rvenkat + surveillance   26

Roberts, M.E.: Censored: Distraction and Diversion Inside China`s Great Firewall (Hardcover and eBook) | Princeton University Press
As authoritarian governments around the world develop sophisticated technologies for controlling information, many observers have predicted that these controls would be ineffective because they are easily thwarted and evaded by savvy Internet users. In Censored, Margaret Roberts demonstrates that even censorship that is easy to circumvent can still be enormously effective. Taking advantage of digital data harvested from the Chinese Internet and leaks from China's Propaganda Department, this important book sheds light on how and when censorship influences the Chinese public.

Roberts finds that much of censorship in China works not by making information impossible to access but by requiring those seeking information to spend extra time and money for access. By inconveniencing users, censorship diverts the attention of citizens and powerfully shapes the spread of information. When Internet users notice blatant censorship, they are willing to compensate for better access. But subtler censorship, such as burying search results or introducing distracting information on the web, is more effective because users are less aware of it. Roberts challenges the conventional wisdom that online censorship is undermined when it is incomplete and shows instead how censorship's porous nature is used strategically to divide the public.

Drawing parallels between censorship in China and the way information is manipulated in the United States and other democracies, Roberts reveals how Internet users are susceptible to control even in the most open societies. Demonstrating how censorship travels across countries and technologies, Censored gives an unprecedented view of how governments encroach on the media consumption of citizens.


-- book based on a set of papers co-authored with Gary King, extensively discussed in Tufekci's book. Her current projects include work with Grimmer on causal inference of political attitudes from text-mined data.
book  surveillance  authoritarianism  censorship  civil_rights  platform_studies  china  governance  social_media  political_science 
march 2018 by rvenkat
The Power of Algorithms and Algorithmic Power: Conceptualizing Machine Intelligence and Social Structure | Berkeley Institute for Data Science
It’s been just five years since a journal article about neural networks — a form of computer learning algorithm that uses large datasets to learn to classify input — broke through to the popular press. The article described how Google researchers had connected 16,000 computers and set this network loose on millions of images from YouTube — without supervision. The system invented the concept of a cat, and how to identify it. Since then, there has been an explosion in decision-making software that functions in a similar fashion: churning through large datasets to learn to identify and classify, without being given specific instructions on how to do so, and perhaps more importantly, without the human programmers having an understanding of how it actually functions. The era of machine intelligence has fully arrived, and it is accelerating. Much of the engineering world and scientific press has focused on whether such intelligence is like human intelligence, or if it ever will be. In this talk, I will instead explore what having such types of intelligence in the hands of power — governments, corporations, institutions — means. These systems bring about novel capabilities to the powerful at scale, threaten to displace many human tasks (because they can perform those tasks well enough), create new forms of privacy invasion through their inferential capabilities, introduce new error patterns we have neither statistical tools nor cultural or political institutions to deal with, incentivize massive surveillance because they only work will with massive datasets, and more. I will explore some of the technical aspects of these technologies and connect them directly to core questions of sociology, culture and politics. This event is co-sponsored by CITRIS and BIDS.

-- No video links. The abstract feels like a work/book-in-progress.
zeynep.tufekci  algorithms  agency  authoritarianism  surveillance  inequality  sociology_of_technology 
march 2018 by rvenkat
Bitcoin’s boom is a boon for extremist groups - The Washington Post
-- The article completely ignores the fact that bitcoin and _dark web_ is a boon for social activists all around the world. And implications for further surveillance of all transactions (good or bad) is completely unaddressed. A courtesy opinion from Tufekci might have helped. There are problems with the promise of blockchain technology but the tone suggests a irrational fear.
cryptocurrency  alt-right  market_microstructure  surveillance  democracy  extremism  social_movements  WaPo  phobia  moral_panic 
december 2017 by rvenkat
I never signed up for this! Privacy implications of email tracking
We show that the simple act of viewing emails contains privacy pitfalls for the unwary. We assembled a corpus of commercial mailing-list emails, and find a network of hundreds of third parties that track email recipients via methods such as embedded pixels. About 30% of emails leak the recipient’s email address to one or more of these third parties when they are viewed. In the majority of cases, these leaks are intentional on the part of email senders, and further leaks occur if the recipient clicks links in emails. Mail servers and clients may employ a variety of defenses, but we analyze 16 servers and clients and find that they are far from comprehensive. We propose, prototype, and evaluate a new defense, namely stripping tracking tags from emails based on enhanced versions of existing web tracking protection lists.
data  privacy  ethics  surveillance  civil_rights 
december 2017 by rvenkat
Surveillance Intermediaries by Alan Z. Rozenshtein :: SSRN
Apple’s 2016 fight against a court order commanding it to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists exemplifies how central the question of regulating government surveillance has become in American politics and law. But scholarly attempts to answer this question have suffered from a serious omission: scholars have ignored how government surveillance is checked by “surveillance intermediaries,” the companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook that dominate digital communications and data storage, and on whose cooperation government surveillance relies. This Article fills this gap in the scholarly literature, providing the first comprehensive analysis of how surveillance intermediaries constrain the surveillance executive. In so doing, it enhances our conceptual understanding of, and thus our ability to improve, the institutional design of government surveillance.

Surveillance intermediaries have the financial and ideological incentives to resist government requests for user data. Their techniques of resistance are: proceduralism and litigiousness that reject voluntary cooperation in favor of minimal compliance and aggressive litigation; technological unilateralism that designs products and services to make surveillance harder; and policy mobilization that rallies legislative and public opinion to limit surveillance. Surveillance intermediaries also enhance the “surveillance separation of powers”; they make the surveillance executive more subject to inter-branch constraints from Congress and the courts, and to intra-branch constraints from foreign-relations and economics agencies as well as the surveillance executive’s own surveillance-limiting components.

The normative implications of this descriptive account are important and cross-cutting. Surveillance intermediaries can both improve and worsen the “surveillance frontier”: the set of tradeoffs — between public safety, privacy, and economic growth — from which we choose surveillance policy. And while intermediaries enhance surveillance self-government when they mobilize public opinion and strengthen the surveillance separation of powers, they undermine it when their unilateral technological changes prevent the government from exercising its lawful surveillance authorities.
surveillance  big_data  privacy  algorithms  ethics  law  civil_rights  GAFA 
october 2017 by rvenkat
UW ADINT: Advertising as Surveillance
Targeted advertising is at the heart of the largest technology companies today, and is becoming increasingly precise. Simultaneously, users generate more and more personal data that is shared with advertisers as more and more of daily life becomes intertwined with networked technology. There are many studies about how users are tracked and what kinds of data are gathered. The sheer scale and precision of individual data that is collected can be concerning. However, in the broader public debate about these practices this concern is often tempered by the understanding that all this potentially sensitive data is only accessed by large corporations; these corporations are profit-motivated and could be held to account for misusing the personal data they have collected. In this work we examine the capability of a different actor -- an individual with a modest budget -- to access the data collected by the advertising ecosystem. Specifically, we find that an individual can use the targeted advertising system to conduct physical and digital surveillance on targets that use smartphone apps with ads

--over dramatized version here
computaional_advertising  surveillance  data  privacy  technology  GAFA 
october 2017 by rvenkat
Evaluating the privacy properties of telephone metadata
Privacy protections against government surveillance are often scoped to communications content and exclude communications metadata. In the United States, the National Security Agency operated a particularly controversial program, collecting bulk telephone metadata nationwide. We investigate the privacy properties of telephone metadata to assess the impact of policies that distinguish between content and metadata. We find that telephone metadata is densely interconnected, can trivially be reidentified, enables automated location and relationship inferences, and can be used to determine highly sensitive traits.
teaching  data  ethics  big_data  privacy  policy  surveillance 
may 2016 by rvenkat
[1507.07872] Web Tracking: Mechanisms, Implications, and Defenses
This articles surveys the existing literature on the methods currently used by web services to track the user online as well as their purposes, implications, and possible user's defenses. A significant majority of reviewed articles and web resources are from years 2012-2014. Privacy seems to be the Achilles' heel of today's web. Web services make continuous efforts to obtain as much information as they can about the things we search, the sites we visit, the people with who we contact, and the products we buy. Tracking is usually performed for commercial purposes. We present 5 main groups of methods used for user tracking, which are based on sessions, client storage, client cache, fingerprinting, or yet other approaches. A special focus is placed on mechanisms that use web caches, operational caches, and fingerprinting, as they are usually very rich in terms of using various creative methodologies. We also show how the users can be identified on the web and associated with their real names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, or even street addresses. We show why tracking is being used and its possible implications for the users (price discrimination, assessing financial credibility, determining insurance coverage, government surveillance, and identity theft). For each of the tracking methods, we present possible defenses. Apart from describing the methods and tools used for keeping the personal data away from being tracked, we also present several tools that were used for research purposes - their main goal is to discover how and by which entity the users are being tracked on their desktop computers or smartphones, provide this information to the users, and visualize it in an accessible and easy to follow way. Finally, we present the currently proposed future approaches to track the user and show that they can potentially pose significant threats to the users' privacy.
web_tracking  review  surveillance 
august 2015 by rvenkat

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