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Update December 2017


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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
 
 
 
Technology
 

Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018

Some of Facebook’s early friends now its sharpest critics

 

Sean 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 Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Barbara Ortutay

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 behavior.

Palihapitiya piled 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 social media.

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 made.”

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)

David Sharp

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 countering submarines.

“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 Institute.

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 in battle.

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 ship.

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

This 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

Washington (AP) - 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.

The bureau 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 has found.

This 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.”

Three people 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 this month.

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.

Many were 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 telephone interview.

Phillips’ story 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 Schissler.

Some targets of Fancy Bear’s spying said they don’t blame the FBI for not notifying them.

“The expectation 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 targets.

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.

“It’s absolutely 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’?

“That’s ridiculous.”


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)

Colleen Long

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 phones.

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 very difficult.”

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.”

Lawmakers in 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

Minister of 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)

Steve Karnowski

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 show off.

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.

Six-month-long world 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.

Healthy Minnesota

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 billion.

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. vote.

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.

Revitalized Poland

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 million visitors.

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 railroad station.

Creative Argentina

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.

Note: 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 in 1931.

Argentine Foreign 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.

Argentina’s organizers 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 capital, Astana.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Some of Facebook’s early friends now its sharpest critics


Navy wants small warships that pack a bigger punch


FBI silent as US officials targeted by Russian hackers


Does cellphone-sweeping ‘StingRay’ technology go too far?


Minnesota, Poland and Argentina compete to host World’s Fair


 



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