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First POST: Connections

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, August 12 2013

Making the Connections

  • What the connection between Edward Snowden and Jeff Bezos? Jay Rosen finds it: "It's whether Bezos has the inner strength to go up against the most powerful and secretive forces on the planet." That is, as the new owner of the Washington Post, which helped break the Snowden story, and also took part in publishing the Pentagon Papers, Bezos will eventually face his "free press moment." Rosen pulls no punches, noting that when the Wikileaks "Cablegate" controversy arose, Amazon summarily kicked the leaks site off its servers.

  • "The biggest threat to privacy was Moore's Law," says cryptographer Phil Zimmerman, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy. Om Malik has a long and fascinating interview with him covering the dangers of big data, the rise of the surveillance state and how public policy needs to be changed.

  • Jennifer Hoelzer, Senator Ron Wyden's former deputy chief of staff, tears apart President Obama's assertion during his Friday press conference that "What makes us different from other countries is not simply our ability to secure our nation. It's the way we do it, with open debate and democratic process." She notes that his Attorney General, Eric Holder, refused a classified request from Senators Wyden, Russ Feingold and Richard Durbin, asking that key information be declassified to allow a "productive debate on reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act" in 2009,and that again in 2011, when Congress again took up extending the law, Obama did nothing to foster an open debate. She adds:

    "…a big part of the reason the American people are having a hard time trusting their government is that the public's trust in government is harmed every time the American people learn that their government is secretly doing something they not only assumed was illegal but that government officials specifically told them they weren't doing. Hint: When the American people learn that you lied to them, they trust you less."

  • Ladar Levison, who shut down his encrypted email service Lavabit rather than submit to as-yet-undisclosed government demands, sees parallels between his case and Aaron Swartz's, in terms of "prosecutorial misconduct."

  • Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, asks in Politico, "Does President Obama think we're stupid?" and praises Edward Snowden as potentially "the most influential whistleblower in American history."

  • In Germany, three big internet service providers have announced that they have begun automatically encrypting their users' email. The CEO of Deutsche Telekom said they took this step because "Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data." But security experts in Germany say these promises are "pure marketing" and should not be trusted.

  • Wikileaks has started a Free Edward Snowden fund to help pay for his legal defense.

  • Jeff Jarvis argues that tech companies "risk losing business--not only from skittish customers, but also from corporate and foreign-owned clients," if they don't stand up for their users' privacy and demonstrate more resistance to government spying online.

  • Is Anonymous secretly inside the US Army? That's what this Buzzfeed interviewee claims.

Other news from around the web:

  • The code base that powers mySociety's parliamentary monitoring flagship, TheWorkForYou, and its cousins in Africa and elsewhere, has a new name: Pombola.

  • Some recycling bins in London are picking up the unique ID numbers of the mobile phones of passersby, reports Siraj Datoo in Quartz, so advertisers can target people the bins recognize. The system picks up those IDs whenever someone leaves the Wifi on the phone on. With just twelve trackers installed, the system picked up more than one million unique devices.

  • Cory Booker's start-up Waywire has been looking for a buyer, an effort that sped up after Senator Frank Lautenberg passed away and created the open seat that the Newark Mayor is running for, The New York Times reports.

  • Speaking of Booker, here's our Sarah Lai Stirland's stage-setter on tomorrow's Democratic Senate primary and how Booker won the techie crowd.

  • Twitter has formed a political action committee, Twitter#PAC. Its lead lobbyist, William Carty, is a former aide to Republican members of Congress.

  • Does a candidate's "tweet share" predict their vote share, regardless of whether the mentions of their name are positive or negative? That's the counter-intuitive finding of four political scientists who examined more than half a million tweets mentioning candidates for Congress in 2010.

  • Twitter as nervous system: Patrick Meier on "Taking the Pulse of the Boston Marathon Bombings on Twitter."

  • Ian Urbina discovers "socialbots" for the New York Times. See also this Storify of the "Bots for Civic Engagement" panel from SXSW 2013.