Facebook Must Be Accountable to the Public

A pair of Gizmodo stories have prompted journalists to ask questions about Facebook’s power to manipulate political opinion in an already heated election year. If the claims are accurate, Facebook contractors have depressed some conservative news, and their curatorial hand affects the Facebook Trending list more than the public realizes. Mark Zuckerberg took to his Facebook page yesterday to argue that Facebook does everything possible to be neutral and that there are significant procedures in place to minimize biased coverage. He also promises to look into the accusations.

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Managing The Politics of Water

This year’s World Water Day, on March 22, provides an opportunity to highlight what in many countries has become a grim reality: The availability of fresh water is increasingly a defining strategic factor in regional and global affairs. Unless water resources are managed with extraordinary care, the consequences could be devastating.

Last year, the United Nations World Water Development Report once again highlighted how the growing gap between supply and demand could create conflict. The World Economic Forum has ranked water crises as the most worrying global threat, more dangerous than terrorist attacks or financial meltdowns, and more likely to occur than the use of weapons of mass destruction. And research by the Strategic Foresight Group has shown the importance of wise management: Countries engaged in the joint stewardship of water resources are exceedingly unlikely to go to war.

The Middle East serves as a tragic example of what can happen when regional cooperation is lacking. Iraq, Syria, and Turkey have fought over every cubic meter of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. All have lost as a result. Non-state actors control important parts of the two river basins. And water shortages have aggravated the region’s refugee crisis (itself the apotheosis of poor governance).

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Career Advice No One Tells You

Most people have “okay” jobs.

We go to work, do what we have to do from 9 to 5, come back home, maybe hang out with friends, and do it all over again the next day.

There’s nothing wrong with this.

But some people perform at a totally different level.

They’re the people who land executive level positions by their early 30s while everyone else is still trying to “work their way up.”

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Jackpot? How Much Do Contestants Really Win

Imagine you’ve made it to the final Tribal Council on Survivor. It’s time to determine the winner, and host Jeff Probst keeps pulling slips bearing your name. Finally, he announces that you are the champion. Congratulations, you just won… $580,000!

Wait a minute, Jeff. Hang on. Isn’t that prize short a few hundred thousand? I ate rancid sheep guts. I passed out from exhaustion. I earned my million bucks.

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Apple Incapable of Decrypting iOS 8 User Data, Even for Government

As noted by The Washington Post, iOS 8 marks a new, more aggressive stance in protecting customer data from prying eyes, as Apple engineered an encryption system even it is unable to break.

In a document (PDF link) meant to guide law enforcement officers in requesting user information, Apple notes that it no longer stores encryption keys for devices with iOS 8, meaning agencies are unable to gain access even with a valid search warrant. This includes data store on a physical device protected by a passcode, including photos, call history, contacts and more.  Continue reading →

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10 Steps to a Better Home Wi-Fi

1. Check the placement of your access point (AP).
A location that is higher and to the center of the house should give the best coverage.

2. Survey and choose a wireless channel that is less occupied.
For 2.4 GHz networks consider using channels 1, 6, or 11, to avoid overlapping. As for 5 GHz, the channels are spaced further apart so overlapping is less of an issue.

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Be Careful With Coin

Coin sounds like something people would want. It’s an electronic device in a plastic case the size of a credit card that will contain all your credit card information.

Coin, the San Francisco company promoting the device of the same name, promises to declutter your wallet because you’ll no longer need to carry all your credit and ATM cards. Enter your credit card numbers into the device. Then, when you want to pay for something, scroll through and choose the one you want — the Coin device is swiped just like a regular card. You can also use it in card readers like ATMs.

Coin is not handing the cards out for review because they are not in production yet. It promises to have them ready by this summer. The company is raising money to build them by asking people to pay in advance. (All the ads you see online, and there are loads of them, are paid for with investors’ money, not those orders, the company says.)

It is being sold for $105, though if you order before the end of this week it is $55. (The company hinted that it might extend the discount longer.) Continue reading →

Stores Sniff Out Smartphones to Follow Shoppers

Indoor location technology brings Internet-style tracking to physical spaces.

You’ve just tossed a jar of peanut butter in your grocery cart when your smartphone buzzes. You glance down at the screen to see a message that seems downright clairvoyant: Buy some jelly. Get $1 off.

Convenient? Certainly. Creepy? Maybe.  Continue reading →

Internet Engineers Plan a Fully Encrypted Internet

Responding to reports of mass surveillance, engineers say they’ll make encryption standard in all Web traffic.

In response to the public outcry over mass Internet surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), the engineers who develop the protocols that underpin the Internet are deep into an effort to encrypt all Web traffic, and expect to have a revamped system ready to roll out by the end of next year.  Continue reading →

On the NSA, And the Campaign Against Encryption

Let me tell you the story of my tiny brush with the biggest crypto story of the year.

A few weeks ago I received a call from a reporter at ProPublica, asking me background questions about encryption. Right off the bat I knew this was going to be an odd conversation, since this gentleman seemed convinced that the NSA had vast capabilities to defeat encryption. And not in a ‘hey, d’ya think the NSA has vast capabilities to defeat encryption?’ kind of way. No, he’d already established the defeating. We were just haggling over the details.

Oddness aside it was a fun (if brief) set of conversations, mostly involving hypotheticals. If the NSA could do this, how might they do it? What would the impact be? I admit that at this point one of my biggest concerns was to avoid coming off like a crank. After all, if I got quoted sounding too much like an NSA conspiracy nut, my colleagues would laugh at me. Then I might not get invited to the cool security parties.

All of this is a long way of saying that I was totally unprepared for today’s bombshell revelations describing the NSA’s efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it’s true on a scale I couldn’t even imagine. I’m no longer the crank. I wasn’t even close to cranky enough.

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