‘Revenge porn’ is about betrayal, not pornography

Sharing explicit pictures or videos with an intimate partner is not always a harmful practice, but it can be devastating if those images get into the wrong hands — like those of Kevin Bollaert.

In the first criminal prosecution using a new California law targeting “revenge porn,” San Diego-based Bollaert, 28, was convicted Monday on six counts of extortion and 21 counts of identity theft for operating two websites. One of Bollaert’s now defunct sites posted nude and sexually explicit pictures of woman, often taken by a former intimate partner, with names, age and other information about the victims. Another reportedly enabled victims to pay to have their pictures removed from the first site.

Cowardly act

“Just because you’re sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act, you will not be shielded from the law or jail,” California Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “The result of this conduct was to make people feel shame and embarrassment in the context of their family, their community, and their workplace,” she added.

“Revenge porn” is a term for pictures posted or shared, often by a former intimate partner, to embarrass or shame the victim. It’s sometimes referred to as “sextortion,” especially if the perpetrator demands money, sex or for the victim to remain in an abusive relationship.

Sexting gone wrong

Some revenge porn involves images or video taken by a partner, or using concealed cameras with one or perhaps both parties unaware, but in many cases the images are self-produced: Sexting gone wrong.

Often the pictures were consensually taken by or shared with the partner during a time when the victim trusted the partner not to misuse those images. It’s increasingly common for partners to share intimate photos — often via their smartphones — as a form of flirting or showing affection. There’s been a fair amount of research on sexting both for adults and teens and most sexting incidents do not result in anything bad happening; some have even argued that it’s a form of “safe sex,” because there is no chance of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease.

But, by definition, revenge porn is not consensual. Even if the victim consented to the video or images being produced, that doesn’t mean they’re consenting to them being shared.

Cindy Southworth, from the National Network to End Domestic Violence said that the revenge porn term “belittles and doesn’t really capture the true crux of the issue.”

She said that the “problem is photos being shared without consent. It’s not pornography, it’s a crime.”

Breaking of trust

Of course, most people who allow others to take or possess intimate pictures of them do so out of trust. You’re in a relationship or trying to start one and you have every reason to believe that the other person will enjoy the images but not share them with others. And, in the vast majority of cases for both teens and adults, that’s exactly what happens.

But, as many people have sadly discovered, relationships can fall apart. Although most people who break up are decent enough not to publicly violate the trust of their former partner, our world has its share of creeps and criminals, which is why we have revenge porn.

Distributing these images, said SSP Blue CEO Hemanshu Nigam, “can be destructive in all sorts of ways. It can affect your work environment, your kids and your community.”

Nigam, who is a former federal prosecutor for computer crime, called revenge porn “a form of digital rape.”

Added consequences for minors

In the case of minors, there is the added risk of legal consequences even if nothing malicious takes place because it’s illegal to produce, possess or distribute sexually explicit images of minors — even if the minor is the one taking the picture.

Of course, child pornography laws were designed to protect kids, not prosecute them for bad judgment, but there have been cases of youth being placed on sex offender lists for consensual sexting. Fortunately those cases are getting increasingly rare as prosecutors and law enforcement realize that there are better ways to deal with teen sexting.

There is also the possibility of an image getting into the wrong hands by accident or as a result of a hack. There are cases, for example, when someone gets their hands on another person’s phone, only to see and perhaps share images that were never meant for them. And — as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and other celebrities learned — there is also the possibility of someone breaking into an account to access and then share photos and video.

As Nigam pointed out, “It’s not just a celebrity problem. It can affect anyone who winds up in a bad relationship.”

So, the only way to be 100 percent sure that a photo won’t be circulated is to not take it or at least not share it. And if you do share it, make sure it’s someone who you can trust and hope that person never violates your trust. If images of you are distributed against your will, save the evidence and contact an attorney or law enforcement to explore civil or criminal actions.

For links to tips on how to prevent and deal with revenge porn, visit connectsafely.org/revenge.




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Want Google Earth Pro? Don’t Pay $400 — Read On

Google Earth pro outlines indivdiaul parcels

Google Earth pro outlines individual parcels

CNET news has a story on how you can get Google Earth Pro for free instead of paying the $400 that the search giant used to change.

But, as CNET points out, there aren’t that many things most of us would do with the Pro version that we don’t get in the regular one that’s long been free. Still, if you want make high resolution prints or get a more precise measure on the size of the parcel or import hundreds of addresses, than the Pro version is definitely for you.




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Award winning teacher calls for an education ‘Moon Shot”

Author and teacher, Ester Wocicik

Author and teacher, Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki, an award winning journalism teacher at Palo Alto High School, has come out with a new book, Moonshots in Education: Blended Learning in the Classroom where she talks about schools that are already engaged in connected learning, including the “flipped classroom,” where kids get their instruction online at home and use class time to collaborate.

Collaboration is a big deal for Wojcicki. I’ve visited her journalism class and it feels more like a newsroom than a classroom. Students are working in teams to get out the campus paper, not listening to lectures on journalism theory.

Here’s my 1-minute CBS News Tech Talk segment with Esther, but come back later for the full interview.

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California man convicted for running ‘revenge porn’ sites

A San Diego jury convicted Kevin Bollaert of 21 identity theft and six extortion counts for running websites called YouGotPosted.com and ChangeMyReputation.com.  Prosecutors said that the first site posted nude or sexually explicit pictures of women, often taken by a former intimate partner, while the other site promised to take down those photos in exchange for money.

Bollaert, 28, who has not yet been sentenced, could face up to 24 years in prison.

For more, listen to Larry Magid’s 1-minute CBS News Radio Tech Talk segment

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Microsoft has its mojo back

In the past several years, Microsoft has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the tech world. It just doesn’t get much respect.

Even though Microsoft remains the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to computer operating systems and business software, its current computer operating system — Windows 8 — has had a lot of bad reviews and its Windows Phone operating system, which has been positively reviewed, is starting to do well — especially low-cost models.  Micrsoft reported that  it sold $1.1 billion worth of Surface tablets in fiscal second quarter, 2015.

Now, Microsoft plans to release a new version of Windows — Windows 10 — and a revolutionary new type of product called HoloLens, which could be described as a cross between Google Glass, Facebook’s Oculus VR virtual reality headset and the movie “Minority Report.”

Like Google Glass and Oculus Rift, HoloLens is a type of eyewear. But instead of just superimposing Web-like images like Google Glass or fully emerging you into a virtual world like Oculus VR, HoloLens is designed to augment the real world you live in by superimposing holographic images over real-world objects.

In a promotional video, Microsoft shows a team redesigning a motorcycle by pointing to what appears to be an actual bike in a garage and then superimposing and modifying a holographic image of a new fuel tank. Another part of the video shows someone learning how to replace a sink trap with a hologram superimposed on the underside of an actual sink to show how to install the replacement part. There are also all sorts of gaming and entertainment applications for this new device, which of course, is still under development.

When wearing the goggles, you can walk around and interact with virtual objects without having to connect to a computer or a phone. And you could have as many virtual “screens” as you want floating around your environment — interacting with them with a wave of the hand or a voice command.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence that Microsoft’s announcement came only a few days after Google stopped selling Google Glass — ending the Explorer program that allowed people to pay $1,500 for a product that was nowhere near ready for prime time. I’m not one of those who ridiculed Google Glass; I admire Google for sticking its corporate neck out on bleeding-edge technologies even if they have little chance for commercial success. Like Microsoft, Google is willing to take chances on technologies that may or may not work or wind up contributing to spinoff technologies that no one would have been able to even imagine had the product never existed.

Personally, I’m more excited about Microsoft HoloLens than I am about the upcoming Apple Watch. I’m sure the Apple Watch will be a nice product, but it’s not a game-changer. Like the iPod when it first came out, it’s mostly an iterative upgrade to products already on the market. It’s quite possible that it will do very well (and entirely possible that it won’t), but its an evolutionary, not revolutionary, product.

With HoloLens, Microsoft is shooting for the fences. It’s a vision-laden product from the same group of imaginative Microsoft engineers that came up with Kinect — the Xbox accessory that recognizes you when you enter a room and lets you control the game console with gestures or voice. Five years in the making, so far, HoloLens may be the most ambitious project in Microsoft’s 40-year history.

Of course, I have no idea how successful the project will be, but just as I’m glad Google invested in Glass (even though it may not pan out), I feel the same way about HoloLens, about which I’m more optimistic right now because it’s too early to see its downsides.

While HoloLens is a giant step forward, Windows 10 is a welcome step backward and small step forward. Microsoft is restoring some of the Windows 7 (and earlier) features that endeared millions of people to its ubiquitous operating system. But there are also some new and upgraded features like Cortana, which enables users to use their voice or typing to get answers to basic questions or carry out PC tasks. It will also have a new type of Start menu that has the basic features of the old one — which Microsoft took away in Windows 8 — with some added tricks such as the ability to customize and expand the menu.

It’s a bit too early to know whether Windows 10 will win the hearts of users and way too early to know if HoloLens will succeed, but — based on what I’ve seen so far — Microsoft has its mojo back, and that’s really good news.


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Author & photographer Rick Smolan enhances ‘Inside Tracks’ book with augmented reality



Author and photographer Rick Smolan

CBS News Technology Analyst Larry Magid speaks with Rick Smolan, the photographer who covered Robyn Davidson during part of her epic solo journey across the Australian outback. Davidson’s saga was turned into a movie called Tracks, which featured Smolan as a character played by Adam Driver. Smolan’s book documents Davidson’s journey and the movie —  not just by words and pictures but by video, using a smartphone app called Ausasma that lets you point your phone at pages to make the book come alive.

Click below to listen to Larry’s CBS News interview with Rick Smolan

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CEO Mark Fields drives Ford into the ‘mobility’ business (post + podcast)

Larry Magid interviews Ford CEO Mark Fields

Larry Magid interviews Ford CEO Mark Fields

As you walk around the parking lot, garage and labs at Ford’s newly opened Silicon Valley Research Center, you see plenty of cars and trucks along with all sorts of electronic gear. But there are also bicycles which, said Ford CEO Mark Fields, are among the many “mobility” technologies the company is looking at. “We’re thinking of ourselves not only as just an auto company,” he said in an interview, “but we’re also thinking ourselves as a mobility company (scroll down to listen),” He said that Ford is “thinking broadly about a lot of these big societal issues such as congestion in large cities,” and added, “we want to help be part of the solution.” He said it’s all about experiments ranging from bicycles and  cars with sensors looking for open parking spaces

I didn’t see a Ford logo on any of the bicycles but the company is equipping them with sensors to collect data about how people are getting from place to place. “It is a bit of opening the lens on our business, he said. “We’re first and foremost a car and truck company,” but he added “it’s important for us to experiment and to think from a consumer standpoint,” including “making customer’s lives easier getting from point A to point B.” He also said that expanding to other modes of mobility is “a good business opportunity.”

The company is also experimenting with what Fields called a “car swapping” app. Ford employees, many of whom drive company cars, have access to an app that lets them swap cars with fellow employees. An example, said Fields might be “I’m looking for a Mustang for the weekend,” in the hopes that a Mustang driving colleague might want to switch cars for a couple of days. So far, the app is only for employees, not the general public.

Ford is also experimenting with ride sharing services. “in other parts of the world we’re testing small mini-buses. Folks are OK getting into a vehicle and sharing it but they want the appropriate amount of person space so we’re looking at seating configurations,” said Fields.

Broadening the business

Calling itself a mobility company is a lot like a newspaper or radio station calling itself a media company or a railroad saying that’s in in the transportation business, not the train business. Ford is known for making motorized vehicles that move people and things, but as the company looks forward, it’s starting to think about all the possible ways to move humans and objects from place to place.

Silicon Valley connection

Fields said that Ford wants to be part of the “Silicon Valley eco-system” and to that end, the new lab, which Ford says is “one of the largest automotive manufacturer research labs in Silicon Valley,” expects to employ 125 researchers, engineers and scientists by the end of the year. The lab is run by Dragos Maciuca, who came to Ford from Apple. Ford is also working with Google-owned Nest to deliver data from Nest home sensors (currently thermostats and smoke detectors) to the car. If smoke is detected at home, an alarm will go off in car with a notice on the car’s infotainment system.

Like Google, Ford is also experimenting with autonomous vehicles along with partners from University of Michigan, M.I.T. and Stanford. The company is providing a Fusion Hybrid autonomous research car to Stanford’s engineering program so that researchers can test planning and prediction algorithms.

Remote driving

In addition to bicycles, I also saw a golf cart at the facility. Actually what I saw was a Ford engineer sitting at what looked like an auto-simulator but he was remotely driving a golf cart located at Georgia Institute of Technology. This technology could come to market far sooner than autonomous cars, which are still years away, and could be used for specific applications such as off-road services or valet parking.

Ford is also working on improved voice recognition systems not only for infotainment and navigation but to assist in driving too.

No flying machines

I asked Fields whether I’ll ever achieve my boyhood dream of having my own personal flying machine and all he could say was that “we’re busy working on alternative fuels and autonomous vehicles but the Jetsons, I think, are still a cartoon.”

Click below to listen to Larry Magid’s entire 12 minute interview with Ford CEO Mark Fields.

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See Microsoft HoloLens in Action

Microsoft HoloLens could be described as a cross between Google Glass, Facebook’s Oculus VR virtual reality headset and the movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise.

Like Google Glass and Oculus rift it’s a type of eye wear.  But instead of just superimposing web-like images like Google Glass or fully emerging you into a virtual world like Oculus VR, HoloLens is designed to augment the real world you live in by superimposing holographic images over real-world objects.

Click here to see a CNET video demonstration

PC World video

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Social media still growing, with Instagram leading the way

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

A lot of people scratched their heads when Facebook invested a billion dollars to buy Instagram in 2012. But, based on the results of a recent survey from Pew Research, it now looks like quite a bargain.

In retrospect, I wish I had bought it, though I’m afraid my check would have bounced.

The Pew survey of online adults found Instagram to be the fastest growing social media platform, now being accessed by 26 percent of U.S. adults, up from 17 percent a year ago.

Facebook is still by far the most popular platform, used by a whopping 71 percent of adult Internet users but, unlike Instagram, its growth is stalled. It’s overall user base is the same as it was the previous year, though it’s now reaching fewer African-American users (67 percent vs. 76 percent the previous year), but significantly more people older than 65 (56 percent vs. 46 percent).

Having more than 7 in 10 U.S. adults as members of Facebook is not too shabby, and when you reach that big an audience, it’s hard to keep growing because most of the people in the U.S. who might want to join Facebook probably already have. I think it’s quite interesting that they’re growing among senior citizens, with more than a majority of online seniors on Facebook for the first time.


Instagram is now the fastest growing social media platform


Seniors have traditionally been slow to adapt to new technologies, but it’s important to remember that people who are 65 today were 27 when the Apple II was introduced, 30 when IBM introduced its first PC and 34 when the Mac came out, so even though they’re not digital natives, most probably used computers for most of their adult lives at home and at work as well as smartphones. Also, Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with family members, including grown-up kids and grandchildren.

There are reports of Facebook slipping among teens, but most of the data I see suggests that teens are keeping their accounts, but just not logging on as often or staying on as long. In June of last year, Forrester Research surveyed 4,517 kids between 12 and 17 and concluded that “Facebook remains young users’ favorite social network,” with more than three quarters of online youth as members. That, according to Forrester, was “twice as many as use Pinterest or Tumblr or Snapchat, and more than use Instagram and WhatsApp combined.”

Among adults Internet users, Pew found that LinkedIn enjoyed a 6 percent increase between 2013 and 2014 and is now used by 28 percent of adults. There was a big increase in female users, from 19 percent to 27 percent. Young adult LinkedIn users (age 18-29) jumped from 15 percent to 22 percent and there was a huge increase in the number of seniors older than 65, from 13 percent to 22 percent. Pew didn’t speculate why so many seniors are on LinkedIn, but I think it might be because people are remaining in the workforce longer and using the professional-networking service to keep in touch with colleagues or look for new opportunities.

I have to admit that — like most men — I’m not much of a Pinterest user, but 28 percent of all adults and 42 percent of all adult women are using it. That represents a 5 percentage-point increase among men and a 9 percentage-point increase among women from 2013. Pinterest is a highly visual service, heavily used to promote crafts, artwork and pictures of delicious food.

Relatively few seniors (17 percent) use Pinterest, but that nearly doubled from 9 percent the year before.

Twitter also saw modest, but significant, year-over-year growth, from 18 percent to 23 percent. It does best with younger adults (37 percent of those younger than 30) and tapers off with age down to 10 percent of seniors, but that’s twice as many seniors as the previous year.

Usage also correlates with education and income. College graduates are nearly twice as likely to use Twitter than people who are high school grads or less (30 percent vs 16 percent). People who make more than $50,000 a year are more likely to use the service than those who earn less than $30,000 (27 percent vs. 20 percent).

Despite its growth, Twitter remains way behind Facebook and is simply not being used by most Americans. You hear about it a lot from politicians and the media, but politicians and journalists are among Twitter’s most active users. It’s a great way to get the latest news, see what’s trending and communicate with people who care about what you have to say but, unlike Facebook, it’s not the way most people stay in touch with friends and family.

The Pew report didn’t even mention Google+, which has a fraction of Facebook’s market share. Google may be great at searching, but it has yet to find a way to capitalize on social networking.

The survey, conducted in September 2014, consisted of a sample of 1,597 adults Internet users (18 and older) with a margin of error of 2.9 percent.

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Muslim groups use social media to recruit for peaceful change

CBS News technology analyst Larry Magid talks with Zahra Billoo from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) about how extremists are using social media to recruit and how her group and others in the Muslim community are using it to encourage positive actions.

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