Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’

Social media revolution coverage overview

July 11, 2009

image2aRecent appraisals of using social media for social change have been on an accelerated track. Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, etc are claimed to be either aiding or hurting democratic participation and free speech. The pattern of appraisal seems to start with hype, refutation, following with reasoned reassessment. For example, the hype – Thomas Friedman’s “The Virtual Mosque” NYTimes op/ed (June 16), refutation – Jeremy Scahill’s blog post and Tweets taking to task  Friedman’s piece (June 16), and the reassessment – Teharani’s piece in GlobalVoices. Sometimes this pattern can be observed over one person’s responses – i.e. Shirky’s initial excitement over social media as a social force, and his support of Twitter’s use in Iran’s post election demonstrations, and his reversal based on new data (see: Will Heaven’s piece in UK Telegraph). Teharani points out, as do others (Evegeny Morozov and Patronus Analytical), that there could be important limitations to social media use, as well as opportunities. To sum/crib Teharani:

1-Communication tool for reformists leaders Twitter and Facebook along with reformist websites such as Ghlamnews help communicate the decisions of reformist leaders and pass on the message.

2-Closing the gap between Iran and the world Iranian tweets reached thousands around the world and by following and re-tweeting people get involved.

3-Twitter does not organize demonstrations: Reformist leaders and their supporters make decisions to organize protests and they communicate it through different means.

4-Tweets can misinform people: either through reflex/impulse retweets or through malicious infiltration and disinformation (see Patronus Analytical for more on this).

5-Tweeting is recycling news and tips Information pool -most people tweet what they read on websites, and have also shared useful tips and information to help Iranians circumvent internet filtering and censorship.

6-Misunderstanding the sender: Sometimes tweet information form online sources without checking the facts, or without mentioning any references.

7-Activism and agendas: Most Iranians who tweet are activists supporting the protest movement and promoting a cause. Their information should be double-checked and not be accepted at face value.

Another important reassessment is Ted Friedman’s Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinsm , which recognizes and responds to the unmistakeable US hype over Twitter’s social media revolution, attributing it to technological determinism or “a familiar American narrative of technological utopianism, in which hopes for social and political transformation become attached to the promise of new technologies.” Friedman gives a balanced view first looking at the benefits of cyber utopianism, which “momentarily transcend immediate pragmatic concerns” helping imagine new possibilities and a “radically different future.” But he also looks at the dangers of technological utopianism, which can “simply replace military utopianism as a self-serving imperial fantasy;” that democratic change cannot simply happen through military or technological means. The dialectic, then, is to “distinguish cybertopian hopes from the messier reality, without giving short shrift to either.” Well stated.


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Filtering PC’s in China, and monitoring the filtering

June 17, 2009
_iceUrlFlag=1EFF reports “The Chinese Ministry of Industry and IT’s announcement that all PCs sold in China must include government-approved filtering software is a profoundly worrying development for online privacy and free speech in that country.”

The software called “Green Dam Youth Escort” would be able to “collect IM and email conversations, install keyloggers, relay microphone and webcam recordings. It could prevent or detect the use of web proxies (the primary method of Chinese citizens seeking an uncensored Internet), and scan for privacy-protecting software like Tor and PGP.”

“Herdict Web” – Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s  tool for “tracking global web (in)accessibility” is now available in Mandarin.

Not sure if this tool will be able to monitor the new filtering by PCs, but if Herdict Web itself is filtered, how will Chinese know what they are not getting access to?

Is the government spying on Americans? Yes, yes they are…

October 13, 2008

NSA Whistleblowers blow lid off program that violates US citizens’ privacy. “Intercept operators” have come forward about their jobs spying on Americans, including listening in on “pillow talk between US military officers and their spouses.” President Bush assured us that they only listened in on phone calls that involved al qaeda. Turns out, they were instructed to listen to and store everything. Egregious – an indictment of all “who have been saying that the executive branch can be trusted with surveillance powers that are essentially unchecked,”   Jameel Jaffer, director of the national security program at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Government data mining an exercise in futility for war on terror

October 13, 2008

Data mining and behavioral surveillance technologies currently besing used by federal agencies to identify potential terrorists have been found to be “too unreliable to be of any real value,” and not feasible,” according to a new 376-page report “Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists,” issued by the National Research Council (NRC).

Interesting to note the failure of data mining for identifying terrorists when it is driving online ad targeting practices (ad serving) based on behavioral advertising methods (DoubleClick). Maybe terrorists are giving up far less than regular online consumers, and thus cannot generate a rich profile.

companies can surveil your web browsing

August 4, 2008

Web Filtering Moves to the Cloud

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/04/web-filtering-moves-to-the-cloud/