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Morning Security Brief: Study Sparks Outrage, Report on Nuclear Security, NTSB Determines Cause of Crash, and More

By Holly Gilbert Stowell

► Facebook is under fire after manipulating hundreds of thousands of users’ newsfeed updates and gleaning status updates for a study on “emotional contagion” that it then published externally. Forbes reports that Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer used 689,003 posts from Facebook users to find out whether or not emotions on the site were “contagious” by slightly altering the newsfeed that any one person saw, then analyzing how positive or negative their concurrent status updates were. Kramer and his two coresearchers from Cornell University then published those results on June 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Facebook users were outraged that their newsfeeds were being manipulated and that their posts were being used for experimental purposes. In a statement issued to the Atlantic, the social networking site claims the study was “consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.” In a post, Kramer apologized to users, writing, “my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused."

► The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report examining security reforms at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), an agency of the Department of Energy (DOE) that is “is responsible for protecting sensitive assets, including classified information and plutonium used at its contractor-operated sites to carry out nuclear weapons-related missions.” In its findings, the GAO describes that results of the security reforms, which were initiated by the DOE and NNSA from 2009-2012, were “varied” at the NNSA sites and that, depending on how the reforms were implemented, security concerns may have increased as a result. For example, at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, NNSA issued “its own security policies in place of DOE’s,” scaled back on “security inspections,” and “increased their reliance on contractors to self-monitor and self-evaluate their security performance” to cut costs. The report states that a security breach in July 2012 at Y-12 may have been caused, in part, by those reforms. 

► The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Monday that it has determined the cause of the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco on July 6, 2013, and made subsequent safety recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Government Security News reports the NTSB says that the airplane descended “below the visual glidepath” which the plane must follow in order to land properly “due to the crew’s mismanagement of the approach and inadequate monitoring of airspeed.” The crew’s misunderstanding of certain systems on the aircraft, such as the autothrottle and autopilot director systems, also played a role in the crash. The NTSB made safety recommendations to the FAA as a result of the accident, including “ the need for reinforced adherence to Asiana flight crew standard operating procedures, more opportunities for manual flying for Asiana pilots, a context-dependent low energy alerting system, and both certification design review and enhanced training on the Boeing 777 autoflight system.”

► In other news, Google Glass has been banned in U.K. cinemas just one week after the headsets became available in the country. ⇒ Paypal freezes the account of an e-mail service that offers encryption, questioning the legality of the service because the government is unable to read the secure communications. ⇒ And Computer World reports on cloud computing lessons-learned from enterprises and how to avoid related IT missteps.

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