Canada’s police – and the UK and US spy agencies? – have had BlackBerry’s global encryption key for some years. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.
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A selection of 9 links for you. Pre-packed for freshness. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.
»“My dad can’t come to the phone right now. May I take a message?” It is an expression we hear less and less as the shared family phone disappears.
Nearly half of U.S. households no longer have landlines and instead rely on their cellphones, up from about 27% five years ago, the National Center for Health Statistics says. Among young adults ages 25 through 34, fewer than one-third have landlines. Even at homes with landlines, the phone rings mainly with telemarketers and poll-takers.
Few miss being tethered by a cord to a three-pound telephone. But family landlines had their pluses. Small children had an opportunity to learn telephone manners, siblings had to share, and parents had to set boundaries governing its use. Now, the shared hub of family communication has given way to solo pursuits on mobile devices.
Looked at from this distance, they aren’t such gigantic pluses, are they?
»A high-level surveillance probe of Montreal’s criminal underworld shows that Canada’s federal policing agency has had a global encryption key for BlackBerry devices since 2010.
The revelations are contained in a stack of court documents that were made public after members of a Montreal crime syndicate pleaded guilty to their role in a 2011 gangland murder. The documents shed light on the extent to which the smartphone manufacturer, as well as telecommunications giant Rogers, cooperated with investigators.
According to technical reports by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that were filed in court, law enforcement intercepted and decrypted roughly one million PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages in connection with the probe. The report doesn’t disclose exactly where the key — effectively a piece of code that could break the encryption on virtually any BlackBerry message sent from one device to another — came from. But, as one police officer put it, it was a key that could unlock millions of doors.
This would be akin to the backdoor to the iPhone 5C that Apple didn’t want to offer. The story of how the key’s ownership came to be known is pretty remarkable too – gangland killings and all. And what’s the betting that the key has been widely shared among the “Five Eyes” nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US)?
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Aim-listed online ads company Phorm goes bust leaving investors £200m out of pocket » Daily Telegraph
»Phorm, an Aim-listed online advertising technology specialist that once boasted deals with Britain’s biggest broadband providers before it was engulfed by a privacy scandal, is to cease trading with investors due to lose every penny of the £201m sunk into it.
The directors said they were pulling the plug “in light of the company’s uncertain financial position, lack of trading activities and absence of any suitable funding”.
Shareholders will get nothing from any administration or liquidation, they added. After by repeatedly tapping investors for cash while accumulating total losses of around £250m, Phorm was forced to turn to high interest loans to stay afloat. Those have also now been spent, leaving the company without a website because it is unable to pay the hosting bills.
Phorm was offering to do DPI (deep packet inspection) and target ads based on what you were browsing, replacing web banners on sites with its own. ISPs and publishers would reap the benefits. Also, Phorm.
People detested the idea of DPI and targeted ads. Phorm never recovered from a storm of bad PR in 2007-8.
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»A law enforcement source tells CBS News that so far nothing of real significance has been found on the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, which was unlocked by the FBI last month without the help of Apple.
It was stressed that the FBI continues to analyze the information on the cellphone seized in the investigation, senior investigative producer Pat Milton reports.
No surprise there. This is the employer-supplied, mobile-device-managed phone that Farook left in his car, back at home with his mother who was looking after his child while he and his wife went and shot people. Two other phones were found destroyed in a dumpster.
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»Before social media came along, your social life played out in different and largely separate spheres. You had your friends in one sphere, your family members in another sphere, your coworkers in still another sphere, and so on. The spheres overlapped, but they remained distinct. The self you presented to your family was not the same self you presented to your friends, and the self you presented to your friends was not the one you presented to the people you worked with or went to school with. With a social network like Facebook, all these spheres merge into a single sphere. Everybody sees what you’re doing. Context collapses.
When Mark Zuckerberg infamously said, “You have one identity; the days of you having a different image for your work friends or your co-workers and for the people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly,” he was celebrating context collapse. Context collapse is a wonderful thing for a company like Facebook because a uniform self, a self without context, is easy to package as a commodity. The protean self is a fly in the Facebook ointment.
Facebook’s problem now is not context collapse but its opposite: context restoration. When people start backing away from broadcasting intimate details about themselves, it’s a sign that they’re looking to reestablish some boundaries in their social lives, to mend the walls that social media has broken. It’s an acknowledgment that the collapse of multiple social contexts into a single one-size-fits-all context circumscribes a person’s freedom.
»I think we lose something (maybe not entirely tangible) when we adapt the presentation of technological products to the lowest-common-denominator audience. Apple obviously doesn’t agree, and it set the tone for simplifying technology and making it seem less daunting — but maybe we’ve overcorrected. At the same Mobile World Congress where Xiaomi made me grin with joy at its no-nonsense deep dives into things like Deep Trench Isolation, LG was conducting a slow-motion car crash of an event for its new G5 flagship. The Korean company had hired a distinctly unlikeable actor to demonstrate all the various features of its new phone in a series of video skits. I was left scratching my head as to whether it was a form of self-parody or truly unintentional comedy of awkwardness. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
I’m not intimately familiar with the priorities of Chinese consumers, but judging by the devices fashioned out by their local manufacturers, high specs remain highly desirable (along with the rising importance of distinctive and attractive design). Maybe it’s easier for Meizu and Xiaomi to market themselves with a straightforward message to their national audience because that audience isn’t yet jaded and cynical about technological advancements. But I still firmly believe that the message of real technological progress is a universally appealing one.
Usually I agree with Savov’s evaluations, but on this I don’t. Most people really don’t care about, and truly don’t understand, technological numbers or concepts. For example, Deep Trench Isolation (which I think did get a mention in Apple’s iPhone 6S launch) is so abstruse that barely anyone can properly understand it; the word for such not-understood-but-used-to-impress phrases is “jargon”.
What people do react to is outcomes – or solutions if you prefer. Does the phone take great pictures? Do things happen quickly? When you scroll, is the scrolling smooth? Those details aren’t determined by hardware numbers alone, which is why “feeds and speeds” don’t tell the story of a device. A deca-core smartphone won’t necessarily do more, or do it faster, than a dual-core one like the iPhone 6S, and understanding why that’s so is important for the journalist (and, arguably, the reader who might spend money).
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»For media companies chasing the biggest possible audiences, it’s hard to resist the lure of a story blowing up on Facebook. When the social network’s algorithms smile upon a particularly shareable post, it can put it in front of millions of people — sometimes tens of millions. That has led many ambitious media companies to pursue Facebook traffic relentlessly — a pursuit some believe will be fatal to all but the biggest players.
“The cracks are beginning to show, the dependence on platforms has meant they are losing their core identity,” said Rafat Ali, the founder and editor-in-chief of Skift, a news site focused on the travel industry. “If you are just a brand in the feed, as opposed to a brand that users come to, that will catch up to you sometime.”
Mashable, for example, started out as a narrowly focused publication targeting the social media business and then, engorged with venture capital, chased scale. Ali pointed to sites like Mic and Refinery29 that started out small and are trying to ride viral success to become something larger. “The reality is that scale for scale’s sake will catch up with people.”
The biggest number of jobs lost is at Al-Jazeera US, where 700 have gone. The others are generally fewer than 100 (excepting the Guardian, which intends to lay off around 250). The feeling that it’s venture-funded sites that are struggling is tempting, but not quite proven: both AJA and The Guardian have entirely different funding models.
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University of California at Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from internet » The Sacramento Bee
»UC Davis contracted with consultants for at least $175,000 to scrub the Internet of negative online postings following the November 2011 pepper-spraying of students and to improve the reputations of both the university and Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, newly released documents show.
The payments were made as the university was trying to boost its image online and were among several contracts issued following the pepper-spray incident.
Some payments were made in hopes of improving the results computer users obtained when searching for information about the university or Katehi, results that one consultant labeled “venomous rhetoric about UC Davis and the chancellor.”
Others sought to improve the school’s use of social media and to devise a new plan for the UC Davis strategic communications office, which has seen its budget rise substantially since Katehi took the chancellor’s post in 2009. Figures released by UC Davis show the strategic communications budget increased from $2.93m in 2009 to $5.47m in 2015.
The “right to be forgotten for enough money”. (It’s done by stuffing the web with “favourable” content about the organisation, and/or seeking to get the other content removed.)
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»Google has removed links to articles about the celebrity couple at the centre of a injunction in response to legal requests.
Searches for the names of either person return notices at the bottom of the page saying results have been removed.
Removed entries on both sets of searches are linked to the same legal requests. However, links to a database which records takedown notices go to pages without any information.
The Daily Mail reported that an online privacy firm claiming to be acting on behalf of the couple had complained about more than 150 links on the search engine.
The removal notices are more normally used for taking down links to copyrighted information. They are different to the messages Google posts when it removes links under EU “right to be forgotten” rules.
Google declined to comment.
Well, of course Google wouldn’t comment; how is it going to balance its visceral hate of the “right to be forgotten” with its insistence that it’s “organising the world’s information” while also freeing the oppressed from the yoke of censorship? There’s no way to square that circle. (Is Facebook doing the same?)
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