Thursday, September 29, 2011

Anonymous; bad and good

"Opinion was divided. At one panel, professional analysts suggested ways the mob might improve on itself, such as by setting criteria for responsible behaviour for security firms that wish to avoid being attacked. At another meeting, former Anonymous member Jennifer Emick railed against what the organisation had become and fended off hecklers, including one in a Guy Fawkes mask."

* * * *

"Instead of merely depicting hackers as virtual pamphleteers for free speech or as digital outlaws, we need to start asking more specific questions about why and when hackers embrace particular attitudes toward different kinds of laws, explore in greater detail what they are hoping to achieve, and take greater care in examining the consequences."

* * *

These two articles discuss what some people within Anonymous are doing.  The problem with Anonymous is that it is so unstructured that anybody can give themselves that monicker and put their actions under its banner.  It is good that the history of Anonymous is being hashed out, hopefully so the accurate story can be forwarded. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Iran blocks TOR. TOR makes fix same day

"Yesterday morning (in our timezones — that evening, in Iran), Iran added a filter rule to their border routers that recognized Tor traffic and blocked it. Thanks to help from a variety of friends around the world, we quickly discovered how they were blocking it and released a new version of Tor that isn't blocked. Fortunately, the fix is on the relay side: that means once enough relays and bridges upgrade, the many tens of thousands of Tor users in Iran will resume being able to reach the Tor network, without needing to change their software."

TOR is used to help maintain anonymity when you're on the internet.  This is helpful for activists working against repressive regimes.  The regime, like Iran, of course wants to know what the activists are doing and saying.  So a battle to keep activists safe is going on.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Needed; safe phones for activists

"This was a problem we could do something about," said Verclas, who runs a New York-based nonprofit organization called She won a grant from the State Department and produced a cellphone application called In the Clear. It includes an erase button so activists can instantly delete sensitive information, and a panic button that sends out a pre-written text message - "I've been arrested!" - including coordinates of the location.
The application is scheduled for official release this month, but test versions have already been distributed informally, phone to phone.
"It's already being used in Syria," said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian opposition activist in Washington. "It helps protect information from the security forces."

* * * *

every little bit helps.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Libya's Gaddafi used French surveillance system on activists

"EAGLE is therefore able to aggregate, in an automatic fashion, email and physical addresses, telephone numbers, photos of suspects, but also to make automatic searches by date, hour, telephone number, email address, keyword, localization…
EAGLE 'regroups all intercepted data in a single data center, which enables you to obtain a clear idea of your target’s different activites,' to geolocalize them, to graphically reconstitute their social networks, to analyze their semantics, to retranscribe and translate automatically telephone conversations…"

Perhaps the Anonymous model for activists is more useful than it might seem at first blush.   If a government or organization can collate your information and activities this easily, and the result of being caught speaking out is torture and death, then I'd say hide your identity as well as you can. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Scientific research reveals positive results from ICA in Arab Spring

"Focused mainly on Tunisia and Egypt, this research included creating a unique database of information collected from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  The research also included creating maps of important Egyptian political Websites, examining political conversations in the Tunisian blogosphere, analyzing more than 3 million Tweets based on key-words used, and tracking which countries thousands of individuals Tweeted from during the revolutions.  The result is that for the first time we have evidence confirming social media’s critical role in the Arab Spring."

First, social media played a central role
in shaping political debates in the Arab

Second, a spike in online revolutionary
conversations often preceded major
events on the ground.

Third, social media helped spread
democratic ideas across international

Finally, a data-centered study on the value of social media during a revolution.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Decentralized internet

"And the concept of a decentralized web is gaining traction: more and more people realize something has to change. The cause for this trend is obvious: the number of data security and privacy disasters that were made public has spiked in recent times . In April ’11 for example an update to the security terms of service of the widely used Dropbox tool revealed that contrary to previous claims, Dropbox Inc. has full access to user data.
An analysis of the changes to the Facebook privacy policy over time paints a gloomy picture of how the world’s largest social network changed 'rom a private communication space to a platform that shares user information with advertising and business partners while limiting the users’ options to control their own information'.
With more and more of our personal data moving to centralized servers or 'cloud services' – a term that should be used as an euphemism – we’re no longer in control. But there is hope in sight: there are dozens of projects out there that try to stop the trend of centralization and data consolidation."

Have the days of getting useful resources from big companies in exchange for letting them rifle through your information gone away finally?  Why not just get the useful information without having to have commercial snoops spying on you as well?  Hopefully these new efforts will save us.