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First POST: Turning On

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, June 4 2014

Turning On

  • Google is rolling out an alpha version of "end to end" encryption to its email service, that will function as an extension in Chrome browsers and is built on top of OpenPGP, Stephan Somogyi, a security and privacy product manager blogged for the company yesterday.

  • Assuming this new extension passes muster with the open source security community, it could make it much easier for ordinary web users to encrypt their emails. This could be a very big deal, though as Brian Behlendorf, one of the primary developers of the Apache Web server, tweeted, "How might one check that their Chrome extension isn't backdoored (due to an NSL)? You still have to trust Google". (A NSL is a "national security letter," used by the government to secretly demand private information from and on targets.)

  • Related: Google issues a transparency report looking at how much various email providers encrypt email in transit, based on inbound and outbound traffic to its own servers. Scoring poorly: Hotmail and MSN.com.

  • Some expert iPhone hackers explain to Andy Greenberg of Wired how the NSA, or some other adversary, can turn on the microphone or other apps on a seemingly turned off iPhone and use them to spy on people. Added bonus: how to be sure your phone is really, really off.

  • German federal prosecutors have opened a formal investigation into the NSA tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone, the AP reports.

  • The ACLU counts a partial win against "tower dumps"--mass data hauls given to law enforcement of every cell phone that connects with a cell tower during a set period of time--in a recent court ruling in New York.

  • Almost half of adult Americans under 35 say they have been bullied, harassed or threatened online, or know someone who has been, according to a new survey done by Rad Campaign, Lincoln Park Strategies and Craig Newmark of craigconnects. Lots more details here. The survey will be discussed further during the "Sex, Lies and the Internet" panel at Personal Democracy Forum this Thursday.

  • Leaked documents show the Egyptian police are actively soliciting tech companies to provide them with more tools for real-time monitoring of social media.

  • We assume that has nothing to do with this: The Secret Service is buying software that will enable it to monitor users of social networks in real-time, including "sentiment analysis" and the "ability to detect sarcasm," according to contract documents unearthed by Aliya Sternstein of NextGov.

  • After taking a lot of criticism from human rights activists, Facebook has dropped sponsored posts from Bashar al-Assad's re-election campaign, Adam Taylor reports for The Washington Post.

  • Emily Parker offers a portrait of Vietnam's emerging online civil society in The New Yorker. She'll be speaking at PDF on Thursday.

  • Abhi Nemani, ex-co-director of Code for America, is back from some R&R and sharing his brainstorms for a whole bunch of interesting ways to make consumer apps more civic. For example, get Streetbump onto Ridesharing apps.

  • John Oliver's hilarious call to arms about net neutrality Sunday night on HBO may have caused the FCC's comments system to go down Monday morning.

  • For some reason, last night's posting online of Maureen Dowd's New York Times column on her bad trip on the pot-infused candy she ate in a Denver hotel room, led to a hilarious outpouring of tweets by writer Sarah Jeong imagining Thomas Friedman eating brownies with his daughter's Yale roommates. It's a minor masterpiece of Twitter fiction.