Apple to provide online tool for police to request data — letter

An Apple logo above a store location entrance in Dallas, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)
Updated 07 September 2018
0

Apple to provide online tool for police to request data — letter

Apple Inc. plans to create an online tool for police to formally request data about its users and to assemble a team to train police about what data can and cannot be obtained from the iPhone maker, according to a company letter seen by Reuters.
The letter, dated Sept. 4, was from Apple General Counsel Kate Adams to US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island.
Apple declined to comment beyond the letter.
Apple can and does provide some user data, such as data stored in its iCloud online service, to law enforcement officials if they make a valid legal request.
But Apple has sparred with US law enforcement officials because it encrypts its devices in such a way that Apple cannot access the devices if asked to do so.
The company said in its letter that it had responded to 14,000 US law enforcement requests last year, including 231 “domestic emergency requests,” that it largely addressed within 20 minutes of receipt “regardless of the time of day or night.”
Apple previously handled those requests via email, a company spokeswoman confirmed. By the end of this year, Apple will provide an online tool for law enforcement officials to make and track requests, according to its letter.
Apple said in the letter that it had trained nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers in how to obtain data from the company. The training previously happened in person at Apple’s headquarters, but the company said it would create an online training course and a team of trainers to help extend its reach to smaller departments.
It said the training and portal would be available globally.
A July report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies that surveyed state and federal US law enforcement officials said their top concern was how to identify which technology companies had access to which data and how to obtain it, which can change from year to year and even month to month as consumers use new devices and services.
“Regardless of what happens in the encryption debate, these are efforts that ought to be undertaken,” Jennifer C. Daskal, one of the report’s authors, told Reuters. “Law enforcement needs to know about, and be able to access, the data that is available.”
Apple participated in the study by responding to questions from the researchers, as did other technology companies.


Fall of top US scientists points to ethics gap in research

In this Dec. 6, 2016 file photo, Brian Wansink speaks during an interview in the produce section of a supermarket in Ithaca, N.Y. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2018
0

Fall of top US scientists points to ethics gap in research

  • Links between a doctor leading a clinical trial and manufacturers of drugs or medical equipment used in the study can influence the methodology and ultimately the results

WASHINGTON: Three prominent US scientists have been pushed to resign over the past 10 days after damning revelations about their methods, a sign of greater vigilance and decreasing tolerance for misconduct within the research community.
The most spectacular fall concerned Jose Baselga, chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He authored hundreds of articles on cancer research.
Investigative journalism group ProPublica and The New York Times revealed on September 8 that Baselga failed to disclose in dozens of research articles that he had received millions of dollars from pharmaceutical and medical companies.
Such declarations are generally required by scientific journals.
Links between a doctor leading a clinical trial and manufacturers of drugs or medical equipment used in the study can influence the methodology and ultimately the results.
But journals don’t themselves verify the thoroughness of an author’s declarations.
Caught up in the scandal, Baselga resigned on September 13.

Next came the case of Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at the prestigious Cornell University.
He made his name thanks to studies that garnered plenty of media attention, including on pizza, and the appetites of children.
His troubles began last year when scientific sleuths discovered anomalies and surprisingly positive results in dozens of his articles.
In February, BuzzFeed published messages in which Wansink encouraged a researcher to extract from her data results more likely to go “viral.”
After a yearlong inquiry, Cornell announced on Thursday that Wansink committed “academic misconduct in his research and scholarship,” describing a litany of problems with his results and methods.
He is set to resign at the end of the academic year, but from now on will no longer teach there.
Wansink denied all fraud, but 13 of his articles have already been withdrawn by journals.
In the final case, Gilbert Welch, a professor of public health at Dartmouth College, resigned last week.
The university accused him of plagiarism in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the most respected American medical journal.

“The good news is that we are finally starting to see a lot of these cases become public,” said Ivan Oransky co-founder of the site Retraction Watch, a project of the Center for Scientific Integrity that keeps tabs on retractions of research articles in thousands of journals.
Oransky told AFP that what has emerged so far is only the tip of the iceberg.
The problem, he said, is that scientists, and supporters of science, have often been unwilling to raise such controversies “because they’re afraid that talking about them will decrease trust in science and that it will aid and abet anti-science forces.”
But silence only encourages bad behavior, he argued. According to Oransky, more transparency will in fact only help the public to better comprehend the scientific process.
“At the end of the day, we need to think about science as a human enterprise, we need to remember that it’s done by humans,” he said. “Let’s remember that humans make mistakes, they cut corners, sometimes worse.”
Attention has long focused on financial conflicts of interest, particularly because of the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.
But the Wansink case illustrates that other forms of conflict, including reputational, are equally important. Academic careers are largely built on how much one publishes and in which journals.
As a result, researchers compete to produce positive, new and clear results — but work that produces negative results or validates previous findings should also be rewarded, argued Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who heads the pro-transparency Center for Open Science.
“Most of the work when we’re at the boundary of science is messy, has exceptions, has things that don’t quite fit,” he explained, while “the bad part of the incentives environment is that the reward system is all about the result.”
While moves toward more transparency have gathered momentum over the past decade, in particular among publishers of research articles, there is still a long way to go, said Nosek.
“Culture change is hard,” he argued, adding: “Universities and medical centers are the slowest actors.”