Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

Alert, Alert, And More Alerts

No this is not an alert, but some strategic thinking about alerts.

As a kid, we get our first alerts usually from the fire alarm going off in school and practicing the buddy system and safely evacuating.

As adults, we are used to get so many types of alerts:

– Homeland Security threat alerts
– Breaking news alerts
– Emergency/Disaster alerts
– Severe weather alerts
– Smog alerts
– Transportation delay alerts
– Accident alerts
– Fraud alerts
– Economic and financial alerts
– Amber missing child alerts
– Internet security alerts
– Power loss alerts
– Home or business intruder alerts
– Fire alerts
– Carbon Monoxide alerts
– Medical/health alerts
– Chemical spill alerts
– Product safety or recall alerts
– Unsafe drinking water alerts
– Active shooter alerts
– Work closure alerts
– Parking garage alerts
– Dangerous marine life alerts
– Dangerous current or undertow alerts
– Air raid siren alerts
– Solar eclipse alerts
– Meteorite or falling space debris alerts
– Special sale or promotional event alerts

With the arrival of highly successful, mass social media applications like Twitter, we have alerts aggregated for us and listed chronologically as things are happening real-time.

The brilliance of the current Twitter-type alerting is that we can sign up to follow whatever alerts we are interested in and then have a streaming feed of them.

The alerts are short–up to 140 characters–so you can quickly see the essence of what is happening or ignore what is irrelevant to you.

When more space is needed to explain the details behind an alert, typically a (shortened) URL is included, which if you click on it takes you to a more in depth explanation of the event or item.

So alerts are a terrific balance between short, attention grabbing headlines and links to more detail, as needed.

What is also great about the current alerting mechanism is that you can provide concise alert information, including:

– Message source (for ensuring reliability)
– Guidance (for providing immediate instruction on response).
– Hazard (for specifying the type of incident)
– Location (for identifying geographic or mapping locality)
– Date/time (for implications as to its currency)
– Importance (for determining severity such as catastrophic, critical, etc.)

While we remain ever, hyper-vigilant, we need to be careful not to become anxiety-ridden, or at some point, simply learn to tune it all out, so we can actually live life and get stuff done.

It’s good to know what’s going on out there, but can too much information ever become a bad thing? šŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Parole By Analytics

Parole By Analytics

Interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about parole boards using software to predict repeat offenders before letting someone go free.

What used to be a decision based on good behavior during time served, showing remorse to the parole board, and intuition is being augmented with “automated assessments” that include inmate interviews, age of first arrest, type of crime, and so forth.

At least 15 states have adopted “modern risk assessment methods” to determine the potential for recidivism.

Individuals are marked as higher risk if they are:

– Young–age 18-23 (and impulsive)
– Offense was drug-related
– Suspended or expelled from school
– Quit a job prior to having another one
– Single or separated
– Diagnosed with a mental disorder
– Believes that it’s not possible to overcome their past.

Surprisingly, violent criminals (rapists and murders) are actually considered lower risk those guilty of nonviolent property crimes–the thinking being the someone convicted of robbery is more likely to repeat the criminal behavior because the crime is one that “reflects planning and intent.”

Honestly, I think it is more than ridiculous that we should rank violent criminals less risky than thieves and release them because they had what is considered an “emotional outburst.”

Would you rather have some thieves back on the street or murders and rapists–rhetorical question!

But it just shows that even the best of systems that are supposed to help make better decisions–can instead be misused or abused.

This happens when there is either bad data (such as from data-entry mistakes, deceptive responses, and missing relevant information) or from poorly designed decision rules/algorithms are applied.

The Compas system is one of the main correctional software suites being used, and the company Northpointe (a unit of Volaris) themselves advise that officials should “override the system’s decisions at rates of 8% to 15%.”

While even a 1/7 error rate may be an improvement over intuition, we need to still do better, especially if that 1 person commits a violent hideous crime that hurts someone else in society, and this could’ve been prevented.

It’s certainly not easy to expect a parole board to make a decision of whether to let someone out/free in 20 minutes, but think about the impact to someone hurt or killed or to their family, if the wrong decision is made.

This is a critical governance process that needs:

– Sufficient time to make important decisions
– More investment in tools to aid the decision process
– Refinement of the rules that support release or imprisonment
– Collection of a broad base of interviews, history, and relevant data points tied to repeat behavior
– Validation of information to limit deception or error.

Aside from predicting whether someone is likely to be repeat offenders, parole boards also need to consider whether the person has been both punished in accordance with the severity of the crime and rehabilitated to lead a productive life going forward.

We need to decide people’s fates fairly for them, justly for the victims, and safely for society–systems can help, but it’s not enough to just “have faith in the computer.” šŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

FOIA Making Us Stronger

To commemorate 46 years since the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was passed on July 4, 1966, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) came out with a infographic showing the significant progress that has been made in government transparency and areas they still see for possible improvement.

Similarly, Government Executive Magazine ran an feature article in June 2012 called “The Truth Behind Transparency,” calling progress with open government as “tough to gauge.”

The basic idea of FOIA as the website for Sunshine Week put it is: “the public’s right to know about its government.”

Obviously, as GovExec points out, one of the main questions over the years with FOIA is “how quickly and fully do agencies respond to FOIA requests?”

To much and too soon, and do you perhaps put at risk various sensitive information, jeopardizing elements of the functioning of government itself?

Too little and too late, and then is the opportunity for mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse simply an after fact?

As Beth Novek, former deputy chief technology officer for open government, described it, open government is a “shorthand for open innovation or the idea that working in a transparent, participatory, and collaborative fashion helps improve performance, inform decision-making, encourage entrepreneurship and solve problems more effectively.”

Transparency can aid in accountability by shedding a light on leadership and its performance management. It can also be a great opportunity to bring new ideas and opinions to the fold, perhaps leading to better decisions and results, at the end of the day, for all.

The challenge for government is to guard against any information risks to the safety and security of our nation.

An informed nation, is a stronger nation–to me, it is a foundation of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Government and the people working together, duly informed, to confront our toughest challenges and solve our greatest problems.

Supercookies Are Super Invasive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re alone sitting at the computer surfing the web, you’re looking up health, financial, entertainment, shopping, and other personal things.Ā 

You feel comfortable doing your thing…you have your privacy and can be yourself without someone looking over your shoulder.
But is the sense of safety real or an illusion?
For the most part, when we are online, we are not safe or in private.Ā 
Like at work, where you get the warning that you are being monitored, when you are browsing the Internet, your actions are being tracked site by site (but this is done without warning)–by cookies–or data packets exchanged between web servers and user’s browsers.
On the plus side cookies are used for identification, authentication, preferences, and maintaining shopping cart contents; but on the negative side, they are installed on users computers to track your activities online.
The Wall Street Journal (18 August 2011) reports that now there are Supercookies! and “history stealing.”
Supercookies are not cookies with that can fly or lift locatives, but rather they are more difficult to locate and get rid off your computer, so they track your activities, but are hidden in different places such as in the web browsers cache.
“History stealing” is done when you visit certain websites, and they use software to mine you web browser history to determine where you’ve visited and then use that to for example, target advertising at you. Imagine though what other profiling can be compiled by categorizing and analyzing your browsing history in aggregate.
Currently, the online ad industry has established self-imposed guidelines to supposedly protect privacy, but they seem wholly inadequate such as “collecting health and financial data about individuals is permissible as long as the data don’t contain financial-account numbers, Social Security numbers, pharmaceutical prescriptions or medical records.” But knowing people’s household finances, credit histories, and personal medical histories is okay–by whose standard?
According to the WSJ, web tracking is not only alive and well, but flourishing with “80% of online display ads are based on tracking data.”
Why should anyone have the ability to track our personal web surfing?
We don’t need ads targeted at us–we are not targets! Ā We are very capable of searching online for what we what we are interested in and when we are interested in it–thank you!
Session cookies that expire at the end of ones web browsing for session management is one thing; but persistent cookies that collect and mine your personal data–that’s should be a definite no-no.
Like with the advertisements that come unwanted in the traditional mailbox and get routinely and speedily placed in the garbage, onlineĀ advertisements that are based on intrusive website tracking is not only a nuisance, but a violation of our privacy–and should be trashed as a concept and a practice.

>Wake Up To Advanced Technology

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Yet another air traffic controller asleep on the job today–OMG.
Everyone is upset–as they should be–safety and lives are at stake.

Hello.

Come in…

Is anyone down there?

We need to land.

We have an emergency on board (someone is sick or perhaps the plane is in imminent danger or maybe it’s been hijacked).

I guess we need to call back later.

That’s CRAZY!

Silence is not golden, in these cases.

In the government (as in private sector control rooms), there are a lot of round the clock duty stations–watching our airports, our borders, and critical infrastructure.

We rely on people to be alert for any problems and be prepared to step up to the plate to take necessary action to safeguard our nation.

When people are “asleep at the switch,” they are not only abrogating their basic duty (for which they are getting paid), but they are endangering others and this is obviously unacceptable.

We know this intuitively.

Why has this gotten so out of control lately–Is this a new phenomenon or just one that is coming to light now? Are people taking advantage of the system, genuinely exhausted, or disillusioned with their jobs and giving up–so to say?

There are a lot of questions that need to be explored and answered here and I would expect that these answers will be forthcoming.

Because it is not just a matter of reacting with a doubling of the shift or clamping down on the people involved–although that maybe a good first step to stop the proverbial bleeding; but obviously more needs to be done.

For decades, air traffic control (ATC) has relied on controllers on the ground to guide planes on the ground and in the air, despite new technologies from autopilot to Global Positioning System (GPS) and from on-board transponders to advanced cockpit displays.

Many hardworking government and commercial sector employees have been working to change this through modernization of the processes and systems over the years.

By increasingly leveraging advances in technology, we can do more of what people–like the ATCs and many other of our hardworking watchstanders–are currently being asked to do manually.

This doesn’t mean that there is no human (AWAKE! is the expectation) watching to make sure that everything is working properly, but it does mean that the people may be in some instances an augmentation, rather than the primary doers.

In the end, people have got be in control, but technology should be doing as much of the heavy lifting as it can for us and perhaps, as we are a failsafe for technology, technology can in some instances be a backstop for human error and frailty.

It doesn’t make us weak to admit our limitations and look not only for people and process changes, but also for technology solutions to help augment our personal capabilities.

(Credit Picture: PN.PsychiatryOnline.org)

>Who Needs Airport Body Scanners? An Alternative Approach

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Not sure if this is serious or a joke, but I received an email for an alternative to body scanners at the airports — may seem a bit crude, but then again we need to look for an effective security solution that is less invasive.

This particular idea, attributed to Israeli security, is for a booth that rather than take potentially invasive body scans, will safely (but not for you, if you are a terrorist) “detonate any explosive device that you may have on you.” Poof!

Advantages: deterrence, speed, privacy, justice, and the objective of safe air transport is achieved.

>What’s In An IT Acronym

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In the military and public safety world, information technology is often discussed in broader strategic and operational terms.

For example, in the Coast Guard, it is referred to as C4&IT–Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Information Technology.

In the Department of Defense, they often use the term C4ISR–Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.

According to GovTech Magazine, some public safety agencies (i.e. law enforcement and firefighting) often use another version of this, namely 4CI–Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence.

The article provides some simple straightforward definitions for these (although perhaps skewed for first responders), as follows:

“- Command: The authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources, and for organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling personnel and equipment to fulfill a mission.

Control: The ability to issue orders or directions, with the result that those directions are carried out.

Communications: The most essential element. Communications between responders on the ground and command staff are critical to ensure that both groups have a common operating picture of the situation.

Computers: They process, display and transport information needed by commanders, analysts and responders. Today this increasingly includes mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones.

Intelligence: The product of the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation and interpretation of all available relevant information.”

While these capabilities are all critical to mission performance, I am not sure why we have all these variations on the same theme, but at least, we all agree on the 4Cs or is it C4?