Category Archives: The Web

The Fight Against ISIS On Social Media

Major Video Game Companies Agree to Share Customer Data with the US Government

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

With or without controversial new legislation such as the ​Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Protection Act, President Obama is doing his best to make sure companies share the information they know about you with the federal government.

On Friday, the president issued a cybersecurity executive order that creates a new framework for “expanded information sharing designed to help companies work together, and work with the federal government, to quickly identify and protect against cyber threats,” according to an emailed fact sheet from the White House.

The ​Sony hack of late last year made the idea of “cyberwar” all too real for many politicians, including Obama, who has spent much of the last two months talking about the need for ​expanded cooperation between the government and private companies. Considering all that rhetoric, Friday’s move doesn’t come as any real surprise.’

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The Internet is a “Black Hole” of History says Google’s Vint Cerf

Michael Rundle reports for The Huffington Post:

We might be accidentally creating a “black hole” in history unless we rethink how to archive the web, one internet pioneer has warned.

Vint Cert, who is recognised for ‘co-founding’ the Internet with Robert Khan, said “we stand to lose an awful lot of our history” if big changes are not implemented.

Cerf is now a vice-president at Google, and won the AM Turing Award in 2004 for his “pioneering work on internetworking, including the design and implementation of the Internet’s basic communications protocols”.

But now he says despite many projects to archive online data for future generations, we might end up not being able to use any of it.

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The coming online privacy revolution

Jamie Bartlett has an extract featured from his new book, ‘Orwell vs The Terrorists’ over at Index on Censorship:

Extract from Orwell vs the Terrorists by Jamie Bartlett.Motivated by an honourable desire to protect online freedom and privacy, hundreds of computer scientists and internet specialists are working on ingenious ways of keeping online secrets, preventing censorship, and fighting against centralised control. A veritable army motivated by a desire for privacy and freedom, trying to wrestle back control for ordinary people. This is where the long-term effects will be felt.

Soon there will be a new generation of easy-to-use, auto-encryption internet services. Services such as MailPile, and Dark Mail – email services where everything is automatically encrypted. Then there’s the Blackphone – a smart phone that encrypts and hides everything you’re doing. There are dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of new bits of software and hardware like this that cover your tracks, being developed as you read this – and mainly by activists motivated not by profit, but by privacy. Within a decade or so I think they will be slick and secure, and you won’t need to be a computer specialist to work out how they work. We’ll all be using them.’

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Most US investigative journalists fear their government spies on them

Roy Greenslade reports for The Guardian:

Most of America’s investigative journalists believe their government has spied on them, according to a Pew Research Centre study.

Some 64% of participants in Pew’s survey said that the US government had “probably collected data” on their phone calls, emails and other online communications.

The report surveyed 671 members of an organisation called Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), which includes reporters, producers, editors, data specialists and photojournalists.’

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Google Gagged and Ordered by NSA and FBI to Release Personal Data of Wikileaks Staffers: Interview with Michael Ratner

Editor’s Note: Michael Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), president of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), and U.S. attorney for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. In this interview, Ratner says that the U.S. government is still pursuing criminal investigations against Wikileaks Editor and staffers, not just because of what they have already released to the public but because of what they still continue to release

Why the secret criminal investigation of WikiLeaks is troubling for journalists

Kelly J O’Brien reports for Columbia Journalism Review:

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia began investigating WikiLeaks in 2010 after the site posted some of the quarter-million State Department cables leaked by Chelsea Manning.

Last month, an official from the Department of Justice publicly confirmed the investigation is still ongoing. It was the first time anyone, including WikiLeaks’ own defense team, has gotten such confirmation since April 2014.

It’s an important sign that what may be the biggest criminal investigation into a publisher in US history continues to grow. Yet the news was buried 18 paragraphs deep in a Washington Post article that instead focused on Google’s multi-year fight to be allowed to inform WikiLeaks staffers that the government had requested their data.

Free-press advocates and a few independent journalists fear that kind of coverage is a sign the media is overlooking the details of an investigation that could have implications for all news organizations.’

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Smart TV Innovations Creating Privacy Concerns

FTC Warns of the Huge Security Risks in the Internet of Things

Davey Alba reports for Wired:

‘There’s danger lurking in the Internet of Things. At least, that’s the word from the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the government watchdog released a detailed report urging businesses to take some concrete steps in protecting the privacy and security of American consumers.

‘According to the FTC, 25 billion objects are already online worldwide, gathering information using sensors and communicating with each other over the internet, and this number is growing, with consumer goods companies, auto manufacturers, healthcare providers, and so many other businesses investing in the new breed of connected devices.

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Net neutrality set to be defended by US regulator

Jane Wakefield reports for BBC News:

TwitterThe chairman of the US’s communications watchdog is proposing “strong” protections to ensure the principles of net neutrality are upheld.

In an article in Wired, Tom Wheeler said he intended to place new restrictions on how fixed line and mobile broadband providers handle data.

He plans to prevent the service providers from being able to create fast lanes for those willing to pay.

Verizon has indicated that it might begin legal action as a consequence.’

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China Tightens Control Over Internet Access

Pentagon Makes No Secret of Wanting to Monitor Social Change Activism

Nafezz Ahmed writes for AlterNet:

The US military is increasingly concerned about the risks to social, political and economic stability from resource stress and climate change, and whether they might lead governments to collapse. That’s the upshot of the latest call for proposals from the Pentagon’s flagship social science research program, the Minerva Research Initiative.

Minerva is a multi-million-dollar research program led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and founded in 2008 under the watch of then-defense secretary Robert Gates. The final deadline for submissions for the latest research round is next month.

The research call, which was put out near the end of last year by the Office of Naval Research, shows that the Pentagon is particularly taken aback by sudden “societal shifts like those seen recently in North Africa and the Middle East,” as well as in “Central Eurasia.”’

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Reject the surveillance state: Overreaction to terrorism is the true threat

Stephen Kinzer writes for The Boston Globe:

Monitors show imagery from security cameras at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative in New York in 2013.Terrorists are likely to strike again in the United States. Innocent people will be maimed and killed. Afterward there may be another attack, and another one after that. The shooters or bombers will run the gamut, from disoriented misfits to coldly efficient fanatics. All would join the toast that an anarchist offers in “The Secret Agent,” Joseph Conrad’s trenchant dissection of the terrorist mind: “To the destruction of what is!”

Terrorism is a passing phenomenon. It is not likely to become a permanent fact of American life. Nonetheless it is a threatening part of today’s reality, and society must find ways to respond. The greatest danger is not complacency. Worse is the prospect that in our panic over terrorism, we willingly surrender some of the values that make our society worth defending. The true threat to our democracy is not terror, but our reaction to it.’

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British army sets up new brigade “for information age”

Jonathan Beale writes for BBC News:

[…] The Army says it’s learnt valuable lessons from Afghanistan – not least that it can’t win wars using pure military force alone.

The brigade will be made up of warriors who don’t just carry weapons, but who are also skilled in using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the dark arts of “psyops” – psychological operations.

They will try to influence local populations and change behaviour through what the Army calls traditional and unconventional means.’

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The Petulant Entitlement Syndrome of Journalists

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] When political blogs first emerged as a force in the early post-9/11 era, one of their primary targets was celebrity journalists. A whole slew of famous, multi-millionaire, prize-decorated TV hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists – Tom Friedman, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, John Burns, Chris Matthews – were frequently the subject of vocal and vituperative criticisms, read by tens of thousands of people.

It is hard to overstate what a major (and desperately needed) change this was for how journalists like them functioned. Prior to the advent of blogs, establishment journalists were largely immunized even from hearing criticisms. If a life-tenured New York Times columnist wrote something stupid or vapid, or a Sunday TV news host conducted a sycophantic interview with a government official, there was no real mechanism for the average non-journalist citizen to voice critiques. At best, aggrieved readers could write a Letter to the Editor, which few journalists cared about. Establishment journalists spoke only to one another, and careerist concerns combined with an incestuous chumminess ensured that the most influential among them heard little beyond flowery praise.

Blogs, and online political activism generally, changed all of that. Though they tried – hard – these journalists simply could not ignore the endless stream of criticisms directed at them.’

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The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists’ emails are under surveillance

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

julian assange embassy windowThe outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers, who are exercising their First Amendment rights to publish classified information in the public interest—just like virtually every other major news organization in this country—is an attack on freedom of the press itself, and it’s shocking that more people aren’t raising their voices (and pens, and keyboards) in protest.

In the past four years, WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers.

Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts, which was inexplicably kept secret from them for almost two and a half years.’

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How the CIA made Google

Nafeez Ahmed writes for INSURE INTELLIGENCE/Medium:

‘[…] As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.

Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.

The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.’

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Jon Ronson in Conversation with Adam Curtis

Jon Ronson recently interviewed Adam Curtis for VICE:

‘I’ve known Adam Curtis for nearly 20 years. We’re friends. We see movies together, and once even went to Romania on a mini-break to attend an auction of Nicolae Ceausescu’s belongings. But it would be wrong to characterise our friendship as frivolous. Most of the time when we’re together I’m just intensely cross-questioning him about some new book idea I have.

Sometimes Adam will say something that seems baffling and wrong at the time, but makes perfect sense a few years later. I could give you lots of examples, but here’s one: I’m about to publish a book – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – about how social media is evolving into a cold and conservative place, a giant echo chamber where what we believe is constantly reinforced by people who believe the same thing, and when people step out of line in the smallest ways we destroy them. Adam was warning me about Twitter’s propensity to turn this way six years ago, when it was still a Garden of Eden. Sometimes talking to Adam feels like finding the results of some horse race of the future, where the long-shot horse wins.

I suppose it’s no surprise that Adam would notice this stuff about social media so early on. It’s what his films are almost always about – power and social control. However, people don’t only enjoy them for the subject matter, but for how they look, too – his wonderful, strange use of archive.’

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56% of online display ads are not seen by consumers, according to Google study

Jessica Davies reports for The Drum:

‘More than half (56.1 per cent) of online display ad impressions are not seen by consumers, according to Google’s first global viewability report unveiled following a series of trials with advertisers.

The internet giant, which opened up viewability-based trading across its display network last year, letting advertisers pay only for impressions likely to be seen, has conducted its first global report into the area as it looks to “take a lead” in building understanding in viewability-based trading.’

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‘Complete rape’ of government by industry: NSA whistleblower on private contractors in intelligence

‘Kirk Wiebe, an NSA veteran and whistleblower, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about mass surveillance.’ (Going Underground)

Why the modern world is bad for your brain

Daniel J. Levitin has an excerpt from his latest book, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, featured in The Guardian: 

Daniel J Levitan‘Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information. Trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. At the same time, we are all doing more. Thirty years ago, travel agents made our airline and rail reservations, salespeople helped us find what we were looking for in shops, and professional typists or secretaries helped busy people with their correspondence. Now we do most of those things ourselves. We are doing the jobs of 10 different people while still trying to keep up with our lives, our children and parents, our friends, our careers, our hobbies, and our favourite TV shows.

Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight. They’re more powerful and do more things than the most advanced computer at IBM corporate headquarters 30 years ago. And we use them all the time, part of a 21st-century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime. We text while we’re walking across the street, catch up on email while standing in a queue – and while having lunch with friends, we surreptitiously check to see what our other friends are doing. At the kitchen counter, cosy and secure in our domicile, we write our shopping lists on smartphones while we are listening to that wonderfully informative podcast on urban beekeeping.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT and one of the world experts on divided attention, says that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.” So we’re not actually keeping a lot of balls in the air like an expert juggler; we’re more like a bad amateur plate spinner, frantically switching from one task to another, ignoring the one that is not right in front of us but worried it will come crashing down any minute. Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient.’

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David Cameron’s internet surveillance plans rival Syria, Russia and Iran

Cory Doctorow writes for The Guardian:

David Cameron at a computer‘What David Cameron thinks he’s saying is: “We will command all the software creators we can reach to introduce back doors into their tools for us.” There are enormous problems with this: there’s no back door that only lets good guys go through it. If your WhatsApp or Google Hangouts has a deliberately introduced flaw in it, then foreign spies, criminals, crooked police (such as those who fed sensitive information to the tabloids who were implicated in the phone-hacking scandal – and like the high-level police who secretly worked for organised crime for years) and criminals will eventually discover this vulnerability. They – and not just the security services – will be able to use it to intercept all of our communications, from the pictures of your kids in your bath you send to your parents to the trade secrets you send to co-workers.

But this is just for starters. David Cameron doesn’t understand technology very well, so he doesn’t actually know what he’s asking for. For his proposal to work, he will need to stop Britons from installing software that comes from software creators who are out of his jurisdiction. The best in secure communications are free/open-source projects, maintained by thousands of independent programmers around the world. They are widely available and, thanks to things like cryptographic signing, it is possible to download these packages from any server in the world (not just big ones like Github) and verify, with a high degree of confidence, that the software you’ve downloaded hasn’t been tampered with.

Cameron is not alone here. The regime he proposes is already in place in countries such as Syria, Russia, and Iran (for the record, none of these countries have had much luck with it). There are two means by which authoritarian governments have attempted to restrict the use of secure technology: by network filtering and by technology mandates.’

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Europe’s answer to France terror ‘attack on free speech’ is greater Internet censorship

Zack Whittaker reports for ZDNet:

‘About half of Europe’s member states are pushing for greater online censorship powers in the wake of the terror attacks in France earlier this month.

In a joint statement, interior ministers from 11 European member states — including Germany, Poland, Spain, and the U.K. — expressed condemnation of the attacks, while stressing further cooperation between their law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Members of the European Union, along with a delegation from the U.S. government — including outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder — adopted, among other sentiments, a resolution to create a partnership of major Internet providers to report and remove material associated with extremism.’

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GCHQ could be behind ‘super-spyware’ attack – Security expert on Regin, incredibly advanced virus

21st-century censorship: Governments around the world are using stealthy strategies to manipulate the media

Philip Bennett and Moises Naim report for Columbia Review of Journalism:

Two beliefs safely inhabit the canon of contemporary thinking about journalism. The first is that the internet is the most powerful force disrupting the news media. The second is that the internet and the communication and information tools it spawned, like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, are shifting power from governments to civil society and to individual bloggers, netizens, or “citizen journalists.”

It is hard to disagree with these two beliefs. Yet they obscure evidence that governments are having as much success as the internet in disrupting independent media and determining the information that reaches society. Moreover, in many poor countries or in those with autocratic regimes, government actions are more important than the internet in defining how information is produced and consumed, and by whom.

Illustrating this point is a curious fact: Censorship is flourishing in the information age. In theory, new technologies make it more difficult, and ultimately impossible, for governments to control the flow of information. Some have argued that the birth of the internet foreshadowed the death of censorship. In 1993, John Gilmore, an internet pioneer, told Time, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Today, many governments are routing around the liberating effects of the internet. Like entrepreneurs, they are relying on innovation and imitation. In countries such as Hungary, Ecuador, Turkey, and Kenya, officials are mimicking autocracies like Russia, Iran, or China by redacting critical news and building state media brands. They are also creating more subtle tools to complement the blunt instruments of attacking journalists.

As a result, the internet’s promise of open access to independent and diverse sources of information is a reality mostly for the minority of humanity living in mature democracies.’

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Charlie Hebdo murders are no excuse for killing online freedom

David Meyer writes for Gigaaom:

‘There’s been a predictable split in the reactions to Wednesday’s slaughter of the staff of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, along with others including police who were trying to protect them. On the one hand, hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in France and across Europe in defiance against those behind this attack on free speech…

… while others have taken a decidedly different tack, using the outrage as a justification for the rolling-back of online civil liberties. This approach was taken by Dan Hodges in the Telegraph, and by the Sun in an editorial arguing that “intelligence is our best defense… yet liberals still fret over the perceived assault on civil liberties of spooks analyzing emails.”’

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Security Flaw Exposed In Use Of Fingerprint Passwords

With the Power of Social Media Growing, Police Are Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - With Power of Social Media Growing, Police Now Monitoring and Criminalizing Online Speech‘[…] Criminal cases for online political speech are now commonplace in the UK, notorious for its hostility to basic free speech and press rights. As The Independent‘s James Bloodworth reported last week, “around 20,000 people in Britain have been investigated in the past three years for comments made online.”

But the persecution is by no means viewpoint-neutral. It instead is overwhelmingly directed at the country’s Muslims for expressing political opinions critical of the state’s actions.

To put it mildly, not all online “hate speech” or advocacy of violence is treated equally. It is, for instance, extremely difficult to imagine that Facebook users who sanction violence by the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who spew anti-Muslim animus, or who call for and celebrate the deaths of Gazans, would be similarly prosecuted. In both the UK and Europe generally, cases are occasionally brought for right-wing “hate speech” (the above warning from Scotland’s police was issued after a polemicist posted repellent jokes on Twitter about Ebola patients). But the proposed punishments for such advocacy are rarely more than symbolic: trivial fines and the like. The real punishment is meted out overwhelmingly against Muslim dissidents and critics of the West.’

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Iran expands ‘smart’ Internet censorship

Michelle Moghtader reports for Reuters:

‘Iran is to expand what it calls “smart filtering” of the Internet, a policy of censoring undesirable content on websites without banning them completely, as it used to, the government said on Friday.

The Islamic Republic has some of the strictest controls on Internet access in the world, but its blocks on U.S.-based social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are routinely bypassed by tech-savvy Iranians using virtual private networks (VPNs).

Under the new scheme, Tehran could lift its blanket ban on those sites and, instead, filter their content.’

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U.S. Tech Firms Face Showdown With Russian Censors

Sam Schechner And Gregory White report for the Wall Street Journal:

‘[…] Until now, companies have often complied with Russia’s legal orders to remove content, rather than risk a government blackout. But the firms have become more wary as the government has given itself new powers to regulate the Internet. And the very public nature of this episode leaves the U.S. tech companies facing a dilemma.

On one hand, cooperation with governments like Russia’s risks damaging their reputation among users, and goes against the libertarian values of Silicon Valley. But U.S. Internet firms need to expand in large markets to meet the growth expectations that have raised their valuations to stratospheric levels.

Similar tensions played out this year in Turkey, where the government demanded the removal of content on Twitter and YouTube that alleged government corruption. Twitter and YouTube resisted some of the requests, leading the government to temporarily block them across the country.’

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