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Paul Merrell

Moscow ready to launch its own Internet and Swift systems - 0 views

  • It may well be the case that Russia soon leaves the two systems of international connection: Internet and Swift
  • According to President Putin’s Adviser on Telecommunications, German Klimenko, the US Department of Commerce persists in refusing to internationalize control of the internet network. According to Klimenko, Russia would have been ready from the beginning of March to withdraw from the US system and to launch its own telecommunication systems.
Paul Merrell

US spy lab hopes to geotag every outdoor photo on social media | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • Imagine if someone could scan every image on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then instantly determine where each was taken. The ability to combine this location data with information about who appears in those photos—and any social media contacts tied to them—would make it possible for government agencies to quickly track terrorist groups posting propaganda photos. (And, really, just about anyone else.)

    That's precisely the goal of Finder, a research program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's dedicated research organization.

    For many photos taken with smartphones (and with some consumer cameras), geolocation information is saved with the image by default. The location is stored in the Exif (Exchangable Image File Format) data of the photo itself unless geolocation services are turned off. If you have used Apple's iCloud photo store or Google Photos, you've probably created a rich map of your pattern of life through geotagged metadata. However, this location data is pruned off for privacy reasons when images are uploaded to some social media services, and privacy-conscious photographers (particularly those concerned about potential drone strikes) will purposely disable geotagging on their devices and social media accounts.

Paul Merrell

'I made Steve Bannon's psychological warfare tool': meet the data war whistleblower | N... - 0 views

  • For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate
Paul Merrell

Facebook blasted by US and UK lawmakers - nsnbc international | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom are calling on Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to explain how the names, preferences and other information from tens of millions of users ended up in the hands of the Cambridge Analytica data analysis firm.
  • After Facebook cited data privacy policies violations and announced that it was suspending the Cambridge Analytica data analytics firm also tied to the Trump campaign, new revelations have emerged. On Saturday, reports revealed that Cambridge Analytica, used a feature once available to Facebook app developers to collect information on some 270,000 people.

    In the process, the company, which was, at the time, handling U.S. President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, gained access to data on tens of millions of their Facebook “friends” and that it wasn’t clear at all if any of these people had given explicit permission for this kind of sharing. Facebook’s Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said in a statement, “We will take legal action if necessary to hold them responsible and accountable for any unlawful behavior.”

  • The social media giant also added that it was continuing to investigate the claims. According to reports, Cambridge Analytica worked for the failed presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and then for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Federal Election Commission records reportedly show that Trump’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica in June 2016 and paid it more than $6.2 million.

    On its website, the company says that it “provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House.” Cambridge Analytica also mentions that it uses “behavioral microtargeting,” or combining analysis of people’s personalities with demographics, to predict and influence mass behavior.  According to the company, it has data on 220 million Americans, two thirds of the U.S. population.

    Cambridge Analytica says it has worked on other campaigns in the United States and other countries, and it is funded by Robert Mercer, a prominent supporter of politically conservative groups.

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  • Facebook stated that it suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent group Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) after receiving reports that they did not delete information about Facebook users that had been inappropriately shared. For months now, both the companies have been embroiled in investigations in Washington and London but the recent demands made by lawmakers focused explicitly on Zuckerberg, who has not testified publicly on these matters in either nation.
Paul Merrell

Oregon bill for net neutrality heading to governor with help of - KPTV - FOX 12 - 0 views

  • A bill that would bring a local version of net neutrality to Oregon is headed for the Governor's desk.

    House Bill 4155 would prevent public bodies such as state and local governments and school districts, from contracting with broadband providers that engage in "paid prioritization."

    An example of paid prioritization would be a provider supplying faster internet speeds to an entity like Amazon's streaming service, provided Amazon pays an extra fee.

    The bill passed easily in both the House and Senate, despite opposition from several Republicans.

  • The Oregon Cable Telecommunications Association opposed the bill, as did Comcast and Century Link, two local broadband providers.
Paul Merrell

Washington becomes first state to pass law protecting net neutrality - Mar. 6, 2018 - 0 views

  • n a bipartisan effort, the state's legislators passed House Bill 2282. which was signed into law Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

    "Washington will be the first state in the nation to preserve the open internet," Inslee said at the bill signing.

    The state law, approved by the legislature last month, is to safeguard net neutrality protections, which have been repealed by the Federal Communications Commission and are scheduled to officially end April 23.

    Net neutrality requires internet service providers to treat all online content the same, meaning they can't deliberately speed up or slow down traffic from specific websites to put their own content at advantage over rivals.

    The FCC's decision to overturn net neutrality has been championed by the telecom industry, but widely criticized by technology companies and consumer advocacy groups. Attorneys general from more than 20 red and blue states filed a lawsuit in January to stop the repeal.

    Inslee said the new measure would protect an open internet in Washington, which he described as having "allowed the free flow of information and ideas in one of the greatest demonstrations of free speech in our history."

    HB2282 bars internet service providers in the state from blocking content, applications, or services, or slowing down traffic on the basis of content or whether they got paid to favor certain traffic. The law goes into effect June 6.

Paul Merrell

The Senate has its own insincere net neutrality bill - 0 views

  • Now that the House of Representatives has floated a superficial net neutrality bill, it's the Senate's turn. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy has introduced a companion version of the Open Internet Preservation Act that effectively replicates the House measure put forward by Tennessee Representative Marsha Blackburn. As before, it supports net neutrality only on a basic level -- and there are provisions that would make it difficult to combat other abuses.

    The legislation would technically forbid internet providers from blocking and throttling content, but it wouldn't bar paid prioritization. Theoretically, ISPs could create de facto "slow lanes" for competing services by offering mediocre speeds unless they pay for faster connections. The bill would also curb the FCC's ability to deal with other violations, and would prevent states from passing their own net neutrality laws. In short, the bill is much more about limiting regulation than protecting open access and competition.

    Kennedy's bill isn't expected to go far in the Senate, just as Blackburn's hasn

Paul Merrell

Opinion: Berkeley Can Become a City of Refuge | Opinion | East Bay Express - 0 views

  • The Berkeley City Council is poised to vote March 13 on the Surveillance Technology Use and Community Safety Ordinance, which will significantly protect people's right to privacy and safeguard the civil liberties of Berkeley residents in this age of surveillance and Big Data.

    The ordinance is based on an ACLU model that was first enacted by Santa Clara County in 2016. The Los Angeles Times has editorialized that the ACLU's model ordinance approach "is so pragmatic that cities, counties, and law enforcement agencies throughout California would be foolish not to embrace it." Berkeley's Peace and Justice and Police Review commissions agreed and unanimously approved a draft that will be presented to the council on Tuesday.

    The ordinance requires public notice and public debate prior to seeking funding, acquiring equipment, or otherwise moving forward with surveillance technology proposals. In neighboring Oakland, we saw the negative outcome that can occur from lack of such a discussion, when the city's administration pursued funding for, and began building, the citywide surveillance network known as the Domain Awareness Center ("DAC") without community input. Ultimately, the community rejected the project, and the fallout led to the establishment of a Privacy Advisory Commission and subsequent consideration of a similar surveillance ordinance to ensure proper vetting occurs up front, not after the fact.

Paul Merrell

New Documents Reveal FBI's "Cozy" Relationship with Geek Squad - 0 views

  • Throughout the past ten years, the FBI has at varying points in time maintained a particularly close relationship with Best Buy officials and used the company’s Geek Squad employees as informants. But the FBI refuses to confirm or deny key information about how the agency may potentially circumvent computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a handful of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in February of last year. EFF says they show the relationship between the FBI and Geek Squad employees is much “cozier” than they thought.

  • In court filings, the defense mentioned there were “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” from 2007 to 2012. Multiple employees received payments ranging from $500-1000 for work as informants.
  • There is no evidence that FBI obtained warrants before the Geek Squad informants searched computers they were repairing. It is believed Geek Squad employees routinely search unallocated space for any illegal content that may be on a device and then alert the FBI after conducting “fishing expeditions” for criminal activity, and this is what the FBI trains them to do.

    EFF sought “records about the extent to which [the FBI] directs and trains Best Buy employees to conduct warrantless searches of people’s devices.” As is clear, the government stonewalled EFF and only released documents that were already referred to by news media.

    The FBI neither confirmed nor denied whether the agency has “similar relationships with other computer repair facilities or businesses.” The FBI also would not produce any documents that detailed procedures or “training materials” for cultivating informants at computer repair facilities.

Paul Merrell

Senate and House Democrats Introduce Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality - U.S. Sena... - 0 views

  • On the Net Neutrality National Day of Action, Senate and House Democrats introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) partisan decision on net neutrality. At a press conference today, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Congressman Mike Doyle (PA-14), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) announced introduction of House and Senate resolutions to fully restore the 2015 Open Internet Order. The Senate CRA resolution of disapproval stands at 50 supporters, including Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine.). Rep. Doyle’s resolution in the House of Representatives currently has 150 co-sponsors.

     

    The FCC’s Open Internet Order prohibited internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or discriminating against content online. Repealing these net neutrality rules could lead to higher prices for consumers, slower internet traffic, and even blocked websites. A recent poll showed that 83 percent of Americans do not approve of the FCC’s action to repeal net neutrality rules.

     

  • A copy of the CRA resolution can be found HERE.

     

    Last week, the FCC’s rule repealing net neutrality was published in the Federal Register, leaving 60 legislative days to seek a vote on the Senate floor on the CRA resolutions. In order to force a vote on the Senate resolution, Senator Markey will submit a discharge petition, which requires a minimum of 30 Senators’ signature. Once the discharge petition is filed, Senator Markey and Senate Democrats will demand a vote on the resolution.

Paul Merrell

USA, USA, USA: America's 4G Network Is Ranked 62nd 'Best' In The World (Behind Macedoni... - 0 views

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

  • The United States takes pride in being a technological leader in the world. Companies such as Apple, Alphabet, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft have shaped our (digital) lives for many years and there is little indication of that changing anytime soon.

    But, as Statista's Felix Richter notes, when it comes to IT infrastructure however, the U.S. is lagging behind the world’s best (and many of its not-so-best), be it in terms of home broadband or wireless broadband speeds. According to OpenSignal's latest State of LTE report, the average 4G download speed in the United States was 16.31 Mbps in Q4 2017.

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  • That’s little more than a third of the speed that mobile device users in Singapore enjoy and ranks the U.S. at a disappointing 62nd place in the global ranking.
  • While U.S. mobile networks appear to lack in speed, they are on par with the best in terms of 4G availability. According to OpenSignal's findings, LTE was available to U.S. smartphone users 90 percent of the time, putting the United States in fifth place.
Paul Merrell

With rules repealed, what's next for net neutrality? | TheHill - 0 views

  • The battle over the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) repeal of net neutrality rules is entering a new phase, with opponents of the move launching efforts to preserve the Obama-era consumer protections.

    The net neutrality rules had required internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Republicans on the commission decried the regulatory structure as a gross overreach, and quickly moved to reverse them once the Trump administration came to power. 

    The reversal of the rules was published in the Federal Register Thursday, and even though the order is months away from implementation, net neutrality supporters are now free to mount legal challenges to the action. 

    A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general, public interest groups and internet companies have vowed to fight in the courts. Twenty-three states, led by New York and its attorney general, Eric Schneiderman (D), have already filed a lawsuit. 

  • The emerging court battle over net neutrality could keep the issue in limbo for years.

    Meanwhile, a separate battle over the rules is brewing in Congress.

    Senate Democrats have secured enough support to force a vote on a bill that would undo the FCC’s December vote and leave the net neutrality rules in place. 

    The bill, which is being pushed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), would use a legislative tool called the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to roll back the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. 

    The entry of the FCC’s repeal order in the Federal Register Thursday means that the Senate has 60 legislative days to move on the CRA bill. Democrats have secured support from one Republican, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Tech: Judge blocks AT&T request for DOJ communications | Facebook VP apologizes for tweets about Mueller probe | Tech wants Treasury to fight EU tax proposal Overnight Regulation: Trump to take steps to ban bump stocks | Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare | FCC to officially rescind net neutrality Thursday | Obama EPA chief: Reg rollback won't stand FCC to officially rescind net neutrality rules on Thursday MORE (Maine), and need just one more to cross the aisle for the bill to pass the chamber. 

  • Even if Democrats do manage to find the tie-breaking vote in the Senate, the bill is almost certain to die in the House. But Democrats see a roll call vote as an opportunity to make GOP members stake out a position on an issue that they think could resonate in the midterm elections. 

    On yet another front, Democratic states around the country have already launched their own attack on the FCC’s rules. Five governors (from Montana, Hawaii, New Jersey, Vermont and New York) have in recent weeks signed executive orders forbidding their states from doing business with internet service providers who violate net neutrality principles. 

    And, according to the pro-net neutrality group Free Press, legislatures in 26 states are weighing bills that would codify their own open internet protections. 

    The local efforts could ignite a separate legal battle over whether states have the authority to counteract the FCC’s order, which included a provision preempting them from replacing the rules.

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  • For their part, Republicans who applauded the FCC repeal are calling for a legislation that would codify some net neutrality principles. They say doing so would allow for less heavy-handed protections that provide certainty to businesses.

    But most net neutrality supporters reject that course, at least while the repeal is tied up in court and Republicans control majorities in both the House and Senate. They argue that such a bill would amount to little more than watered-down protections that would be unable to keep internet service providers in check. 

    For now, Democrats seem content to let the battles in the courts and Congress play out.

Paul Merrell

Deep Fakes: A Looming Crisis for National Security, Democracy and Privacy? - Lawfare - 0 views

  • “We are truly fucked.” That was Motherboard’s spot-on to deep fake sex videos (realistic-looking videos that swap a person’s face into sex scenes actually involving other people). And that sleazy application is just the tip of the iceberg. As Julian Sanchez , “The prospect of any Internet rando being able to swap anyone’s face into porn is incredibly creepy. But my first thought is that we have not even scratched the surface of how bad ‘fake news’ is going to get.” Indeed.

    Recent events amply demonstrate that false claims—even preposterous ones—can be peddled with unprecedented success today thanks to a combination of social media ubiquity and virality, cognitive biases, filter bubbles, and group polarization. The resulting harms are significant for , , and . Belated recognition of the problem has spurred a variety of efforts to address this most recent illustration of truth decay, and at first blush there seems to be reason for optimism. Alas, the problem may soon take a significant turn for the worse thanks to deep fakes.

    Get used to hearing that phrase. It refers to digital manipulation of sound, images, or video to impersonate someone or make it appear that a person did something—and to do so in a manner that is increasingly realistic, to the point that the unaided observer cannot detect the fake. Think of it as a destructive variation of the Turing test: imitation designed to mislead and deceive rather than to emulate and iterate.

  • Fueled by artificial intelligence, digital impersonation is on the rise. Machine-learning algorithms (often neural networks) combined with facial-mapping software enable the cheap and easy fabrication of content that hijacks one’s identity—voice, face, body. Deep fake technology individuals’ faces into videos without their permission. The result is “believable videos of people doing and saying things they never did.”

    Not surprisingly, this concept has been quickly leveraged to sleazy ends. The latest craze is fake sex videos featuring like Gal Gadot and Emma Watson. Although the sex scenes look realistic, they are not consensual cyber porn. Conscripting individuals (more often women) into fake porn undermines their agency, reduces them to sexual objects, engenders feeling of embarrassment and shame, and inflicts reputational harm that can devastate careers (especially for everyday people). Regrettably, are sure to use fake sex videos to torment victims.

    What comes next? We can expect to see deep fakes used in other abusive, individually-targeted ways, such as undermining a rival’s relationship with fake evidence of an affair or an enemy’s career with fake evidence of a racist comment.

Paul Merrell

China's Hauwei: Top US intelligence chiefs caution Americans away - 0 views

    • The directors of the CIA, FBI, NSA and several other intelligence agencies express their distrust of Apple-rival Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom company ZTE.
    • During a hearing, the intelligence chiefs commended American telecom companies for their measured resistance to the Chinese companies.
    • Huawei has been trying to enter the U.S. market, first through a partnership with AT&T that was ultimately called off.
  •  
    Who says nationalist "intelligence" smears are only good for politics? Now they're a protectionist measure.
Paul Merrell

Belgian court finds Facebook guilty of breaching privacy laws - nsnbc international | n... - 0 views

  • A court in the Belgian capital Brussels, on Friday, found the social media company Facebook guilty of breaching Belgian privacy laws. Belgium’s Privacy Commission had taken Facebook to court and the judge agreed with the Commission’s view that Facebook had flouted the country’s privacy legislation. The company has been ordered to correct its practice right away of face fines. Facebook has lodged an appeal.
  • Facebook follows its users activities by means of so-called social plug-ins, cookies, and pixels. These digital technologies enable Facebook to follow users’ behavior when online. Cookies, for example, are small files that are attached to your internet browser when you go online and visit a particular site. They are used to collect information about the kind of things you like to read or look at while surfing the web.

    Facebook uses the data both for its own ends, but also to help advertisers send tailor made advertising. In so doing Facebook also uses certain cookies to follow people that don’t even have a Facebook profile.

    The court ruled that it is “unclear what information Facebook is collecting about us” and “what it uses the information for”. Moreover, Facebook has not been given permission to keep tabs on internet-users by a court of law.

  • he court has ordered Facebook to stop the practice straight away and to delete any data that it has obtained by means contrary to Belgian privacy legislation. If Facebook fails to comply it will face a penalty payment of 250,000 euro/day.
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  • Facebook, for its part, has said that it is to appeal against the verdict.
Paul Merrell

NAS Report: A New Light in the Debate over Government Access to Encrypted Content - Law... - 0 views

  • The encryption debate dates back to Clinton administration proposals for the “clipper chip” and mandatory deposit of decryption keys. But that debate reached new prominence in connection with the FBI’s efforts to compel Apple to decrypt the phone of a dead terrorist in the San Bernardino case.

    by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine tries to shed some light, and turn down the heat, in the debate over whether government agencies should be provided access to plaintext versions of encrypted communications and other data.

    FBI and other law enforcement officials, and some intelligence officials, have argued that in the face of widespread encryption provided by smart phones, messaging apps, and other devices and software, the internet is “going dark.” These officials warn that encryption is restricting their access to information needed for criminal and national security investigations, arguing that they need a reliable, timely and scalable way to access it.

    Critics have raised legal and practical objections that regulations to ensure government access would pose unacceptable risks to privacy and civil liberties and undermine computer security in the face of rising cyber threats, and may be less necessary given the wider availability of data and alternative means of obtaining access to encrypted data.

    As the encryption debate has become increasingly polarized with participants on all sides making sweeping, sometimes absolutist, assertions, the new National Academies’ report doesn’t purport to tell anyone what to do, but rather provides a primer on the relevant issues.

Paul Merrell

The punk rock internet - how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech g... - 0 views

  • What they are doing could be seen as the online world’s equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant – as well as governments whose surveillance programmes have fuelled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralised internet.
  • In the last few months, they have started working with people in the Belgian city of Ghent – or, in Flemish, Gent – where the authorities own their own internet domain, complete with .gent web addresses. Using the blueprint of Heartbeat, they want to create a new kind of internet they call the indienet – in which people control their data, are not tracked and each own an equal space online. This would be a radical alternative to what we have now: giant “supernodes” that have made a few men in northern California unimaginable amounts of money thanks to the ocean of lucrative personal information billions of people hand over in exchange for their services.
  • His alternative is what he calls the Safe network: the acronym stands for “Safe Access for Everyone”. In this model, rather than being stored on distant servers, people’s data – files, documents, social-media interactions – will be broken into fragments, encrypted and scattered around other people’s computers and smartphones, meaning that hacking and data theft will become impossible. Thanks to a system of self-authentication in which a Safe user’s encrypted information would only be put back together and unlocked on their own devices, there will be no centrally held passwords.

    No one will leave data trails, so there will be nothing for big online companies to harvest. The financial lubricant, Irvine says, will be a cryptocurrency called Safecoin: users will pay to store data on the network, and also be rewarded for storing other people’s (encrypted) information on their devices. Software developers, meanwhile, will be rewarded with Safecoin according to the popularity of their apps. There is a community of around 7,000 interested people already working on services that will work on the Safe network, including alternatives to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

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  • Once MaidSafe is up and running, there will be very little any government or authority can do about it: “We can’t stop the network if we start it. If anyone turned round and said: ‘You need to stop that,’ we couldn’t. We’d have to go round to people’s houses and switch off their computers. That’s part of the whole thing. The network is like a cyber-brain; almost a lifeform in itself. And once you start it, that’s it.”

    Before my trip to Scotland, I tell him, I spent whole futile days signing up to some of the decentralised social networks that already exist – Steemit, Diaspora, Mastadon – and trying to approximate the kind of experience I can easily get on, say, Twitter or Facebook.

  • And herein lie two potential breakthroughs.

    One, according to some cryptocurrency enthusiasts, is a means of securing and protecting people’s identities that doesn’t rely on remotely stored passwords. The other is a hope that we can leave behind intermediaries such as Uber and eBay, and allow buyers and sellers to deal directly with each other.

    Blockstack, a startup based in New York, aims to bring blockchain technology to the masses. Like MaidSafe, its creators aim to build a new internet, and a 13,000-strong crowd of developers are already working on apps that either run on the platform Blockstack has created, or use its features. OpenBazaar is an eBay-esque service, up and running since November last year, which promises “the world’s most private, secure, and liberating online marketplace”. Casa aims to be an decentralised alternative to Airbnb; Guild is a would-be blogging service that bigs up its libertarian ethos and boasts that its founders will have “no power to remove blogs they don’t approve of or agree with”.

  • An initial version of Blockstack is already up and running. Even if data is stored on conventional drives, servers and clouds, thanks to its blockchain-based “private key” system each Blockstack user controls the kind of personal information we currently blithely hand over to Big Tech, and has the unique power to unlock it. “That’s something that’s extremely powerful – and not just because you know your data is more secure because you’re not giving it to a company,” he says. “A hacker would have to hack a million people if they wanted access to their data.”
Paul Merrell

Scoop: Trump team considers nationalizing 5G network - Axios - 0 views

  • Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios.

    Why it matters: We’ve got our hands on a PowerPoint deck and a memo — both produced by a senior National Security Council official — which were presented recently to senior officials at other agencies in the Trump administration.

Paul Merrell

Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments - 0 views

  • In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

    The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders

  • Facebook now seems to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. government.
  • What this means is obvious: that the U.S. government — meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration — has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration — or any other government — to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced? As the ACLU’s Jennifer Granick told the Times:

    It’s not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it’s lawful or appropriate to repress speech. … This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic.

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  • As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not
  • All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor “bad speech.” Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned — a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging “hate speech” — yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.

  • It’s hard to believe that anyone’s ideal view of the internet entails vesting power in the U.S. government, the Israeli government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that’s exactly what is happening.

Paul Merrell

Net neutrality comment fraud will be investigated by government | Ars Technica - 0 views

  • The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) will investigate the use of impersonation in public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality repeal.

    Congressional Democrats requested the investigation last month, and the GAO has granted the request.

    While the investigation request was spurred by widespread fraud in the FCC's net neutrality repeal docket, Democrats asked the GAO to also "examine whether this shady practice extends to other agency rulemaking processes." The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes."

  • The GAO provides independent, nonpartisan audits and investigations for Congress.

    The GAO previously agreed to investigate DDoS attacks that allegedly targeted the FCC comment system, also in response to a request by Democratic lawmakers. The Democrats charged that Chairman Ajit Pai's FCC did not provide enough evidence that the attacks actually happened, and they asked the GAO to find out what evidence the FCC used to make its determination. Democrats also asked the GAO to examine whether the FCC is prepared to prevent future attacks.

    The DDoS investigation should happen sooner than the new one on comment fraud because the GAO accepted that request in October.

  • The FCC's net neutrality repeal received more than 22 million comments, but millions were apparently submitted by bots and falsely attributed to real Americans (including some dead ones) who didn't actually submit comments. Various analyses confirmed the widespread spam and fraud; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments opposed the repeal plan.
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  • The FCC's comment system makes no attempt to verify submitters' identities, and allows bulk uploads so that groups collecting signatures for letters and petitions can get them on the docket easily. It was like that even before Pai took over as chair, but the fraud became far more pervasive in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Pai's FCC did not remove any fraudulent comments from the record.

    Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a delay in the net neutrality repeal vote because of the fraud, but the Republican majority pushed the vote through as scheduled last month.

    New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating the comment fraud and says the FCC has stonewalled the investigation by refusing to provide evidence. Schneiderman is also leading a lawsuit to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal, and the comment fraud could play a role in the case.

    "We understand that the FCC's rulemaking process requires it to address all comments it receives, regardless of who submits them," Congressional Democrats said in their letter requesting a GAO investigation. "However, we do not believe any outside parties should be permitted to generate any comments to any federal governmental entity using information it knows to be false, such as the identities of those submitting the comments."

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