In Push for 2020 Election Security- Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

Opinion | Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again – The New York Times

Zeynep Tufekci

By Zeynep Tufekci

Dr. Tufekci is a professor of information science who specializes in the social effects of technology.

CreditAlexis Beauclair
“People concerned about privacy often try to be “careful” online. They stay off social media, or if they’re on it, they post cautiously. They don’t share information about their religious beliefs, personal life, health status or political views. By doing so, they think they are protecting their privacy.

But they are wrong. Because of technological advances and the sheer amount of data now available about billions of other people, discretion no longer suffices to protect your privacy. Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed, including your moods, your political beliefs, your sexual orientation and your health.

There is no longer such a thing as individually “opting out” of our privacy-compromised world.

The basic idea of data inference is not new. Magazine subscriber lists have long been purchased by retailers, charities and politicians because they provide useful hints about people’s views. A subscriber to The Wall Street Journal is more likely to be a Republican voter than is a subscriber to The Nation, and so on.”

Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

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By Philip N. Howard
Professor Howard is the director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of “Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.”

March 27, 2019

Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 American presidential election, released by members of the House Intelligence Committee in late 2017.
Credit
Jon Elswick/Associated Press

“Despite the best efforts of several technology firms, there still seem to be secretive groups distributing political ads without disclosing who is funding those ads. Even if Facebook starts discouraging advertisers from targeting users on the basis of race, gender or age, as it recently announced, the wealth of existing data that it has already collected will still allow advertisers to do sophisticated ad targeting.

Social media firms want to regulate themselves, and Google has threatened to withdraw all political ads in Canada if it finds transparency rules too onerous. Facebook offers political ad archives in a few countries, and searching by hand is laborious. Independent researchers can investigate trends computationally, but Facebook, Twitter and Google are doing more and more to restrict access. There is negligible access to Instagram, where huge volumes of Russian-origin misinformation now flows. Banning political ads or creating partial ad archives in some countries won’t strengthen the world’s democracies. Ad bans give incumbent politicians an unfair advantage, and establishing partial ad archives gives political ad buyers an incentive to not declare their ads as political.

Elections officials and ad regulators in the world’s democracies urgently need to sort this out: Nearly a billion people in India and across Europe will prepare to vote in the next few months, and presidential campaigning in the United States has already started. The solution is to have all technology companies put all ads, all the time, into public archives.”

via Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

Opinion | If Stalin Had a Smartphone – By David Brooks – The New York Times

David Brooks

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

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A woman in Moscow taking a selfie with an image of Stalin, on the anniversary of his death.CreditCreditMladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“I feel bad for Joseph Stalin. He dreamed of creating a totalitarian society where every individual’s behavior could be predicted and controlled. But he was born a century too early. He lived before the technology that would have made being a dictator so much easier!

In the first place, he’d have much better surveillance equipment. These days most interactions are through a computer, so there is always an electronic record of what went on.

The internet of things means that our refrigerators, watches, glasses, phones and security cameras will soon be recording every move we make. In 2017, Levi Strauss made an interactive denim jacket, with sensors to detect and transmit each gesture, even as minimal as the lifting of a finger. Soon prosecutors will be able to subpoena our driverless cars and retrieve a record of every place they took us.

And this is not even to mention the facial recognition technology the Chinese are using to keep track of their own citizens. In Beijing, facial recognition is used in apartment buildings to prevent renters from subletting their apartments.”

Mark Zuckerberg Wants Facebook to Emulate WeChat. Can It? – By Li Yuan – The New York Times

“SAN FRANCISCO — As Mark Zuckerberg begins shifting Facebook to private messaging and away from public sharing and open conversations, the vision he has sketched out for the future of social networking already exists — just not in the United States.

Instead, it is a reality in China through a messaging app called WeChat.

Developed by the Chinese internet giant Tencent in 2011, WeChat lets people message each other via one-on-one texts, audio or video calls. Users can also form groups of as many as 500 people on WeChat to discuss and debate the issues of the day.

While Facebook users constantly see ads in their News Feeds, WeChat users only see one or two ads a day in their Moment feeds. That’s because WeChat isn’t dependent on advertising for making money. It has a mobile payments system that has been widely adopted in China, which allows people to shop, play games, pay utility bills and order meal deliveries all from within the app. WeChat gets a commission from many of these services.

“WeChat has shown definitively that private messaging, especially the small groups, is the future,” said Jeffrey Towson, a professor of investment at Peking University. “It is the uber utility of business and life. It has shown the path.” “

Source: Mark Zuckerberg Wants Facebook to Emulate WeChat. Can It? – The New York Times

Some of the Popular Images and Themes the Russians Posted on Social Media – The New York Times

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Using an array of accounts on multiple platforms and targeting a variety of demographics, the Russians have generated millions of interactions with their posts.

By Scott Shane
Dec. 17, 2018,  172c
When Russia targets Americans on social media, it has political goals: in 2016, to damage Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald J. Trump; since then, to press Russian views on issues like the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine; and in the future — who knows?

To wield influence, Russian online operators must first build an audience. Posing as Americans, they have to persuade Americans to pay attention and give them at least a modicum of trust.

Two reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released on Monday shed some light on how Russia does it. The reports identify some of the most popular of the images and themes created by the Internet Research Agency, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and owned by a businessman with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin.

[Read more about the reports here.]

Here are a few of the Russians’ greatest hits.

via Some of the Popular Images and Themes the Russians Posted on Social Media – The New York Times

Facebook- Twitter and YouTube Withheld Russia Data- Reports Say – The New York Times

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By Sheera Frenkel- Daisuke Wakabayashi and Kate Conger
Dec. 17, 2018,       77c
SAN FRANCISCO — When lawmakers asked YouTube, a unit of Google, to provide information about Russian manipulation efforts, it did not disclose how many people watched the videos on its site that were created by Russian trolls.

Facebook did not release the comments that its users made when they viewed Russian-generated content. And Twitter gave only scattered details about the Russian-controlled accounts that spread propaganda there.

The tech companies’ foot-dragging was described in a pair of reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee published on Monday, in what were the most detailed accounts to date about how Russian agents have wielded social media against Americans in recent years.

In the reports, Google, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram) were described by researchers as having “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites. The companies were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate.

via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Withheld Russia Data, Reports Say – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

One commenter called for all of us to quit Facebook. I responded,

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval

 

How to Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location – By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Natasha Singer – The New York Times

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DL: I just learned that Android is not as good as Apple in this important privacy function. Apple allows you to share location “Only when the app is in use,”  as opposed to all the time! See the difference explained.

Hundreds of apps can follow your movements and share the details with advertisers, retailers and even hedge funds. Here’s how to limit the snooping.

By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Natasha Singer
Dec. 10, 2018

At least 75 companies receive people’s precise location data from hundreds of apps whose users enable location services for benefits such as weather alerts, The New York Times found. The companies use, store or sell the information to help advertisers, investment firms and others.

You can head off much of the tracking on your own device by spending a few minutes changing settings. The information below applies primarily to people in the United States.

How can I tell if apps are sharing my location?
It’s difficult to know for sure whether location data companies are tracking your phone. Any app that collects location data may share your information with other companies, as long as it mentions that somewhere in its privacy policy.

But the language in those policies can be dense, confusing or outright misleading. Apps that funnel location details to help hedge funds, for instance, have told users their data would be used for market analysis — or simply for “business purposes.”

via How to Stop Apps From Tracking Your Location – The New York Times

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night- and They’re Not Keeping It Secret – The New York Times

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By JENNIFER VALENTINO-DeVRIES, NATASHA SINGER, MICHAEL H. KELLER and AARON KROLIK DEC. 10, 2018

The millions of dots on the map trace highways, side streets and bike trails — each one following the path of an anonymous cellphone user.

One path tracks someone from a home outside Newark to a nearby Planned Parenthood, remaining there for more than an hour. Another represents a person who travels with the mayor of New York during the day and returns to Long Island at night.

Yet another leaves a house in upstate New York at 7 a.m. and travels to a middle school 14 miles away, staying until late afternoon each school day. Only one person makes that trip: Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher. Her smartphone goes with her.

An app on the device gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.

The app tracked her as she went to a Weight Watchers meeting and to her dermatologist’s office for a minor procedure. It followed her hiking with her dog and staying at her ex-boyfriend’s home, information she found disturbing.

“It’s the thought of people finding out those intimate details that you don’t want people to know,” said Ms. Magrin, who allowed The Times to review her location data.

via Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret – The New York Times

DL: Ouch. I wish that new fangled phones and their widget apps weren’t so complicated. But here above is something to focus on.

Opinion | I Thought the Web Would Stop Hate- Not Spread It – by Kari Swisher – NYT

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I wrote my first column for The Times on this, months ago. Let me say it again: Social media platforms — and Facebook and Twitter are as guilty of this as Gab is — are designed so that the awful travels twice as fast as the good. And they are operating with sloppy disregard of the consequences of that awful speech, leading to disasters that they then have to clean up after.

And they are doing a very bad job of that, too, because they are unwilling to pay the price to make needed fixes. Why? because draining the cesspool would mean losing users, and that would hurt the bottom line. Consider this: On Monday, New York Times reporters easily found almost 12,000 anti-Semitic messages that had been uploaded to Instagram in the wake of the synagogue attack.

via Opinion | I Thought the Web Would Stop Hate, Not Spread It – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
“We have no idea how to deal with this situation, except to watch it play out over and over again, and allow it to kill us cell by cell.”