Month: January 2012


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While Americans have made great fuss about SOPA, PIPA and (next four-letter acronym goes here, e.g., ACTA) Denmark has had DNS-blocking for some time for drugs, games, child pornography and copyrighted content. It means that when I go I end up on my own machine as “” resolves by the IP-number (i.e., my own computer) with the name service provided by my ISP. If I use another name service, e.g., from I get the number “” for PirateBay.

The domain seems to have been the first DNS-blocked due to the law on drugs. The case and the law in question (Lov om ??ndring af lov om l??gemidler og lov om medicinsk udstyr) from 2011 have been discussed in English by Thomas Steen Rasmussen in his blog post DNS-censoring Illegal Pharmaceutical Vendors – Blocked.

(Warning nerdish content: Strangely, while resolves to my DNS resolves to The webserver on apparently attempts to work from a virtual host at and this address is handled by redirects to All these 200.106.144 seems to be in Panama…)

Back in 2006 IFPI Denmark managed to get ISP Tele2 to block access to, a site that illegally distributed copyrighted material. For me resolves to, – again my own computer. No access.

DNS blocking for child pornography has been going on for years (described on the Danish Wikipedia). In 2008 Wikileaks leaked a list of the sites blocked. Of these “” reports “not found” for me. The same goes for, e.g., “” and “”. Also find no entry for these names, so perhaps they are abandoned?

Games/casinos across the Internet can be blocked in Denmark by various means. This is stated to be to protect the legal game market (as well as the tax collection I suppose). The draft of the law from 2010 suggested payment blocking (which was then already taking place in United States and Norway) as well as DNS blocking. The ISP business complained about this DNS blocking. Tens of international companies have sought Danish license for legal gaming. All Slots Casino and Casino Club are two companies that haven’t sought license, but I can yet access and alright.

Illegal copying seems to bring serious loss of income to intellectual workers. Rather than lengthy court cases the people and organizations involved (the copyright owner as well as the ones accused of illegal distribution) should have access to an agile instance that quickly can resolve international disputes.

Proponents of illegal copying often argue that restrictions on the Internet that politicians propose will restrict freedom of expression. But to me that hardly makes sense. The Danish Parliament defines freedom of expression (Ytringsfrihed) with “you can say, write or in another way express your thought publicly”. Note here that Ytringsfrihed is in the context of your thoughts, – not other people’s work. If you want to express yourself then use you own brain with your own thoughts and use WordPress, Posterous, Wikipedia, Wikinews, YouTube, Vimeo, Soundcloud or any other of the marvelous social media website we now have freely available. A dull copying of your favorite movie is not freedom of expression and claiming that to be freedom of expression is inflating a fundamental right that is more valuable. Rather than engaging in illegal copying you can check whether you have real freedom of expression in your country by calling your leader an idiot. If you end up tortured in prison you do not have freedom of expression.

While I believe some means of controlling illegal copying is in order that clandestine procedure of ACTA is surely not the way to do it. Something is rotten there.

I do contend that a certain amount of “non-resolved” use of copyrighted material is ok, such as non-commercial remixes and performances, see, e.g., the discussion on Free Bieber. Also the beautiful theremin rendition of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (shown below) might not have been resolved copyright-wise. Should such “private public” performances be explicitly allowed?

Crowdsourcing medical diagnosis via Facebook

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A study I am surprise hasn’t generated headlines is Laypersons can seek help from their Facebook friends regarding medical diagnosis (Danish: Lægfolk kan bruge deres Facebook-venner til at få hjælp vedrørende medicinske diagnoser). Hype is there alright: crowdsourcing and Facebook. Let your Facebook friends diagnose your disease.

The author of the study – 4 Danish medical doctors – found 8 willing subjects that would use their Facebook wall to post one of 6 short medical cases (see below) selected from an English text book and translated (I suppose) into Danish. The friends of the subjects could then propose a diagnosis by commenting on the post. In 6 of the 8 Facebook users (5 of the 6 stories) a correct diagnosis was suggested. The number of answers to each posted case was from 1 to 14, – the authors had thought that more Facebook friends would participate. Only one of the correct diagnoses was suggested by a medical trained person.

The authors report the median response time to correct diagnosis as 9.5 minutes. However, this is among the people that got a correct answer! If you add the people that did not get a correct diagnosis at all you get the median time to correct diagnosis to be 21 minutes calculated as median([75, 9, 8, inf, 3, 11, 31, inf]). But even 21 minutes might be quite quick compared to ordinary Danish health service. For one case that – I believe – could require surgery within hours the time to the correct answer was 3 minutes.

The authors note the number of “acceptable answers”. In information retrieval contexts of precision/recall the number of acceptable answer addresses the precision: It doesn’t help that the correct diagnosis is posted if it is overwhelmed by a large number of wrong diagnoses (false positives). The authors accepted differential diagnoses as acceptable and found rates between 14% and 100% of acceptable answers, i.e., in one case only 2 out of 14 suggestions (14%) were acceptable. One critique of this measure is that the authors regard obviously humourous diagnoses as “wrong” answers (AFAI read), e.g., one suggestion for a cause of the disease of a girl was that she was depressed due to a specific football club did not sign a proper goal keeper for the season.

The study is small but nevertheless interesting. It doesn’t show that a collective of non-experts are better than an expert as, e.g., Extracting collective probabilistic forecasts from web games. However, I think that the diagnoses were surpricingly quick.

For the broader picture the study gives an idea how sociotechnical systems may help in a welfare state.

Here are all the six medical cases translated from Danish:

  1. A 62 year old man is coughing and has had fever since he came home from India two months ago. Now there has begun to be a bit of blood with the coughing. What is he suffering from?
  2. What disease comes to mind when you read: A 38 year old guy has swollen fingers, swollen hand joints and ankles. The joints are sore and swollen and stiff for over an hour every morning?
  3. If you have pain down the right side of the stomach below the belly button (naval), what’s wrong?
  4. A 35-year-old woman has a burning sensation in diaphragm after eating, even if she only eats very little. She can no longer eat spicy food, drink coffee or chew chewing gum, what’s wrong?
  5. What do you think is wrong? A girl of 26 years lost to follow 6 kg (Correction: she lost 6 kg in weight) , feels restless and has occasional palpitations. She also has a slight swelling on the neck.
  6. An elderly gentleman has a terrible pain in the big toe base joint: It is completely white and he can not even have a blanket resting over his foot, what do you think he suffers from?

You are not allowed to look at the solution from the medical journal. Google searching is allowed. You can put your suggestion in the comment field. Bonus task is to suggest treatments.

My leg, my leg for 1.9 million kroner?

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Do you want to pay 1.9 million Danish kroner for your leg?

Some days ago I finished reading Danish defense lawyer Bent Nielsen’s book (‘Det er il’godt træls: en forsvarsadvokats dilemma) where he recounts and debates some of his cases. Among the issues he addresses are compensation to victims of crime. Bent Nielsen writes:

Denmark provides miserable damages on injuries.

Its ridiculous amounts when the limbs, eyesight and hearing and all our vital organs are put in compensatory money terms. And there is even talk about damage that can be measured and assessed. I once asked one of the High Court judges after being annoyed at something he had said: “A personal question, Judge, can I buy your leg for 100’000 DKK?”

As examples he recounts a case where two men raped a women with a knife. Compensation: 40’000 Danish kroner, that is around 5’000 Euros. Bent Nielsen instead suggested 500’000 kroner, — as a beginning. At around the time when Bent Nielsen’s book was published in 2002, the law was changed so the going rate now is 60-70’000 kroner per rape, – still far from Bent Nielsen ten times increase.

Normally the criminal (or the insurance company) should pay the damages. However, if the criminal cannot pay or the victim cannot get money through the insurance, then the Danish state must pay (according to the law). Maybe there’s the rub. For in that pay lies a cost for the taxpayer which apparently is around 100 million kroner for the total of Danish cases per year. (This state compensation is handled thought the Erstatningsnævnet which have further details on their homepage)

But why should the Danish state pay for the wrongdoings of a criminal at all? Increase the compensation to the Bent Nielsen levels and let the criminal pay whatever he can, e.g., by working in prison. The state compensation can be (IMHO) ridiculed: Lets say a guy owes money to a gang. The gang kidnaps the man and drives him around for 6 hours in Copenhagen and the surrounding area while threatening him. The gang leaves him physically unharmed, and he seeks damages for 6 hours of kidnapping and gets 20’000 kroner from the Danish state. This is one of the cases from the Erstatningsnævnet’s annual report. Did the guy paid off his debt with the money…?

From my course in law at the Engineering College of Aarhus back in the 1990s, I recall a story about a guy using a walkie talkie. He was on the wrong channel and disrupted the communication between a captain of a ship and the marine pilot with the result that the ship crashed into the quay (AFAIR). The guy with the walkie talkie had to pay huge damages. The moral of the story is that your small failures can – in some very unfortunate circumstances – result in large expenses to others.

A few days ago, a Danish court of appeal settled large damages for the case of the so-called “fodboldtosse” (the football fool). In 2007 during the match between Denmark and Sweden in Copenhagen, the drunken fodboldtosse ran into the field and attacked the referee. The European football federation (UEFA) punished the Danish organizers so they had to put the games in smaller stadiums (which meant loss of income) and pay a fine on 281’000 kroner. The court of appeal determined the amount to be around 1.9 million kroner (approx. 240’000 Euro), which is probably fair, – as lawyers also agree. The fodboldtosse has not got that large amount of money and there are no taxpayers to help. A number of people feel pity for the drunkard and started a collection. Presently a pool on Facebook is just over 30’000 kroner, so now they only need the rest of the 98%.

It is telling to note that for the amount on 1.9 million the fodboldtosse could have raped 29 women and paid full damages. The remarkable discrepancy between criminal damage and the large lawsuit damage was also noted on Facebook by comedian Frank Hvam commenting on the fodboldtosse and a recent nasty criminal case where the damage (state-funded, I suppose) was settled on 150’000 kroner. The particular Facebook post has gained over 17’000 likes, over 4’000 share and over 1’000 comments.

When I was little I actually thought that you would get money from the police if a thief stole from you. Later I found out that this is not the case. If the state is supposed to cover the damages I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if the individual police districts were to pay for damages made by criminals.


(2012-02-21 and 2019-08-27: spelling corrections)

Hacking the smart grid to detect which TV program you watch

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Computer security researcher from Münster University, Dario Carluccio and Stephan Brinkhaus, presented a hack of the electricity meters and remotely (as far as I understand) detection of which TV program you watch. A summary of the system is on sophos naked security.

The two researchers “attacked” a smart meter system by the German company Discovergy. This system stores the power consumption continuously and as each electrical apparatus may yield a temporal pattern of power consumption it is possible to detect different apparatus. Their approach seems to be based on studies previously presented in Hintergrund und experimentelle Ergebnisse zum Thema ‘Smart Meter und Datenschutz’ by Greveler, Justus and Löhr. Their abstract reads:

Advanced metering devices (smart meters) are being installed throughout electric networks in Germany (as well as in other parts of Europe and in the United States). Unfortunately, smart meters are able to become surveillance devices that monitor the behavior of the customers leading to unprecedented invasions of consumer privacy. High-resolution energy consumption data is transmitted to the utility company allowing intrusive identification and monitoring of equipment within consumers’ homes (e. g., TV set, refrigerator, toaster, and oven). Our research shows that the analysis of the household’s electricity usage profile does reveal what channel the TV set in the household was displaying. Moreover, the data being transmitted via the Internet is unsigned and unencrypted. All tests were performed with a sealed, operational smart meter used for electricity metering in a private home in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Mein Gott!

An hour long video with Carluccio and Brinkhaus presentation here (I
haven’t watch the entire video):

Cavling prize 2011 II

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What did I say?

The two journalist Anton Geist and Ulrik Dahlin today received unsurprisingly the most prestigious Danish journalism prize: the Cavling prize. It was for their 100+-article coverage of the so-called “citizenship case”. So far the case has brought down one minister and up one commission.

The case still generates political conflicts. By signing United Nations conventions Denmark is required to give young people with no citizenship a Danish citizenship if they are raised and have lived in Denmark and request a citizenship. Such people may include criminals and people who the police regards as a security risk (but has no strong evidence).

I also suggested another possible winner for the Cavling-prize: Poul Pilgaard Johnsen for his coverage of the neuroscientist Milena Penkowa case. He wasn’t even nominated, but a communication/PR/journalism news site regarded that as the “injustice of the year”. Apparently neuroscience is insufficiently sexy for the Cavling prize committee.

(correction: 22:10)