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First POST: Taking Over

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, November 26 2013

Taking Over

  • Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) say "End the NSA Dragnet, Now" in a New York Times op-ed, and criticize their colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee for ratifying a surveillance reform bill that "would explicitly permit the government to engage in dragnet collection" and "to conduct warrantless searches for Americans' phone calls and emails."

  • The Times has a nifty feature, the "op-doc," a forum for short, opinionated documentaries. This one, by Brian Knappenberger, explains why ordinary people should care about the NSA's online surveillance, starring Sen. Ron Wyden, Daniel Ellsberg, David Sirota, Gabriella Coleman, and Kurt Opsahl.

  • How the NSA probably hacked Google and Yahoo by targeting the weak spot in their infrastructure: the fiber-optic cables that connect their data centers.

  • The Justice Department is unlikely to indict Julian Assange, reports the Washington Post. “The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller told the paper's Sari Horwitz. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

  • Twitter has implemented tough new user security measures and is urging users to expect the same from other web services.

  • In a long analysis in Politico Magazine predicting a populist wave against "plutocratic" government, Democratic political strategist Doug Sosnik predicts that the issue of privacy will gain salience:

    The privacy issue will gain more attention as technology continues to improve and becomes more invasive. The issue isn’t a partisan one. It is hard to distinguish between the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations when it comes to placing limits on gathering and using people’s personal information for what they perceive to be in the national interest. Moving forward, we are likely to see the curbs and restrictions throughout Europe become more of the norm in our country as the public begins to voice its outrage at what they view as intrusions into their personal lives.

  • The issue of killer robots is no longer just for science fiction, as the New York Times reports.

  • Kate Torney, the Australian Broadcasting Company's news director, pushes back against critics who say its reporting of Australia's bugging of the Indonesian Prime Minister's cell phone went too far. "These are strange days indeed when elements of the media are arguing that stories legitimately questioning the use of power should remain hidden because they may have too great an impact. This is not an argument you normally hear from journalists," she says.

  • Paul Carr and his colleagues at NSFW Corp. are joining Sarah Lacy's PandoDaily. "The two companies are very similar and very connected," Carr told The Guardian. "Sarah and I are interested in this huge story that is happening at the intersection of technology and the rest of the world. Tech is taking over everywhere."

  • Carr's move to PandoDaily, which has been backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, among others, prompted a tart tweet from Glenn Greenwald: "Apparently, being funded by (actual) libertarian Silicon Valley billionaires with Paypal ties is OK after all." That's a reference to Carr's having published a one-sided attack on Pierre Omidyar, who is funding Greenwald's NewCo journalism startup.

In other news around the web:

  • won't be ready by the end of November, reports The Hill.

  • President Obama was heckled to stop deporting undocumented immigrants during a speech at a public event in San Francisco. What made the moment unusual: the heckler was a member of the the officially-approved audience backdrop group.

  • USA Today has told its staff it will stop using "handout photos" from the White House press office. It is one of several news organizations that have protested the Administration's tendency to produce its own media, Tass-style, rather than let news organization photographers have even limited access to the president. But in a digital age, isn't everyone media?

  • Using data from and other online research, Tim LaPira of James Madison University and a team of student assistants, found that about half of the people who get paid to influence public policy did not report lobbying in 2013. "That is, for every one lobbyist who does the public the favor of disclosing his or her activities, there is one shadow lobbyist listed in the director who does not." Former Members of Congress and White House staff are more likely to disclose their lobbying than former federal bureaucrats, they found.

  • Rachel Botsman offers some helpful definitions for the sharing economy.

  • Michelle Goldberg fleshes out the background of Linda Tirado, aka "KillerMartinis," whose eloquent blog post in a Gawker forum about the terrible decisions poverty makes her make blew up online last week.

  • The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is planning to dog Hillary Clinton in early primary states, even if it can't get its hero Elizabeth Warren to run, reports Buzzfeed's Ruby Cramer.

  • Is 23andMe, the personal genome testing company, deliberating courting a fight with the FDA, or just dumb? That's the question Matthew Harper of Forbes asks in light of the FDA's blunt warning letter to the company to stop selling it diagnostic kits. Apparently, 23andMe has not responded to the agency's importuning since May.

  • Your typical technolibertarian may actually be a neoreactionary--that is, they may think aristocracy is preferable to democracy. Klint Finley explains more in TechCrunch.

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