[F]undamentally, the ‘US Persons’ protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that ‘We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.’— NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Q&A in The Guardian
Is there any published research on how many more lives would be saved if we stopped funding the Überwachungsstaat and instead spent the money on health care or road safety or something else known to actually have an effect?
(For example, even accepting temporarily the argument that all these civil liberties violations actually somehow save lives: if we could save twenty cancer patients for the cost of preventing a terrorist attack that killed three people, that would be interesting to know about. But my numbers here are entirely made up; does anybody have real—or at least plausible—numbers?)
The fundamental disconnect here is that some people (defenders of the NSA, Google, and Facebook) think that you can still have privacy when only computers and algorithms (instead of people) are combing through your data, and others of us think that computers and algorithms are capable of effecting entirely new forms of wholesale evil.
Of course, it’s probably true that neither company knew the acronym of the NSA program to which they contributed data until it was reported in the press. Let’s even give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that it’s true that neither company in fact gave the NSA root access to its production servers. But both companies (and many others) in fact have procedures in place for providing all sorts of data to the government, neither company offers affected users much chance to object, and the press is busy figuring out how all of this works.
It’s sort of laughable anyhow to think of these companies actively working to defend their users’ privacy (in fact, both Facebook’s and Google’s entire business models are precisely based on doing exactly the opposite). But, if any of the tech giants named as PRISM collaborators want to ensure us that they permit only commercial violations of privacy, and not the government sort, here is a minimal plan of action:
- The companies should launch internal investigations into exactly what data they are providing to the government and how efficiently they are doing so.
- The results of these investigations should be made entirely public, and any programs identified which provide data to the government should be turned off, slowed down, and made to require manual review.
- The companies should work to reduce the amount of information they collect and thus that they are capable of disseminating in the first place.
Of course, blanket denials carefully worded to avoid denying the substance of the accusations are much easier to write. And transparency reports that don’t provide transparency make their authors look much better.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, [Verizon] shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) upon service of this Order, and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order…an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records or “telephony metadata” created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.
Telephony metadata includes comprehensive communications routing information, including but not limited to session identifying information (e.g., originating and terminating telephone number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, etc.), trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers, and time and duration of call.
A leaked court order shows that it’s exactly as bad as we’ve feared. (It can’t currently be proven, but it seems reasonable to assume that the other phone carriers are subject to similar orders.)
How will we make this stop?
Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture — a decent, humane and playful culture — has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.— Julian Assange, “The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’”, The New York Times
I’m glad we now have bikeshare in New York and that it’ll be a success. But, seriously, why is it deemed more efficient to bail out giant banks and use their giant marketing departments’ once-again-vast reserves of money than to just use tax revenue directly for small transport infrastructure projects like this one?
I’ve been a Flickr user since (as they now remind me on almost every page) November 2005. Their recent redesign has attracted controversy from the sorts of people who complain at every change (who are often the same people who complain when nothing changes), but I think it’s largely for the better. Apparently Yahoo! is now investing in Flickr again, so it’s safe to assume some of the rough edges will be cleaned up in due course.
However, I’m extremely nervous about their new pricing model. Flickr’s “pro” users (of which I have been one since 2006) used to pay $25 per year for unlimited storage, unlimited history, and some other perks. But what we bought in addition was the status of customer.
Flickr’s new payment plans are fairly clearly strawmen, designed not to entice anyone to purchase them. (If the first terabyte is free, I imagine there will be approximately zero customers who need a second terabyte and who decide to pay $500/year for it rather than just starting a second free account.) So Flickr users will no longer be customers; rather, we’ll be the product which is in turn sold to advertisers.
Flickr has long felt to me permanent in a way that (for example) Facebook photos do not: the deal being offered was that in exchange for my $25, they kept my photos and would give them back to me upon my request. Of course, this notion of permanence was totally illusory: Flickr could have gone (and could still go) out of business at any moment. But now the illusion is destroyed.
For now, I’ll keep my Flickr account, and I guess I’ll stop paying for it. But offers for actual archival storage from dear friends in the nonprofit-industrial complex are looking tempting, at least as a companion.
The key is apparently a “vicinity card,” and the data retrieved is notable primarily for its brevity. The only identifying information appears to be the tag’s UID (masked in the linked gist). The data inside the tag (all of which is marked writable) is all blank except for the final four bytes,
I’m no NFC expert, but apparently this means it’s pretty easy to clone one of these keys given the right equipment. Maybe someone will make an Android app so you don’t have to carry your key around all the time.
Have people in other cities with Alta bikeshare tried reading their keys? I wonder if the structure has always been this simple or if some of this is a result of the reimplementation of the Alta system before the NYC launch.
I attended Google’s developer conference this year, mostly (entirely?) to improve my technical skills developing for Android. You can go elsewhere on the Internet if you want a summary of this technical content and/or the product announcements made; however there are a few interesting trends implicit in the conference itself that may be interesting: