BuzzFeed reports: Egyptians’ online communications are now being monitored by the sister company of an American cybersecurity firm, giving the Egyptian government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others.
See Egypt, the sister company of the U.S.-based Blue Coat, won the contract over the summer, beating out the British Gamma System, and the Israeli-founded Narus System. See Egypt has begun monitoring Egyptians’ online communications, according to several Egyptian government officials who spoke to BuzzFeed News.
“See Egypt has already worked with the government and has strong ties to the State Security Services,” said one official. He asked to remain anonymous, to protect his position within the government. “They were a natural choice and their system is already winning praise.”
While Egypt has tracked online communication in the past using surveillance systems that allowed officials to loosely monitor local networks, See Egypt is the first time the government will be widely using the Deep Packet Inspection technology that enables geolocation, tracking, and extensive monitoring of internet traffic. [Continue reading...]
As I have written here before, as much as we should fear the immense power of intelligence agencies such as the NSA, it’s important to recognize that secrecy does not merely function as an instrument of power — just as importantly it functions to conceal incompetence.
The agencies want to sustain their mystique as the valiant and stealthy defenders of national security. What they dread is being seen as over-funded bunglers.
On November 29, 2012, the internet went down in Syria. The following day, the Washington Post reported:
Though the rebels and the Syrian government blamed each other for the prolonged outage, most technology experts believe Syrian authorities caused the blackout to try to impede the rebels’ interactions and online broadcasts of the fighting.
More honest reporting might have said, it’s anyone’s guess what happened, but for what it’s worth here’s some speculation from some so-called experts.
It turns out, apparently, that the experts were wrong and the cause of the outage was a bungled NSA operation.
James Bamford has just done an extended interview with Edward Snowden which includes this:
By the time he went to work for Booz Allen in the spring of 2013, Snowden was thoroughly disillusioned, yet he had not lost his capacity for shock. One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO — a division of NSA hackers — had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn’t know that the US government was responsible. (This is the first time the claim has been revealed.)
Inside the TAO operations center, the panicked government hackers had what Snowden calls an “oh shit” moment. They raced to remotely repair the router, desperate to cover their tracks and prevent the Syrians from discovering the sophisticated infiltration software used to access the network. But because the router was bricked, they were powerless to fix the problem.
Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation’s Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage. Back at TAO’s operations center, the tension was broken with a joke that contained more than a little truth: “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.”
Even though I spend too many of my waking hours on the internet, like a hamster on an endlessly spinning wheel, I have some sympathy for John R. MacArthur’s disdain for online publishing. Indeed, it’s probably because of this sense that the internet has an unlimited capacity to eat time that I see some appeal in the idea that we might return to a pre-digital age of print.
But the passionate defense of print media that the publisher of Harper’s magazine makes, falls apart when we learn this:
On several occasions during a recent interview, he could not quite remember a fact that supported a point. His version of searching for it on Google was yelling to a staff member, who hurried to deliver the information.
Who needs Google when they have staff?
But perhaps the more relevent question would be: who needs to use Google when they have staff who can use Google?
MacArthur’s argument against online publishing is that the web isn’t “much more than a gigantic Xerox machine” that prevents publishers and writers getting paid.
Even so, when he somewhat dismissively refers to the internet as a place where people go to blow off steam, I wonder whether he is oblivious of the degree to which he indirectly relies on it — like a man who says he doesn’t need to know how to cook because all his meals get delivered by caterers.
MacArthur might believe his argument is against those who promote online media and thereby undermine the economic viability of publishing, but maybe he should imagine how he would make his case with Gutenburg.
Whereas Gutenburg came up with the means of making the written word accessible to the masses and thereby democratized human expression, the revivalists of print seem more interested in restricting access of their publications to their well-heeled subscribers.
MacArthur might believe that everyone who is cultivated enough to appreciate a quality literary magazine will also be able to afford paying for it, but in making that assumption he represents the American liberal elite with its over-sized sense of being liberal and its downplayed status as an elite.
Quartz reports: As his own website crashed under the weight of public comments on net neutrality, the top communications regulator in the US was hearing protests directly from tech companies in New York City.
On July 15, at the Brooklyn office of the handicrafts e-commerce site Etsy, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler met with executives from tech companies. Attendants included Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler, Tumblr CEO David Karp, Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor, and representatives from Spotify, Reddit, Foursquare, General Assembly, Buzzfeed, and Warby Parker, participants told Quartz. While the FCC declined to comment on the event, it will be filing an official notice of an outside meeting on its website later this week.
Wheeler has been meeting with different internet stakeholders as his agency moves to write rules designed to preserve the “open internet” this year, but what that means and how to do it remains far from a settled matter. While internet service providers, or carriers, want the freedom to charge different rates for different kinds of data, these technology firms were asking Wheeler’s agency to treat internet communication as a public utility with no discrimination allowed, a so-called “Title II reclassification.” US regulators are, at the moment, caught in the middle. [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: A black S.U.V. recently rolled through the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and stopped in front of the converted warehouse that is the global headquarters of Vice Media. Out of the vehicle stepped the media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Mr. Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox owns a small stake in Vice, and he was visiting Brooklyn to meet with Vice’s chief executive, Shane Smith. Among the topics at hand was a rumor that Vice was negotiating to collaborate with, and perhaps sell a large stake to, one of Fox’s competitors, Time Warner.
Fox is discussing a deal with Vice, too. So is Disney. Any agreement is likely to value Vice, which started as a free magazine in Montreal in 1994, at $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. A partnership could take many shapes. But Vice, which has produced just 11 hours of programming expressly for television, is seeking its own TV network, a movie deal and a lot of money for its founders and investors.
The digital disruption that is transforming the news and entertainment businesses has led to many odd alliances, but few seem more incongruous than one that would join Vice with a corporate media conglomerate. Though financing itself mostly by making videos in partnership with large corporations, Vice has assiduously cultivated an insurgent image, with its tattooed news correspondents, hand-held cameras and journalistic stunts like sending the former basketball player Dennis Rodman to North Korea.
Along the way, Mr. Smith, 44, has routinely criticized the mainstream media and traditional television. If he can reach a deal with one of these companies, he will be joining the club he has professed to disdain.[Continue reading...]
Pando reports: We’re in the second decade of the advertising and marketing revolution brought on by the Internet, one that has ripped the heart out of the print media industry. Digital content is targeted and responsive now, offering marketers detailed insight into who clicked, who read, and who shared.
Except the sad thing is, as evidenced by Contently’s The State of Content Marketing Measurement report, a survey of 302 marketers across April and May, is that no one really knows if the new information on offer makes any sense.
The statistics are staggering: 91 percent of marketers Contently spoke to had some level of uncertainty to whether the content performance analytics they used were a good gauge of business impact. [Continue reading...]