Ethical WTF: Telus Health secretly inserted drug vouchers into electronic medical records system

According to the Toronto Star, Telus Health’s EMR (Electronic Medical Records) system offered vouchers for more expensive brand name drugs. This “feature” was enabled in a 2016 software update with many doctors unknowingly activating it.

When doctors would go into the system, vouchers would sit alongside patient information, it would be non-obvious or hidden and it would look like part of the software:

The Star had found that brand name drug companies paid Telus to digitally insert the vouchers so that the prescription is filled with their product instead of the lower-cost generic competitor that pharmacists normally reach for.

What’s troubling is that Telus would send data about usage of the vouchers back to the marketing/advertising companies:

Telus said drug manufacturers paying to have their vouchers in the EMR receive “aggregated and anonymized, province-level statistics” on the total number of vouchers printed off for their products

Continue reading “Ethical WTF: Telus Health secretly inserted drug vouchers into electronic medical records system”

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SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017 is on today (it started over the weekend and ends tomorrow) and it is a hacker conference and camp.

Most of the conference videos are up on Youtube and they are very informative and fun. There are a lot of good talks. I’ve picked a few to showcase here but you should check out the whole playlist of SHA2017 videos.

Decentralize! Self-hosting in your own home using Sovereign

In the Decentralize! talk, the software Sovereign is explored and shown to be a good way to set up your own personal cloud and host your own services and data. Sovereign is a set of playbooks that can be run to install the software on a server that you run. It’s similar to the Freedom Box project.

The software you can self-host with Sovereign is:

  • Dovecot, Postfix and Roundcube for email servers and a webmail interface
  • Jabber/XMPP messaging server with Prosody
  • RSS reader
  • VPN server with OpenVPN (FreedomBox also can do this)
  • Git code repository hosting

Continue reading “SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up”

Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Thought-provoking article in Bitcoin Magazine about a conference that happened at the end of September, the Hackers Congress Paralelni Polis in Prague.

It’s an interview with two crypto-anarchists who explain their views on the direction of society and the possibilities of a future that includes mainstream usage of Bitcoin and encryption technologies.

One of the first questions asked by the interviewer is, “what is cryptoanarchy?”

This is their answer:

Sip: Simply put, crypto-anarchy is the idea that people can govern and organize themselves without governments, by using the tools of cryptography, cryptocurrencies and other means of decentralization.

Lupták: With these tools, we can build a more effective, a more free and a more voluntary society…

This is a nifty idea, and what makes it nifty is that free software and open source developers have been collaborating for decades and have been more effective, more free and all open source developers are contributing voluntarily.

In fact, there was a recent article by Daniel Pink suggesting that the further we are from a problem, the more creatively we will think about it. In open source development, we are close to the problem but when reviewing other people’s code or submitting patches, we are further away from the problem meaning we can be more creative in coming up with solutions.

So at least for software development, a decentralized model can work. Can it work as a replacement for government? That question is still open but we have seen lots of actions to make government more transparent and more accountable to the people. If you’re looking for small-scale examples of “anarchy” in action, you can look at the Workplace Anarchy described by someone who works at Igalia, a software co-operative that sells consulting service and is quite profitable.

In the interview they mention OpenBazaar which is free/open source software that lets you run a peer2peer ecommerce site. The idea there is to reduce transaction costs to whatever the bitcoin transaction costs are and to remove any middlemen that would cut into profits. A thoroughly free-market-oriented concept that is based on market efficiency and accomplished through free/open source software with the BitCoin currency.

Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil is a free/open source prototyping tool. It gives you the ability to create prototypes of web applications and desktop applications and GUIs in the same way that Balsamiq does. It works on all platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

I’ve personally used it to create web application product prototypes and also website designs. For me, the biggest advantage is how easy it is use and the built-in set of templates and stencils are great. It felt like I could prototype a whole app within a few days.

Creating a wireframe with Pencil is quicker and easier than trying to create a pixel-perfect prototype. What’s cool about Pencil is that it’s very easy to use and it can export each page as a PNG file which you can upload and share with others.

An interesting feature is the ability to export the whole set of wireframe pages as a set of web pages, making it easy for others to view. Combined with the inter-linking between pages that is possible, you can use Pencil to create a prototype that walks users through the different use cases and flows within your app.

 

android4
Android stencil for Pencil, the open source competitor to Balsamiq

Pencil provides stencils for Android and iOS so you can create wireframes for mobile and smart phone applications. Not only can you use it for wireframes and prototypes, you can also draw diagrams like flowcharts which are useful for documenting the various states and transitions within your app.

 

If you’re a developer you may be interested in the work the open source developers are doing on pencil, you can click here to check out their code repository.

Surveillance Self-Defense Software

Check out this article from The Intercept, detailing how to defend yourself from government surveillance.

Here’s a list of the software that is mentioned, and while some of it is proprietary, I thought it would be alright to list it here because it does protect privacy through encryption technologies:

  • Signal (open source)
  • What’s App (proprietary)
  • Semaphor (proprietary), it’s like Slack but encrypted
  • Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates
  • Tor Browser
  • Qubes, a GNU/Linux distribution that runs everything in disposable virtual machines and compartmentalizes to protect you from USB drive viruses and PDF malware

ProtonMail is encrypted email, open source.

If you wanted to use encrypted email in the past, it was hard to do so. ProtonMail makes it easy and it is fully open source.

Recently, Yahoo was caught leaking all of its users emails to the NSA. Yes, you read that correctly, Yahoo allowed the NSA to search through all emails. If your emails are unencrypted and you were using Yahoo Mail, the NSA knows a lot about it. It’s worse than that though, because emails can come from other mail providers. So your friend who uses Gmail or their own server will have all the emails sent to your Yahoo mail account searched by the NSA as well.

encrypted-email-phone

But enough fear-mongering, what can we do about it? The first step is checking out ProtonMail. The second step is telling your friends to check it out.

Email is your identity on the Internet and how you get things done. Email contains newsletters and important work-related data, and it can contain personal data. Using unecrypted email is dangerous and ProtonMail’s goal is to protect you by being open source and by encrypting email.

Continue reading “ProtonMail is encrypted email, open source.”