The Quantum Pontiff

Ha, well, not nearly the soap opera that is the “University of East Anglia” emails, but fun to watch, nonetheless. A letter from American Physical Society president Cherry Murray:

Dear APS Member:

Recently, you may have received an unsolicited email from Hal Lewis, Bob Austin, Will Happer, Larry Gould and Roger Cohen regarding the APS and climate change. Please be assured that this was not an official APS message, nor was it sent with APS knowledge or approval. A number of members have complained to APS regarding this unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail addresses used to send this message were obtained from our membership directory, this was contrary to the stated guidelines for members’ use of the directory. We arecontinuing to investigate how the senders obtained APS member email addresses.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve
    December 10, 2009

    So what is the membership directory for? Should it be used exclusively by people who urgently need to send me email about harnessing zero-point energy or their new theory of everything? I actually don’t know the official policy.

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    December 10, 2009

    From the APS website: “Disclaimer: The listings and contents of the APS Online Member Directory are proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, or stored in a database or retrieval system. The contents of this directory are intended for an APS member’s personal use to facilitate one-on-one correspondence. Use of this directory for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited. Violators may be subject to legal action.”

  3. #3 Alex R
    December 10, 2009

    That seems to put the mass climate-change email squarely in a gray area in the APS policy: APS says that the directory is “intended” for “one-to-one correspondence” — so the email was clearly contrary to the stated intent. However, they only prohibit use of the directory for “commercial purposes” — and the mass climate-change email does not appear to have a commercial purpose.

    I suppose that if climate-change emailers’ software stored the directory in a “database or retrieval system” in the process of sending out the email, they might be in trouble. If it downloaded each address, sent the email, and then went to get the next address, it looks like they’d be in the clear, even if they didn’t adhere to the “intent” of the directory…

  4. #4 Dave Bacon
    December 10, 2009

    Well I might parse “stored in a database or retrieval system” to include any automated system (it doesn’t say “all” of them are stored in a database, just that any are stored :) )

    Also I guess, technically, it violates the “one on one” spirit, as it is “many on one”.

    Can you tell I was the son of a lawyer?

  5. #5 Rocky Humbert
    December 10, 2009

    That the APS leadership is “up in arms” about this most-obvious breach of trust is hardly surprising. We need to be sensitive about the potentially embarrassing nature of their work (especially when the window shades are rolled up.) See: http://www.psychosomatic.org/privacy/index.htm

    Whoops! Wrong APS.

  6. #6 Ian Durham
    December 10, 2009

    > We arecontinuing to investigate how the senders obtained APS
    > member email addresses.

    But aren’t they APS members? If they are then they obtained it by logging in as a member. If they’re not, then there was a security breach somewhere. But I guess physicists are human too and thus need to appoint a committee to study the problem in depth. (Can you tell I’m ready for vacation?)

  7. #7 John Mashey
    December 10, 2009

    People might want some context for this.
    The organizers of the Petition have a habit of trying to bypass the established procedures when they don’t get the opinion they want.

    See the PDF @ Science Bypass.
    That one stopped at November 11, but I’ve been doing an update to document the events since then, and the events before then that have come to light since.

    This is the tip of the iceberg of some entities that most people don’t know much about, like the George C. Marshall Insitute, of which Will Happer is the Chairman.

  8. #8 sikiƟ izle
    December 11, 2009

    This is, again, one of my biggest problems with those who refuse vaccines. They frame the issue as solely “my child, my choice.” Which is fine, until you put that child in with the rest of society via school, or daycare, or even trips to McDonald’s.

  9. #9 Jonathan Vos Post
    December 12, 2009

    “Can you tell I was the son of a lawyer?” Well, yes.

    Once my wife and I were in an excruciating settlement conference, trapped between a corrupt Deputy City Prosecutor who was covering up illegal wiretapping by the Pasadena Police Department of the very officer who’d written the report on my legally parked car on California Boulevard (mid-Caltech) having been totalled by the speeding, weaving, red light-running Defendant, a City Attorney/City Manager of Temple City, since then deposed and his in-the-pocket city councilmen and mayor indicted on multiple criminal charges.

    At one key moment, the corrupt Deputy City Prosecutor asked my wife what she meant by “The Law.”

    “I’m a Physics Professor,” said my wife. “NOBODY breaks my laws!”

    Our son is in his 3rd (last) year at USC’s Law School, following his double B.S. in Math and Computer Science. Physics, Math, and Law have such VERY different notions of “truth and “proof”!

  10. #10 John Mashey
    December 13, 2009

    re: $6
    They are APS members. The issue is fuzzy:
    The exaqct statement is:

    “Disclaimer: The listings and contents of the APS Online Member Directory are proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, or stored in a database or retrieval system. The contents of this directory are intended for an APS member’s personal use to facilitate one-on-one correspondence. Use of this directory for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited. Violators may be subject to legal action.”

    So, an APS member can see the mails of other people who:
    a) Are listed
    b) Show email addresses.
    (Which isn’t everybody).

    I think the irritation is that the petitioners have repeatedly gone around the established proceures. Personally, I thought nastiets thing in htis last one was putting Curtis Callan’s email address (in theclear*, and of course it’s been posted lots of palces by now.
    Welcome, SPAM.