Posts tagged with 'Information'

Journalism

  • Posted on August 20, 2016 at 5:48 pm

HBO’s John Oliver took a close look at the state of journalism. Everyone is in dire need of facts and story research. No one wants to pay, as it seems. This is not really the truth. It’s a simplification. Every newspaper has its online edition. Contrary to paper the digital articles allow for the sampling of statistics. The paper edition throws a few hundred grams of data into a mailbox. There is no feedback channel. You do not know who reads which article. You do not even know how many people read the paper. You may know some information about your readers from the data subscribers leave voluntarily. That’s it.

The online edition offers much more feedback. You can track users. You can record their favourite interests. You can take the time spent on the web site. You can do a lot more. What if I don’t want to be tracked? Where is the Do Not Track button in the online form for buying subscriptions? Someone isn’t paying attention.

I read a couple of news outlets (let’s use this term). I cannot afford to buy a subscription for all sources. This brings me to another business model that is absent from the market. I would like to read articles from many newspapers and pay by article at the end of the month. Trouble is that this requires a cross-newspaper identification which in turn can be used for tracking again (and it can only be done in an ideal world where copyrighted material can be syndicated easily, so it is pure fiction). Facebook and Google think about this for some time. I would prefer the news without the tracking.

So who wants to sell me some news?

A Beacon of Opinions

  • Posted on September 16, 2013 at 12:30 am

Having privacy is nice these days. However maintaining a sense of privacy is hard when it comes to social media, blogs or other ways where you can leak personal information. Creating different accounts is a first step, but separating personal and professional opinion only works if you maintain the division all of the time. This must also be true for all connections to others, be it people or organisations. Once you make an exception, the whole concept doesn’t work any more. Your opinion will be the strongest beacon, and everyone with an honest interest in you will use it to connect. Privacy gone.

It’s not follow the money in the digital world. It’s follow the opinion.

Spy Service with Trust Issues

  • Posted on June 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm

You really should have heard about PRISM and Tempora. You should know that this is only the part that was published with a source and some evidence of what’s going on. Keep in mind that there is a lot going on that we do not know about yet and probably never will. The fall-out of the scandal may be an eroded trust in IT staff and systems. The director of the N.S.A., Gen. Keith B. Alexander, has confirmed the lack of trust by establishing a buddy system for NSA’s IT staff. The concept isn’t new, and it’s used by the military, other agencies or in the field of cryptography.

The consequence rephrased reads like this: PRISM and Tempora have effectively destroyed the trust in IT systems – both for the people being victims of surveillance and the surveillants. The NSA now resorts to “a two-man rule” in order to restore trust internally (which will not prevent further whistle-blowers from leaking information). The victims try to restore trust by using encryption and tools to anonymise their communication. Both implications do not help either side. Furthermore the government agencies will continue their efforts and hide them from the general public in order to pursue their Greater Goal™ or the War on Stuff™.  Meanwhile everyone else is shopping ebay for slightly used civil rights.

A job well done. Let’s burn some books, basic liberties, journalists, and system administrators to make the world a better place.

“No wall can stand against the yearning of justice…”

  • Posted on June 19, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Barack “I know what you did last Summer!” Obama held a speech in Berlin today. The Guardian has published the full text of it (and will probably be closed down and its staff will be sent to Guantánamo) on its web site. The speech contains a unique gem of sarcasm.

No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.

I fully agree, but one of us is lying. NSA Director Keith “I owe him another friggin’ beer” Alexander has no interest in justice, freedom, and peace. Congratulations! You should have saved yourself the trouble of the American Revolution.

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PRISM, the „Cloud“ and Espionage

  • Posted on June 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

There should be no surprise about the PRISM initiative and NSA‘s activities. Some people became a member of the EFF on 12 September 2001. It is an illusion to believe that any collection of data is safe from access by third parties especially if it is stored in centralised locations. Sane critics have criticised the „Cloud“ since marketing departments discovered the brand name for centralised storage (the „Cloud“ may be dispersed, distributed, virtualised or whatever, but there are still „Cloud“ providers who hold the key access to the whole infrastructure). Right after 9/11 the term Total Information Awareness (TIA) was coined. Take a look at what TIA entails. This is what you see now, but don’t assume that only the USA do this.

Russia, China and the USA are the Axis of Surveillance. The differences are merely semantics. Some European states also pursue total information awareness. They just don’t talk about it, and there are no whistle-blowers – yet (hopefully). Once you rely on the infrastructure of other’s, be careful.

The next CryptoParty in Vienna will discuss countermeasures against surveillance by totalitarian regimes.

Wunsch für 2013 – mehr Sinn für Journalismus

  • Posted on December 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Für alle diejenigen, die es verpaßt haben, weil sie beispielsweise in einer Höhle in Tora-Bora vor Drohnen Zuflucht finden mußten: Der ORF legt keinen Wert auf Qualitätsarbeit. Streitpunkt ist die ungerechte Behandlung der freien Journalistinnen und Journalisten, die das Programm im Anbetracht der Behandlung und Bezahlung nur noch als querfinanziertes Hobby bereichern können.

Gut recherchierte und aufbereitete Geschichten sind selten geworden. Echter Journalismus besteht nicht nur aus Kopieren & Einfügen. Es steckt viel mehr Arbeit dahinter als man glaubt, speziell das Verdichten der Informationen, um Beiträge in sinnvollen Portionen aufzubereiten. Podcasts mit stundenlangem Geschwafel oder Blogartikel ohne Fokus oder Struktur sind Hobbys. Erst journalistische Arbeit macht Beiträge genießbar, und diese Dienstleistung ist unbezahlbar. Leider nimmt der ORF „unbezahlbar“ wörtlich. Die Arbeit der Freien, die eigentlich in moderner Sklaverei leben, macht für mich das Programm überhaupt erst interessant. In einigen Bereichen gäbe es ohne die Freien gar keine Inhalte. Wahrscheinlich müßte man dann Testbilder und -töne senden. Das ist zwar inhaltlich immer noch ein Vorteil gegenüber so manch anderen Medien, kann aber auch keine Lösung sein.

Sollte wer aktiv an dem Wunsch für mehr Fairness für die freien Journalistinnen und Journalisten mitarbeiten wollen, so ist eine Solidaritätsbekundung ein guter Anfang. Ich empfehle auch sich die Hintergründe und aktuelle Ereignisse anzuschauen, um sich selbst ein Bild zu machen. Darüber hinaus kann man selbst gegen den ORF in gewissem Rahmen mit der Geldbörse abstimmen. Es ist ein Anfang, und es ist definitiv ein guter Start ins Jahr 2013! Überlegen Sie es sich doch einfach.

CryptoParty and Trust as a Tool

  • Posted on October 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

You have probably heard of the CryptoParty events spreading all over the world. The idea is to meet, have experts explain cryptography and tools using it to beginners, and to have some fun in the process. For someone using PGP (and now GPG) since its early days 20 years ago this is not very ground-breaking news. It’s long overdue and should have happened much earlier. Cryptography has been around for thousands of years, long before the Caesar cipher. Secrets are even older. The rise of PGP got cryptography going on „ordinary“ computers in 1991. The Cypherpunks would have been happy to have CryptoParty events, too.

Getting to grips with cryptography happens in stages. Your starting point depends on your interests and background. Some start at the mathematics, others start with the tools first. It really doesn’t matter, and there is no One True Way™ (a fact often lost to fanatics). Once you understand the basics, you can go on. There’s no requirement to do so, but when it comes to cryptography and its tools my recommendation is to dig a little deeper after mastering the threshold. The best opportunity is asking questions about levels of trust and the importance of keys. At this point you will realise that cryptography alone will get you anywhere if there is no solid level of trust between the communicating parties and if others have access (think copies) of the keys securing the communication. This is also the point where it gets complicated and uncomfortable.

Cryptography is hard to understand. Understanding trust, how to establish it and how to maintain it is even harder. True, there are a lot of tools that can help you to encrypt and decrypt stuff on your cell phones (the smart ones probably). Unless you are the only one having access to your cell phone, you will never be able to trust this device. The same is true for devices that aren’t properly secured and managed by third parties such as hardware/software vendors or application stores (or for the younger generation „app stores“).
You can think of your apartment as an example. You’ve got your keys, but if someone else has a copy of these keys or has build a second door to your apartment with separate keys, then your apartment cannot be trusted any more.

So if you dive into the Wonderful World of Cryptography™, please take time and patience to have a look behind the scenes. It’s not meant as an recipe to acquire paranoia, it really helps to understand trust. Your local CryptoParty experts will help you. Ask them.

Silent Night

  • Posted on December 25, 2011 at 9:15 pm

People have been talking about the decline and uselessness of e-mail for years. What a waste of time. Just try using office hours for your e-mail servers. Maybe evolution has not yet engineered our minds for 24×7 message processing. So enjoy your Silent Nights in between the years. And please read blog postings in 2012 again.

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Aktionstag „Freiheit statt Angst“ – Amtsgeheimnis.at

  • Posted on September 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Im Metalab findet jetzt gerade eine Veranstaltung unter dem Motto „Freiheit statt Angst“ statt. Josef Barth von der Plattform amtsgeheimsnis.at erzählt gerade von der österreichischen Verfassung und dem Phänomen Amtsgeheimnis. Viele reden von Transparenz und Open Government, aber gelebt werden diese Prinzipien nicht. Das liegt einerseits an der (auch in westeuropäischen Ländern) grassierenden Korruption und durchaus auch an der Unkenntnis von Behörden. Mancher Beamte traut sich oft nicht eine Auskunft zu erteilen, was sich leider mit Desinformation oder Auskunftsverweigerung vermischt. Dabei steht das Amtsgeheimnis in Österreich im Gegensatz zu anderen Ländern in der Verfassung.

Die Plattform Amtsgeheimnis.at möchte abbilden, welche konkrete Fragen an Behörden unbeantwortet bleiben und aufzeigen, welche Informationen die öffentliche Verwaltung seinen Bürgern immer noch verweigert. Diese Informationen sind nicht nur für Journalisten interessant. Die Nichtauskunft von Ausschüssen wird beispielsweise als Instrument zur Reinwaschung von Abgeordneten verwendet. Da auch von Ministerien Verträge abgeschlossen und Steuergelder ausgegeben werden, sollte eigentlich Bürgerinnen auch Auskunft über diese Verträge und die Verwendung der Gelder gegeben werden können. Es kann ja nicht sein, dass man immer auf Leaks warten muß bis eine Auskunft erteilt wird.

Mit dieser Thematik sollten sich alle Parteien einmal beschäftigen. Das wäre jedenfalls sinnvoller als Bibelzitate zu verwenden, sich gegenseitig zu beschuldigen oder sinnfrei Reime abzudrucken.

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Blowing Whistles

  • Posted on September 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm

If you were a whistleblower, what would you do to deliver your data to the public without exposing your identity? Let’s assume that you know some secrets about a Mexican drug cartel, so you have some extra motivation to stay anonymous. Where would you turn to?

  • Contact the media – nice idea, but maybe the media is afraid, too. Or there are spies among the ranks of editors.
  • Contact WikiLeaks – sounds pretty straightforward, but what about their promises about protecting whistleblowers and their reluctance to share information how they protect the sources?
  • Contact OpenLeaks – the new kid on the bloc; shares the word Leaks with WikiLeaks, promises to be more open, but isn’t quite open, only a bit. Apparently has destroyed leaked information for protection of sources (but then again it might not have done this at all).
  • Contact a government – this is the classical approach. True, the police of many countries always looks for anonymous sources depositing hints, but given their refusal to allow anonymity, pseudonymity and privacy, this is probably just bait and you are the catch of the day.
  • Contact Anonymous – splendid idea, but Anonymous is an idea, not a well-defined group. You might as well publish your leak on your blog or web site.
  • Try to leak the information yourself by anonymity services – that’s a start, but that’s not a sound plan. Let’s assume your know how to use TOR or Mixmaster remailers. What’s next? You have to send your information somewhere. Even if you run a hidden TOR service, you have to tell someone about it. Who is this someone? If you don’t know, you have a problem. You could hide the information and hope that someone finds it. This is also not very targeted.

Right now the options are very limited. Given the fights between WikiLeaks and the media or with OpenLeaks you options might be fading quicker than a candle in a snowstorm. Your best bet might be a platform such as Cryptome which does what WikiLeaks does quite a bit longer. Then again some of the possibilities above might work for you. Don’t forget to use your mind. As Cryptome puts it: „Recall that Cryptome never claims trustworthiness, authenticity or security, those can be done only by the citizen-user-consumer-believer, if at all. Expect to be deceived.“

A leak might not be a leak, and a „lost“ password might not been lost by accident. Time will tell.

 

We Come in Peace – streaming now!

  • Posted on December 27, 2010 at 11:45 am

Für die nächsten 4 Tage werden wir im Büro neben der Arbeit mit den Videos vom 27C3 verbringen. Wir haben das Gast-WLAN aktiviert, und ein Beamer läuft (hoffentlich mit den Live Streams vom Congress). Das Programm sieht sehr vielversprechend aus. Wir sind schon gespannt wie gut das Streaming diesmal funktioniert. Letztes Jahr war es stabil genug für die meisten Vorträge.

Stream on!

Internet Freedom

  • Posted on December 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

The Twitter feed of Heather Brooke directed me to a speech given by U.S. of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

This is an important speech on an important subject. … In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. … So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and welfare of much of the world’s population.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to the Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.
Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. At the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the trouble of his day.

I couldn’t agree more. However the USA are the very same country that also thinks about persecuting journalists. Journalism may be turned into espionage and punished severely. The question arises which challenges Mrs Clinton meant when delivering her speech. Was she speaking about the tyranny of a military regime or a state not being the USA? Other journalists jump to the rescue and try to distinguish between an unstructured collection of information, calling it a database, and carefully verified and polished information, calling it a book. I don’t think that discussing semantics will be very helpful here. Wikileaks or Cryptome simply have no editors that streamline information and turn databases into books. This is the design of these collections. There is no book. You have to write it yourself which is precisely the problem. Most journalists do not research anymore. They shun to dig for really important, critical or dangerous information. Copying newsfeeds and changing a few words is not journalism. If a journalist can be replaced by a very small shell script, then one should not expect to find new insights or perspectives. It depends on how you use the information and if you ask serious questions. People have forgotten to doubt what they read. This is why we need every wake-up call we can get.

Welcome to the Age of Information Warfare

  • Posted on December 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I have not commented the Cablegate publication by Wikileaks so far. The reason is simply that the revelations published are of much lower impact than politics wants it to be. Most of the information about the US-American understanding of the world comes with no surprise. The cables are merely a confirmation of suspicions and assumptions which were available before. However the discussion enters a new stage. Publishing information should now be punished by death. Web infrastructure publishing inconvenient information will now be DDoSed, taken offline by cloud computing vendors and evicted from the DNS. We’ve taken the Internet one step further. A quote by a fictional UN commissioner comes to my mind:

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny.  The once-chained people whose leaders at last loose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master. — Commissioner Pravin Lal, “Librarian’s Preface”

While Commissioner Pravin Lal has never existed, his words carry more meaning than ever before. The US government attacks Wikileaks. Strangely they do not attack the media who is publishing along Wikileaks. The Afghanistan War Logs and the Iraq War Logs were published by journalists as well. The US Embassy Diplomatic Cables are also commented and published by journalists. And yet no one calls for the execution of journalists, no one takes the web sites of The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The New York Times and others down. Yet. As I said we’ve entered a new stage of information warfare. You don’t need to use tanks if you can control the flow of information. The USA will probably ask China for help against dissidents soon.

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