You are the product

“What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does—‘connect’, ‘build communities’—and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.” John Lanchester does not know what will happen should this $450 billion penny ever drop.
www.lrb.co.uk

How not to get phished

“Most humans can tell the difference most of the time, but if they are tired, or stressed, or in a rush, or have any number of other common obstacles to computer use, there’s a good chance they won’t notice the difference, will type their password into the wrong site, and will have their account taken over by bad guys.” Jacob Hoffman-Andrews identifies password managers as the average human’s best defence against phishing attacks.
jacob.hoffman-andrews.com

Britain is still a world-beater at one thing: ripping off its own citizens

“Whether as taxpayers or consumers, pretty much everyone in Britain is now human feedstock for Big Capital. This may not be how you see yourself. After all, you’re a customer and in our dynamic, choice-stuffed markets the customer is king. Except that the propaganda doesn’t match reality.” Aditya Chakrabortty asks what Britain is actually for.
www.theguardian.com

Teaching humility in an age of arrogance

“Everything from the ads we read to the political news in our Facebook feed is tailored to our preferences. That’s incredibly useful for buying shoes and finding good restaurants. It is easier than ever to get and share information, but the information we get often reflects ourselves as much as it does anything else. Less noticed is that this has an effect not only on how we regard others, but on how we regard ourselves.” Michael Patrick Lynch suggests we take greater care to balance humility and conviction.
www.chronicle.com

Don’t feel sorry for refugees—believe in them

“We take in so few refugees worldwide. We resettle less than .1 percent. That .1 percent benefits us more than them. It dumbfounds me how the word refugee is consided something to be dirty, something to be ashamed of. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity. There are 65.3 million people who have been forced out of their homes because of war. The largest number in history. We are the ones who should be ashamed.”
Luma Mufleh
www.ted.com

Katz-und-Maus-Spiel der Polizei mit dem Rechtsstaat

“Es ist schlicht und ergreifend nicht wahr, dass die Kritik an Hamburgs Polizeiführung nur von einer ‘militanten linken Szene’ komme, wie Innensenator Grote Glauben machen will. Dass es letztere gibt und dass sie extrem gewaltbereit ist, bezweifelt niemand. Doch wenn Grote sagt, es gebe zwar viele, die auch friedlich campen wollten, aber ‘wir können sie nicht von potenziellen Gewalttätern trennen’, dann ist dies schlicht und ergreifend ein Offenbarungseid. Denn genau das ist nun einmal Aufgabe der Polizei. Man stelle sich vor, die Polizei würde mit ähnlicher Begründung Bundesligaspiele verbieten, weil sich im Stadion auch Gewalttäter aufhalten.” Andrej Reisin formuliert seine Kritik an der Vorgehensweise der Polizei vor und während des G20-Gipfels in Hamburg.
www.daserste.de

Papering over poverty

“The Tories last year voted against a housing bill, right, this bill, it wasn’t asking much, it wasn’t attempting to turn Buckingham Palace into temporary housing for sex offenders. It was suggesting that private landlords have a legal obligation to ensure their properties are fit for human habitation. What sort of fucker votes against that? I wonder how many of the seventy Tory MPs, who are also private landlords, voted against that, including David Cameron? I’ll give you a clue: it was all of them!” Jonathan Pie, played by British actor Tom Walker, suggests that a healthy UK economy would need to do more than to create an environment in which only the wealthy do well.
www.youtube.com

Conversations

“Welcome to this introduction to Conversations. It is gonna be a great introduction. It’s gonna be fabulous. Other instant messengers have fought Conversations for many years, but they couldn’t beat it. Just couldn’t do it. Total loosers. They’re all dead now. All the other messengers have failed. Forget WhatsApp, okay? Signal …total disaster. Threema is so bad, it’s not even a real messenger. It’s fake. Threema is a fake messenger. Converstations has got to be the best messenger in the world. It’s huge. OMEMO. You’ll love it. Best protocol. Tremendous. Absolutely fantastic. Nobody has messengers better than Conversations. This messenger is so big, you can even see it from the moon. And I am going to make you pay for it. It’s true. Important people tell me that Conversations is so great, it’s unbelievable. So great, it’s beautiful. Conversations is the best instant messenger that God ever created.”
conversations.im

Why are people so angry? Blame modernity

“The modern world’s cherished ideas of liberty, equality and prosperity are more popular than ever before. The problem is that it is difficult for the vast majority of the human population to realise them.” Pankaj Mishra appearing on yesterday’s Newsnight programme.
www.youtube.com

Senate intelligence committee study on CIA detention and interrogation program

“The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.” Senator Dianne Feinstein released the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program just over two years ago. Never has an awareness of its findings on the use of torture been more important than today.
www.feinstein.senate.gov

The swedish kings of cyberwar

“Among the many questions posed by Scandinavia’s embrace of mass surveillance is one that has lingered at the margins throughout the Snowden debate: Are advanced democracies any different than their authoritarian counterparts in seeking to gain broad access into the private lives of citizens?” Hugh Eakin shines a light on the underreported activities of Sweden’s FRA in spying on people everywhere.
www.nybooks.com

With thanks to Michael August

WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages

​“(Tobias) Boelter reported the backdoor vulnerability to Facebook in April 2016, but was told that Facebook was aware of the issue, that it was ‘expected behaviour’ and wasn’t being actively worked on.”
www.theguardian.com

Earlier, I posted two messages for my friends on Facebook. One with my Threema address, the other with the above quote and link to the article critical of Facebook’s conduct. Within hours, the latter had mysteriously disappeared from view. I don’t routinely use Facebook and now I know why: on this evidence, nobody gets to see much of what I post there, anyway…

Corporate censorship is the process by which editors in corporate media outlets intervene to disrupt the publishing of information that portrays their business or business partners in a negative light.”
wikipedia.org

The human factor

​“The episode should have been a non-event, and one that would not last long. The airplane was in the control of the pilots, and if they had done nothing, they would have done all they needed to do.” William Langewiesche examines the reasons behind the crash of Air France Flight 447, one of the “most perplexing and significant airline accidents of modern times”.
www.vanityfair.com