Pando

NSA

  1. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes says government has a role to play in tech

    Public policy has a role in determining the future of technology and the extent to which tech companies can track us, Facebook co-founder and The New Republic owner Chris Hughes told Sarah Lacy at PandoMonthly in New York on Thursday evening.

    By Hamish McKenzie , written on

    From the News desk

  2. Can a so-called "superphone" succeed where the Ubuntu Edge failed?

    This summer, Canonical tried to raise $32 million for its Ubuntu Edge smartphone, a high-powered device meant to close the gap between mobile devices and desktop computers. It failed, despite raising the most funding -- $12.8 million -- of any Indiegogo project to date.

    By Nathaniel Mott , written on

    From the News desk

  3. By Nathaniel Mott , written on

    From the News desk

  4. The NSA in 7 years: The view from dystopia

    FROM: David Holmes, September 10, 2020 TO: David Holmes, September 10, 2013 SUBJECT: NSA Dear David, This is David. Yes, you. From the future. Hi. No, don't hit delete! This isn't some new low in PR pitchery or a practical joke. This is the real deal. Google figured out how to time-shift email BACKWARDS. Maybe to warn their executives about something. As you'll see, there are a lot of things they -- and you -- should've done differently. It's 2013 for you, the era people referred to as the “Summer of Surveillance.” That was seven “Summers of Surveillance” ago. Actually it’s the Summer of Surveillance year-round now thanks to global climate change, but I'll save that for another email. It’s not that the NSA’s desire to surveil its citizens has intensified over the past seven years. Nor are there fewer legal protections. Nor are tech companies any more likely to be in bed with the government. From a judicial and corporate standpoint, it was bad then, and it's bad now. But the problem today is that our everyday lives have become more "connected" than ever. I'm not talking about the social fabric here. I mean we're literally jacked into an omnipresent Internet 24/7. Most of us wear cameras on our faces. Our vital signs are under constant observation by invisible robot doctors. And all that data is stored by technology corporations with a direct line to the US government. I guess we should've seen this coming. But the year is 2020, and you know what they say about hindsight. So what's everyday life like for an average American like me (I mean, you. I mean, us.) seven years from now? The first thing I do when I wake up is put in eye drops. Like the other 40 percent of Americans who once owned smartphones, I use Google contact lenses. (Apple's are too expensive and only work with other Apple products.) But damn, they make my eyes itch. At the edge of my peripheral vision I see an animated ad for the McDonald's below my crappy apartment, even though I hate McDonald's and only went there once to grab a soda. For all the advancements made in GPS-targeted advertising, brands still don't get it. Of course it's not the brands I worry about. Now, whatever Google knows, the government knows. And Google knows a lot. But hey, I'm not a terrorist or anything. Why should I care what the government knows? I'm not wanted for murder or for sending emails filled with suspicious keywords like "Allah" or "falafel." My current beef with the government is more commonplace: The IRS says I owe $20,000 in back taxes. Really, I just checked the wrong box on my tax return, and it'd be quite easy to clear up. But it's too late. No need for anything as old-fashioned or inefficient as a wage garnishment. That's so 20th century. The government has my encrypted bank account information, and the money's already gone. I can appeal, but appeals are only for those who can afford to monkey with the legal system. Sure, I could make a fuss about it, maybe send a raven to the New York Times and hope it doesn't get intercepted by anti-raven quadcopters. But then I remember what I did last night. There was a party, I was a little tipsy, and someone offered me a drug. Not a virtual hit or one of those downloadable "tabs" that simply plays tricks on your mind, but a real, physical pill. And there's no doubt that my wearable medical diagnostic sensors, which measure my blood pressure, heart rate, radiation, and toxicity levels, detected it. I didn't want to install the full Google Body workup, I swear, but between the ultra-resistant germ strains floating around and the radiation fallout, of course (I'll explain later), it's important to stay healthy and monitor these things. I probably won't get busted. The feds have bigger fish to fry. But if I cause trouble, they've got dirt on me. Even without the body sensors, there's a good chance I was caught on tape last night. Most of my friends and I, we rarely activate the video recorder on our Google lenses, but we aren't the norm. Because they're charged by our heartbeat, most people just leave the video recorder enabled all the time. After all, no one wants to miss a particularly gnarly-looking cat or an irresistibly Vine-able twerking situation. Those cats and twerks lead to retweets and favorites -- precious social currency. You see, in 2014, when Klout was on the verge of bankruptcy, the government figured out that the best way to encourage Americans to continue sharing and recording everything they did was to incentivize its citizenry's Klout scores. So the feds took over Klout (ObamaKlout) and now, if you want to get in and out at the DMV or any other government office, you better have a 50 or higher. Now, only an idiot would turn on their Google lenses when conducting activities that may run afoul of the government. The cameras are everywhere, both in the private and public sector, and nowadays -- unlike in your day -- are all interconnected. But it’s hard to know who’s watching. The beauty of it is that the government is already jacked into the system, so an informant doesn’t even need to make contact with authorities to inform them that an illegal activity took place. *** You might be wondering how we got from a pretty bad surveillance state to the nightmare dystopia we live in today. It's a matter of some debate. After the initial revelations about widespread NSA surveillance, some argued for more and better encryption. That makes sense, except that it doesn’t matter how good our encryption locks are, quantum or otherwise, if technology companies are willing to give away the keys to the government. Others argued this isn’t a technological problem, it's a legal problem. The Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had made it too easy for the NSA to coerce technology companies into playing ball. As Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger put it, “Our homes are safe from thieves and from government not because they couldn’t get in if they wanted to but because the law and its enforcement prevents them from doing so.” But the kind of grassroots Internet activism that helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act never really took off. Go ahead, NSA, read my email. But you’ll have to pry my bootlegged copy of "Iron Man 3" from my cold, dead hands. Indeed, studies showed people feared hackers far more than they feared the government when it came to online privacy. Remember the outrage directed at Dropbox when a hack resulted in a few spam emails? Where was the outrage when Dropbox appeared on a list of potential PRISM partners? Meanwhile, many techno-libertarians, the ones who would get so indignant when the government “intruded” on a taxi app’s right to bump up prices during a natural disaster, were conspicuously silent during the NSA debate. They were all too busy focusing on the big funding round raised by some cloud-based enterprise SaaS platform for dogs. So the government continued to suck up emails, phone calls, and data in vast numbers, both domestically and abroad. As for the tech companies that didn’t play ball? The government had many ways of collecting digital fingerprints, like at the border. The NSA also took cues from GCHQ’s Humint Operations Team and began hiring spies to infiltrate noncompliant tech companies. These agents installed backdoors that allowed the NSA to dip behind the curtain of any corporation that refused to cooperate. Unfortunately these backdoors also make it possible for domestic and foreign hackers to manipulate the system. Hacks of major corporations have become so commonplace that we're now up to 10-factor authentication. At the time, some argued that such indiscriminate collection of data would prove useless to the NSA. At a certain point, the more data you collect, the harder it is to gather meaningful insight on it. But the NSA had been working for some time on a development that would make 2013’s “golden age of surveillance” look like the stone age: quantum machine learning. Way back in 2009, Google engineer Harmut Neven described how it worked:

    By David Holmes , written on

    From the News desk

  5. AppDirect raises $9M, acquires Standing Cloud to help businesses adopt a hybrid network in the NSA's wake

    Over the last three months the Washington Post, New York Times, and the Guardian have revealed government programs through which the National Security Agency is able to collect data from Web companies, undermine encryption and privacy tools, and view Verizon customers' phone records.

    By Nathaniel Mott , written on

    From the News desk

  6. Listen to our PandoWeekly interview with NYU professor Jay Rosen about the media in an NSA state

    Jay Rosen is a journalism professor at NYU (disclosure: he taught me). But it's the summertime, school's out, and so he's in full-on blogging mode over at his site PressThink, which just turned ten years old.

    By David Holmes , written on

    From the News desk

  7. Don’t be stupid, use (cloud) protection!

    No matter how you feel about the NSA and the wide net it casts in surveilling people, one thing is certain: All this talk about spying on Americans and foreigners is having an effect on some businesses, namely American cloud companies. It's also afforded opportunities to cloud companies based in other countries, which see an opportunity to grab customers from their American rivals. Officials in some countries – namely Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as from the European Union – have even been using scare tactics to steer business to companies in their jurisdictions.

    By Andy Thurai , written on

    From the News desk

  8. What's on Edward Snowden's laptop?

    When Edward Snowden entered Hong Kong after leaking classified NSA surveillance documents, the story goes that he held four laptops in his possession. What's on the computers? And why did he need four of them? According to the Guardian, the laptops "enabled him to gain access to some of the US government's most highly-classified secrets." But US officials told CNN yesterday that Snowden didn't even gain access to the juiciest details of the NSA's surveillance program (though you could understand why they'd want to downplay the damage he caused). Meanwhile, the New York Times got a heap of criticism after publishing anonymous speculation that Snowden had unwittingly provided China with classified information, simply because he brought his secrets-laden hard drive into Hong Kong.

    By David Holmes , written on

    From the News desk

  1. Go to page 1.
  2. Go to page 2.
  3. Go to page 20.
  4. Go to page 21.
  5. Go to page 22.
  6. Go to page 23.