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
13 November, 2019
Deepfake videos of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn emerge – with a stark message

Two fake videos of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his opponent Jeremy Corbyn doing the seemingly impossible — supporting each other — have been posted online ahead of the snap UK elections in December. The videos, called deepfakes, were released by Future Advocacy, a think tank that endorses responsible policies around the use of

Surveillance is a form of information warfare, says Shoshana Zuboff

At Coda, we try to “connect the dots” between the issues we cover, but our two channels — disinformation and authoritarian tech — have always seemed distinct. When we think of disinformation and information warfare, we usually think of government-sponsored deception; but Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, describes it differently. “Information

23 October, 2019
UK investigation reveals Russian hackers impersonated Iranian hackers

What makes cyberwarfare so unlike traditional war is that it’s sometimes much harder to know — much less prove — who attacked you. This creates a situation of relative impunity, where the ingenuity and impact of cyberattacks grows ever greater, but deterrence is always a step behind. Of course, there are certain ways you can

18 October, 2019
Breaking up Facebook is getting traction in politics

A few years ago, it might have seemed unlikely that a disagreement about content moderation would be a memorable moment in the U.S. presidential debate. But amidst the techlash and a Twitter-happy American president, that’s exactly what happened earlier this week. It was kind of an awkward moment in Westerville, Ohio, though, where Senator Kamala

16 October, 2019
China’s digital Little Red Book could access all your data

In China, disinformation and authoritarian tech have created a digital hydra in the form of an app called Study the Great Nation. The app is a propaganda tool that encourages users to play games and keep updated on President Xi Jinping’s ideology. It’s been dubbed the digital version of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book. But

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

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