Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018
Some of Facebook’s early friends now its sharpest critics
Parker arrives at an event in Culver City, Calif. Several people with
tight connections to, some as early investors, some as former officials,
are going public with a critique of the company and social media more
broadly. According to Parker, the company’s first president, Facebook
exploits a “vulnerability in human psychology.” (Photo by Jordan
New York (AP) -
Some of Facebook’s former friends are starting to express some serious
doubts about the social network they helped create.
Facebook exploits a
“vulnerability in human psychology” to addict its users, Sean Parker,
the company’s first president, said in a public forum last month.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook vice president who joined the
company in 2007, recently told an audience at Stanford that the company
is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
And Roger McNamee,
a venture capitalist and early investor in both Facebook and Google,
wrote that both companies “threaten public health and democracy” in an
August USA Today op-ed.
It has been a rough
year for the tech industry, especially social media companies. It opened
with concerns about fake news and “filter bubbles” that can shield
people from contrary beliefs, segued into pressure on Facebook and
Twitter to clamp down on trolling and online harassment, and culminated
with congressional hearings into Russian agents’ alleged use of their
platforms to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.
All of that, of
course, came against a steady drumbeat of tweets from President Donald
Trump who used the service to praise his allies and castigate his foes,
often in inflammatory fashion.
But the unkindest
cut of all may have come from three people who helped build Facebook in
its early days. In early November, Parker told the news site Axios that
Facebook was built to answer the question, “How do we consume as much of
your time and conscious attention as possible?” He called its stream of
comments, “likes” and reactions a “social validation feedback loop that
exploits how human brains work.”
A few days later,
McNamee wrote another essay for the Guardian in which he argued that
Facebook and Google have used “persuasive techniques developed by
propagandists and the gambling industry,” combining them with modern
technology to maximize their profits while pushing “appeals to fear and
anger” and other material that reinforces filter bubbles and addictive
on too, saying at a Stanford Graduate School of Business talk last month
that he feels “tremendous guilt” about helping create tools that have
widened social divisions. He recommended that people take a break from
Facebook, in an
emailed comment, said it is “working hard to improve,” and noted that
it’s not the same company it was when Palihapitiya, who left six years
ago, worked there.
“We’ve done a lot
of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand
the effects of our service on well-being, and we’re using it to inform
our product development,” the company’s statement read. “We are willing
to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are
Not all early
investors are critical. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman acknowledged in
an interview concerns around how social media systems are causing what
he called “lightly addictive behavior.” But, he added, “That’s also been
true of television, that’s also been true of sugar.”
Saturday, Dec. 23 - Dec. 29, 2017
Navy wants small warships that pack a bigger punch
In this Oct. 5, 2016, photo released by the
U.S. Navy, the Spanish Navy frigate Alvaro de Bazan, right, cruises
alongside the destroyer USS Carney, left, off the coast of Rota, Spain,
in the Mediterranean Sea. Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine, USA, said in
November 2017 it is partnering with the Spanish builder of the Alvaro de
Bazan on a new design for up to 20 frigates for the U.S. Navy. (Weston
Jones/U.S. Navy via AP)
Bath, Maine (AP) - The
Navy’s fast-and-maneuverable littoral combat ship was criticized for
lacking enough firepower and armor to survive a maritime battle. The
Navy is addressing those concerns with a new class of small-but-powerful
frigates that will pack a bigger punch.
The Navy asked last month for
concept proposals for multi-mission warships that would be bigger and
more heavily armed - and slower - than the littoral combat ships. They
would be capable of shooting down airplanes, attacking other ships and
“The Navy has decided that speed is
less important than having a warship with sufficient weapons to defend
itself,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington
The Navy, which wants to build 20
frigates, is seeking an affordable design, and its directive calls for
shipbuilders to use an existing design to expedite the process. The
aggressive timetable calls for conceptual proposals next month. The
first two ships are to be procured in 2020 and 2021.
Large Navy shipbuilders like
Maine’s Bath Iron Works and Mississippi’s Ingalls Shipbuilding are among
a half-dozen defense contractors expected to bid on the work. Smaller
shipyards like Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin and Austal USA
in Alabama are also expected to compete.
The proposal marks a new direction
for the Navy at a time when the Trump administration has vowed to
increase the size of the fleet. The Navy has a goal of 355 ships.
It addresses lessons learned from
the littoral combat ships, which were supposed to be an affordable way
of countering post-Cold War threats including pirates and swarm boats.
The Navy envisioned speedy ships
that could be transformed with mission modules to serve different roles.
But the mission modules have been delayed and the ships’ cost grew. Then
the Government Accountability Office questioned the ships’ survivability
There are two versions of the
littoral combat ship, both capable of topping 50 mph and utilizing
steerable waterjets to operate in shallow water.
When all is said and done, the Navy
is expected to take delivery of more than two dozen littoral combat
ships. A combination of LCS and frigates would comprise more than half
of the Navy’s deployed surface combatants by 2030, said Lt. Seth Clarke,
a Navy spokesman.
The Congressional Research Service
said the Navy wants to spend no more than $950 million per frigate,
while Clarke put the target at $800 million per ship after the first
Working in the ship’s favor in
terms of affordability: The proposal calls for no new technologies.
That’s a far cry from littoral combat ships and larger, stealthy
Zumwalt-class destroyers that incorporated new designs and technologies
that contributed to significant cost overruns.
At Bath Iron Works, a General
Dynamics subsidiary, officials examined U.S. and foreign designs to meet
Navy requirements and partnered with a Spanish company, Navantia, to
utilize an existing design from a Spanish navy frigate, said Dirk Lesko,
the shipyard’s president.
Bath Iron Works helped to design
the Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the last of which were
retired from duty in 2015.
The shipyard’s 5,700 workers who
currently build Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class destroyers are
eager for the opportunity to build the frigates.
“We know how to build them. We’re
ready to build more,” said Mike Keenan, president of the Machinists
Union Local S6, the shipyard’s largest union.
Saturday, Dec. 16 - Dec. 22, 2017
FBI silent as US officials targeted by Russian hackers
Sept. 29, 2017 photo shows the Kremlin in Moscow. Scores of U.S.
diplomatic, military and government figures were not told about
Russia-linked attempts to hack into their emails, even though the FBI
knew they were in Moscow’s crosshairs, The Associated Press has learned.
(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)
Raphael Satter, Jeff Donn and Desmond Butler
- The hackers’ targets: The former head of
cybersecurity for the U.S. Air Force. An ex-director at the National
Security Council. A former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
All were caught up
in a Russian government-aligned cyberespionage campaign. None was warned
by the FBI.
repeatedly failed to alert targets of the Russian hacking group known as
Fancy Bear despite knowing for more than a year that their personal
emails were in the Kremlin’s sights, an Associated Press investigation
image shows a portion of a phishing email sent to a Washington
area-based military analyst on Nov. 9, 2017. (AP Photo)
“No one’s ever said
to me, ‘Hey Joe, you’ve been targeted by this Russian group,’” said
former Navy intelligence officer Joe Mazzafro, whose inbox the hackers
tried to compromise in 2015. “That our own security services have not
gone out and alerted me, that’s what I find the most disconcerting as a
national security professional.”
The FBI declined to
discuss its investigation into Fancy Bear’s spying campaign, but did
provide a statement that said in part: “The FBI routinely notifies
individuals and organizations of potential threat information.”
familiar with the matter - including a current and a former government
official - said the FBI has known the details of Fancy Bear’s attempts
to break into Gmail inboxes for more than a year. A senior FBI official,
who was not to authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation
because of its sensitivity, said the bureau had been overwhelmed by an
“almost insurmountable problem.”
The AP conducted
its own investigation into Fancy Bear, dedicating two months and a small
team of reporters to go through a list of 19,000 phishing links provided
by the cybersecurity firm Secureworks.
The list showed how
Fancy Bear worked in close alignment with Kremlin interests to steal
tens of thousands of emails from the Democratic Party, the AP reported
But it wasn’t just
Democrats the hackers were after.
The AP identified
more than 500 U.S.-based targets in the data, reached out to more than
190 of them and interviewed nearly 80 people, including current or
former military personnel, Democratic operatives, diplomats or
ex-intelligence workers such as Mazzafro.
long-retired, but about one-third were still in government or held
security clearances at the time of the hacking attempts. Only two told
the AP they learned of the hacking attempts from the FBI. A few more
were contacted by the FBI after their emails were published in the
torrent of leaks that coursed through last year’s electoral contest. To
this day, some leak victims have not heard from the bureau.
One was retired
Maj. James Phillips, who was one of the first people exposed by the
website DCLeaks in mid-2016. A year later, Philips has yet to hear
anything from the FBI.
In fact he didn’t
learn his emails were “flapping in the breeze” until two months after
the fact, when a journalist called him to ask for comment.
“The fact that a
reporter told me about DCLeaks kind of makes me sad,” Phillips said in a
would be repeated again and again as the AP spoke to officials from the
National Defense University in Washington to the North American
Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado.
Among them: a
former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, retired Lt. Gen. Patrick
Hughes; a former head of Air Force Intelligence, retired Lt. Gen. David
Deptula; a former defense undersecretary, Eric Edelman; and a former
director of cybersecurity for the Air Force, retired Lt. Gen. Mark
Some targets of
Fancy Bear’s spying said they don’t blame the FBI for not notifying
that the government is going to protect everyone and go back to everyone
is false,” said Nicholas Eftimiades, a retired senior technical officer
at the Defense Intelligence Agency who teaches homeland security at
Pennsylvania State University in Harrisburg and was himself among the
But Charles Sowell,
who previously worked as a senior administrator in the Office of the
Director of National Intelligence and was targeted by Fancy Bear two
years ago, said there was no reason the FBI couldn’t do the same work
the AP did.
not OK for them to use an excuse that there’s too much data,” said
Sowell. “Would that hold water if there were a serial killer
investigation, and people were calling in tips left and right, and they
were holding up their hands and saying, ‘It’s too much’?
Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017
Does cellphone-sweeping ‘StingRay’ technology go too far?
This undated file photo provided by the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office shows the StingRay II, a cellular site simulator
used for surveillance purposes manufactured by Harris Corporation, of
Melbourne, Fla. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office via AP, File)
New York (AP) -
New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are among scores of
police departments across the country quietly using a highly secretive
technology developed for the military that can track the whereabouts of
suspects by using the signals constantly emitted by their cellphones.
Civil liberties and
privacy groups are increasingly raising objections to the suitcase-sized
devices known as StingRays or cell site simulators that can sweep up
cellphone data from an entire neighborhood by mimicking cell towers.
Police can determine the location of a phone without the user even
making a call or sending a text message. Some versions of the technology
can even intercept texts and calls, or pull information stored on the
Part of the
problem, privacy experts say, is the devices can also collect data from
anyone within a small radius of the person being tracked. And law
enforcement goes to great lengths to conceal usage, in some cases,
offering plea deals rather than divulging details on the StingRay.
“We can’t even tell
how frequently they’re being used,” said attorney Jerome Greco, of the
Legal Aid Society, which recently succeeded in blocking evidence
collected with the device in a New York City murder case. “It makes it
At least 72 state
and local law enforcement departments in 24 states plus 13 federal
agencies use the devices, but further details are hard to come by
because the departments that use them must take the unusual step of
signing nondisclosure agreements overseen by the FBI.
An FBI spokeswoman
said the agreements, which often involve the Harris Corporation, a
defense contractor that makes the devices, are intended to prevent the
release of sensitive law enforcement information to the general public.
But the agreements don’t prevent an officer from telling prosecutors the
technology was used in a case.
In New York, use of
the technology was virtually unknown to the public until last year when
the New York Civil Liberties Union forced the disclosure of records
showing the NYPD used the devices more than 1,000 times since 2008. That
included cases in which the technology helped catch suspects in
kidnappings, rapes, robberies, assaults and murders. It has even helped
find missing people.
But privacy experts
say such gains come at too high a cost.
“We have a Fourth
Amendment to the Constitution,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with
the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the protection against
unreasonable search and seizure. “Our Founding Fathers decided when they
wrote the Bill of Rights there had to be limits placed on government.”
several states have introduced proposals ranging from warrant
requirements to an outright ban on the technology; about a dozen states
already have laws requiring warrants. Federal law enforcement said last
year that it would be routinely required to get a search warrant before
using the technology - a first effort to create a uniform legal standard
for federal authorities.
And case law is
slowly building. Two months ago, a Washington, D.C., appeals court
overturned a conviction on a sex assault after judges ruled a violation
of the Fourth Amendment because of evidence improperly collected from
the simulator without a proper warrant.
In the New York
murder case argued by the Legal Aid Society, a judge in Brooklyn last
month ruled that the NYPD must have an eavesdropping warrant signed by a
judge to use the device, a much higher bar than the “reasonable
suspicion” standard that had previously been required.
“By its very
nature, then, the use of a cell site simulator intrudes upon an
individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument
of eavesdropping and requires a separate warrant supported by probable
cause,” wrote state Supreme Court Judge Martin Murphy.
New York City
police officials disagreed with the ruling and disputed that a StingRay
was even used in the case, even though there had been a court order to
do so. Police officials also said they have since started requiring a
higher stander of probable cause when applying for the devices.
Legal Aid Society’s
Greco said he hoped the ruling will push the nation’s largest department
into meeting the higher standard, and help judges better understand the
intricacies of more cutting-edge surveillance.
“We’re hoping we
can use this decision among other decisions being made across the
country to show that this logic is right,” Greco said. “Part of an issue
we’re facing with technology, the judges don’t understand it. It makes
it easier if another judge has sat down and really thought about it.”
Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017
Minnesota, Poland and Argentina compete to host World’s Fair
Foreign affairs of Argentine Jorge Faurie of Argentina delivers a speech at
the 162nd General Assembly of BIE, in Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. The
Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental
organization in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, since 1931.
Argentina will host Specialized Expo 2022/23. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Minneapolis (AP) -
Minnesota is hoping to host the first World’s Fair on U.S. soil in nearly 40
years, but it will have to overcome bids by Poland’s third-largest city,
Lodz, and the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires when a winner is selected in
the coming days.
The events that
introduced the world to the Eiffel Tower, Space Needle and Ferris Wheel have
lost some of their cultural relevance in an age of globalization and cheap
air travel. But World’s Fairs - now referred to as World Expos for the
largest events held every five years and as specialized expos for smaller
ones in other years - still draw millions of visitors and allow hosts to
The Bureau of
International Expositions will choose the site of the 2022 or 2023
specialized expo on Wednesday in Paris. Minnesota’s theme is health and
wellness, Lodz’s is the reinvention of cities and Buenos Aires’ highlights
creative industries in the digital era.
Here’s a closer look:
What are expos?
According to the BIE,
expos are global events aimed at “educating the public, sharing innovations,
promoting progress and fostering cooperation.” They’re meant to bring the
world together to find solutions to some fundamental challenge of humanity.
Visitors tour pavilions where participating countries and organizations
showcase their contributions on the theme, while experts and diplomats
attend conferences on the sidelines.
expos are held every five years, while smaller, three-month “specialized
expos” on specific themes, which are what the BIE is currently considering,
fall in between. World leaders often visit.
“Expos remind us that
there is much more that binds us together than separates us,” Jim Core,
director of the international exhibitions unit at the U.S. State Department,
told The Associated Press by phone from Paris on Friday.
Many Americans have
lost sight of how big these events are because the U.S. hasn’t hosted one
since New Orleans did so in 1984, but the Milan World Expo in 2015 drew
around 20 million visitors, according to the BIE. This summer’s specialized
expo on Future Energy in Astana, Kazakhstan, drew 4 million people, and the
2020 Dubai World Expo is expected to draw about 25 million, the BIE says.
Minnesota has proposed
a specialized expo for 2023 on the theme “Healthy People, Healthy Planet.”
It would trade on the state’s reputation as a center of innovation and
excellence in health and wellness, the leader of the bid committee, former
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, said from Paris. Minnesota is
home to world-class health care institutions including the Mayo Clinic,
medical device makers such as Medtronic, and insurers such as UnitedHealth.
The site would be near
the Mall of America, one of the country’s biggest shopping centers, which is
located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. The committee projects
that it will draw around 12 million visitors, including nearly 220,000
international visitors, with a total impact on the local economy of $1.5
The State Department is
vigorously lobbying on Minnesota’s behalf, a bigger diplomatic effort than
Poland’s or Argentina’s, Ritchie said. It has hosted events in Washington,
Paris and other cities, while its embassies and consulates around the world
are promoting the bid. It also brought foreign ambassadors to Minnesota.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be in Paris to cast the U.S.
The U.S. left the
Bureau of International Expositions in 2001 as congressional interest waned
following the end of the Cold War, said Matthew Asada, the State
Department’s expo program officer. But President Donald Trump signed a bill
in May, the “U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act,” to rejoin and put
the U.S. back in the game.
The bid theme of the
central Polish city of Lodz for 2022 is “City Re: Invented” and focuses the
revitalization of post-industrial cities. The city’s expo website says the
event would kick-start a second wave of modernization and share Poland’s
expertise in “urban regeneration” with the rest of the world.
“Lodz is writing an
extraordinary story of how to successfully combat a permanent social and
infrastructural crisis,” the website states. The city expects about 8
Lodz is Poland’s
third-largest city, an hour away from the capital Warsaw. It became a
thriving industrial city in the 19th century but lost momentum after
communist rule ended in 1989. The demise of its big textile plants fueled
unemployment and decay. But the city says it has undergone a rebirth lately,
including the restoration of many of the inner city’s richly decorated
tenement houses from the late 1800s and revitalization around the main
Buenos Aires has
offered a 2023 expo on “Creative Industries in Digital Convergence.” If
approved, it would be the first expo in Latin America under the auspices of
the BIE, which began operations in 1931. Several were held in Latin America
before then, though.
“It will be a
celebration of human creativity, in which no one should be left out,”
Argentine government minister Gabriela Ricardes said last month in a
presentation to the Organization of American States.
Buenos Aires expects
over 6 million visitors, including 250,000 international tourists. “They
will be able to discover the latest innovations in the technological
industries, the newest proposals from the world of creativity, and
multimedia, artistic, scientific and technological content from Argentina
and the participating countries,” its expo website says.
Members of the Bureau of International Expositions, based in
Paris, picked Buenos Aires to host a specialized World Expo.
Argentinians at the
vote literally jumped for joy as the result was announced - and then started
handing out white-and-blue soccer t-shirts with star Argentinian player
Lionel Messi’s name on them.
Delegates donned the
t-shirts on top of their suits as members of the Argentinian bid team hugged
and kissed each other in excitement and relief.
It will be the first
expo in Latin America under the auspices of the BIE, which began operations
Minister Jorge Faurie said Buenos Aires’ bid is aimed at showing creative
ways that smartphones and other increasingly accessible technology can “give
people around the world an opportunity to have better lives.”
“We are very happy not
only for my country but for South America,” Faurie told reporters in Paris
as he invited countries around the world to mount exhibits at the expo.
hope the event will attract at least 6 million visitors.
Dubai, in the United
Arab Emirates, is set to host the next full World Expo in 2020. A
specialized expo focused on energy was held this year in Kazakhstan’s