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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Stanford Will Teach You All About Mass Surveillance, on the Deep Web, for Free

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Interesting for those interested in this sort of thing. D.J. Pangburn reports:

If you’ve been following United States and international surveillance law in any capacity since former security contractor  Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents, you know that feelings of bafflement, astonishment, and anger have become nothing if not routine.

Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford Law School instructor, wants to change all that. His idea is a simple one: teach surveillance law online, for free. On the deep web, if you want.

Mayer told me the  Stanford surveillance law course is designed for two audiences. If a student would like to understand the big picture of government surveillance, there will be online readings, quizzes, and a forum designed for that ambition. But, if they would prefer a quick background on a particular issue—say, Ronald Reagan’sExecutive Order 12333, which authorized the NSA’s mass data collection—then students can “pop in” for just that lecture. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 September 2014 at 8:56 am

Posted in Education, NSA, Technology

“Killer robots” are firmly on the United Nations agenda

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It seems evident to me that autonomous machines should not be tasked with taking human life for much the same reason that spring guns and other such booby traps are illegal: because of untargeted killing—that is, no way of knowing whom would be killed. It probably seems quaint, given the drone attacks wiping out wedding parties and the like, but it seems as though some human recognition be involved: a witness, in a way, to the taking of human life.

But it’s certainly up for discussion.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2014 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Military, Technology

Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls

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This is just very strange. What on earth is going on? And it seems zero security for most.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2014 at 1:15 pm

Creating useful deception

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Very interesting article by Kate Greene in Pacific Standard:

Just outside the Benrath Senior Center in Düsseldorf, Germany, is a bus stop at which no bus stops. The bench and the official-looking sign were installed to serve as a “honey trap” to attract patients with dementia who sometimes wander off from the facility, trying to get home. Instead of venturing blindly into the city and triggering a police search, they see the sign and wait for a bus that will never come. After a while, someone gently invites them back inside.

It’s rare to come across such a beautiful deception. Tolerable ones, however, are a dime a dozen. Human society has always glided along on a cushion of what Saint Augustine called “charitable lies”—untruths deployed to avoid conflict, ward off hurt feelings, maintain boundaries, or simply keep conversation moving—even as other, more selfish deceptions corrode relationships, rob us of the ability to make informed decisions, and eat away at the reserves of trust that keep society afloat. What’s tricky about deceit is that, contrary to blanket prohibitions against lying, our actual moral stances toward it are often murky and context-dependent.

In recent years, it has become common to hear that technology is making us more dishonest—that the Internet, with its anonymous trolls, polished social media profiles, and viral hoaxes, is a mass accelerant of selfish deceit. The Cornell University psychologist Jeffrey Hancock argues that technology has, at the very least, changed our repertoire of lies. Our arsenal of dishonest excuses, for instance, has adapted and expanded to buffer us against the infinite social expectations of a 24/7 connected world. (“Your email got caught in my spam folder!” “On my way!”) But while it’s true, according to Hancock, that the Internet affords us more tools to help manage how people perceive us, he also says that people are often more truthful in digital media than they are in other modes of communication. His research has found that we are more honest over email than over the phone, and less prone to lie on digital résumés than on paper ones. The Internet, after all, has a long memory; what it offers to would-be deceivers in the way of increased opportunity is apparently offset, over the long run, by the increased odds of getting caught.

But the slight moral panic over technology-induced lying sidesteps another, more interesting question: What kind of lies does our technology itself tell us? How has it been designed to deceive?

The fake bus stop at the Benrath Senior Center is, in its way, a piece of deceptive technology: a “user interface” designed to perpetuate an expedient illusion. And it’s hardly the only example. Dishonest technology exists in various forms and for various reasons, not all of them obviously sinister. If you don’t know it already, you should: Many crosswalk and elevator door-close buttons don’t actually work as advertised. The only purpose of these so-called placebo buttons is to give the impatient person a false sense of agency. Similarly, the progress bars presented on computer screens during downloads, uploads, and software installations maintain virtually no connection to the actual amount of time or work left before the action is completed. They are the rough software equivalent of someone texting to say, “On my way!”But these examples offer only a hint of what we’re liable to see in the near future. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2014 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

AT&T showing extreme greed…

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Sam Gustin reports at Motherboard:

Government officials shouldn’t give local organizations tax breaks and other incentives to build community broadband networks, telecom giant AT&T said in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission on Friday, because that would create a “non-level playing field.”

Instead, the government should give tax breaks and incentives to AT&T and other private telecom interests, the corporate giant said in its filing.

AT&T submitted its comments in response to a request by two cities—Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC—for the FCC to preempt state laws that ban or discourage local communities from building their own high-speed broadband Internet networks.

Cable and telecom giants like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable oppose municipal broadband networks, which they claim pose an unfair competitive threat.

According to a recent report by Allan Holmes of the Center for Public Integrity, US cable and telecom giants have spent millions of dollars over the last decade to “lobby state legislatures, influence state elections and buy research to try to stop the spread of public Internet services that often offer faster speeds at cheaper rates.”

As a result of these efforts, 20 states have laws on the books that ban or pose barriers to municipal broadband initiatives, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“GONs [government-owned networks] should not be utilized where the private sector already is providing broadband or can be expected to do so in a reasonable timeframe,” AT&T wrote in its filing. “Although many GONs have failed, or at least failed to live up to expectations, GONs can nonetheless discourage private sector investment because of understandable concerns by private sector entities of a non-level playing field. And any policy that risks diminishing private sector investment would be short-sighted and unwise.” . . .

Continue reading. Later in that article:

. . . AT&T says that private broadband providers should have a “right of first refusal” to develop a solution to “address the government’s broadband deployment requirements.” Additionally, community broadband networks should not be granted “preferential access to rights-of-way or preferential rates for such access,” nor should such networks “be allowed to enter or enforce exclusive arrangements that prohibit commercial competitors from offering services.”

Finally, community broadband networks should not receive any preferential tax treatment, according to AT&T. Instead, private broadband companies like AT&T should receive any tax incentives or exemptions in order “to induce them to expand broadband deployment to unserved areas.”

“You almost have to admire AT&T’s chutzpah in saying that, given the concessions they wrung out of communities over the years for promised AT&T broadband deployments that never even materialized,” said Lauren Weinstein, a veteran tech policy expert who supports community broadband initiatives.

AT&T reported more than $18 billion in net income in 2013. . .

Netflix seems to be spearheading some opposition to AT&T’s efforts to undermine municipal services. Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:

City governments that want to provide Internet access to their residents are clamoring for Washington’s help. Now Netflix is calling for the same.

The streaming video service took aim Tuesday at state laws — many backed by large cable companies — designed to prevent cities from building out broadband networks even where commercial Internet providers offer few services or none at all.

“State laws that prevent municipalities from providing their citizens faster, cheaper broadband service — or prevent the extension of that service to citizens in unserved or underserved areas — harm the entire Internet along with those citizens,” Netflix wrote in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission.

Twenty states have passed such laws. Their restrictions range from requiring broadband proposals to pass a referendum before moving forward to keeping community-owned fiber optic services within a specific metropolitan area. To challenge the policies, the cities of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C., have asked the FCC to intervene and preempt those laws.

The agency’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, has signaled his interest in doing so. He’s invoked the FCC’s congressional mandate to promote broadband deployment as a way to highlight how some states are standing in mayors’ way. But communications companies are pushing back.

Some, like AT&T, warned in their own filings that granting the cities’ wishes would limit commercial providers’ incentive to keep upgrading and investing in privately owned networks. “Any policy that risks diminishing private sector investment would be short-sighted and unwise,” AT&T wrote.

Others argue that the solution is to give commercial ISPs even more freedom. U.S. Telecom, an industry group representing AT&T, Verizon, Windstream and CenturyLink, among others, says the FCC should focus on striking down the “true impediments” to better Internet access, such as the need for ISPs to get permission before digging up streets or using utility poles to string cables.

But Netflix pointed to Chattanooga as an example where a successful city-operated network forced the large companies to start competing after years of neglect.

“Prior to the launch of [the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga's] gigabit broadband service, Comcast raised its cable TV rates every year, leading to a 154 percent increase in rates between 1993 and 2008,” wrote Netflix. “After EPB entered the field, the annual rate increases halted and Comcast eventually offered two tiers of service.”

After 2008, Comcast also increased its speeds in Chattanooga, Netflix observed. EPB’s fiber optic service provides speeds at 100 times the national average for $70 a month. “State laws motivated by a concern that municipal broadband networks might fail should not ensure that they do,” Netflix added. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2014 at 11:26 am

How big telecom smothers city-run broadband

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Although corporations love to talk about free competition, they in general loathe competition and wish all their competitors would go away. Where they like competition is among their suppliers: they want competition there. Corporations particularly dislike government competition, since government can provide services without the requirement that they show a continually increasing profit. Alan Holmes reviews telecom efforts in an article at The Center for Public Integrity:

Janice Bowling, a 67-year-old grandmother and Republican state senator from rural Tennessee, thought it only made sense that the city of Tullahoma be able to offer its local high-speed Internet service to areas beyond the city limits.

After all, many of her rural constituents had slow service or did not have access to commercial providers, like AT&T Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.

But a 1999 Tennessee law prohibits cities that operate their own Internet networks from providing access outside the boundaries where they provide electrical service. Bowling wanted to change that and introduced a bill in February to allow them to expand.

She viewed the network, which offers speeds about 80 times faster than AT&T and 10 times faster than Charter in Tullahoma according to advertised services, as a utility, like electricity, that all Tennesseans need.

“We don’t quarrel with the fact that AT&T has shareholders that it has to answer to,” Bowling said with a drawl while sitting in the spacious wood-paneled den of her log-cabin-style home. “That’s fine, and I believe in capitalism and the free market. But when they won’t come in, then Tennesseans have an obligation to do it themselves.”

At a meeting three weeks after Bowling introduced Senate Bill 2562, the state’s three largest telecommunications companies — AT&T, Charter, and Comcast Corp. — tried to convince Republican leaders to relegate the measure to so-called “summer study,” a black hole that effectively kills a bill. Bowling, described as “feisty” by her constituents, initially beat back the effort and thought she’d get a vote.

That’s when Joelle Phillips, president of AT&T’s Tennessee operations, leaned toward her across the table in a conference room next to the House caucus leader’s office and said tersely, “Well, I’d hate for this to end up in litigation,” Bowling recalls.

The threat surprised Bowling, and apparently AT&T’s ominous warning reached her colleagues as well. Days later, support in the Tennessee House for Bowling’s bill dissolved. AT&T had won.

“I had no idea the force that would come against this, because it’s just so reasonable and so necessary,” Bowling said.

AT&T and Phillips didn’t respond to emails asking for comment.

A national fight

Tullahoma is just one battlefront in a nationwide war that the telecommunications giants are fighting against the spread of municipal broadband networks. For more than a decade, AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc., and CenturyLink Inc. have spent millions of dollars to lobby state legislatures, influence state elections and buy research to try to stop the spread of public Internet services that often offer faster speeds at cheaper rates. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2014 at 8:14 am

Archiving video to the cloud in real-time to protect the files

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Police offers routinely seize cellphones and video equipment that captures their bad behavior. The key is to get the information into the cloud so that even if physical equipment is taken, the video itself is still available. This is discussed in a Democracy Now! program. The blurb:

Cases like Rodney King, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and Michael Brown have helped fuel demands for police accountability. We are joined by a guest who has advice for the growing number of people filming police abuse with their smartphones and video cameras, particularly with respect to how to properly preserve such video. Yvonne Ng is senior archivist for WITNESS, a group that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights. She co-authored their resource, “Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video.” Watch part two of this interview.

And, from the interview:

We provide resources on how to film, like how to film during a protest, but it’s just as important to think about what you’re going to do after you film, so that what you’ve done can make the most difference it can. So, that’s really where the archiving comes in. The point of archiving is to help ensure that your video is preserved, intact and is ready to be used when you need it.

So, there are a number of things that activists can do. And as you know, archiving can—when you get really into it, can get quite complex, but there’s a lot of very basic practices that anyone can do to ensure that their video survives intact and can be used. And we know that this is possible because we’ve worked with activists in Syria, who are facing enormous challenges—daily bombardment, insecurity, a lack of access to basic resources—and they have been able to successfully implement some of these practices.

Here’s the guide on how to do that that is discussed in the program. (You can also download the guide as a PDF, but take a look at the site.)

From the guide:

Who is this Guide for?

  • You are a human rights activist, a small or grassroots human rights organization, or media collective;
  • You are creating or collecting digital video to document human rights abuses or issues, and;
  • You want to make sure that the video documentation you have created or collected can be used for advocacy, as evidence, for education or historical memory – not just now but into the future….
  • But you are not sure where to begin, or you are stuck on a particular problem.

If this is you, then this Guide is for you.

Why Archive?

Ask yourself:

  • Do you want your videos to be available in the future?
  • Do you want your videos to serve as evidence of crimes or human rights abuses?
  • Do you want your videos to raise awareness and educate future generations?

If the answer is yes, it is important to begin thinking about archiving before it is too late.

Still not sure? Here is what might happen if you do not take steps to archive:

  • Your videos may be accidentally or deliberately deleted and lost forever.
  • Your videos may exist somewhere, but no one can find them.
  • Someone may find your videos, but no one can understand what they are about.
  • Your videos cannot be sufficiently authenticated or corroborated as evidence.
  • Your videos’ quality may become so degraded that no one can use them.
  • Your videos may be in a format that eventually no one can play.

What is Archiving?

Archiving is… a general term for the range of practices and decisions that support the long-term preservation, use, and accessibility of content with enduring value. In this Guide, our focus is on your digital videos.

Archiving is … an ongoing process that begins when a video is created and continues infinitely into the future.

Archiving is…a process that can be incorporated into your existing video workflows.

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos remain authentic and intact, so you can use them as evidence.

Archiving is … a way to ensure your videos are available, findable and playable long into the future.

Archiving is NOT… a one-time action.

Archiving is NOT… putting your videos on a hard drive and leaving it on a shelf.

There’s much more at the link. The above is just an intro.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2014 at 8:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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