Category Archives: The Web

Google Shuts Down Its Spanish Language News Service Over New Intellectual Property Law

Inside an internet addiction treatment centre in China

Chris Baraniuk writes for New Scientist:

‘In China, if you are a kid who spends a long time online, you had better watch out. Your parents may send you off for “treatment”.

At the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, children must take part in military-style activities, including exercise drills and the singing of patriotic songs. They are denied access to the internet. One of the first experiences internees undergo is brain monitoring through electroencephalography (EEG). The programme is run by psychologist Tao Ran, who claims the brains of internet and heroin addicts display similarities.’

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Sydney Gunman Made Hostages Use Social Media

Twitter Backer Of ISIS A Clean-Cut Executive In India?

SEE ALSO: Indian police arrest pro-Isis Twitter follower ‘outed’ by Channel Four

Ben Hubbard writes for The New York Times:

News‘As the extremists of the Islamic State rampaged across Syria and Iraq, the Twitter user @ShamiWitness was among their most prolific and widely followed English-language supporters. In a near-constant barrage of posts, he cheered the group’s advances, disparaged its enemies and called on Muslims from around the world to heed the call of jihad.

But according to a report broadcast Thursday by Britain’s Channel 4 News, the man behind @ShamiWitness was not an armed fighter, but a cleanshaven Indian executive named Mehdi who lives and works in the city of Bangalore.

The rise and fall of @ShamiWitness, whose Twitter account has since been deleted, illuminates the role of volunteer sympathizers in the global spread of the Islamic State’s message.’

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Father of the internet tells Russia’s Putin: Internet is not a ‘CIA project’

Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters:

The inventor of the World Wide Web said on Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was incorrect when he alleged the Internet was a project created by U.S. spies in the Central Intelligence Agency.

Putin, a former KGB spy who does not use email, has said he will not restrict Internet access for Russians, but in April he stoked concerns that the Kremlin might seek to crackdown by saying the Internet was born out of a “CIA project”.

“The Internet is not a CIA creation,” Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989 – the year that the Berlin Wall collapsed – told Reuters when asked about Putin’s CIA comment.

Berners-Lee said the Internet was invented with the help of U.S. state funding, but was spread by academics.’

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Co-founder of Pirate Bay says it should stay closed

Daniel Cooper reports for Engadget:

‘Earlier this week, Sweden’s police took down The Pirate Bay, the world’s most contentious torrent site. One person who won’t be mourning the closure is co-creator Peter Sunde, who would be happier if the site never came back. Just one month after being released from prison, Sunde took to his blog to describe his disillusionment with what the website had grown to represent and its “distasteful” adverts.

TPB may have been founded with an anarchic spirit, but Sunde feels that successive owners did nothing to improve the site or help its community. In addition to the website become “ugly” and “full of bugs,” it became plastered with adverts for porn and viagra that, when he felt couldn’t get any more “distasteful, they somehow ended up even worse.”‘

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The Camera Panopticon

Aral Balkan writes:

Leader image‘We live in a world where our new everyday things—our phones, computers, social networks—are owned and controlled by a handful of corporations that make their money by selling people not products.

This is a predatory model where you are the prey and consumer products are the bait.

Once a Spyware 2.0 company like Google has convinced you to use their products, they proceed to watch everything you do. Their goal is to learn as much about you as they can.

You are the lab rat.

They study you because the insight they gain about you is the value they sell to their customers.

Selling people is not an entirely new business model. There was once a very financially-rewarding global business built on selling people’s bodies.

We called it slavery.

Today, we frown upon that particular practice in polite company. It’s about time to ask ourselves, however, what are we to call the business of selling everything about a person that makes them who they are apart from their body?

If the question makes you feel uncomfortable, good.

If just thinking about it makes you feel uncomfortable, imagine how living within a system where this business model is a monopoly will make you feel. Then imagine what a society shaped by its ramifications will look like. Imagine its effects on equality, human rights, and democracy.

You don’t have to try too hard to imagine any of this because we are already living in the early days of just such a world today.

And yet it’s still early enough that I’m hopeful we can challenge the unfettered progress of this Silicon Valley model that is toxic to our human rights and threatens the very pillars of democracy itself.’

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Internet Freedom: The Rest of the World Gradually Becoming More Like China

Vauhini Vara reports for The New Yorker:

‘On Thursday, Freedom House published its fifth annual report on Internet freedom around the world. As in years past, China is again near the bottom of the rankings, which include sixty-five countries. Only Syria and Iran got worse scores, while Iceland and Estonia fared the best… China’s place in the rankings won’t come as a surprise to many people. The notable part is that the report suggests that, when it comes to Internet freedom, the rest of the world is gradually becoming more like China and less like Iceland. The researchers found that Internet freedom declined in thirty-six of the sixty-five countries they studied, continuing a trajectory they have noticed since they began publishing the reports in 2010.

Earp, who wrote the China section, said that authoritarian regimes might even be explicitly looking at China as a model in policing Internet communication. (Last year, she co-authored a report on the topic for the Committee to Protect Journalists.) China isn’t alone in its influence, of course. The report’s authors even said that some countries are using the U.S. National Security Agency’s widespread surveillance, which came to light following disclosures by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, “as an excuse to augment their own monitoring capabilities.” Often, the surveillance comes with little or no oversight, they said, and is directed at human-rights activists and political opponents.’

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On ‘the menace of Memes’ Spectator piece: Why you should use your critical thinking skills, whatever the information source

Another Angry Voice writes:

‘I’ll begin this article with an admission that I made a mistake. I always try to be careful that the infographics I create for social media are completely accurate (or clearly marked as satire when they’re jokes), however on Sunday 30th of November 2014 I shared an infographic made by someone else without properly fact checking it (the one in the article header).

It turns out that the image I shared was slightly misleading. The nine images of incredibly sparsely attended debates in parliament were perfectly accurate, but the two below claiming to be debates about MPs pay and expenses were just stock images of the House of Commons. The infographic in question was then cited in a Spectator article by Isabel Hartman entitled “The menace of Memes: How pictures can paint a thousand lies”.

I apologised as soon as I realised that I’d made a mistake in sharing a partially inaccurate image, but also took note of the fact that Isabel Hartman’s article was also misleading for the fact that that it implied that the image was deliberately inaccurate (made in bad faith), rather than the result of a quite obvious mistake (made in good faith), and also because it made the ludicrous argument that so few MPs bother to turn up to some debates because “it is more constructive to be outside the Chamber during those sessions”. The author casually dismissed all of the perfectly accurate pictures of incredibly sparsely attended parliamentary sessions (on the war in Afghanistan, child sex abuse, preventing knife crime, drugs laws, the effects of Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal welfare “reforms” on disabled people, the living wage, recognition of Palestine, tenancy reform, and Syrian refugees) as if they were probably just unconstructive waste-of-time type debates that might have been better had nobody bothered to attend them at all!

Had Isabel Hartman done the vaguest research on how someone might have mistakenly concluded that the two stock images were what they were claimed to be, she would have easily found this article on the BBC News website, and this article on the Daily Telegraph website which both lazily used old stock images to illustrate their articles about parliamentary debates on MPs pay and MPs expenses.’

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Why Investigative Journalist Barrett Brown Continues to be Indefinitely Imprisoned

Abby Martin speaks with Kevin Gallagher, Director of Free Barrett Brown, about the decision to delay investigative journalist Barrett Brown’s sentencing for posting a link to publically available security documents.’ (Breaking the Set)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Documentary)

Why We Must Fight for Free Information: Aaron Swartz’s Legacy

Abby Martin discusses computer prodigy and activist, Aaron Swartz, and what his legacy means for everyone that uses the internet.’ (Breaking the Set)

Music publishers finally pull the trigger, sue an ISP over piracy

Joe Mullin reports for Arstechnica:

‘BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music have sued Cox Communications for copyright infringement, arguing that the Internet service provider doesn’t do enough to punish those who download music illegally.

Both BMG and Round Hill are clients of Rightscorp, a copyright enforcement agent whose business is based on threatening ISPs with a high-stakes lawsuit if they don’t forward settlement notices to users that Rightscorp believes are “repeat infringers” of copyright.

There’s little precedent for a lawsuit trying to hold an ISP responsible for users engaged in piracy. If a judge finds Cox liable for the actions of users on its network, it will have major implications for the company and the whole cable industry. It’s one thing to terminate an account on YouTube, but cable subscribers can pay well over $100 per month—and BMG and Round Hill claim that they’ve notified Cox about 200,000 repeat infringers on its network.

In their complaint (PDF), the music publishers describe the Cox network as an out-of-control den of piracy. “Today, BitTorrent systems are like the old P2P systems on steroids,” BMG lawyers write.’

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Why Google May Be More ‘Evil’ than the NSA: Interview with Taylor Lincoln of Public Citizen

Abby Martin speaks with Taylor Lincoln, Director of Research at Public Citizen’s Congressional Watch Division about a new report detailing how Google is invading users privacies and becoming the most powerful and influential political force in Washington.’ (Breaking the Set)

If you’re worried about Uber and privacy, don’t forget Lyft and Sidecar

Carmel DeAmicis writes for Gigaom:

‘Privacy concerns are front and center when it comes to Uber’s messy week, and a personal experience with the cavalier use of user data really brought that home for me.

The Uber controversy is a perfect storm of conditions: Ethically questionable leadership, aggressive threats, and a company with powerful user data. Uber has your credit card details and information on where you travel at what times. That’s a scary thought, especially when you look up the lengths it has gone to thwart those who oppose it — like its competitor Lyft and existing taxi services.

In the fall out from Emil Michael’s threats to dig up dirt on journalists, Uber has gotten a lot of tough privacy questions thrown its way. Ten of them, in fact, from Senator Al Franken, ranging from “To whom is the so-called God View tool made available and why?” to “Why aren’t these [privacy] standards set out for customers?”

Uber has been rightfully targeted, because its “at-all-costs” business mentality is what makes the privacy issue scary, especially for those who might be on Uber’s blacklist. But these are questions we should be levying at all the new transportation connection companies, not just Uber. Lyft, Sidecar, Flywheel, Curb, Hailo, and their ilk have similar technology and nearly identical use cases to Uber.’

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The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed

Adrian Chen reports for Wired:

[…] So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.

This work is increasingly done in the Philippines. A former US colony, the Philippines has maintained close cultural ties to the United States, which content moderation companies say helps Filipinos determine what Americans find offensive. And moderators in the Philippines can be hired for a fraction of American wages. Ryan Cardeno, a former contractor for Microsoft in the Philippines, told me that he made $500 per month by the end of his three-and-a-half-year tenure with outsourcing firm Sykes. Last year, Cardeno was offered $312 per month by another firm to moderate content for Facebook, paltry even by industry standards.’

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Hackers Can Steal Data Wirelessly From PCs That Aren’t Even Online

Gwen Ackerman reports for Bloomberg:

When governments, utilities and corporations need to protect their most sensitive data, they create what’s called an air-gap network. It involves storing information on computers that are never connected to the Internet, an extreme method of isolation designed to prevent any chance of data leaking out.

Air-gap networks were once considered the “magic bullet” for securing data, but researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel have found a way to compromise those machines. Once a computer is infected with a particular kind of virus, hackers can trick the PC into relaying information that can be wirelessly retrieved from a mobile phone located outside of the room.

The technology won’t be used to steal something as innocuous as your Gmail password. This is someMission Impossible stuff that a cyber-espionage gang or state-sponsored hacker might use to access extremely valuable secrets.’

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Noam Chomsky: The Other Side of Technology

Why I’m Terrified of My New TV: Interview with Michael Price

Editor’s Note: Michael Price serves as counsel for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program at New York University School of Law.

Europol warning on the risks related to the Internet of Everything

Pierluigi Paganini reported for Security Affairs last month:

IoEThe European Police Office (Europol) confirmed that difficulties to face the menaces of cybercrimes to the Internet of Everything (IoE).

The EU’s chief criminal intelligence agency made a disconcerting revelation, the threat of “online murder” is set to rise. It isn’t a science movie trailer, but the finding that cyber criminals increasingly targeting victims with internet technology that could cause injury and possible deathsby hacking critical safety equipment.

According to the European Police Office (Europol) the rapid diffusion of the paradigm of the ‘Internet of Everything’ (IoE) is stressing the dependency of human activities from a large number of devices always connected to the Internet and with significant computational capability.’

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Facebook’s “I Voted” sticker was a secret experiment on its users

Dara Lind writes for Vox:

Facebook I voted button‘You might think it’s just a decorative gimmick — a cute electronic version of the “I Voted” sticker you get upon exiting the polling station. And Facebook says it’s just doing its civic duty by encouraging its users to vote.

But there’s a lot more to it than that, as Mother Jones reported last Friday. For the last few elections, Facebook has been running a series of quiet, but massive, experiments on you to see if it can make you more likely to vote. And it looks like their encouragements are working.’

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Why I’m terrified of my new TV

Michael Price writes for Salon:

‘[…] The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

You may not be watching, but the telescreen is listening.’

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Mass protests force Hungary to retreat from internet tax plans

Roland Moore-Colyer reports for V3:

‘Hungary has cancelled plans to introduce a tax on internet data traffic after large-scale protests in Budapest.

Demonstrators opposed to the proposed levy of 150 forints (40p) per gigabyte of data traffic passing through data centres in the country threw old computer parts at the offices of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Kossuth Radio: “This tax in its current form cannot be introduced. If the people not only dislike something but also consider it unreasonable then it should not be done.”‘

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Stanford Libraries unearths the earliest U.S. website

Gabrielle Karampelas writes for Standford University:

Some of the earliest pages from the World Wide Web have been restored and are once again browsable, providing a glimpse of how the web once operated.  Stanford Libraries has made these pages available with Stanford Wayback, a customized version of an open source platform that enables long-term access to archived web assets.

[…] The release of Stanford Wayback is part of the Libraries’ web archiving initiative, which aims to collect, preserve and provide access to web content that is at risk of being updated, replaced or lost.  Subject specialists have been actively capturing websites, as well as social media pages, that have significant research and teaching value, including topical collections in government documents, African politics, Middle East politics, digital games and virtual worlds.’

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White House Aims to Replace Website Passwords With Federal Authentication Scheme

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The White House has announced today that a long-standing plan to roll out a federal “Internet ID” authentication scheme that would be used to log in to all websites across the Internet will move forward, and the service will launch in six to twelve months.

“We simply have to kill off the password,” insisted White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel. The initiative began in 2011, with an eye toward public-private plans, but seems now to be centering on wearable authentication bracelets that Americans would apparently get instead of passwords.’

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Amazon-CIA $600 Million Deal Facing Scrutiny: “What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?”

The Institute for Public Accuracy reports:

‘The billboard’s launch — asking “the $600 million question: What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?” — marks the escalation of a campaign by the online activist organizations RootsAction.org and ExposeFacts.org. The groups are calling for accountability from Amazon in an effort to inform the public of serious privacy implications of the Amazon-CIA collaboration. (ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

The positioning of the 48-foot-wide billboard on Amazon’s doorstep at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street in Seattle follows a RootsAction petition calling for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to make a legally binding commitment to Amazon’s commercial customers that it will not provide customer data to the CIA.

Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. “The same company that stores vast quantities of customer records and even provides cloud storage services also stores the CIA’s surveillance data — yet the actual terms of the Amazon-CIA agreement are secret,” said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and a co-founder of RootsAction.org.’

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Hungarians take to the streets to protest “internet tax”

Zoltan Sipos reports for Index on Censorship:

Hungarians gathered in Budapest on Sunday to protest plans to introduce a tax on internet bandwidth. (Photo: 100,000 Against the Internet Tax /Facebook)‘The draft law proposed by Orban’s government would levy a fee of 150 forints (£0.40; €0.50; $0.60) per gigabyte of data traffic. In the face of public outrage, ruling party Fidesz promised that the tax will be capped at 700 forints for consumers and 5,000 forints for businesses. However, this did not calm the angry protesters.

Sunday’s rally that drew thousands of people to the Hungarian captial’s city center. The peaceful protest became heated when some demonstrators marched to the Fidesz headquarters, and broke the windows of the building with old computers and peripherals.

This protest was arguably the largest anti-government demonstration since 2010, when Viktor Orban came to power. In contrast with other protests, the gatherings denouncing the internet tax were not organized by the weak, discredited and fragmented opposition.’

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Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

‘Verizon Wireless has been subtly altering the web traffic of its wireless customers for the past two years, inserting a string of about 50 letters, numbers, and characters into data flowing between these customers and the websites they visit.

The company—one the country’s largest wireless carriers, providing cell phone service for about 123 million subscribers—calls this a Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH. It’s a kind of short-term serial number that advertisers can use to identify you on the web, and it’s the lynchpin of the company’s internet advertising program. But critics say that it’s also a reckless misuse of Verizon’s power as an internet service provider—something that could be used as a trump card to obviate established privacy tools such as private browsing sessions or “do not track” features.’

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Couch potatoes have killed the internet dream

John Naughton writes for The Guardian:

‘[…] To those of us who were accustomed to thinking of the internet as a glorious, distributed, anarchic, many-to-many communication network in which anyone could become a global publisher, corporate gatekeepers had lost their power and peer-to-peer sharing was becoming the liberating norm, Labovitz’s brusque summary comes as a rude shock. Why? Because what he was really saying is that the internet is well on its way to being captured by giant corporations – just as the Columbia law professor Tim Wu speculated it might be in The Master Switch, his magisterial history of 20th-century communications technologies.

In that book, Wu recounted the history of telephone, movie, radio and TV technologies in the US. All of them had started out as creative, anarchic, open and innovative technologies but over time each had been captured by corporate interests. In some cases (eg the telephone) this happened with the co-operation of the state, but in most cases it happened because visionary entrepreneurs offered consumers propositions that they found irresistible. But the result was always the same: corporate capture of the technology and the medium. And the most insidious thing, Wu wrote, was that this process of closure doesn’t involve any kind of authoritarian takeover. It comes, not as a bitter pill, but as a “sweet pill, as a tabloid, easy to swallow”. Most of the corporate masters of 20th-century media delivered a consumer product that was better than what went before – which is what consumers went for and what led these industries towards closure.’

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“Women Are Being Driven Offline”: Feminist Anita Sarkeesian Terrorized for Critique of Video Games

‘Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote: “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the “Gamergate” controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. “Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic,” Sarkeesian says. “Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries.”‘ (Democracy Now!)