turnings :: daniel berlinger

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Surveillance by Algorithm

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Surveillance by Algorithm:

Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection,” in government parlance.

So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.

This is why Clapper claims — to this day — that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

If the NSA collects — I’m using the everyday definition of the word here — all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects — I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word — everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected — NSA definition — until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data — in NSA terms — actually been collected.

[How broken is a system that allows people to hide behind lies of omission rather than demanding common use, or explain their definition. Sad.]

Written by Daniel

March 5, 2014 at 8:09 am

Posted in ethics, news, security

ē The Cost of Bitcoin

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ē The Cost of Bitcoin:

Putting aside the particulars of Bitcoin, the potential it represents is absolutely a very big deal.

Bitcoin and the breakthrough it represents, broadly speaking, changes all that. For the first time something can be both digital and unique, without any real world representation. The particulars of Bitcoin and its hotly-debated value as a currency I think cloud this fact for many observers; the breakthrough I’m talking about in fact has nothing to do with currency, and could in theory be applied to all kinds of objects that can’t be duplicated, from stock certificates to property deeds to wills and more.

[snip -ed]

That’s not the case with Bitcoin though. Anticipating the amount of power that would be thrown at mining Bitcoin, Satashi Nakamoto built in a simple escalator that ensured new Bitcoin would be released about every 10 minutes no matter the amount of power being applied to mining/verification. This has effectively locked Bitcoin miners into a zero sum contest wherein greater and greater computing power serves only to steal opportunity from fellow miners; there is no corresponding increase in Bitcoin to be had.

[I remain unconvinced of Bitcoin as currency. But the uniqueness is interesting...]

Written by Daniel

March 5, 2014 at 7:42 am

Posted in tech

Schneier on Security: Choosing Secure Passwords

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Schneier on Security: Choosing Secure Passwords:

Last year, Ars Technica gave three experts a 16,000-entry encrypted password file, and asked them to break as many as possible. The winner got 90% of them, the loser 62% — in a few hours. It’s the same sort of thing we saw in 2012, 2007, and earlier. If there’s any new news, it’s that this kind of thing is getting easier faster than people think.

[It's not going to get easier for a while...]

Written by Daniel

March 4, 2014 at 7:35 am

Posted in security, tech

pCell and Why its a Bigger Deal than Anyone Realizes

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How Steve Perlman’s “Revolutionary” Wireless Technology Works – and Why its a Bigger Deal than Anyone Realizes:

My brain almost exploded when I realized this. While 5G is a big leap in performance from existing 4G technology, it doesn’t provide any fundamentally new capabilities to us. Wireless power, though would be a total game-changer. What would the implications be?

  • Consumer electronics that never need to be plugged in again – phones, tablets, laptops, televisions could all be powered wirelessly in the home and office.
  • With transmission towers spaced every kilometer along major highways, electric cars would not need massive, expensive batteries. Everyone could afford a Tesla, and the demand for oil would drop.
  • With transmitters on a few rooftops in a city, you could have drones and quadcopters delivering groceries and mail, again without heavy batteries that limit their flying time.
  • You could build an electrical grid that’s a wireless mesh network, especially in developing countries, and have excess power from solar panels beamed to other locations which need it.

There are probably a slew of other ideas that I haven’t even considered – readers, please comment below!

[A potentially amazing new technology, even if all it allows is streaming of 4k programming. If Verizon wants to get involved in wireless over fiber (don't be fooled, they serve different needs) let's see them roll out some of this in an aggressive game changing way.]

Written by Daniel

March 3, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Posted in news, tech

Bruce Kushnick: The Great Verizon FiOS Ripoff

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Bruce Kushnick: The Great Verizon FiOS Ripoff:

Whatever amount Verizon did spend on FiOS — and obviously it was a not insignificant amount — would therefore appear to have come out of the standard construction budgets that were supposed to be used to upgrade the lines that most Americans are still using for their phone service: the Public Switched Telephone Networks, or PSTN. It would seem that customers, including seniors, low income families, minorities and municipalities have been funding the construction of a cable service through the hefty monthly fees they pay for a dialtone and ancillary services. In some states this is actually illegal.

If Verizon did actually spend $23 billion, then it appears to have come at the expense of the traditional maintenance and upgrades of the utility plant — and the PSTN got totally hosed. At the very least, prices for basic phone service should have been in steep decline as one of the major costs, construction, was dramatically lowered.

Instead, Verizon was also getting rate increases specifically to pay for FiOS. For instance, Verizon persuaded New York officials to increase rates for “fiber optic investments,” where the only service that could use the fiber optic service was Verizon’s FiOS.

For instance, when New York State Department of Public Service Commission Chairman Garry Brown announced the approval of a $1.95 a month rate hike for residential phone lines in 2009, he said “there are certain increases in Verizon’s costs that have to be recognized.” He explained: “This is especially important given the magnitude of the company’s capital investment program, including its massive deployment of fiber optics in New York. We encourage Verizon to make appropriate investments in New York, and these minor rate increases will allow those investments to continue.”

Of course the states weren’t told that everyone would be charged extra for a service that only some people were going to get. In New Jersey, for instance, Verizon made a firm commitment to rewire the entire state with fiber optics — capable of 45 Mbps in both directions. It was supposed to be 100 percent completed by 2010. Instead, Verizon claims to have “passed” 1.9 million homes, representing 57 percent of the households in its territories — but “passed” may or may not mean that they can actually get service.


Written by Daniel

February 28, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Posted in tech

Netflix and Net Neutrality

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Netflix and Net Neutrality – Marco.org:

What’s most damning to their argument is that they’ve all acted within common-carrier boundaries anyway for most of broadband’s existence, with very few exceptions, and they continue to make record profits, expand service (mostly), and increase speeds. Common-carrier regulation would simply prevent some very harmful “innovations” that the ISPs have, to date, never needed to remain profitable and keep expanding.

Don’t believe their bullshit. They’d be perfectly fine as common carriers. Almost nothing would change from the way they’ve always operated.


Written by Daniel

February 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Posted in tech

Nilay Patel: ‘The Internet Is F****d’

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Nilay Patel: ‘The Internet Is F****d’:

Great piece by Nilay Patel at The Verge:

American politicians love to stand on the edges of important
problems by insisting that the market will find a solution. And
that’s mostly right; we don’t need the government meddling in
places where smart companies can create their own answers. But you
can’t depend on the market to do anything when the market doesn’t
exist. “We can either have competition, which would solve a lot of
these problems, or we can have regulation,” says Aaron. “What
Comcast is trying is to have neither.” It’s insanity, and we keep
lying to ourselves about it. It’s time to start thinking about
ways to actually do something.

Netflix paying Comcast is the canary in the coal mine.

[Smack on. There's so much wrong with what's going lately (carriage wars) because these are the same companies that argue over these things with the television companies. And the other side of the equation is also unbalanced (how much we get charged for really poor access... (I expect us all to have Gigabit Internet)). I guess the only way forward is around these folks, and I'll bet based on what I've seen recently in network technology that it is possible.]

Source: Daring Fireball

Written by Daniel

February 25, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Posted in advocacy, news, tech


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