meetings with the Privacy Commissioner about the impact of other product launches, as well.

Curtis even asked Google to post an apology on its official blog to boot.  And that won't necessarily be the end of things, since other Australian authorities - like the Australian Federal Police - may decide additional consequences would be appropriate.

Curtis did acknowledge that Google cooperated with her investigation. source
(For more info see "Australia launches privacy investigation of Google ")

Google Gives In To European Regulators

Handover of sensitive WiFi data will start this week

Friday, June 4, 2010
Before long, certain European regulators will get to see exactly what sort of information Google amassed when the company's Street View cars collected data sent over private WiFi networks.  Google has decided to start turning over the data by the end of the week.

Interestingly, Google hasn't yet decided to share anything with authorities in Hong Kong, who made a request last month.  But Maija Palmer and Lionel Barber reported late yesterday, "Eric Schmidt, chief executive, said the world's largest internet company would hand over information initially to the German, French and Spanish data protection authorities."

Furthermore, in an effort to make regulators, privacy groups, and individuals relax a little, Google is supposed to publish the results of an external audit. source


China Renews Google's Internet License

Company allowed to continue operating

Friday, July 9, 2010
After months and months of censorship, workarounds, and harsh words between them, it's been decided: the Chinese government will not force Google out of the country.  Google announced this morning that its Internet Content provider license has been renewed.
Google's announcement came in the form of a one-sentence update to the most recent China-related post on the Official Google Blog.

The update read, "We are very pleased that the government has renewed our ICP license and we look forward to continuing to provide web search and local products to our users in China."

This is undeniably big news, though.  From a human rights perspective, it means Google will continue to expose itself to criticism over whatever information it denies Chinese users.  And also praise for at least providing them with some information they might have had more trouble accessing before.

Then, from a business perspective, this development means Google still has a chance to profit as the world's most populous country goes online. source
"The license, which China could revoke at any time, allows Google to keep its Web site, Google.cn, in China and continue operating some Internet services there. It also allows Google to continue referring users in China to its uncensored Hong Kong-based Chinese language search engine, at google.com.hk.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a special administrative region of China, is governed separately from the mainland. Under the current setup in mainland China, users can conduct a Google search and see the results, but often they cannot open the links because they are blocked by the Chinese government." source



Google Removes Questionable Apps from Android Market

Thursday, June 24, 2010
Yesterday a questionable report from SMobile Systems was released talking about Android security and how a fifth of Android apps pose security risks. 

Google's Jay Nancarrow told WebProNews, "This report falsely suggests that Android users don't have control over which apps access their data. Not only must each Android app gets users' permission to access sensitive information, but developers must also go through billing background checks to confirm their real identities, and we will disable any apps that are found to be malicious."

Even still, today Android has taken the initiative to have a couple of (intentionally) questionable apps removed from the Android Market. Android Security Lead Rich Cannings writes:


Every now and then, we remove applications from Android Market due to violations of our Android Market Terms of Service or Content Policy. In cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat, we’ve also developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices. If an application is removed in this way, users will receive a notification on their phone.

Recently, we became aware of two free applications built by a security researcher for research purposes. These applications intentionally misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage user downloads, but they were not designed to be used maliciously, and did not have permission to access private data — or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them.


Google used its remote application removal feature to "clean up" any remaining installed copies of the apps. source

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