Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The United States of Surveillance?

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  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Turning toilets into geysers of poo just isn't feasible, fortunately.

    Unfortunately.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    So many things to reply to, so let's aggregate:

    Kyle wrote:

    there should be laws against allowing him access to big data

    Heh. I was just near the front of the curve realizing that if you have a time series of marriage records and a time series of electoral records, you can combine the two to infer a map of widows (and similar matches). In the same way if you know Desmond Jones married Molly Smith, you can use the Desmond Molly pair to not only match Desmond and Molly Jones, but then narrow the pool for matching other Desmond Joneses and Molly Joneses in a sequential way that you couldn't previously match (and figuring out how to automate that kind of process).

    The company he was using as an example in the US had remarkable success

    The, ironically named, Target company.
    "A Target employee gave an example: if in March a woman, hypothetically Jenny Ward, buys cocoa-butter lotion, a purse big enough to double as a diaper bag, magnesium supplements and a blue rug, there’s an 87% chance she is pregnant and due in August."
    They are still using the data, but in a more subtle way (sending out seemly standard fliers but with specific products included) after they got some negative press with stories like
    "an angry man demanding to see a Target store manager about his school- aged daughter getting Target ads in the mail for baby clothes and cribs. The manager rang a few days later to apologise. Says the article:
    On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter, he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology."”
    By mixing the targetted products in catalogs with things that they no the person will not buy, they know the person is less likely to feel they are being spied on, so more likely to buy the products.

    Rich wrote:

    Unless google actually knows my deepest unconscious

    Targetted ads are a two part process, you the target and someone willing to pay for you being targetted. A lot of the targetting is based on geographic market area (so for example I see some fairly generic ads for NZ things, such as enroll to vote ones in the run up to the last election). The fallback for not having someone want to pay to target you is generic ads.

    Richard:
    While Tor offers a theoretical level of true anonymity, people using it are vulnerable to traffic analysis as information enters and leaves it. Which in turn allow the "metadata" kind of relationship analysis.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to David Hood,

    While Tor offers a theoretical level of true anonymity, people using it are vulnerable to traffic analysis as information enters and leaves it. Which in turn allow the “metadata” kind of relationship analysis.

    Bugger

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Richard Aston,

    I wouldn't worry too much. It's a bit like trying to determine what people bought at the supermarket by weighing their shopping and matching that up with the till rolls. (but much more - like they had a semi-trailer full of shopping from every shop in town).

    One way to obfuscate this would be to watch a video while engaged in other activity across the proxy - most of your packets would be the video, making identification of which were going elsewhere very hard.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to David Hood,

    From public accounts (in the cases where there have been public accounts) it has mostly been from people thinking someone was getting a bit extreme, alerting the authorities, and the authorities actually investigating.

    So then we still don't have any evidence that data mining has had any success in this regard. I mean what you're describing above was how people have been busted since the ancient world, well before there was any such thing as data mining. Someone informs on you, you're investigated, and some real evidence is then found.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    So even if terrerists took total contol of the computers, the consequences aren’t going to be anything more than a heavy rainstorm. Turning toilets into geysers of poo just isn’t feasible, fortunately.

    What a poo party-pooper you turned out to be.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Must-read Ars Technica analysis of Prism and the data mining behind it. Best thing I've read on the topic so far.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Also, this guy fixed up those ghastly Powerpoints. Brilliant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Classic, so the NSA have been reading my Hotmail. Just as well I have never considered anything about Hotmail to be secure. If I wanted to send secure things over Hotmail, I'd encrypt them myself first. I don't think this has ever actually happened. NSA might be able to crack it. If I wanted to keep secrets from the NSA, I'd take a lot more precautions.

    Also:

    The question is not, then, whether the NSA can or can't uncover nearly every aspect of an individual's digital life and go all "Enemy of the State" on someone.

    It's also whether they could go all "Enemy of the State" on actual enemies of the state, who will most likely make efforts not to be be obvious about what they're up to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson,

    I encountered targeted advertising for the first time a couple of months ago. I checked out some online airfares for flying to Sydney to see an international concert act. The following week I got targeted online ads from Webjet on two different websites for airfare specials for flying to Sydney for the exact day that I had planned to go. I found it quite unnerving, even though it was pretty obvious what had happened.

    I'm not sure I'll be using the Webjet site in the future, even though I admire the smarts they've put into this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • "chris", in reply to Russell Brown,

    Should we be less acquiescent about the bill going through under urgency to legitimise illegal surveillance of New Zealanders?

    Being indifferent, distracted (by I-don’t-know a rugby test), practising non-confrontational behaviour, embarrassment, fear of public speaking, possessing insufficient English, politely not wishing to disrupt anyone-else’s rugby watching, not having a formed opinion, being hard of hearing or whatever – none of these things confer acquiescence to me ;)

    location, location, locat… • Since Dec 2010 • 250 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    On the need for PRISM, or not
    mostly not

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    What have you been watching?

    Mostly I use youtube as online radio to listen to music in the background. So, recently: Chopin, Rachmaninov, drum’n’bass, dubstep, old-school goa trance, sludge/stoner/doom, thrash. Also for watching the IoM TT races and some martial arts stuff. And cartoons with my daughter.

    you the target and someone willing to pay for you being targetted. The fallback for not having someone want to pay to target you is generic ads.

    I like to kid myself that there’s enough random spanners in the works there to blow a few fuses, and it’s defaulted to thinking I’m a stay-at-home mum based on the cartoons. Unacceptably sexist, Youtube. See me after class.

    So then we still don’t have any evidence that data mining has had any success in this regard. I mean what you’re describing above was how people have been busted since the ancient world, well before there was any such thing as data mining. Someone informs on you, you’re investigated, and some real evidence is then found.

    Yeah, that’s what I find disturbing about it. It’s a massive amount of resource, and a potentially massive intrusion on privacy and civil liberties, which seems to be more or less completely ineffective.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    the fecal finger of fate...

    Turning toilets into geysers of poo just isn’t feasible, fortunately.

    There were instances of 'bubbling over / blowback' in Chchch due to earthquakes or sewer repairs - but that was probably localised pressure problems within a street...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Ear America?

    Anyone seen this site offering protection from network surveillance.

    Wouldn't that be the perfect business model / front for a savvy / sneaky intelligence gathering operation that wanted to corral a lot of 'people with something to hide'?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Anyone seen this site offering protection from network surveillance.

    Wouldn’t that be the perfect business model / front for a savvy / sneaky intelligence gathering operation that wanted to corral a lot of ‘people with something to hide’?

    Oh dear Ian , I hadn't thought of that , my paranoia clearly needs a tune up .

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    The general way things are considered "safe" against spying is by being open to scrutiny- for example the code used is open to inspection otherwise trust will not get built. I think this is not a bad article from last year that highlights the culture and some of the issues around that.
    wired article on openleaks

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to David Hood,

    The general way things are considered “safe” against spying is by being open to scrutiny- for example the code used is open to inspection otherwise trust will not get built.

    Or you have in-house expertise who verify it all, and keep the details as secret as possible because they don't want others using it, or figuring out how to crack it. Practically, only big governments have the resources to do this, and until but recently, only people sanctioned by governments were really allowed to. And even if you were technically allowed to, you had to be pretty ballsy to be doing it without official approval. Cryptography was treated like weapon development until the mid 90s. With good reason - superior cryptography made a big difference in WW2. But since PGP, everyone who wanted it has pretty much had cryptography that's as good as it gets.

    Well, personally I used a one-time-pad, just in case it turns out that P=NP. LOL. Not. I don't even use secure passwords most of the time. Got no secrets worth keeping. Since Facebook, I realized very few people do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Richard Aston,

    my paranoia clearly needs a tune up .

    ask and you shall receive...
    ;- )

    I can't believe it's Friday again already!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Dr Strangelove redux…
    Meet Emperor Keith – commander of the US Cyber Command.

    So that’s why copper is so expensive these days!

    Here's a flashback to earlier surveillance system start ups...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    ...and then there's the signal to noise solution...
    (warning contains humour that may be confused with insurrection - enjoy it while it is still allowed)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    enjoy it while it is still allowed

    Blocked on copyright grounds. Curse you, erm...Someone!

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    The latest is how the UK bugged delegates email at G20 conferences.

    Given NZ isn't in the G20, we wouldn't have been there. But I wonder how well GCSB defends our people against similar bugging when they visit UK, given their status as a branch office of Cheltenham/Langley. (Not to mention NZ intelligence's abject failure to detect other instances of state-sponsored shenanigans).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Do we even have anything we'd be trying to keep secret from Cheltenham/Langley? I don't know how these conferences work, what the great need for secrecy even is. Surely nations turn up with their list of wants and find some compromise. How much of that is really secret? If it is secret, it strikes me as also incredibly dysfunctional.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    The latest is how the UK bugged delegates email at G20 conferences.

    On that note, what if it happened, say, to the World Economic Forum or the Bilderburg Group? Unstoppable force meets immovable object?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

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