http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/st-aerospace-eyes-pilotless-cargo-planes The headline speaks for itself risk-wise. From the article: “Given an increasing global demand for air freight coupled with a shortage in air crew, we believe that unmanned freighters will provide a viable solution as well as tangible benefits such as lower cost of operation, For a start, the plan is to develop a single-pilot freighter instead of having two pilots in the cockpit. ... Support will be provided from the ground by a second pilot who "can potentially be supporting up to 12 single-pilot aircraft simultaneously. ... If the pilot in the aircraft is incapacitated for whatever reasons, the ground pilot takes control and performs an emergency landing.'' I couldn't imagine that an ACARS hack or GPS navigation spoof or operational flight plan bug might catastrophically divert the planned flight to autonomous air vehicle deployment on a fleet-wide basis? If we don't try, we'll never know if we can succeed? Undoubtedly so, but until "success" is quantified—an accident safety rating equal too or superior to human-piloted vehicles + insurance would be a start—we'll never know.
[via Dave Farber] In recent months, both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray have been calling for holes in encryption law enforcement can drive a warrant through. Both have no idea how this can be accomplished, but both are reasonably sure tech companies can figure it out for them. And if some sort of key escrow makes encryption less secure than it is now, so be it. Whatever minimal gains in access law enforcement obtains will apparently offset the damage done by key leaks or criminal exploitation of a deliberately-weakened system. Cryptography expert Riana Pfefferkorn has released a white paper examining the feasibility of the vague requests made by Rosenstein and Wray. Their preferred term is "responsible encryption"—a term that allows them to step around landmines like "encryption backdoors" or "we're making encryption worse for everyone!" Her paper shows "responsible encryption" is anything but. And, even if implemented, it will result in far less access (and far more nefarious exploitation) than Rosenstein and Wray think. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180208/11414739194/white-paper-points-out-just-how-irresponsible-responsible-encryption-is.shtml
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/06/openvms_vulnerability/ Forget Meltdown and Spectre. Someone's found a local privilege escalation in the operating system world's elderly statesman OpenVMS when running it on VAX and Alpha processors. On Itanium CPUs, the same bug can be exploited to crash a process ... Software running on seemingly bulletproof OpenVMS systems tends to be rather business critical - the sort of code you deploy and keep running forever - so updates that may disrupt operations are treated with utmost care by administrators. Introduced to the world as VMS in 1977, OpenVMS today still powers a good chunk of billing systems, stock exchanges, semiconductor factories, and similar setups. It is touted as a reliable and secure OS for mission-critical applications.
In its second major bug bounty challenge in less than a year, 27 hackers found 106 valid security flaws on U.S. Air Force systems as part of *HackerOne*'s recent *Hack the Air Force 2.0 *event, the company said on Thursday. Hackers from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium and Latvia participated in the 20-day challenge, earning $103,883 in bounties. The event began Dec. 9 in New York with a live hacking session, where *Department of Defense* and Air Force personnel worked alongside hackers to simultaneously find and fix security flaws. Together, they found 55 vulnerabilities in nine hours. “We continue to harden our attack surfaces based on findings of the previous challenge and will add lessons learned from this round,'' said *Peter Kim*, the Air Force's chief information security officer. “This reinforces the work the Air Force is already doing to strengthen cyber defenses and has created meaningful relationships with skilled researchers that will last for years to come.'' The event was part of the Hack the Pentagon program, which since launching in 2016 has fixed more than 3,000 vulnerabilities in government systems. https://www.hackerone.com/ <http://trk.cp20.com/click/mw7jj-dlkpoi-7fgw0x83/> https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180215005220/en/U.S.-Air-Force-Boosts-Security-Bug-Bounty <http://trk.cp20.com/click/mw7jj-dlkpoj-7fgw0x84/> 106 down and ... ??? to go.
Zack Whittaker for Zero Day, 12 Feb 2018 The bug grants a low-level user access to every corner of the operating system. http://www.zdnet.com/article/skype-cannot-fix-security-bug-without-a-massive-code-rewrite/ opening text: A security flaw in Skype's updater process can allow an attacker to gain system-level privileges to a vulnerable computer. The bug, if exploited, can escalate a local unprivileged user to the full "system" level rights—granting them access to every corner of the operating system. But Microsoft, which owns the voice- and video-calling service, said it won't immediately fix the flaw, because the bug would require too much work.
Bug with maximum severity rating is generating plenty of interest among hackers. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/02/that-mega-vulnerability-cisco-dropped-is-now-under-exploit/
This is how a small group of friends lost control of the leaked iBoot source code. The story behind one of Apple's most embarrassing leaks. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/xw5yd7/how-iphone-iboot-source-code-leaked-on-github
Internet Breakdowns at Opening Ceremony Were Work of Hackers Nicole Perlroth, *The New York Times*, 13 February 2018 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/12/technology/winter-olympic-games-hack.html Security researchers uncovered evidence that the attack had been in the works since last year. But hackers stopped short of the damage they could have done. ["It appeared that hackers planned to take over the power in the stadium... But officials successfully prevented [that] attack." PGN]
Security and privacy testing of several brands also reveals broad-based data collection. How to limit your exposure. https://www.consumerreports.org/televisions/samsung-roku-smart-tvs-vulnerable-to-hacking-consumer-reports-finds/
Revolut is a growing, successful FinTech startup. They offer a multi-currency account with no fees for currency exchange, and Mastercards. I have a Revolut Business account. I today ordered a Mastercard. I was asked during the ordering process to select a PIN. After completing the ordering process, the PIN was emailed to me. With that level of blundering, I am now concerned that Revolut will wake up one morning to find all the money has gone.
Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu, 7 Feb 2018 https://gizmodo.com/the-house-that-spied-on-me-1822429852 first and last paragraphs: In December, I converted my one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco into a "smart home." I connected as many of my appliances and belongings as I could to the Internet: an Amazon Echo, my lights, my coffee maker, my baby monitor, my kid's toys, my vacuum, my TV, my toothbrush, a photo frame, a sex toy, and even my bed. I thought the house would take care of me but instead everything in it now had the power to ask me to do things. Ultimately, I'm not going to warn you against making everything in your home smart because of the privacy risks, although there are quite a few. I'm going to warn you against a smart home because living in it is annoying as hell.
https://www.thenation.com/article/house-republicans-just-voted-to-eliminate-the-only-federal-agency-that-makes-sure-voting-machines-cant-be-hacked/ In a 6-to-3 vote, the House Administration Committee voted along party lines to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission <https://www.eac.gov/>, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can't be hacked. The EAC was created after the disastrous 2000 election in Florida as part of the Help America Vote Act to rectify problems like butterfly ballots and hanging chads. The Committee also voted to eliminate the public-financing system for presidential elections dating back to the 1970s. <http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/12/war-voting-comes-washington>
Me again, fighter for software justice. Today we turn our attention to http://debbugs.gnu.org/30462 where the forces of evil think it is OK for the spelling corrector software to go subtly changing words 30 pages back way off the screen. Sigh.
http://www.zdnet.com/article/biggest-brazilian-newspaper-quits-facebook/ Angelica Mari, Brazil Tech, 12 Feb 2018 Folha de São Paulo rebels against the company's news feed changes to emphasize posts from connections rather than brands. select text: Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo has announced it will no longer post news stories to its Facebook page as a response to the company's changes to the News Feed algorithm. According to the Brazilian company, Facebook's policy changes to emphasize posts from connections rather than brands will reinforce users' tendency to share content they agree with, thus facilitating the creating of opinion bubbles. Folha argued that the changes will also increase spreading of fake news. "In effectively banning professional journalism from its pages in favour of personal content and opening space for 'fake news' to proliferate, Facebook became inhospitable terrain for those who want to offer quality content like ours," Folha's executive editor Sérgio Dávila told The Guardian.
Lauren's Blog https://lauren.vortex.com/2018/02/17/facebooks-very-revealing-text-messaging-privacy-fail As I've frequently noted, one of the reasons that it can be difficult to convince users to provide their phone numbers for account recovery and/or 2-step, multiple-factor authentication/verification login systems, is that many persons fear that the firms involved will abuse those numbers for other purposes. In the case of Google, I've emphasized that their excellent privacy practices and related internal controls (Google's privacy team is world class), make any such concerns utterly unwarranted. Such is obviously not the case with Facebook. They've now admitted that a "bug" caused mobile numbers provided by users for multiple-factor verification to also be used for spamming those users with unrelated text messages. Even worse, when users replied to those texts their replies frequently ended up being posted on their own Facebook feeds! Ouch. What's most revealing here is what this situation suggests about Facebook's own internal privacy practices. Proper proactive privacy design would have compartmentalized those phone numbers and associated data in a manner that would have prevented a "bug" like this from ever triggering such abuse of those numbers. Facebook's sloppiness in this regard has now been exposed to the entire world. And naturally this raises a much more general concern. What other sorts of systemic privacy design failures are buried in Facebook's code, waiting for other "bugs" capable of freeing them to harass innocent Facebook users yet again? These are all more illustrations of why I don't use Facebook. If you still do, I recommend continuous diligence regarding your privacy on that platform -- and lotsa luck—you're going to need it!
Bruce notes that he assumes people have heard about the trove of secret Australian documents left in a filing cabinet that was sold on the used furniture market. It's a crazy story. https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/cabinet_of_secr.html He suggests noting this excellent political cartoon: https://www.fairfaxstatic.com.au/content/dam/images/h/0/u/9/p/u/image.related.articleLeadwide.620x349.h0tjj1.png/1517827695178.jpg
https://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/2018/02/08/584237872//fresh-air-f This "Fresh Air" program interviews Robert Draper on the subject of video surveillance. Surveillance supports criminal investigations via video capture of street crime; stored in a database for reply during trial. Hedge funds apply satellite imagery to track commercial shipping traffic for oil or coal or iron ore, or to observe shopping mall parking lots to estimate projected sales volume. Surveillance satellites enables environmental observations, and to track refugee flows that help reduce humanitarian calamities. US cities receive surveillance funds from the Department of Homeland security. Camera systems have been deployed without any particular purpose in mind. As the interview states: "DRAPER:...Maybe on the other hand, it has resulted in a deterioration of privacy, a willing forfeiture of it to the point where, you know, we're basically expecting to be both voyeur and exhibitionist 24/7. "And we lose not only a sense of privation, but we also lose, you know, a sense of anything that's not visual, that we, you know, can't really conceive of something like - as a social scientist pointed out to me - something like dignity or honor. How do you visualize that? How do you capture that photographically? If it can't be seen - as, you know, the millennial phrase goes, pics or it didn't happen - then maybe it's not there at all. These are the kind of insidious effects of an all-surveilled society that I'm still puzzling over and don't have any particular answers to but which I think, you know, you see manifested in London certainly more than anywhere else. "DRAPER: Sure. I mean, what we've really been talking about is kind of ground-level surveillance, Terry. But, the reality is, that barely encompasses even a fraction of the degree to which we're being watched. I mean, OK, there may be 106 million new surveillance cameras sold every year, but Americans alone bought 2.5 million drones in 2016 for private use, to say nothing of the U.S. government's arsenal. And even farther up in the heavens, there are something like 1,700 satellites that monitor our activity." George Orwell is spinning in his grave. Couple video or satellite surveillance with telecommunications metadata and other digital breadcrumbs to reconstruct a day in the life of anyone.
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/09/business/etf-index-funds-market.html "A decade ago, the center of gravity on Wall Street were raucous trading desks and stock exchange floors. These days, the locus has shifted to far quieter places, where computers are in charge. "The transition has been years in the making, but its effect has been on full display over the past week. After propelling the market to historic highs, passive investment strategies—which follow a simple set of rules and are carried out by sophisticated computer programs, not humans—are among the factors fueling the market's recent plunge. "This is the new reality of today's stock market: Funds that track financial indexes have become a dominant force, and they can act as accelerants, adding momentum to the market's rise and fall." Appears we are all working in a robotic rentier-driven economy. Rentier: "a person who lives on income from property or securities." High-frequency trading algorithms rule "The Street." It seems that "Takin' Care of Business" was never easier for consortia that operate bot-based advertising, bot-based news generators, and robot rentiers. A full-cycle feedback loop -- a self-fulfilling prophecy—with maybe two buttons at most: earn profit, or disgorge profit. A real "core war." News generators might be programmed to skew corporate news reports, accentuating positive spin to compel HFT algorithms that detect the steepest-descent language/semantics slope, commanding a "buy more equities until a threshold is reached," then commence to dump and reap the profits. Can the SEC trace and correlate this behavior? If so, might be time for some perpwalks. Wonder what the next-generation of script kiddies will want for their birthday?
Costa Mesa, Calif.—More people now prefer to buy their wireless devices through smartphones then by either going to a store, calling or using a computer, according to a new report from *J.D. Power*. The study found that the satisfaction of customers making new wireless device purchases is highest through smartphones (857 points on a 1,000-point scale), compared with in-store (842), telephone (836) and other online channels (823). Those using a smartphone spend an average of 10.6 minutes completing their online purchase, compared with 13.7 minutes among those using a computer or tablet. And they also provide higher ratings for website attributes, such as ease of navigation, appearance of website and ease of making an order. “The wireless market is rapidly evolving into a self-contained ecosystem in which all aspects of the ownership experience, from buying the device to engaging with customer support, is done entirely on a mobile device,'' said *Peter Cunningham*, J.D. Power's technology, media, and telecommunications practice lead. “While in-store customer service is still key for things like explaining data usage and demonstrating device operations, the speed and consistency of the experience delivered via mobile is clearly resonating with mobile customers.'' http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/jd-power-2018-us-wireless-purchase-experience-studies-vol-1 <http://trk.cp20.com/click/mw7jj-dlkpom-7fgw0x87/> The risks? Mistaking convenience and viewing on small screen for reality?
Love the pun in the title! The results of surveys are coloured by the nature of questions asked. For example: "Do you think self-driving cars are better for the over-70s than driving themselves?" is likely to elicit a positive response across most of the age range. See the example of 'how to get the answer required' at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086831/quotes from the BBC's Yes Minister programme (the preceding extract is slightly rude, but detailed knowledge of the political leanings and content British press is not really required to appreciate it). Whilst this is not immediately related to self-driving vehicles, recent analysis of UK road traffic accident data by the road safety charity Institute of Advanced Motorists shows that the number of serious accidents in 20mph zones has increased by a substantial 26% over the last year, and minor accidents have increased by 17%; serious casualties increased by 29% and minor casualties went up by 19%. Interestingly, over the same period, there was a decrease in the number of serious and slight accidents on 30mph (9% and 5% respectively) and 40mph roads (5% and 3% respectively). The cause is thought to be that driver behaviour does not change simply because a sign says '20' rather than '30'. It's a not unreasonable supposition that, although the behaviour of a self-driving vehicle will change at entry to the lower speed zone, that of human-driven vehicles will not ... potentially increasing the number of accidents.
It is actually quite easy to replicate the plots that the New York Times used to identify bot patterns. I did a bit of coding and these are the resulting scripts (Python for data gathering, R for plotting, though there is no particular reason the entire thing couldn't be done in either of them): https://github.com/rinze/nygraph_twitter This is what the final thing looks like: https://rinzewind.org/blog-en/2018/replicating-the-new-york-times-bot-twitter-analysis-with-r-and-python.html If anyone wants to start inspecting Twitter accounts, here are some tools.
The article that Lance Weistein quotes makes a fundamental error in its statement that the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which takes effect on 25 May this year is intended to protect the privacy of EU citizens. The GDPR 'regulates' [Data] Controllers 'operating' within the EU and and Processors acting for Controllers (wheresoever those Processors are situate), whilst codifying 'rights' for all natural persons whose data are processed by those entities - regardless of their nationality or country of residency. Thus, the Personal Data of an American who shops online at the website of UK retailer John Lewis (johnlewis.com), will enjoy the protection of the GDPR. Basic extra-territoriality comes in the form of the GDPR applying to non-EU companies which offer goods/services within the EU, for example online using a TLD of an EU member country ... but again regardless of the nationality of the individual engaged or their country of residence. In regard to the reported conflict between the requirements of the GDPR and ICANN, there would appear to be at least two simple routes, "consent" whereby the registrant agrees to publication, in something of a reversal of the current opt-out position, and "legitimate interests" - albeit this will require clear definition of those ... but they can include other parties' interests. Concerning is that this is happening at a late stage, with only 72 working days to the law taking effect ... but this reflects the situation with many Controllers of all sizes (at least in the UK) and the majority of Processors across the world.
Also GDPR I am wondering if a lot of the privacy issue could be handled by making all the data that originates on my devices my property. It would be fine to sell it to Google or anyone else but until I do so, its mine and using it would be theft. I think that mediating the transaction via the good old dollar might help clarify matters a bit. There are some obvious issues but designing solutions might help us understand better what we are doing with all these data streams. So, I suggest that if the buyer aggregates or filters streams then the new stream would be the property of the buyer. That limits the ownership of the originator in a realistic way. Otherwise I can see that the idea is unrealistic. It would be interesting to include contract clauses indicating how long the buyer can hold the data for. Obviously they can do what they like with their own streams but it would be good to put a time limit on how long the buyer can hold a copy of someone else's data. Some streams are more valuable than others: high frequency, low jitter, lots of measures in each stream element, all these would increase the value. And there are lots of other possible refinements of course - enjoy!
Love DIA, great airport :) I wanted to bring to your attention a fall risk. The area I'm referring to is after the TSA screening that lead down to the AGTS train—specifically the marble staircase that is flanked by escalators. I believe the marble staircase has low contrast that makes it difficult to visually distinguish each step. Also, on some points going down the stairs, the reflection and glare from overhead lighting makes it more difficult to see the steps. Each step has 3 thin strips of black anti-slip tape, which is great for traction, but it doesn't help the visibility or contrast problem. I have a first-person viewpoint video of me descending the stairs that you can view at the link below as it's too large a file to email: Video Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IaBNRNByJt-iwwLZebSk4qwrJZS2bagi/view%Fusp%3Dsharing In past trips I have not seen many people using those marble stairs down to the AGTS. I encourage you to go there and watch how people approach the stairs and escalators after clearing the TSA checkpoint. Some folks will start to go towards the stairs..then look and see the risk...pause for a moment...and choose one of the the escalators instead. Please do go see for yourselves! Of note, according to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine over 1 million Americans of all age groups are injured each year on stairs . And the CDC states falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older Americans . Laboratory studies on how visual modifications to stairs can make them safer are publicly available . Finally, the US Access Board Technical Guide for stairways recommends visual contrast for stairs . I do hope this finds its way to the right people at DIA, and that some simple measures, like better marking those marble steps will reduce the risk to passengers who choose to use the marble stairs, and better prepare for passenger flow when one or both of the escalators leading down to the AGTS vis in need of repair and folks have no choice but to use the marble stairs.  http://www.ajemjournal.com/article/S0735-6757(17)30759-3/abstract  https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0922-older-adult-falls.html  "Analysis of lower limb movement to determine the effect of manipulating the appearance of stairs to improve safety: a linked series of laboratory-based, repeated measures studies" - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK305252/  https://www.access-board.gov/attachments/article/1803/stairs-ABA.pdf
I originally posted this article here: https://medium.com/%40enkiv2/contra-ovadya-on-post-truth-83bb15acce7c Contra Ovadya on post-truth [long item, saved for last. PGN] https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-terrifying-future-of-fake-news/ A recent article by Charlie Wartzel summarizing the perspective of Aviv Ovadya has become quite popular. This article admits that it is engaging in scare-mongering, but justifies this by claiming that the situation is bad enough that we all really should be scared. Certainly, some of the details are accurate, but—as par for the course for a popular take on a newly-relevant subject with a long history—there's a great deal of context missing. Let's first add a little historical context to defuse a bit of the appeal-to-authority propelling this article. Ovadya is described as having “predicted the 2016 fake news crisis'', on the grounds that he made a presentation about it in October of 2016. This is a very low bar: the political ramifications of propaganda circulated within social-media-amplified cultural bubbles was a hot topic throughout 2016, the same way it was at the tail end of Obama's first term (when the publication of *The Filter Bubble* coincided with concerns about right-wing conspiracy theories). *The Filter Bubble* didn't invent these concerns, either—that book was a (perhaps independent) rehash of concerns about Internet news expressed on various mailing lists as early as 1992. The term of art back then for what we now call *filter bubbles* was *the daily me*—as in, a hypothetical newspaper that, based on personality profiling, shows the user only the news stories they want to see. We can probably, with a little bit of effort, trace the ideas back even further; however, I first became aware of the *daily me* concept back in 2008, in a lecture at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference—and I was one of the few attending who wasn't already familiar with the concept, meaning that in the community at the intersection of tech and social justice, the political ramifications of fake news on social media was old news ten years ago. Ovadya's epithet could be applied to anyone who was reading political coverage in mainstream news outlets in 2016 just as well as it could be applied to him, so his authority is not, by that metric, meaningful. In the absence of the authority of someone who “predicted the fake news crisis'', we can critically re-examine the claims being made. The narrative Ovadya & Wartzel paint is one where a fixed, stable, universally accepted common ontology is being eroded by tech that manipulates flows of information while simultaneously making forgery easier. This perspective is shortsighted—it doesn't match history, and depends upon some dubious assumptions about the homogeneity of culture. Humans don't live in reality, and we never have. We live in networks of personal mythology, occasionally shaped and guided by reality's physical limits on the rare occasions when those physical limits interfere with our abilvty to maintain false beliefs in ways that are not easily ignored. Our personal mythologies are a bricolage of (potentially internally conflicting) heuristics and factoids collected from all the people and media we interact with. For a few hundred years, due to the standardization of educational systems around canons of works deemed important, large groups of powerful people (the rich, the intelligentsia, and royalty) had substantially similar personal mythologies. A literate westerner in the late eighteenth century could be reasonably expected to be deeply familiar with the bible, classical mythology, the works of Plato and Aristotle, and a handful of other works, along with being able to read and write in Latin (and probably French), regardless of their homeland. A literate westerner a few hundred years earlier would have probably been a monk who had studied the Trivium and the Quadrivium. From what I understand, similar highly standardized educational systems existed in China, established far earlier, and this system was geared toward state bureaucracy rather than religious institutions -- however, I am not familiar enough with this system to describe it in detail. The vost important aspect of this situation is that it was not extended to most people—the poor and illiterate had their own private oral mythologies, influenced but not fully controlled by religious and state institutions. Improved printing technologies (cheap enough to use for mass entertainment and education but expensive enough to require a surrounding institution), universal mandatory education, and various attempts at education standardization exposed a greater number of people to particular memeplexes favored by particular groups of powerful people. It's important to note that, in the United States, this process was part of a then-politically-radical democratization made possible by access to low-cost printing technologies by dangerous terrorist subversives like Benjamin Franklin. When the revolutionary war was won, printers switched gears from propaganda pamphlets and broadsheets to general material for the education of a population who needed to be brought up to the minimum standards people like Thomas Jefferson thought were necessary to keep a democratic system from falling into tyranny. While today we generally see this process as a good idea, we should recognize that in the eighteenth century in europe and the americas, popular vote was seen as two steps short of anarchy and mass education was not seen as a universal good: from an outside perspective, we're talking about dangerous political radicals determining the canon of an education system. Of course, books were still quite expensive until the 20th century, with the introduction of paperback pocket books. The 20th century also corresponded to the development of film, radio, and television—popular formats that, like book and newspaper printing, depended upon expensive technology and institutions, and therefore were broadcast. This is the first point at which we can say that people's personal mythologies began to mostly converge: the point at which a handful of national TV channels, a handful of nationally-syndicated radio networks, a handful of large movie studios with strict control over theatre chains, a handful of big newspaper companies and book publishers, a standardized education system, and a very active censorship bureau controlled much of media. This period could be bookended on one side by the beginning of the Great Depression (when movie theatres became cheap mass entertainment) and on the other by the late 1960s (when new limitations on post office censorship and widespread access to Xerox and Mimeograph machines made a mass non-broadcast culture feasible—what we call, variously, faxlore or zine culture). The development of online communities starting in the 80s can be seen as an extension of this anti-broadcast trend that I trace to the late 60s. There's a big overlap between early online culture and faxlore, ham, and CB radio culture, after all. This development has never been apolitical: as soon as scalable alternatives to broadcast culture appeared, people began to take advantage of it to create and distribute their own personal mythologies, and these mythologies have often had a political element (as with the development of discordianism starting in 1958, the radical political zines and newsletters on the left right and radically unseen sides through the 60s, punk zines in the 70s and 80s, and the faxlore origins of the proto-alt-right in the early 90s with anti-Clinton xeroxed *factsheets*). These strains made the jump first to Usenet and BBS, then later to the web. All of this is to say that, rather than a sudden assault on the edifice of consensus truth, we are looking at the tail end of a sixty-year return to equilibrium—the conclusion of an anomalous century of relatively-homogeneous consensus reality. Usenet and the Web did something that BBSes (outside of store and forward networks like fidonet) and zines largely could not—they deterritorialized or delocalized exposure to alternate realities. People like John Perry Barlow and McLuhanist media theorists put this in utopian terms, and the culture jamming movement put it in functional, operative terms. After all, the broadcast reality is often wrong, and sometimes intentionally so: fraud, being expensive, was the domain of the powerful, and the democratization of the means of fraud (or, if you prefer, the democratization of disinformation construction and distribution mechanisms) was seen as a net positive. Culture jammers hoped that the good lies and the bad lies will cancel each other out in open forum. When we talk about filter bubbles, the problem is not that such alternate realities exist. Instead, geographically-dispersed clusters of alternative cultures remain isolated from each other as a side effect of ranking algorithms. These cultures, which until the 80s corresponded to regions, now can cross state boundaries in difficult-to-trace ways. Because representative government is based on geography rather than psychography, this disrupts attempts to consolidate political power: it's very difficult to gerrymander around a primarily Internet-centric culture in such a way that a guaranteed win is possible. Filter bubbles produce very real problems. The human capacity to ignore physical reality is impressive—only rarely does even mortal danger shake us (or else no veteran of active combat duty would consider themselves religious or patriotic, except perhaps in fairly warped ways: belief in a sadistic or blind-idiot god, faith that no alternative exists to a zero-sum politics of global annihilation). Nevertheless, in less extreme situations, periodic challenges to our Umwelt can indeed cause gradual change, and heavy exposure to diverse and conflicting alien myths can cause us to critically reconsider our own mythologies. Lack of exposure to alien myths means that the alternate realities produced by filter bubbles are just as stable as those previously produced by geography. When we are familiar with the perspective of the *other side*, we can accurately distinguish between likely and unlikely stories—we can identify disinformation, even if that doesn't impact our willingness to spread it <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm%3Fabstract_id%3D3023545> But, constant and consistent exposure to the same material eats away at our critical response, <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm%3Fabstract_id%3D2958246> Furthermore, simply pointing out that some stories are false has unintended consequences. <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm%3Fabstract_id%3D3035384> So, it's vitally important that we retain that exposure. However, at the same time, we should not assume that such exposure will rebuild some mythic edifice of consensus truth: an (often justified) contrarian strain acts against the consensus, and the centralized power necessary for building the illusion of consensus can reasonably be expected to use that false consensus to bolster its own continued power. Wartzel's article highlights DeepFace, AudioToObama, and similar technology as mechanisms for supporting widespread fraud in the near future. I have a couple problems with these specific examples (in part because the technology is far from convincing, and in part because the limited scope of these projects and the existence of other related technologies means that they don't substantially lower the cost of believable fraud <http://enki2.tumblr.com/post/170757932569/people-are-hyping-up-deepface-so-much-but-jesus> but on a fundamental level, fraud is always a possibility and our sense of what constitutes reliable evidence depends on a folk-understanding of fraud technologies. Nobody could use these technologies right now to convince a layman, let alone an expert, but the hype and scaremongering around them means that in the near future video will have the same status as photography in terms of perceived reliability—in other words, considered easily-faked. The ultimate result of this—since video fraud is still approximately as expensive as it was 20 years ago—is that more skepticism will be expressed about *video evidence*, and that skepticism will be expressed earlier. This will ultimately probably mostly impact the people who have the resources and motivations to actually fake video evidence. It's possible in the short term for people to take advantage of existing cultural bubbles to manipulate this skepticism toward political ends, but in the longer term we're merely adapting to the state of the reliability of video evidence in the past several decades. The time in which we live is unprecedented not for the unreliability of evidence but for its reliability. Again, we slowly return to equilibrium as political and technical competition takes advantage of short-term differences between the perceived and real reliability of certain kinds of evidence. There are real dangers associated with this manipulation, but they are not dangers to capital-T Truth but mundane ones—everyday grifting, political spin, and propaganda. Our best tool against this particular variety of manipulation is to maintain the accuracy of our folk-ideas about evidence reliability, not to demonize toys as existential risks. Framing is very important. Where I agree with Wartzel and Ovadya is that there are serious systematic problems with the way we route information between people—problems that cause political schismatism, failures of empathy, and in some cases direct physical danger. However, Ovadya & Wartzel's framing of this problem as one of attacks on consensus reality implies a solution with unfortunate authoritarian tinges: the reconsolidation of power over information. Instead, I suggest framing the problem as systematic bias in exposure to information, in ways that limit the effectiveness of our normal intellectual growth. Rather than rebuilding the tower, we should be breaking down the walls.
Please report problems with the web pages to the maintainer