You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

First POST: Weird Nerds

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, March 19 2014

Weird Nerds

  • Starting in 2009, the NSA has been collecting, recording and saving 100% of some foreign country's phone calls, keeping them for a month so they can be played back in full when needed, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani report for the Washington Post. At least six countries are being targeted by the program, code-named RETRO.

  • They add, "Present and former U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide context for a classified program, acknowledged that large numbers of conversations involving Americans would be gathered from the country where RETRO operates."

  • Edward Snowden appeared at TED via a two-way robot simulcast, and renewed the call he made at SXSW for tech companies to make encryption a standard feature of their services. David Rowan wrote up a full report for WiredUK.

  • Snowden's appearance at TED was a bit of a Rorschach test for various tech luminaries there, judging from their responses:

    • Pulled up on stage to join Snowden, Tim Berners-Lee called him "a hero" and called for a "Magna Carta" for the Internet.
    • Chris Sacca, a top investor in Twitter, Instagram, Kickstarter and Uber, tweeted, "I admire him and am grateful for his work."
    • Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, posed happily with Snowden as he "wandered" the halls.
    • Matthew Stepka, also of Google, tweeted, "I'm not sure I would call Snowden a hero since he has caused such harm, and especially by seeking refuge in Russia."
  • Caspar Bowden, an independent privacy advocate, notes that Tim Berners-Lee talked about using dragnet data collection at Davos this year.

  • Writing for us at techPresident, Matt Stoller debunks four key myths about the surveillance state.

  • Robert Litt, the general counsel for the office of the director of national intelligence, told a Sunshine Week conference panel in Washington that leakers like Edward Snowden should go to jail, while the government should be more transparent about its secret intelligence programs, Josh Gerstein reports for Politico.

  • In the wake of a controversy over Buzzfeed's use of public tweets by users sharing stories of their rapes, Jillian York offers a nuanced answer: Tweets may be public but journalists, especially those with big platforms, should think twice before amplifying them.

  • People, especially People of Silicon Valley, are sharing juicy secrets anonymously online, and the New York Times is ON IT.

  • Responding to Nate Silver's offended defense of his mainly hiring men for his relaunched FiveThirtyEight ("We're a bunch of weird nerds. We're outsiders, basically"), Zeynep Tufekci responds with sociology and Dr. Seuss. She writes, "If brogrammer culture opposes macho culture, it does not follow that brogrammer culture is automatically welcoming to other excluded groups, such as women."

  • Cranky Young Man Watch: Continuing his war on the use of words that start with "in," Harvard graduate student Evgeny Morozov lashes out in The New Republic at the latest trendy buzzword: "innovation."

  • NASA and NOAA are working with Microsoft, Google, Intel and others to make more data-driven tools that will enable communities to understand and deal with climate change in more resilient ways.

  • Responding to Seattle's decision to cap the number of UberX, Sidecar and Lyft cars on its streets, local VC Greg Gottesman has pulled together a hilarious list of other forms of innovation that should also be capped, starting with: "1.To protect the legitimate interests of the U.S. Postal Service and keep the price of stamps reasonable for our citizens, the City should cap the number of emails we send to no more than five per day."

  • The Knight News Challenge just closed its opening round, with 665 entries representing a resounding vote of enthusiasm for the goal of strengthening the free and open Internet. Now comes the public feedback phase, so dive in and add your voice. Oh, and check out our submission, to create Personal Democracy Center, a community center for the Internet public in NYC. We'd love your comments on it.