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First POST: Profanity

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, October 31 2013


  • Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani break open a whole new layer of the NSA surveillance scandal, reporting in the Washington Post that the agency "has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials." The agency collects millions of records a day, ranging from metadata to the content of emails, audio and video.

  • As Gellman and Soltani note, "The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process." Both companies responded with dismay.

  • Shown an NSA presentation slide on "Google Cloud Exploitation," two engineers close to the company "exploded in profanity," their story notes.

  • The cryptographers behind Silent Circle and Lavabit are working on a new secure email system that will automatically use peer-to-peer encryption, Slate reports.

  • The Italian magazine Panorama reports that the NSA was eavesdropping on the Vatican's phone calls.

  • Carne Ross, author of The Leaderless Revolution and founder of Independent Diplomat, argues in the Guardian that we shouldn't rely on national legislatures like Congress to fix the problems raised by the NSA scandal. In a networked age, he says, "We need a rebalanced contract between people, companies and state, where all make and supervise commitments to privacy, transparency and collective safety: a new social contract, but not between government and us, but between all and all, self-government and regulation that conforms to the nature of the internet itself."

  • The Obama Administration has committed, yet again, to upgrade its administration of the Freedom of Information Act, as part of its commitments at this week's second annual meeting of the international Open Government Partnership in London, Alex Howard reports for techPresident.

  • Edward Snowden is about to start a job working for a major internet company in Russia, his lawyer says.

  • Meanwhile, Firedoglake's Kevin Cosztola reports that attorneys in Germany are working with left-wing politicians there to bring Snowden to testify on the spying allegations currently roiling the country, and in exchange received asylum.

  • While almost nothing moves through Congress these days, state legislatures are starting to pass an assortment of new privacy laws addressing everything from drone usages to how much schools can collect student data, The New York Times reports.

In other news around the web:

  • Building on a recent public conversation that she had with Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Joan Blades, co-founder of, has started a petition calling on MoveOn members and other Americans to "pledge to help our leaders and our communities to engage in respectful dialogue and to look for ways to solve problems cooperatively."

  • The Economist explores "The Omidyar way of giving."

  • From Pew's Stateline: "Why States Need Social Media Policies."

  • The New York Times picks up on yesterday's Rand Paul plagiarism stories.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

Orkut and Why Facebook Beats Out Local Social Networks

Orkut, Google’s social network platform once beloved in Brazil, will soon shutter with Facebook taking its place. Mark Zuckerberg's social network currently not only operates but also dominates in every time zone, making it at this point in time, an empire upon which the sun literally never sets. GO

tuesday >

#FlashHacks: Crowdscraping Corporate Data to Understand "The Man"

You probably work for “The Man.” If not you, then someone close to you does, and even if you have no friends or family, your government is almost certainly doing business with him. Wouldn't it be nice to know a bit more about the so-called “Man”? Thanks to the massive open data project OpenCorporates, you now can, and they are intensifying their data opening efforts with #FlashHacks, a crowdscraping campaign launched today. The campaign goal is to release 10 million data points on the companies you work for, work with, buy from, sell to, and deal with in tangible and intangible ways every day, and all in just 10 days.


New York City Payphone WiFi Project Presents Opportunities and Challenges

While some technologists who have experience in the space share the concerns of some New York City Council members and current payphone franchisees that the city's decision to award the project to only one franchisee or one joint venture could hurt the project, the city and one of the companies preparing a response to the Request for Proposals see the approach as the best way to ensure a standard experience, competition and innovation. From both perspectives, the project illustrates how the vision for more accessible WiFi in New York is tied to the potential for innovation within the established procurement system. GO

That's So Meta: To Test Digital Democracy, Crowdsourcing Comments on Digital Democracy

For more than a month now, Wikimedia Meta-Wiki, the global Wikimedia community site, has hosted a little experiment in digital democracy. Carl Miller, co-founder of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos-UK, and Wikimedia UK's Stevie Benton wanted to see whether the mechanisms that govern Wikipedia could be applied to political policy. The opportunity to do so arose when the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced the Commission on Digital Democracy, an investigation into how digital technology can be used to improve democratic processes, and solicited comments from the public.


monday >

Weekly Readings: The "Snooper's Charter"

The UK wants to increase surveillance; Russia demands Google, Facebook and Twitter open local offices and hand over user data; Tunisians debate on social media whether to boycott the next election; and much more. GO