Nancy Scola

Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Science Progress, Politics Magazine, AlterNet, and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Recent Articles

There's No Such Thing as Free Gmail

Google's latest foray into social networking makes headway on giving users control over their information, but it's up to us to stay vigilant.

Image via Google.
Last February, Google launched Buzz, adding a social-networking layer to the array of Google applications that already collect a vast amount of personal information from each of us. People freaked out, and with good reason: Google Buzz assumed that we were eager to share online everything we did and everyone we knew. For one thing, it made public the e-mail addresses of the people we'd been e-mailing or chatting with the most, and it was activated among Gmail users automatically. Google quickly scrambled to address these privacy concerns, but the damage had been done. Fast-forward to this week's partial rollout of the company's new Google+ social product. The company has tried to bake privacy right into the service. The network allows users to share the Web with friends, family, and interesting strangers according to sharing parameters each person sets for herself, and early reviews are positive. "The verdict after a very short time," says well-known Washington privacy advocate Shaun...

Skype in the House

The House of Representatives will now let members and their staff use the video conferencing tool Skype and its lesser-known competitor ooVoo on campus, the Committee on House Administration has announced. This embrace of Skype by the House has long been in the works. The use of services like Skype was prevented before for security reasons, and House Republicans have been pushing for the change since they were in the minority. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi started a process for reviewing the Skype ban , but her time as leader ran out before that security assessment was finished. The GOP leadership has made Skype's cost-cutting and accessibility gains a centerpiece of a push to bring the House into the 21st century that has also included redesigning and letting iPads and other mobile devices onto the House floor as long as they don't damage the decorum the House so treasures. The Skype move is an updating of the House's basic functionality, even if the tools are still hobbled --...

Safety Net for the Net

Barack Obama's new plan makes the case for government involvement in cybersecurity.

Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Kazuo Hirai bows in apology for a security breach at the start of a press conference at the Sony Corp. headquarters in Tokyo May 1, 2011. Standing behind Hirai is Shiro Kambe, senior vice president of Sony.
Last week, President Barack Obama unveiled legislation aimed at making cyberspace safer. "Cyberspace" is, admittedly, a clunky term, but no one has yet come up with anything better to describe the totality of Internet connections, electrical grids, consumer databases, financial networks, military systems, and other networks on which American life has grown dependent. But when it comes to securing it, as Obama has said, "we're not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country." Obama's proposal won't win any awards for innovation, but it does seek to answer the two big questions: Can we protect the digital realm from the viruses, hacks, and breaches that regularly threaten it? And, can this be done without upsetting the balance between private innovation and government oversight that has enabled the Internet's explosive growth in the last few decades? The president's cybersecurity proposal follows a model first adopted in the early days of the Internet: The government...

The Return of Big Bell

AT&T wants to convince us that the merger with T-Mobile is inevitable. We shouldn't let it.

(Flickr/Kibbe Museum)
At this point, it's clear how AT&T intends to sell its $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile. "Indeed, the wireless marketplace will be more competitive," reads the company's 381-page report filed with the Federal Communications Commission last week, "because this transaction will expand overall output and relieve both AT&T and T-Mobile USA of capacity constraints that would reduce their competitive impact." Translation: AT&T, made stronger by eating up T-Mobile, will give consumers better choices than the two companies do separately. Even though the Department of Justice and the FCC could take a whole year to vet the deal, if AT&T succeeds in framing doubters as future-hating anti-capitalists, the debate might be over before it really starts. The company shouldn't get away with it. We've been somewhere like this before. In 1982, after a long-running antitrust case, AT&T -- a.k.a. "Ma Bell" -- was broken up into the seven Baby Bell companies. AT&T might not...

Big Brother Apple

Apple's decision to remove an anti-gay app from iTunes might be seen as a victory for gay-rights groups, but are we losing something bigger in the long run?

(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Last week, the gay-rights group Truth Wins Out celebrated Apple's decision to pull from its store an app by Exodus International, perhaps the best-known "ex-gay" organization in the world. The app, a near mirror of Exodus' website -- including its podcasts, FAQs, blog posts, and news updates -- was removed after a petition circulated on collected more than 150,000 signatures. "The message Apple is sending here is clear: there is no place for 'ex-gay therapy' on the Apple platform," said a editor. But there was another message that also came across: It's Apple's job to police who can see what online. At 350,000 apps and counting, the Apple apps store can only be described as a huge commercial success; Apple recently hit the 10 billion download mark, and the $10,000 gift card Apple gave the lucky downloader could buy enough cheap software for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches to run several companies -- and perhaps a few small countries. (I'm editing this piece on...