Category Archives: The Web

The U.S. Government Wants to Read Travelers’ Tweets Before Letting Them In

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Soon, foreign visitors to the United States will be expected to tell U.S. authorities about their social media accounts.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting “information associated with your online presence” from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for “provider/platform” and “social media identifier,” making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.

Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a “risk to the United States” or “nefarious activity.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote last month that the scope of information being collected was “vague and open-ended,” and that he was “concerned” that with the change, “government officials might have largely unfettered authority to collect, analyze, share and retain personal and sensitive information about travelers and their online associations.”


AT&T Acquires Time Warner In Media Mega-Deal

Brian Stelter reports for CNN:

media shakeup att-twx merger graphic new AT&T and Time Warner have agreed to an $85 billion deal — one of the biggest media tie-ups ever.

The move, announced Saturday evening, will help AT&T expand beyond wireless and Internet service into programming. Time Warner is the parent of CNN, TNT, HBO, the Warner Bros. studio, and other channels and websites.

AT&T, which dates back to the invention of the telephone in 1876, is one of the country’s largest providers of wireless phone and Internet service. It also recently acquired the DirecTV satellite TV business.

The deal will be subject to a review by government regulators that could take more than a year to complete.


Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate

Craig Silverman, Lauren Strapagiel, Hamza Shaban, Ellie Hall and Jeremy Singer-Vine report for BuzzFeed:

Hyperpartisan political Facebook pages and websites are consistently feeding their millions of followers false or misleading information, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed News. The review of more than 1,000 posts from six large hyperpartisan Facebook pages selected from the right and from the left also found that the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook — far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison.

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces — perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention — that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.

These pages, with names such as Eagle Rising on the right and Occupy Democrats on the left, represent a new and powerful force in American politics and society. Many have quickly grown to be as large as — and often much larger than — mainstream political news pages. A recent feature in the New York Times Magazine reported on the growth and influence of these pages, saying they “have begun to create and refine a new approach to political news: cherry-picking and reconstituting the most effective tactics and tropes from activism, advocacy and journalism into a potent new mixture.”


The Internet of Things Sucks So Bad Even ‘Amateurish’ Malware Is Enough

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports for Wired:

Over the last few weeks, unknown hackers have launched some of the largest cyberattacks the internet has ever seen. These attacks weren’t notable just by their unprecedented size and power, but also because they were powered by a large zombie army of hacked cameras and other devices that fit into the category of Internet of Things, or IoT.

On Friday, the hacker who claims to have created the malware that was powering this massive “Botnet Of Things” published its source code, which appears to be legitimate.

“It looks like this release is the real deal,” according to Marshal Webb, the chief technology officer of BackConnect, an anti-DDoS firm, who has been collecting samples of the malware in the last few weeks.

However legitimate, the malicious code isn’t actually that sophisticated, according to security researchers who have been studying it.


Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails for U.S. Intelligence

Joseph Menn reports for Reuters:

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.


Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind

Nolan Higdon wrote for Project Censored in 2013:

In 1833, William Miller predicted the second coming of Jesus Christ in the year 1843. Only after his fourth failed prediction, each of which saw hundreds of thousands of followers turn out, did his followers abandon him. By this time, Miller had already absconded with copious amounts of their money, spent on his publications and for ascension robes that were supposed to prepare them for Jesus Christ’s arrival. A profiteer relying on distortion and unfulfilled predictions, contemporary radio personality and activist Alex Jones operates in the same mode as Miller. Instead of ascension robes, Jones profits from the fear and uncertainty he relentlessly peddles via DVDs, publications, books, a TV show, a radio show, and websites.

Jones is recognized as a spearheading figure of anti-establishment reporting for many Google-searching-truth-seekers. Jones’s work includes an abundance of unfulfilled predictions that often rely on distorted and unproven claims. Despite his many predictions going unfulfilled, Jones and his claims increasingly appear in the corporate press as major media outlets rely on Internet sources for news content. As a result, the works of Alex Jones have broken into the so-called mainstream. This creates a serious problem for investigative journalists and scholars who focus on controversial subjects. Jones’ self-promotional, unfulfilled predictions and his speculative writings and reports can take away from other legitimate, fact-based researchers who investigate similar topics by shifting the focus from the relevant facts of the particular topic to his unverified and often sensational claims. The result is that those inclined to believe the so-called mainstream media disassociate themselves with some political movements and topics because Jones’ and his speculative reports become the face of said particular movements and topics. Jones’ ability and pattern of delegitimizing controversial, yet evidence-based contingents of so-called truth movements through radicalization and guilt by association, is eerily analogous to the blueprints of various US Government programs– most notably COINTELPRO from the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, this has also been the case regarding establishment efforts to discredit the Occupy Wall St. Movement. This article will explore the work of Alex Jones’ and the effects he has had on others who research similar controversial subjects, and how research into those very subjects comes to be viewed in the public once Jones is perceived as a spokesperson or figurehead.


Mark Zuckerberg Accused of Abusing Power After Facebook Deletes ‘Napalm Girl’ Post

Julia Carrie Wong reports for The Guardian:

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.

The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.


Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

Naomi LaChance reports for The Intercept:

A Google incubated-program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed to undermine ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, said his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups, including the Gen Next Foundation, to target other violent extremists, including on the hard right.


Warner Bros Issuing Takedowns For Its Own Site Is No Laughing Matter

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

Warner Brothers logoLots of people have been talking the past few days about TorrentFreak’s discovery of the fact that Warner Bros., via its hired DMCA agent Vobile, has been issuing DMCA takedowns on its own website. Specifically, in recent notices to Google from Vobile, on behalf of Warner Bros., the infringing domains include WB’s own official websites for movies like “Batman, the Dark Knight” and “The Matrix.”

It’s easy to look at this and laugh. And the story’s been getting lots of attention thanks to places like the BBC picking up on it as well. And thus, jokes like this one are an easy target.

And, yes, this is hardly the first time that companies have been caught targeting themselves. After all, Viacom famously sued YouTube over Viacom’s own promotional clips that it had uploaded to the site. And, the recording industry is famous for taking down the official videos of its artists.


Inside Facebook’s Political-Media Machine

John Herrman reports for The New York Times:

[…] Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.

The Facebook product, to users in 2016, is familiar yet subtly expansive. Its algorithms have their pick of text, photos and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there’s also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed. These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.

Using a tool called CrowdTangle, which tracks engagement for Facebook pages across the network, you can see which pages are most shared, liked and commented on, and which pages dominate the conversation around election topics. Using this data, I was able to speak to a wide array of the activists and entrepreneurs, advocates and opportunists, reporters and hobbyists who together make up 2016’s most disruptive, and least understood, force in media.

Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.


The World Wide Cage

Nicholas Carr, author of Utopia Is Creepy, writes for Aeon:

Image result for The world wide cage[…] In the early 1990s, I launched a browser for the first time and watched the gates of the web open. I was enthralled – so much territory, so few rules. But it didn’t take long for the carpetbaggers to arrive. The territory began to be subdivided, strip-malled and, as the monetary value of its data banks grew, strip-mined. My excitement remained, but it was tempered by wariness. I sensed that foreign agents were slipping into my computer through its connection to the web. What had been a tool under my own control was morphing into a medium under the control of others. The computer screen was becoming, as all mass media tend to become, an environment, a surrounding, an enclosure, at worst a cage. It seemed clear that those who controlled the omnipresent screen would, if given their way, control culture as well.

‘Computing is not about computers any more,’ wrote Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in his bestseller Being Digital (1995). ‘It is about living.’ By the turn of the century, Silicon Valley was selling more than gadgets and software: it was selling an ideology. The creed was set in the tradition of US techno-utopianism, but with a digital twist. The Valley-ites were fierce materialists – what couldn’t be measured had no meaning – yet they loathed materiality. In their view, the problems of the world, from inefficiency and inequality to morbidity and mortality, emanated from the world’s physicality, from its embodiment in torpid, inflexible, decaying stuff. The panacea was virtuality – the reinvention and redemption of society in computer code. They would build us a new Eden not from atoms but from bits. All that is solid would melt into their network. We were expected to be grateful and, for the most part, we were.


The NSA Is Putting Us All at Risk to be Hacked

Bruce Schneier, author of Data and Goliath, writes for Vox:

The National Security Agency is lying to us. We know that because of data stolen from an NSA server was dumped on the internet. The agency is hoarding information about security vulnerabilities in the products you use, because it wants to use it to hack others’ computers. Those vulnerabilities aren’t being reported, and aren’t getting fixed, making your computers and networks unsafe.

On August 13, a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released 300 megabytes of NSA cyberweapon code on the internet. Near as we experts can tell, the NSA network itself wasn’t hacked; what probably happened was that a “staging server” for NSA cyberweapons — that is, a server the NSA was making use of to mask its surveillance activities — was hacked in 2013.

The NSA inadvertently resecured itself in what was coincidentally the early weeks of the Snowden document release. The people behind the link used casual hacker lingo, and made a weird, implausible proposal involving holding a bitcoin auction for the rest of the data: “!!! Attention government sponsors of cyber warfare and those who profit from it !!!! How much you pay for enemies cyber weapons?”


BBC to Deploy Detection Vans to Snoop on Internet Users

BBCThe BBC is to spy on internet users in their homes by deploying a new generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching its programmes online.

The Telegraph can disclose that from next month, the BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee.

The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the iPlayer must have a TV licence.

The disclosure will lead to fears about invasion of privacy and follows years of concern over the heavy-handed approach of the BBC towards those suspected of not paying the licence fee. However, the BBC insists that its inspectors will not be able to spy on other internet browsing habits of viewers.

The existence of the new strategy emerged in a report carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO).


Donald Trump is hosting a Reddit AMA during the Democratic National Convention

Adi Robertson reports for The Verge:

Reddit has become a significant platform for campaigning over the past few years. Obama became one of the first major political figures to hold an AMA during the 2012 election season; unlike Trump’s upcoming AMA, his session took place on the official, general-interest r/IAmA subreddit. Likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton showed up on the site earlier this year. Trump has an extremely active Reddit fanbase, albeit one that has been strained by infighting over racism and moderation issues.


EU eyes Israeli technologies for spotting militants online

Dan Williams reports for Reuters:

European powers are trying to develop better means for pre-emptively spotting “lone-wolf” militants from their online activities and are looking to Israeli-developed technologies, a senior EU security official said on Tuesday.

Last week’s truck rampage in France and Monday’s axe attack aboard a train in Germany have raised European concern about self-radicalized assailants who have little or no communications with militant groups that could be intercepted by spy agencies.

“How do you capture some signs of someone who has no contact with any organization, is just inspired and started expressing some kind of allegiance? I don’t know. It’s a challenge,” EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told Reuters on the sidelines of a intelligence conference in Tel Aviv.


In suspending Milo Yiannopoulos, has Twitter played the man rather than the ball?

Will Gore writes for The Independent:

[…] The permanent suspension from Twitter of Milo Yiannopoulos for violation of the site’s “hateful conduct policy” has thrown the issue into particular focus. Yiannopoulos, a conservative writer and provocateur, appeared to criticise the actress Leslie Jones for expressing concern at racist and sexist abuse she had received from other users. He referred to Jones “playing the victim” and criticised her acting ability. He was accused not of direct racism himself but of fanning the flames of harassment.

Reaction to his suspension was inevitably mixed, with some lauding Twitter for taking decisive action against a man who has had run-ins with the social media giant before. Others meanwhile decried the decision as a gross overreaction, noting that individuals with a lower profile remain at large despite posting much more venal content.

The problem on this occasion is that Twitter appears to have played the man rather than the ball. Yiannopoulos might well be a disagreeable prat, but banning him from social media will do more to whip up those whose postings really do go beyond the pale than his continued presence ever could. His voice and his ability to be heard extend beyond the confines of the Twittersphere – hard though that may be for Jack Dorsey to believe.


Turkey Coup: How an iPhone Defeated the Tanks

David Hearst writes for Middle East Eye:

To mount a coup, senior Turkish army officers from the commando units, land forces, the first and fourth armies, and the airforce went to extreme lengths to seize power.

They occupied two airports and closed a third. They attempted to separate the European from the Asian sides of Istanbul. They bombed the parliament in Ankara nine times. There was a pitched battled outside the headquarters of MIT the Turkish intelligence agency. They deployed tanks, helicopter gunships and F16 jets.

To defeat the coup, the Turkish president used his iPhone. Mosques used their loudspeakers, broadcasting the call to prayer hours before dawn. Political leaders of all creeds, some staunch opponents of the president, called unambiguously for the coup to be defeated. Policemen arrested soldiers.

Unarmed people recaptured CNN Turk and the bridges across the Bosphorus, braving gunfire to recapture democracy for their country.


Turkey’s President Survives Coup Attempt, Thanks in Part to Social Media He So Despises

Robert Mackey writes for The Intercept:


[…] The plotters failed, despite following a script that had might have succeeded in the 20th century, in part because Erdogan was able to rally support for democratic rule using 21st century tools: video chat and social media.

After the officers claimed control of the country in a statement they forced a presenter to read on TRT, the state broadcaster, the country’s internet and phone networks remained out of their control. That allowed Erdogan to improvise an address to the nation in a FaceTime call to CNN Turk, a private broadcaster the military only managed to force off the air later in the night, as the coup unraveled. In his remarks, the president called on people to take to the streets.

Minutes later, the president repeated his plea for protesters to defend democracy on his own Twitter feed.



After Dallas Shootings, Police Arrest People for Criticizing Cops on Facebook and Twitter

Naomi LaChance reports for The Intercept:

[…] Five police officers were killed in the Dallas shootings, constituting the highest number of police casualties in an attack since September 11. And as a result, law enforcement officials everywhere are suddenly much more sensitive to threats against their lives.

But one result has been that several police departments across the country have arrested individuals for posts on social media accounts, often from citizen tips — raising concerns among free speech advocates.

“Arresting people for speech is something we should be very careful about,” Bruce Schneier, security technologist at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, told The Intercept.


Cassetteboy vs The Snoopers’ Charter

If you’re not worried about the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snoopers’ Charter), you don’t know enough about it. Visit and join the campaign against new Government snooping powers. (Cassetteboy)

Israel Targeting Palestinian Protesters on Facebook

Alex Kane reports for The Intercept:

[…] Facebook has not changed the fundamental contours of the conflict, but it has accelerated it. A demonstration against the Israeli occupation can be organized in a matter of hours, while the monitoring of Palestinians is made easier by the large digital footprint they leave on their laptops and mobile phones.

Israeli officials have blamed social media for inciting a wave of violent attacks by Palestinians that began in October 2015. Since then, Israeli security forces have arrested about 400 Palestinians for social media activity, according to Palestinian rights groups Addameer and Adalah. Most of the arrests have been for postings on Facebook, a popular network among Palestinians.

In that year alone, the Israeli attorney general opened 155 investigations into alleged social media incitement, a marked increase from previous years, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (although the law on social media incitement applies to all citizens and residents, the vast majority of cases have been directed at Arabs in Israel).

The arrests of Palestinians for Facebook posts open a window into the practices of Israel’s surveillance state and reveal social media’s darker side. What was once seen as a weapon of the weak has turned into the perfect place to ferret out potential resistance.


The Guardian’s Katharine Viner: ‘Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful’

Jessica Davies reports for DigiDay:

Guardian News and Media’s editor-in-chief Katharine Viner’s prognosis of news publishing in an algorithm- and platform-dominated world is bleak.

Viner addressed a room full of senior marketers yesterday in her keynote at advertiser trade body ISBA’s annual lunch in London. During her speech she reinforced just how much technology and the rise of platforms have changed publishing, and redirected advertising spend.

She referred to a recent Reuters report that revealed a trove of information on people’s current news-consumption habits and showed just how dominant Facebook has become as a platform on which people find news.

“Social media companies have become overwhelmingly powerful in determining what we read and whether publishers make any money,” she said. “The idea of challenging the wide-open worldwide web has been replaced by platforms and publishers who maximize the amount of time you spend with them and find clever ways to stop you leaving. That may be great news for advertisers and the platforms themselves, but it’s a real concern for the news industry.”


A Short History Of Facebook’s Cat-and-Mouse Game With Publishers

Alyssa Bereznak reports for The Ringer:

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it will make yet another tweak to its ever-changing, all-mysterious algorithm. The platform’s News Feed — the main source of updates for the company’s 1.65 billion monthly active users — will now favor posts from friends and family members over those of media organizations.

For you, this probably means more baby photos, gym selfies, and arguments with family members who support Trump. But for the many media organizations who rely on this platform as a way to distribute their stories, it is an existential threat. As The New York Times diplomatically put it, the change is yet another reminder that “publishers rank lower on Facebook’s list of priorities.”

Still, it’s not exactly surprising. In fact, the company’s change of heart is just the latest entry in a long history of the platform’s Ramsay Bolton–esque games with publishers. Today, it seems publishers could be right back where they started: the dazed and helpless captive of a cruel and unpredictable ally.


Why Facebook’s New Algorithm Is Bad News for Media

Maya Kosoff reports for Vanity Fair:

Earlier this year, Facebook began looking for ways to reverse an insidious issue with its platform: while users’ feeds were filled with news stories, people had begun to share less about their own lives. A lack of original user-generated content could eventually lead to the erosion of activity on Facebook, which is something of an existential problem for a social network. Naturally, this makes Mark Zuckerberg nervous—the less people share on Facebook, the more likely they are to migrate their personal lives onto private platforms like Evan Spiegel’s Snapchat.

In a possible attempt to stop the decline, Facebook announced Wednesday that it would be tweaking the algorithm behind its News Feed. “Our success is built on getting people the stories that matter to them most,” Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said in a post accompanying Wednesday’s news.“If you could look through thousands of stories every day and choose the 10 that were most important to you, which would they be? The answer should be your News Feed. It is subjective, personal, and unique—and defines the spirit of what we hope to achieve.” You will, in other words, see see more posts from your friends and family, while publishers get the shaft.


As Quietly As Possible, U.S. Government Renewing Its Assault On Privacy

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

With their dangerous crusade for an anti-encryption bill in Congress all but dead (for now), the FBI and US justice department are now engaged in a multi-pronged attack on all sorts of other privacy rights – this time, with much less public scrutiny.

A report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office harshly criticized the FBI last week for its little discussed but frequently used facial recognition database and called on the bureau to implement myriad privacy and safety protections. It turns out the database has far more photos than anyone thought – 411.9m to be exact – and the vast majority are not mugshots of criminals, but driver’s license photos from over a dozen states and passport photos of millions of completely innocent people. The feds searched it over 36,000 times from 2011 to 2015 (no court order needed) while also apparently having no idea how accurate it is.

Worse, the FBI wants its hundreds of millions of facial recognition photos – along with its entire biometric database that includes fingerprints and DNA profiles – to be exempt from important Privacy Act protections. As the Intercept reported two weeks ago: “Specifically, the FBI’s proposal would exempt the database from the provisions in the Privacy Act that require federal agencies to share with individuals the information they collect about them and that give people the legal right to determine the accuracy and fairness of how their personal information is collected and used.”


The Secret Lives of Screen-Addicted Teens

Jessica Contrera reports for The Week:

She slides into the car, and even before she buckles her seat belt, her phone is alight in her hands. A 13-year-old girl after a day of eighth grade. She says hello. Her au pair asks, “Ready to go?”

She doesn’t respond, her thumb on Instagram. A Barbara Walters meme is on the screen. She scrolls, and another meme appears. Then another meme, and she closes the app. She opens BuzzFeed. There’s a story about Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which she scrolls past to get to a story about Janet Jackson, then “28 Things You’ll Understand If You’re Both British and American.” She closes it. She opens Instagram. She opens the NBA app. She shuts the screen off. She turns it back on. She opens Spotify. Opens Fitbit. She has 7,427 steps. Opens Instagram again. Opens Snapchat. She watches a sparkly rainbow flow from her friend’s mouth. She watches a YouTube star make pouty faces at the camera. She watches a tutorial on nail art. She feels the bump of the driveway and looks up.

They’re home. Twelve minutes have passed.

Katherine Pommerening’s iPhone is the place where all of her friends are always hanging out. So it’s the place where she is, too. She’s on it after it rings to wake her up in the mornings. She’s on it at school, when she can sneak it. She’s on it while her 8-year-old sister, Lila, is building crafts out of beads. She sets it down to play basketball, to skateboard, to watch PG-13 comedies, and sometimes to eat dinner, but when she picks it back up, she might have 64 unread messages.


Are We All Becoming Pavlov’s Dogs?

Larry Rosen Ph.D. writes for Psychology Today:

MIT Press[…] I do a lot of people watching and I have noticed that we are now spending more time with our faces staring at our phone than we spend with our faces looking around the world or looking directly at another person.

In a recent study colleagues and I asked 216 undergraduate students to use an app called Instant Quantified Self that tallied the number of times the student unlocked his/her phone during the day and how many minutes it remained unlocked. Strikingly, the average student (and our students are typically older, averaging about 25 years old instead of the usual 20-year-old college student) unlocked his/her phone roughly 60 times a day for about 4 minutes each time. In all, the phone was in use 4 hours! And this does not count time spent on a laptop, tablet, or any other device.

What are they doing on their phones? Mostly accessing social connections including text messaging, reading or posting on social media, dealing with email or any app that involves connecting with another human being.

Pavlov paired food with a bell; we seem to be pairing our human connection with our phone. We may not salivate but our brain is certainly responding to those internal and external alerts.


NSA Looking to Exploit Internet of Things, Including Biomedical Devices, Official Says

Jenna McLaughlin reports for The Intercept:

is researching opportunities to collect foreign intelligence — including the possibility of exploiting internet-connected biomedical devices like pacemakers, according to a senior official.

“We’re looking at it sort of theoretically from a research point of view right now,” Richard Ledgett, the NSA’s deputy director, said at a conference on military technology at Washington’s Newseum on Friday.

Biomedical devices could be a new source of information for the NSA’s data hoards — “maybe a niche kind of thing … a tool in the toolbox,” he said, though he added that there are easier ways to keep track of overseas terrorists and foreign intelligence agents.

When asked if the entire scope of the Internet of Things — billions of interconnected devices — would be “a security nightmare or a signals intelligence bonanza,” he replied, “Both.”


LinkedIn Bought by Microsoft for $26.2 Billion in Cash

Alex Hern and Jana Kasperkevic report for The Guardian:

Microsoft is buying the business-focused social network LinkedIn for $26.2bn (£18.5bn) in cash, its biggest ever purchase, the two companies announced on Monday.

The agreed deal – at $196 per LinkedIn share – was announced by both companies before the market opened on Wall Street. LinkedIn’s shares soared 49% on the news while Microsoft’s dipped close to 3%.

Microsoft said that after the acquisition, LinkedIn will “retain its distinct brand, culture and independence”. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s chief executive, said the deal “gives us a chance to change the way the world works”.

LinkedIn has 430 million members, which means the deal values each member at more than $60. The network was founded in 2002 and floated in New York in 2011 with a value of $4.25bn.

The acquisition comes as LinkedIn has struggled. In February this year, its shares plunged 43% on the New York Stock Exchange, after the business network forecast much weaker than expected growth in 2016. The price collapse wiped $11bn off the value of LinkedIn in a single day, which left its share price down at a three-year low of $101.


How Facebook Warps Our Worlds

Frank Bruni writes for The New York Times:

Those who’ve been raising alarms about Facebook are right: Almost every minute that we spend on our smartphones and tablets and laptops, thumbing through favorite websites and scrolling through personalized feeds, we’re pointed toward foregone conclusions. We’re pressured to conform.

But unseen puppet masters on Mark Zuckerberg’s payroll aren’t to blame. We’re the real culprits. When it comes to elevating one perspective above all others and herding people into culturally and ideologically inflexible tribes, nothing that Facebook does to us comes close to what we do to ourselves.

I’m talking about how we use social media in particular and the Internet in general — and how we let them use us. They’re not so much agents as accomplices, new tools for ancient impulses, part of “a long sequence of technological innovations that enable us to do what we want,” noted the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who wrote the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind,” when we spoke last week.

“And one of the things we want is to spend more time with people who think like us and less with people who are different,” Haidt added. “The Facebook effect isn’t trivial. But it’s catalyzing or amplifying a tendency that was already there.”

By “the Facebook effect” he didn’t mean the possibility, discussed extensively over recent weeks, that Facebook manipulates its menu of “trending” news to emphasize liberal views and sources. That menu is just one facet of Facebook.