You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: Disruptors

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, May 20 2014


  • The Intercept's Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras report that the NSA records and archives the audio "of virtually every cell phone conversation" in the Bahamas, retaining them for playback for up to a month. They note that "nearly five million Americans visit the country every year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey."

  • The NSA program apparently uses "lawful intercept" access obtained by the Drug Enforcement Administration, piggybacking on equipment used to tap suspected drug kingpins, to obtain this country-level data. Why the Bahamas, a country that poses little threat to the US? "The country's small population," they write, "provides a manageable sample to try out the surveillance system's features."

  • They report that under the same program, codenamed Mystic, the NSA is also collecting phone metadata in Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, "and one other country, which The Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence." That unnamed country is also being targeted for "full-take recording," they note.

  • The Intercept's decision to not name that other country set off a full-blown flame war on Twitter between Julian Assange using the @WikiLeaks account and Greenwald, BuzzFeed's Miriam Berger and Miriam Elder recount, complete with Assange accusing Greenwald of racism, and Greenwald telling Assange he was being absurd.

  • The CIA is halting the use of vaccination programs as covers for covert operations, Lena Sun reports for the Washington Post. The agency was responding to a letter from the deans of 12 American schools of public health, who wrote the White House, "“This disguising of an intelligence-gathering effort as a humanitarian public health service has resulted in serious collateral consequences that affect the public health community."

  • Now, according to the same logic, if only the NSA would stop exploiting flaws in antivirus software, as Chris Soghoian argued back in 2012 at PDF.

  • Anti net-neutrality Members of Congress get more than twice the average in contributions from the cable industry, Cory Doctorow notes in BoingBoing.

  • In Gizmodo, Ashley Feinberg explains in detail why the FCC's 99-page proposed rulemaking on net neutrality isn't a balanced call for an open discussion, but in fact "almost entirely consists of tentative conclusions" that would inevitably lead to the adoption of new "fast lane" services wanted by Internet service providers.

  • In a keynote address marking the opening of NYC's annual Internet Week, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared that he was committed to delivering "universal, high-speed Internet access across this city," Crain's NY Business reports. He also aligned his administration with the tech sector philosophically, saying that both were "agents of change" and "disruptors."

  • De Blasio is setting up a broadband task force, pushing for more competition, and promising to re-examine the franchise agreements the city has with Verizon and Time Warner Cable "“to hold them accountable for providing the kind of service they’re obligated to,” reports Jill Colvin in the New York Observer.

  • Making change from within the tech industry is hard, writes Kim-Mai Cutler for TechCrunch in a thoughtful essay. The best quote goes to former Apple exec Peter Hirshberg (a PDM friend), on civic hackathons:

    “There’s this conceit that if you’re well-intentioned and you think you’re a good developer, you can show up at a very real problem that is systemic, not knowing anything about it, put 48 hours into it, help it and walk away. It leads to something like a civic Tourette’s syndrome. It’s not that the tech industry doesn’t mean well. They’re just busy and naive and then they just show up in matters of community and into very real problems.”

  • Cathy O'Neill (aka Mathbabe) has a smart post about whether open data is good or bad: the issue is really about power. She writes, "I like to keep an eye on who gets data collected about them. The power is where the data isn't."

  • Organizing for America is cutting its staff in half to 100 and backing off its courting of big donors as Democrats face the fall elections, Ken Thomas and Josh Lederman report for AP.

  • "If you want to melt the Internet, best to traffic in emotion, researchers have found," writes Natalie Kitroeff for the New York Times, in a story about what videos go viral. Well, duh. Upworthy's Sara Critchfield shared that secret about their viral success at PDF 2013.

  • Gabriella Coleman explains why she is backing the fundraising campaign on behalf of the Paypal14: "The time has come for those of us who believe in the right to dissent online to help them raise the funds so the can resume their interrupted lives."