Archive for March 12th, 2017
Tim Berners-Lee: I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to save it
Today marks 28 years since I submitted my original proposal for the worldwide web.
I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.
In many ways, the web has lived up to this vision, though it has been a recurring battle to keep it open. But over the past 12 months, I’ve become increasingly worried about three new trends, which I believe we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool that serves all of humanity.
1) We’ve lost control of our personal data
The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data.
Many of us agree to this – albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents – but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services.
But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data and chose when and with whom to share it.
What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share – especially with third parties – the T&Cs are all or nothing.
This widespread data collection by companies also has other impacts.
Through collaboration with – or coercion of – companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy.
In repressive regimes, it’s easy to see the harm that can be caused – bloggers can be arrested or killed, and political opponents can be monitored. But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone all the time is simply going too far.
It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, such as sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.
2) It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web
Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us.
And they choose what to show us based on algorithms that learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting.
The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or fake news, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire. And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain.
3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding
Political advertising online has rapidly become a sophisticated industry.
The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data mean that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users.
One source suggests that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor.
And there are suggestions that some political adverts – in the US and around the world – are being used in unethical ways – to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls.
Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?
These are complex problems, and the solutions will not be simple. But a few broad paths to progress are already clear. We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology such as personal “data pods” if needed and exploring alternative revenue models such as subscriptions and micropayments.
We must fight against government overreach in surveillance laws, including through the courts if necessary.
We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is “true” or not.
We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed.
We urgently need to close the “internet blind spot” in the regulation of political campaigning.
Our team at the Web Foundation will be working on many of these issues as part of our new five-year strategy – researching the problems in more detail, coming up with proactive policy solutions and bringing together coalitions to drive progress towards a web that gives equal power and opportunity to all.
I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today. All the blogs, posts, tweets, photos, videos, applications, web pages and more represent the contributions of millions of you around the world building our online community.
All kinds of people have helped, from politicians fighting to keep the web open, standards organisations like W3C enhancing the power, accessibility and security of the technology, and people who have protested in the streets.
In the past year, we have seen Nigerians stand up to a social media bill that would have hampered free expression online, popular outcry and protests at regional internet shutdowns in Cameroon and great public support for net neutrality in both India and the European Union.
It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone.
The Web Foundation is at the forefront of the fight to advance and protect the web for everyone. We believe doing so is essential to reverse growing inequality and empower citizens. You can follow our work by signing up to our newsletter, and find a local digital rights organisation to support here on this list. Additions to the list are welcome and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
WikiLeaks claims to reveal how CIA
hacks TVs and phones all over the world
The CIA has become the preeminent hacking operation, sneaking into high-tech phones and televisions to spy on people worldwide, according to an explosive WikiLeaks publication of purported internal CIA documents on Tuesday.
To hide its operations, the CIA routinely adopted hacking techniques that enabled them to appear as if they were hackers in Russia, WikiLeaks said.
WikiLeaks also claimed that nearly all of the CIA’s arsenal of privacy-crushing cyberweapons have been stolen, and the tools are potentially in the hands of criminals and foreign spies.
WikiLeaks claimed the stolen tools ended up in the hands of “former U.S. government hackers and contractors… one of whom” leaked documents to WikiLeaks.
U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu of California called for an immediate congressional investigation.
“I am deeply disturbed by the allegation that the CIA lost its arsenal of hacking tools. The ramifications could be devastating,” he said in a statement. “”We need to know if the CIA lost control of its hacking tools, who may have those tools, and how do we now protect the privacy of Americans.”
“The potential privacy concerns are mind-boggling,” he said.
WikiLeaks said it published the documents to show the potentially hazardous ramifications of the CIA’s covert hacking program — and the massive theft of those tools.
“There is an extreme proliferation risk in the development of cyber ‘weapons,'” said WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange in a statement.
WikiLeaks, an outfit that believes in transparency, backed up the claims by publishing a massive trove of what it says are secret CIA documents. It calls the collection “Year Zero,” and it consists of 8,761 documents and files.
The CIA, citing standing policy, declined to say whether the published documents are genuine.
“We do not comment on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents,” said CIA spokeswoman Heather Fritz Horniak.
WikiLeaks portrays the CIA as a powerful hacking organization that has managed to infiltrate common personal devices — with the power to spy on nearly everybody’s personal lives.
CIA frames other hackers: The CIA rules say that its hackers must use cyberweapons in a way that can’t get traced back to the “CIA, U.S. government, or its witting partner companies,” according to WikiLeaks.
After a person, company or government gets hacked, cybersecurity experts worldwide are typically hired to conduct reviews. These reviews of tools and techniques usually allow someone to identify the attacker
WikiLeaks said there’s an entire department within the CIA whose job it is to “misdirect attribution by leaving behind the ‘fingerprints'” of others, such as hackers in Russia.
Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly warned against the tendency to quickly blame a nation for a particular hack. This revelation could lend further credence to those, like President Trump, who doubt whether Russia did indeed hack the Democrats in an attempt to sway the recent American election.
Phones, TVs spy on you: A team within the CIA developed spy software that infects Samsung smart TVs — placing televisions on a “fake-off” mode that still listens to conversations and sends them back to American spies, WikiLeaks claimed. The program, called “Weeping Angel,” was created with the help of the British spying agency MI5, it said.
WikiLeaks reports that another team within the CIA built hacking tools that can remotely control iPhones, iPads and Android devices — secretly taking video from the camera, listening with the microphone, and tracking your location.
In the past, consumers have been warned that Samsung TVs were eavesdropping on private conversations — with the microphones implanted into the TV.
CNN has also reported how the NSA can “turn on” your phone remotely. But it was not previously known that the CIA has a similar capability.
Apple (Tech30) sought to ease customers’ worries, noting that its latest software update eliminated “many” of the potential iPhone hacking methods pointed out by WikiLeaks. The company said “it will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities.”,
Samsung () said it was aware of the situation and was “urgently looking into the matter.”
People who are careful about their privacy have resorted to encrypted apps to place phone calls and send text messages. The most common are Signal and WhatsApp.
WikiLeaks pointed out that if a phone is infected by the CIA, spies could potentially still monitor communications. Cybersecurity experts have long noted that an infected device should be considered “compromised.”
It’s currently impossible for the average person to know if their phone, computer, or TV has been hacked by the CIA.
Potential car hacking: WikiLeaks also claims that the CIA in October 2014 was exploring the possibility of infecting the internet-connected systems of modern cars. In the past, CNN has documented how car hacking is a real possibility. Cybersecurity experts have long suspected the U.S. government has developed this capability.
U.S. consulate in Germany is a secret American hacking base, WikiLeaks says: Several U.S. State Department employees who work out of the consulate in Frankfurt, Germany are actually undercover CIA hackers who spy on Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, according to WikiLeaks.
Proving the documents are real
WikiLeaks has a long history of publishing authentic documents that have been stolen or leaked from government agencies, corporations and powerful individuals. However, this latest batch has not been authenticated by independent experts. CNN is reviewing the material
In its statement on Tuesday, WikiLeaks said it withheld immediately publishing technical details about the malware allegedly used by CIA to prevent it from dispersing online. However, if and when those technical details are made public, computer experts could use them to track CIA hacking activity.
For example, cybersecurity researchers can pull together new information on alleged CIA hacking techniques and compare it with existing evidence of past cyberattacks. It’s an effort that could potentially prove whether the CIA hacked a specific person, company or government.
CNN’s Ryan Browne contributed to this story
A legacy of Mandela
Others can better write about Nelson Mandela’s impact on the world stage, on how he stood up for the dignity of all people and on how he changed our world.
For those that seek to make a change in the world, whether global or local, one lesson of his life is this:
You can make a difference.
You can stand up to insurmountable forces.
You can put up with far more than you think you can.
Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.
If you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.