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Here in prison, I am asked a lot about hacking and especially about Anonymous, because of course there is interest in new technologies like Bitcoin for money or darknets for fraud. After all, convicts – like hackers – develop their own codes and ethics, and they are constantly finding ways to scam and exploit cracks in the system.

The anti-government message of Anonymous rings true among prisoners who have been railroaded, condemned and warehoused. So when they hear about hacked government websites and cops getting doxed, my fellow inmates often tell me things like, “It’s good to see people finally doing something about it.” That rejection of established, reformist avenues for achieving social change is why Anonymous continues as a force to be reckoned with, made all the more obvious by the presence of Guy Fawkes masks at the protests in Ferguson, Missouri – and beyond. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Barrett Brown entered the federal courtroom shackled, with a slight swagger in his step and squinting into the light. He took his seat next to his defense team and quietly set about flipping through a stack of loose-leaf papers and then began writing. When asked by the judge if he knew why he was in court that day, Tuesday, Brown – who has spent two years in federal custody – leaned into the microphone and with a warbly Texas accent, said clearly and plainly, “I am to be sentenced today.” And then he returned to his papers.

Wearing a prison-issued orange uniform, the 33-year-old Brown scribbled for hours as a federal prosecutor attempted to portray him, not as a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Vanity Fair and the Dallas-based Dmagazine, but instead as a spokesman, strategist and contributor to the hacktivist collective Anonymous. It was the final phase of a criminal prosecution that at one point threatened Brown with more than 100 years in prison, as a result of his work on thousands of files hacked by Anonymous from the servers of HBGary Federal and Stratfor, security intelligence firms and government contractors. Through the online collective he founded, called Project PM, Brown analyzed and reported on the thousands of pages of leaked documents. The HBGary hack revealed a coordinated campaign to target and smear advocates for WikiLeaks and the Chamber of Commerce, while the Stratfor hack provided a rare window into the shadowy world of defense contractors. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Earlier this year, readers of the Tampa Bay Times’ fact-checking project PolitiFact were asked to vote on what they believe was the year’s biggest lie. And as of Wednesday, the results are in: “Climate change is a hoax” was the overwhelming choice.

Over nine other options, almost 32 percent of the PolitiFact’s 14,467 poll voters chose the “hoax” claim, which was the title of a video released this summer by failed congressional candidate Lenar Whitney. Whitney, who proclaimed herself as one of the most conservative members of Louisiana’s state Legislature, released a 5-minute tirade against climate scientists and the existence of global warming. To prove her point, Whitney stated that the earth is getting colder, that there is a record amount of sea ice in the Arctic, and that climate scientists have been proven to actively falsify their data. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

John Mellencamp first heard his 2003, antiwar, anti-Bush song on the radio while driving around his home state of Indiana with one of his sons. The DJ played “To Washington,” his update of the Woody Guthrie protest anthem, and asked listeners to call the station to report their reaction. One angry caller captured the mood: “I don’t know who I hate more, Osama bin Laden or John Mellencamp.” Mellencamp’s son asked his dad how he felt about having a freshly painted bull’s-eye on his back for right-wing venom, and he dispensed some fatherly wisdom, “Sometimes when you stick your neck out, your head gets cut off.”

For the first couple of days after the publication of my essay criticizing military worship, “You Don’t Protect My Freedom,” I certainly felt like my head was resting in the guillotine. On the day of publication I woke up to check my email and found thousands of messages, ranging from the mild (“I hope you die and burn in hell”) to the touching (“If I ever see you on the street, I will kill you.”) [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

In just a few days, the Army will launch the first of two massive blimps over Maryland, the last gasp of an 18-year-long $2.8-billion Army project intended to use giant airships to defend against cruise missiles.

And while the blimps may never stave off a barrage of enemy missiles, their ability to spot and track cars, trucks and boats hundreds of miles away is raising serious privacy concerns.

The project is called JLENS – or “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.” And you couldn’t come up with a better metaphor for wildly inflated defense contracts, a ponderous Pentagon bureaucracy, and the U.S. surveillance leviathan all in one. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Chikungunya virus has infected over one million people this year, but Big Pharma still isn’t stepping up

It’s a tale scientists are tired of telling: a disease that’s been carefully watched and studied for years is suddenly infecting an unprecedented number of people while promising drugs and vaccines sit on shelved, unfunded. [Read more]


Related Articles – Michael’s Blog

More journalists are in jail across the world at present than a year ago. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 220 journalists are in prison, an increase of nine from 2013.

It is the second-highest number of imprisoned journalists since CPJ started its annual census in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

Last month I wrote about the threat that TTIP represented to data protection and privacy in the EU because of its likely insistence that data flow as freely as goods. We still don’t know for sure how TTIP will be approaching this area, but today we had an important leak of a section from TISA – the Trade in Services Agreement – that forms part of a kind of trinity of trade agreements along with TTIP and the TransPacific Partnership agreement (TPP).

Although it is entitled “Trade in Services Agreement Proposal: New Provisions Applicable to All Services”, one of the biggest impacts of the text proposed by the US will be in the area of data protection. I was already concerned about the effect that TISA would have here when I wrote about the previous leak, but the new document is much worse. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog

On Privacy, Free Speech, & Related Matters – Richard Posner vs David Cole & Others | Concurring Opinions

This is the seventh installment in the “Posner on Posner” series of posts on Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner. The first installment can be found here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, and the sixth one here.

Privacy has been on Richard Posner’s mind for more than three-and-a-half decades. His views, as evidenced by the epigraph quotes above, have sparked debate in a variety of quarters, both academic and policy. In some ways those views seem oddly consistent with his persona – on the one hand, he is a very public man as revealed by his many writings, while on the other hand, he is a very private man about whom we know little of his life outside of the law save for a New Yorker piece on him thirteen years ago.

On the scholarly side of the privacy divide, his writings include: [Read more]

NSA Spying Scandal: SPIEGEL Stands Behind Merkel Cell Phone Spying Report | Spon

In June, German Federal Prosecutor Harald Range opened an official investigation into allegations the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. So far, though, he hasn’t made much progress.

The US signals intelligence agency has ignored all questions submitted by Range’s investigative authority. And Germany’s own foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), hasn’t provided any further assistance. [Read more]

Should privacy regulation be more than just data protection? | The Guardian

On 3 October 2014 Google was fined 2,250 Canadian dollars (£1,230) for publishing an image on its Street View feature that showed a woman’s cleavage. Despite blurring her face, her car registration number and house were clearly recognisable in the photo, negating any attempts at anonymisation. The Quebec court ruled that the woman’s privacy had been invaded and that she’d experienced a loss of personal dignity after facing a barrage of sexual harassment after the picture was published.

Privacy is a difficult topic for science and technology policymakers to grapple with, both viciously complex and floatingly abstract. The generally accepted definition of privacy is the “right to be let alone”. In contemporary policy circles, however, this definition bumps up against further issues around what constitutes public or private space; and a need to protect the integrity of the body. As the Google case indicates, data protection is not the sole issue that privacy policy has to deal with: privacy of behaviour and action; communication. “Body characteristics” (biometrics) also come into play. Technologies that collect, process, store and disseminate personal data are developing rapidly and becoming ubiquitous: think of the fitness tracker that knows rather a lot about where you go running; or the social network platform that can link together tagged pictures of your face with details of where you went to school. [Read more]

Bloomberg View Op-ed: Facebook’s phony privacy battle | The Salt Lake Tribune

When Facebook made user names, profile pictures and other personal information publicly available a few years ago, founder Mark Zuckerberg said that people had started to care less and less about privacy. He told TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington: “That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.” And he said that Facebook was changing to keep up.

But the reality is that technology companies — with Facebook leading the charge — pushed that norm to change. Corporate surveillance was the proposed trade-off for “free” Internet services, a deal that has now extended to most mobile apps. Users challenged this bargain, but over time, the idea that social networks and apps mine and sell our personal data became accepted. [Read more]

Tech, media firms back Microsoft in digital privacy case | Washington Post

Ten groups of top technology, media and business organizations on Monday filed legal briefs in support of Microsoft’s argument to a federal appeals court that the U.S. government cannot issue a search warrant to obtain customers’ e-mails held in another country.

The unusually high number of friend-of-the-court briefs and the breadth of groups that signed on reflect how significant the issue of privacy in the digital age is to U.S. industry. [Read more]

Where Tech Giants Protect Privacy | New York Times

FROM their glass-fronted office parks and start-up lofts in Silicon Valley, American tech companies oversee ever-expanding global empires.

Google has a bigger slice of the online search market in Europe than it does at home, where rivals like Microsoft still give it a run for its money. More than 80 percent of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users live outside the United States, with Brazil and India among the social network’s most important markets. And Apple, which generates roughly 60 percent of its revenue overseas, now sells more iPhones and iPads in Shanghai and St. Petersburg than it does in San Diego. [Read more]

Privacy and security in cyberspace: right of all or luxury of the few? | open Democracy

The universal right to privacy embodied in international human rights law is increasingly dependant on privileged access to digital security; nowhere is this link demonstrated more clearly than in the experience of civil society organisations (CSOs).

As detailed in a recently released Citizen Lab report, civil society actors on which the public relies to check abuses of power and advance human rights agendas – nongovernmental organisations, independent media and journalists, activists, and others – are regularly subjected to targeted digital attacks that undermine their privacy and compromise sensitive information. Such attacks include malicious emails that may infect the target’s computer when links or attachments are opened, or malicious code delivered through compromised websites. [Read more]

Edward Snowden and the Downside to the Industrial Internet of Things | Forbes

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the use of Internet of Things technologies by industrial organizations to deliver better performance and enhance competitive advantage — not only in an individual facility, but across an industrial organization’s supply chain and throughout its value network.

There have been many articles forecasting the explosive growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).   Without a doubt, IIoT things – industrial smart devices that connect to the Internet and are able to collect useful data – will greatly outnumber people by many times within a decade.  When one considers that IIoT things can include a company’s transportation assets, industrial equipment, the products made, and the containers that carry products across a supply chain, it is easy to see why this explosive growth is inevitable. [Read more]

Edward Snowden calls Amazon’s encryption practices ‘morally irresponsible’ | Geek Wire

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden doesn’t want the government snooping on what you are researching or purchasing on, or what he called “the world’s largest library.”

“Let’s encrypt your browsing habits. Let’s encrypt the world’s library,” he said, during a talk on Friday at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., reports The Washington Post. [Read more]

Sony leaks, CIA report highlight the ‘Snowden Privacy Paradox’ | townhall

The ongoing leaks of confidential business data from Sony Pictures Entertainment and the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of enhanced interrogation techniques by the Central Intelligence Agency have something in common. Call it the “Snowden Privacy Paradox.”

The Sony leaks and the so-called torture report are being celebrated by transparency cheerleaders who hypocritically want the strictest privacy safeguards applied to them and to those who share their worldview, but who inadvertently undermine everyone’s privacy (including their own) by aggressively promoting a culture of transparency. [Read more]


Related Articles – Michael’s Blog

Meet the Christian soldiers fighting for their lives against ISIS | Haaretz

Commander Johan Cosar stands on the rooftop of an abandoned home in the Syriac Christian village of Gharduka, about 60 kilometers southwest of Malikiya in Syria’s northeastern corner. He points toward a vast field: “That’s where Islamic State is, one and half kilometers from here,” he says, referring to the organization that is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The rundown building serves as a military base for the Syriac Military Council (also known as MFS), the Syrian-based military branch of the Mesopotamian National Council, an international organization founded to aid Syriac communities around the world. The soldiers, members of the oldest Christian community in the world, are fighting a battle to keep their identity alive and their homeland from falling into the hands of what they call foreign invaders. They work hand-in-hand with the community’s security force, Sutoro. [Read more]

Turkey’s Religious Schools Rise as Erdogan Exerts Sway | New York Times

When Semra dropped off her 13-year-old daughter for the first day of high school, she had to fight back tears as she entered the dimly lit basement classroom, brightened by the red of the girls’ head scarves and the walls emblazoned with Quranic verses written in Arabic script.

Semra had spent years working overtime at her cleaning job, saving enough to pay for extra courses that she hoped would secure a place for her daughter at an academically rigorous secular school. But after taking the admissions test under Turkey’s system for allocating slots in public schools, her daughter was one of nearly 40,000 students assigned to the state-run religious schools. [Read more]

Turkey’s ultras at the forefront of resistance | Al Jazeera

Being a Besiktas suporter, a member of the renowned Carsi ultras, is not just about being a football fan. Founded by a group of school friends in 1982, the Carsi ultras have been struggling against despotism and tyranny for more than thirty years now. The famous Turkish writer Esber Yagmurdereli once said: “I am not in opposition because I’m a Besiktas fan, I’m a Besiktas fan so I am in opposition.”

For 35 Carsi ultras this idea is all too real. Today they are facing trial in Turkey for their participation in the Gezi protests last year. The have been charged with plotting to overthrow the government and are facing lengthy prison sentences. They are also accused of being part of an “armed group” and “possessing unlicensed weapons”. [Read more]

Middle East ‘most dangerous’ for journalists in 2014 | Al Arabiya

As 2014 comes to an end, international media watchdogs highlight another gloomy year for journalists in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Armed conflicts and the fast military expansion and savagery of ISIS militants witnessed this year have guaranteed that the MENA region is once again ranked amongst the world’s most dangerous regions for journalists to report from, with Syria leading the “world’s deadliest countries for journalists” list for a third year in a row, according to Reporters Without Border’s (RWB) annual roundup report released on Tuesday. [Read more]

The Statue of Liberty Betrays Syrians | Syria Untold

In the collective memory of Syrians, the United States has been long associated with vicious conspiracies, to the point where its name became synonymous with the word evil. This was partly because of US policy, and specifically its support for Israel and Arab tyrants. However, it was also influenced by the nationalist agenda of the Ba’ath party, which had Syrians convinced that there is no time for internal reform, while America is at the door.

In the wake of the uprising, Syrian people found solace in the speeches of president Obama that periodically emphasized that “Assad’s days are numbered”; and observing the firm stance of the US against Assad, they were willing to offer America a clean slate. [Read more]

Libya’s Tawerghans stuck in limbo | Al Jazeera

Tawergha remains a desecrated ghost town more than three years after the Libyan revolution, when armed groups from Misrata, nearly 40km to the west, drove their neighbours from their homes.

A desolate silence hangs over Tawergha’s empty residential flats, schools and shops, which have been looted and smashed by mortar and bullet shells. Graffiti covers the charred concrete walls, including tributes to revolutionary fighters and caustic insults about the town’s former residents. [Read more]


Related Articles – Michael’s Blog


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