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Thursday: Hotter than Hell

Have a little indie synthpop if your day isn’t hot enough. The artist Dua Lipa lives in London; she originally moved to the United Kingdom in the 1990s with her parents who are Kosovar-Albanian. Imagine a UK to which artists like Lipa cannot easily immigrate.

Money, money, money

  • HSBC’s global head of Forex trading in London arrested at JFK on Tuesday (Bloomberg) — Mark Johnson was picked up before his flight by the feds; his counterpart, Stuart Scott, HSBC’s former head of currency trading in Europe, has also been charged with Johnson for conspiracy to manipulate currency based on insider information. The transaction on which the case is based took place in 2011, earning HSBC $8 million on a $3.1 billion deal. Gee, I wonder if these guys worked the pre- and post-Brexit fall of the pound.
  • Mastercard snaps up UK’s VocaLink for $920M (Businesswire) — Should probably keep a tally of UK businesses bought while pound is still down from pre-referendum highs. VocaLink gives Mastercard huge reach in payroll and household bill processing across UK and access to a substantive majority of UK consumer data.
  • Subzero bond yields: who’d have predicted this? (Bloomberg) — Analysis of overall trends this year, including flights to safety and their effect on the market. Still trying to wrap my head around subzero bond yields; does this make sense to pay for safekeeping without expectation of increase in value at the end? What might this do to consumption and growth?

Daily dose of cyber

  • Forbidden Research: fixing “leaky” cellphones (MIT Media Lab) — Electrical engineer/hacker Andrew “bunnie” Huang and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden published a paper presented at today’s MIT’s Forbidden Research event, outlining their work countering surveillance abuse by law enforcement. Journalists in particular are targets for surveillance; their cellphones “leak” all kinds of information about them and their location which airplane mode does not shield. Huang and Snowden propose a method for monitoring radio transmissions by a cellphone, including GPS, and a means for killing the transmissions. Abstract here, and the paper itself here. Very straightforward reads even for the non- to low-tech audience.
  • Dead man’s prints brought back from the dead (Fusion) — Law enforcement approached a Michigan State University professor Anil Jain and his PhD student Sunpreet Arora and asked them to recreate a dead man’s fingerprints in order to unlock his phone. There are few details disclosed about the case — not even which law enforcement agency made the ask — but the phone belonged to a murder victim and may contain information about his murderer. Or so the story says.
  • UK’s largest internet provider suffers two days of massive outages (TechRadar) — Outages have been blamed on power failures, but no additional information offered on reasons for power loss. Coincidentally, a C1 solar flare which began on July 17 caused radio disruption and aurora over the last 15-24 hours — might have made the situation worse.
  • France’s National Data Protection Commission says Microsoft Windows 10 operating system gathers too much personal data (Libération + BetaNews) — Surprised La Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) haven’t cuffed up Microsoft sooner given every version of Windows “phoned home” within information about its users and devices when patching and updating. Why is it Windows 10 in particular doesn’t comply with their Data Protection Act — is it the sniffing of users’ navigation data? Microsoft responded to CNIL’s complaint, not denying the claim but only saying it will work with CNIL on a solution. Right, then.

Tonight’s dinner and a movie: Jujubes and Ghostbusters. Yum. Stay cool, look after elderly neighbors and pets who need a reprieve from the heat.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Monday: Gotta’ Catch ‘Em All

[NB: Embedded video contains adult language NSFW]

I had a very disturbing conversation with some 18-to-20-somethings this weekend about privacy and networked communications. I can’t decide if I’m pissed off or terrified that these particular youngsters believed:

  • Most young people their age don’t care if their privacy has been compromised;
  • If they care at all, they believe it’s not a big deal, there’s little danger because they can just shut off the GPS/location and voice features on their phones;
  • This is the way it is with technology and there’s no way to change the status quo.

I know for certain not all youngsters in this age group feel this way, but what set this particular group apart is their privilege. They are going to school in business and education at some of the best schools in the country. Their educations are paid for in full and they know they have jobs waiting for them. Their political heritage is conservative — anti-tax, pro-business, with a Christian fundamentalist spin. They are the next generation of elected officials because they can afford to run for office.

They are what a well-to-do public school district created, and what will come out of a top ten business school: people who don’t give a shit about anybody else’s needs for privacy, because they simply don’t see any risks to their way of life.

The entire conversation began because they were questioning my opsec habit of covering my cellphone camera lenses. When I pushed back about their habit of waving their phones around without any respect for others’ privacy, the topic rapidly went south. It didn’t matter, nobody was following them, they didn’t need to worry; whoever wanted to track them already had all their information anyhow. And still not a lick of concern about anybody else’s privacy, safety and security, free speech, freedom from unwarranted seizure…

And now comes Pokémon Go, the augmented reality mobile device game which this particular cohort had yet to play with on their cellphones. I’m sure they’ve since loaded on their phones without a second thought about the gross failure of Pokémon Go’s privacy policy let alone its ridiculously broad request for device permissions.

Stay away from me, kids. Far, far away. Go ahead and give me a hard time again about protecting privacy rights. Treat me like an old lady yelling at you to stay off my lawn, and I’ll find somebody to tell your super-conservative mother what kind of porn you’ve surfed while you claim you’re at the library studying on her dime. I’m sure I can get somebody to do it for the price of a Pokéstop lure and a Clefairy water Pokémon.

Meanwhile, protesters documenting civil rights abuses by hyper-militarized police have risked their freedom and lives doing so. Like the protesters and reporters seen in the short video taken of Baton Rouge Police arresting protesters gathered peacefully on private property yesterday, forcing their way into a private home and pushing around its residents. Or Ramsey Orta, who videoed the chokehold death of Eric Garner, harassed repeatedly by NYPD since then and jailed, or Chris LeDay’s suspicious arrest after he posted video of Alton Sterling’s murder by Baton Rouge police. These citizens and the journalists who covered them are surely concerned about their privacy and the chilling effect on their free speech a lack of privacy protections will cause for them as individuals and as activist groups and news outlets.

And it’s these people those privileged 18-to-20-somethings I spoke with will never consider as they navigate their way through the rest of college and into the business world. It’s no wonder they believe there’s no way to change the status quo; they aren’t taught to think outside the tight confines of their safe little world nor do they face any threats inside their narrow groove.

I grieve for the future.

FIVE DAYS
That’s all that’s left for in-session days on the U.S. House calendar for July. I see nothing in the remaining schedule directly related to the Flint Water Crisis. Only California’s ongoing water shortage will have a hearing. While the House fiddles, Flint area nonprofits continue to raise money to buy bottled water for city residents. The city water system is allegedly safe, but we all know the entire city is riddled with damaged pipe causing one Boil Water Notice so far this summer. Lead pipes continue to service homes. The roughly 8000 children poisoned so far don’t need even a smidgen more lead from those water lines. But All Lives Matter, right?

I hope every journalist covering an incumbent’s House or Senate campaign will ask what the candidate has done while in office to address both Flint’s GOP-inflicted man-made catastrophe and future crises of a similar nature given underfunded EPA mandates for clean drinking water and equally underfunded infrastructure replacement.

Don’t even get me started on Congress’ weak gestures on Zika, especially after the first Zika-related death in the U.S. this past week and ~1133 patients who’ve tested positive for Zika, including ~320 pregnant women. Zero effort to encourage birth control among at-risk population, let alone adequate warning to the public that unprotected sex as well as mosquitoes spread the disease.

Po po no no

  • Suspect fires on Houston police during 7-hour showdown; SWAT team subdues him using gas (KTRK) — Look, ma, no deadly force! Gee, I wonder what the suspect’s race/ethnicity is?
  • Tiny study without peer review based on unreliable data claims whites shot as often as blacks by police (NYT) — Harvard researcher looked at 1,332 shootings by 10 police departments in Florida, Texas, and California across fifteen years to come up with this swagged conclusion. There was so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin. Even the lead researcher’s personal experience suggests there’s a problem with the data. The New York Times simply regurgitates this without any push back. After all the video evidence we’ve seen since Ferguson, should we really believe police-supplied data from such a small sample of nearly 18,000 police departments? We really need a mandatory collection of data from all police departments based on standardized methods combined with an audit. There’s more accountability in banking than there is in police use of force — and we all know how that turned out after 2008’s crash.
  • Dallas shooter was ‘changed’ by military service (The Blaze) — Once interested in becoming a police officer, formerly happy extrovert Micah Johnson became withdrawn, disappointed during his military service. Wonder if he suffered from untreated PTSD and depression after leaving the military? Wonder how many law enforcement officers likewise were former military who sublimated their post-service frustrations? Are we doing enough to help former service persons ease back into civilian life?

Enough. I’m already wishing for Tuesday.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Sunday Buffet: Domestic Drones, Cosmic Clouts, and More

photo: Parrot AR Drone via Amazon.com

photo: Parrot AR Drone via Amazon.com

Here’s an assortment of goodies that crossed my tablet over the last 24 hours or so. Which of these tidbits fires you up?

•  The Verge reported Friday that a new bi-partisan privacy bill sponsored by representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) targets the use of drones in the US.

“As written, it would ban police from operating unmanned aerial vehicles armed with weapons of any kind, and any drone surveillance operation would require a warrant notifying the target within 10 days, except when the notice would “jeopardize” an investigation. It also requires they make efforts to “minimize” the amount of data collected or shared, to avoid violating privacy unnecessarily. …

…Fears over the use of drones have increased lately as both President Obama and his counterterrorism chief John Brennan refused to answer whether lethal strikes could be used against American citizens on US soil. …”

When drones can be remotely operated by iPhone or Android cellphones and cost less than $300, we’re way past time for this bill. It might not hurt citizens to act locally as Charlottesville, Virginia has, enacting a ban on their use in their municipality. Think a drone couldn’t possibly slip by you to monitor you without permission? This one pictured here is only 22 inches long, comes equipped with a 720p high-def camera on board–imagine it hovering and peering in your bedroom window, or your kid’s room, its video output watched from an iPhone miles away.

•  Friday’s meteorite-asteroid-meteorite triple whammy certainly shook up the globe. What? You didn’t hear about the third one? Apparently when the smaller meteorite passed over California about 7:42 pm PST, the media had already used up its allotment of cosmic-related coverage for the week. Or year. Anyhow, objects hit our planet all the time that we don’t notice or publicize widely; it was the rare confluence of a near-miss asteroid and a larger-than-average meteorite within a 24-hour window that only made us think earth’s pummeling by space debris is unusual. Given that meteorites and asteroids are not all that rare, it seems like we’d do more to be prepared for impacts–especially since we’ve had pretty decent guesstimates about the damage space objects could inflict.

•  Speaking of science, science writer Philip Ball looks at the discovery of the microscope and its dramatic impact on science and religion. Technology that allowed us to look at our world at meta-scale has also had an impact on our perspective; the famous “blue marble” photo* from an Apollo mission is credited with increasing public interest in ecological studies, environmental protection, and space exploration. What technology will encourage us to get our tails in gear on climate change?

•  Finally, this photo-dense piece gives me pause. I was two years old when these were taken; what an incredible year that was. I wish I’d been old enough to remember any of these events, and yet, I’m glad some of them were well behind us by the time I was school-aged. Some of these photos remind me how little things have changed. Just Google “church arson” or “race hate crime” and you’ll see what I mean.

By the way, I’m open to suggestions as to naming these collections of newsy bits and pieces. Leave me your thoughts in comments. Thanks!

* When I first drafted this post, I didn’t know today marked the anniversary of the similarly important “pale blue dot” photo. How time flies.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Google Boondoggle With No Such Agency

spy-who-loved-meEllen Nakashima has a startling, but I guess unsurprising, article in this morning’s Washington Post on internet giant Google’s new partnership with the NSA:

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google — and its users — from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google’s policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans’ online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users’ searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

The article indicates Google initiated the matter by approaching the NSA after the recent discovery of intrusive attacks by Chinese interests last month, which is interesting in light of the fact Google made a point of publicly stating in 2008 they had never cooperated with the NSA on the Terrorist Surveillance Program.

Nakashima also notes that NSA is also soliciting involvement of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. You have to wonder exactly what the FBI and DHS are going to lend that NSA cannot if this is truly just technical advice, because neither agency is particularly known for its geeky brilliance with computers. You would have to wonder is this is not a step in the direction of the “cyber protection” program the government has been hinting at initiating for some time now.

More from Nakashima and the Post:

“As a general matter,” NSA spokeswoman Judi Emmel said, “as part of its information-assurance mission, NSA works with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates to ensure the availability of secure tailored solutions for Department of Defense and national security systems customers.”

Despite such precedent, Matthew Aid, an expert on the NSA, said Google’s global reach makes it unique.

“When you rise to the level of Google . . . you’re looking at a company that has taken great pride in its independence,” said Aid, author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the NSA. “I’m a little uncomfortable with Google cooperating this closely with the nation’s largest intelligence agency, even if it’s strictly for defensive purposes.”

Mr. Aid isn’t the only one a little uncomfortable with this new spirit of cooperation between the world’s most spooky governmental spy agency and the world’s most ubiquitous information technology and database company. And so the descent down the slippery slope picks up a little more speed.

(Image courtesy of SearchEngineWatch.com, a very nice resource by the way)

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.