The way you beat an incumbent is by coming up with a thing that people want, that you do, and that your competitors can’t do. Ind.ie is the same. They have, rather excellently, found a way of describing the underlying message of open source software without bringing along the existing open source community. [more inside]
Last Saturday, Tory cabinet minister for civil society Brooks Newmark resigned on the eve of the publication about his sexting habits
. Allegedly he had sent unsolicited dirty pictures to a woman he thought was a Conservative Party activist, but was in fact an undercover reporter for the Sunday Mirror. Good, you may think, another scumbag who doesn't know the meaning of consent uncovered, but was this really the case, or was this actually a borderline criminal sting operation on the Mirror's part? [more inside]
The question is not so much “do you trust the CIA/NSA/MI6/etc?”
. It’s “Do you trust every single sysadmin working for these organisations? Every single analyst? Every single middle manager?”
The Solace of Oblivion by Jeffrey Toobin [The New Yorker]
"In Europe, the right to be forgotten trumps the Internet."
In response to criticism over the banning of infamous subreddit TheFappening, where private photographs of women (both celebrities and not) were being circulated, Reddit chief Yishan Wong released a controversial op-ed
stating that Reddit considers itself "not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community." T.C. Sottek, writing for The Verge
, asserts that if this is the case, then Reddit is assuredly a failed state
. [more inside]
A Day of Speaking Truth to Power
- Quinn Norton
visits the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Here's how one small company is slowly, surely beating its way into the most monopolized category in technology: Inside DuckDuckGo, Google's Tiniest, Fiercest Competitor
You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts
is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials
, heartbreaking eulogies
, and agonizing run-ins with fascists
) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting
science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed
2006 novel Blindsight [full text]
-- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room
, the Philosophical Zombie
, Chernoff faces
, and the myriad quirks and blind spots
that haunt the human mind.
's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew
, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism
), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section
, tomorrow will see the release of
Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website]
, the long-delayed
"sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
"Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you've been given,
which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It's hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that's one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life's mystery…" Virginia Woolf's Idea of Privacy
After several days in legal limbo, the world's most notorious whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has been granted a three-year stay in Russia.
This is amid breaking news of Russia's issuing of a menu of its own sanctions against U.S./E.U. countries, et al. The former NSA employee has been stranded in Russia for more than a year. Recently, new leaks by other, as yet unknown whistle-blower(s) other than Snowden have surfaced, according to U.S. authorities
. The leaks detail certain "rules" for targeting of people for surveillance (including merely searching for privacy software
), as well as details on the kind of activity or relationships which may put innocent people on terrorist watch lists.
Google's updated Terms of Service state explicitly that the company automatically analyzes all email content to create targeted advertising. This case, in which Google identified child porn images in a user's email message, leading to his arrest, seems to be one of the first known instances of Google monitoring personal gmail accounts for illegal activity. The arrest raises questions over the privacy of personal email and Google's role in policing the web. [more inside]
The Supreme Court has unanimously reversed (large PDF
) the California Court of Appeals in Riley v. California
, deciding that police cannot search the contents of a phone without a warrant during an arrest
, and that "the fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought." [more inside]
“But what shall we dream of when everything becomes visible
?” Virilio replies: “We’ll dream of being blind."
On a bright April morning in Menlo Park, California, I became an Internet spy.
This was easier than it sounds because I had a willing target. I had partnered with National Public Radio (NPR) tech correspondent Steve Henn for an experiment in Internet surveillance. For one week, while Henn researched a story, he allowed himself to be watched—acting as a stand-in, in effect, for everyone who uses Internet-connected devices. How much of our lives do we really reveal simply by going online?
Ars tests Internet surveillance—by spying on an NPR reporter.
is an app
that allows users to "anonymously share your thoughts and emotions with the world, and form lasting and meaningful relationships in a community built around trust and honesty." Secret
is an app " to openly share what you're thinking and feeling with your friends. Speak freely, share anything." The Genius of Whisper, the Massively Popular App You Haven't Heard Of
. With New Anonymous Social App Secret, the Merit Is in the Message
. Two Apps, One Hot Trend [more inside]
"Advertising is not well.
Though companies supported by advertising still dominate the landscape and capture the popular imagination, cracks are beginning to show in the very financial foundations of the web. Despite the best efforts of an industry, advertising is becoming less and less effective online. The once reliable fuel that powered a generation of innovations on the web is slowly, but perceptibly beginning to falter. Consider the long-term trend: when the first banner advertisement
emerged online in 1994, it reported a (now) staggering clickthrough rate of 78%. By 2011, the average Facebook advertisement
clickthrough rate sat dramatically lower at 0.05%. Even if only a rough proxy, something underlies such a dramatic change in the ability for an advertisement to pique the interest of users online. What underlies this decline, and what does it mean for the Internet at large? This short [PDF] paper puts forth the argument for peak advertising
—the argument that an overall slowing in online advertising will eventually force a significant (and potentially painful) shift in the structure of business online. Like the theory of Peak Oil
that it references, the goal is not to look to the immediate upcoming quarter, but to think on the decade-long scale
about the business models that sustain the Internet." [more inside]
"These big collections of personal data are like radioactive waste
. It's easy to generate, easy to store in the short term, incredibly toxic, and almost impossible to dispose of. Just when you think you've buried it forever, it comes leaching out somewhere unexpected." A talk by Maciej Ceglowski, founder of Pinboard
, about why we have Big Data and why it's frightening. [more inside]
A Suicide Bomber’s Guide to Online Privacy
is the title of a keynote talk that Peter Watts
) gave to the International Association Of Privacy Professionals' Canada Symposium
My immediate reaction was that this had to be some kind of cruel hoax. But they hooked me anyway, with what basically came down to a double-dare: “You’ve got a chance to talk to the regulators who enforce privacy law and the executives as big companies who make decisions about what to do with your data – what do you want to say to them?”
Well. Since you ask. [more inside]
My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company's network.
Even if you don't have a Gmail account, many of your contacts do. So Google has a lot of your email
, even if you have been trying hard to avoid that.
"And finally, I'm actually here today to win the 'Most Creative Use of Tor' award," she said, followed by roars of laughter in the audience. "I really couldn't have done it without Tor, because Tor was really the only way to manage totally untraceable browsing. I know it's gotten a bad reputation for Bitcoin trading and buying drugs online, but I used it for BabyCenter.com."-- How Janet Vertesi tried and hid her pregnancy from the internet and big data
. (Direct link to her presentation
Controversial education tech company InBloom has shut down over student data privacy concerns.
Backed with $100 million in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, InBloom quickly announced nine states (CO, DE, GA, IL, KY, LA, MA, NC, NY) as partners, with more than 2.7 million students enrolled, with the goal of using big data to direct education emphasis and other decisions. With a recent decision by New York state to halt participation in any project involving storing student data in the way InBloom had planned
(and the deletion of any such data already stored), all nine states had either put data sharing plans with InBloom on hold, made them voluntary, or pulled out completely. [more inside]
German authorities have discovered yet another giant database of hacked passwords.
The German Federal Office for Information Security
says it will have a website allowing people to check if their accounts are affected up and running by Monday. Some 3 million Germans are believed affected; there is no indication that the impact is limited to Germans or Germany.
A link to an ARD
article on the case is here, in German.
Free Money for Everyone
- "A wacky-sounding idea with surprisingly conservative roots may be our best hope for escaping endless, grinding economic stagnation." (via
) [more inside]
“The good news is that there are solutions. The weakness of mass surveillance is that it can very easily be made much more expensive through changes in technical standards: pervasive end-to-end encryption can quickly make indiscriminate surveillance impossible on a cost-effective basis. The result is that governments are likely to fall back to traditional, targeted surveillance founded upon an individualized suspicion. Governments cannot risk the discovery of their exploits by simply throwing attacks at every “endpoint,” or computer processor on the end of a network connection, in the world. Mass surveillance, passive surveillance, relies upon unencrypted or weakly encrypted communications at the global network level.
Edward Snowden submits written testimony to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance, and answers questions.
The testimony takes place 3 days ahead of his highly anticipated SXSW appearance, to take place later today. Snowden is expected to speak about privacy, security, mass surveillance programs, free speech and whistle-blowing in a rare remote video appearance before a live audience.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo finds this “deeply troubling” in a letter he's sent to the organizers of the conference.
Meanwhile, people who wish to #asksnowden questions can use the hashtag on Twitter. The talk is to take place at 12pm PT, today.
is an ambitious attempt to use data to improve the care of patients in the UK. It uses the scale of the NHS dataset to give epidemiologists and medically researchers access to large datasets to improve research. And now it's been thrown into disarray
by the responsible body selling the information to insurance companies
and even more .... [more inside]
You don’t want your privacy: Disney and the meat space data race
The bands are even uniquely colored and monogrammed with your family members’ names so that they won’t get switched up. Why? Because they don’t want their database to get confused and think that you, a 45-year-old man, rode the teacups instead of your little son Timmy. This is one of the first examples I’ve seen of physical design (e.g., monogramming and coloring) for the sake of digital data purity.
If ever there was a testimony to the importance big data has achieved in business it’s this: We will now shape our physical world to create better streams of digital information.
During their Freedom Hosting
investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers
. [more inside]
Ars Technica reports on malicious extensions on the Chrome web browser
, which install advertising-based malware that hijack links and inject ad content. Further speech recognition exploits
) leave open the opportunity for malicious sites to record sound captured by the user's web browser without permission.
Edward Snowden has delivered the UK Channel 4's Alternative Christmas Message
Together, we can find a better balance. End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.
This address follows Monday's interview
with the Washington Post in which he explains his motives for releasing information he collected while working for the NSA.
From the testimony, PDF
of Pam Dixon (World Privacy Forum
) before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:
What do a retired librarian in Wisconsin in the early stages of Alzheimer's, a police officer, and a mother in Texas have in common? The answer is that all were victims of consumer data brokers. [more inside]
In which I relate my experience as an NSA employee
and impart my thoughts on the policies in place, my former coworkers, and the current cyber war.
I am an American patriot. Many impressions may come to mind at that word, “patriot”: perhaps that I am a Republican, that I don’t care about people outside the US, or that I am afraid of them. In my case, none of these conceptions apply. Patriotism to me simply means that I care about the US and its future. [more inside]
On Lulu, women can rate men in categories
— ex-boyfriend, crush, together, hooked-up, friend or relative — with a multiple-choice quiz. Women, their gender verified by their Facebook logins, add pink hashtags to a man’s profile ranging from the good (#KinkyInTheRightWays) to the bad (#NeverSleepsOver) to the ugly (#PornEducated). The hashtags are used to calculate a score generated by Lulu, ranging from 1 to 10, that appears under the man’s profile picture. (The company’s spokeswoman declined to explain the ratings algorithm.) Men can add hashtags, which appear in blue, but these are not factored into their overall score. (SLNYT)
A couple made the mistake of breaking up on a NYC rooftop next to comedian Kyle Ayers, who promptly live-tweeted their breakup
with the hashtag #roofbreakup, which went viral, prompting not only retweets, commentary, and memeification
, but also a video re-enactment
. However, some are considering the wider implications of this kind of phenomenon, pondering the ethics of the panopticon
, live reportage on ordinary people
, and even the nature of relationships itself
in the context of the pair. [more inside]
"In 1967, The Public Interest
, then a leading venue for highbrow policy debate, published a provocative essay by Paul Baran
, one of the fathers of the data transmission method known as packet switching [and agent of RAND
]. Titled “The Future Computer Utility,"
the essay speculated that someday a few big, centralized computers would provide 'information processing … the same way one now buys electricity. Highly sensitive personal and important business information will be stored in many of the contemplated systems … At present, nothing more than trust—or, at best, a lack of technical sophistication—stands in the way of a would-be eavesdropper.' To read Baran’s essay (just one of the many on utility computing published at the time) is to realize that our contemporary privacy problem is not contemporary. It’s not just a consequence of Mark Zuckerberg’s selling his soul and our profiles to the NSA. The problem was recognized early on, and little was done about it... It’s not enough for a website to prompt us to decide who should see our data. Instead it should reawaken our own imaginations. Designed right, sites would not nudge citizens to either guard or share their private information but would reveal the hidden political dimensions to various acts of information sharing." -- MIT Technology Review on The Real Privacy Problem
"Reality has caught us"
Ubisoft game Watch Dogs
, scheduled for release next year, models pervasive surveillance as a game. Polygon's Charlie Hall investigates Chicago's vast camera network and finds the fiction might be not so far away from reality. [more inside]
Facebook just got less private.
Now anyone one can find you. Facebook has eliminated a setting that controls whether users could be found when people type their name into the website's search bar. [more inside]
SensorPrint is a proposal to exploit subtle imperfections in accelerometers as a unique fingerprint for smartphones [pdf]
. It's easy to demonstrate the idea: Generate a unique ID for your own device
. SensorPrint joins other hardware-based tracking concepts
in the pursuit of non-configurable, location-aware, un-deletable "cookies" on your mobile device. [via]