Saturday, March 19, 2011

Welcome, Rainy Springtime

Welcome, Spring 2011.

I'm already sick of rain, wind, and darkness.

Summer can't come fast enough.

Yes, I know we're spoiled here in Northern California -- while the rest of the country has been pounded by snow and bitter cold, we have only had to deal with a little rain and cool weather.

On a better note, we're no longer in a drought emergency situation in Northern California for the first time in a while.

- ferg

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mark Fiore: Disaster

More Mark Fiore brilliance.

Via The San Francisco Chronicle.

- ferg

Revealed: U.S. Spy Operation That Manipulates Social Media

Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain write on The Guardian:

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

More here.

EU Lawmakers Upset by Poor Protection of Swift Banking Data

Jennifer Baker writes on PC World:

A second review of the controversial Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) has done little to allay European parliamentarians' fears of poor data security.

Last week an internal report by Europol, the European police force charged with overseeing the accord, sparked anger among Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) when it revealed that the written requests made by the U.S. for European banking data were too vague to assess whether they meet European Union data standards. But Europol went ahead and rubber-stamped them anyway. Many members of the Parliament's civil liberties committee said they felt betrayed.

On Wednesday, Isabel Cruz, chairwoman of Europol's internal oversight unit, explained that additional oral information was provided to Europol staff by the U.S. authorities, but that the content of that information is not known, again making it impossible to verify compliance with the TFTP agreement. Her report recommended that in the future, requests must contain more detailed information, specific to each request, and the U.S. authorities may need to provide certain additional information.

The TFTP (also known as the Swift agreement) came into force last August and allows the transfer of European citizens' banking data to the U.S. under certain conditions. One of these was that a high degree of data protection would be enforced and that Europol would oversee the implementation. Under Article 4 of the agreement Europol has the task of verifying U.S. requests for data. However, "we always said it had to be a legal, judicial body to verify the legality of these requests. Europol has a role which is extremely confusing," said Cruz.

More here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Culprits?

The greedy bankers, of course.

If you haven't seen "Inside Job", you really should.

And not a single person involved in this enormous scourge has even been indicted or charged with a crime.

And it continues -- the foxes are in the hen house. Still.

It will make you angrier than you already should be.

- ferg

Monday, March 14, 2011

Obama Admin Calls for More ICANN Accountability

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

The Obama administration today called for improvements in the mechanisms used to oversee Internet domain names, saying changes are needed to make the process more "accountable" and "transparent."

Larry Strickling, a Commerce Department assistant secretary, said that the California nonprofit group created in 1998 to oversee these functions--the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN--"needs" to do more to explain the reasoning for its decisions and to heed the advice of national governments.

"We still have work to do to make the reality of ICANN meet the vision," said Strickling, who heads the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In some areas, he said ICANN's efforts "remain incomplete."

Strickling's comments follow a rare and unprecedented public rift between ICANN and national governments over the rules for approving new top-level domain names. Hundreds of applications for these suffixes are expected later this year, once the process has been finalized, including bids for .car, .love, .movie, .web, and .win.

More here.