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Quirks in Tech

An informal space where I think about the oddities of technology, politics, and privacy. Also some other stuff.

Listening In: The Navy Is Tracking Ocean Sounds Collected by Scientists ∞

This is one of the coolest surveillance/national security/academic research-related news article I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended!

Aug 20, 2014

From The Unsealed 'Jewel v. NSA' Transcript: The DOJ Has Nothing But Contempt For American Citizens ∞

Hey, I’m sorry the leaks have made it harder for these agencies to do whatever the hell they want, but they are all part of a government that’s supposed to be accountable to the citizens picking up the check. But when faced with unhappy citizens and their diminished rights, all the DOJ’s lawyers can say is that the public doesn’t know shit and has no right to question the government’s activities. 

The government has somehow managed to come to a conclusion others reached weeks ago – there’s more than one leaker out there. GOOD. Burn it down. In the DOJ’s hands, the government isn’t by or for the people. It’sdespite the people. The DOJ can’t be trusted to protect the balance between privacy and security. As it sees it, what the public doesn’t know will likely hurt it, and it’s damned if it’s going to allow citizens to seek redress for their grievances.

While I don’t agree with the whole ‘burn-the-DOJ-down’ mentality, that this is an increasingly mainstream opinion regarding key US government institutions is deeply problematic. Such attitudes are indicative of a population no longer seeing itself reflected in its government which is, in turn, a recipe for social conflicts.

Aug 19, 2014

Canada Spies on Israel's Enemies ∞

A new report in The Intercept revealed that CSEC, Canada’s NSA, spies on Israel’s enemies. But what does that entail? And is it within CSEC’s mandate to do so?

I reached out to Chris Parsons, a prominent cybersecurity and surveillance researcher from Toronto’s Citizen Lab, to discuss CSEC’s role in Israel’s military offensives. He told me there are “at least two ways” that CSEC would be involved in helping out Israel. One of which would be to provide INSU with a tracking program, or specific databases, to help spy on targets and persons of interest, which would have been developed by CSEC. As we learned from the free airport WiFi presentation, which was more about tracking targets as they log into various WiFi access points around the world than it was about surveilling airport travelers in particular, CSEC does have these capabilities in their wheelhouse.

Parsons went on to say that CSEC could also assist Israel by “providing some sort of expertise with how to use databases that are shared out to the Israeli intelligence community.” Simply put, Canada may be giving the Israelis tech support for the spying systems we’re giving them. In terms of whether or not this kind of assistance is within CSEC’s mandate, Parsons told me: “As you’re aware, the Canadian government has identified Hamas as a terrorist organization and as such, it would make sense for CSEC to be engaged in the monitoring of their locations and their electronic systems that Hamas is believed to be using. So in that sense, it should fit within CSEC’s mandated intelligence-gathering.”

But even with Hamas on a designated terror list, the complexities surrounding our Canadian surveillance agency spying on Palestinian targets opens up major issues of privacy; specifically when you consider how a target is selected, and how sure government powers need to be before a person is added to a list of terrorists. As Parsons told me, there is the “very serious question of how exactly individuals are identified as valid targets or not… How many individuals are swept up into the monitoring?”

Aug 19, 2014

Working Anything but 9 to 5 ∞

SAN DIEGO — In a typical last-minute scramble, Jannette Navarro, a 22-year-old Starbucks barista and single mother, scraped together a plan for surviving the month of July without setting off family or financial disaster.

In contrast to the joyless work she had done at a Dollar Tree store and a KFC franchise, the $9-an-hour Starbucks job gave Ms. Navarro, the daughter of a drug addict and an absentee father, the hope of forward motion. She had been hired because she showed up so many times, cheerful and persistent, asking for work, and she had a way of flicking away setbacks — such as a missed bus on her three-hour commute — with the phrase, “I’m over it.”

But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.

An excellent, if damning, piece on the hardships associated with ‘flexible’ scheduling and low-paying jobs.

Aug 16, 2014

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