mfioretti: control* + tff*

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  1. There was once a very financially-rewarding global business built on selling people’s bodies.

    We called it slavery.

    Today, we frown upon that particular practice in polite company. It’s about time to ask ourselves, however, what are we to call the business of selling everything about a person that makes them who they are apart from their body?

    If the question makes you feel uncomfortable, good.

    If just thinking about it makes you feel uncomfortable, imagine how living within a system where this business model is a monopoly will make you feel. Then imagine what a society shaped by its ramifications will look like. Imagine its effects on equality, human rights, and democracy.

    You don’t have to try too hard to imagine any of this because we are already living in the early days of just such a world today.

    And yet it’s still early enough that I’m hopeful we can challenge the unfettered progress of this Silicon Valley model that is toxic to our human rights and threatens the very pillars of democracy itself.

    The digital imperialism of Silicon Valley robs us of the ownership and control of our most personal and intimate spaces while simultaneously depriving us of a core democratic instrument: the public sphere.

    The Silicon Valley model fosters the illusion of expanding the public sphere into the virtual realm while actually contributing to its destruction. It does so by replacing traditionally public spaces with privately-owned digital alternatives of its own design.

    We see Twitter, for example, as a public sphere that furthers democratic ideals. It looks very much like a global park where everyone gets a Speakers’ Corner. In reality, however, it is actually a private space much like a shopping mall.

    Just as the owners of a shopping mall are well within their rights to throw me off their private property if they don’t like the message on the t-shirt I’m wearing, Twitter is well within its rights to decide what you can and cannot say on its private property. It is not a public sphere. It is not part of the commons.

    Twitter is as much a public space as a McDonald’s
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  2. I switched from using a BlackBerry to an Android phone a few years ago it really irked me that the only way to keep my contacts info on the phone was to also let Google sync them into their cloud. This may not be true universally (I think some samsung phones will let you store contacts to the SD card) but it was true for phone I was using then and is true on the Nexus 4 I'm using now. It took a lot of painful digging through Android source and googling, but I successfully ended up writing a bunch of code to get around this.

    I've been meaning to put up the code and post this for a while, but kept procrastinating because the code wasn't generic/pretty enough to publish. It still isn't but it's better to post it anyway in case somebody finds it useful, so that's what I'm doing.

    In a nutshell, what I wrote is an Android app that includes (a) an account authenticator, (b) a contacts sync adapter and (c) a calendar sync adapter. On a stock Android phone this will allow you to create an "account" on the device and add contacts/calendar entries to it.

    Note that I wrote this to interface with the way I already have my data stored, so the account creation process actually tries to validate the entered credentials against a webhost, and the the contacts sync adapter is actually a working one-way sync adapter that will download contact info from a remote server in vcard format and update the local database. The calendar sync adapter, though, is just a dummy. You're encouraged to rip out the parts that you don't want and use the rest as you see fit. It's mostly meant to be a working example of how this can be accomplished.

    The net effect is that you can store contacts and calendar entries on the device so they don't get synced to Google, but you can still use the built-in contacts and calendar apps to manipulate them. This benefits from much better integration with the rest of the OS than if you were to use a third-party contacts or calendar app.
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  3. The common misconception among the hysteria is that this decision will put vital evidence outside the reach of law enforcement. But nothing in this encryption change will stop law enforcement from seeking a warrant for the contents of a phone, just as they seek warrants for the contents of a laptop or desktop computer. Whether or not a person can be required to unlock the device is a complicated question — intertwined with the right of due process and the right to avoid self-incrimination — that ought to be carefully considered by a court in the context of each individual situation.

    It's also important to note that the amount of information available to law enforcement about someone's electronic communications, movements, transactions, and relationships is staggering, even if they never analyze a suspect's mobile device. Law enforcement can still seek a phone company's call records, any text messages stored by the phone company, and a suspect's email accounts or any other information stored in the cloud — which for many people these days is a lot, as several Hollywood actresses recently learned. Some of those investigative tools have insufficient protections and go too far, and turning on encryption on mobile devices by default doesn't change that.

    Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped law enforcement from twisting the nature of the Apple and Google announcements in order to convince the public that default encryption on mobile devices will bring about a doomsday scenario of criminals using "technological fortresses" to hide from the law. And sadly, some people seem to be buying this propaganda. Last week, the Washington Post published an editorial calling for Apple and Google to use "their wizardry" to "invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant."

    While the Post's Editorial Board may think technologists can bend cryptography to their every whim, it isn't so. Cryptography is about math, and math is made up of fundamental laws that nobody, not even the geniuses at Apple and Google, can break. One of those laws is that any key, even a golden one, can be stolen by ne'er-do-wells. Simply put, there is no such thing as a key that only law enforcement can use — any key creates a new backdoor that becomes a target for criminals, industrial spies, or foreign adversaries.
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  4. One of the more common responses we've seen to all of the revelations about all of that NSA surveillance, is the response that "Well, I don't think the NSA really cares about what I'm doing." A perfect example of that is long-time NSA defender Ben Wittes, who recently wrote about why he's not too worried that the NSA is spying on him at all, basically comparing it to the fact that he's confident that law enforcement isn't spying on him either:

    As I type these words, I have to take on faith that the Washington D.C. police, the FBI, the DEA, and the Secret Service are not raiding my house. I also have to take on faith that federal and state law enforcement authorities are not tapping my various phones. I have no way of knowing they are not doing these things. They certainly have the technical capability to do them. And there’s historical reason to be concerned. Indeed, there is enough history of government abuse in the search and seizure realm that the Founders specifically regulated the area in the Bill of Rights. Yet I sit here remarkably confident that these things are not happening while my back is turned—and so do an enormous number of other Americans.

    The reason is that the technical capability for a surveillance event to take place does not alone amount to the reality—or likelihood—of that event’s taking place....

    For much the same reason as I am not rushing home to guard my house, I have a great deal of confidence that the National Security Agency is not spying on me. No doubt it has any number of capabilities to do so. No doubt those capabilities are awesome—in the wrong hands the tools of a police state. But there are laws and rules that protect me, and there are compliance mechanisms that ensure that the NSA follows those laws and rules. These systems are, to be sure, different from those that restrain the D.C. cops, but they are robust enough to reassure me.

    Julian Sanchez has a blistering response to that, appropriately entitled Check Your Privilege, which highlights that while Wittes, a well-paid, white, DC-based policy think tank worker, may be confident of those things, plenty of other folks are not nearly so confident, and that the NSA has made it pretty clear that they shouldn't be so confident.
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  5. le variabili socio-demografiche come sesso, età, e istruzione, non incidono sulla gestione delle informazioni. Segna, invece, il grado di mobilità. Spiega Staiano: "Più l'utente si sposta durante il giorno, più tende a considerare i suoi dati importanti. La geolocalizzazione è considerata la notizia più personale e, quindi, più privata". "M'inquieta far sapere dove sono stato", "non voglio essere geolocalizzato": sono le frasi che il team ha sentito ripetere più spesso. "Tutto, si presuppone, che avvenga a un livello inconscio. Abbiamo poi notato delle anomalie: giorni in cui i volontari chiedevano, in cambio, una somma di denaro più alta". Si trattava di momenti particolari, in cui si sfuggiva alla solita routine: l'otto dicembre, giorno dell'Immacolata Concezione, e una mattina in cui a Trento c'era stata una tempesta che aveva bloccato il traffico. "Anche in quei casi, però, le persone monitorate non hanno chiesto che pochi euro e la cifra si abbassava tra chi era abituato a usare più applicazioni".

    i cosiddetti data broker, che grazie a smartphone, social network, cookies e sensori collezionano informazioni su chi siamo, chi conosciamo, dove siamo, dove siamo stati e persino dove progettiamo di andare. Con l'obiettivo di rivenderle, a nostra insaputa e con buona pace della privacy, alle grandi compagnie commerciali, assicurative e finanziarie pronte a usarle per pubblicità, polizze e crediti su misura. Il prezzo è di circa 0.0005 centesimi di dollari l'una, ha stimato il Financial Times lo scorso anno, ma la valenza è molto più alta perché, come avverte un report del World Economic Forum del 2011, minando e analizzando i gigabyte disseminati in rete e non solo è possibile "avere l'abilità di capire e persino predire dove gli umani focalizzeranno la loro attenzione e le loro attività a livello individuale, di gruppi, e globale", quindi anche che cosa compreranno.

    Uno scambio difficile da fermare e controllare: impossibile dire con esattezza che cosa finisce nelle mani di chi; una sola certezza: "L'unico a non aver alcuna voce in capitolo è proprio chi produce le notizie, cioè gli utenti",
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  6. n pratica, se l’utente utilizza l’app di Facebook per chattare presto dovrà per forza scaricare l’app di Messenger. Lo «switch» avverrà inizialmente in Europa e interesserà gli smartphone che usano Android e gli iPhone Apple, ma non è ancora stata fornita una data. Gli utenti cliccheranno su un’icona messaggio e saranno reindirizzati sull’app Messenger tramite la quale potranno mandare un messaggio, foto o fare chiamate gratis. Quindi tutti su Messenger e, in molti, già si chiedono: cosa ne sarà di WhatsApp? Perché il fondatore di Facebook dopo aver appena acquistato una app di messaggistica mobile multi-piattaforma, punta con così tanta decisione su Messenger? Cosa abbia intenzione di fare realmente Zuckerberg, al momento, non è dato sapere ma Facebook continua a smentire le voci di un consolidamento delle due applicazioni. Messenger non si unirà con WhatsApp. Per ora.
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  7. increasingly, the 21st century is being defined by the split between people who think your computer should do what you tell it, and people who think that you can't be trusted to control your own computer, and so they should be able to run code on it against your will, without your knowledge, and to your detriment.

    Pick a side.

    Australian Simon Gittany murdered his girlfriend, Lisa Harnum, after an abusive relationship that involved his surveillance of her electronic communications using off-the-shelf spyware marketed for purposes ranging from keeping your kids safe to spotting dishonest employees. As Rachel Olding writes in The Age, surveillance technology is increasingly a factor in domestic violence, offering abusive partners new, thoroughgoing ways of invading their spouses' privacy and controlling them.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-03-31)
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  8. The next threat to your privacy could be hovering over head while you walk down the street.

    Hackers have developed a drone that can steal the contents of your smartphone -- from your location data to your Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) password -- and they've been testing it out in the skies of London. The research will be presented next week at the Black Hat Asia cybersecurity conference in Singapore.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-03-26)
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  9. Technology concentrates power.

    In the 90′s, it looked like the Internet might be an exception, that it could be a decentralizing, democratizing force … but those days are gone … What upsets me, what really gets my goat, is that we did it because it was the easiest thing to do … Making things ephemeral is hard. Making things distributed is hard. Making things anonymous is hard. Coming up with a sane business model is really hard—I get tired just thinking about it.

    We put so much care into making the Internet resilient from technical failures, but make no effort to make it resilient to political failure. We treat freedom and the rule of law like inexhaustible natural resources, rather than the fragile and precious treasures that they are. And now, of course, it’s time to make the Internet of Things, where we will connect everything to everything else, and build cool apps on top, and nothing can possibly go wrong.

    Distributed algorithms, distributed data, distributed systems, distributed security: messy, tricky, complicated, a maze of vibrating tightropes stretched across an N-dimensional pit full of hungry failure modes with sharp teeth. Hard stuff.

    But not impossible.

    Just ask Satoshi Nakamoto.

    Beyond the hype and the greed, Bitcoin is powered by a genuine technical breakthrough(1), to a degree I did not properly appreciate when I first started writing about it. The “blockchain” — the engine on which Bitcoin is built — is a new kind of distributed consensus system that allows transactions, or other data, to be securely stored and verified without any centralized authority at all, because (to grossly oversimplify) they are validated by the entire network. Those transactions don’t have to be financial; that data doesn’t have to be money. The engine that powers Bitcoin can be used for a whole array of other applications…
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  10. The Guardian reports NSA general counsel Rajesh De is contradicting months of denials from the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple:

    Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies...Asked during at a Wednesday hearing of the US government's institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the "full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained," De replied: "Yes."

    Basically, we're back to the worst case assumption we all jumped to when news of PRISM and its spooky-sounding cousins first broke. But if the NSA's counsel is telling the truth—it's unclear if he'd be perjuring himself otherwise—the mega-vocal, orchestrated, tripping-over-their-own-chubby-legs protest campaign by Silicon Valley was a farce. They were in on it all along. Maybe they weren't happy about it, as Zuckerberg has brayed so loudly, but they were never in the dark—and a reluctant collaborator is still a collaborator.
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