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Software

The Software Big Oil's PR Firm Uses To "Convert Average Citizens" 101

Posted by samzenpus
from the made-just-for-you dept.
merbs writes The CEO of the world's largest PR firm has a policy when it comes to campaigns that focus on the environment. "We do not work with astroturf groups and we have never created a website for a client with the intent to deny climate change," Richard Edelman wrote in a blog post in August. That may actually turn out to be true. Technically. Edelman may not work with astroturf groups. Instead, it appears to prefer to build them itself, from the ground up, using sophisticated proprietary software platform designed to "convert" advocates and then "track" their behavior.
Facebook

How Facebook Is Influencing Who Will Win the Next Election 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the setting-up-a-scapegoat dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Forbes: [Facebook] announced yesterday that it was shutting down a feature that the Obama campaign used in 2012 to register over a million voters. During the election supporters shared access to their list of Facebook friends list with the campaign through an app. Researchers have found that while people view often political messages with skepticism, they are more receptive and trusting when the information is coming from somebody they know. The feature was credited with boosting Obama’s get-out-the-vote efforts which were crucial to his victory, but Facebook has decided to disable this ability in order to (rightfully) protect users from third-party apps collecting too much of their information.

The company insists that it favors no particular ideology and that its efforts are “neutral.” The first part is likely true, but the second is not possible. The company’s algorithms take into account a proprietary mix of our own biases, connections, and interests combined with Facebook’s business priorities; that is the farthest thing from neutral. Facebook says it just want to encourage “civic participation,” but politically mobilizing the subsection of people that are on their network is not without its own impacts.
Science

Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question 108

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Facebook

Facebook Planning Office Version To Rival LinkedIn, Google 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the time-for-some-cubicalville dept.
An anonymous reader points out a report that Facebook may be coming out with an office version to take on LinkedIn. Facebook at Work would “allow users to chat with colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents.” "Facebook is reportedly gearing up to take on LinkedIn, Google's Drive and services, Microsoft's Outlook and Yammer with a workplace-friendly version of the social networking site, but such a dream is unlikely to appeal to the enterprise. As reported last week by the Financial Times, "Facebook at Work" is a new product designed to allow professional users to message colleagues, connect with professional contacts and collaborate over documents. The website will have the same look as standard Facebook — including a news feed and groups — but according to people familiar with the matter, the idea is to keep work and personal accounts separate. It makes sense for the social networking giant. Launching a professional version can boost ad revenue, keep engagement up and give the company a valuable new market to tap. But in application, cracking the corporate world won't be easy."
Power

Facebook Testing Lithium-Ion Batteries For Backup Power 41

Posted by timothy
from the economies-of-web-scale dept.
itwbennett writes Facebook has just started testing lithium-ion batteries as the backup power source for its server racks and plans to roll them out widely next year. Lithium-ion has been too expensive until now, says Matt Corddry, Facebook's director of hardware engineering, but its use in electric cars has changed the economics. It's now more cost effective than the bulky, lead-acid batteries widely used in data centers today.
Social Networks

German Spy Agency Seeks Millions To Monitor Social Networks 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-took-the-wrong-lesson-from-this dept.
itwbennett writes: Germany's foreign intelligence agency reportedly wants to spend €300 million (about $375 million) in the next five years on technology that would let it spy in real time on social networks outside of Germany, and decrypt and monitor encrypted Internet traffic. The agency, which already spent €6.22 million in preparation for this online surveillance push, also wants to use the money to set up an early warning system for cyber attacks, the report said (Google translation of German original). A prototype is expected to be launched next June with the aim of monitoring publicly available data on Twitter and blogs.
Privacy

Tor Project Mulls How Feds Took Down Hidden Websites 133

Posted by Soulskill
from the inside-job dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Jeremy Kirk writes at PC World that in the aftermath of U.S. and European law enforcement shutting down more than 400 websites (including Silk Road 2.0) which used technology that hides their true IP addresses, Tor users are asking: How did they locate the hidden services? "The first and most obvious explanation is that the operators of these hidden services failed to use adequate operational security," writes Andrew Lewman, the Tor project's executive director. For example, there are reports of one of the websites being infiltrated by undercover agents and one affidavit states various operational security errors." Another explanation is exploitation of common web bugs like SQL injections or RFIs (remote file inclusions). Many of those websites were likely quickly-coded e-shops with a big attack surface. Exploitable bugs in web applications are a common problem says Lewman adding that there are also ways to link transactions and deanonymize Bitcoin clients even if they use Tor. "Maybe the seized hidden services were running Bitcoin clients themselves and were victims of similar attacks."

However the number of takedowns and the fact that Tor relays were seized could also mean that the Tor network was attacked to reveal the location of those hidden services. "Over the past few years, researchers have discovered various attacks on the Tor network. We've implemented some defenses against these attacks (PDF), but these defenses do not solve all known issues and there may even be attacks unknown to us." Another possible Tor attack vector could be the Guard Discovery attack. The guard node is the only node in the whole network that knows the actual IP address of the hidden service so if the attacker manages to compromise the guard node or somehow obtain access to it, she can launch a traffic confirmation attack to learn the identity of the hidden service. "We've been discussing various solutions to the guard discovery attack for the past many months but it's not an easy problem to fix properly. Help and feedback on the proposed designs is appreciated."

According to Lewman, the task of hiding the location of low-latency web services is a very hard problem and we still don't know how to do it correctly. It seems that there are various issues that none of the current anonymous publishing designs have really solved. "In a way, it's even surprising that hidden services have survived so far. The attention they have received is minimal compared to their social value and compared to the size and determination of their adversaries."
United States

US Postal Service Hacked, 500k+ Employees and Public Data Breached 46

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Postal Service has admitted that it has suffered a massive security breach, with the disclosure to hackers of the personal details of over 500,000 USPS workers, along with details supplied by members of the public when contacting Postal Service call centers between January and mid-August of 2014. The breach is a hard blow to the integrity and reputation of the USPS's internal security set-up, the Corporate Information Security Office (CISO). In 2012 CISO reports that it blocked 257 billion unauthorized attempts to access the USPS network, 66,734 attempts to distribute credit-card information, 1,278 attempts to reveal USPS-ordained credit-card transactions and 345,342 attempts to distribute social security numbers.
Facebook

New Facebook Update Lets You Choose News Feed Content 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-feature dept.
An anonymous reader writes The company has rolled out some changes that make it easier to control what comes in your News Feed. From the article: "The social network unveiled a new settings menu and customization options for News Feed that allows users to personalize the types of content they see. The News Feed settings menu, which appears in the Facebook apps and on the web, displays which friends appear most often in your News Feed and which friends you've chosen to unfollow. From there, you can choose to unfollow people you don't want to see anymore or re-follow (Facebook calls it "reconnecting" with) those you've previously hidden from your feed."
The Internet

More Tor .Onion Sites May Get Digital Certificates Soon 52

Posted by timothy
from the try-to-stop-from-crying dept.
Trailrunner7 writes News broke last week that Facebook had built a hidden services version of its social network available to users browsing anonymously via the Tor Project's proxy service. Unlike any .onion domain before it, Facebook's would be verified by a legitimate digital signature, signed and issued by DigiCert. Late yesterday, Jeremy Rowley, DigiCert's vice president of business development and legal, explained his company's decision to support this endeavor in a blog entry. He also noted that DigiCert is considering opening up its certification business to other .Onion domains in the future. "Using a digital certificate from DigiCert, Tor users are able to identify the exact .onion address operated by Facebook," Rowley explained. "Tor users can evaluate the digital certificate contents to discover that the entity operating the onion address is the same entity as the one operating facebook.com."
Facebook

Zuckerberg: Most of Facebook Will Be Video Within Five Years 206

Posted by Soulskill
from the will-deliver-electric-shock-if-you-look-away dept.
jfruh writes: Facebook recently held its first ever town-hall meeting in which Mark Zuckerberg took questions from the general public, and one of his answers might raise some eyebrows. When asked if the increasing numbers of photos being uploaded might strain the company's servers, he said the infrastructure is more than up to the task, because they're preparing for the notion that "in five years, most of [Facebook] will be video."
Crime

Bounties vs. Extreme Internet Harassment 716

Posted by timothy
from the incentives-work dept.
squiggleslash writes Brianna Wu, a game studio owner in Boston, found herself the target of numerous anonymous death threats last month, apparently the escalation of a campaign that started when she spoke up for women in gaming, and that intensified during the GamerGate train wreck. Rather than hide, she's offering an $11,000+ cash reward for anyone who helps put her attacker in jail, and she's reporting — albeit at a time many see GamerGate being in its death throes — that it's already having an effect. Wu is also setting up a legal fund to go after those promoting more extreme libels against her and others, with screenshots of a forged tweet purporting to be written by her still circulating around the Internet.
Social Networks

Users Can't Distinguish Scams From Facebook's Features 116

Posted by timothy
from the deeper-lessons dept.
Anyone who's seen social media sites like Facebook has probably also seen scam ads that promise new features or insider access to the sites themselves. rudy_wayne writes Zdnet reports that a new whitepaper from antivirus company Bitdefender, which examined 850,000 Facebook scams over two years, shows that Facebook's own user experience enables these scams to flourish. The researchers found that scammers have infected millions of users with the same tricks over and over again — just repackaged. The most common tricks, such as 'Guess who viewed your profile (45.5 percent)' and 'change your background color' (29.53 percent) rely on a combination of the obsessions encouraged by the Facebook experience, and a general lack of understanding about Facebook's functionality — which, as most users know, is a constantly moving target. Users would be none the wiser that a given scam isn't just a new "feature" or another of Facebook's psychological experiments being done on users.
Social Networks

Computer Scientists Say Meme Research Doesn't Threaten Free Speech 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-sure-if-good-thing-or-bad-thing dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes "In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday (PDF), five of the nation's top computing research organizations defended a research grant to study how information goes viral. The groups were responding to claims that the government-funded effort could help create a 1984-type surveillance state. The controversy arises over a nearly $1 million research grant to researchers at Indiana University to investigate "why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten," particularly on Twitter. "We do not believe this work represents a threat to free speech or a suppression of any type of speech over the internet," the letter said. "The tools developed in the course of this research are capable of making no political judgments, no prognostications, and no editorial comments, nor do they provide any capability for exerting any control over the Twitter stream they analyze," they wrote. The controversy over Truthy may be just another sign of the ongoing deterioration between the science community and lawmakers over basic research funding as well as the science itself.
Social Networks

New GCHQ Chief Says Social Media Aids Terrorists 228

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-tweet-pictures-of-your-breakfast-otherwise-the-terrorists-win dept.
An anonymous reader sends this report from Sky News: The new head of GCHQ has accused social media websites of helping terror groups and called for closer ties with intelligence agencies. "'However much they [tech companies] may dislike it, they have become the command and control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us." ... Mr. Hannigan said that smartphone and other mobile technologies increased the opportunities for terrorist activity to be concealed in the wake of the exposing of secret cables and documents collected by US and UK authorities by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Mr. Hannigan said that smartphone and other mobile technologies increased the opportunities for terrorist activity to be concealed in the wake of the exposing of secret cables and documents collected by US and UK authorities by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Stats

How Google Can Get the Flu Right 31

Posted by timothy
from the spend-time-in-the-right-places dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google Flu Trends was developed in 2009 to improve forecasts of flu levels in the U.S. by utilising Google search data. This early example showcased the potential which lies in the exploitation of human digital traces which all of us leave behind by using online services. The rise of Google Flu Trends was only stopped when the service dramatically overestimated the number of flu incidences recently. The fall raised questions about the value of online data for predictions in general. However, a study published yesterday demonstrates that it is not only about data but also about the adaptiveness of algorithms used for predictions. Scientists combined historic flu levels as reported by the CDC with Google Flu Trends data using an algorithmic framework which is able to adapt to changes in human search behaviour. Their results show that Google Flu Trends data sets significantly add information to the forecasts of current flu levels.
Facebook

Facebook Wants You To Vote Tuesday 165

Posted by timothy
from the in-particular-way dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Six years in the making, Facebook's get-out-the-vote tool — a high-profile button that proclaims "I'm Voting" or "I'm a Voter" — will on Tuesday give many of the social network's more than 150 million American users a gentle but effective nudge to vote. "If past research is any guide," writes Micah L. Sifry in Mother Jones, "up to a few million more people will head to the polls partly because their Facebook friends encouraged them. Yet the process by which Facebook has developed this tool — what the firm calls the 'voter megaphone' — has not been very transparent, raising questions about its use and Facebook's ability to influence elections. Moreover, while Facebook has been developing and promoting this tool, it has also been quietly conducting experiments on how the company's actions can affect the voting behavior of its users." Sifry adds, "There may be another reason for Facebook's lack of transparency regarding its voting promotion experiments: politics. Facebook officials likely do not want Republicans on Capitol Hill to realize that their voter megaphone isn't a neutral get-out-the-vote mechanism. It's not that Facebook uses this tool to remind only users who identify themselves as Democrats to vote — though the company certainly has the technical means to do so. But the Facebook user base tilts Democratic." So, it's probably worth mentioning again that Facebook caught flack last summer for deliberately experimenting on users' emotions without their consent. And just last June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC put out a call for "pissed off Data Scientists" to data mine critical legislative districts and "growth hack" ways to motivate "registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform.""
Facebook

Facebook Sets Up Shop On Tor 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the mixing-privacy-with-antiprivacy dept.
itwbennett writes: Assuming that people who use the anonymity network want to also use Facebook, the social network has made its site available on Tor, Facebook software engineer Alec Muffett said in a post on Friday. Facebook also decided to encrypt the connection between clients and its server with SSL, providing an SSL certificate for Facebook's onion address. This was done both for internal technical reasons and as a way for users to verify Facebook's ownership of the onion address. Since it is still an experiment, Facebook hopes to improve the service and said it would share lessons learned about scaling and deploying services via an onion address over time.
Crime

Pirate Bay Founder Gottfrid Warg Faces Danish Jail Time 89

Posted by timothy
from the he-typed-like-a-one-armed-man dept.
Hammeh writes BBC news reports that Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Warg has been found guilty of hacking into computers and illegally downloading files in Denmark. Found guilty of breaching security to access computers owned by technology giant CSC to steal police and social security files, Mr Warg faces a sentence of up to six years behind bars. Mr Warg argued that although the computer used to commit the offence was owned by him, the hacks were carried out by another individual who he declined to name.
Medicine

Ebola Forecast: Scientists Release Updated Projections and Tracking Maps 294

Posted by timothy
from the hashtag-ebola dept.
An anonymous reader writes Scientists of the Northeastern University, in collaboration with European scientists, developed a modeling approach aimed at assessing the progression of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and its international spread under the assumption that the outbreak continues to evolve at the current pace. They also considered the impact of travel restrictions, and concluded that such restrictions may delay by only a few weeks the risk that the outbreak extends to new countries. Instead, travel bans could hamper the delivery of medical supplies and the deployment of specialized personnel to manage the epidemic. In the group's page, there's also an updated assessment of the probability of Ebola virus disease case importation in countries across the world, which was also invoked during the Congressional Ebola debate. The group also released a map with real-time tracking of conversations about Ebola on Twitter. Policy makers and first responders are the main target audience of the tool, which is able to show a series of potential warnings and events (mostly unconfirmed) related to Ebola spreading and case importation.

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