Authoritarian Tech

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Today’s most innovative police states owe more to Mark Zuckerberg than to Joseph Stalin.

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News Briefs
3 October, 2019
New app brings facial recognition to in-person networking

Let’s say you’re attending a Silicon Valley reception and find yourself talking to an important-seeming person; you begin to wonder: am I just wasting my time, or am I talking to an investor who can bankroll my dumb startup idea? Well, now there is an app that can answer your question. If you download AngelFace,

26 September, 2019
In a partial victory for Google, court limits ‘right to be forgotten’ to the EU

When is the last time you Googled yourself? Did you like what you saw? If you’re in Europe, you could get some of those bad links removed from the results. But it’s long been unclear if that rule applies globally. Now, after years of debate, the European Court of Justice made a decision on Tuesday:

20 September, 2019
Inside Ecuador’s massive data leak

Earlier this week, the publication ZDNet and trade publication vpnMentor revealed that Ecuador’s entire population — including former citizen Julian Assange — had highly personal data leaked because a government contractor did almost nothing to keep it secure. After the report came out, Ecuador officials opened an investigation, arrested the head of the data company,

11 September, 2019
A few philosophers walk into a tech conference

Berlin’s annual IFA consumer electronics conference is not, generally, a political affair. Walk past its nearly 2,000 exhibitors and tens of thousands of visitors and you’ll be greeted with “innovation engines,” calls to “do your laundry #LikeABosch” and demonstrations of advanced air conditioners (I didn’t feel a difference). At one of many “cooking shows,” presenters

6 September, 2019
The business of projecting climate change

In the aftermath of America’s disastrous 2017 hurricane season, some media outlets became interested in the people who were going to profit. One of these people was Albert Slap, CEO of Coastal Risk Consulting. “[He] would rather not be profiting from other people’s misfortune,” wrote Bloomberg. “But his business, determining the flood risk facing specific

30 August, 2019
Data collaboratives try to make data collection work for public good

When you take an Uber ride, information about your trip may be stored and shared with governments. But it’s not fed into a controversial mass surveillance system or security apparatus; instead, the data is anonymized and analyzed by cities, to help with problems like traffic flow and congestion. It’s called “Uber Movement,” and is like

26 August, 2019
Cryptojacking at a Ukrainian Nuclear Plant

What do you do when you have access to a massive electrical power source and you’re looking to make a bit more money? The staff at the state owned South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant in Yuzhnoukrainsk reckoned that a recent spike in cryptocurrency trading prices provided the perfect incentive to hook up their mining rigs

19 August, 2019
New UK Home Secretary calls for backdoor into end-to-end encryption

Britain’s new Home Secretary, appointed when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister and the third in the last three years, recently announced that encryption safeguards should be eliminated to allow access for law enforcement agencies. End-to-end encryption means only the sender and recipient can read encrypted messages. Priti Patel, widely considered to be a social conservative

1 August, 2019
Amazon employees launch new campaign calling for more accountability on business with US government

One hallmark of the dominance of big technology firms like Amazon and Google is the rise of small groups of activist workers who use their proximity to the decision making process to lobby for change. This was demonstrated earlier this week when an anonymous group of Amazon employees, using a new social media account, began

26 July, 2019
US government intensifies its push for a ‘backdoor’ into encrypted communications

This week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr made another move in the long-running argument between the government and tech companies by reiterating the government’s belief that electronics manufacturers need to make their encryption breakable by the authorities. “The deployment of warrant-proof encryption is already imposing huge costs on society,” Barr said according to Ars Technica.

24 July, 2019
Another US city bans police facial recognition, but it’s an uphill battle

Oakland, California has become the third American city to ban facial recognition. The president of its city council cited “potential abuses of data” and “the invasive nature of the technology” as reasons to do so. The latest ban, which would also prohibit the police, will be seen as a welcome trend by activists. In the

18 July, 2019
Data and information is power – and a risk to political authority

Digital technologies have changed the modern application of power. Political leaders mobilize large resources to win information wars on Twitter and Facebook. Rarely a day passes where new and viral instances of “fake news”, sometimes produced by state employed trolls, don’t pollute social media networks and monopolize our attention. Much of this was on discussion

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