"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Edward Snowden’s Not The Story. The Fate Of The Internet Is.

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm
Edward Snowden

While the press concentrates on the furore surrounding Edward Snowden’s search for political asylum, it has forgotten the importance of his revelations. Photograph: Tatyana Lokshina/AP

Oldspeak: “Here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.  The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered… Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious…. Third… the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant…. (Fourth) No US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA.” -John Naughton

“Look past the “Where’s Waldo” narrative that been propagandized by state media outlets. The last free and open source of communication and distribution of free information and truthful knowledge is fast becoming a thing of the past. It’s being turned into a global surveillance network. You no longer should have any reasonable expectation for privacy of any activities you engage in digitally. The Stasi couldn’t have dreamed of doing it better.” -OSJ

By John Naughton @ The U.K. Guardian:

Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world’s mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.

In a way, it doesn’t matter why the media lost the scent. What matters is that they did. So as a public service, let us summarise what Snowden has achieved thus far.

Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users’ data.

Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn’t have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.

These are pretty significant outcomes and they’re just the first-order consequences of Snowden’s activities. As far as most of our mass media are concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap – speculation about Snowden’s travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical appearance, etc. The “human interest” angle has trumped the real story, which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world actually works and the direction in which it is heading.

As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.

The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

Third, as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”

That’s all at nation-state level. But the Snowden revelations also have implications for you and me.

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their “cloud” services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you’re thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again.

And if you think that that sounds like the paranoid fantasising of a newspaper columnist, then consider what Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, had to say on the matter recently. “If businesses or governments think they might be spied on,” she said, “they will have less reason to trust the cloud, and it will be cloud providers who ultimately miss out. Why would you pay someone else to hold your commercial or other secrets, if you suspect or know they are being shared against your wishes? Front or back door – it doesn’t matter – any smart person doesn’t want the information shared at all. Customers will act rationally and providers will miss out on a great opportunity.”

Spot on. So when your chief information officer proposes to use the Amazon or Google cloud as a data-store for your company’s confidential documents, tell him where to file the proposal. In the shredder

 

 

SOPA & PIPA Shelved But Is ACTA Unstoppable? Little Known International Censorship Treaty Crafted In Secret Without Public Debate

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2012 at 11:13 am

Oldspeak:ACTA IS A THREAT TO FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND OPEN ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE.  It contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA. It goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. We’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification.” -E.D. Cain “…after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.” -Sue Gee The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. Secretary Of State (1977-1981) The scientific elite are relentlessly working to assert more and more control over access and dissemination of information. A free and open internet must be closed and restricted to achieve those ends. The people will need to stay informed and vigilant against these dire threats to our freedoms.

By E.D. Cain @ Forbes Magazine:

When sites like Wikipedia and Reddit banded together for a major blackout January 18th, the impact was felt all the way to Washington D.C. The blackout had lawmakers running from the controversial anti-piracy legislation, SOPA and PIPA, which critics said threatened freedom of speech online.

Unfortunately for free-speech advocates, censorship is still a serious threat.

Few people have heard of ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, but the provisions in the agreement are just as pernicious as anything we saw in SOPA. Worse, the agreement spans virtually all of the countries in the developed world, including all of the EU, the United States, Switzerland and Japan.

Many of these countries have already signed or ratified it, and the cogs are still turning. The treaty has been secretly negotiated behind the scenes, with unelected bureaucrats working closely with entertainment industry lobbyists to craft the provisions in the treaty. The Bush administration started the process, but the Obama administration has aggressively pursued it.

Indeed, we’ve already signed on to the treaty. All it needs now is Senate ratification. The time to stop the treaty is now, and we may need a second global internet blackout to call attention to it.

Here’s a quick video primer:

ACTA bypasses the sovereign laws of participating nations, forcing ISP’s across the globe to adopt these draconian measures.

Worse, it goes much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world.

Despite ACTA’s secrecy, criticism of the agreement has been widespread. Countries like India and Brazil have been vocal opponents of the agreement, claiming that it will do a great deal of harm to emerging economies.

I’ll have more on the agreement as it emerges. But to briefly sum up, ACTA contains global IP provisions as restrictive or worse than anything contained in SOPA and PIPA.

  • ACTA spans virtually all of the developed world, threatening the freedom of the internet as well as access to medication and food. The threat is every bit as real for those countries not involved in the process as the signatories themselves.
  • ACTA has already been signed by many countries including the US, but requires ratification in the EU parliament and the US Senate.
  • The entire monstrosity has been negotiated behind closed doors and kept secret from the public. Technocrats, beholden to the deep pockets of the entertainment lobby, have masked the agreement behind the misnomer of “anti-counterfeiting” when in fact it goes much, much further.

If you thought SOPA would break the internet, ACTA is much worse. And it could become law across the global economy without so much as a murmur of opposition.

Worse still, it’s not alone. Even more restrictive provisions exist in another trade agreement currently being hammered out by various nations.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, there are “other plurilateral agreements, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which contains a chapter on IP enforcement that would have state signatories adopt even more restrictive copyright measures than ACTA. Similarly, negotiations over TPP are also held in secret and with little oversight by the public or civil society. These initiatives, negotiated without participation from civil society or the public, are an affront to a democratic world order. EFF will remain vigilant against these international initiatives that threaten to choke off creativity, innovation, and free speech, and will stand with EDRi, FFII, La Quadrature du Net and our other EU fellow traveller organizations in their campaign to defeat ACTA in the European Parliament in January.”

The global economy needs to be seen as separate from those nations which comprise the global community of states. Civil society and a free global economy are not the same thing as the bogeyman so often referred to simply as “globalism.”

The free flow of goods and information is as much threatened by the global state apparatus as it is assisted by it, and industries with a vested interested in maintaining the status quo through draconian protectionist measures are now threatening the last frontier of the truly free economy.

By threatening the internet and free speech, the entertainment industry threatens its own existence. But with only short-term profits in mind, this will not deter them.

Yes, our lawmakers fled from SOPA and PIPA when push came to shove, but they have ACTA to fall back on. Notably, few of them are speaking out against this even more dangerous treaty. Not surprisingly one of the lone voices of dissent is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who has spoken out against the treaty.

“It may be possible for the U.S. to implement ACTA or any other trade agreement, once validly entered, without legislation if the agreement requires no change in U.S. law,” he wrote. “But regardless of whether the agreement requires changes in U.S. law … the executive branch lacks constitutional authority to enter a binding international agreement covering issues delegated by the Constitution to Congress’ authority, absent congressional approval.”

Even absent US participation, however, we should all be worried about the implications of this and other trade agreements on the global economy, the ripple effects of which would reach all of us regardless of geographical location.

Remember, when one of these bills or trade agreements falls, another rises up to take its place. ACTA has been in the works for several years. SOPA almost passed into law unopposed. The threat to civil society isn’t going away.

If you care about freedom of speech, or if you have participated in SOPA protests, please help spread the word about ACTA. You can sign a petition to stop it here.

By Sue Gee @ I-Programmer

Last Wednesday’s blackout by Wikipedia, Reddit and other sites raised awareness of PIPA and SOPA but there’s another threat to the open Internet, ACTA and has already been signed in US and elsewhere.

There has been jubilation about the fact that both the PIPA and SOPA bills that were being debated by the US Congress have stopped being an immediate menace.

Yes the action taken by Wikipedia had the desired effect, as did the signatures of the citizens who petitioned President Obama. However, in reality we should view the outcome as a temporary setback for the supporters of this legislation.

They will no doubt try again and we just have to hope that the next proposed legislation is less draconian.

The lasting achievement of the Internet Strike was that it alerted ordinary Internet users to the idea that there are freedoms we currently take for granted that could be blocked with widespread adverse affects.

But while many more people now know about SOPA and PIPA, how many have heard of ACTA – which by having the status of an international trade agreement rather than one country’s law has been introduced without the level of debate accorded to proposed legislation?

According to La Quadrature du Net, a French advocacy group that promotes the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet:

ACTA is one more offensive against the sharing of culture on the Internet. ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) is an agreement secretly negotiated by a small “club” of like-minded countries (39 countries, including the 27 of the European Union, the United States, Japan, etc). Negotiated instead of being democratically debated, ACTA bypasses parliaments and international organizations to dictate a repressive logic dictated by the entertainment industries.

La Quadrature says ACTA aims at imposing new criminal sanctions and online censorship in the name of copyright.

The US, Canada and many other countries have already signed the ACTA agreement and it was recently adopted by the European Union but it has yet to be debated by the European Parliament and so there is still a short window for protest against ACTA to prevent it being enacted.

Watch the video below to discover why we need to say No to ACTA and refer to La Quadrature’s Wiki to discover how to take action against it.

At this time the Internet is under more threat from sources that are alien to it, or worse fear it, than at any other. However, we are not good at spotting legislative controls that could harm what we do. Partly because it is a different technology and we don’t know the jargon, but mainly because stealth works in the favor of any party trying to pass restrictive legislature.

In the past most of the attempts to control the Internet have come from commercial interests, and piracy was its main target. Now, after the successes of the Internet in enabling revolutions to start and proceed, there is a raw political desire to curb the power of the web. This isn’t based on money, but on fear.

The big problem is that, even when we do notice, the ethos of the web works against us. The web should be open, information should be free and, even when Wikipediawent dark to protest against a bill that would clearly damage the Internet, manyWikipedians thought it was a bad thing for the most noble enterprise, an encyclopedia, to get embroiled in politics.

We desperately need a less idealistic view of the web, one that can defend its freedoms while minimizing the evil within.

 

For more information please visit:

EFF’s International Issue Page on ACTA: https://www.eff.org/issues/acta

European Digital Rights’ (EDRi) coverage here: www.edri.org/stopacta

La Quadrature du Net’s coverage here: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/acta

Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s (FFII) blog on ACTA http://acta.ffii.org/

Twitter hash tags: #ACTA

Twitter accounts:

@StopActaNow

@ffii

@EDRi_org

@laquadrature

Federal Regulators Likely To Let Google Buy Motorola Mobility For “Superpower” Status

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

Oldspeak: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Corporate media consolidation and control of your means of communications continues unabated, while the illusion of choice is perpetuated.”

By Susan Decker and Ian King @ Bloomberg:

Google Inc. (GOOG) is relying on its planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. to forestall patent litigation and force settlements with Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) over smartphone technology.

Google cited patent disputes as key to its agreement to buy Motorola Mobility, announced yesterday. Apple, maker of the iPhone, and Microsoft, developer of Windows Phone software, have targeted phones that run on Google’s best-selling Android system, including handsets built by Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. (2498), in lawsuits worldwide.

Lacking its own trove of patents to vie with Apple, Microsoft and other companies, Google and its hardware partners were targeted by suits aimed at slowing the adoption of Android smartphones. Adding the 17,000 patents of Motorola Mobility, which has been inventing mobile-phone technology since the industry began, may help Google stanch the onslaught.

“The analogy to a nuclear arms race and mutually assured destruction is compelling,” said Ron Laurie, managing director of Inflexion Point Strategy LLC, which counsels companies on purchasing intellectual property. Google and its rivals “look pretty evenly matched at the moment. Google may have become a patent superpower.”

The goal of Google’s new patent clout is also to act as protection for the handset makers that have been bearing the brunt of the litigation, the company said yesterday.

Patent Weaponry

Competition for dominance in the smartphone market has heated up since Google introduced Android in 2008. Patents, which grant exclusive rights to use a specific invention, have become a way to fight for market share and inhibit rivals from introducing new features.

Apple stepped up the patent feud by suing Android manufacturers, claiming Google-powered devices copy the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft has sued Motorola Mobility and Barnes & Noble Inc., whose Nook reader runs Android software.

Apple and Microsoft have focused on the devices that run on Android, while Oracle Corp. (ORCL), which has sued Mountain View, California-based Google directly, contends Android was developed using its Java programming language. Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages for patent- and copyright-infringement, and Google’s response has been limited to challenging the validity of Oracle’s patents.

Heightening the dispute, a group led by Apple and Microsoft won an auction of patents owned by Nortel Networks Corp. in June after bidding up the price to $4.5 billion, beating out Google in the largest-ever patent auction.

Google Shops Around

Before agreeing to buy Motorola Mobility, Google had few patents on mobile-phone technology. The company’s research had focused largely on its main search-engine business.

Google, seeking to tilt the balance, has actively sought patents that it said could be used as a deterrent to litigation, culminating in the purchase of Motorola Mobility. Google bought more than 1,000 patents in July from International Business Machines Corp.

“Yesterday you could sue Google and you weren’t taking any risks because they didn’t have any patents,” said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein inLondon. “Today it’s the same as suing Motorola.”

The purchase of Motorola Mobility lessens the likelihood of future bidding wars, Ferragu said.

“You have very, very few transactions that would make sense today,” he said. “You possibly have some smaller transactions as Google continues to shop around for quality.”

‘Level Playing Ground’

Motorola Mobility traces its roots to the 1928 founding of Galvin Manufacturing Corp. in Chicago. The company, renamed Motorola, was a pioneer of early televisions and two-way radio in World War II. It helped lay the foundation for the mobile- phone industry, demonstrating its first handset in 1973.

“Motorola was a pioneer in this business,” said Will Strauss, an analyst at Tempe, Arizona-based Forward Concepts Co. “They certainly have a lot of intellectual property. It will certainly level the playing ground quite a bit. It’s going to give them an awful lot to defend Android with.”

The purchase would directly embroil Google in litigation, where its partners have until now been the main targets. Motorola Mobility has its own pending lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft. A case Microsoft brought against Motorola Mobility is due to begin trial Aug. 22 at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, and a victory may mean a ban on imports of Motorola phones. Motorola Mobility retaliated with a bid to ban U.S. imports of Microsoft’s Xbox video-game systems, with a trial scheduled for October.

Protecting the Ecosystem

Motorola Mobility’s case against Cupertino, California- based Apple also was scheduled to begin Aug. 22, though it’s been postponed. Apple’s case against Motorola begins in September at the ITC. Samsung and HTC also have each filed separate suits against Apple.

“We believe we’ll be in a very good position to protect the Android ecosystem for all of the partners,” Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page said in a conference call with analysts yesterday. Motorola will manage the litigation until the acquisition is completed, expected by the end of this year or early next year, he said.

Kevin Kutz, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, declined to comment on what Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility might mean for the litigation. Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, also declined to comment.

Nokia Agreement

Apple has been winning so far, with an ITC judge’s finding that, if upheld, could lead to a ban on imports of HTC phones into the U.S. and a court order that prevents Samsung from introducing its new Galaxy Tablet in most of the European Union. As yet, nothing has stopped sales of Motorola’s phones or Xoom tablet.

Google may be hoping that an agreement can be reached with Apple that mirrors one the computer maker struck with another phone pioneer, Nokia Oyj (NOK1V), said Bernstein’s Ferragu.

The Finnish phone maker in June said it won an almost two- year patent dispute with Apple in a settlement that provided it with a one-time payment plus royalties.

“From that, you could infer that in the end it’s going to be Apple paying Motorola, paying Google,” Ferragu said.

While there will continue to be patent purchases in the mobile-phone market, litigation may slow if Google is successful in its strategy of using patents as leverage to strike settlements and keep further lawsuits at bay.

“It may not be the end, but you can see it from here,” said Inflexion Point Strategy’s Laurie. Google “was such an obvious target, and now they’re not,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington atsdecker1@bloomberg.net; Ian King in San Francisco at ianking@bloomberg.net

‘Anonymous’ Collective Vows to ‘Kill’ Facebook, November 5th 2011

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Oldspeak:”Now THAT would be get peoples attention… Fuck with peoples food “Yawn”. Fuck with peoples homes “Pppbbththt.” Fuck with peoples livelihoods “the market knows best”. Fuck with the environment “Meh”. Fuck with other countries,”spreading democracy”. Fuck with Facebook? “Pandemonium”. Or not. O_0

@ Alter Net:

In a YouTube message from the collective that hacked the Syrian Ministry of Defense website Sunday, Anonymous says it will “kill” Facebook on November 5th, one day before election day, for the sake of “privacy.”

Calling out Facebook for selling privacy and working for “authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria,” Anonymous urges “hacktivists” and others to help them kill Facebook.  Their message, in full text, reads:

DATE: November 5, 2011.
TARGET: https://facebook.com

Press:
Twitter : https://twitter.com/OP_Facebook
http://piratepad.net/YCPcpwrl09
Irc.Anonops.Li #OpFaceBook
Message:

Attention citizens of the world,

We wish to get your attention, hoping you heed the warnings as follows:
Your medium of communication you all so dearly adore will be destroyed. If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill facebook for the sake of your own privacy.

Facebook has been selling information to government agencies and giving clandestine access to information security firms so that they can spy on people from all around the world. Some of these so-called whitehat infosec firms are working for authoritarian governments, such as those of Egypt and Syria.

Everything you do on Facebook stays on Facebook regardless of your “privacy” settings, and deleting your account is impossible, even if you “delete” your account, all your personal info stays on Facebook and can be recovered at any time. Changing the privacy settings to make your Facebook account more “private” is also a delusion. Facebook knows more about you than your family.http://www.physorg.com/news170614271.html http://itgrunts.com/2010/10/07/facebook-steals-numbers-and-data-from-your-iph….

You cannot hide from the reality in which you, the people of the internet, live in. Facebook is the opposite of the Antisec cause. You are not safe from them nor from any government. One day you will look back on this and realise what we have done here is right, you will thank the rulers of the internet, we are not harming you but saving you.

The riots are underway. It is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It is a battle for choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being raped, tickled, molested, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely false. It gives users the illusion of and hides the details away from them “for their own good” while they then make millions off of you. When a service is “free,” it really means they’re making money off of you and your information.

Think for a while and prepare for a day that will go down in history. November 5 2011, #opfacebook . Engaged.

This is our world now. We exist without nationality, without religious bias. We have the right to not be surveilled, not be stalked, and not be used for profit. We have the right to not live as slaves.

We are anonymous
We are legion
We do not forgive
We do not forget
Expect us

We can expect to hear much more from Anonymous, the famous hacktivists who not only hacked Syria’s Ministry of Defense website, but also Sony, Visa, and MasterCard, among many others. While Anonymous members have been the target of a slew of recent arrests,  their message is clear: They will not be silenced.

 

U.S. House Bill H.R. 1981 Approved To Create Massive Surveillance Database Of Internet Users

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Oldspeak: “If they called it H.R. 1984 it would have been a bit much I suppose. H.R. 1981? Close enough to make the point without being explicitly dickish. While the Debt Theater came to its denouement, politricians voted to relieve you of more of your privacy rights. It represents “a data bank of every digital act by every American that would let us find out where every single American visited Web sites” -Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “Requiring Internet companies to redesign and reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance of Americans’ expressive activities is simply un-American.” -Kevin Bankston. Never mind that retention of identifying information would put at rist 99.9% of internet users of identity theft, decrease the overall safety of the internet, and increase the probability of potentially devastating hacker attacks. “Ignorance is Strength”

 

Related Story:

NSA Admits It Tracks Americans Via Cell Phones

By Steve Watson @ Prison Planet:

Legislation that will force Internet providers to store information on all their customers and share it with the federal government and law enforcement agencies was significantly beefed at the last minute last week and approved by a U.S. House of Representatives committee.

Under the guise of protecting children from internet pornographers, the House Judiciary committee voted 19-10 to approve a bill that will require Internet Service Providers to store temporarily assigned IP addresses for future government use.

In addition, the bill was re-written yesterday to also include the enforced retention of customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

As Declan McCullagh of CNet reports, the panel rejected an amendment that would have clarified that only IP addresses must be stored.

“The bill is mislabeled,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the panel. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”

It represents “a data bank of every digital act by every American” that would “let us find out where every single American visited Web sites,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who led Democratic opposition to the bill. The Californian Representative described the legislation as a “mess of a bill” and a “stalking horse for a massive expansion of federal power”.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., noted that the bill would open a Pandora’s box of government abuse.

“This is not about child porn. It never has been and never will be,” Issa said. “This is a convenient way for law enforcement to get what they couldn’t get in the PATRIOT Act.”

Advocates for the legislation include the National Sheriffs’ Association, which has said it “strongly supports” mandatory data retention. The bill has also attracted endorsements from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, as well as the FBI.

In a last ditch effort to derail the bill, the ACLU, along with dozens of other privacy watchdog groups penned a letter (PDF) to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith earlier this week, noting that “any data retention mandate is a direct assault on bedrock privacy principles.”

“The data retention mandate in this bill would treat every Internet user like a criminal and threaten the online privacy and free speech rights of every American, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have recognized,” Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundationsaid.

“Requiring Internet companies to redesign and reconfigure their systems to facilitate government surveillance of Americans’ expressive activities is simply un-American. Such a scheme would be as objectionable to our Founders as the requiring of licenses for printing presses or the banning of anonymous pamphlets.” Bankston added.

“This is China-style law enforcement, treating everyone as a potential suspect and requiring the collection of personal information just in case it might later be useful to the government,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel for the Washington based Center for Democracy and Technology, in aninterview with Bloomberg.

A fortnight ago, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) appealed before the House Judiciary Committee, asking that Congress recognize the fact that retaining identifying information would put at risk “99.9% of Internet users.”

EPIC President Marc Rotenberg pointed out that it is more prudent to seek data minimization rather than data retention, in the wake of increased risk of data breaches and identity theft. Rotenberg noted that enforced data retention would make ISPs more vulnerable to hackers, citing the LulzSec group, which recently claimed responsibility for temporarily shutting down a CIA website and other high-profile hacks.

“Minimizing stored user data reduces incentives for hackers to attack data storage systems by reducing the amount of data available to steal. Minimization also reduces the costs of data breaches,” Rotenberg said in prepared testimony.

Rotenberg suggested that the data could be used to bring criminal charges that were unrelated to child pornography, noting that any mandatory retention of data would be accessible to police investigating any crime.

“Although this data retention requirement has been introduced as part of a bill focused on child sexual exploitation, there is no evidence to suggest that the majority of law enforcement requests for customer subscriber information relate to child protection cases.” Rotenberg argued.

The bill would also allow access to the data by attorneys litigating civil disputes in divorce, insurance fraud, and other cases that have nothing to do with the protection of children on the internet.

“It would give the government sweeping authority to mandate the collection and retention of personal information obtained by business from their customers, or generated by the business in the course of providing services, for subsequent examination without any reason to believe that information is relevant or necessary for a criminal investigation,” Rotenberg further testified.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., had proposed an amendment to the bill that would have limited use of the data to child-pornography or terrorism cases, but it was withdrawn at the last minute, as Lamar Smith claimed that limiting the use of the information to child-pornography investigations could “undermine current cases on other issues”.

Rep. Scott also attempted to add an amendment to allocate $45 million a year to pay for more than 200 additional federal investigators and prosecutors dedicated to child pornography cases. Clearly a real move to crack down on child porn peddlers was unwelcome, however, as this too was struck down by committee members who claimed the funding wasn’t available.

The legislation, with all it’s privacy stripping measures intact, will now be scheduled for a full House debate.

——————————————————————

Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.net, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

Pentagon Looks To Social Media As New Battlefield

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘Events of strategic as well as tactical importance to our Armed Forces are increasingly taking place in social media space…‘ -DARPA (The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) The hyper-militarization of the U.S. continues into Cyberspace. Your ability to organize dissent, protest, uprising and exposure of government lies and true objectives (i.e. Wikileaks) using the internet against a government working against you is being viewed as a military threat that needs to be countered and neutralized. The  The powers that be don’t want what happened in Wisconsin metastasizing and your tax dollars are being used to that end. More definitive evidence of clandestine surveillance of online social media with the expressed purpose controlling and shaping outcomes in the real world. Next to no mention of this in domestic corporate media. Social control, surveillance and propaganda, as American as apple pie. ‘Big Brother is watching you

Related Story

Pentagon Wants a Social Media Propaganda Machine

By The American Foreign Press:

The Pentagon is asking scientists to figure out how to detect and counter propaganda on social media networks in the aftermath of Arab uprisings driven by Twitter and Facebook.

The US military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), has put out a request for experts to look at “a new science of social networks” that would attempt to get ahead of the curve of events unfolding on new media.

The program’s goal was to track “purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation” in social networks and to pursue “counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations,” according to DARPA’s request for proposals issued on July 14.

The project echoes concerns among top military officers about the lightning pace of change in the Middle East, where social networks have served as an engine for protest against some longtime US allies.

Some senior officers have spoken privately of the need to better track unrest revealed in social networks and to look for ways to shape outcomes in the Arab world through Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.

“Events of strategic as well as tactical importance to our Armed Forces are increasingly taking place in social media space,” the DARPA announcement said.

“We must, therefore, be aware of these events as they are happening and be in a position to defend ourselves within that space against adverse outcomes,” it said.

DARPA predicted that social networks would have a groundbreaking effect on warfare.

“Changes to the nature of conflict resulting from the use of social media are likely to be as profound as those resulting from previous communications revolutions,” it said.

Under the proposal, researchers would be expected to unearth and classify the “formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes)” in social media.

The document cited a case in which authorities employed social media to head off a potential crisis, but did not specify details of the incident.

“For example, in one case rumors about the location of a certain individual began to spread in social media space and calls for storming the rumored location reached a fever pitch,” it said.

“By chance, responsible authorities were monitoring the social media, detected the crisis building, sent out effective messaging to dispel the rumors and averted a physical attack on the rumored location.”

DARPA planned to spend $42 million on the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, with prospective contractors asked to test algorithms through “experiments” with social media, it said.

One possible experiment could involve a “closed social media network” of two to five thousand volunteers or an online role playing game with tens of thousands of players.

Censorship, Capitalism & “Personalization” The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Oldspeak:”WOW. So much for Net Neutrality. At least in Communist China, people are fully aware the internet and online social media is being censored.  :- | Here in the land of the free U.S.A., internet censorship is practiced without your knowledge, in much more subtle, insidious, and invasive ways. Cyber gatekeepers like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and the other top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. Marketed as sexy and convenient sounding “Personalization”, the dominant search engines and social media sites that control much of what you see and read, in their voracious desire for generating ad revenue, actively edit out information that is contrary to what you are perceived to prefer or believe via data collected on your viewing habits. So a Google search for “Egypt” on your computer will be different from an identical search I make on my machine. You only see what you’re most likely to click on and thus generate revenue for them. Net Neutrality is functionally a thing of the past. The 21st century “Ministry of Truth” is invisible, omnipotent and making obscene amounts of money from mining and manipulating your personal preferences and information. The internet, originally thought as a tool to exchange, free and unencumbered, information and ideas from all point of view has been privatized. The only ideas and information you’re likely to see are those much like your own. These conditions increase polarization, societal atomization, isolation, apathy, the gap between the public and private sphere and a general ignorance of the full world around us. While reducing actual interpersonal relations/face to face contact, social ties, and concern for a “greater good”. “Personalization” is nothing more than a cybernetic and irresistible tool meant to divide and conquer the people. Folks are far easier to control and manipulate when they’re disconnected physically and psychologically balkanized. And far worse, making people feel happy and excited to participate in their own enslavement to the modern-day gods of consumption and self-interest. ‘Ignorance is Strength’ and Profit is Paramount. Could the personal computer have morphed into the 21st century version ‘Telescreen‘? “

Related Video: Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

The internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. When some users search the word “Egypt,” they may get the latest news about the revolution, others might only see search results about Egyptian vacations. The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit—and then custom-design their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. What impact will this online filtering have on the future of democracy? We speak to Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. “Take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country,” says Pariser. “But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the ‘like’ button. And the ‘like’ button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click ‘like’ on ‘I just ran a marathon’ or ‘I baked a really awesome cake.’ It’s very hard to click ‘like’ on ‘war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.’”

Guest:

Eli Pariser, author of the new book, ‘The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You’. He is also the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics.

JUAN GONZALEZ: When you follow your friends on Facebook or run a search on Google, what information comes up, and what gets left out? That’s the subject of a new book by Eli Pariser called The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. According to Pariser, the internet is increasingly becoming an echo chamber in which websites tailor information according to the preferences they detect in each viewer. Yahoo! News tracks which articles we read. Zappos registers the type of shoes we wear, we prefer. And Netflix stores data on each movie we select.

AMY GOODMAN: The top 50 websites collect an average of 64 bits of personal information each time we visit and then custom-designs their sites to conform to our perceived preferences. While these websites profit from tailoring their advertisements to specific visitors, users pay a big price for living in an information bubble outside of their control. Instead of gaining wide exposure to diverse information, we’re subjected to narrow online filters.

Eli Pariser is the author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. He is also the board president and former executive director of the groupMoveOn.org. Eli joins us in the New York studio right now after a whirlwind tour through the United States.

Welcome, Eli.

ELI PARISER: Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this may surprise people. Two of us sitting here, me and Juan, if we went online, the two of us, and put into Google “Eli Pariser”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—we actually might come up with a wholly different set of finds, a totally different set of links, of search results.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I was surprised. I didn’t know that that was, you know, how it was working, until I stumbled across a little blog post on Google’s blog that said “personalized search for everyone.” And as it turns out, for the last several years, there is no standard Google. There’s no sort of “this is the link that is the best link.” It’s the best link for you. And the definition of what the best link for you is, is the thing that you’re the most likely to click. So, it’s not necessarily what you need to know; it’s what you want to know, what you’re most likely to click.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But isn’t that counter to the original thing that brought so many people to Google, that the algorithms that Google had developed really were reaching out to the best available information that was out there on the web?

ELI PARISER: Yeah. You know, if you look at how they talked about the original Google algorithm, they actually talked about it in these explicitly democratic terms, that the web was kind of voting—each page was voting on each other page in how credible it was. And this is really a departure from that. This is moving more toward, you know, something where each person can get very different results based on what they click on.

And when I did this recently with Egypt—I had two friends google “Egypt”—one person gets search results that are full of information about the protests there, about what’s going on politically; the other person, literally nothing about the protests, only sort of travel to see the Pyramids websites.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, wait, explain that again. I mean, that is astounding. So you go in. The uprising is happening in Egypt.

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, today there’s a mass protest in Tahrir Square. They’re protesting the military council and other issues. So, if I look, and someone who likes to travel look, they may not even see a reference to the uprising?

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, there was nothing in the top 10 links. And, you know, actually, the way that people use Google, most people use just those top three links. So, if Google isn’t showing you sort of the information that you need to know pretty quickly, you can really miss it. And this isn’t just happening at Google; it’s happening all across the web, when I started looking into this. You know, it’s happening on most major websites, and increasingly on news websites. So, Yahoo! News does the exact same thing, tailoring what you see on Yahoo! News to which articles it thinks you might be interested in. And, you know, what’s concerning about this is that it’s really happening invisibly. You know, we don’t see this at work. You can’t tell how different the internet that you see is from the internet that anyone else sees is, but it’s getting increasingly different.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, what about the responses of those who run these search engines, that they’re merely responding to the interests and needs of the people who use the system?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, I think—they say, “We’re just giving people what we want.” And I say, “Well, what do you mean by ‘what we want’?” Because I think, actually, all of us want a lot of different things. And there’s a short-term sort of compulsive self that clicks on the celebrity gossip and the more trivial articles, and there’s a longer-term self that wants to be informed about the world and be a good citizen. And those things are intentional all the time. You know, we have those two forces inside us. And the best media helps us sort of—helps the long-term self get an edge a little bit. It gives us some sort of information vegetables and some information dessert, and you get a balanced information diet. This is like you’re just surrounded by empty calories, by information junk food.

AMY GOODMAN: Eli, talk about your experience going on your own Facebook page.

ELI PARISER: So, this was actually the starting point for looking into this phenomenon. And basically, after 2008 and after I had transitioned out of being the executive director of MoveOn, I went on this little campaign to meet and befriend people who thought differently from me. I really wanted to hear what conservatives were thinking about, what they were talking about, you know, and learn a few things. And so, I had added these people as Facebook friends. And I logged on one morning and noticed that they weren’t there. They had disappeared. And it was very mysterious. You know, where did they go? And as it turned out, Facebook was tracking my behavior on the site. It was looking at every click. It was looking at every, you know, Facebook “like.” And it was saying, “Well, Eli, you say that you’re interested in these people, but actually, we can tell your clicking more on the progressive links than on the conservative links, so we’re going to edit it out, edit these folks out.” And they disappeared. And this gets to some of the danger of this stuff, which is that, you know, we have—

JUAN GONZALEZ: But Facebook edited out your friends?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, no. I really—you know, I miss them. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Your conservative friends.

ELI PARISER: My conservative friends, the friends that—you know, that I might—and what the play here is, is there’s this thing called confirmation bias, which is basically our tendency to feel good about information that confirms what we already believe. And, you know, you can actually see this in the brain. People get a little dopamine hit when they’re told that they’re right, essentially. And so, you know, if you were able to construct an algorithm that could show people whatever you wanted, and if the only purpose was actually to get people to click more and to view more pages, why would you ever show them something that makes them feel uncomfortable, makes them feel like they may not be right, makes them feel like there’s more to the world than our own little narrow ideas?

JUAN GONZALEZ: And doesn’t that, in effect, reinforce polarization within the society, in terms of people not being exposed to and listening to the viewpoints of others that they may disagree with?

ELI PARISER: Right. I mean, you know, democracy really requires this idea of discourse, of people hearing different ideas and responding to them and thinking about them. And, you know, I come back to this famous Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote where he says, you know, “Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” It’s increasingly possible to live in an online world in which you do have your own facts. And you google “climate change,” and you get the climate change links for you, and you don’t actually get exposed necessarily—you don’t even know what the alternate arguments are.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Now, what about the implications for this, as all of these—especially Google, Yahoo!, developed their own news sites? What are the implications in terms of the news that they put out then and the news that people receive?

ELI PARISER: Well, this is where it gets even more worrisome, because when you’re just basically trying to get people to click things more and view more pages, there’s a lot of things that just isn’t going to meet that threshold. So, you know, take news about the war in Afghanistan. When you talk to people who run news websites, they’ll tell you stories about the war in Afghanistan don’t perform very well. They don’t get a lot of clicks. People don’t flock to them. And yet, this is arguably one of the most important issues facing the country. We owe it to the people who there, at the very least, to understand what’s going on. But it will never make it through these filters. And especially on Facebook this is a problem, because the way that information is transmitted on Facebook is with the “like” button. And the “like” button, it has a very particular valence. It’s easy to click “like” on, you know, “I just ran a marathon” or “I baked a really awesome cake.” It’s very hard to click “like” on, you know, “war in Afghanistan enters its sixth year”—or “10th year,” sorry. You know, so information that is likable gets transmitted; information that’s not likable falls out.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Eli Pariser, who has written the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Now, Google knows not only what you’re asking to search, right? They know where you are. They know the kind of computer you’re using. Tell us how much information they’re gathering from us.

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s really striking. I mean, even if you’re not—if you’re logged in to Google, then Google obviously has access to all of your email, all of your documents that you’ve uploaded, a lot of information. But even if you’re logged out, an engineer told me that there are 57 signals that Google tracks—”signals” is sort of their word for variables that they look at—everything from your computer’s IP address—that’s basically its address on the internet—what kind of laptop you’re using or computer you’re using, what kind of software you’re using, even things like the font size or how long you’re hovering over a particular link. And they use that to develop a profile of you, a sense of what kind of person is this. And then they use that to tailor the information that they show you.

And this is happening in a whole bunch of places, you know, not just sort of the main Google search, but also on Google News. And the plan for Google News is that once they sort of perfect this personalization algorithm, that they’re going to offer it to other news websites, so that all of that data can be brought to bear for any given news website, that it can tailor itself to you. You know, there are really important things that are going to fall out if those algorithms aren’t really good.

And what this raises is a sort of larger problem with how we tend to think about the internet, which is that we tend to think about the internet as this sort of medium where anybody can connect to anyone, it’s this very democratic medium, it’s a free-for-all, and it’s so much better than that old society with the gatekeepers that were controlling the flows of information. Really, that’s not how it’s panning out. And what we’re seeing is that a couple big companies are really—you know, most of the information is flowing through a couple big companies that are acting as the new gatekeepers. These algorithms do the same thing that the human editors do. They just do it much less visibly and with much less accountability.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what are the options, the opt-out options, if there are any, for those who use, whether it’s Google or Yahoo! or Facebook? Their ability to control and keep their personal information?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there aren’t perfect opt-out options, because even if you take a new laptop out of the box, already it says something about you, that you bought a Mac and not a PC. I mean, it’s very hard to get entirely out of this. There’s no way to turn it off entirely at Google. But certainly, you can open a private browsing window. That helps.

I think, in the long run, you know, there’s sort of two things that need to happen here. One is, we need, ourselves, to understand better what’s happening, because it’s very dangerous when you have these kinds of filters operating and you don’t know what they’re ruling out that you’re not even seeing. That’s sort of a—that’s where people make bad decisions, is, you know, what Donald Rumsfeld called the “unknown unknowns,” right? And this creates a lot of unknown unknowns. You don’t know how your experience of the world is being edited.

But it’s also a matter of pushing these companies to sort of—you know, these companies say that they want to be good. “Don’t be evil” is Google’s motto. They want to change the world. I think we have to push them to sort of live up to their best values as companies and incorporate into these algorithms more than just this very narrow idea of what is important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are they saying, the leaders of Google, Facebook, Yahoo!? I mean, are you talking to them?

ELI PARISER: Well, I tried to. You know, I had a brief conversation with Larry Page, in which he said, “Well, I don’t think this is a very interesting problem.” And that was about that. But, you know, further down in Google, there are a bunch of people who are wrestling with this. I think the challenge is—I talked to one Facebook engineer who sort of summed it up quite well, and he said, “Look, what we love doing is sitting around and coming up with new clever ways of getting people to spend more minutes on Facebook, and we’re very good at that. And this is a much more complicated thing that you’re asking us to do, where you’re asking us to think about sort of our social responsibility and our civic responsibility, what kind of information is important. This is a much more complicated problem. We just want to do the easy stuff.” And, you know, I think that’s what’s sort of led us to this current place. I think there are also people who see the flipside of that and say this is one of the big, juicy problems in front of us, is how do we actually take the best of sort of 20th century editorial values and import them into these new systems that are deciding what people see and what people don’t see.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about how much money is being made off of this. And I mean, just this neutral term of “personalization”—

ELI PARISER: Right.

AMY GOODMAN:—it sounds so benign. In fact, it sounds attractive.

ELI PARISER: It sounds great, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s geared and tailored for you. What could be better?

ELI PARISER: Right. And it does rely on the sense of a sort of cozy, familiar world online, where your favorite website greets you and goes, “Oh, hey, Eli, we’ve teed up all of these articles for you. Welcome.” It feels very good.

But, you know, what’s driving this is—you know, in some ways, this is the driving struggle on the internet right now between all of these different companies, to accumulate the biggest amounts of data on each of us. And Facebook has its strategy, which is basically ask people to tell Facebook about themselves. Google has its strategy, which is to watch your clicks. Microsoft and Yahoo! have their strategies. And all of this feeds into a database, which can then be used to do three things. It can target ads better, so you get better targeted ads, which honestly, I think, you know, sometimes is fine, if you know that it’s happening. It can target content, which I think is much more problematic. You start to get content that just reflects what it thinks you want to see. And then the third thing is, and it can make decisions about you.

So, one of the sort of more surprising findings in the book was that banks are beginning to look at people’s Facebook friends and their credit ratings in order to decide to whom to give—to offer credit. And this is based on this fact that, you know, if you look at the credit ratings of people, you can make predictions about the credit ratings of their friends. It’s very creepy, though, because really what you’re saying then is that it would be better not to be Facebook friends with people who have lower credit ratings. It’s not really the kind of society that we want to be building, particularly.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, even more frightening, obviously, is once all of this information, personal information, is gathered, it saves the government, in its ability to surveil its population, a lot of work, because basically the private companies can gather the information, and all the government has to do is issue the subpoena or make the call that “for national security, we need this information.” So, in essence, it doesn’t have to do the actual surveillance. It just has to be able to use it when it needs to.

ELI PARISER: There’s a funny Onion article that has the headline “CIA Rules Out Very Successful New Facebook Program,” implying that the CIA started Facebook to gather data. And it’s funny, but there is sort of some truth there, which is that these companies do have these massive databases, and the protections that we have for our data that live on these servers are far—you know, far less protection than if it’s on your home computer. The FBI needs to do much less paperwork in order to ask Google for your data than it does to, you know, come into your home and look at your computer. And so, increasingly—so this is sort of the downside of cloud computing, is that it allows more and more of our data and everything that we do to be available to the government and, you know, for their purposes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And not only in a democracy, but in an authoritarian state, as well.

ELI PARISER: That’s right. I mean, it’s a natural byproduct of consolidating so much of what we do online in a few big companies that really don’t have a whole lot of accountability, you know, that aren’t being pushed very hard by governments to do this right or do it responsibly. It will naturally lead to abuses.

AMY GOODMAN: Google Inc. announced yesterday that they have launched a bid to dominate a world in which the smartphone replaces the wallet as the container for credit cards, coupons and receipts. The mobile app is called Google Wallet. How does this fit into this picture?

ELI PARISER: Well, it’s just another—I mean, the way that Google thinks is, how can we design products that people will use that allow us to accumulate even more data about them? So, obviously, once you start to have a sense of everything that people are buying flowing through Google’s servers, then you have way more data on which to target ads and target content and do this kind of personalization. You know exactly how to slice and dice people. And again, you know, in some contexts, that’s fine, actually. I don’t mind when I go on Amazon, and it recommends books. They’re obviously not very good recommendations sometimes, but it’s fine. But when it’s happening invisibly and when it’s shaping not just what you buy but what you know about the world, I think, you know, is more of a problem. And if this is going to be sort of the way that the future of the internet looks, then we need to make sure that it’s much more transparent when this is happening, so that we know when things are being targeted to us. And we have to make sure that we have some control as consumers over this, that it’s not just in the hands of these big companies that have very different interests.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you have a powerful force, Eli Pariser. You were the head of MoveOn.org. Now you’re what? The chair of the board—

ELI PARISER: I’m on the board, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:—of MoveOn.org. So, this, MoveOn, has millions of people it reaches all over the country. What will MoveOn do about this?

ELI PARISER: Well, you know, there’s sort of this dance here, because basically MoveOn takes on the issues that its members want to take up. So I’ve been very—you know, I don’t want to sort of impose by fiat that I wrote a book, and here’s—now we’re going to campaign about this. But, you know, there are campaigns that we’re starting to look at. One of them, I think, that’s very simple but actually would go a significant way is just to, you know, have a basic—have a way of signaling on Facebook that something is important, even if it’s not likable. Obviously this is sort of just one small piece, but actually, if you did have an “important” button, you would start having a lot of different information propagating across Facebook. You’d have people exposed to things that maybe aren’t as smile-inducing, but we really need to know. And Facebook is actually considering adding some new verbs. So, this could be a winnable thing. It’s not—it won’t solve the whole problem, but it would start to indicate—it would start to remind these companies that there are ways that they can start to build in, you know, some more kind of civic values into what they’re doing.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And any sense that in Congress any of the politicians are paying attention to some of these issues?

AMY GOODMAN: Or understand this?

ELI PARISER: Yeah, there are a few that have been really attentive to this. Al Franken, in particular, has been very good on these data and privacy issues and really pushing forward. It’s obviously challenging because a lot of the Democratic congressmen and women are—get a lot of money from these companies, Silicon Valley. You know, certainly the Obama administration and Obama got a lot of support from Silicon Valley. So, they don’t totally want to get on the wrong side of these companies. And they feel like the companies are on the side of good and on the side of sort of pushing the world in the direction that they want it to. It means that we don’t have as good congressional watchdogs as you would hope, but there are a few good ones. And Franken, in particular, has been great on this.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Eli Pariser, I want to thank you for your work and for writing The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens’ organizations in American politics. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

ELI PARISER: Thank you.

 

Should The U.S. President’s ‘Internet Kill Switch’ Power Be Curbed?

In Uncategorized on January 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

 

The US Congress hopes to curb the president's authority to order computer systems off the internet

 

Oldspeak: section 706(d) of the Communications Act could give the U.S. president wide-ranging authority to shut down key computer systems.”  Something to think about given recent events in Egypt…”Under a World War II-era law, the US president appears to have authority to disconnect computer systems and servers from the internet in the event of a national emergency.”

From By Daniel Nasaw @ BBC News:

The law was passed in 1942. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had provoked fear of a foreign invasion of US soil, and Congress responded by giving President Franklin Roosevelt broad power to commandeer or shutter telephone and telegraph networks.

Nearly 70 years later, telegraph networks have disappeared, and the telephone is only one of many means of communication.

But although the 1942 law makes no mention of the internet – merely of “any facility or station for wire communication” – the Obama administration in June told Congress it would cite it in an emergency.

It has not been tested in court, but experts say section 706(d) of the Communications Act could give the president wide-ranging authority to shut down key computer systems.

With typical Washington hyperbole, the law has become known as the presidential “internet kill switch”.

‘Clear rules needed’

The next US Congress will be under pressure to strengthen the nation’s cyber defences, and a spectrum of security analysts, internet freedom advocates and senators say lawmakers must update those emergency war powers to limit or at the very least more clearly define the president’s authority.

“The time is ripe for some articulation of this authority so we don’t have presidents going off into the wild, but actually have a set of pretty clear rules,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a former homeland security official under President George W Bush, now a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Uncertainty over the interpretation of the current laws has left analysts speculating about how the president would use the “kill switch”, and to what end.

One analyst told the BBC that if, for example, computer systems at Washington’s natural gas and electric utilities became infected by a powerful internet worm, the president could order them to power down or disconnect from the internet to protect physical infrastructure, stem the infection, and allow them to be cleared.

In another hypothetical scenario described to the BBC, the president might order the shutdown of networks hosting Wall Street financial services infrastructure in order to avoid an imminent cyber attack.

‘Unlimited authority’

In both cases, the actions would have far-reaching consequences for the companies and individuals relying on the systems – for power, or to move money, analysts said.

Civil liberties campaigners are concerned at the potential for the power to be abused.

“It’s unlimited,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, about the president’s current power.

“They have the authority, and we’ve seen since 9/11 that the executive branch has always pushed its power to the limit.”

Privacy advocates say the law must be adjusted to ensure the president cannot use emergency war powers to snoop improperly on Americans’ e-mail or other information.

It is unclear whether the disconnection of US networks would affect the internet elsewhere in the world, aside from blocking users from, say, a popular web page or service, technical experts say.

But Greg Nojeim, of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said there was “a high risk” of “a spillover effect in other countries”.

However, it is nigh on impossible for the US president – or any single actor – to shut down the whole internet – a virtue of its globally distributed nature, analysts say.

“There’s no plug to be pulled,” John Kneuer, a former telecommunications policy official under President Bush, told the BBC.

Stuxnet feared

Among several shortcomings in the 1942 law’s application to the online world, it does not specify what constitutes cyber war – as opposed to a commercial hacking job. Nor is it even clear the law would treat a cyber attack by a foreign power as an act of war – a precondition of the president’s use of the emergency powers.

Nevertheless, the debate over the president’s cyber war authority comes amid growing evidence that nations are deploying cyber weapons against adversaries.

The powerful internet worm Stuxnet, discovered this year to have infected computers across the globe, appears to have been designed specifically to target Iranian nuclear sites, causing alarm within the US and UK governments. Some analysts say it was so sophisticated it could only have been launched by a sovereign nation state.

In all, attacks on US government facilities this year topped 1.8 billion per month, according to the US Senate sergeant-at-arms.

US officials also fear cyber attacks on the private sector, which operates as much as 85% of the nation’s critical infrastructure – power plants, major internet service providers, telephone companies and more.

The bipartisan group of US senators currently engaged in rewriting many US cyber security laws is keenly aware of the threat posed by such attacks. But the senators argue the president’s emergency war powers must be better defined and delimited.

Legislation backed by Senators Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, would allow the president to declare a “national cyber emergency” and permit the administration to direct a threatened system’s operators to take action. The government would have to ensure the mandatory emergency measures were “the least disruptive means feasible”.

No advance warning

“The president’s authority to deal with a catastrophic cyber attack aimed at critical infrastructure would be carefully defined – and constrained,” Ms Collins said last week. “The president would not have the authority to take over critical infrastructure.”

Some question the need for emergency presidential cyber authority.

Greg Nojeim says internet companies are better equipped than the government to decide whether to shut down their systems or remove them from the internet.

“Nobody has yet identified an actual real life circumstance in which an owner or operator decided not to isolate a network and the government thought it should be isolated,” he said.

James Lewis, director of the technology and public policy programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, questions whether emergency shut-down power would be effective considering internet worms are usually discovered after they have struck.

“We almost never have advance warning,” he said.


Facebook Admits Major Breach Of Privacy

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

Oldspeak:”This is beginning to become a regular thing now. No Bueno. Can’t wait for Diaspora to come online. ‘ “Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Wall Street Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.’

From Emily Steele & Geoffrey A. Fowler @ The Wall Street Journal:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

Facebook says it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information, after a WSJ investigation showed that personal IDs were being transmitted to third parties via Facebook apps. But how hard is it to fix such a breach – and how concerned should users be about the sharing of these IDs? Julia Angwin joins Digits to discuss.

The problem has ties to the growing field of companies that build detailed databases on people in order to track them online—a practice the Journal has been examining in its What They Know series. It’s unclear how long the breach was in place. On Sunday, a Facebook spokesman said it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information.

Many top applications on Facebook have been transmitting identifying information to Internet tracking and ad companies. Emily Steel discusses. Also, Michael Ramsey discusses skepticism about the auto industry’s big bet that battery-powered cars will become big sellers.

“A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser or by an application,” the spokesman said. Knowledge of an ID “does not permit access to anyone’s private information on Facebook,” he said, adding that the company would introduce new technology to contain the problem identified by the Journal.

“Our technical systems have always been complemented by strong policy enforcement, and we will continue to rely on both to keep people in control of their information,” the Facebook official said.

“Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.

The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.’s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user’s friends to outside companies.

Most apps aren’t made by Facebook, but by independent software developers. Several apps became unavailable to Facebook users after the Journal informed Facebook that the apps were transmitting personal information; the specific reason for their unavailability remains unclear.

The information being transmitted is one of Facebook’s basic building blocks: the unique “Facebook ID” number assigned to every user on the site. Since a Facebook user ID is a public part of any Facebook profile, anyone can use an ID number to look up a person’s name, using a standard Web browser, even if that person has set all of his or her Facebook information to be private. For other users, the Facebook ID reveals information they have set to share with “everyone,” including age, residence, occupation and photos.

The apps reviewed by the Journal were sending Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities.

Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.

Name Games

All 10 of the top Facebook apps transmitted users’ IDs, The Journal found

RapLeaf said that transmission was unintentional. “We didn’t do it on purpose,” said Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development for RapLeaf.

Facebook said it previously has “taken steps … to significantly limit Rapleaf’s ability to use any Facebook-related data.”

Facebook prohibits app makers from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies, even if a user agrees. The Journal’s findings shed light on the challenge of policing those rules for the 550,000 apps on its site.

The Journal’s findings are the latest challenge for Facebook, which has been criticized in recent years for modifying its privacy rules to expose more of a user’s information. This past spring, the Journal found that Facebook was transmitting the ID numbers to advertising companies, under some circumstances, when a user clicked on an ad. Facebook subsequently discontinued the practice.

“This is an even more complicated technical challenge than a similar issue we successfully addressed last spring on Facebook.com,” a Facebook spokesman said, “but one that we are committed to addressing.”

The privacy issue follows Facebook’s effort just this month to give its users more control over its apps, which privacy activists had cited as a potential hole in users’ ability to control who sees their information. On Oct. 6, Facebook created a control panel that lets users see which apps are accessing which categories of information about them. It indicates, for example, when an application accesses a user’s “basic information” (including a user ID and name). However, it doesn’t detail what information friends’ applications have accessed about a user.

Video From ‘What They Know’ Series

It’s rarely a coincidence when you see Web ads for products that match your interests. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei explains how advertisers use cookies to track your online habits.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal’s “What They Know” series illustrates how companies like Microsoft must balance conflicting interests: helping people surf the Web with its browser to keep their mouse clicks private, and helping advertisers who want to see those clicks. WSJ’s Julia Angwin, Nick Wingfield, and Jessica Vascellaro join host Simon Constable as panelists on this special Digits live show.

Facebook apps transform Facebook into a hub for all kinds of activity, from playing games to setting up a family tree. Apps are considered an important way for Facebook to extend the usefulness of its network. The company says 70% of users use apps each month.

Applications are also a growing source of revenue beyond advertising for Facebook itself, which sells its own virtual currency that can be used to pay for games.

Following an investigation by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Facebook in June limited applications to accessing only the public parts of a user’s profile, unless the user grants additional permission. (Canadian officials later expressed satisfaction with Facebook’s steps.) Previously, applications could tap any data the user had access to, including detailed profiles and information about a user’s friends.

It’s not clear if developers of many of the apps transmitting Facebook ID numbers even knew that their apps were doing so. The apps were using a common Web standard, known as a “referer,” which passes on the address of the last page viewed when a user clicks on a link. On Facebook and other social-networking sites, referers can expose a user’s identity.

The company says it has disabled thousands of applications at times for violating its policies. It’s unclear how many, if any, of those cases involved passing user information to marketing companies.

Facebook also appeared to have shut down some applications the Journal found to be transmitting user IDs, including several created by LOLapps Media Inc., a San Francisco company backed with $4 million in venture capital. LOLapp’s applications include Gift Creator, with 3.5 million monthly active users, Quiz Creator, with 1.4 million monthly active users, Colorful Butterflies and Best Friends Gifts.

Since Friday, users attempting to access those applications received either an error message or were reverted to Facebook’s home screen.

“We have taken immediate action to disable all applications that violate our terms,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Data From ‘What They Know’

[wtkkids2]

The Wall Street Journal analyzed the tracking files installed on people’s computers by the 50 most popular websites, plus WSJ.com. Explore the data here and see separate analysis of the files on popular children’s sites.

A spokeswoman for LOLapps Media declined to comment.

The applications transmitting Facebook IDs may have breached their own privacy policies, as well as industry standards, which say sites shouldn’t share and advertisers shouldn’t collect personally identifiable information without users’ permission. Zynga, for example, says in its privacy policy that it “does not provide any Personally Identifiable Information to third-party advertising companies.”

A Zynga spokeswoman said, “Zynga has a strict policy of not passing personally identifiable information to any third parties. We look forward to working with Facebook to refine how web technologies work to keep people in control of their information.”

The most expansive use of Facebook user information uncovered by the Journal involved RapLeaf. The San Francisco company compiles and sells profiles of individuals based in part on their online activities.

The Journal found that some LOLapps applications, as well as the Family Tree application, were transmitting users’ Facebook ID numbers to RapLeaf. RapLeaf then linked those ID numbers to dossiers it had previously assembled on those individuals, according to RapLeaf. RapLeaf then embedded that information in an Internet-tracking file known as a “cookie.”

RapLeaf says it strips out the user’s name when it embeds the information in the cookie and shares that information for ad targeting. However, The Wall Street Journal found that RapLeaf transmitted Facebook user IDs to a dozen other advertising and data firms, including Google Inc.’s Invite Media.

All 12 companies said that they didn’t collect, store or use the information.

Ilya Nikolayev, chief executive of Familybuilder, maker of the Family Tree application, said in an email, “It is Familybuilder’s corporate policy to keep any actual, potential, current or prior business partnerships, relationships, customer details, and any similar information confidential. As this story relates to a company other than Familybuilder, we have nothing further to contribute.”

Write to Emily Steel at emily.steel@wsj.com and Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com


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