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First POST: Challenges

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, February 24 2015


  • The relationship between Silicon Valley Democratic donors and putative 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will likely pivot along two different lines, report Philip Rucker and Matea Gold for the Washington Post. Hard-core techies offended by the NSA's hacking of their systems may not warm to her much, while women fighting the industry's overall tilt already love her. Or, as longtime fundraiser Wade Randlett, who sits on the national finance committee of Ready for Hillary put it, "Out here, middle-aged women are the equivalent of the 22-year-olds in 2007. They are as crazy for Hillary as the kids were for Barack.”

  • Semi-related: At yesterday's cyber-security summit at New America, Alex Stamos, Yahoo's chief information security officer, challenged NSA director Michael Rogers over the government's continued insistence that tech companies install "backdoors" in their consumer products to allow authorities to circumvent encryption. Here's the highlights of their exchange:

    "So it sounds like you agree with [FBI] Director Comey that we should be building defects into the encryption in our products so that the US government can decrypt…" Stamos began…."That would be your characterization," Rogers said, interrupting him. "No, I think... all of the best public cryptographers in the world would agree that you can’t really build backdoors in crypto," Stamos replied. "That it’s like drilling a hole in the windshield."

  • Stamos also asked Rogers: ""If we’re going to build defects/backdoors or golden master keys for the U.S. government, do you believe we should do so — we have about 1.3 billion users around the world — should we do for the Chinese government, the Russian government, the Saudi Arabian government, the Israeli government, the French government?"

  • John Reed of JustSecurity has the full transcript of the Rogers-Stamos exchange.

  • At the same conference, a top Justice Department official, John Carlin, told the audience that people "proliferating ISIS social media" could be criminally charged under anti-terror laws, reports Shane Harris for The Daily Beast.

  • Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald did a Reddit AMA yesterday. And yes, someone did ask this question about Snowden's life in Moscow: "Is winter harsh? Do you ever want to go out, but wake up and find yourself suddenly snowed in?" (Snowden liked the joke.) Snowden's title for his verifying picture on Imgur also implies a familiarity with Reddit's wilder side.

  • More seriously, here's Snowden on why strong encryption is needed to protect the people's right to dissent.

  • CitizenFour, which just aired on HBO, is also available via the Internet Archive.

  • Location data extracted from Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)'s Instagram feed is the basis of the blockbuster AP story by Jack Gillum and Stephen Braun showing how he has spent taxpayer money and donor funds on private planes owned by key donors and other expensive perks. They explain, "The AP extracted location data associated with each image then correlated it with flight records showing airport stopovers and expenses later billed for air travel against Schock's office and campaign records."

  • TechDirt's Mike Masnick can't resist pointing out that Rep. Schock, who has said that Edward Snowden committed treason, is now the victim of metadata surveillance.

  • Here's Ethan Roeder, the executive director of the New Organizing Institute, on the financial and management challenges facing the linchpin progressive group.

  • Carol Davidsen, Obama 2012's director of integration and media targeting, has joined Rentrak, a top provider of consumer viewership information.

  • Remember Occupy Wall Street? The Debt Collective, one of its spinoffs, has just abolished another $13 million in student loan debts owed to the for-profit Corinthian colleges, and it is now backing a group of 15 Corinthian students who are demanding relief on their federal student loans too, as Sarah Jaffe reports for The Guardian.

  • In the future, we won't use Google to search, says Alex Iskold, the managing director of NYC Techstars. We'll have a text-based conversation with a mobile app, he predicts.

  • Cool tool: USOpenData recently released "Let Me Get That Data For You"--a free, open source tool that creates a machine-readable inventory of all the data files on a given website.