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Scaring People into Supporting Backdoors

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Back in 1998, Tim May warned us of the "Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse": "terrorists, pedophiles, drug dealers, and money launderers." I tended to cast it slightly differently. This is me from 2005:

Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare any public into allowing the government to do anything with those four.

Which particular horseman is in vogue depends on time and circumstance. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US government has been pushing the terrorist scare story. Recently, it seems to have switched to pedophiles and child exploitation. It began in September, with a long New York Times story on child sex abuse, which included this dig at encryption:

And when tech companies cooperate fully, encryption and anonymization can create digital hiding places for perpetrators. Facebook announced in March plans to encrypt Messenger, which last year was responsible for nearly 12 million of the 18.4 million worldwide reports of child sexual abuse material, according to people familiar with the reports. Reports to the authorities typically contain more than one image, and last year encompassed the record 45 million photos and videos, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

(That's wrong, by the way. Facebook Messenger already has an encrypted option. It's just not turned on by default, like it is in WhatsApp.)

That was followed up by a conference by the US Department of Justice: "Lawless Spaces: Warrant Proof Encryption and its Impact on Child Exploitation Cases." US Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on the subject. Then came an open letter to Facebook from Barr and others from the UK and Australia, using "protecting children" as the basis for their demand that the company not implement strong end-to-end encryption. (I signed on to another another open letter in response.) Then, the FBI tried to get Interpol to publish a statement denouncing end-to-end encryption.

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on backdoors: "Encryption and Lawful Access: Evaluating Benefits and Risks to Public Safety and Privacy." Video, and written testimonies, are available at the link. Eric Neuenschwander from Apple was there to support strong encryption, but the other witnesses were all against it. New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance was true to form:

In fact, we were never able to view the contents of his phone because of this gift to sex traffickers that came, not from God, but from Apple.

Let me be clear. None of us who favor strong encryption is saying that child exploitation isn't a serious crime, or a worldwide problem. We're not saying that about kidnapping, international drug cartels, money laundering, or terrorism. We are saying three things. One, that strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security. Two, that weakening encryption does more harm than good. And three, law enforcement has other avenues for criminal investigation than eavesdropping on communications and stored devices (this is just one example).

So let's have reasoned policy debates about encryption -- debates that are informed by technology. And let's stop it with the scare stories.

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mxm23
3 days ago
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“We are saying three things. One, that strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security. Two, that weakening encryption does more harm than good. And three, law enforcement has other avenues for criminal investigation than eavesdropping on communications and stored devices”
West Coast
acdha
3 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Welsh password generator

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Princen Alice created a "password generator" that glues random Welsh-sounding words into a craggy landscape of letters. It's probably not very good, since it's three or four dictionary words and a number plus the fallacious ethnocentric belief that unpronouceability to English speakers reflects randomness, but what a delightful mess! Read the rest

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mxm23
4 days ago
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Horse battery staple
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tingham
4 days ago
Correct!
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Check out the deliciously insidious first monetized choice in this freemium game

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Storyscape is a freemium mobile app that offers several choose your own adventure-style stories. The vast majority of choices are free, and the choices made don't seem to have a meaningful impact on the story. So far, I've experimented with stories based on the X-Files, James Cameron's Titanic, and a snowbound post-apocalyptic scenario.

In the X-Files adventure, you meet the stars of the show and soon join the team. The first episode delivers the core elements of the X-Files--a gross monster, humor, and winks to the relationship between Mulder and Scully:

But there isn't an interesting monetized choice in the first episode of the X-Files story. On the other hand, the first monetized choice in the Titanic storyline is supremely well-crafted.

As the story opens, you're a gorgeous young orphaned immigrant suffragette who has found herself imprisoned in a jail in London. Over the ensuing episodes, you find yourself on the Titanic, choosing between various intrigues, suitors, and outfits (the diamond icon represents a choice requiring spending premium currency):

You encounter the occasional familiar face, as well:

However, that's all in the future. At the start of the story, you're in dank cell with little hope for release. Your younger sister is in the city, helpless without you. A guard enters with apparent ill intent. The game offers you this choice and explanation, since it's the first monetized choice I encountered:

I absolutely decided to know jujitsu:

That's the most I've ever enjoyed spending premium currency. You can try out the Storyscape app on your mobile device.

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mxm23
5 days ago
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Wait. So the free choice is to be raped? And you have to pay to not be raped?
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freeAgent
5 days ago
Yeah, that was a bit cringeworthy. Is this a sponsored post??? I can't imagine who looks at this and thinks it's fine.
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★ The Other Shoe Drops: Away Fires CEO Steph Korey After Months-Long Search for Her Replacement

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Charity L. Scott, reporting for The Wall Street Journal, “Online Luggage Startup Away Says CEO Is Stepping Down”:

Away, an online seller of luggage that investors valued at $1.4 billion earlier this year, said Chief Executive Steph Korey is stepping down.

Ms. Korey will become executive chairman of the New York City-based startup. Stuart Haselden, who is departing as chief operating officer at Lululemon Athletica Inc., will succeed her as CEO, according to the company. Away co-founder Jen Rubio will remain president and chief brand officer.

The news comes after an article in the Verge last week criticized Ms. Korey’s management style as harsh, citing several former employees unhappy with the work environment. Ms. Korey apologized in a statement on Twitter last week, saying she has worked with an executive coach to “improve as a leader.”

Away said the CEO search has been under way since this spring, and Mr. Haselden will take over Jan. 13. Lululemon announced his departure Monday.

[Disclosure: Away has sponsored 21 episodes of my podcast, The Talk Show, in the last three years, and they are on the schedule for an upcoming episode. The following is what I’d write if they never had and never would sponsor my show or website.]

It surely is not spin that Away’s board — led by Rubio, Korey’s fellow co-founder — had been searching to replace Korey for months. You can’t hire the COO of Lululemon in three days in light of a PR crisis.

So I think it’s pretty clear that The Verge inadvertently got played. They got fed the story and ran with it in a way that pinned all of the company’s purported cultural problems on Korey. All six sources were anonymous former employees (and, coincidentally or not, women). There was a lot about that Verge story that struck me as weird. Why shouldn’t the CEO be furious that the company somehow sent customers suitcases that had been used in a beach photo shoot and were covered with sand and other debris?1 But one of the strangest things was that while it was ostensibly a story about the company, the actual story felt almost entirely like a hit on Korey, personally. No other executive’s Slack messages were quoted as evidence of the perceived cultural problems.2

So now the narrative is not “Away fires woman CEO and co-founder, replaces her with a man”. Instead, the narrative is “Away fires CEO who created ‘toxic culture’, brings in fresh leadership” — a narrative that wouldn’t be possible without The Verge’s story last Thursday. It also seems clear that Korey had no idea this was coming — her statement on Twitter responding to The Verge report sure doesn’t sound like the words of a woman who realizes her company board was on the cusp of replacing her after a months-long executive search.

It’s entirely possible that Korey really was responsible for a “toxic work culture”, and the truthful narrative really is “Away fires CEO who created ‘toxic culture’, brings in fresh leadership”. I’m just pointing out it beggars belief that it’s pure coincidence this story leaked to The Verge just before Away was set to fire Korey, such that when the company made the announcement the controversy was still fresh in everyone’s minds.


  1. Here’s the anecdote in question from The Verge:

    When the photo team took suitcases to a shoot in the Hamptons and brought them back banged up and covered in sand, an employee who’d started that week was blamed for the “unacceptable” error and called out publicly on Slack. (The bags had eventually made their way to customers, and executives were furious.) “It could’ve just been a co-worker pulling them aside and saying this isn’t cool,” Erica says. “It felt like they were publicly outing the situation so that everybody could follow along.”

    Wouldn’t the problem be if the CEO just shrugged something like that off? How does sending those obviously-used suitcases to customers even happen? If a waiter served a customer a half-eaten sandwich, I’d expect the manager to berate him in front of the other staff in the kitchen. ↩︎

  2. The Verge’s next-day follow-up also struck me as odd. Their headline and sub-head: “Here’s the Leaked Memo in Which Away Tells Employees Not to Fave the Verge’s Investigation: CEO Steph Korey Apologizes for Her Behavior — Just as Away Clamps Down on Employee Speech”. But read the memo. Away wasn’t “clamping down on employee speech” — they were dealing with a serious PR crisis. What company in the midst of a PR crisis would not tell employees not to talk about it? Well-run companies speak with one voice, whether in the midst of a crisis or not, but especially in the midst of a crisis. ↩︎︎

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mxm23
5 days ago
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I was wondering how Gruber would comment on this. Now I know.
West Coast
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Beijing Orders State Offices to Replace Foreign PCs and Software

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Yuan Yang and Nian Liu, reporting for The Financial Times from Beijing:

Beijing has ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years, in a potential blow to the likes of HP, Dell and Microsoft.

The directive is the first publicly known instruction with specific targets given to Chinese buyers to switch to domestic technology vendors, and echoes efforts by the Trump administration to curb the use of Chinese technology in the US and its allies.

I can’t decide is this is part of the Trump-initiated US-China trade war, or if this is just China being China and part of an initiative that would’ve happened regardless of who the current U.S. president was.

Also, I doubt Chinese government offices buy many Macs, but what about iPhones? This could be a bit of a blow to Apple as well.

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mxm23
6 days ago
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Probably won't negatively impact Microsoft: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/microsoft/microsoft-develops-windows-10-version-for-chinas-government/
West Coast
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This week Trump said he didn't know Prince Andrew. In 2000 Trump said "he's a lot of fun to be with."

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On Tuesday Trump told reporters "I don't know Prince Andrew, but it's a tough story. It's a very tough story."

In 2000 he told People Prince Andrew is “not pretentious. He’s a lot of fun to be with.”

From Business Insider: "Despite the president's claim not to know Andrew, there are numerous photos showing the two men attending functions and chatting together effusively in February 2000 and June 2018."

See also: Here are photos of Trump with Prince Andrew, who he says he does not know Read the rest

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mxm23
10 days ago
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Help me out here. Boing Boing's audience doesn't need a reminder that Trump lies. Why post this stuff?

Maybe it's just simple web traffic optimization? Give the readers what they want to read? What they want to read and feel good about their own opinions and feelings?

How about some _why_? Why does Trump lie like this? To what end? Why do his followers believe him? Do they even believe him?
West Coast
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