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First POST: Phubbing

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 4 2014


  • In the Intercept this morning, Ryan Gallagher details how the NSA's Aurora Gold program secretly spies on hundreds of companies and individuals globally in order to better hack into cellphone systems, and also secretly introduces flaws into communications systems to more easily tap them. "The operation appears aimed at ensuring virtually every cellphone network in the world is NSA accessible," he writes.

  • In Vanity Fair, Sarah Ellison has an excellent and detailed report on the turmoil at Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media. She writes, referring to Omidyar and co-founder Glenn Greenwald: "Here’s the basic recipe: Combine two types of strong-willed visionary—one cool and analytical, the other fervent and outspoken. Add a dash of messianic outlook to the ingredients. Heat under pressure. Could the result have turned out any other way?" One new detail: the role of Arianna Huffington in helping Omidyar think through his original plan for First Look's online efforts.

  • Despite reports of electronic spying on prior climate negotiations, delegates at the Peru round of UN talks now under way are nonplussed about the likelihood that they are being secretly surveilled, reports Alleen Brown for The Intercept. "Everybody and his dog spies on us," says Ronny Jumeau of the island nation Seychelles.

  • Responding to Blake Ross' harshly anti-government post about Uber and Nevada yesterday, Facebook's Josh Miller writes, "In this and other tech industry critiques of government regulation, I am struck by the divisive, definitive tone that people in our world use when talking about the government and its actions. The arrogance, and lack of acknowledgement for the complexity of these issues, is astounding." His larger message: "We're all on the same team."

  • Why it matters how campaigns bombard your in-box: it's personal, writes Martha Patzer of 270 Strategies for us.

  • Hillary Clinton and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) currently have the lion's share of mentions on Facebook and Twitter, according to new data given to Politico by both companies, reports Hadas Gold.

  • Facebook's News Feed continues to under-emphasize actual breaking news in favor of personal fluff, according to my informal sounding on Twitter last night as the #EricGarner non-indictment news spread across the country.

  • A coalition including the Dish Network, Public Knowledge, Glenn Beck's The Blaze network, the Writers Guild have formed the "Stop Mega Comcast Coalition" to expand the fight against the Comcast-Time Warner merger, reports Emily Steel for the New York Times. More details here.

  • BuzzFeed has a list of "14 emerging tech companies that are going to change the world," none of which will change the world in a meaningful way, unless you think saving time shipping packages to your friends or booking a trip equals changing the world.

  • I learned a new word this morning: phubbing. And yes, "phone snubbing" your significant other by paying more attention to your mobile phone than the person standing next to you can make them mad at you; Nick Bilton of the New York Times even found serious academic research discovering that!

  • New York City's comptroller Scott Stringer is criticizing the planned LinkNYC free Wi-Fi program, arguing that it will actually accentuate existing inequality by delivering the fastest service to the wealthiest (read: most advertising lucrative) neighborhoods years ahead of other parts of the city, reports Matt Flegenheimer for the New York Times. Stringer is also concerned about the 12-year length of the contract with the consortium of companies providing the new service, pointing out that the city has "a long and checkered history with technology contracts." Memorably, he points out, "“This is for 12 years. In Year 12, there will be an iPhone 87. It will walk. It will take my kid to school.”