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First POST: Too Big to Read Our Mail

BY Micah L. Sifry | Friday, February 21 2014

Too Big to Read Our Mail

  • Security expert Bruce Schneier writes an oped for CNN arguing that the NSA should be broken up. Diverging from some anti-surveillance activists, he praises the agency's "Tailored Access Operations" group for its ability to secretly break into "the enemy's computers," but blasts NSA's dragnet collection of domestic and foreign civilians communications data and its "deliberate sabotaging" of once-thought-to-be-secure commercial encryption systems and the like, which "destroys our trust in the Internet…and makes us more vulnerable."

  • The most interesting part of of Schneier's piece is his suggestion that instead of focusing on breaking online security (the "signals intelligence" gathering role) it instead emphasize communications security. He writes:

    Computer and network security is hard, and we need the NSA's expertise to secure our social networks, business systems, computers, phones and critical infrastructure. Just recall the recent incidents of hacked accounts -- from Target to Kickstarter. What once seemed occasional now seems routine. Any NSA work to secure our networks and infrastructure can be done openly -- no secrecy required.

  • "Millions of Americans are now virtually incarcerated in algorithmic prisons," writes Bill Davidow in the Atlantic. How so? Through data-driven profiling that corporations and government use to predict everything from our credit worthiness to our behavior.

  • Eric Lipton details Comcast's "web of lobbying and philanthropy" for the New York Times.

  • Not included in Lipton's list of the ways Comcast has cultivated Washington powerbrokers and grassroots organizations alike: the time the company promised to expand its partnership with the nonprofit Common Sense Media as part of a list of "public interest commitments" that it made as part of its FCC filing seeking approval of its purchase of NBC Universal. As noted by Susan Crawford in her book Captive Audience, Common Sense Media was "a pet charity of [then-] FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski…whose board he had helped form years earlier."

  • Twitter says the Venezuelan government is blocking the posting of images from the opposition protests surging across the country.

  • Matthew Ingram reports that "for those inside and outside of Ukraine and Venezuela, social media is the only media that matters."

  • The Times' Jen Preston reports that a 22-year-old Venezuelan beauty queen, Genesis Carmona, who is one of five protesters killed in anti-government demonstrations there, is rapidly becoming an icon, thanks to social media.

  • The Open State Foundation has launched Diplotwoops, which tracks deleted tweets by diplomats and embassies. Here's their gleanings of what various diplomats have retracted related to the Ukraine crisis.

  • Ur-tech blogger Om Malik has announced that he's retiring from the news business to join the early stage VC firm True Ventures, though he will continue to occasionally contribute to Gigaom, the site he started. "Living a 24-hour news life has come at a personal cost," he notes, and "it is time for me to opt out." We'll miss your sage voice, Om!

  • "Citing the scandals embroiling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the Republican Governors Association today ordered its members to discontinue the use of e-mail, 'effective immediately',” Andy Borowitz "reports" for The New Yorker.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

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wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

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The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

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monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

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friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

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