Category Archives: Science & Technology

Lean Out: The deafening post-November silence of Sheryl Sandberg

Sarah Lacy writes for Pando:

[…] The press didn’t make Sandberg into a feminist tech hero, she did. There was no pressure or precedent for female tech leaders to identify so heavily with women’s issues. And that’s why she struck such a chord with so many women. Finally a woman in power was saying all the things we all felt. It was particularly meaningful to me that she openly talked about motherhood– the joys, the challenges, and the strength of it.

This matters because Sandberg is easily the most senior woman in tech, and the most respected despite not being a founder or a CEO. According to First Round’s 2016 State of Startups, Sandberg was the most cited female answer to what tech leader people admire most. She got 1% of overall responses, compared to 6% for Mark Zuckerberg and 5% for Steve Jobs. She got 5% of the write-ins from female respondents. No other female leader came close.

Is that brand, that admiration solely because she is the COO of the only major super unicorn of the social networking era, and one of a few companies bucking to be the first $1 trillion market cap super duper unicorn? Maybe. But my hunch is her positioning as the flawed and vulnerable and yet commanding and respected woman a top that company, a woman who helps lift up other women, has played a massive role in people’s esteem for her.

So having voluntarily taken on this cause– and let’s face it, benefitted from that it in many ways– Sandberg must be well positioned to be a leader in this precise moment of feminist consciousness, right?

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Who’s Paying for the UK Government’s ‘Free’ Smart Meters?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Chris Choi, ITN’s Consumer Editor for ITV News, about why Theresa May wants the UK to spend £11 billion on so-called ‘free’ smart meters. (Going Underground)

Wikipedia just ruled the Daily Mail to be an unreliable source

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

Image result for daily mail wikipediaTo the untrained eye the Daily Mail may appear to be a newspaper, but it’s no such thing. It’s an extreme-right propaganda empire that has been owned and operated by the tax-dodging billionaire Harmsworth family for generations.

I’m sure we can all think of examples that demonstrate that the Daily Mail is savagely right-wing propaganda rag: Their support for Hitler and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s; their homophobic rants; their smearing of dead war heroes; their constant anti-immigrant hatemongering; their support for extreme-right candidates on the continent; their blaming a murder victim for their own death; their habit of mocking the gullibility of their own readers; their support for Theresa May’s effort to scrap parliamentary sovereignty and turn herself into an all-powerful autocrat who can make and repeal laws as they please.

Interestingly Wikipedia have cottoned on to what an incredibly dodgy extreme-right propaganda empire the Daily Mail is, and after deliberation, the consensus amongst the community of Wikipedia editors is that the Daily Mail is an unreliable source that should no longer be used as a reference (unless absolutely necessary).

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Silicon Valley Super-Rich Head south to Escape from a Global Apocalypse

Hayden Donnell reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Global Apocalypse new zealandAt the Republican party convention in Cleveland last July, Trump donor Peter Thiel declared himself ‘“most of all, proud to be an American”. So it came as something of a surprise for New Zealanders to discover that the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member had become an honorary Kiwi – joining a growing band of wealthy Americans seeking a haven from a possible global apocalypse.

Thiel was recently revealed to have bought a £4.5m lakeside property near the New Zealand town of Wanaka in 2015. When New Zealand Herald reporter Matt Nippert asked why Thiel had been allowed to buy land that appears to fit the classification of “sensitive” without permission from the country’s Overseas Investment Office, he was told it wasn’t necessary – Thiel was already a citizen.

The revelation was met with confusion. By the time of his appearance at the Republican convention, Thiel had already bought 193 hectares of pristine South Island land using his rights as a Kiwi. Politicians asked why a billionaire most famous for adamantly supporting Donald Trump and bankrolling the lawsuits that bankrupted Gawker Media had been allowed not only to buy land in New Zealand, but to make the country part of his future and identity. Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, accused the National government of “selling citizenship” to foreigners.

Thiel, who retains his American citizenship, in fact became a joint US-New Zealand citizen in 2011 and has described the country as “Utopia”, investing heavily in business start-ups.

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Black Ops Advertising: Interview with Mara Einstein

Black Ops Advertising, Mara Einstein

Jeff Schechtman recently spoke with Mara Einstein, professor, independent marketing consultant and the author of a new book titled: Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content, Marketing, and the Covert World of the Digital Sell. (Who What Why)

LISTEN TO OR DOWNLOAD THE INTERVIEW…

New Cyber Czar Rudy Giuliani’s Website Full of Security Flaws

Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy:

[…] The Trump transition office announced Thursday morning that Giuliani, part of a core group of Republican Trump loyalists during the campaign, had been tapped to “lend expertise to cybersecurity efforts.” The announcement didn’t offer many details about how Giuliani would fulfill his role, noting simply that hacks are rampant.

“Cyber intrusion is the fastest growing crime in the United States and much of the world,” the statement said.

The announcement prompted a few programmers to conduct their own free website analysis of giulianipartners.com. Their verdict? Pathetic. Sad.

Indeed, some may have tried their hand at a little mischief. “Service temporarily unavailable,” flashed the screen when one visitor sought to browse there in the afternoon.

“Seems Rudy may need a cybersecurity chief for himself,” tweeted Jeremiah Grossman, whose profile said he is chief of security strategy for SentinelOne, a cybersecurity company.

Others came to Giuliani’s defense.

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Obama Expands Surveillance Powers on His Way Out

Kate Tummarello reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.

New rules issued by the Obama administration under Executive Order 12333 will let the NSA—which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy—share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report today by the New York Times.

That’s a huge and troubling shift in the way those intelligence agencies receive information collected by the NSA. Domestic agencies like the FBI are subject to more privacy protections, including warrant requirements. Previously, the NSA shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information, including about innocent people whose communications were swept up the NSA’s massive surveillance operations.

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Rudy Giuliani Is an Absurd Choice to Defend the U.S. From Hackers

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

Related imageAt Donald Trump’s now-notorious press conference on Tuesday, lost amidst his threats to news organizations and denunciations of his enemies, the president-elect claimed he would soon assemble “some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world” to tackle the US government’s cybersecurity problem. On Thursday, he went the opposite route instead and hired Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, Trump election surrogate and the disgraced former mayor of New York, is apparently going to head up Trump’s efforts to coordinate “cybersecurity” issues between the federal government and the private sector, the transition team announced Tuesday. But what does Giuliani, last seen on the campaign trail claiming the president can break whatever law he likes in a time of war, know about cybersecurity? From the look and sound of it, not much.

Giuliani does head a consulting firm in New York called Giuliani Partners that supposedly focuses on cybersecurity, but Vice’s Motherboard reported yesterday, it’s tough to tell what they actually do, and it’s even tougher to tell what Giuliani does for them, besides being the face of the operation while saying outrageous things on television.

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Facing Possible Threats Under Trump, Internet Archive to Build Server in Canada

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speaks to Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, which has announced that it will be moving a copy of its archive to Canada in the wake of Trump winning the 2016 election. The archive is one of the world’s largest public digital libraries. Part of the site includes the Wayback Machine, which preserves old websites, allowing researchers to access pages deleted by politicians and others. Laurie Allen of #DataRefuge Project also briefly joins the discussion to talk about climate change. (Democracy Now!)

Remembering Vera Rubin: The Trailblazing Astrophysicist Who Confirmed the Existence of Dark Matter and Paved the Way for Modern Women in Science

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

Vera Rubin as an undergraduate at Vassar, 1940sIn his insightful reflection on the crucial difference between talent and genius, Schopenhauer likened talent to a marksman who hits a target others cannot hit, and genius to a marksman who hits a target others cannot see. Among humanity’s rare genius-seers was pioneering astrophysicist Vera Rubin (July 23, 1928–December 25, 2016) — a coruscating intellect animated by a sinewy tenacity, who overcame towering cultural odds by the sheer force of her unbridled curiosity and rigorous devotion to science. In confirming the existence of dark matter, Rubin revolutionized our understanding of the universe, paved the way for modern women in science, and recalibrated the stilted norms of her profession.

Rubin fell in love with the night sky as a young girl, but knew no astronomer, living or dead, to hold as a role model. Eventually, she came upon a children’s book about 19th-century trailblazer Maria Mitchell — America’s first professional female astronomer and the first woman admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — whose story reframed Rubin’s landscape of possibility and emboldened her to pursue stargazing as a vocation rather than a hobby. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be an astronomer,” she told Alan Lightman many years later in their wonderful 1990 conversation.

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Those Times the NSA Hacked America’s Allies

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

Image result for NSA Hacked America’s AlliesThe hysteria about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee servers and the phishing scam run on Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, is short on evidence and high in self-righteousness. Much of the report issued Friday was old boilerplate about the Russia Today cable channel, which proves nothing.

My complaint is that American television news reports all this as if it is The First Time in History Anyone has Acted like This. But the head of the Republican Party in the early 1970s hired burglars to do the same thing– break into the Watergate building and get access to DNC documents in hopes of throwing an election. Dick Nixon even ordered a second break-in. And it took a long time for Republican members of Congress to come around to the idea that a crime had been committed; if it hadn’t been for the Supreme Court, Nixon might have served out his term.

In the past decade and a half, the US National Security Agency has been deployed for hacking purposes not, as the cover story would have it, for counter-terrorism (there isn’t much evidence that they’re any good at that), but to gain political advantage over allies.

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The Washington Post Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

The second story on the electric grid turned out to be far worse than I realized when I wrote about it on Saturday, when it became clear that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid” as the Post had claimed. In addition to the editor’s note, the Russia-hacked-our-electric-grid story now has a full-scale retraction in the form of a separate article admitting that “the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility” and there may not even have been malware at all on this laptop.

But while these debacles are embarrassing for the paper, they are also richly rewarding. That’s because journalists — including those at the Post — aggressively hype and promote the original, sensationalistic false stories, ensuring that they go viral, generating massive traffic for the Post (the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, recently boasted about how profitable the paper has become).

After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions.

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Privacy Advocates Warn of Potential Surveillance Through Listening Devices Like Amazon Echo

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, about the murder case revolving around James Andrew Bates and the police warrant that seeks to obtain data from his Amazon Echo. (Democracy Now!)

The Right Has Learned to Love Trolling

Ben Shapiro writes for National Review:

Image result for The Right Has Learned to Love TrollingOn New Year’s Eve, our president-elect unleashed a tweet in honor of the coming year: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

His most ardent followers thrill to this display of full-on juvenile testosterone. They thrill at what they approvingly call “trolling” by the “madman.” They tweet pictures of Pepe the Frog jubilantly, figuratively slapping each other on the back over the audacity of their Big Man on Campus.

This is the “new conservatism”: Elicit a reaction.

There’s no follow-up. There’s no design. And truth is unimportant. The new “conservatism” promoted by Trump and his most ardent imitators is a teenage slapfight with no general purpose other than to deliberately offend, thereby making yourself appear more powerful. Remember when Trump said that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in JFK’s murder? That was trolling. And when Cruz responded, Trump’s followers laughed, called Trump a “madman,” and suggested that Cruz was a weakling for letting such things get under his skin.

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Should The American Public Be Thankful For Russian ‘Interference’?

Michael Tracey argues for Medium:

[…] If the state-sponsored Russian hackers did something truly malignant, like messing with election results, then yes — that’d be a severe breach and warrant substantial retaliation. But as it stands, the sinister Russians are accused of illuminating American voters as to the activities of the country’s most powerful political actors. The revelations made via WikiLeaks shined a light on all manner of fraud, deceit, and malfeasance. Would it have been better had voters not received access to this information? Who did it harm, other than a small group of political functionaries like Podesta and Wasserman-Schultz? Didn’t the American polity actually profit as a result of these hacks, given that they were provided important information about a presidential candidate that would have been otherwise suppressed?

When people use the word “interfered” to characterize what the Russian government is supposed to have done here, they give whole matter a needlessly nefarious gloss. “Russian interference in the election” connotes some kind of elaborate, intensive subversion plot. But that’s not what happened at all — voters weren’t harmed as a result of this “interference.” They were benefitted.

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Fake News: Russian Hacking of US Electricity Grid Never Took Place as Claimed by the Washington Post

Agamoni Ghosh reports for the International Business Times:

A news report last week had claimed that Russia-based hackers had successfully penetrated the US electricity grid through a facility in Vermont. But, such a thing never really happened as the alleged malware code that was thought to be injected into the grid system was only present on a single laptop that has no connection to the grid.

The report published by the Washington Post has been discarded as being misleading and false and the company has issued a note saying their key claim in the story was false.

“An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the US electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid,” said an editor’s note on the copy.

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Top-Secret Snowden Document Reveals What the NSA Knew About Previous Russian Hacking

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

To date, the only public evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacks of the DNC and key Democratic figures has been circumstantial and far short of conclusive, courtesy of private research firms with a financial stake in such claims. Multiple federal agencies now claim certainty about the Kremlin connection, but they have yet to make public the basis for their beliefs.

Now, a never-before-published top-secret document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden suggests the NSA has a way of collecting evidence of Russian hacks, because the agency tracked a similar hack before in the case of a prominent Russian journalist, who was also a U.S. citizen.

In 2006, longtime Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in her apartment, the victim of an apparent contract killing. Although five individuals, including the gunman, were convicted for the crime, whoever ordered the murder remains unknown. Information about Politkovskaya’s journalism career, murder, and the investigation of that crime was compiled by the NSA in the form of an internal wiki entry. Most of the wiki’s information is biographical, public, and unclassified, save for a brief passage marked top secret.

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Russia Hysteria Infects The Washington Post Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Image result for Russia Hysteria Infects The Washington Post Again: False Story About Hacking U.S. Electric Grid[…] What’s the problem here? It did not happen.

There was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid.” The truth was undramatic and banal. Burlington Electric, after receiving a Homeland Security notice sent to all U.S. utility companies about the malware code found in the DNC system, searched all their computers and found the code in a single laptop that was not connected to the electric grid.

Apparently, the Post did not even bother to contact the company before running its wildly sensationalistic claims, so they had to issue their own statement to the Burlington Free Press which debunked the Post’s central claim (emphasis in original): “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop NOT connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

So the key scary claim of the Post story – that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid – was false. All the alarmist tough-guy statements issued by political officials who believed the Post’s claim were based on fiction.

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Reddit For Sale: How We Bought The Top Spot For $200

Is ‘the front page of the internet’ being gamed by vested interests? In this story, Phil Harper shows how easy it is to buy your way onto Reddit, the world’s most popular and influential forum. A more in-depth article by Jay McGregor can be found at Forbes titled: Reddit For Sale: How We Made Viral Fake News For $200(Point)

 

Human Ingenuity Demolishes Historical Barriers – But Not All

Alan Finkel writes for Cosmos Magazine:

When accepted limits are broken, I am astonished. Often what I thought were hard limits turn out to be the limits of our collective imagination, not the imposition of physics.

Surprisingly, this demolition of apparently immovable limits happens often. Here are a few examples from my lifetime. See if you can think of a few of your own.

When I studied electrical engineering, it was generally accepted that copper telephone wires couldn’t carry electrical signals that oscillated faster than about 5,000 cycles per second. That was good enough for voice signals, but made for very slow digital communication. As a rule of thumb, you could expect to transfer twice that rate as bits of data and, indeed, for a long time 9.6 kilobits per second was the standard.

But with the advent of new signal-processing techniques for modems, more sophisticated error-correction algorithms and circuitry improvements at telephone exchanges and distribution nodes, digital communications over the copper telephone network became progressively faster.

Today’s high‑speed data modems deliver download speeds of 10 megabits per second – 1,000 times faster than what I naively understood would be the upper limit of the ordinary copper telephone wires.

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Experts Predict Human-Robot Marriage Will Be Legal By 2050

Olivia Goldhill reports for Quartz:

Image result for human-robot marriageIn the face of AI exerts repeatedly predicting the rise of sex robots, it’s increasingly difficult to insist that such machines strictly belong to a far-off, dystopian future. But some robotics experts predict we’ll soon be doing far more than having sexual intercourse with machines. Instead, we’ll be making love to them—with all the accompanying romantic feelings.

At this week’s “Love and Sex with Robots” conference at Goldsmith University in London, David Levy, author of a book on human-robot love, predicted that human-robot marriages would be legal by 2050. Adrian Cheok, computing professor at City University London and director of the Mixed Reality Lab in Singapore, says the prediction is not so farfetched.

“That might seem outrageous because it’s only 35 years away. But 35 years ago people thought homosexual marriage was outrageous,” says Cheok, who also spoke at the conference. “Until the 1970s, some states didn’t allow white and black people to marry each other. Society does progress and change very rapidly.”

And though human-robot marriage might not be legal until 2050, Cheok believes humans will be living with robot partners long before then.

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Silicon Valley’s Power Brokers Want You to Think They’re Different, But They’re Just Average Robber Barons

Emmett Rensin writes for The Outline:

Image result for Silicon Valley's Power Brokers Want You to Think They're Different, But They're Just Average Robber Barons[…] The press enjoys excitedly praising tech titans by comparing them to fantastical and mythical figures. Zuckerberg is Caesar. Elon Musk, a wizard. Peter Thiel, who believes that he lives in the moral universe of Lord of the Rings, is a vampire. I do not know if these men believe that they have the supernatural powers the media claims. Maybe they do. I do know that they do not mind the perception, or at least have done nothing to combat it, even among those critics who believe that they’re cartoon villains.

This might not be so bad if the phenomenon were limited to daft profiles by fawning magazine writers. But this Hegelian fan fiction is nowhere more potent than from the mouths of the Disruptors themselves. Mark Zuckerberg speaks in the voice of God. Shane Smith, by his own account, is the Stalin of Vice. Silicon Valley investor Carl Icahn was called “evil Captain Kirk” by fellow billionaire Marc Andreessen, before he was himself dubbed Dr. Evil by Rod Dreher, who has evidently not absorbed a cultural reference since 1999. When Elon Musk worries that Larry Page is hurtling toward AI without a sufficient appreciation of the risks, he calls it “summoning the demon.” Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky, a typical case, says his food delivery application for depressed millennials is “disrupting the paradigm” by showing people that “the era of the paper menu” is over. AirBnB’s mission statement laments “the mechanization and Industrial Revolution of the last century,” which “displaced” “feelings of trust and belonging”; their mission is to turn the world back into the “village” of simpler eras by encouraging longstanding residents of gentrifying areas to rent out their homes to monied travelers. Some firms are more modest: HubSpot, a marketing and sales platform, is merely on a mission to make the whole world “more inbound,” which is to say, more reliant on their blogging tips for small businesses.

Even President Obama speaks of Silicon Valley as if it were an industry for madcap geniuses alone, a land of such earth-changing potential that it’s somewhere he might find himself once he’s left the Oval Office. When he chides citizens of the Valley, he chides them like a Dr. Frankenstein warning his monster about hubris: “Sometime we get, I think, in the scientific community, the tech community, the entrepreneurial community, the sense that we just have to blow up the system or create this parallel society,” he told the Frontiers Conference last October. The president believes that sense is wrong, of course, but where did he get the idea that tech CEOs were capable of these feats in the first place?

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British Councils Used RIPA to Secretly Spy on Public

Anushka Asthana reports for The Guardian:

Image result for British Councils RIPACouncils were given permission to carry out more than 55,000 days of covert surveillance over five years, including spying on people walking dogs, feeding pigeons and fly-tipping, the Guardian can reveal.

A mass freedom of information request has found 186 local authorities – two-thirds of the 283 that responded – used the government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to gather evidence via secret listening devices, cameras and private detectives.

Among the detailed examples provided were Midlothian council using the powers to monitor dog barking and Allerdale borough council gathering evidence about who was guilty of feeding pigeons.

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Earth Woefully Unprepared for Surprise Comet or Asteroid, Nasa Scientist Warns

Alan Yuhas reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Earth Woefully Unprepared for Surprise Comet or Asteroid, Nasa Scientist WarnsHumans are woefully unprepared for a surprise asteroid or comet, a Nasa scientist warned on Monday, at a presentation with nuclear scientists into how humans might deflect cosmic dangers hurtling toward Earth.

“The biggest problem, basically, is there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment,” said Dr Joseph Nuth, a researcher with Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Speaking at the annual meeting of American Geophysical Union, Nuth noted that large and potentially dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare, compared to the small objects that occasionally explode in Earth’s sky or strike its surface. “But on the other hand they are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they’re 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially. You could say, of course, we’re due, but it’s a random course at that point.”

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Police Spy Tools Evolve Faster Than Lawmakers Can Keep Up

Monte Reel reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for Police Spy Tools Evolve Faster Than Lawmakers Can Keep UpIn late October, a group of Maryland legislators met with police officials, attorneys, privacy advocates, and policy analysts to discuss creating a legal framework to govern aerial surveillance programs such as the one the Baltimore Police Department had been using to track vehicles and individuals through the city since January.

“What, if anything, are other states doing to address this issue?” Joseph Vallerio, the committee’s chairman, asked the panel.

“Nothing,” replied David Rocah, an attorney with the ACLU. “Because no one has ever done this before.”

The Baltimore surveillance program broke new ground by bringing wide-area persistent surveillance—a technology that the military has been developing for a decade—to municipal law enforcement. The police department kept the program secret from the public, as well as from the city’s mayor and other local officials, until it was detailed in August by Bloomberg Businessweek. Privacy advocates, defense attorneys, and some local legislators called for the program to be suspended immediately, until the technology could be evaluated in public hearings.

But in the three months since the public discussion began, the police have continued to use the surveillance plane to monitor large events, such as the Baltimore Marathon, and essential questions remain unanswered. The police continue to classify the program as an ongoing trial, but the private company that operates it for the police—Persistent Surveillance Systems—doesn’t have a permanent contract and no specific regulations govern its operations.

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European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of Oppression

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports for Motherboard:

Image result for European Surveillance Companies Were Eager to Sell Syria Tools of OppressionIn 2007, Syrians could only access the internet through state-run servers, and services like Microsoft Hotmail and Facebook were sometimes blocked. But Bashar al-Assad, who had been head of the Syrian Computer Society before becoming president, knew the internet would inevitably spread more, and he knew he had to tighten his grip over it.

On October 2, 2007, the head of the government-owned Syria Telecommunications Establishment, or STE, put out a call for companies to develop a surveillance system that would monitor all data flowing on the Syrian internet.

The tender listed a series of “services that must be monitored,” including web browsing, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, internet VOIP calls, encrypted HTTPS web connections, and the use of VPNs.

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Rio Tinto’s Plan to Use Drones to Monitor Workers’ Private Lives

Max Opray reports for The Guardian:

Image result for rio tinto dronesIn the remote Australian outback, multinational companies are embarking on a secretive new kind of mining expedition.

Rio Tinto has long mined the Pilbara region of Western Australia for iron ore riches but now the company is seeking to extract a rather different kind of resource – its own employees, for data.

Thousands of Rio Tinto personnel live in company-run mining camps, spending not just work hours but leisure and home time in space controlled by their employer – which in this emerging era of smart infrastructure presents the opportunity to hoover up every detail of their lives.

Rio Tinto is no stranger to using technology to improve efficiency, having replaced human-operated vehicles with automated haul trucks and trains controlled out of a central operations centre in Perth.

The company is embarking on an attempt to manage its remaining human workers in the same way, and privacy advocates fear it could set a precedent that extends well beyond the mining industry.

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Cybersecurity Expert Bruce Schneier: American Elections Will Be Hacked

Amy Goodman speaks to Bruce Schneier, cybersecurity expert and author of Data and Goliath, who warns that America’s “newly computerised voting systems are vulnerable to attack by both individual hackers and government-sponsored cyberwarriors. It is only a matter of time before such an attack happens”. He latest article for the New York Times is titled ‘American Elections Will Be Hacked‘. (Democracy Now!)

The Saga of ‘Pizzagate’: The Fake Story That Shows How Conspiracy Theories Spread

BBC Trending reports:

a picture of pizzaNo victim has come forward. There’s no investigation. And physical evidence? That doesn’t exist either.

But thousands of people are convinced that a paedophilia ring involving people at the highest levels of the Democratic Party is operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

The story riveted fringes of Twitter – nearly a million messages were sent last month using the term “pizzagate”.

So how did this fake story take hold amongst alt-right Trump supporters and other Hillary Clinton opponents?

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The Tory Snoopers’ Charter Is Now Law

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

The Snooper’s Charter became law on the 29th of November 2016 meaning that the United Kingdom now has by far the most invasive state surveillance laws of any nation in the developed world.

The invasive domestic snooping legislation means that the UK state will attempt to maintain a massive database recording the Internet browsing history of every person in the UK, innocent or guilty. They will then allow dozens and dozens of government agencies and quangos to trawl through this database looking for dirt.

Of course it makes sense to allow the secret services to look into what suspected terrorists are plotting, but this legislation doesn’t just do that. It goes much much further. The first thing it does is presume that every single UK citizen is a potential criminal who needs to be spied on, then it allows all kinds of non-terrorism related agencies to trawl through people’s Internet browsing histories.

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