Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 23rd, 2015

The NSA’s position is incoherent, but it’s clear they want ultimate power

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Andrea Peterson reports on remarks from Admiral Mike Rogers, head of the NSA, who doesn’t want to be bother with technicalities, he just wants to be able to read all communications in the world: everything open to the NSA, because …  you can imagine.

In an unusual public exchange, the director of the National Security Agency and a senior Yahoo executive clashed over cyber-spying Monday, illustrating the growing chasm between Washington and Silicon Valley over whether intelligence officials should have broad access to the products being developed by the nation’s top technology firms.

For a normally staid Washington cyber-security summit, the tense back-and-forth had the packed audience of executives, senior policy makers, bureaucrats and journalists buzzing.

Speaking at the signature event of the conference, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers called for a “legal framework” that would enable law enforcement and anti-terrorism officials to tap into encrypted data flowing between ordinary consumers — echoing a stance laid out by other administration officials, including FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Eric J. Holder. But technology executives as well as many cybersecurity experts argue there is no way to build in such “backdoors” without fundamentally undermining the security that protects online communications around the world. In response to recent revelations about government snooping, firms such as Apple and Google have designed their latest mobile software to make it impossible for the companies to turn over data from smartphones and tablet computers to police — even when authorities have a search warrant.

Roger’s remarks were later challenged by Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s chief information security officer, during a question-and-answer session.

“So it sounds like you agree with Director Comey that we should be building defects into the encryption in our products so that the US government can decrypt…” Stamos began. (These remarks were verified by a transcript provided by the Web site Just Security.)

“That would be your characterization,” Rogers said, interrupting him.

“No, I think… all of the best public cryptographers in the world would agree that you can’t really build backdoors in crypto,” Stamos replied. “That it’s like drilling a hole in the windshield.”

“I’ve got a lot of world-class cryptographers at the National Security Agency,” Rogers said.

“I’ve talked to some of those folks and some of them agree too, but…” Stamos said.

“Oh, we agree that we don’t accept each others’ premise,” Rogers replied, interrupting again, as laughter erupted across the audience.

A little bit later in the exchange, Stamos tried to bring up a different point.

“If we’re going to build defects/backdoors or golden master keys for the U.S. government, do you believe we should do so — we have about 1.3 billion users around the world — should we do for the Chinese government, the Russian government, the Saudi Arabian government, the Israeli government, the French government?” Stamos asked.

“So, I’m not gonna… I mean, the way you framed the question isn’t designed to elicit a response,” Rogers replied.

“Well, do you believe we should build backdoors for other countries?” Stamos asked again.

“My position is — hey look, I think that we’re lying that this isn’t technically feasible. Now, it needs to be done within a framework. I’m the first to acknowledge that. You don’t want the FBI and you don’t want the NSA unilaterally deciding, so, what are we going to access and what are we not going to access? That shouldn’t be for us. I just believe that this is achievable. We’ll have to work our way through it. And I’m the first to acknowledge there are international implications. I think we can work our way through this,” Rogers answered.

“So you do believe then, that we should build those for other countries if they pass laws?” Stamos asked a third time.

“I think we can work our way through this,” Rogers replied.

“I’m sure the Chinese and Russians are going to have the same opinion,” Stamos said.

“I said I think we can work through this,” Rogers said. . .

Continue reading.

I do not believe that Rogers is an idiot, though he comes across that way. He simply wants what he wants and waves aside any question or issues that stand in the way, neither answering nor considering him. In his position, that’s very dangerous.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 6:23 pm

Decided to reprise the kale, sausage, cauliflower, & mushroom soup

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This recipe. Really tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 5:45 pm

Six who said no to torture

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An interesting column at by Rebecca Gordon, describing six Americans who resisted the torture program that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney created—not because it was ineffective (not the issue) but because it was immoral and illegal and a war crime. The column begins:

Why was it again that, as President Obama said, “we tortured some folks” after the 9/11 attacks? Oh, right, because we were terrified. Because everyone knows that being afraid gives you moral license to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself safe. That’s why we don’t shame or punish those who were too scared to imagine doing anything else. We honor and revere them.

Back in August 2014, Obama explained the urge of the top figures in the Bush administration to torture “some folks” this way: “I understand why it happened. I think it’s important, when we look back, to recall how afraid people were when the twin towers fell.” So naturally, in those panicked days, the people in charge had little choice but to order the waterboarding, wall-slamming, and rectal rehydration of whatever possible terrorists (andinnocents) the CIA got their hands on. That’s what fear drives you to do and don’t forget, at the time even some mainstream liberal columnists werecalling for torture. And whatever you do, don’t forget as well that they were so, so afraid. That’s why, says the president, “It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious,” too quick to judge the people in the Bush administration, the CIA, and even the U.S. military who planned, implemented, and justified torture.

The president has vacillated about just how long this period of exculpatory fear was supposed to last. Sometimes he seems to suggest that it’s just the responses in the more or less immediate aftermath of those attacks we shouldn’t feel too sanctimonious about. Sometimes it’s all those “years after 9/11” during which America’s leaders had to face “legitimate fears of further attacks” and therefore kept on torturing people.

However long the panic lasted, the important point is that, as Obama insisted in 2009, and again at the end of 2014, no one should be prosecuted for torture, because everyone was scared.

Anyone in President George W. Bush’s position would have declared that the Geneva Conventions, which are supposed to protect prisoners of war from mistreatment, don’t cover prisoners taken in the “war on terror.” Anyone would have told the pundits on “Meet the Press,” as Vice President Dick Cheney did less than a week after 9/11, that the attacks meant we would now have to work “the dark side.” Anyone in CIA Director George Tenet’s shoes would have agreed with Cheney when he said that “a lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies.”

And any attorney in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel would naturally have written the “torture memos” that John Yoo and Jay Bybeecreated in 2002, in which they sought to provide legal cover for the CIA’s torture practices by redefining torture itself more or less out of existence. For some act to count as “severe physical suffering” and therefore as torture, they wrote, the pain inflicted would have to be of a sort “ordinarily associated with a… serious physical condition, such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of bodily functions.”

Wouldn’t anyone do what these men did, if they, too, were frightened out of their wits? Actually, no. In fact, the sad, ugly story of the U.S. response to the criminal acts of 9/11 is brightened by a number of people who have displayed genuine courage in saying no to and turning their backs on torture. Their choices prove that Bush, Cheney, & Co. could have said no as well.

Though you’d never know it here, no level of fear in public officials makes acts of torture (or the support of such acts) any less criminal or more defensible before the law. It’s remarkably uncomplicated, actually. Torture violates U.S. and international law, and those responsible deserve to be prosecuted both for what they did and to prevent the same thing from happening the next time people in power are afraid.

Some of those who rejected torture, like CIA official John Kiriakou and an as-yet-unnamed Navy nurse, directly refused to practice it. Some risked reputations and careers to let the people of this country know what their government was doing. Sometimes an entire agency, like the FBI, refused to be involved in torture.

I’d like to introduce you to six of these heroes.

Sergeant Joseph M. Darby: If it hadn’t been for a 24-year-old soldier named Joe Darby, we might never have heard of the tortures and abuses committed at Abu Ghraib, 20 miles outside Baghdad. It had once beenSaddam Hussein’s most notorious prison and when the U.S. military arrived in 2003, they put it to similar use.

Early on, however, the Defense Department was unhappy with the quality of “intelligence” being produced there, so Major General Geoffrey Miller was dispatched from his post as commandant of the jewel in the crown of the Bush administration’s offshore system of injustice, Guantánamo, to Iraq with orders to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib.

Joe Darby was a member of the Military Police assigned to that prison. One day early in 2004, Army Specialist Charles Graner handed him a couple of CDs full of photographs, thinking perhaps that Darby would enjoy them as much as he did.

Graner was one of the people in charge of the Army Reservists responsible for “softening up” prisoners before they were handed over for interrogation to Military Intelligence and the “Other Government Agency” (a euphemism for the CIA and its private contractors). Prisoners being softened up were stacked in pyramids like cordwood, paraded like dogs on leashes, bitten by actual dogs, and in at least one case,raped in the anus “with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.”

When Joe Darby saw the photographs, unlike Graner, he was not amused. He was horrified. He recognized them as evidence of crimes and, after three weeks of internal debate, handed them to Special Agent Tyler Pieron of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, who was working at Abu Ghraib. From there, the photos made their way up the chain of command, via a leak into the hands of New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh, and eventually into U.S. living rooms on 60 Minutes II one Tuesday evening at the end of April 2004.

Darby hoped to remain anonymous, but he soon gained international renownfor what he had done. With exposure came threats to him and to his family. In the immediate aftermath of the disclosures, while still stationed at Abu Ghraib, he feared — he told the BBC — that he might be murdered in his sleep. Still, he doesn’t consider what he did anything special. As he said, when accepting the Kennedy Library’s Profiles in Courage award, “It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time.” Joe Darby may have felt fear, but he didn’t go along with a torture regime.

Major General Antonio M. Taguba: . . .

Continue reading.

It’s important to recognize how severely punished were those who refused to torture, while those who were willing to torture suspects (some of whom were innocent) faced no reprisals and no accountability at all, thanks to President Obama and his Department of “Justice.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 4:56 pm

An Ad Company Is Flying Surveillance Drones Over Los Angeles

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Coming soon to your own locale. Orwell’s Big Brother was a piker compared to the surveillance we’re subjected to these days. Jordan Pearson writes at Motherboard:

An ad company’s drones have been quietly collecting location information from Los Angeles residents’ cell phones for nearly a month, and there’s likely not much anybody can do about it without regulations in place that cover what kinds of data drones can hoover up.

Adnear, a global marketing company that specializes in collecting location data from people for companies looking to create targeted ad campaigns, has been flying a modified version of the DJI Phantom II drone over the San Fernando Valley in LA since February 4th, according to a company blog post. A sensor on the drone tracks devices by collecting data from WiFi connections and cell tower signals and uses that information to obtain their unique device IDs.

“The usage of drones for location data collection would tremendously reduce human intervention and ease the process of collating data in inaccessible regions,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Drones will also enable quick assimilation of a large-scale location data, which would mean faster new market entry for us, since it does take much higher effort at present. We are talking a new level of scale all together.”

Adnear wants to use the data to serve you hyperlocal ads based on what you’re near at the moment. The company did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment, and we will update this post if we hear from them.

If this still all sounds just a little ominous, that’s because it is. The sensors on Adnear’s drone are likely the same kind they’ve used on “bikes, cars, trains, and even walking up the stairs,” except now they’re flying over you. Using cell tower signals to uncover a device’s ID sounds pretty close to what a StingRay used by police to track suspects by mimicking cell towers does. That technology works by scooping up all location information from cell phones in the area, including those from innocent people.

While Adnear’s approach may not be exactly the same as a StingRay, it’s close enough to cause discomfort—although, of course, Adnear is using their technology for commercial gain, not to catch criminals. The company claims that it doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information, but it’s hard to see how your phone’s ID is anything but.

Right now, Adnear is operating quasi-legally. But any illegality would be because it ran afoul of Federal Aviation Administration commercial drone rules, not privacy ones. The FAA’s proposed regulations for domestic drone use—arrived at after five years of legal limbo for drone owners—haven’t gone into effect yet, and the FAA says it can still limit commercial drone operations. But even the new regulations do not cover privacy at all, instead focusing on safety measures. While regulations for airborne data collection may one day coalesce, they’re not on the immediate horizon.

So, what the company is doing is creepy, but not strictly illegal.

Until then, possible solutions to avoid drone detection include leaving your phone at home and not much else. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Knowledge is not power: The inequality gap is not solved by education

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Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people” — politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.

The prime example of recent years was, of course, Bowles-Simpsonism — the diversion of elite discourse away from the ongoing tragedy of high unemployment and into the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now. That particular obsession, I’m happy to say, seems to be on the wane. But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.

And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.

Just to be clear: I’m in favor of better education. Education is a friend of mine. And it should be available and affordable for all. But what I keep seeing is people insisting that educational failings are at the root of still-weak job creation, stagnating wages and rising inequality. This sounds serious and thoughtful. But it’s actually a view very much at odds with the evidence, not to mention a way to hide from the real, unavoidably partisan debate.

The education-centric story of our problems runs like this: We live in a period of unprecedented technological change, and too many American workers lack the skills to cope with that change. This “skills gap” is holding back growth, because businesses can’t find the workers they need. It also feeds inequality, as wages soar for workers with the right skills but stagnate or decline for the less educated. So what we need is more and better education.

My guess is that this sounds familiar — it’s what you hear from the talking heads on Sunday morning TV, in opinion articles from business leaders like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, in “framing papers” from the Brookings Institution’s centrist Hamilton Project. It’s repeated so widely that many people probably assume it’s unquestionably true. But it isn’t.

For one thing, is the pace of technological change really that fast? “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” the venture capitalist Peter Thiel has snarked. Productivity growth, which surged briefly after 1995, seems to have slowed sharply.

Furthermore, there’s no evidence that a skills gap is holding back employment. After all, if businesses were desperate for workers with certain skills, they would presumably be offering premium wages to attract such workers. So where are these fortunate professions? You can find some examples here and there. Interestingly, some of the biggest recent wage gains are for skilled manual labor — sewing machine operators,boilermakers — as some manufacturing production moves back to America. But the notion that highly skilled workers are generally in demand is just false.

Finally, while the education/inequality story may once have seemed plausible, it hasn’t tracked reality for a long time. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 3:36 pm

How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company.

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Mike Mariani has an interesting article at Pacific Standard:

The state of Kentucky may finally get its deliverance. After more than seven years of battling the evasive legal tactics of Purdue Pharma, 2015 may be the year that Kentucky and its attorney general, Jack Conway, are able to move forward with a civil lawsuit alleging that the drugmaker misled doctors and patients about their blockbuster pain pill OxyContin, leading to a vicious addiction epidemic across large swaths of the state.

A pernicious distinction of the first decade of the 21st century was the rise in painkiller abuse, which ultimately led to a catastrophic increase in addicts, fatal overdoses, and blighted communities. But the story of the painkiller epidemic can really be reduced to the story of one powerful, highly addictive drug and its small but ruthlessly enterprising manufacturer.


On December 12, 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved the opioid analgesic OxyContin. It hit the market in 1996. In its first year, OxyContin accounted for $45 million in sales for its manufacturer, Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. By 2000 that number would balloon to $1.1 billion, an increase of well over 2,000 percent in a span of just four years. Ten years later, the profits would inflate still further, to $3.1 billion. By then the potent opioid accounted for about 30 percent of the painkiller market. What’s more, Purdue Pharma’s patent for the original OxyContin formula didn’t expire until 2013. This meant that a single private, family-owned pharmaceutical company with non-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.

OxyContin’s ball-of-lightning emergence in the health care marketplace was close to unprecedented for a new painkiller in an age where synthetic opiates like Vicodin, Percocet, and Fentanyl had already been competing for decades in doctors’ offices and pharmacies for their piece of the market share of pain-relieving drugs. In retrospect, it almost didn’t make sense. Why was OxyContin so much more popular? Had it been approved for a wider range of ailments than its opioid cousins? Did doctors prefer prescribing it to their patients?

During its rise in popularity, there was a suspicious undercurrent to the drug’s spectrum of approved uses and Purdue Pharma’s relationship to the physicians that were suddenly privileging OxyContin over other meds to combat everything from back pain to arthritis to post-operative discomfort. It would take years to discover that there was much more to the story than the benign introduction of a new, highly effective painkiller.


In 1952, brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler purchased Purdue Pharma, then called Purdue Frederick Co. All three men were psychiatrists by trade, working at a mental facility in Queens in the 1940s.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 3:33 pm

Women are leaving the tech industry in droves

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The main reason is obvious: the tech industry doesn’t want women. It vastly prefers men and in effect has a on-going and non-stop campaign to drive women out—a highly successful campaign, by all accounts.

Tracy Lien reports in the LA Times:

Ana Redmond launched into a technology career for an exciting challenge and a chance to change the world. She was well-equipped to succeed too: An ambitious math and science wiz, she could code faster, with fewer errors, than anyone she knew.

In 2011, after 15 years, she left before achieving a management position.

Garann Means became a programmer for similar reasons. After 13 years, she quit too, citing a hostile and unwelcoming environment for women.

Neither expects to ever go back.

“There are a lot of things that piled up over the years,” Means said. “I didn’t know how to move forward. There was a lot I had to put up with in the culture of tech. It just didn’t seem worth it.”

That’s a huge problem for the tech economy. According to the industry group, computing jobs will more than double by 2020, to 1.4 million. If women continue to leave the field, an already dire shortage of qualified tech workers will grow worse. Last summer, Google, Facebook, Apple and other big tech companies released figures showing that men outnumbered women 4 to 1 or more in their technical sectors.

It’s why the industry is so eager to hire women and minorities. For decades tech companies have relied on a workforce of whites and Asians, most of them men.

Plenty of programs now encourage girls and minorities to embrace technology at a young age. But amid all the publicity for those efforts, one truth is little discussed: Qualified women are leaving the tech industry in droves.

Women in tech say filling the pipeline of talent won’t do much good if women keep quitting — it’s like trying to fill a leaking bucket.

“It’s a really frustrating thing,” said Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation. “The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it’s a valuable investment.”

A Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.

The reasons are varied. According to the Harvard study, they include a “hostile” male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path. An updated study in 2014 found the reasons hadn’t significantly changed.

Most women in the Harvard study said the attitudes holding them back are subtle, and hence more difficult to challenge.

Redmond, now 40, didn’t want to leave her tech career. But she felt stuck, with no way to advance. She said male co-workers seemed to oppose her. “It was like they were trying to push me out at every stage,” she said.

She had built a prototype for a travel website, she said, a feature to auto-suggest cities and airports based on the first three letters typed into the search field, fixing a long-standing problem.

Her male bosses told her she’d built it without permission. Then they said only architects within the company could pitch features — and all the architects were male. In the end, the project was handed to someone else, and she was assigned to less interesting tasks.

“They just kept asking me to prove myself over and over again,” she said.

As an isolated incident, Redmond wouldn’t have thought much of it. But she noticed a pattern. She said she was often passed up for no apparent reason, and her projects were frequently taken away or dismissed. . .

Continue reading.

The Taliban is less subtle, but the goal is the same: make sure women do not compete with men, and try to keep them from learning and participating actively in business.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Business

Example of why it’s hard to trust the NSA: NSA Director Pretends He Doesn’t Understand How Encryption Works

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Jason Koebler reports at Motherboard:

So far, we know that the ​Justice Department, the ​FBI, and President Obama have said that law enforcement should be allowed to break into consumers’ encrypted data with a warrant. Now, we can add the NSA to the list.

NSA Director Mike Rogers said today that he “shares [FBI] Director [James] Comey’s concern” about losing intelligence capabilities thanks to default encryption built into iPhones and Android cell phones. The NSA had largely stayed out of the debate until Monday, when Rogers spoke at the ​​New America Foundation’s cybersecurity event in Washington, DC.

“I’m perplexed. Most of the debate I’ve seen is, [encryption] is all or nothing,” Rogers said. “If I have an indication to believe a phone is being used for criminal activities, can’t there be a legal framework for how we’d access the data on that phone?”

There are two ways to read Rogers’s comments: The director of the world’s most powerful intelligence agency either fundamentally doesn’t understand how encryption works, or he merely pretended, for an hour, to not understand why opening up encryption to third parties would fundamentally destroy it.

At this point, the flaw in creating a “golden key” for law enforcement or intelligence agencies to decrypt data on someone’s phone or computer is well trod territory. The thinking is, if you create a vulnerability that can be exploited by the NSA or FBI, then other third parties or governments will eventually be able to crack that vulnerability, destroying encryption entirely.

At the event, this argument was immediately brought up to Rogers by security expert ​Bruce Schneier, one of the nation’s most-respected voices on cryptography. Schneier has written more than a dozen books on the subject.

“It’s a technological question, not a legal question, which is what makes it hard,” Schneier said.

Rogers refused to accept this explanation and said he thinks that it would be possible to make it possible only for the NSA and FBI to decrypt data, under certain circumstances decided by some sort of independent court.

“I’ve got a lot of world-class cryptographers at the NSA,” he said. “My position is that this is technically feasible. It needs to be done within a framework. You don’t want the FBI and NSA unilaterally deciding what we are going to access, I just believe this is achievable. We just have to work our way through it.”

That, more or less, has been the position the Justice Department and the FBI have taken, but it’s one that’s not widely shared in the security community.

Rogers also refused to comment on . . .

Continue reading.

I think that the evidence—much of which we have only because Edward Snowden made sure we were informed of what our government is up to—clearly shows that we cannot trust the NSA: it will lie, obfuscate, and conceal whatever it can so that it can continue to do whatever it wants. For an example, read the last part of the article. And NSA has shown that it doesn’t hesitate to break the law whenever it wants.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 12:53 pm

Look up medical symptoms on-line, get tracked

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Brian Merchant writes in Motherboard:

It’s 2015—when we feel sick, fear disease, or have questions about our health, we turn first to the internet. According to the Pew Internet Project, 72 percent of US internet users look up health-related information online. But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores. It’s happening for profit, for an “improved user experience,” and because developers have flocked to “free” plugins and tools provided by data-vacuuming companies.

In April 2014, Tim Libert, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, custom-built software called webXray to analyze the top 50 search results for nearly 2,000 common diseases (over 80,000 pages total). He found the results startling: a full 91 percent of the pages made what are known as third-party requests to outside companies. That means when you search for “cold sores,” for instance, and click the highly ranked “Cold Sores Topic Overview WebMD” link, the website is passing your request for information about the disease along to one or more (and often many, many more) other corporations.

According to Libert’s research, which is published in the the Communications of the ACM, about 70 percent of the time, the data transmitted “contained information exposing specific conditions, treatments, and diseases.” That, he says, is “potentially putting user privacy at risk.” And it means you’ll probably want to think twice before looking up medical information on the internet.

Here’s what’s happening in a bit greater detail: Let’s say you make a search for “herpes.” Plugging that query into a search engine will return a list of results. Chances are, whatever site you choose to click on next will send information not just to the server of the intended site—say, the Centers for Disease Control, which maintains thetop search result from Google—but to companies that own the elements installed on the page. Here’s why.

When you click that CDC link, you’re making a so-called “first party request.” That request goes to the CDC’s servers, and it returns the HTML file with the page you’re looking for. In this case, it’s “Genital Herpes – CDC Factsheet,” which is perhaps the page on the internet you’d least want anyone to know you’re looking at. But because the CDC has installed Google Analytics to measure its traffic stats, and has, for some reason, included AddThis code which allows Facebook and Twitter sharing (beckoning the question of who socializes disease pages), the CDC also sends a third party request to each of those companies. That request looks something like this——and makes explicit to those third party corporations in its HTTP referrer string that your search was about herpes.

Thus, Libert has discovered that the vast majority of health sites, from the for-profit to the government-run, are loaded with tracking elements that are sending records of your health inquiries to the likes of web giants like Google, Facebook, and Pinterest, and data brokers like Experian and Acxiom.

From there, it becomes relatively easy for the companies receiving the requests, many of which are collecting other kinds of data (in cookies, say) about your browsing as well, to identify you and your illness. That URL, or URI, which very clearly contains the disease being searched for, is broadcast to Google, Twitter, and Facebook, along with your computer’s IP address and other identifying information. . .

Continue reading.

Remember privacy? I do, and I miss it.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 12:39 pm

Inmates temporarily seize control of prison in south Texas

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Juan Thompson reports in The Intercept:

Inmates at an immigration detention center in Raymondville City, Texas seized control of the facility over the weekend, setting off a standoff with federal authorities.

The inmates, mostly undocumented immigrants, used pipes as weapons, though there are only minor injuries reported thus far, according to the Associated Press. In addition, there were reports of fires being set inside the center’s Kevlar tents. Officials, to no avail, used tear and other so-called non-lethal force to squash the revolt.

It appears authorities have regained control of the facility, the Willacy Detention Center, and are transferring inmates to other prisons given the uninhabitable and damaged tents within Willacy. Representatives of the FBI and Federal Bureau of Prisons had been on the scene negotiating with the incarcerated population.

The detention center is run by the Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based private contractor. The company released a statement reading, “We anticipate another few hundred inmates will be moved by the end of the day. This process will continue through the next week until all of the inmates have been relocated.”The Willacy Detention Center was, as late as 2011, one of the country’s largest immigrant detention centers operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The facility has a notorious history—despite it being only nine years old. In 2011 PBS’s Frontline featured the facility in the documentary “Lost In Detention.”

Twana Cooks-Allen, a former mental health coordinator at Willacy, wasquoted as saying, “Women harassed for sexual favors, guards taking detainees and beating them, running them down like they were animals.” Other detainees alleged routine sexual, physical, and racial abuse at the hands of correctional officials. Indeed, in 2011 a former guard, Edwin Rodriquez, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female detainee. And in 2007, employees of the Management & Training Center at Willacy, werecharged with smuggling undocumented immigrants across the southern border.

It appears, however, the problems have continued. Last year the ACLU released a report on Willacy that proved prescient. . .

Continue reading.

A police state, complete with outsourcing so private corporations can profit. And a private corporation will do anything to increase profits, as we’ve repeatedly seen.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 11:55 am

Will US condemn UK for using terrorism laws to suppress journalism?

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As Trevor Timm points out in his post on Boing Boing, the US does not hesitate to condemn governments that use overly-broad laws regarding terrorism to punish journalists simply for reporting what is happening. But when the UK does it, will the US speak up? The post begins:

In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knewMiranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point:

Over the past several years, the US State Department has publicly criticized several governments for using overly-broad terrorism laws against journalists and has even claimed its their policy to oppose “misus[ing] terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” As we pointed out a couple months ago, they have criticized Turkey, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Burundi all within the past year.

Just last week, the State Department harshly criticized Egypt for detaining over twentyAl-Jazeera journalists and charging them under the regime’s terrorism statute. A State Department spokesman said, Egypt’s “targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims are wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.” She continued: “any journalist, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt.”

Will the US State Department condemn very similar behavior by one of its closest allies, the United Kingdom? Sadly, in November when the UK first made its argument in court, the State Department refused to comment when asked about its stance by the Guardian‘s Paul Lewis. Now that a court has ruled in the UK’s government favor, it’s time for the State Department to speak out.

With the ruling, the UK government has vastly widened the definition of terrorism to include ensnare people who have not committed violence, who have no intention to commit violence, and who aren’t even associated with people who intend to commit violence. The lower court essentially agreed with the government’s warped definition it put forth in court documents in November: . . .

Continue reading. The interpretation the UK government offers is Orwellian in its deliberate effort to crush journalists.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 11:48 am

Law enforcement and criminal justice in the US today

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Radley Balko has a good collection of links in the Washington Post, among them:

  • New York’s top judge says the state needs to change how grand juries investigate shootings by police and alleged police misconduct.

See them all.

As to whether the US is on its way to becoming a police state, look at this article by Balko in the Post:

When it comes to civil asset forfeiture reform, we might be making some progress at the margins, but the most outrageous incidents go on. From the Detroit Free Press:

Thomas Williams was alone that November morning in 2013 when police raided his rural St. Joseph County home, wearing black masks, camouflage and holding guns at their sides. They broke down his front door with a battering ram.

“We think you’re dealing marijuana,” they told Williams, a 72-year-old, retired carpenter and cancer patient who is disabled and carries a medical marijuana card.

When he protested, they handcuffed him and left him on the living room floor as they ransacked his home, emptying drawers, rummaging through closets and surveying his grow room, where he was nourishing his 12 personal marijuana plants as allowed by law. Some had recently begun to die, so he had cloned them and had new seedlings, although they were not yet planted. That, police insisted, put him over the limit.

They did not charge Williams with a crime, though.

Instead, they took his Dodge Journey, $11,000 in cash from his home, his television, his cell phone, his shotgun and are attempting to take his Colon Township home. And they plan to keep the proceeds, auctioning off the property and putting the cash in police coffers.

The paper adds that the disabled Williams has no landline. Because the police took his cellphone, he was stranded in his home for three days until someone came by to check on him. In another incident, police took $62 from the wallet of a man who’d had brain surgery to remove a tumor and treat his epilepsy. He had more pot plants than the state law allows. They came back the next day and demanded he give them $5,000 or they’d put a lien on his house.

The Free Press found that police agencies in Michigan . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 11:43 am

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

BBS with stainless Stealth and Latha, with a good splash of Stirling Vetiver

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SOTD 23 Feb 2015

A wonderful shave this morning—and every day since making the 10-second load video I have been pleased that I did it, because it forced me to clean up and organize the bathroom. And it turns out that a well-organized bathroom is a pleasure and makes the shave even better. (I have been told this, but it’s a lesson I seem to lose and must relearn from time to time.)

Mr Pomp made a fine and instant lather with Latha, and the stainless Stealth with a Voskhod blade did a superb job—really, almost completely BBS after the second pass, but I did do a third.

A good splash of Stirling Vetiver and the week lurches into motion.

Written by Leisureguy

23 February 2015 at 9:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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