Saturday, December 22, 2018

Seems trivial compared to an Equifax, but what if other school districts are equally vulnerable?
Data Breach Reported for San Diego Unified School District Students and Former Students
San Diego Unified School District officials are informing parents and former students of a large data breach. Personal data including Social Security numbers from as many as 500,000 students was compromised or possibly stolen, officials say.
The breach dating back to January 2018 was uncovered in October by district IT employees who were investigating phishing emails.
… "We are not able to confirm, specifically, whether your personal data was viewed or copied from our systems as a result of this incident. We only know that the viewing or copying of some personal data was possible or occurred between January 2018 and November 1, 2018," district officials state in the letter to parents.
Officials said the breach also allowed the unauthorized person the ability to alter data within those systems.
… Read the entire letter here.

One of many.
Apple received over 32,000 user data requests in six months
Apple's bi-annual transparency report is here and it now has its own interactive page on Apple's website. As usual, it details the personal data requests Apple received from governments worldwide. Only the new look makes it easier to review and digest thanks to a slider at the bottom that lets you scroll through report cards for each country. And if you're a fan of the old ways, you can still download a PDF crammed with the same data.
According to the report, which covers the first half of this year, Apple received 32,342 demands for user data from governments -- up 9 percent from the previous period -- spanning access to 163,823 devices. Germany made the most requests (42 percent), the majority of which were due to "stolen devices investigations," issuing 13,704 requests for data on 26,160 devices.
The US was in second place with 4,570 requests for 14,911 devices.

There is something off” here. You would expect more details about the two arrested – there are none. Did they find the drones?
Gatwick drones: Two arrested over flight disruption
A 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman, from Crawley, were arrested in the town at about 22:00 GMT on Friday.
… Sussex Police said it was continuing to investigate the "criminal use of drones" and appealed for information.

Perspective. Each Quarter, I ask my students if they would ride. So far, not many takers.
Self-driving car startup Zoox gets permit to transport passengers in California
While more than 60 companies have received permits to test their driverless vehicles in California, Zoox has become the first permitted to actually transport people in those vehicles.
… During the testing period, Zoox must have a safety driver behind the wheel and will not be allowed to charge passengers for rides. And, as part of the program, Zoox must provide data and reports to the CPUC regarding any incidents, number of passenger miles traveled and passenger safety protocols.

Friday, December 21, 2018

“We don’t hack and we pledge to not hack any more.”
US Indicts Chinese Govt Hackers Over Attacks in 12 Countries
The Justice Department said the hackers had targeted numerous managed service providers (MSPs), specialist firms which help other companies manage their information technology systems -- potentially giving hackers an entry into the computer networks of dozens of companies.
Companies who were hacked were not named, but 45 victims in the United States included key government agencies -- the NASA Goddard Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the US Navy, where the personal information of more than 100,000 personnel was stolen.
Internationally, the hackers accessed the computers of a major bank, three telecommunications or consumer electronics companies, mining and health care companies, and business consultancies.
Rosenstein slammed Beijing for repeatedly violating a pledge made by Xi to then-president Barack Obama in 2015 to halt cyber-attacks on US companies and commercial infrastructure.
In London, the Foreign Office likewise accused China of not living up to their bilateral agreement against hacking driven by commercial and economic motives.

For my lecture on encryption.
India's Government Denies Telling Federal Agencies They Can Snoop On Every Computer, Despite An Order That Seems To Say They Can
A row broke out in India's parliament on Friday after the country's Ministry of Home Affairs, a federal government authority that controls the country’s internal security, seemingly authorized ten government agencies – including federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies – to monitor, intercept, and decrypt all data on all computers in the country.
The governmental order detailing the powers immediately drew strong criticism from both India’s privacy activists and its opposition parties, who said it enabled blanket state surveillance, and violated the fundamental right to privacy that India’s 1.3 billion citizens are constitutionally guaranteed.
… India's Information Security Act allows agencies to invoke surveillance measures in the interest of national security since 2008, but the Act demands that the government provide written reasons that clearly explain why such measures are necessary.
“This latest order completely bypasses that,” said Sinha.

Milestones in technology: Facial recognition and slurpees.
Pay with your ‘face’ as AI system starts at Seven-Eleven
… Users are required to have a photo taken of their faces by a camera tied into the cash register in advance to utilize the system.
Once users are registered in the system, all they need to do is to show their faces to make purchases, which will be deducted from their salaries.

Should we be concerned that the FCC does not control the entire world?
As it turns out, if the U.S. Federal Communications Commission asks you not to do something, you should probably not do that thing—particularly when it comes to launching to unapproved satellites into orbit.
This is the lesson currently faced by Swarm Technologies, a startup being fined $900,000 by the FCC for launching four unauthorized satellites into orbit in January.
… The satellites launched in January with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Quartz reported in March that the FCC raised concerns about the size of the satellites, which the agency said were “below the size threshold at which detection by the Space Surveillance Network (SSN) can be considered routine.”

For the continuing debate in my classes.
7 Arguments Against the Autonomous-Vehicle Utopia

Thank god someone is asking the big questions.
How are algorithms distributing power between people?
Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University: “Why Computer Scientists Need Philosophers, According to a Mathematician – “Lily Hu is a 3rd year PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics at Harvard University, where she studies algorithmic fairness with special interest in its interaction with various philosophical notions of justice. Currently, she is an intern at Microsoft Research New York City and a member of the Mechanism Design for Social Good research group (co-founded by Berkman affiliate Rediet Abebe). She is also passionate about education equity; she has taught subjects such as physics, biology, chemistry, English, and Spanish History/Geography in San Francisco, Cambridge, and Madrid.
I work in algorithmic fairness; in particular, I’m interested in thinking about algorithmic systems as explicitly resource distribution mechanisms. I’m not interested in necessarily how the particulars of the sorting happens; I’m interested in the final outcomes that are issued, and I am interested in the distributional outcomes that are deemed to be appropriate or inappropriate under our various fairness notions. How are algorithms distributing power between people? What kind of questions are they enabling us to ask, what kind of questions are they enabling us to solve, and not only that, but what kind of questions are they preventing us from answering? That’s kind of my big research agenda…”

Wolfram Alpha is an extremely useful math tool. This could be interesting. (The examples in the article are trivial compared to what Wolfram Alpha can do.)
Alexa now taps Wolfram Alpha to answer science and math questions
… “We rolled out an Alexa Q&A integration with Wolfram Alpha to U.S. customers, which expands Alexa’s capabilities to answer more questions related to mathematics, science, astronomy, engineering, geography, history, and more,” an Amazon spokesperson told VentureBeat. “Information curated by Wolfram Alpha has rolled out to select customers and will continue to roll out over the coming weeks and months.”
… When it arrives on Alexa-enabled smart speakers and displays, you’ll be able to ask questions like “Alexa, what is the billionth prime number?” and “Alexa, how high do swans fly?”
Here are a few additional queries Wolfram Alpha will step in to handle:
  • Alexa, what is x to the power of three plus x plus five where x is equal to seven?
  • Alexa, how fast is the wind blowing right now?
  • Alexa, how many sheets of paper will fit in a binder?
  • Alexa, how long until the moon rises?

This suggests that Congress is either much dumber (high probability) or much smarter (low probability) than they have ever shown themselves to be. Politicians may speak in vague, even misleading words (Okay, they lie) but lawmakers must not.
Can a Statute Have More Than One Meaning?
Doerfler, Ryan, Can a Statute Have More Than One Meaning? (December 12, 2018). New York University Law Review, Vol. 94, 2019. Available at SSRN:
“What statutory language means can vary from statute to statute, or even provision to provision. But what about from case to case? The conventional wisdom is that the same language can mean different things as used in different places within the United States Code. As used in some specific place, however, that language means what it means. Put differently, the same statutory provision must mean the same thing in all cases. To hold otherwise, courts and scholars suggest, would be contrary both to the rules of grammar and to the rule of law. This Article challenges that conventional wisdom. Building on the observation that speakers can and often do transparently communicate different things to different audiences with the same verbalization or written text, it argues that, as a purely linguistic matter, there is nothing to prevent Congress from doing the same with statutes. More still, because the practical advantages of using multiple meanings — in particular, linguistic economy — are at least as important to Congress as to ordinary speakers, this Article argues further that it would be just plain odd if Congress never chose to communicate multiple messages with the same statutory text. As this Article goes on to show, recognizing the possibility of multiple statutory meanings would let courts reach sensible answers to important doctrinal questions they currently do their best to avoid. Most notably, thinking about multiple meanings in an informed way would help courts explain under what conditions more than one agency should receive deference when interpreting a multi-agency statute. Relatedly, it would let courts reject as false the choice between Chevron deference and the rule of lenity for statutes with both civil and criminal applications.”

As a demonstration of military/terrorist capability, this seems to be a success. As to policy, once they determine they can do nothing they resume flights? Has the risk suddenly become acceptable? More likely the negative political repercussions of a continued halt are more important.
Flights have resumed at London’s Gatwick Airport after a full day of cancellations yesterday due to a mysterious drone that was spotted repeatedly in the area
… Other airports around the world are on high alert because if this is a coordinated disruption it obviously doesn’t take much to put an entire airport out of commission. It appears that all you need is a drone with a sufficiently long range to not get caught.
… police are reportedly trying to use radio signal jammers, just the same, in an effort to stop the drones. The airport is crawling with more police and military than usual, as would be expected. And there have been calls to just “shoot down” the drone, though that’s much more involved than it seems. First you have to catch it.
… Who’s behind the disruption? Your guess is as good as anyone’s, it would seem. Some believe that it’s domestic actors like British environmentalists. Others speculate that it could be a state actor like China or Russia testing out what it would take to shut down an airport. If it’s the latter we now know that the answer is “it doesn’t take much.”

There’s No Real System to Counter Rogue Drones

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Amazon’s “human error” suggests there is a hack waiting to happen.
Reuters reports:
A user of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in Germany got access to more than a thousand recordings from another user because of “a human error” by the company.
The customer had asked to listen back to recordings of his own activities made by Alexa but he was also able to access 1,700 audio files from a stranger when Amazon sent him a link, German trade publication c’t reported.
Read more on Reuters.

The cost of failure? A suit for the Cambridge Analytica nonsense finally arrives.
Facebook Has Biggest Plunge Since July as ‘Another Shoe’ Drops
Facebook Inc. tumbled on Wednesday, with shares extending their decline throughout the session after the social-media company was sued by the District of Columbia over a privacy breach.
The news followed a report from the New York Times that Facebook had allowed more than 150 companies to access more personal data from users than it had disclosed, the latest in a series of controversies that have weighed on shares in 2018.
The stock fell as much as 7.3 percent, putting it on track for its biggest one-day percentage drop since its historic collapse in late July. Wednesday’s decline extends a sell-off that has erased nearly 40 percent in value. [GDPR only wants 4%. It’s these self-inflicted wounds that truly hurt. Bob]

Would CBO believe that I do not own a cell phone? I’m guessing we won’t get any useful answers from this.
American Sues US Government For Allegedly Pressuring Him To Unlock His Phone at Airport
Haisam Elsharkawi, a 35-year-old US citizen of Egyptian descent, said he was stopped at the gate at the Los Angeles International Airport on February 9, 2017, after passing through TSA and security checks with no issues. As he was boarding his flight, according to a lawsuit filed by Elsharkawi in a California court in late October, CBP agents allegedly pulled him aside and repeatedly asked him questions, searched his belongings, and asked him to unlock his cell phones.
When he refused and asked for an attorney, CBP officers allegedly handcuffed him and took him to a room for more questioning, where a DHS officer eventually convinced him to unlock the phone and then looked through it for 15 minutes. At no point did the agents tell him why they were searching and questioning him, the lawsuit alleges, nor did they they have a warrant. According to the lawsuit, the “interrogation” lasted four hours, and Elsharkawi missed his flight.

For my Computer Architecture students.
AI makers get political
Earlier this month, Ed Felten — a Princeton professor and former adviser to President Obama — chided an international audience of artificial intelligence experts packing a cavernous Montreal convention center.
What he's saying: For too long, AI hands have been hiding in their basements, in effect playing God by deciding which technology is ultimately released to the masses, Felten said. Stop assuming that you know what's best for people, he admonished his listeners, and instead dive into the already-raging public debate of what happens next with AI.
"The group of us deeply concerned about the societal impacts of AI has grown extensively," said Brent Hecht, chair of the ACM Future of Computing Academy, an association of young computing professionals.
This movement is being pushed along by nonprofits, including the Partnership on AI and OpenAI. The Center for a New American Security, a think tank, has convened back-room conversations between policymakers and researchers.

Perspective. A mere 95 years.
All Copyrighted Works First Published In the US In 1923 Will Enter Public Domain On January 1st
… At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S. That deluge of works includes not just “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which appeared first in the New Republic in 1923, but hundreds of thousands of books, musical compositions, paintings, poems, photographs and films. After January 1, any record label can issue a dubstep version of the 1923 hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations. Any artist can create and sell a feminist response to Marcel Duchamp’s seminal Dadaist piece, The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) and any filmmaker can remake Cecil B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments and post it on YouTube.
“The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years, and we’re reaching the 20-year thaw,” says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. The release is unprecedented, and its impact on culture and creativity could be huge. We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one—in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond—predated Google. “We have shortchanged a generation,” said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. “The 20th century is largely missing from the internet.” For academics fearful of quoting from copyrighted texts, teachers who may be violating the law with every photocopy, and modern-day artists in search of inspiration, the event is a cause for celebration. For those who dread seeing Frost’s immortal ode to winter used in an ad for snow tires, “Public Domain Day,” as it is sometimes known, will be less joyful. Despite that, even fierce advocates for copyright agree that, after 95 years, it is time to release these works. “There comes a point when a creative work belongs to history as much as to its author and her heirs,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild….”

Something to slip into ye olde tool chest.
This free online tool uses AI to quickly remove the background from images
If you’ve ever needed to quickly remove the background of an image you know it can be tedious, even with access to software like Photoshop. Well, is a single-purpose website that uses AI to do the hard work for you. Just upload any image and the site will automatically identify any people in it, cut around the foreground, and let you download a PNG of your subject with a transparent background. Easy.

Sometimes the best tool for the job is not the right tool for the job.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Phishing normally gives access only to the account phished. In this case it seems the cables are general ‘status reports’ distributed to all EU diplomatic offices as background.
'Thousands' of EU Diplomatic Cables Hacked: Report
The cables from the EU's diplomatic missions around the world reveal anxiety about how to handle US President Donald Trump as well as concerns about China, Russia and Iran.
There are extensive reports on the situation in Ukraine, where a conflict rumbles on between government forces and pro-Russian separatists, including a warning dating from February that Moscow may already have deployed nuclear warheads in Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
The NYT said that according to Area 1, the techniques used by the hackers over the course of three years were similar to those used by an elite Chinese military unit.
The hackers apparently gained access to the diplomatic communications network after a simple "phishing" campaign targeting EU officials in Cyprus.

There must be money here.
Truecaller: Spam calls jumped over 300% in 2018

I suspect this is a re-hash of the September GAO report.
Congressional Report on the 2017 Equifax Data Breach
The US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has just released a comprehensive report on the 2017 Equifax hack. It's a great piece of writing, with a detailed timeline, root cause analysis, and lessons learned. Lance Spitzner also commented on this.
Here is my testimony before before the House Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection last November.
[The earlier report is available at:

What can you do when even your toaster turns on you?
The Coming Commodification of Life at Home
As internet-connected devices and appliances accumulate, one academic foresees “the monetization of every move you make.”
“Imagine this,” says an advertising consultant named Barry Lowenthal. “I’m a smart toaster, and I’m collecting data on how many times the toaster is used.”
I’ve just asked Lowenthal what he, as an advertiser, would be able to do with data transmitted from an internet-connected appliance, and I happened to mention a toaster. He thought through the possibility of an appliance that can detect what it’s being asked to brown: “If I’m toasting rye bread, a bagel company might be interested in knowing that, because they can re-target that household with bagel advertising because they already know it’s a household that eats bread, toasts bread, is open to carbs. Maybe they would also be open to bagels. And then they can probably cross that with credit-card data and know that this is a household that hasn’t bought bagels in the last year. I mean, it’s going to be amazing, from a targeting perspective.”

Is it easier to sell cameras that make you look better? Is it wise to sell cameras that modify every image? Is there any way to see the unfiltered image? Will the change be enough to fool facial recognition tools?
No, You Don’t Really Look Like That
… Over weeks of taking photos with the device, I realized that the camera had crossed a threshold between photograph and fauxtograph. I wasn’t so much “taking pictures” as the phone was synthesizing them.
This isn’t a totally new phenomenon: Every digital camera uses algorithms to transform the different wavelengths of light that hit its sensor into an actual image. People have always sought out good light. In the smartphone era, apps from Snapchat to FaceApp to Beauty Plus have offered to upgrade your face. Other phones have a flaw-eliminating “beauty mode” you can turn on or off, too. What makes the iPhone XS’s skin-smoothing remarkable is that it is simply the default for the camera. Snap a selfie, and that’s what you get.
These images are not fake, exactly. But they are also not pictures as they were understood in the days before you took photographs with a computer.

Something to think about.
According to the yearly report published by Stockholm-based phone number-identification service Truecaller, spam calls grew by 300 percent year-over-year in 2018.
… Between January and October of this year, Truecaller said, users worldwide received about 17.7 billion spam calls. That’s up from some 5.5 billion spam calls they received last year.
… One in every 10 American adults lost money from a phone scam, according to a yearly report the firm published in April this year (Truecaller worked with the Harris Poll to survey over 2,000 Americans aged 18 or higher). Scam calls cost 24.9 million people in the U.S. an estimated $8.9 billion in total losses.

I don’t understand “mindfulness” in this context. Rage is certainly not compatible with mindfulness.
Mass Shootings and Mindfulness
WhoWhatWhy: “As of December 16, 2018, there had been 333 mass shootings so far this year, or almost one a day, according to the Gun Violence Archive (which defines a mass shooting as having four or more victims, killed or injured). You have to wonder why so many young men (almost always) see this as the best option for their lives. What are their actions telling us? Why do they want out?
…Murder rates are generally down in America, but mass shootings are up. The latter crimes, unlike most others, are not about personal gain or revenge against an individual. They’re not done by serial killers, who often take lives for sport. They’re not crimes of passion, where the attacker knows the victim. They’re social crimes, intended to harm the entire culture, carried out by those who feel powerless and an extreme sense of victimization, yet many of the shooters come from reasonably good economic circumstances. They’re about indiscriminate rage and the desire to inflict extreme pain on as many people as possible, while sacrificing their own life in the process. The best analogy is combat…”

Lists make my life easier. For books, if I find one that seems interesting I just ask my library to find it for me. Free and simple.
Notable Privacy and Security Books 2018
Here are some notable books on privacy and security from 2018. To see a more comprehensive list of nonfiction works about privacy and security, Professor Paul Schwartz and I maintain a resource page on Nonfiction Privacy + Security Books.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Interesting enough to share with my Computer Security students.
Teaching Cybersecurity Policy
Peter Swire proposes a a pedagogic framework for teaching cybersecurity policy. Specifically, he makes real the old joke about adding levels to the OSI networking stack: an organizational layer, a government layer, and an international layer.

A lesson for my Software Architecture students: This is not changing one function, this is changing the entire design strategy.
Facebook still hasn’t launched a big privacy feature that Mark Zuckerberg promised more than seven months ago
Back in May, at the height of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, the company made a timely announcement: Facebook users would soon be able to clear the browsing history connected to their Facebook profile, meaning that the company would no longer link users to the apps and websites they visited off of the social network.
The product, called “Clear History,” got a lot of attention. Not only is browsing data important — Facebook uses it to target people with advertising — but CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Clear History himself during Facebook’s annual developer conference. Clear History was an olive branch meant to show everyone how serious Facebook is about privacy.
… As it turns out, clearing your browser history was harder to implement than Facebook expected. It’s been more than seven months since Zuckerberg’s announcement and Facebook hasn’t mentioned Clear History since.
Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said at that time that it would take “a few months” to build. Now Facebook tells Recode it won’t be ready for several more months.

Okay, the reports are out.
Russian Social Media Amassed Millions Of Followers In Support Of Trump: Reports
New reports commissioned by the Senate detail the scope of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
The first report ― created by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm ― shows how a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency created thousands of accounts and “launched an extended attack on the United States” election by polarizing American politics and boosting Donald Trump’s campaign, according to The Washington Post.
A second report by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, focused on which groups were targeted and how.

Monday, December 17, 2018

For my Computer Security students? What would the parrot have said? “Polly wanna kettle?”
Sneaky parrot uses Amazon Alexa to shop while owner is away
A foul-mouthed parrot, who was kicked out of an animal sanctuary for swearing too much, is using technology to cause even more trouble.
The Times of London reports Rocco, an African grey, has been using Amazon Alexa to shop online while his owner was away.
His owner, Marion Wishnewski told the newspaper she was shocked to find that her Amazon account suddenly had pending orders for various snacks, including watermelon and ice cream and also a kettle.

Sure, blame the poor humans.
Kiwibot delivery robot catches fire after 'human error'
Kiwibot autonomous delivery robots have been rolling around the University of California, Berkeley campus for two years.
On Friday, students found one of the robots in flames and shared photos on social media.
Kiwi said the cause was a "defective battery" that had been accidentally installed in the robot.

Suggests a test question: How do you fix this?
Android phones’ face recognition fooled by 3D printed head, report says
… We’ll cut down to the chase. The iPhone X was the only one that was not unlocked by a fake head that was carefully scanned from its owner, manually tweaked, and then printed in the UK. The ghastly appearance and lifeless eyes may have clued Face ID in on the hoax.

Awards lists (“Best of” lists) are a good way to find things I missed.
This Year’s Must-Read Privacy Papers: The Future of Privacy Forum Announces Recipients of Annual Privacy Papers for Policymakers Award
Today, the Future of Privacy Forum announced the winners of the 9th Annual Privacy Papers for Policymakers Award. The PPPM Award recognizes leading privacy scholarship that is relevant to policymakers in the U.S. Congress, at U.S. federal agencies, and for data protection authorities abroad. The winners of the 2018 PPPM Award are:

I await the reports…
New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows operation’s scale and sweep
Washington Post: “A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office. The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said whether it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.
The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for meddling in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found. The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House Intelligence Committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.
“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

Something to ‘amuse’ my students?
Why You Don't Own Your Tech

Think they heard us laughing? Perhaps they noticed voters changing party? No! It was the FCC, doing something for other (completely political) reasons.
California abandons plans to tax text messages
… California regulators were hoping to tax text messages, until a recent ruling from the FCC.
The FCC says text messages are an "information service" - not a "telecommunications service."

Sunday, December 16, 2018

For my Computer Security and Software Architecture students.
Autonomous vehicles were supposed to make driving safer, and they may yet—some of the more optimistic research indicates self-driving cars could save tens of thousands of lives a year in the U.S. alone. But so far, a recklessness has defined the culture of the largest companies pursuing the technology—Uber, Google, and arguably even Tesla—and has led directly to unnecessary crashes, injury, even death.

Opinion | Indians are reshaping the Internet
… This is part of a striking trend: Indians are an increasing powerful presence online. Even with an Internet penetration rate of less than 30 percent, India is the largest market for WhatsApp and its parent company, Facebook. It ranks third by users on Instagram and fourth on Twitter, according to eMarketer, a research firm. Four of Tinder’s top 10 cities by paying users are in India. And 1 in 10 Uber rides globally occurs in India, a proportion that is set to grow.
Tech leaders look at these statistics with cartoon dollar signs on their eyes. India was the only country to get its own section in the “recent milestones” section of Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos’s letter to shareholders this year. (Bezos also owns The Post.) And Sundar Pichai, the Indian-born chief executive of Google, has mentioned India in six out of the company’s last seven earnings calls. The investment bank Morgan Stanley expects smartphone penetration to more than double between 2017 and 2020.
… But for years, data prices remained high and growth slow. That changed in September 2016, with the launch of Jio, a mobile network offering low-cost, high-speed data. Other networks scrambled to compete, offering ever-greater data allowances at lower prices. The effect is startling: Mobile Internet connections grew from 346 million in late 2016 to 491 million this year, according to India’s telecoms regulator. In the same period, monthly data consumption jumped by a factor of more than 13, to 3.2 gigabytes per user.
As Indians come online in the hundreds of millions, the first thing they do is connect with their friends on WhatsApp and Facebook. They then stream Bollywood movies and pornography. Lots of pornography. Searches for “Hindi sexy film” on PornHub grew 27,814 percent in 2018.

This is way out of my comfort zone, but it caught my eye. Interesting (or strange) my library offers this as an Audio book or an eBook, but not in print.
The nation-state of the internet
The internet is a community, but can it be a nation-state?
… That question led me to Imagined Communities, a book from 1983 and one of the most lauded (and debated) social science works ever published. Certainly it is among the most heavily cited: Google Scholar pegs it at almost 93,000 citations.
… Anderson’s answer is his title: people come to form nations when they can imagine their community and the values and people it holds, and thus can demarcate the borders (physical and cognitive) of who is a member of that hypothetical club and who is not.

I wonder if Dilbert teaches...