Bruce Schneier on the rising tide of non-governmental surveillance:
Google recently announced that it would start including individual users’ names and photos in some ads. This means that if you rate some product positively, your friends may see ads for that product with your name and photo attached — without your knowledge or consent. Meanwhile, Facebook is eliminating a feature that allowed people to retain some portions of their anonymity on its website.
These changes come on the heels of Google’s move to explore replacing tracking cookies with something that users have even less control over. Microsoft is doing something similar by developing its own tracking technology.
More generally, lots of companies are evading the “Do Not Track” rules, meant to give users a say in whether companies track them. Turns out the whole “Do Not Track” legislation has been a sham.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that big technology companies are tracking us on the Internet even more aggressively than before.
If these features don’t sound particularly beneficial to you, it’s because you’re not the customer of any of these companies. You’re the product, and you’re being improved for their actual customers: their advertisers.
A rather amusing little squib from Best of Cain (via American Digest):
Wired‘s Klint Finley wants you to meet the indie hackers who want to jailbreak the internet (among other things):
One guy is wearing his Google Glass. Another showed up in an HTML5 t-shirt. And then there’s the dude who looks like the Mad Hatter, decked out in a top hat with an enormous white flower tucked into the brim.
At first, they look like any other gaggle of tech geeks. But then you notice that one of them is Ward Cunningham, the man who invented the wiki, the tech that underpins Wikipedia. And there’s Kevin Marks, the former vice president of web services at British Telecom. Oh, and don’t miss Brad Fitzpatrick, creator of the seminal blogging site LiveJournal and, more recently, a coder who works in the engine room of Google’s online empire.
Packed into a small conference room, this rag-tag band of software developers has an outsized digital pedigree, and they have a mission to match. They hope to jailbreak the internet.
They call it the Indie Web movement, an effort to create a web that’s not so dependent on tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and, yes, Google — a web that belongs not to one individual or one company, but to everyone. “I don’t trust myself,” says Fitzpatrick. “And I don’t trust companies.” The movement grew out of an egalitarian online project launched by Fitzpatrick, before he made the move to Google. And over the past few years, it has roped in about 100 other coders from around the world.
H/T to KA-CHING! for the image.
As Mic Wright points out, the companies named in the Prism leaks may not be acting as free agents:
Pastor Niemoller’s “First they came…” poem is over-quoted but with good reason. It is far too easy to be complacent. Addicted and reliant as many of us are on free web services, it’s more convenient to just accept the companies outright denials that they have been complicit with the NSA’s programme. But look closely at those statements and things become rather less clear, as Michael Arrington pointed out.
The tech industry’s denials have been carefully drafted and similarly worded. It is not unfeasible to imagine that those companies have turned over users’ personal information to the NSA in another fashion. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement was one of the strongest: “Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information…”
Zuckerberg’s words are reassuring until you consider that any company that receives an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act — the legislation the Obama administration is using to justify the broad surveillance — is forbidden from disclosing they have received it or disclosing any information about it. It’s not surprising that no mea culpas have emerged from major tech firms or that Palantir — the big data surveillance company with the $5 billion valuation and CIA funding — denies any connection with the project. The NSA has been a Palantir client and one of the company’s co-founders, billionaire investor Peter Thiel, also sits on Facebook’s board.
It’s almost as if Britain is in some sort of demented race to get rid of freedom of expression altogether:
At 9pm last night, with a knock on the door of a 19-year-old man, Kent police hammered another nail into the coffin of free expression in the UK.
Earlier in the day the unnamed man from Aylesham had allegedly posted a photo of a poppy being burned, with a crudely worded (and crudely spelled) caption. He was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act and held in the cells overnight to await questioning.
It is of course just the latest in a succession of police actions against individuals deemed to have caused offence: mocking a footballer as he fights for his life on Twitter; hoping British service personnel would “die and go to hell”; wearing a T-shirt that celebrated the death of two police officers; making sick jokes on Facebook about a missing child, the list goes on. A few months ago, these could have been dismissed as isolated over-reactions or moments of madness by police and judiciary. Not any longer. It is now clear that a new criminal code has been imposed upon us without announcement or debate. It is now a crime to be offensive. We are not sleepwalking into a new totalitarianism — we have woken up to find ourselves tangled in its sheets.
News of the arrest was first announced on Kent police’s Twitter feed, and it didn’t take long for users to spot the painful irony of their official avatar, which simply says Kent police 101. The number is taken from the non-essential police phone number, but as we all know, Room 101 was where Winston Smith was taken in George Orwell’s 1984 to be tortured and eventually persuaded to recant his individual beliefs and fall into line with officially sanctioned viewpoints.
I’m sure almost everyone saw dramatic and scary images of “Hurricane Sandy” like this one that went round my friends’ Facebook timelines yesterday:
As you’ve probably guessed from the title, this is a ‘shopped image. RJS Security has a quick primer on detecting doctored images using this example:
Whenever a major media event happens (like Hurricane Sandy), we are inundated with news. Sometimes that news is useful, but often it merely exists to create FUD… Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. While I have not personally seen any malware campaigns capitalizing on the event yet, it is inevitable. The pattern is generally as follows:
- Event hits the news as media outlets try to one-up eachother to get the word out.
- People spread the warnings, making them just a little bit worse each time they are copied.
- Other people create hoaxes to ride the wave of popularity.
- Still other people create custom hoaxes to exploit the disaster financially.
A few minutes ago, at least in my little corner of the internet, we hit stage 3 when this image was posted
H/T to Bruce Schneier for the link.