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August 21, 2013 8:52 PM   Subscribe

Get the brand new social network that all your friends are talking about.
posted by Sebmojo (70 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Completely petty design question about the mobile site: how does it do the cool circle-to-square morphing on the "Don't ever worry about not sharing again" circles? I keep poking the iPhone screen in fascination. It's like squishing bubble wrap.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:58 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the desktop, the circles turn to squares on mouseover.
posted by Wulfhere at 9:07 PM on August 21, 2013


how does it do the cool circle-to-square morphing on the "Don't ever worry about not sharing again" circles?

Most browsers support rounded-rectangles in CSS. If you change the corner-radius value, you can make things switch between being a square and a circle, I imagine.
posted by Jimbob at 9:14 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Having first opened this page while logged in anonymously on a new computer sans AdBlock, displayed was an animated ad for Google+ .

snort.

p.s. and fuck you, NSA.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:14 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Looks like I already signed up. Does anyone remember my password?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:42 PM on August 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


Pick up a phone and ask.

Any phone.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:42 PM on August 21, 2013 [34 favorites]


Too bad the NSA has no way to monetize it.

As Metafilter says, if you aren't the customer, you are the product.

I'd rather pay 5$ a month or so than have them run to to the black budget over and over only to ultimately be defunded, leaving users in the lurch.

Maybe they should go freemium. Facebook and twitter are free. But SMS and Skype is cost extra.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:44 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't want to find everyone I ever knew. Some of the people I used to know are scary... Just sayin'!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:47 PM on August 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I for one am outraged.
posted by cthuljew at 9:51 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm still mad Obama saw the event I put up for my bday party and didn't even rsvp no. Dude just didn't show up and I was stuck with extra gorditas.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:52 PM on August 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was all, "But sharing when I don't want to is exactly what I'm worried abou-- Oh.
Oh. I am slow."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:53 PM on August 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is not funny.
posted by NSA at 10:06 PM on August 21, 2013 [71 favorites]


posted by NSA at 10:06 PM on August 21 [+] [!]

No Strings Attached?! You're my second favorite *Nsync album! If they reunite at the VMAs for real I may cry.
posted by fatehunter at 10:09 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't get enough of the hilarity that the NSA is all up in E. Snowden's shit about him having copies of their private information and they don't want him to have it, are worried about what he'll do with and don't even know how much he's got. Sucks, doesn't it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:10 PM on August 21, 2013 [51 favorites]


The Sheriff’s Secret Police report that the conversation was too quiet for them to hear, and reminds all citizens to please hold all conversations in a loud, declamatory manner, facing outwards, and making dramatic gestures to increase both the ease and excitement of their surveillance duties.
posted by kagredon at 10:13 PM on August 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


— FAKEBLOCK ACTIVATED —

tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock tock ...
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 PM on August 21, 2013 [17 favorites]


The problem is that their moderation sucks. If I make a spur of the moment jack-assy comment here, Jessamyn pulls it right away. That PRSM shit follows you forever.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:38 PM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is not funny.

Right. Because satire and mockery never make any difference in changing things.
posted by zardoz at 10:49 PM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Brought to you by Datacoup, the company that wants to monetize your personal data.
posted by unliteral at 10:49 PM on August 21, 2013



For the record, kagredon's quote is from Welcome to Night Vale, which is by and far one of the grooviest podcasts going. You all should listen to it. Don't make me call the glow cloud. I will open this dog park right now, interns be damned. You must listen. You WILL listen. Else, it listens to you...
posted by dejah420 at 11:06 PM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not funny.

Right. Because satire and mockery never make any difference in changing things.


Psst, check out his username.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:53 PM on August 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


Contact Activity (hide):

NSA had a comment with 14 favorites in MetaFilter. Almost 2 hours ago

How do you like them apples NSA. That's right, I have access to a rough estimate of when you made your most popular comments and posts.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:23 AM on August 22, 2013


That's OK. You can't learn anything from this MetaData.

Except maybe sleep patterns, timezone, political ideology, subjects of interest.
posted by zoo at 12:29 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm, imagery on this advert implies that it is U.S. only. I've been using this service to connect with folk around the globe.
posted by lovelyzoo at 1:16 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


how does it do the cool circle-to-square morphing on the "Don't ever worry about not sharing again" circles?
--
Most browsers support rounded-rectangles in CSS. If you change the corner-radius value, you can make things switch between being a square and a circle, I imagine


It's also using the CSS3 transition properties:

transition-duration: 0.4s;
transition-timing-function: ease-out;

which turns :hover changes and the like into animations.
posted by titus-g at 1:43 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


It looks pretty good, but I think the Canadian roll out isn't going as smoothly.

A friend of mine tried it, and it set his barn on fire.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:14 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It looks pretty good, but I think the Canadian roll out isn't going as smoothly.

It's okay, New Zealand and the UK are all up in this biz.
posted by Mezentian at 4:48 AM on August 22, 2013


Too bad the NSA has no way to monetize it.

Are you joking? We spend literally an unknown amount of money on the NSA. Random googling indicates at least $10 billion.
posted by odinsdream at 5:23 AM on August 22, 2013


Hey can you do me a solid and hard-delete MetaFilter? Kthx!
posted by petebest at 5:24 AM on August 22, 2013


I love that they are using Google Analytics.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:37 AM on August 22, 2013


I, for one, am not interested in any storage provider that doesn't permanently archive all of my data.
posted by markkraft at 5:37 AM on August 22, 2013


I mean seriously... foreigners get better service and more reliable data backups from them than I do, but when I call them up with an emergency and ask for access to my backup... their management make things practically impossible at the central office with all their bureaucracy and random audits and such. I literally had to go through a friend of mine working in Baghdad to get at my data!

(Really... do you know how hard it is for the average Joe to get a warrant from a secret judicial panel?! )
posted by markkraft at 5:46 AM on August 22, 2013


I've changed my Desktop background on my home computer to read "This is a United States Government computer and you should have no expectation of privacy". Seriously, I weep for my country.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:07 AM on August 22, 2013


Aw, you guys are missing out. You can sign up to Prsm in the UK and now I'm watching someone in Nebraska reading on the toilet!
posted by mippy at 6:33 AM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm glad to see that they learned a lesson from G+ and are not forcing people to use their real names. In fact they let you use whatever name you want, they can link everything to you accurately, anyway. Awesome!
posted by oddman at 6:49 AM on August 22, 2013


Scarily plausible. Reminds me of my reaction to finding out that the XBox One would have an always-on Kinect: even Orwell didn't imagine a future in which people voluntarily paid Big Brother to watch them.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 AM on August 22, 2013


Nicely done.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 AM on August 22, 2013


Wait a minute. "MetaFilter"?!? "MetaData"?!?!

The Blue is watching You! And the NSA too.
posted by skepticbill at 8:01 AM on August 22, 2013


"Seriously, I weep for my country."
Why? The policies in place are essentially a decade old... the same ones that went in place around 2003, and have been widely suspected since 2006, assuming you were paying any significant attention to the issue.

Specifically, these programs exist because the 9/11 commission found that the NSA had identified three of the 9/11 hijackers back in 1999, but that they were so focused overseas that they failed to pass information on to the FBI when they came into the US. The NSA also intercepted and transcribed seven calls from hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar to a facility associated with an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen. However, NSA’s access point overseas did not provide the technical data indicating the location from where al-Mihdhar was calling from. This led the NSA to believe that Mihdhar was overseas. In fact, al-Mihdhar was calling from San Diego, California, where he was living with fellow hijacker Nawaf al-Hazni. They later were amongst those who kidnapped American Airlines Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon.

So basically, the government initiated programs designed to prevent such a major oversight in the future. The full, exact specifics and sample screenshots of what NSA agents see when they use this software were released recently in the slides for Gen. Alexander's presentation at Black Hat. If you want a very clear, detailed explanation of what the NSA is doing and the government's rationale for them doing so, I would strongly recommend watching the video along with these slides, as they are remarkably revealing. It will also make it clearer to you which reporters, bloggers, and pundits out there either lack some of this information, or simply have ignored it. (Contrary to news reports, the discussion was remarkably revelatory for the NSA, and was largely polite, open, detailed, frank... and well received.

"and fuck you, NSA."

The NSA are people. Fellow Americans. I have met a several, all of whom are well-meaning, trying to protect people, and generally more knowledgeable and experienced with the NSA's internal processes, checks, and balances than Snowden would've been as a contractor. .. and far more accountable, as a centralized, monitored, audited NSA employee.

In truth, Snowden's revelations show just how insecure the NSA was to anyone working for these contractors with malicious intent. The fact that he could circumvent security and steal this information -- some of which may belong to US Private is a huge problem in itself.

I know people who work for WikiLeaks and the EFF too, in addition to the NSA... but frankly? Most often, they are both ideological and highly impractical. And that tends to make them a bit sloppy when it comes to the facts. I really doubt the NSA could do anything to alleviate their doubts, short of completely disbanding.

Meanwhile, President Obama, who previously expressed an interest in tighter enforcement before all this began, now has the level of political cover needed to do just that. He's tightening oversight, adding people who are to argue the interest of civil liberties to the private judicial proceedings, and is making the NSA a far more open organization than before... especially when it comes to congress.
posted by markkraft at 8:22 AM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I predict that terrorists will find un-Prismed backchannel methods to communicate online. My favorite scenario is the one where they visit each others' towns in Animal Crossing. Mark my words!
posted by naju at 8:43 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I predict that terrorists will find un-Prismed backchannel methods to communicate online.

Man, I bet the terrorists have even stopped communicating in English, ruining all our keyword searches!!
posted by odinsdream at 8:45 AM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was hoping for a free download of Dark Side of the Moon.
posted by arcticseal at 8:46 AM on August 22, 2013


I'm still mad Obama saw the event I put up for my bday party and didn't even rsvp no. Dude just didn't show up and I was stuck with extra gorditas.

there is no such thing as "extra gorditas." all quantities of gordita are by definition the right amount.
posted by echocollate at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2013


Needs a share on facebook/twitter/etc button!
posted by Big_B at 9:15 AM on August 22, 2013


I was hoping for a free download of Dark Side of the Moon.

Will you settle for the Dark Doom of Our Side?
posted by jamjam at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2013


I predict that terrorists will find un-Prismed backchannel methods to communicate online.

Were terrorists ever using Prism-able channels to communicate?
posted by forgetful snow at 9:35 AM on August 22, 2013


I know people who work for WikiLeaks and the EFF too, in addition to the NSA... but frankly? Most often, they are both ideological and highly impractical. And that tends to make them a bit sloppy when it comes to the facts.

I would be very interested to know who you know who works at the EFF in a role of any significance whatsoever who meets this description.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


>>"Seriously, I weep for my country."
>Why? The policies in place are essentially a decade old... the same ones that went in place around 2003, and have been widely suspected since 2006, assuming you were paying any significant attention to the issue.


Um, I don't think it's the newness of the secret spying program that people have a problem with. That they've been around even longer than one might think is worse, not better.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


NSA: "This is not funny."

So it stands for No Sense of Amusement, eh?
posted by chavenet at 9:46 AM on August 22, 2013


I predict that terrorists will find un-Prismed backchannel methods to communicate online. My favorite scenario is the one where they visit each others' towns in Animal Crossing.

I thought about testing this by inviting three friends over to my village and then talking about bombs, but... dude, I like my Nintendo in one piece.
posted by cmyk at 10:07 AM on August 22, 2013


Why? The policies in place are essentially a decade old... the same ones that went in place around 2003, and have been widely suspected since 2006, assuming you were paying any significant attention to the issue.

Gee, a whole decade? Never mind then.
posted by bongo_x at 11:27 AM on August 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like how the joke will most likely not work on old people because they will see an error message, get frustrated, and close the entire browser. Then they will call me and ask where their e-mail went. Okay so what I mean to say is I can't send this to my mom. Carry on.
posted by Mooseli at 12:39 PM on August 22, 2013


This 5 zettabytes rumor needs to die in a fire.

No datacenter could hold 5 billion 1T SSD drives, nor would there be capacity in every HD factory on Earth to make such an array. I know the black budget is big, but I can't imagine them blowing 1 Trillion dollars on storage.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:03 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why? The policies in place are essentially a decade old... the same ones that went in place around 2003, and have been widely suspected since 2006, assuming you were paying any significant attention to the issue.

Oh, I see. If they're a decade old, then carry on!
posted by benbenson at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2013


No datacenter could hold 5 billion 1T SSD drives, nor would there be capacity in every HD factory on Earth to make such an array. I know the black budget is big, but I can't imagine them blowing 1 Trillion dollars on storage.

This made me intensely curious, so I followed that link and found gold:

A one terabyte SSD (I assume that's what you meant by flash-drive) would require 5000000000 of those. That is five billion of those flash drives. Can you visualise how much five billion flash-drives are?

A single SSD is roughly 2cm*13cm*13cm with an approximate weight of 80g. That would make 400 000 metric tons of SSDs, a weight equivalent to over one thousand Boeing 747 airplanes. Even if we assume that they solder the flash chips directly onto some kind of controller (which also weighs something), the raw material for that would be completely insane.

Another visualization: If you stacked 5 billion SSDs on top of each other you would get an SSD tower that is a hundred thousand kilometres high, that is equivalent to 2,5 x the equatorial circumference of Earth or 62000 miles.

The volume of those SSDs would be clocking in at 1690000000 cubic metres, more than the Empire State building. Are you still with me?


It just keeps going from there. It's amazing.
posted by emjaybee at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2013


It just keeps going from there. It's amazing.

Yeah, its like a What If…XKCD in the wild.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:52 PM on August 22, 2013


"I would be very interested to know who you know who works at the EFF in a role of any significance whatsoever who meets this description."

I don't name names, but keep in mind that I was the Business Manager of LiveJournal, that I live in S.F., where the EFF is based, and that I spent a lot of my time going to the same kind of dotcom / internet-oriented events, conventions, and private parties -- including EFF events -- that lots of other people in that general world went to.

Let me just say this... I love the EFF. I have given money to them. I back most everything they do. But many of their key people are ideological on issues of a citizen's privacy, to the point that they overlook prior Supreme Court decisions... and quite a few of them are lawyers, arguing actual positions. Their major concern isn't this... or that the NSA has the ability to keep doing it. It is that you know the full details of classified government programs that involve your right to privacy.

But, of course, if you know all the details, the terrorists do too. And there are very real reasons to be concerned about the damage to both lives, civil liberties, and the economy if we had, say, half of those terrorist attacks stopped by the NSA occur... one every six months or so.

Sure, terrorism's numbers don't even stack up next to prostate cancer in the greater scheme of things... but the effect on society is far more profound... and simply saying that we should ignore the fear, accept the losses, and put up with the major inconveniences of losing major buildings, bridges, subways, dams, water supplies, etc. and rebuild kind of misses the point.

There has never been a country that has responded logically and proportionately to a serious fear of terrorism. It's a naive thing to expect, under the circumstances. It's like when Libertarians suggest that if only everyone acted rationally in regards to the market... well, everyone doesn't. In fact, lots of them are specifically betting on people to overreact. Many make their living by betting on people's irrational fears effecting market behavior, because fear is one of the most reliable constants to bet on in this troubled economy. Certainly, the media absolutely relies on public fear, and knows that its a moneymaker.

" That (these programs have) been around even longer than one might think is worse, not better."

That depends. You have to weigh the program's desired impact, which may be somewhat less than this vs. the verifiable impact to Americans, which is somewhere between this and your worst nightmares.

I suspect that when the dust settles, the overall effect of these revelations will be that the NSA's desired impact on terrorism will decrease significantly, just as the risk of them violating any American's privacy in any significant way will also decrease. Most likely, armed, intrusive paramilitary troops at airports, ports, borders, major events, etc. will be used to pick up the slack. (Don't worry... you can trust them!) Hopefully, your worst nightmares will be somewhat assuaged, if not entirely reassured.

But hey, a few extra terrorist attacks on America per year might just fit under the category of a whole lot of other people's idea of their worst nightmares, too.

(Of course, for some, it wouldn't just be a nightmare, so you have that too. But hey... people are fungible!)
posted by markkraft at 4:26 PM on August 22, 2013


As it stands, it sounds to me like the NSA is pretty much already reducing the risk of someone maliciously violating your privacy by 90%.

How? By getting rid of 90% of the people who gather your data, and replacing them with automated, computerized intelligence gathering systems.

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace
.

Richard Brautigan - 1967

posted by markkraft at 4:39 PM on August 22, 2013


MiltonRandKalman: "This 5 zettabytes rumor needs to die in a fire.

No datacenter could hold 5 billion 1T SSD drives, nor would there be capacity in every HD factory on Earth to make such an array. I know the black budget is big, but I can't imagine them blowing 1 Trillion dollars on storage.
"

Keep in mind that each TB of storage doesn't actually need a bulky hard drive box sized for magnetic media. I'm pretty sure that they can pack it much more densely.

Even then, 5 ZB is an insane number, but you don't expect them to reveal the true order of magnitude, much less the real number, do you?
posted by double block and bleed at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2013


"No datacenter could hold 5 billion 1T SSD drives, nor would there be capacity in every HD factory on Earth to make such an array. I know the black budget is big, but I can't imagine them blowing 1 Trillion dollars on storage."

Not to mention the electricity bills! Eek!

If the NSA does decide to permanently archive all your data, it won't be in the middle of Utah. It will be in Alaska, so they don't have to pay so much for the air conditioning.
posted by markkraft at 4:53 PM on August 22, 2013


Keep in mind that each TB of storage doesn't actually need a bulky hard drive box sized for magnetic media.

That scenario is addressed near the bottom of the comment
lets assume that they build a storage chip that stores 100TB. This reduces the amount of needed chips to "just" 50 million, lets say they get 10 of those into a server / some kind of specialized storage unit and we only need 5 million of those specially engineered servers, with custom connectors, software, chips, storage, most likely also power sources and whatever - 10 million completely custom units built with technology that is not available to the market. Google is estimated to have about a million servers in total, I don't know exactly in how many data centres those are placed but numbers I heard recently said that it's about 40. When Apple assembles a new iPhone model they need massive factories with thousands of workers and supplies from many different countries, over several months, to assemble just a few million units for their launch month.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:15 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even then, 5 ZB is an insane number, but you don't expect them to reveal the true order of magnitude, much less the real number, do you?

The comment just below the one I linked to on Reddit:
~12 exabytes is their estimated capacity with current technology, which is around 13 billion gigabytes
And below that one:
The Forbes articles digressed into a meaningless analysis of storing 24 hr video. It says it would take 272 PB/yr to store all phone calls made in the US. If they have 12 EB of storage, that means they can store 12 EB / .265 EB/yr = 45.3 yrs of phone data. If you use the low-ball estimate in the article of 3 EB, that is still 11.3 yrs of phone data.
Which seems more realistic, and yet still infuriating. To think I made this in 2008 [self-link]
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 5:20 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled "help" but the cavalry stayed home
There ain't no-one hearing the bugle blown
Wherever this flag's flown
We [spy on] our own

posted by lenny70 at 6:02 PM on August 22, 2013


There has never been a country that has responded logically and proportionately to a serious fear of terrorism. It's a naive thing to expect, under the circumstances. It's like when Libertarians suggest that if only everyone acted rationally in regards to the market... well, everyone doesn't. In fact, lots of them are specifically betting on people to overreact. Many make their living by betting on people's irrational fears effecting market behavior, because fear is one of the most reliable constants to bet on in this troubled economy. Certainly, the media absolutely relies on public fear, and knows that its a moneymaker.

UK: IRA.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:32 PM on August 22, 2013


"UK: IRA."

Um... yeah.

Clearly, you are not Irish.
posted by markkraft at 9:20 PM on August 22, 2013


But many of their key people are ideological on issues of a citizen's privacy, to the point that they overlook prior Supreme Court decisions... and quite a few of them are lawyers, arguing actual positions.

Many people at the NSA, and in politics in general, have strong beliefs about privacy too (for a interesting interaction, here's Jennifer Granick, who was a criminal attorney at EFF, in conversation with General Alexander).

The way we maintain the balance of these interests is a through an open debate between all of these parties, in the court, and in Congress. It's also how we, for instance, override prior Supreme Court decisions. If you're a lawyer at the EFF (where I work) or elsewhere, and you defend or prosecute a case in open court, and you get your facts wrong, you will get your errors handed back to you on plate by the judge or your opposing counsel. And yes, you argue "actual positions", because how else do you challenge others with actual positions?

If you conduct your plans for fighting back against terrorism in secret courts, under secret orders, with a secret budget, with people whose make-up prioritizes that fight over the other balances of an open society, and who have no effective opposition in what they do, those perfectly human flaws will slowly, but inescapably undermine the rest of civilized society.

There has never been a country that has responded logically and proportionately to a serious fear of terrorism.

Fortunately, we've got to the point where we know how to dampen down those kneejerk responses. If you override those checks, then you end up in a bad place.
posted by ntk at 9:27 PM on August 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, the British have no modern history of not overreacting to terrorist bombings.

When the London bombing happened in July 2005, killing 52 people, the British Pound fell to a 19-month low against the U.S. dollar, while the FTSE shed about 1.4% of its value, before hitting the kind of reasonable anti-panic selling measures that major US investors tend to call the end of capitalism itself, in that it prevents them from making easy money by betting against America.

That was considered a relatively successful, calm reaction at the time to such an act of terrorism, btw.

Given that the Dow Jones fell 14.3% during the week after 9/11 -- and almost exactly the same percentage on the day of the less strategically important Boston bombing as the British FTSE fell during the London bombings -- it seems to me that even a successful, strategically targeted, home-brewed bomb attack using information readily available on the internet is easily capable of draining over a hundred billion dollars from the economy under relatively optimistic circumstances... and that doesn't include the costs to our freedoms.
posted by markkraft at 10:15 PM on August 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for weighing in, ntk / Danny. It's an important issue, and despite my concerns about the EFF, I actually do appreciate what you do.

"Many people at the NSA, and in politics in general, have strong beliefs about privacy too"

Absolutely, and that's worth acknowledging. The ones I've met have been *VERY* concerned with due process and constitutionality, even though they support and implement the government's policies, viewing them as essential to national security.

"The way we maintain the balance of these interests is a through an open debate between all of these parties, in the court, and in Congress."

Granted... but how open can the debate be, while still maintaining the effectiveness of the programs in question? It's a catch-22 situation, with potentially grave consequences for our country and our freedoms, either way you slice it. There's no obvious right answer, because we don't know all the risks... but there are cautious, pragmatic ones that move towards gradual reform. Much like Iraq, the NSA is clearly not an imminent threat.

"If you're a lawyer at the EFF (where I work) or elsewhere, and you defend or prosecute a case in open court, and you get your facts wrong, you will get your errors handed back to you on plate"

Anyone can be factual, while still being intentionally misleading and/or highly selective. I hear that lawyers can sometimes be pretty good at this. And you know what? They should be. They are there to put forward the strongest case they can for their client, not to help the other side make their case, or to provide balance.

And that, frankly, is what quite a few people are chafing against when it comes to this issue, because they need balance on this issue and access to whatever facts they can get, but they don't get it from the media, unless they really practice some pretty serious media skills., which can require a lot of time and attention.... and the EFF aren't helping that much, frankly, especially in how they use the media.

Here, for example, is Trevor Timm from EFF, telling HuffPo that President Obama lied on national television when he said the NSA can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails:

"he says we can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails, and now we know with this New York Times story that is plainly not true."

Are you willing to say, as of what you factually know to be true AS OF TODAY, that the President of the United States lied about this statement? Do you believe that Timm was justified in making that statement on behalf of the EFF, based on rock solid evidence?
I ask, because the NSA denies it. Our members of Congress on the National Intelligence Committee deny it, both Democrats and Republicans. And, of course, our President denies it.

This was a headline article on HuffPo, which gets about 10M visitors per day. It's a helluva important claim to make, and the EFF *NEEDS* to make sure it gets it right.

Sure, Timm cited the New York Times... but so did Dick Cheney. And yes, Iraq *DID* have WMDs... several decades ago.

But as for me? I'm unconvinced by the EFF's arguments, as they stand. And if I'm unconvinced, good luck with your lawsuits.

Another case in point from just yesterday:
"EFF Victory Results in Release of Secret Court Opinion Finding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional ", as initially released.

...except, of course, the document didn't really say that.

Rather, the document shows the government approached the secret court for a routine re-authorization after finding out about the problem, and was told that though the program was constitutional overall, a small fraction of the content violated the Constitution and the way this section of the program was run was ordered to be changed.... and, in fact, it has been subsequently changed by the NSA, by technically limiting ways in which the data can be accessed and used.

Basically, while sucking up metadata -- millions of pieces of it -- they also captured a small fraction of email attachments from a few web email services where this information couldn't be separated from the metadata. Some of these attachments were from US citizens. The communications have since been destroyed, and the bulk of the information was never accessed or analyzed.

As soon as the extent of the problem became clear, the Obama administration provided classified briefings to both Senate and House intelligence committees within days. Officials also informed the FISA court, which later issued the three 2011 rulings released Wednesday.

The EFF must know this information, but I am surprised that they haven't mentioned it. You'd think it would've been relevant, perhaps?! To me, it sounds like these could've been Trevor Timm's "OMFG, READING OUR EMAILS!!!" ( Does the EFF ever do retractions, btw?)

So how am I not to view all this as supporting Gen. Alexander's assertions?

Really, if there's one disturbing aspect to yesterday's revelations, it's that the judge in question thought that the government's lawyers kept misrepresenting details of the program, but I suspect that the problem, frankly, wasn't malic similar to the EFF's difficulties in discerning the facts of the program, including whether the Obama administration lied about the details of the program at any given time.

- The Obama administration inherited a complex, classified, highly technical, imperfectly designed program. It's kludgy... and it's initial design under Bush wasn't constitutionally viable, short of having a rubber stamp Attorney General and a bucketful of yes men.

- Also, both the government's lawyers, the EFF's lawyers, and the journalists all seem to have been chasing a moving target. Did the NSA collect emails of Americans? Yes. Do the NSA collect emails anymore? No, apparently. Do they forward emails or other intel to the FBI, DEA, or law enforcement? Well, if it's related to actionable overseas communications, probably yes... and they likely comply with the longstanding police procedure of sometimes building cases independently of some sources of information... which can come in handy if you don't want to destroy major investigations, blow sources, get agents and informers killed, etc. (Secrets can be good! Informants want to be free!)

It can get complex, even for lawyers.

I also have concerns about statements by the EFF, such as "EFF will keep fighting until the NSA's domestic surveillance program is reined in", because, quite frankly, I -- and presumably most everyone else who supports EFF on many of their other initiatives -- have not seen a single example from the EFF as to what this means, or where the EFF will draw the line, so as to help this country have an effective, more transparent program. This is especially troubling, considering that the EFF recently posted an article from one of their former staff members, recommending a special prosecutor investigation... something straight outta NOBAMA territory. (Not that the original creators of these programs would ever be punished... but several people in the NSA and Obama administration could have their lives ruined, because they were put in a catch-22 situation where they are tasked both to keep a top secret program secret *AND* to tell the truth.)

Really... can you offer us *ANY* specific policy changes the EFF wants that aren't already being enacted by the current administration, so that we'll be able to judge whether those proposed changes might endanger the ability of the NSA to do their job?

"If you conduct your plans for fighting back against terrorism in secret courts, under secret orders, with a secret budget, with people whose make-up prioritizes that fight over the other balances of an open society, and who have no effective opposition in what they do, those perfectly human flaws will slowly, but inescapably undermine the rest of civilized society."

First off, I think the recent FOIA'ed document more-or-less shows that there is, in fact, oversight and surprisingly effective opposition, contrary to your claims. Within the past few years, Congress, the judicial system, and the President have all implemented major improvements to the NSA's policies, without requiring one iota of your assistance.

Note the word you are attacking here: secret. Not that these courts, orders, budgets, and people are actually secret or have been shown to be unaccountable. Rather, they are constantly trying to improve it, not inescapably letting it getting worse. And they were doing this well before Snowden. They were given an imperfectly thought out, technically difficult task... and apparently have it working to Constitutional standards, according to some pretty rigorous judicial oversight.

I find EFF's current position, in practical terms, entirely too similar to "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail"... the argument that destroyed the predecessor to the NSA, despite the fact that they, through sigint, managed to greatly reduce the size of the Imperial Japanese Navy, saving thousands of lives and significantly shortening WWII. The US' lack of intelligence led directly to the destruction of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the many thousands of US merchant marines needlessly killed by German U-Boats, etc. No wonder the person who said those naive words later retracted them and served as Secretary of War for FDR.
posted by markkraft at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2013


"Granted... but how open can the debate be, while still maintaining the effectiveness of the programs in question?"

This already assumes a lot of things. What was the average number of terrorist attacks on America before 9/11? What was the average number after? You take it as read that this system is the core of preventing attacks, but we have no idea, because this whole system was entirely secret, and we have been provided with no evidence of its success.

Lawmakers have been given something like evidence: but not all lawmakers. And those lawmakers cannot share that information with the external technical experts that could allow them to get a determination of the security or effectiveness of the program. At leasttwo of those lawmakers involved have repeatedly raised their concerns about the constitutionality and legality of the programs. So we're in a situation where the people who our system of government entrusts to maintain civilian control of these programs are depositing letters and warning everyone that when the secret is out, we're going to be "stunned and angry". And when an organization like the EFF sues to test the legality of these programs, the administration passes a bill specifically granting retroactive amnesty to the telcos involved.

"EFF Victory Results in Release of Secret Court Opinion Finding NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional ", as initially released.

...except, of course, the document didn't really say that."


With respect, yes it did, Mark. The court opinion was secret. The NSA surveillance was found to be unconstitutional by that court opinion. We fought hard to get that document (even in its heavily redacted form) made available, to the ridiculous extent of having to reverse-engineer how you even make such an appeal to a secret court, and we succeeded. Here's the story of how crazy that whole process was. It was an EFF legal victory, that resulted in the release of a secret court opinion that found NSA surveillance that was unconstitutional.

"Anyone can be factual, while still being intentionally misleading and/or highly selective."

No, not everyone can be factual: only those people who are actively citing the truth. The truth is the core point here. If the President of the United States stands up and says "We can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails", and they have a system that collects the emails of Americans, then they can read your emails, and he's not telling the truth. Words have meaning.

The administration's original argument was that they don't have such a system; then it was that they do collect emails of American, but they're scrupulous in not looking at them. Then their argument was that they sometimes did, but those were technical screw-ups. Then when Snowden revealed there were 3000 privacy violations in a one year period. And now, today, we're reading about those which involve employees using the infrastructure to spy on ex-partners.

When you quote Trevor, here:
Here, for example, is Trevor Timm from EFF, telling HuffPo that President Obama lied on national television when he said the NSA can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails:

"he says we can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails, and now we know with this New York Times story that is plainly not true."


...you didn't finish that quote. Here's the rest of it: "It is unfortunate that we have to parse through government statements a dozen times before we actually figure out what they are meaning to say. With all these questions that they get they are obfuscating and deflecting and deceiving the American public.""

This is exactly what we're seeing. We have meetings where we sit and parse, as lawyers will, the meaning of such statements by politicians and officials. Most of the time, our opinion is pretty much how you describe your attitude to us: they're saying something, but they're misdirecting. We try very hard to correct that misdirection, because we can see it when it happens. The classic example here, for me, is "under this program", which allows officials to make apparently blanket statements that only refer to narrow, self-defined categories. Here's Trevor's handy list of the rest of them.

Occasionally, even when misdirecting, they end up saying things which are, on the face of it, just blatantly untrue -- and when that happens, you have to call it out. The President's statement was a particular breathtaking example of this: all the more so, because it's basically the meme that the administration has decided on for defending the NSA's domestic collection.


Really... can you offer us *ANY* specific policy changes the EFF wants that aren't already being enacted by the current administration, so that we'll be able to judge whether those proposed changes might endanger the ability of the NSA to do their job?


Sure. Here you go. Here's . Here's some specific guides to reforming the FISA court process. Here's some guidelines to making the technical side of the surveillance overseeable.

It's hard to make specific legal language work yet, because these secret programs are now sort of super-evolved: they've been built to dodge so many statutory safeguards at this point that it's hard for us to credit that language not written with more knowledge of the program won't just be equally swiftly worked around.

However, and I really think this is a key point that gets overlooked, is that we do, in fact, talk to politicians, and officials, and government lawyers about how to get this language right, or how to uncover the shape of the program without putting national security at risk. All the time. And those conversations don't consist of the government officials snarling at us, or us shouting obscenities and hanging up. Sometimes they don't get very far; but there is change.

The best place for such negotiations, we believe, is in court, and in Congress, but it's incredibly frustrating because there is a determined group of people who don't want that discussion to happen. We both, I think, understand why they want to do that, but I happen to think that that is almost by definition inimical to the US democratic system. I also, unsurprisingly, think you are incredibly optimistic about how well these programs are being fenced in, or how quickly those protections fail without real external oversight. I also personally remain confident that there's enough people, on all sides, who will come to realise that and want finally to have that discussion and monitoring more publicly.


First off, I think the recent FOIA'ed document more-or-less shows that there is, in fact, oversight and surprisingly effective opposition, contrary to your claims. Within the past few years, Congress, the judicial system, and the President have all implemented major improvements to the NSA's policies, without requiring one iota of your assistance.


We're part of that oversight system. You are too. I'm not going to blow EFF's horn here, but I think you're going to find it hard to find anyone who believes that our suits to uncover this program, to hold it to account, and to challenge its constitutionality and legality don't play a part in the pressure to keep it in check. I do think what we do is slightly more than an iota. But then, I'm having this conversation with you, because not only is it useful to talk to Congressional staffers, but it's important to have an open conversation in public, too. You contribute your iota of change to how this system works.

My feeling is you've basically decided to opt for what the administration is saying on this one. That's fine. I just wanted you to know that we're not crazy, and we're not trying to deceive you, and we work very hard to do our bit too. We can agree to disagree. I worry that you're contributing to the creation of an incredibly dangerous surveillance state, and I worry that, like warrants general or removing habeas corpus, building a massive surveillance system is something that democratic oversight simply cannot control. But hey, that's my job.

I find EFF's current position, in practical terms, entirely too similar to "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail"...

And I think your position is a little bit too similar to "Gentlemen should trust those in charge". Except they're not actually in charge. You are, and I am. We are all supposed to be. We're supposed to be running this. And if we don't know what's going on, the ship of state has no guidance, and is out of control.

Let me end this on something that's a bit less high rhetoric: when you next come to a party in SF with EFFers, sit down with me and Trevor. I'll buy you a drink, and I think we can have a great conversation. You clearly are reading a lot on this topic, and, at the very least, that's exactly the kind of informed citizen that we are trying to foster on this topic. Even if you disagree with what we're doing, it's so much better to be having this debate with you than 8 years ago, when many people thought we were crazy for even positing that there was a secret NSA surveillance program operating on US soil with the complicity of the domestic Internet and phone companies.

At least we can talk about that now.
posted by ntk at 10:33 PM on August 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Lawmakers have been given something like evidence: but not all lawmakers. And those lawmakers cannot share that information with the external technical experts that could allow them to get a determination of the security or effectiveness of the program."

You're right, and I'm aware of this issue. I do certainly think that they need more technical literacy, and more of an ability to appoint aides, ask technical questions, and get usable answers.

That said, I think it's understandable on practical terms -- if not ideal -- that not all of them do have access to this intelligence. It's very troubling to me to see that Wyden, for instance, being briefed on one day on a secret government program one day, and then using that information as a kind of catch-22 against a testifying government official the next, in a situation where the official wasn't authorized to disclose the program himself, and had to legally parse his answer.

But despite that, there is an awful lot of communication going on between those briefed, and those not... and there are a lot of ways to communicate and signal intent. I find one of the most telling aspects of the most recent House vote on defunding was that amongst those who were briefed, both Republicans and Democrats, there was only one person who voted to defund. Those with the most facts -- and, generally speaking, the most literacy for dealing with those facts -- were arguably the only consistent, reliable voting bloc on that issue.

"The NSA surveillance was found to be unconstitutional by that court opinion."

On one relatively small subset of the intercepts, though the program was allowed to continue as a whole.

"If the President of the United States stands up and says "We can't listen to your phone calls or read your emails", and they have a system that collects the emails of Americans, then they can read your emails, and he's not telling the truth."

Is it your understanding, based upon the verifiable evidence you currently have at your disposal, that as of the moment the POTUS made his statement, the NSA *could* listen to the phone calls and read the emails of ordinary Americans? Because, frankly, that's the question I want you and EFF to be able to answer conclusively, before it's viewed by 10 million people.

"Then when Snowden revealed there were 3000 privacy violations in a one year period. And now, today, we're reading about those which involve employees using the infrastructure to spy on ex-partners."

As of when? You're hunting a moving target here. What indications do you have that these problems weren't fixed, thereby making Obama and the NSA liars?

"The classic example here, for me, is "under this program", which allows officials to make apparently blanket statements that only refer to narrow, self-defined categories."

Of course they would specify that. The NSA is strictly limited in their authority, but it's entirely possible that a judge may grant them authority to send intelligence to other agencies in certain ways. Likewise, some agencies could send intelligence their way.

And as computerized process flow / automation becomes more of a reality, the left hand may not know what the right hand is doing, by design. And I'm not sure I dislike or disagree with that kind of future, or view it as inherently unconstitutional, because, let's face it, if there's anything less reliable than the systems that humans create, it's the humans themselves.

"Occasionally, even when misdirecting, they end up saying things which are, on the face of it, just blatantly untrue"

... and you know that to be untrue as of that moment, based on what information?
I know you have information that was disclosed recently... but how much of that is actually, verifiably current?

What is the most current, solid, verifiable piece of knowledge that the EFF has which shows that the EFF's systems in place allow their agents to read the emails or listen to the phone calls of ordinary US citizens, as opposed to, say, ones in communication with suspected terrorists?

What NSA program in particular currently posesses this capability, as designed?

information you have that shows the NSA -- and not some other agency -- being able to read emails or listen to phone calls, as their system was designed?

"I think you're going to find it hard to find anyone who believes that our suits to uncover this program, to hold it to account, and to challenge its constitutionality and legality don't play a part in the pressure to keep it in check."

I don't inherently disagree with the lawsuit, though. Supported it. Still do. Though I think it needs to be approached cautiously. The stakes are getting higher, and the EFF doesn't want the kind of heat it could get if things go pear-shaped.

" I do think what we do is slightly more than an iota. "

I never questioned that fact, but I do feel that the EFF didn't really impact that oversight steps we saw outlined in the recently released document, which were more robust than I gave the parties involved credit for. And I think perhaps you might actually agree with me on that statement, even though the document also pointed out prior NSA failings.

"My feeling is you've basically decided to opt for what the administration is saying on this one. "

I have been presented with no current information to show me that the President lied, IN REGARDS TO THE NSA'S CURRENT POLICIES, which was basically the qualifying statement he made there. The police, FBI, and DEA and their capabilities, frankly, are more disconcerting... but they aren't the NSA, even though they receive sigint from them.

At this point, I don't see this statement as intentionally untrue in the letter of the law. Are you arguing that his statement is verifiably untrue, as of this moment, in the spirit of the law? The letter of the law? Both?

Really, I am open to accepting that he did knowingly lie, but first, you have to actually prove it to me. And frankly, if the EFF is going to say something so important, then maybe your org should have a link for that data too. Or at least ask the question, and indicate to what extent he may or may not be telling the truth, based on what you know.

We can agree to disagree.

As I have mentioned, I have been a strong supporter of the EFF in the past. In fact, I REALLY DON"T WANT TO DISAGREE WITH YOU, because I do my best to stick to the known, verifiable facts, and expect the EFF to do the same... eeeven when they are incredibly tired and pissed off about the lengths they have to go to get information out of a top secret intelligence agency that wants, unsurprisingly, to remain a top secret intelligence agency.

So in that sense, I disagree that I should agree to disagree. I want you to show me the facts that prove EFF's assertion, in both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Because although we disagree, perhaps, on how the spirit of the law should be interpreted, I think we largely agree when it comes to the letter of the law.... and hopefully even more so on the truth.

I do not fully trust this or any other administration. I was certainly fine with calling Clinton a liar and judging him quite harshly, even for a relatively minor issue, and even though his initial lie was not under oath. I actually felt he should've stepped down. In retrospect, given how much his actions hurt Al Gore's campaign, I think I was right.

(I'm not sure a similar lie by Obama would be quite as damning, if he is protecting classified programs that he inherited... but maybe it should be, especially if pressed again in a more serious setting.)

That said, I do believe that the current administration are trying to act as responsible players, and trying their best to unravel the Gordian knot / tame the beast they inherited. But I don't throw the word "lie" around casually, on something this important.

"We're supposed to be running this. And if we don't know what's going on, the ship of state has no guidance, and is out of control...."

We can't expect to be able to know all of it, pretty much by definition. At a certain point, we're a republic, and have to rely on elected officials which we can elect and vote out of office. As such, perhaps, the ship of state is guided... but less than perfectly so. I'm all for a more transparent ship-of-state, however, so long as it doesn't sink the ship in the process.

"When you next come to a party in SF with EFFers, sit down with me and Trevor. I'll buy you a drink, and I think we can have a great conversation."

I don't drink much anymore, and don't tend do keep my ear to the ground for the latest cocktail parties... but I'm always open for any invites, or news of anything that comes along.

I *do*, however, live a few blocks from your HQ on Eddy, so if you're interested in Philz or Sushi Hana at happy hour, let me know. I'm always willing to play devil's advocate.
posted by markkraft at 4:43 AM on August 24, 2013


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