September 14, 2005

Pushed to Put Medical Records Online [8:54 am]

Health Records Of Evacuees Go Online [pdf]

The federal government is making medical information on Hurricane Katrina evacuees available online to doctors, the first time private records from various pharmacies and other health care providers have been compiled into centralized databases.

[...] The records are one step in reconstructing medical files on more than 1 million people disconnected from their regular doctors and drug stores. Officials fear that many medical records in the region, especially those that were not computerized, were lost to the storm and its aftermath.

Although the immediate focus is on urgent care for hurricane victims, participants in the effort say the disaster demonstrates a broader need to computerize individual health records nationwide and make them available throughout the medical system. Such a step could, for example, give emergency room doctors a way to quickly view medical histories for late-night accident victims.

Electronic health records are controversial among many privacy advocates, who fear the data could be exploited by hackers, companies or the government.

[...] Federal regulations do not require patient consent for their records to be shared for medical purposes. Companies or organizations that have such data must have formal agreements with each other before data can be exchanged, but the government said it would not enforce those rules while Katrina victims were in need, as long at the entities had verbal agreements to use the data for the relief effort.

States with more stringent regulations suspended their rules as well.

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Gasoline Prices and Broadband Deployment [8:46 am]

Telecommuting Interest Soars [pdf]

With gas prices in the Washington region among the highest in the nation, increasing numbers of beleaguered commuters are looking to trade two-hour treks on congested freeways for speedy telecommutes via the information superhighway, teleworking advocates say.

“Unfortunately, it takes a kind of unbelievable event like this to get people’s attention and force them to change the way they do things,” said Bob Smith, director of the Silver Spring-based ITAC, formerly known as the International Telework Association & Council.

Teleworking advocates — including the federal government — say they hope widespread consternation about rising fuel prices will prove to be the tipping point needed to bring about a telecommuting revolution. And they have been scrambling to convert the public to their cause.

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An Internet-Based Promotions Model [8:24 am]

Comedy’s Newest Breakthrough Star: Dane Who?

Eight years ago, not long after moving up from the comedy scene in his native Boston to the national club circuit, Mr. Cook was looking to set himself apart from the crowded stand-up pack and to cultivate a following without the benefit of regular television exposure. So he boldly went where few comedians had gone before: he set up a Web site.

[...] The bet paid off. Mr. Cook, 33, is one of the great stealth success stories in show business. A stand-up comedian for 15 years, he has spent most of his career well under the pop-culture radar - seen occasionally on the late-night talk shows and Comedy Central, but still essentially a secret to all but his most loyal fans. As it turns out, there are a lot more of those than the rest of the world realized.

Last month, Mr. Cook became the first comedian to reach the Top Five of the Billboard album chart since 1978. “Retaliation” (Comedy Central Records), his second album, entered the chart at No. 4. It has been sliding down since then, but it has also just been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. That is a feat once achieved with regularity by the likes of Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Steve Martin (whose “Wild and Crazy Guy” was the last Top Five comedy album), but it is a rare accomplishment for a comedian these days, let alone one who to many is still “Dane Who?”

[...] [A]s Mr. Cook acknowledges, his success is a matter of marketing as well as material.

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Open Internet Threatened? [8:18 am]

Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye

In a variety of cases, courts are holding that people can’t access internet computers without first getting authorization from the computer’s owner. Judges are assuming that the public has no right to use unsecured computers connected to the internet, and are requiring the public to get permission first.

For example, many ISPs and some prosecutors are arguing that it’s a crime to use unsecured wireless access points without the explicit permission of the owner. Antispam crusaders advocate blocking any e-mails that haven’t been whitelisted first. Airlines like American and auction sites like eBay — which want customers to visit their websites, view their ads and “join the community” — have won court injunctions against companies that collect price information on plane fares or auctions to help consumers comparison shop.

Under ancient legal theories like “trespass to chattels” and ill-advised modern laws like the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and state computer crime statutes, courts are holding that if you don’t have authorization, you can’t access computers.

[...] The better world is one in which we don’t need to seek permission or risk punishment to do cool stuff that makes the world a better place. In the early days of the internet, a lot of people felt that we’d found that better world. Thanks to the internet’s open protocols, many of the most useful innovations, from the web to instant messaging to internet telephony, emerged without developers needing anyone’s permission to run their cool new code.

But under a permission-only legal regime, the Katrinalist.net volunteers would have had to contact every site with listing data and ask for authorization to use the information first. [...]

[...] On the internet, having to ask permission first can kill the creation of a useful new tool.

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Bug? Or Feature? [8:09 am]

TiVo copy protection bug irks users

A bug in the latest version of TiVo’s operating system has some users concerned that the service’s content protection mechanisms–supposedly intended solely for pay-per-view and video-on-demand content–may someday be applied to broadcast television programming.

[...] Jim Denney, TiVo director of product marketing, told CNET News.com that the content protection experienced by McKay was a bug, and that in its current iteration, the Macrovision technology is intended only for pay-per-view, video-on-demand, DVD or VHS sources.

Broadcast television programming is, “according to our implementation, shows that shouldn’t be affected by this,” Denney said. The DVR in cases like McKay’s “was thinking it was being told it was protected when it actually wasn’t.”

Uh-huh….

See Slashdot’s TiVo OS Update Adds Content Protection and Wired’s Has TiVo Forsaken Us?

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