Maternity medical crisis

As we approach this year’s open enrollment period for health insurance, I continue to be shocked and disappointed about almost everything I learn about the US Healthcare system. Before I return to notes about my own experiences and my own health, maternity care is another healthcare topic that doesn’t often get discussed, as the average American prepares to pay more than $10,348, per person, per year on healthcare.

While many argue about the definition of single payer, and if it would lead to socialism (and what that is?), the inefficiency, mistakes, cost and just outright expense of what should be routine treatment, continues to make me despair.

America has healthcare snobs, millions of them, they just don’t realize that while they might have great access to medical facilities and Doctors, that doesn’t mean it’s always good, or that the system acts in their best interest. However, any suggested change is met with claims of death panels, socialism and more. Oft heard is also they ‘don’t want the Government in the healthcare.’

Even I was left speechless as I watched a recent CBS Sunday Morning segment on maternal healthcare. Among the points made were:

  • U.S. “most dangerous” place to give birth in developed world
  • The United States is ranked 46th when it comes to maternal mortality. That’s behind countries like Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan.
  • “Sixty percent of the deaths in the United States are preventable,”
  • At least two women are dying every day

And it’s not about access to healthcare; it’s not about the poor without insurance; yes, there is a racial element, but it’s not what you’d think. Here is the entire segment, well worth watching before you enroll this year.

| Edit: The embedded video doesn’t apparently load in some browsers, so here is a direct link to the CBS This Morning web page. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/maternal-mortality-an-american-crisis/

Can it be true that women giving birth in America are more at risk than women in dozens of other countries?

Legislating hacking/data exposure responses

I don’t know enough about the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but at least on basic reading it seems inadequate in meaningful individual action requirements and legislation that benefits the actual user/person whose information has been exposed.

I’ve been signed up for haveibeenpwned an excellent website by Troy Hunt. You enter your email, and it tells you what breaches your personal information has been found in.

I was going to say “if any”. But of course your data will be there, especially after breaches like the River City Media (RCM) “spammer gate” where 1.4 billion peoples’ email accounts, full names, IP addresses, and often physical address, were exposed. Suffice to say, my two primary email addresses have been exposed in more than 20-breaches.

haveibeenpwned was a great start. CapitalOne, at least among my financial providers, has stepped up the game significantly. Their creditwise arm has incorporated Credit & Identity Alerts in to the app and website. Numerous times recently I’ve received alerts, and while initially the alerts didn’t contain enough information to take action, the most recent alerts have had all the detail I needed.

Creditwise Email
Email alert from Creditwise
Creditwise Alert
via website or app

Among the websites my data has been exposed this year include:

  • linkedin.com
  • kickstarter.com
  • ticketfly.com
  • bitly.com
  • myspace.com
  • last.fm
  • zomato.com

Some of these websites did individually send emails disclosing the breach. Of these, only ticketfly had any form of financial data that might have been breached. I have all my emails from them going back to 2012. Not a single word about a data breach or other exposure of my personal data.

The same is true for more sites than not. No notification. When you login to the site to at the very least, change your password to a new unique one, they more often than not also give you no indication. For many of them it’s also nearly impossible to find out how to delete your account. In the case of ticketfly, I submitted a trouble ticket asking how to delete my account but retain tickets for future events, so far nothing but a generic ‘we’ll get back to you’ response.

It’s time for legislation about what websites/businesses are required to do when they find a data breach. They must be held accountable, and not just through financial penalties that mostly just go into government coffers.

I’d like to see at a minimum:

  1. Mandatory requirement to notify by email, and if the business has a real mail address, by mail.
  2. A default opt-out and deletion period. At discovery, if data breached includes significant personal and/or financial data, the account must be deactivated. After notification, if the business has not heard from the user whose data is breached within 14-days, and the account is not already deactivated, it should be deactivated.
  3. Recovery of a deactivated account should NOT depend on any data exposed in the breach.
  4. When the user whose data is breached logs-in to their account following notification or during account recovery, they must be presented with clear information on what data was exposed. Two, they must be given a simple option at this point to permanently delete their account.
  5. If the user opts to delete their account, any consequences of the deletion must be made obvious at that time. For example, in the case of ticketfly, where I’ve already paid for tickets to future events, those tickets must still be available to me, even after my account is deleted.

In the era of “big data” and “everything online” the only way these businesses/websites will really put privacy and security first is not fines. It’s the actual loss of the customer/user and their data. These companies are often over valued, and paying government fines is just moving magic money from one bucket to another. It has a short term impact on their profitability, their quarterly results, not much else.

Why do some States have more Representatives?

As a quick follow-on from yesterdays post, thanks for the emails and messages on linked-in. I was listening to the USCIS MP3 for the 100 Interview questions last night and found this answer, among others pretty imprecise. This is a single question extract from the actual USCIS MP3.

The question this raises is, which States have more representatives but a smaller population, and why? Obviouly this also hightlights the importance of the U.S. Census which measures the population.

Also, google searching for the questions is a great way to find the confusing litany of websites out there to help immigrants learn and practice for exams, most being for profit. ESLbasics being a good example. Here is the same question.

The delivery isn’t quite as monotone, and the answers are EXACTLY the same, the speaker, Andrea Giordano, even looks down to ensure she is reading it correctly.

Andrea sells a complete pack to prepare for the test for $59.99. She also has most of the questions on youtube for free.

The US Citizenship conundrum

It’s become a constant, “why aren’t they citizens?”

Questions over immigration eventually always end up with a debate, almost always unproductive, sometimes angry about why people who live in the US have not become US Citizens.

It’s my view, that people who pose these questions, do so mostly because they’ve never had to apply themselves. They have no idea how expensive the process is, how long it takes, and for many how difficult it is.

I get a weekly email, it contains a 1-byte GIF, which is used for tracking. When the mail reader loads the .gif file via http, I presume the USCIS keep a record rather than depend on email “read/open receipts”. Other than this the email always says:

USCIS

In my “case” (pun intended), it’s not an application for citizenship, it’s a road block to that application. Turns out sometime late last year while sorting out all my medical billing related issues, I physically lost my green card.

The application for a replacement, cost circa $725. Not a new one, not one that is extended, not a renewal of an expired one, just a replacement/duplicate card. When I applied in the Denver office, and had my bio-metrics done again, I was told to expect a 9 to 11 month delay before I received the card.

I’m waiting for the replacement, so I can legally surrender it during my citizenship process. I wasn’t able to apply until at least May 12th, 2017 as per this very helpful and positive info-graphic. Since I married Kate in October, strictly that would normally mean a 3-year wait, but my 5-year wait was already up.

What does it take to become a US Citizen?

As is often the way, the US Government provides a very helpful and mostly simple set of web pages. The forms can be confusing and intimidating, purely due to the cost of  failed application.

The process is initiated through the completion and submission of form N-400. The filing fee is currently $725 including the bio-metrics fee. After that you have to wait for an appointment, depending on state, this can take up-to a year. You also have to respond as fast as possible to any  requests for information about your application.

Next up you’ll get you interview. At the Interview apparently the process includes

  • you will answer questions about your application
  • take the civics and English tests as required. In a quick vox-pop survey, most of the natural born citizens I’ve asked fail some of the less obvious ones.
  • You also have to prove a level of proficiency with spoken and written English.

You can study up for the questions in many ways. Including this helpful MP3. According to this article in the Boulder Weekly of the 100 questions

Out of the 100 questions the group studies each week, only six are asked at the naturalization interview, at the most 10, as each person is allowed to miss four.

 After which, USCIS issues a written notice of decision. Your application is
  1. Granted—eligible for naturalization.
  2. Continued—you need to provide additional evidence/documentation; or retake the test(s).
  3. Denied—Ineligible for naturalization.

Assuming you are eligible, all you have left is the Oath of Allegiance ceremony.

Why am I waiting?

us gov chatIf you read the webpage details, you can in principle apply, and use the receipt given when I applied for my replacement green card, form I-90. However, when I asked at the office I was told you must have your green card. I asked again today (see left, yes the USCIS uses Salesforce for chat) and was told the same thing.

If I was still working, I could refer the whole thing through to an immigration attorney, but as a stay-at-home Dad, right now I’d like to avoid paying an immigration attorney. Equally, I don’t want to complete and submit my form N-400 and have it rejected, at $725 that’s another expense I don’t want to risk.

I’ve completed the application, minus the final section which lists time outside the country in the last 5-years, only because I have to set aside time to be factually accurate. Until I have my green card that can wait.

So, aside from the expense, it takes a year for most people, which assumes they’ve already been in the country for a minimum of 5-years as a legal green card holder. For most people, that means you’ve been in the country on a visa program before that, add another 2-5 years. Unless of course you’ve can apply for fast-path to green card.

I was an O-1 visa recipient, that didn’t qualify me to be fast-pathed.

Next time you meet someone who isn’t a US Citizen, instead of assuming they are lazy, or don’t want to, have some empathy, it’s an intimidating and fraught process.

 

Privacy: Europe vs the USA

On a day when the likelihood is you’ve been bombarded with GDPR emails from companies you’ve done business with, or just whose websites you’ve registered with, there is no better comparison of the difference between how the European Commision and the USA are dealing with our privacy.

While the new General Data Protection Regulation comes into force tomorrow (May 25th), which isn’t as many think, a reaction to the Facebook privacy scandal, the regulation which took seven years of negotiation, and will force changes in a braod range of industries, including, but not limited to technology, advertising, medicine and banking.

Here in America, we learned this month that a company called LocationSmart is buying the real time cell phone location data obtained from the country’s largest cell giants, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

We only learned, because Securus, a prison technology company, who use the data from LocationSmart, had their website tested by a researcher who was able to access the cell phone location of anyone, without consent. Apparently, while the explicit selling of cell phone location data to the Government is banned/illegal, selling it otherwise is not. We don’t even know who they are selling it to, or what it is used for.

Big business is just about making a buck. In the same way as Facebook mostly didn’t care who got your data, and what they did with it, provided facebook got their money, that made it OK. The same has been true for decades for the cable and telephone, cell phone companies.

Europe vs Facebook

The questions that Zuckerberg never answered, including this:

How will you be remembered: As one the three big internet giants along with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who have enriched our world, or as the genius who created a digital monster that is destroying our democracy and society?

https://gizmodo.com/mark-zuckerberg-played-parliament-for-fools-and-theyre-1826227452

There is no British history without the history of empire

Off the back of the British government “Winrush” scandal, The right honorable, David Lammy MP, made the following speech. It exposes the myth of immigration for many, many millions of people.

The same is true for the racial divide here in the USA. They had no choice, they didn’t want to go somewhere, they are all here, because “we” were all there. While it’s not an identical situation here in America, as much of the current immigration furore is about immigrants in the last 5o-years.

The same is essentially true for the USA and Europe since 9/11, “we” went “there”, and often disrupted their governments, bombed their countries, killed their family, friends and destroyed their homes.

The Facebook scramble to rewrite history

As Facebook scramble to try to head off prohibitive legislation in the UK, Europe and the USA, it’s trying to reinvent it’s history and mission.  I’m no Facebook historian, developer, professional watcher but it’s worth remembering some of it’s actual history, bugs, screw-ups and the often terrible defaults it implemented with new features.

I’d long imagined that Mark Zuckerberg was the embodiment of Zeke Hawkins character in the 1993 movie, Sliver. One of the things Hawkins said in the movies about his surveillance was the Google-esq:

We’ll do only good things.

All of the recent disclosures about access to Facebook data isn’t about hacking or other malicious activity, it is about poor design decisions; defaults in privacy that were good for Facebook but not for the user; and ultimately necessary for Facebook’s’ business model. They were not, as Facebook and Zuckerberg oft refer to them as data breaches.

As the voiceover says at the end of the Sliver trailer:

The view from the outside is nothing…. compared to the view…. inside.

My history with Facebook goes back to when it was “thefacebook”. I’d been a regular speaker and panelist at the Silicon Valley World Internet Center between 1998 and 2003 when I gave my last session on Open Source. The center was housed at Stanford University. Over my time there, I made contacts with many professional and personal contacts.

I started using livejournal as an emerging platform for “blogging” and tracking news for my then key triathlon interests in January 2004.  That April, through one of the contacts I’d made at the World Internet Center, I was offered a userid to take a look at “thefacebook”. I didn’t spend much time on it, it was fascile, juvenille and voyeristic. I wasn’t surprised to hear that in 2003, the Harvard University administration had charged Zuckerberg with breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy.

That set the path that Facebook has followed since then, their design decisions, their defaults, everything has been aimed at making your information publicly available, searchable and collectable. As I texted a few days ago, none of this need happened if Facebook actually cared about privacy. Each and every time they implemented a new feature, they did so by setting the user privacy to the least private allowed.

While Facebook claimed they were not selling data, which was probably legally true, but they were always selling access to the data. If privacy was really central to Facebooks management of data, then they would have made the defaults very different than they did.

All those infuriating apps and quizzes that your “friends” were playing Farmville, Candy Crush, etc. let alone the apps that wanted to know actual personal information, like where you’d travelled to etc. For a while in 2007 there was even a class at Stanford known as the “Facebook class” where students, many of whom went on to make hundreds of thousands of US Dollars, were instructed on how to make Facebook apps.

As early as 2010, many of us were imploring people not to give companies like OK Cupid and apps like Lover of the Day access to your data, it was only ever going to end badly for someone.

Lover of the Day was installed nearly a million times. If every user that installed it had at least one hundred “friends” on Facebook,  that meant through a single app, four hundred million facebook users data could have been exposed and scraped. Even if “Lover of the Day” hadn’t overtly exploited this, it was totally naive rather than malicious.

By the end of 2010, there were hundreds of website scams that were, as far as I can see, just there to harvest your data, and that of your friends. There were numerous websites set up to track these, of which Facecrooks, was and still is one of the best.

When I got my Facebook data, before #DELETEFACEBOOK, I spent an hour searching through the data and my timeline to find interesting posts, pleas that I’d made to my friends about the lax controls, bad defaults and bad app choices they were making.In 2010 alone, I posted the following on my wall.

January 10th: “Well get used to it, the Facebook founder says your privacy is a relic of the past, everything should be public!”

March 2010: “So, not paying attention to the FB Privacy issue? Well last night the dumb ass’s made a change which made everyone’s email address public for about 30-mins even if you said not to or your settings… “

May 2010: “So yesterday Facebook blew their privacy yet again revealing private friend to friend conversations, allowing one friend to see outstanding friend requests of other friends…”

May 2011: When discussing the Symantec revelation that Facebook was leaking information to Third parties, I ended the post with – friends don’t give their friends personal information to strangers, don’t do the same on facebook!

By 2011, music streaming startup, Spotify, was known to be aggressively using and promoting their business through facebook by exploiting the weak/lax Facebook privacy. If anything, the US Government Federal Trade Commision hearings lead to facebook changes that were in marketing speak “more transparent” but reality, more opaque. They made it easier to stop sharing, but harder to know what was being shared.

In 2015, the scraping of user data was still rampant, I found a number of examples of warnings, mostly in so called “Big company” giveaways.

March 2015: Friends don’t invite friends invite to the SW Airlines ticket give away. It’s scam, they are harvesting Facebook id’s, friends lists and email addresses and who knows what else!

It was followed by a long bullet list of ways you could tell if the giveaway was a scam. My post ended in

If don’t doesn’t have at least two of those it’s a scam… It’s not harmless, it’s like showing up at an orgy and not using a condom.

When Zuckerberg and Facebook try to rewrite history claiming these were a breach of trust, or they didn’t sell data, or they acted as soon as they were notified, I don’t know what the hell they are talking about. They knew, they just didn’t care until the politicians got hurt, and now the optics look really bad.

Next. What should be done.

The Data Linkedin has

While I’m at it, I thought I’d take a look at what data linkedin.com has on me. It’s likely to be much less, since I rarely use the service and it’s been getting less and less as their emails with anything useful, plus new contacts, connect requests etc. always take me to the Google Play app store to install the linkedin app. That’s not happening, and I mostly just delete the emails and make a mental note to login via the website.

If you are interested in your linkedin data, you can get it via the linkedin.com Settings and then Privacy page. Here.

The email that arrived with a link said:

Here’s just the first part of the information we have archived for you, including things like connections, contacts, messages, and profile information.

It seems that will likely be the more interesting part of their archive. The first .zip file seems to mostly include only static data, most of which I’ve provided.

Interestingly, I joined linkedin on April 11th, 2006. I learned that from the registration .csv.

At least in the .zip file I got it had the following structure.

The media files were very limited, just two image files, and a PDF of a presentation that I posted directly to linkedin. This clearly isn’t all my data from linkedin, since it did not contain and links, articles, or images I’ve posted. It didn’t for example even include my profile and profile background pictures.

The spreadsheets were no more than comma seperated variables, but seemed fairly accurate. There is no clue how they came about these, I can only assume from businesses I “liked” etc. Here is the entire contents of the “Causes you care about” .csv

Civil Rights and Social Action
Economic Empowerment
Environment
Human Rights
Politics
Science and Technology

Which seems about right. What I’m sure most people will be interested in are the contacts that linkedin has a mix of my personal contacts, and linkedin connections. For each “connection” it has firstname, surname, physical address, email address,current employment/employer, position, a date and time field(?) and finally a web address.

The physical address doesn’t seem to have come from my contacts, which I’m pretty sure I’ve not given linkedin access to via the app or a website link/upload. The majority of physical addresses are blank, even for people I have work/home addresses in my contacts.

So I think this is pretty much

Move on, nothing to see here!

When the 2nd .zip file arrives, I’ll add another post.

The Data that Google has

In the push-back over the Facebook privacy scandal, many are also asking questions about the data other platforms have. Many commentators draw a parallel to Google. For my part, this is valid at least as far as tracking, visiting locations etc. goes. Since I have a Google Phone, with a Google Fi service, and I use Google Maps, I pretty much expect them to track me.

GoogleIn addition, in my prior home I had Google Fiber, plus add in all the Youtube videos, if you watch movies or listen to music on Google Play; they have my calendar; all my files in Google Drive; as much as I try not to have my photos in the cloud, they’ve almost certainly got some of them in Google Photos. I typically avoid using Google Search directly, as for the most part, my search history seems a definitive list of things I’m interested in, but it’s much more subjective than that. I prefer startpage for search.

I don’t read ebooks, but they’d have them if I did; of course I use a few Google Groups; and so on. So, it’s a pretty exhaustive list. You do need to take care if you decide to download your Google information from google.com/takeout – It can get pretty big, pretty quickly if you’ve purchased books, films, music and make extensive use of drive, in addition to all the metadata, you’ll also get all the content.

Despite all this, I feel like Google have not crossed the trust boundary. They may be using and aggregating all this data to sell to advertisers, but it’s not all clear how. It certainly isn’t obvious from the adverts. So for now, I trust Google to “Don’t be evil“.