It turns out that the NSA’s domestic and world-wide surveillance apparatus is even more extensive than we thought. Bluntly: The government has commandeered the Internet. Most of the largest Internet companies provide information to the NSA, betraying their users. Some, as we’ve learned, fight and lose. Others cooperate, either out of patriotism or because they believe it’s easier that way.
I have one message to the executives of those companies: fight.
Do you remember those old spy movies, when the higher ups in government decide that the mission is more important than the spy’s life? It’s going to be the same way with you. You might think that your friendly relationship with the government means that they’re going to protect you, but they won’t. The NSA doesn’t care about you or your customers, and will burn you the moment it’s convenient to do so.
We’re already starting to see that. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others are pleading with the government to allow them to explain details of what information they provided in response to National Security Letters and other government demands. They’ve lost the trust of their customers, and explaining what they do — and don’t do — is how to get it back. The government has refused; they don’t care.
Read more. [Image: The Washington Post]
Let me go back to my unanswered question: Can there even be an informed public and consent-of-the-governed for decisions about electronic surveillance, or have we put those principles aside so that the state can have its freedom to maneuver?
People who make a career in journalism cannot pretend to neutrality on a matter like that. If a free society needs them — and I think it does — it needs them to stand strongly against the eclipse of informed consent.
Tool: Dynamic Network Analysis
Source: André Panisson
Description: Panisson created a real-time infographic mapping tweets and retweets the day Egypt’s Mubarak was forced out of office. While the visualization in and of itself is interesting. As a tool for verification it is particularly fascinating on a few levels. It helps you see the flow of information, or misinformation and track it back to its source. In addition, it helps you access who influential people are in a discussion, offering you leads and potential sources. Panisson described the project this way, “It was very interesting to see, in real time, the exact moment when Tahrir Square, from a mass protest demonstration, has been transformed in a giant party, and the burst in the Twitter’s activity. It was like covering in real time a virtual event, a big event that was happening in the Twitter virtual world.”
Panisson’s blog post: http://gephi.org/2011/the-egyptian-revolution-on-twitter/
TED Video of Storyful’s Markham Nolan talking about the tool: http://www.ted.com/talks/markham_nolan_how_to_separate_fact_and_fiction_online.html
What Google Knows
Via the Wall Street Journal:
Every hour, an active Google user can generate hundreds or thousands of data “events” that Google stores in its computers, said people familiar with its data-gathering process.
These include when people use Google’s array of Web and mobile-device services, which have long collected information about what individuals are privately searching for on the Web. It includes the videos they watch on YouTube, which gets more than one billion visitors a month; phone calls they’ve made using Google Voice and through nearly one billion Google-powered Android smartphones; and messages they send via Android phones or through Gmail, which has more than 425 million users.
If a user signs in to his or her Google account to use Gmail and other services, the information collected grows and is connected to the name associated with the account. Google can log information about the addresses of websites that person visits after doing Google searches.
Even if the person visits sites without first searching for them on Google, the company can collect many of the website addresses people using Google’s Chrome Web browser or if they visit one of millions of sites that have pieces of Google code, such as its “+1” button, installed.
Android-based phones and Google Maps can collect information about people’s location over time. Google also has credit-card information for more than 200 million Android-device owners who have purchased mobile apps, digital books or music, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
Somewhat related bonus: The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership, via Bloomberg.
Image: What Google Knows, via the Wall Street Journal. Select to embiggen.
In a major ruling on press freedoms, a divided federal appeals court on Friday ruled that James Risen, an author and a reporter for The New York Times, must testify in the criminal trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency official charged with providing him with classified information.
The New York Times expands on the impacts of the decision:
Friday’s ruling establishes a precedent that applies only to the Fourth Circuit, but that circuit includes Maryland and Virginia, where most national security agencies like the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency are. As a result, if it stands, it could have a significant impact on investigative journalism about national security matters.
The Times also describes the ruling as “awkwardly timed for the Obama administration” due to the ongoing discussions between free press advocates and Attorney General Eric H. Holder on the justice department’s treatment of the press.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has portrayed himself as trying to rebalance the department’s approach to leak investigations in response to the furor over its aggressive investigative tactics, like subpoenaing Associated Press reporters’ phone records and portraying a Fox News reporter as a criminal conspirator in order to obtain a warrant for his e-mails.
Last week, Mr. Holder announced new guidelines for leak investigations that significantly tightened the circumstances in which reporters’ records could be obtained. He also reiterated the Obama administration’s proposal to revive legislation to create a federal media shield law that in some cases would allow judges to quash subpoenas for reporters’ testimony, as many states have.
AP-Google scholar John Osborn lays out why J-schools need a more structured track for computer-assisted reporters.
What should journalists be learning to put them on the “computer-assisted reporting” track? Osborn wishes that schools would ”introduce or reinforce core skills like data analysis, data visualization, Python for scraping and automation, front-end development to create awesome interfaces to explore data and other media, and web design aesthetics.”
Read more: J-Schools, Invest in CAR