DIGITAL AMERICA

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Becoming Numb to Information?

// Posted by Patrick on 02/26/2013 (7:28 PM)

An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the PentagonRead more

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An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers, while Assange is the creator and public face of the highly controversial Wikileaks web page. In 1971  Ellsberg handed over copies of controversial and top secret documents that Ellsburg said,  ”demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates”.  He gave them to the New York Times and they started publishing documents that proved that government officials were purposely concealing the truth about the Vietnam war and how bad the situation really was. This document was immensely important when it was published, as the Vietnam war was already a highly protested war these papers only added fuel to the fire. It is interesting to compare the impact of this leak to the impact of Wikileaks today. Wikileaks is a website that obtains official classified government documents from anonymous sources, with Julian Assange being the figure head of the website. Wikileaks claims to have millions of classified documents that it is waiting to release at a time of their choosing. Even though they claim to have mass amounts of classified material, interest in the site is dwindling.

Why is Wikileaks, with all its classified documents waiting to be published, not making a bigger impact in the world today? Compared to the pentagon papers Wikileaks is not as influential even though it contains multiple times the classified information that the pentagon papers had. I believe that this lack of interest in Wikileaks is due to a changing of culture. When the pentagon papers were published it was front page of all the newspapers of the time as this was the only way information was available to the public. I believe a lack of technology is actually the reason why the pentagon papers made such a massive impact. People did not have all the resources that are available today so when some new information was presented to the public they ate it up. This need for information from newspapers has changed as the digital world evolved. Now people are overrun with information, from email, internet, television, and social networks, people are constantly being fed information. I believe that because of this plethora of information available today the public is numb to internet leaks like the ones provided by Wikileaks.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that people receive less information today than they did in the time of the pentagon papers, and it may be. However I believe that people of this day and age pick and choose what information makes an impact on their lives. With pop culture expanding I believe that people are more interested in the latest trends and celebrity gossip then a government document that has little to no impact on their lives. Some argue that Wikileaks is not as influential as it could be due to the antics of Julian Assange, who is currently being accused of sexual assault. While this may have some impact on the website I believe the true reason behind a reduced interest is  a numbing of the public to information, due the the sheer amount of information that is available right at their fingertips.

 


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How WikiLeaks Blew It

// Posted by Celia on 02/25/2013 (8:45 PM)

This man, Julian Assange, has become the face of WikiLeaks. As the founder, he created the network of secrets and successfully leaked many sensitive documents. What he may not have realized at the time is that his image had… Read more

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This man, Julian Assange, has become the face of WikiLeaks. As the founder, he created the network of secrets and successfully leaked many sensitive documents. What he may not have realized at the time is that his image had a strong influence on people’s perception of the website. Assange’s anti-American attitude was revealed in his selections of leaks. A majority of the leaks were targeted at American government and organizations. WikiLeaks biggest mistake was adopting a clear political agenda. The WikiLeaks were directly based on Assange’s political views, meaning that his followers mostly ascribed to a certain belief system. The site didn’t start this way, but since 2010 it has progressed in this light. Assange’s personal affairs have contributed to a decreasing credibility from his followers. The US government is less willing to compromise and/or work with Assange, given his obvious anti-American feelings. The article which Assange promised to leak about Russia was never real eased, raising eyebrows about the documents actual existence. WikiLeaks also has a reputation for secrets of its own, mainly with associated mainstream media. The site is reported to have gone behind editors’ backs and take articles personally.

Assange’s “chamber of secrets” is in its collapse-mode, according to an article in Foreign Policy last August. The site has lost the reputation for supplying accurate and credible information to the public. The political agenda of the website also dissuades readers from taking the content at face value. Assange’s personal life also impacted the website. When Assange was accused of sexual assault, the organization was impacted because of the inherent connection between the creator and his product. The article I read takes the side that WikiLeaks will not make a comeback from its current situation. While I agree with the main points of the article, I believe that either at the end of the standoff in the Ecuadorean embassy or before then, a new leader/face of WikiLeaks will emerge. The world has a demand for secrets and inside information – so many people are yearning for that inside knowledge or a leak that could open a policy window for them. Somebody will continue this chamber of secrets, whether it is through WikiLeaks or not. The US government security has little external control over how these websites choose to expose information, but we can only hope that now the US systems are secure enough to keep hackers out of classified business. I’m not completely confident given the actions Anonymous is capable of.


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Modern Warfare

// Posted by Jorien on 02/25/2013 (8:38 PM)

Thinking back about a discussion in class about the modern age and warfare. We read an article on Stuxnet which showed us that there was a cyberattack on Iran by the US government. Also, reading back on different WikiLeaks… Read more

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Thinking back about a discussion in class about the modern age and warfare. We read an article on Stuxnet which showed us that there was a cyberattack on Iran by the US government. Also, reading back on different WikiLeaks articles it made me think more about if countries go into war with each other, what will the war look like, is it old fashioned fought by the military or is it maybe more fought online?

The Stuxnet article showed that nowadays people can actually get into machine systems by the internet. Both have different coding, however people found a way to get into the system by a virus which used a zero-day exploit to spread. So, if it is possible to manipulate a working machine, in this case centrifuges that were enriching uranium, do we still need physical troops to go to the country? In the case of Stuxnet they did have an insider in Iran which delivered the virus via USB. Then still it would be possible to just send one guy undercover instead of troops.

Even if it might be possible that wars will be fought via the Net, there is still the terorrism threat. The Internet is nowadays also often used by extremist groups who starts forums in which they can express their opinions and hope to find other extremists. One of these forums, the Shumukh forum, which is one of the major jihadist forums, say that there is a conspiracy to destroy Syria. The countries involved in this will be the US, Iran and Israel. It predicts that everyone will be exhausted, all weapons will be destroyed and  civilization will go back to the time of Stone Age. If this is true, it means that instead of a cyber war the alliance of US, Iran and Israel will actually have an intervention to destroy Assad’s regime.

Interesting to see is that the Stuxnet mission was from the US government who tried to stop Iran’s nuclear plant, and this mission was actually intervened by different antivirus experts who worked together to actually stop the virus and thereby going against the US government. Thus on a cyberlevel, different countries can work together easily by getting experts to work out of their home, which also shows that boundaries actually vanish in this cyberworld. Now it was against one government, but what if on both side multiple countries join..

The article about the intervention in Syria, shows that even though there is the use of the internet by these different extremist groups, countries still think about getting their physical troops involved. I would think that maybe in the modern age the internet or just computers in general will be a way in which countries will be able to intervene in their local politics. Looking back at WikiLeaks, government secrets leaked so other countries knew about their plans, their secrets and other issues that were going on. If every country knows about the government plans and ideas of other countries it seems like there will be a world in which everybody knows what will happen.

Will this increase a threat of global warfare, or will it remove any threats. Governments know then that whatever they plan, will be out in the open..

 


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Is Cybercrime a Dominant Threat?

// Posted by Patrick on 02/25/2013 (2:20 AM)

 

 

In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We… Read more

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In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us. As official accounts do not exist, we’re an Anonymous account amongst many.” Anonymous is a hacktivist group of an unknown number of people who are very gifted with hacking computers and accounts. The group was creted over the internet thanks to the website 4chan, whos mission statement is “4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images. There are boards dedicated to a variety of topics, from Japanese animation and culture to videogames, music, and photography. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community. Feel free to click on a board that interests you and jump right in!”  This is the platform that the members of Anonymous first met and started the  group.

Anonymous is  a very interesting idea, members of the group pretty much pick and choose things they agree with and things they are against, and if they dont agree with someone or a company, they will hack it. The hacks can be mild such as taking over a site and changing things such as the pictures or information on the website, to a more intense hack such as shutting down a site for a few days. Anonymous is known most for  things such as Project Chanology, a youtube video that protested the church of scientology, their attack on the Department of Justice website, and their take down of the Master Card and Visa websites. Anonymous is a very serious group that as the potential to hack many important government documents and big businesses. This bring up the question, should we be scared, and if so what can we do?

This group has the potential to fight for things that ordinary people cant. It also has the power to abuse their hacking skills for legitimate online terrorism. The ordinary human has nowhere near the internet and computer prowess that the members of anonymous have, which makes us not only vulnerable but completely helpless if they decide to hack one of our computers.

Thinking about it we are all at risk from them and other hackers. How does the average person stop a cyberattack from such a powerful group? The sad but true reality is that we really are powerless. if Anonymous decides to hack your computer there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop it. Its a scary thought, to know that we are hopeless to the whims of an online group.

We talked in class about  increasing globalization due to amazing new technologies that are constantly being invented and upgraded. Culture around the world is revolutionizing to a digital world as technology continues to improve. I am interested to see how hackers, online criminals, and groups like Anonymous evolve as well. Will they become more efficient at identity left, hacking computers for information, and taking over websites as a personal vendetta. The group Anonymous is sure to be around for a while and with their future hacks unknown it will be interesting the path they decide to take.

 


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Flame On!

// Posted by Andrew on 02/24/2013 (10:14 PM)

After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. Read more

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After our discussion about Wired Magazine’s Stuxnet story, I became interested in the new piece of malware that was discovered in Stuxnet’s wake. It’s called Flame, and its size and complexity dwarfs its news-making predecessor. According to Wired, the program’s ”complexity, the geographic scope of its infections and its behavior indicate strongly that a nation-state is behind Flame, rather than common cyber-criminals.” For those who followed news about Stuxnet, this should come as no surprise since the United States is an alleged creator of that malware (among other suspects). Flame’s main mission is to infect targeted computers and to spy on them, extracting specific bits of data that is useful for the creators. Because of its incredible size and complexity, cracking the puzzle could take years. Among the many functions of flame, these are the ones that stand out:

“…one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and e-mail communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.”

There are a lot of lines in that quote. However, the main takeaway is that an incredibly skilled group of individuals has the ability to completely take over a computer from thousands of miles away, and the complexity of their code can take people wanting to fight it years to solve. This sort of espionage is taking place all around the world, and it represents a new type of war that is being fought: an invisible war that is not necessarily resulting in bloodshed, but rather the theft and capture of digital data. While there may not be any losses of life on either side of the conflict at the moment, the real danger lies in how the stolen data can, and will, be used.

According to Mashable, “Flame is a covert operation in cyber-space and without a doubt, it’s been commissioned by a nation-state or nation-states…global governments are investing more and more money in so-called offensive capabilities, and it’s a lot easier and cheaper than traditional espionage and warfare.” Is this the way that wars will be fought in years to come? Although regular computer users are not the intended targets by any means, should we as consumers and United States citizens choose to condemn or praise this kind of behavior? Even though we, personally, are not affected by Flame, it is possible that our permissiveness is what leads to governments (like our own) that support this kind of cyber espionage.

Here’s a video describing how malware, like Flame, spreads from user to user.

 


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The Dangers and Advantages of the “Smartphone Revolution”

// Posted by Vicky on 02/24/2013 (8:39 PM)

Let’s forget hackers, cyber warfare and foreign espionage for a second and bring it back to something much simpler. Smartphones – iPhones, Androids, etc- it seems like every one has one these days. But as harmless (and cool) as they… Read more

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Let’s forget hackers, cyber warfare and foreign espionage for a second and bring it back to something much simpler. Smartphones – iPhones, Androids, etc- it seems like every one has one these days. But as harmless (and cool) as they may seem, what real threats are they posing to our personal security and individual privacy? Recent reports have revealed that Android and Apple keep records of their users’ locations tracked through their mobile phones. This is a huge security issue; think about it, if someone got their hands on this information they could easily use it to stalk you, find out when you’re not home and rob you, etc. Network World’s investigative article goes even further saying that these privacy and security threats are “intentionally built into well over 80% of the iOS and Android apps on the market”. After analyzing the apps offered on both phones they concluded that smartphones users are at risk for outsiders getting access to (1) their contacts on a smartphone (including the contact information that may come from corporate email that syncs to the phone) (2) their calendar information and (3) their location. So what can we do? According to Brian Chen, author of “Always On: How the iPhone Unlocked the Anything-Anytime-Anywhere Future-and Locked Us In”, turning off the location functions on our phones isn’t enough – Apple won’t let you opt out of their tracking services.

On the flipside, Smartphones can also help increase our security according to the Pennsylvania State Police who launched the “See Something, Send Something”. The app allows users who see what they deem “suspicious activity” to send a picture or a text to the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center with their smartphones. And according to the York Daily Record article, they are doing this without putting the users at risk! According to the article, the app “uses privacy protection software for safeguarding the tips and citizens’ personal information” and “allows the criminal intelligence center to engage citizens without a tracking location or storing of personal information”. The launch of the “See Something, Send Something” app has been met with both positive and negative responses. Some people see the potential for increasing public safety with more eyes out on the streets while others see this as an extension of “Big Brother”. What do you think?

Sources:

http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/techexec/2013/020113bestpractices.html?page=1

http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_22453492/pennsylvania-state-police-smartphone-app-creates-privacy-concerns

Chen on Apple iPhone Privacy Issues


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The NSA

// Posted by Sam on 02/24/2013 (6:19 PM)

Lying just outside Washington, DC in Fort Meade, Maryland is the National Security Administration-the NSA. This uniquely enigmatic government entity  is one of the largest and most closely guarded branches of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). It is… Read more

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Lying just outside Washington, DC in Fort Meade, Maryland is the National Security Administration-the NSA. This uniquely enigmatic government entity  is one of the largest and most closely guarded branches of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). It is a cryptologic intelligence agency. Cryptology, the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties, has become an increasingly important aspect of national defense and cyber security.

The NSA is technically responsible for “the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign signals intelligence, as well as protecting US government communications and information systems, which involves information analysis and cryptanalysis/cryptography.” By law, the NSA is only authorized to collect foreign and international information although there have been incidents of the agency breaching this rule and interfering/monitoring domestic communications as well (see here).

The agency is unique in a few ways. It immediately draws attention from I-295 as it has its own highway exit (the sign simply reads “NSA”).

Second, the agency is kept so under wraps that the total number of employees is technically unknown. The scale of the operations at the NSA is hard to determine from unclassified data; some 18,000 parking spaces are visible in photos of the site. With roles in creating new encryption systems and monitoring telephone, fax, and data transmission, the NSA is heavily involved in daily life yet remarkably discrete. Even though the original DoD branch was founded in 1949 as the Armed Forces Security Agency, according to David Kahn author of The Codebreakers “a brief but vague reference to the NSA first appeared in the United States Government Organization Manual from 1957, which described it as “a separately organized agency within the Department of Defense under the direction, authority, and control of the Secretary of Defense [...] for the performance of highly specialized technical functions in support of the intelligence activities of the United States.”

This author takes the “well I’m not doing anything illegal, so I don’t really care how much wiretapping is done” point of view regarding NSA activity, but there are many citizens who believe that this agency is infringing on their rights. Do you feel comfortable knowing that your data-transmission activity may be monitored by a government agency? Clearly this organization raises questions as to the classic liberty versus security debate…

 

 

 

 

Ellen Nakashima (January 26, 2008). “Bush Order Expands Network Monitoring: Intelligence Agencies to Track Intrusions”The Washington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2008.

David Kahn, The Codebreakers, Scribner Press, 1967, chapter 19, pp. 672–733.


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IP Law and Creative Commons

// Posted by Sam on 02/18/2013 (10:24 PM)

I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about my law school bu****hit, but here I go again…I can’t help but write about my experience from today at Cardozo Law’s accepted students day. At one point during the day-long program,… Read more

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I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing about my law school bu****hit, but here I go again…I can’t help but write about my experience from today at Cardozo Law’s accepted students day. At one point during the day-long program, a panel of professors spoke about their respective specialties. Professor Felix Wu is one of the mainstays at Cardozo’s Intellectual Property (IP) department. IP, according to Pisacreta and Adler, is a legal concept which refers to creations of the mind for which exclusive rights are  recognized. Here’s a quick video explanation of IP from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google. IP law, for good reasons, is the fastest growing field of law today largely due to THE INTERNET!

Professor Wu began his part of the talk by asking some questions that have come up in courts around the nation: “For example, is it illegal for you to video record your roommate? Is it illegal for someone else to videotape your roomate and you to disseminate it via the internet? How does one claim ownership to property that was not physically or tangibly theirs?” He then cited a case in which a certain shoe company attempted to patent the color red so that no other shoe company could put the color on the sole of their shoes. So, in the same vein, how can one go about trademarking a webpage or intangible idea published online? Is it possible? If so, is it even constitutional?

In class we discussed a new-age patent and trademarking service called creative commons (CC). According to their website, Creative Commons is a not-for-profit entity “devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.” The company has created a new type of copyright-license called a creative commons license which  follows a “some rights reserved” principle rather than the typical “all rights reserved” copyright. CC is interesting and perhaps problematic in that it legally allows ideas created by individuals to be commercially used and marketed by people other than the creator of the idea. Personally (if I really believed in my idea), I would always opt to fully reserve the rights associated with it. CC could, in a way, erode the current copyright system by softening copyright regulations. Do you think that ideas can be only partially owned? Or should the system remain a hard-line black and white “copyrighted or not copyrighted” model? Do you think CC would even hold up in court, if contested? If your roommate videotaped you and licensed it under a CC license that legally blocked you from tampering with it…

 

 

 

Intellectual Property Licensing: Forms and Analysis, by Richard Raysman, Edward A. Pisacreta and Kenneth A. Adler. Law Journal Press, 1998-2008. ISBN 973-58852-086-9


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Is Identity Changing?

// Posted by Patrick on 02/18/2013 (12:26 AM)

Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online,… Read more

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Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online, such as pictures, government documents, credit card info, and more.  Mark Poster brings up an interesting point in his book “Information Please” when he states, “Since the crime of identity theft is quite real, we need to account for a change in the nature of its identity,  its exteriorization and materialization, its becoming vulnerable to theft, its emergence as insecure-within the ideology of individualism” The increasing rates of identity theft are proof that the nature of an online identity is changing.  Where no one can steal away your identity as represented in relationships, actions, and personality.  Your online identity that is made out of documents, credit card info, and pictures is subject to theft from online criminals and hackers.

Identity theft is a growing issue in the modern world. As the internet expands so does the opportunity for criminals to access others information and use it to their advantage. An article published by ABC speaks of rising identity theft rates and the difficulty of stopping them. “The problem is there’s way too much information about us floating around out there,” says Adam Levin, CEO of the security firm Identity Theft 9-1-1.” The amount of information about a person continuously  accumulates as they use the internet more and more. As the internet expands and advances as does the information that can be stolen. So when companies like twitter, Facebook, youtube, and Skype grow so does the information that users supply in the process.  The rising rates of cyber crime are due to businesses and government agencies not being able to monitor such mass amounts of data in time to stop cyber crimes from happening.

It is a very interesting idea that someones identity can actually be stolen. It opens up new meanings behind the world identity that can only exist in cyber space. This change in identity is more evidence of the internets increasingly dominant in the role of our daily lives. It is an interesting topic that leaves many questions dealing with an increasingly digital age that has deep roots in our non digital culture and identities. While answers to those questions may be hard to achieve, there are somethings that are true. One truth is that as the internet continues to expand so will the need for increased security in your digital life. Agencies such as the IRS will be hard pressed to stop the criminals in an infinitely big internet world, this leaves the big question whether they can evolve to deal with issues or let cybercrime rates expand with the internet?


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An Invisible War

// Posted by Andrew on 02/18/2013 (12:06 AM)

We mentioned in class that the United States is constantly under cyber attacks from other countries, even though it does not make the news very often. According to The Washington Post, China is one of the main… Read more

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We mentioned in class that the United States is constantly under cyber attacks from other countries, even though it does not make the news very often. According to The Washington Post, China is one of the main instigators of cyber warfare, aiming at “commercial targets linked to military technology” for gains that aren’t always connected to economic interests.

What’s more interesting is that companies in the US are reluctant to admit that they have been attacked from abroad. Whether their silence is due to the need to conceal security vulnerabilities or to not scare investors remains to be seen. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, wrote in his book that China is the most prolific source for hackers in the world and that “it’s fair to say we’re already living in an age of state-led cyber war, even if most of us aren’t aware of it.” It’s happening every day, too. Just two weeks ago, news mogul Rupert Murdock Tweeted that his various businesses had been jeopardized digitally: ”Chinese still hacking us, or were over weekend.”

Because the attacks are coming from an outside country and can be potentially perceived as a national security threat, should the security issues be handled by the attacked companies, private security corporations, or the government itself? President Obama’s administration has rarely discusses cyber crime in the past, but government officials recently decided to conduct a full assessment of the pervasiveness of the cyber attacks coming from China. Not only is the government concerned with the threat to the American economy, but they are also studying whether or not the cyber attacks can be seen as forms of “espionage.”

That was only the first step. Just this week, a “war on cyber war” officially began when President Obama made an executive order “to increase the volume, timeliness, and quality of cyber threat information shared with U.S. private sector entities so that these entities may better protect and defend themselves against cyber threats.” His order has been perceived as mostly beneficial, but the other part of Obama’s plan, CISPA, has generated a LOT of criticism. CISPA “allows the sharing of information in both directions – from government to business, and vice versa,” and it provides “broad legal immunity to companies that collect and share CTI with the federal government, as long as they do so “in good faith” – which might mean businesses can’t be sued or charged with crimes for collecting and sharing CTI under CISPA.” This has been seen as a threat to our basic rights to privacy because we won’t be able to punish organizations that we think are “stealing” personal information, and we won’t know when they’re taking it. The government is giving private corporations the right to use our personal information, as long as the corporations uses it in a responsible way (responsible, according to the corporation itself).

This brings me to my final point. With the Chinese security threat attacking us relentlessly from overseas and our proposed rules being received as breaches of national privacy rights, where is the middle ground? How do we combat a severe security threat without jeopardizing our own rights to privacy and security? I think that while it is definitely important for the federal government to acknowledge the significance of cyber attacks, private corporations should not be given the incredible powers that CISPA bestows. They need to work with the corporations they defend to seal loopholes and fix breaches, but not at the expense of the average American’s personal safety.


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Hacked.

// Posted by Celia on 02/17/2013 (11:31 PM)

Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried… Read more

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Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried to alter accounts. I have been fortunate enough for this to not happen to me, despite being somewhat naive with my accounts at times. The more I hear about these occurrences though, the more paranoid I get. An article in Wired from last year tells just one tragic story of a personal hacking victim. Mat Honan, a normal American with a family, a job, Apple products and an Amazon account, had his digital life erased for the sake of a practical joke. I found his story somewhat heart-wrenching and indicative of how scary the potential for collateral damage is. Honan’s hackers got access to his Amazon account and used the Amazon information to reset his Apple ID password. The two companies require different information to verify identity, allowing the hackers to get through without knowing the answers to security questions. With the Amazon account information, the hackers deleted Honan’s Gmail account. The Gmail account was only deleted after the hackers obtained access to Honan’s Twitter account. With the Apple ID information, the hackers remotely wiped all of Honan’s devices using the “Find My” application.

Once the Twitter account was taken over, the hackers used it to start trouble and send racist and homophobic tweets to Honan’s followers. Honan created another Twitter account and sent the hackers a personal message @ his old Twitter handle. As it turns out, the hack was not a personal attack, but rather a quest to gain control of Honan’s Twitter handle. In the process, Honan’s entire digital life was erased.

Interestingly enough, almost all of Honan’s frustration and anger about the situation was directed at himself, Apple, and Amazon. He was upset with himself for not backing up everything into the cloud and for using the same prefix for his email accounts, etc. Honan recognized that his accounts could have been more secure. The frustration with Apple and Amazon exposes both of the companies for having a weak security framework. The people at Wired were able to replicate the scenario with instructions from the hackers within minutes.

The implications of Honan’s story are scary. I found myself feeling emotional during the article and frantically thinking about where and how all my information is shared and stored. Just the mere thought of losing all of my songs, photos, documents, and emails is enough to send chills through my entire body. Today, we put so much trust in the Internet and associated entities, but how safe is that? I think it’s definitely too late to transition back to physical/tangible data storage, but how can we be sure that the companies we’re trusting with our “lives” are keeping our best interests in mind? The article made me feel like a slave to the system – just another pawn on the chess board. How can we (as the average consumers) protect ourselves and get the power back for security?

I really recommend reading the entire article!


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Safer to drive?

// Posted by Jorien on 02/17/2013 (10:20 PM)

Post 9/11 a lot changed about the airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was set up to strengthen the security of transportation systems, which is evident in many airports where there was a large increase in security checks… Read more

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Post 9/11 a lot changed about the airport security. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was set up to strengthen the security of transportation systems, which is evident in many airports where there was a large increase in security checks before even going into the different gates. New technologies are used, for example instead of the metal detectors there are now the large scanners which make a full body scan of you in order to check if you do not have any metal on you. Also, before going into the airport attendants check your passport and picture, and nowadays they also often ask for your fingerprints.

Coming from Europe myself, it is always interesting coming into the United States from outside. One has to go to immigration where they take your fingerprints, take a picture with a webcam and ask question about your destination and aim of your trip. If they even think you are not serious and joking around, they might take you back into a small investigation room. In Europe people do not have to take off their shoes for security and they only make use of a metal detector and X-ray machine for hand luggage, there are attendants who ask you a few questions whether you packed your own luggage and if you did not receive anything from someone and then you go on to the gate.

So, do these security measures make us safer or is it too exaggerated? Also, why do security procedures differ per country, is there a different threat of terrorism?

An interesting point in an article in Businessweek was that airport security actually makes people less safe. Many Americans decide to drive for their family holidays instead of flying, this has increased after the security procedures increased post 9/11. Even though the procedures changed because of the fear of terrorist attacks, researchers showed that the chance that the death of an American citizen is because of a terrorist attack is 1 in 3.5 million. So, people did not want to go through the hassle of airport security however it does not even have to be such of an hassle as that the TSA made it.

Something to think about, are the technologies good enough to find all suspicious objects, like bomb(parts) and is the full body scan really better than the old school metal detector, or is it just slowing down the security checks?  Why do I, as European, have to give my fingerprints every time, is it not better to save all the information in a worldwide database?  What do you think?


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Pocket Map

// Posted by Tim on 02/11/2013 (7:25 PM)

Apple has changed the way we travel by the introduction of the Maps app. In the past we have been so accustomed tracing our travel routes through the use of paper maps and road signs. Getting were your going on… Read more

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Apple has changed the way we travel by the introduction of the Maps app. In the past we have been so accustomed tracing our travel routes through the use of paper maps and road signs. Getting were your going on the fastest route possible is what we all want, but there is a variety of way to get you there. For some the mounted dashboard directional is the way to go, but word on the internet is that the sale of these devices is on the slide. But times have changed and now we have access to a GPS by just reaching in our pockets. This app have turn-by-turn voice navigation and will nag you with new direction if you make a wrong turn or try to go off course.

iOS 6 Maps app:

Smart phones now make all other routing methods seem outdated and almost ineffective. This app not only gives step by step voice navigation but recognizes traffic and locates recreational services. This has changed the game. Traveling has never been made easier. Apple has 25% market share of smartphones in the United States. Since there are about 72.5 million smartphone owners, that comes out to about 18.5 million iPhones in the US. As this number continues to grow, the market for navigation tools is steadily declining.


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Skype me!

// Posted by Celia on 02/11/2013 (11:28 AM)

“When you become a verb, you know you’ve made it.” -Doug Amoath, Time Tech

Today we have options far beyond just a cell phone. Even years ago, Skype offered a cheaper alternative to a landline. How did they… Read more

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“When you become a verb, you know you’ve made it.” -Doug Amoath, Time Tech

Today we have options far beyond just a cell phone. Even years ago, Skype offered a cheaper alternative to a landline. How did they do it? Like Kazaa and Napster, Skype is founded on a peer-to-peer network. The more people that use it, the better the connection, which was particularly useful in sparsely populated areas. Then, people in cities wanted to be connected also and the network grew. Ebay bought Skype for $2.6 billion, which seemed like an astronomic number at the time (2006). In 2011, Microsoft then purchased Skype for $8.5 billion. Experts speculated about the sanity of Microsoft; whether the investment would prove to be monumental and profitable…or a colossal waste of money. Skype is referred to as a “disruptive” technology; whereby people are able to call across the world for free, instead of signing up for an expensive cell phone plan. Microsoft is now integrating Skype into many of its products, proving that the purchase was a smart one. From Xbox 360 to Outlook, all users will be able to take advantage of Skype capabilities. Microsoft owns a large share of Facebook also, meaning that you can expect to see Skype starting to penetrate the social network realm even further.

As a dedicated user of Skype, I have only ever spent $10 on the entire product. That has lasted me through numerous international phone calls and saved me significant amounts of money from using a landline. What are the implications of Skype expanding more into other arenas? Even now from my cell phone I can Skype my friend in Africa on WiFi for free. The possibilities seem endless, and as a consumer I feel like I’ve definitely gotten the most out of the application. Now we’re seeing the rise of WhatsApp and Viber, applications that let you call and text literally for free (well, WhatsApp is $.99). Even so, both these applications have really outdone themselves. The only trick to the app is that your friend on the receiving end needs to have it also. Seems easy enough right? I wonder what the long term effects on cell phone companies and plans will be, since as things become free, less people are willing to pay for services.


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Siri: Bonding Humans and Machines

// Posted by Vicky on 02/11/2013 (12:19 AM)

After reading the introduction to Mark Poster’s book “Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines” I immediately thought of one thing…Siri. In the introduction Poster tells a cute story of a little boy who… Read more

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After reading the introduction to Mark Poster’s book “Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines” I immediately thought of one thing…Siri. In the introduction Poster tells a cute story of a little boy who made friends with a telephone operator that fed him information. Poster follows up the story by saying “Increasingly one retrieves information not from a person, such as a telephone switchboard operator, but from an information machine, especially from networked computers. And thus we are ever more normally brought into contact not with other humans directly but with information machines. ‘Information Please,’ as the post reminds us, was once a person; now it is a machine” (3). Surely we can agree with Poster as we are constantly faced with pre-recorded machines when call our doctors offices for example. But what now would Poster have to say about Siri, Apple’s new virtual personal-assistant application? Yes, Siri is a “machine” but some would argues she is much more than that. As quoted in the Huffington Post article, “This, after all, was no ordinary iPhone app, but the progeny of the largest artificial intelligence project in U.S. history: a Defense Department-funded undertaking that sought to build a virtual assistant that could reason and learn.” Siri operates in multiple languages and can do anything from send a text to research a question to make reservations or buy a ticket. But it is Siri’s sense of humor, I think, that perhaps gives her her most “human” quality. Siri, notorious for funny/witty remarks, has joked with her users about things such as weakness (ask it about gyms, for example, and Siri sends back a mocking, “Yeah, your grip feels weak.”) and their need for therapy. This kind of humorous reaction makes the interaction between the user and Siri appear to be more “real”, ultimately bonding humans and machines. “We’re moving more and more towards an interface like the interface we have with each other,” says Saffo, a technology forecaster and associate professor at Stanford University. “Our whole trend is toward ever more intimate interactions with machines [...] and with each phase, machines are doing something ever more central to our lives.” What do you think comes next?

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/siri-do-engine-apple-iphone_n_2499165.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/fashion/when-your-phone-humors-you-noticed.html?_r=0


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“Developing” A New Culture

// Posted by Andrew on 02/10/2013 (10:46 PM)

In Mark Poster’s book, titled Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, he presents an interesting theory: because people have increasingly shared their thoughts and ideas through the internet, “individuals no longer form identities exclusively through… Read more

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In Mark Poster’s book, titled Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines, he presents an interesting theory: because people have increasingly shared their thoughts and ideas through the internet, “individuals no longer form identities exclusively through local practices.” This is because people’s opinions are much harder to censor online, and their beliefs and understandings of the way the world works is not tethered to their particular village, city, or town. The endless sharing of ideas thus creates a unified internet culture that is separate from one’s own local culture.

I was intrigued by this notion. Poster is not merely referring to message boards like 4Chan, Reddit, 9Gag as mean of sharing information and stories, but rather the internet as a whole as a means of diluting (for lack of a better word) one’s own culture and bringing it closer together with another internet user’s to create something new altogether. His India example referred to workers in India adopting American accents for call-center jobs and their ability to keep close ties with each other across great distances.

This got me thinking about one of the greatest modern technologies that we take for granted: video calling. Skype has managed to do what the telephone could not: convey real human emotion through digital face-to-face interaction. This was not a concept created by Skype; however, the company has become a pioneer in the field with their free video calling abilities that are accessible to the public. My nanny, who has been with my family for over 21 years, regularly communicates with her Eritrean family in Africa via Skype, bringing their cultures together in ways that letters and phone calls cannot achieve. The service boasts over 250 million monthly users and 663 million registered users worldwide, an incredible feat considering how young the technology is.

How does Skype tie in with Poster’s theory of a unique, unified culture? By communicating with each other through a service like Skype, people around the world are connecting themselves into a network of other individuals to communicate and share ideas. This technology is brand new, and yet it is revolutionizing the way people think and interact with each other. Whereas the telephone brought voices together over 100 years ago, video calling has brought people together across great distances for the first time.

At no other point in history nas a person been able to say, “I’m going to call my mother in Kansas from my apartment in Australia so that I can see her new dog.” I am extremely interested in seeing where we as a culture can go from here: what’s next, now that we can see and hear other people who are miles away? Smell? Taste? Touch? The implications are scary…very soon, unique and individual cultures may no longer be able to survive the digital age without joining the rest of the world in unity, for better or for worse.

Source: Engadget Article

 


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Twitter Acquiring Bluefin

// Posted by Patrick on 02/10/2013 (8:31 PM)


Twitter bought the company Bluefin Labs earlier this week for nearly 100 million dollars. Bluefin is a company that records and analyzes online interactions and chitter about tv shows, and then sells their findings. Read more

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Twitter bought the company Bluefin Labs earlier this week for nearly 100 million dollars. Bluefin is a company that records and analyzes online interactions and chitter about tv shows, and then sells their findings. The New York Times reported the purchase February 5th after Twitter and Bluefin both released blog posts confirming the deal had been made. Ali Rowghani a chief operating officer at Twitter said in a statement that, “We believe that Bluefin’s data science capabilities and social TV expertise will help us create innovative new ad products and consumer experiences in the exciting intersection of Twitter and TV.” Twitter spent over 100 million for this company, but why? Bluefin Labs will help Twitter take advantage of what is becoming a new “social TV experience.” This happens when people watching TV will communicate in real time over twitter over whats going on in the show.

A short video published by Marketplace.org helps explain how twitter will be able to find out what people are talking about and should in turn be able to turn a profit from using this knowledge about what is trending. This acquisition is taking place in a time where people already believe that certain internet companies have to much power and will end up hurting the consumers if they get to big for their own good. While Twitter is still not nearly as large as Facebook or Google this purchase is going to help greatly expand the company. The question that is put forth is whether certain internet giants are becoming to powerful and are threatening to monopolize their respective markets.  Google is a good example, it still accounts for 90 percent of  searches in europe even though other search engines such as bing and yahoo are available for use. Googles dominance of the search engine market will make it close to impossible for other companies to make any profit. And if there was a company that did show some promise to become a big influence in the market google could simply buy that company. Twitters recent acquisition of Bluefin is the latest example of the expanding internet giants and as our appetites for information grow it will be interesting to see how these companies continue to expand.


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Smart Shopping

// Posted by Sam on 02/10/2013 (7:35 PM)

 

Mark Poster’s intriguing book Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines begins with a compelling introduction. Poster tells us that when googling the phrase “information please,” he came across the story of someone who grew… Read more

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Mark Poster’s intriguing book Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines begins with a compelling introduction. Poster tells us that when googling the phrase “information please,” he came across the story of someone who grew up in a house with one of the first telephones in their neighborhood. The anonymous blogger  (named Paul) described how he  developed a rather close personal connection to the local telephone operator, Sally. Even though Sally and Paul never met face-to-face, they knew enough about each other to be acquaintances.

Today, many retailers are developing relationships with their customers–but without the customers’ knowledge.  Basically, stores such as Target are using customer loyalty cards, cell phones, credit cards, returns, online shopping and search engines and product registration forms to develop individual profiles for all of their shoppers. These profiles, based on purchasing habits, tailor coupons, e-mails, and the like to each individual shopper. Seems like a great idea, right?

Well, in terms of profitability, it is. This Fox Business video describes the success of the ever-expanding phenomenon of customer monitoring. The more a store knows about its customers, the effectively it can purchase inventory, hold sales, etc, leading to more efficient sale of products and a greater profit margin. The issue, however, lies in its morality. The classic story involves Target, who began sending e-mails advertising baby care products to the family e-mail account of a young woman who had bought a pregnancy test and other baby-related paraphernalia. Her father, who she hadn’t told about the pregnancy, was therefore second to find out about a very personal issue behind Target Corporation.

In Poster’s story, the telephone company’s relationship knowing Paul personally was presented as very quaint, even emotional. Would you feel alienated by companies possibly knowing more about you than your personal acquaintances? Do you mind being tracked? Do you expect it? Does profitability in this case outweigh the moral dilemmas that are presented?

 


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The Rise of Erasable Social Media…or So We Think

// Posted by Vicky on 02/10/2013 (7:27 PM)

Snapchat is a photo sharing/messaging application that was developed by Stanford students, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, as a project for one of their classes. The genius behind the application is that it auto-destroys the sent images seconds (up to… Read more

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Snapchat is a photo sharing/messaging application that was developed by Stanford students, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, as a project for one of their classes. The genius behind the application is that it auto-destroys the sent images seconds (up to 10) after being opened. Snapchat was launched in September 2011 and by 2012 it was named the “Fastest Rising Startup” by TechCrunch. According to The New York Times, Snapchat is now valued between $60 and $70 million and approximately 60 million snaps are sent every day!

So why and how has Snapchat become one of the biggest and most popular apps out there? Well there are many reasons, but I believe that much of snapchat’s success is in response (or resistance) to the rise of Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Most people find social media networks and large search engines to be “among the least trusted industries when it comes to protecting customers’ privacy online.” So “Snapchat subverts these existing networks because its user base doesn’t want the content itself to show up on the web” and their privacy-based content promotes consumer trust and loyalty. Want to know just how deep this consumer trust and loyalty runs? Just look at the recent rise of Facebook’s self-destructing messaging app “Poke” in which Snapchat crushed all competition.

Although Snapchat’s popularity and success is based on privacy and consumer trust, Snapchat only offers the illusion of true self-destruction. Snapchat quotes “When you send or receive messages using the Snapchat services, we temporarily process and store your images and videos in order to provide our services. Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. For example, users may take a picture of the message contents with another imaging device or capture a screenshot of the message contents on the device screen. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.” So do we buy this new notion of Erasable Social Media? Is there any technology that we can truly trust with privacy?

 

Sources:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-02-07/snapchat-and-the-erasable-future-of-social-media#p5

http://techcrunch.com/2013/02/10/snapchat-rise-assumptions/

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/snapchat-vs-poke-the-tos-showdown/


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3 seconds and it is gone..

// Posted by Jorien on 02/10/2013 (5:47 PM)


A new app that became popular is Snapchat. After Instagram and Pinterest, it is another photosharing medium. However, it is different. This app lets people send photos to each other via their phone, which they can only… Read more

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A new app that became popular is Snapchat. After Instagram and Pinterest, it is another photosharing medium. However, it is different. This app lets people send photos to each other via their phone, which they can only view for a few seconds. After this time the photo will be deleted. It is for some people a comforting thought that their photos will not go around the Net as most of the photos nowadays. Every picture that is uploaded on a website can be traced back or found on Google. This might trigger some uncomfortable thoughts, because imagine that people in Europe would even find a picture of you and use it for an ad campaign without you even knowing it.  Or even scarier, for a new identity.. 

It is a strange idea that all pictures from your Facebook or Flickr account are online, which means that even though you have the privacy settings on, there can be a way to access these files. This is something you have to keep in mind, especially when future employers may look you up to see what kind of person you are.  Snapchat seems like a nice alternative in order for you to share pictures with friends of what you’re doing at the moment or other memorable moments without the risk of them going public.

A negative side of the new app was the idea that it was going to be an app for sending R-rated pictures to each other, however the founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy described is as ‘a digital version of passing notes in class.‘  Because it only lasts a few sconds, users tend to send ‘weird’ or ‘funny’ pictures since it will delete itself after a few seconds. Other than on Facebook, where most people carefully pick out their best pictures.


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Where is Stewart Brand now?

// Posted by Celia on 02/07/2013 (11:15 AM)

Two months ago, I had no idea who Stewart Brand was. Now, I’m wondering where someone so influential in a field that has changed the culture of the world ended up. The legacy of Brand includes the Whole Earth Catalog, and the… Read more

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Two months ago, I had no idea who Stewart Brand was. Now, I’m wondering where someone so influential in a field that has changed the culture of the world ended up. The legacy of Brand includes the Whole Earth Catalog, and the Global Business Network, among other accomplishments and associated cultural movements. Today, Brand has kept up with technology, but has taken the technology in a different direction. His most recent book, Whole Earth Discipline, focuses on the environmental technologies that are necessary for combatting inevitable Climate Change. Brand’s attitude is that of a strong environmentalist, with serious concern for climate change and the impacts. He believes that we have the necessary technologies to solve our ecological crises, but the power is in the hand of the people and politicians to take a stand. The ideals of his past appear in his theories today. Brand vouches for cities over rural areas, saying that it results in a more sustainable, wealthy culture over time. Cities, in Brand’s eyes, could be the solution to the population bomb. Brand also supports the idea that nuclear energy is cleaner than any other possible alternative. The amount of waste from a person’s lifetime in nuclear energy would equate to about one cup.

While I think Brand has sound points, his ideals are too radical for the world he created. I don’t think that Brand will be able to have such a magnetic influence in today’s age as he did in the counterculture period. As a fellow environmentalist myself, I would love to see some of these policies translated into action, but in terms of the political climate, I find it hard to be optimistic. A lot of Brand’s peers who were directly involved in the cyberculture revolution ended up working in banking or finance, but Brand continued to forge a path of innovation and change.

Brand, Ted Talk


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Online Garage Sale

// Posted by Tim on 02/05/2013 (11:47 AM)

       The site we now know as eBay was first launch during 1995 as “AuctionWeb” by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar sitting in his living room in San Jose, California. The site was one of the first online… Read more

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       The site we now know as eBay was first launch during 1995 as “AuctionWeb” by entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar sitting in his living room in San Jose, California. The site was one of the first online marketplaces of its time. AuctionWeb was referred to as the market that brings buyers and sellers together in an honest and open environment. Although soon after, in September of 1997 the company changed its name to what we know it as today, eBay. Users had to get used to a completely new site platform with a more graphical website and homepage. As well at this time the famous multi-colored eBay logo was introduced. File:EBay former logo.svg

        Over the next fifteen years ebay would become the worlds largest marketplace, with hundreds of millions of listings. The company has grown from just one computer programer in his living room to over 15,000 employees. Ebay is today one of the largest companies in america and consistently ranking in the fortune 500.

Over the years, eBay has worked as the largest online garage sale, auctioning almost every listing you could imagine. We have seen some of the strangest items listed such as old gum, strains of hair, and even spouses. The first item listed on eBay was a broken laser pointer that was sold for $14.83. The most expensive item ever sold on eBay was a Gulfstream II Jet that was priced at $4.9 million.  Due to the fact that anyone can list anything (with little restrictions) makes eBay such a unique and interesting market place.

Ebay undoubtably has changed the way we buy and sell items online. It was revolutionary in creating an online market place that millions of people can interact back and forth live. That fact that there are so many listings allows the eBay to appeal to such a broad audience. This has been key to the companies success over the last 18 years. Ebay has taken the local garage sale and scaled it up to the worldwide level. This is why eBay has seen such great success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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GoogleTube

// Posted by Sam on 02/04/2013 (1:12 AM)

 

M&A

As an aspiring corporate lawyer, I’ve done a good amount of research into how companies and corporations split up their legal departments. A large part of most every legal department is mergers and acquisitions (m&a),… Read more

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M&A

As an aspiring corporate lawyer, I’ve done a good amount of research into how companies and corporations split up their legal departments. A large part of most every legal department is mergers and acquisitions (m&a), which, according to the WikiPedia definition, is an aspect of corporate strategy, corporate finance and management dealing with the buying, selling, dividing and combining of different companies and similar entities that can help an enterprise grow rapidly in its sector or location of origin, or a new field or new location, without creating a subsidiary, other child entity or using a joint venture.”

We all know how wildly successful Google has become- not just as an internet search engine, but as a nearly ubiquitous “brand of internet.” To “google” something has become a real part of the English language, and the word has become nearly synonymous with internet use. Counterculture to Cyberculture told us that “like the rural landscape of the 1960s, Barlow’s cyberspace would stand beyond government control.” Google, however is certainly not beyond government control.

The company has grown to outrageous proportions through mergers with and acquisition of over 120 different entities, among them YouTube (bought for a steal $1,650,000,000 in 2006) and DoubleClick (online advertising firm bought for $3 billion in 2007) to Motorola Mobility (bought for $12.5 billion in 2011). These acquisitions have been rendered into such household names as Google Maps, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Analytics, Android, Google TV, and the list goes on.

These transactions are by no means maverick in nature. The Farlex Legal Dictionary tells us that “federal and state laws regulate mergers and acquisitions. Regulation is based on the concern that mergers inevitably eliminate competition between the merging firms. This concern is most acute where the participants are direct rivals, because courts often presume that such arrangements are more prone to restrict output and to increase prices. The fear that mergers and acquisitions reduce competition has meant that the government carefully scrutinizes proposed mergers. On the other hand, since the 1980s, the federal government has become less aggressive in seeking the prevention of mergers.”

So, yes, ”The online masses have an incredible willingness to share. The number of personal photos posted on Facebook and MySpace is astronomical, but it’s a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of photos taken with a digital camera are shared in some fashion. Then there are status updates, map locations, half-thoughts posted online. Add to this the 6 billion videos served by YouTube each month in the US alone and the millions of fan-created stories deposited on fanfic sites…Operating without state funding or control, connecting citizens directly to citizens, this mostly free marketplace [the internet] achieves social good at an efficiency that would stagger any government or traditional corporation.” (The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society is Coming Online). That’s all valid. In fact, it’s just peachy. But the truth remains that the internet, no matter what we are able to share, is pretty well guarded. It’s not Barlow’s maverick cyberspace anymore…

http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/17-06/nep_newsocialism?currentPage=all


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The Rise of Google

// Posted by Patrick on 02/04/2013 (12:15 AM)

The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is… Read more

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The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is particularly spectacular is how Google came to fruition.  Google is a household name today, accounting for about 2/3rds of the Internet search market in the United States and closer to 90% in Europe.  It has taken over the Internet reaching over 1 Billion unique visitors a month. This is a number that is staggering, as there are 7 billion in the world, meaning one out of every seven people has used Google in the past month.

While Google is known around the world today, it came from humble beginnings. It’s start came in 1995 and was the brainchild of creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Page was born in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. Brin was born in the Soviet Union and graduated from the University of Maryland.  The two met at Stanford, both of whom were computer science graduate students. What brought these two vastly different people together to build Google? It was an idea.  An idea to, as Sergey Brin stated,  “tackle the internet, which represents human knowledge.”  Their shared passion for creating something new that had the opportunity to change the way the internet worked was the driving force of the co-founders to craft Google into what it is today.

Google began to gain recognition after it was mentioned in PC magazine in October of 1998.  “The site has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results. There’s much more to come at Google!, but even in its prototype form it’s a great search engine.” PC magazine was spot on in their predictions when they wrote there is much more to come from Google.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Douglas Edwards, who was Google’s 59th employee wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal called “The Beginning.” This piece is a first hand look at how the company was run and how a group of misfits were able to create the most used search engine in the world. They did this while maintaining the ability to stay true to themselves and their ultimate goals. After reading this article I gained more respect for Google and the people running it. The masterminds behind Google started this company with a vision and despite any negative feedback they were able to build a Internet sensation from the ground up. From humble beginnings in a garage to a fortune 500 company Google was a pioneer at the turn of the internet age. As technology continues to evolve I look forward to seeing how Google adapts and if they are able to continue their reign as supreme in the Internet industry. Google is taking over the Internet and it all started from the ideas of two graduate students. Some argue that the success Google has had is due to pure luck, while there is no clear answer Google continues to grow. As new Internet companies are being introduced into the web, I am interested to see how Google continues to adapt to new challenges and hardships. 

 


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“Digging” Into The Past

// Posted by Andrew on 02/03/2013 (10:43 PM)

I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit… Read more

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I was going to do a brief history on the rise of Reddit, but I felt that a description of its predecessor, Digg, is in order. While they are unrelated in terms of ownership and development, Reddit and Digg heavily influenced each other and fought for prominence on the internet.

Digg was an very revolutionary website when it came out in 2004. While Google and Bing have the ability to look up information based on keywords that users type into a search box, Digg allowed users to stumble upon (no pun intended) links and articles that they weren’t necessarily looking for, but were deemed interesting by other Diggers. Four entrepreneurs started the website with a $6,000 investment in 2004 and used the name “Digg” because Disney had already taken www.dig.com. By mid-2005, the website had secured $2.8 million in funding from investors. That year, TechCrunch.com posted a profile of Digg on their website, claiming that the startup “is a very cool site and we are now behind it 100%…we’ll definitely be coming back for a look on June 26 for the new 2.0 Beta!”

In 2006, a number of important updates were added , such as profanity filters, the ability to flag things as “inappropriate,” podcasts, videos, and a large number of new categories. In 2008, Digg netted $28.7 million, which would end up being the last big moment for the company.

In their next update, Digg launched a completely re-designed website and extensive Facebook integration. An interview with Digg CEO Jay Adelson appeared in Wired Magazine in 2010. The writer says, ”Digg has offered a first glimpse of its new website design, a radical reboot that not only alters the entire look of the site, but also ditches Digg’s rigid taxonomy in favor of user-selected tags. It also taps into the broader social web to help users discover relevant news stories.”  As a bit of foreshadowing, the article says, “It’s a major overhaul of the site, the kind of radical change that risks alienating longtime users even as it takes advantage of the powerful social tools that have revolutionized the internet’s flow of information.”

The update was terribly buggy and glitchy. Users were furious over the changes, and most of them flocked to Reddit in retaliation. In addition, Facebook’s implementation of the “Like” system across the internet ruined Digg’s chances of successfully using its Facebook integration and “Digg” buttons. In a CNET article from June 21, 2010, Digg attempted to get back some of its users, traffic, and fame with a new update, but apparently their grave had already been “dugg.” The article says, “The social-news aesthetic that was once unique to Digg and a few other sites has now been co-opted by Facebook, which now offers “like” buttons that many publishers run alongside the Digg buttons that have been placed there for promotion for years; and TweetMeme, which aggregates Twitter links into a Digg-like interface.” Simply put, other websites were doing what Digg originally set out to do, and they were doing it better than Digg.

It’s amazing to think that in 2008 Digg was up for sale for a potential $200 million to Google, who never acted upon the deal. In July of 2012, a big chunk of Digg was sold to Betaworks for $500,000…that’s $199,500,000 less than it was valued four years ago. A combination of a shoddy website update, bad implementation of social media integration, and a desperate attempt to distinguish itself from its competitors spelled the end for Digg, once the darling of the internet community. StumbleUpon faced a similar fate due to Facebook’s “Like” buttons, but that company is still commanding a large section of the internet.

Reddit was the overwhelming victor after the demise of Digg. In 2012, the website had 37 billion page views and 400 million unique visitors. 30 million posts were written, and 4 billion votes were cast on posts over the past year. Through its subreddit communities, users are able to connect with like-minded individuals and can enjoy their interests with others. In addition, the r/IAmA (The “I Am A _____” subreddit) has brought in a lot of celebrities who have wanted to connect with the Reddit community, most importantly President Obama (that day, 4.4 million unique visitors visited Reddit).

The story of Digg is the story of a company who had it all and lost it all in a span of eight years. For other companies, Digg can serve as a reminder that bad decision making and the alienation of a loyal user base can ruin a company’s chances of surviving in an age where users, not corporations, can decide a website’s fate in a flash.

 

Main source for the timeline at the beginning: Mashable’s “A Brief History of Digg”


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Netflix

// Posted by Jorien on 02/03/2013 (6:54 PM)

Netflix shares your movie rental history

‘We all have our cinematic guilty pleasures, right?, take the movie Mean Girls’.  Indeed, I think we do all have our movies that you keep watching even though you know you should not becauseRead more

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Netflix shares your movie rental history

‘We all have our cinematic guilty pleasures, right?, take the movie Mean Girls’.  Indeed, I think we do all have our movies that you keep watching even though you know you should not because the movie is intended to be for young adults, and when you’re 30 it is acceptable to say that you are not a young adult anymore. So, a new law is coming out which makes it easier for Netflix and Hulu to share your viewing history. However, before going into what the implications are from this law, since when are people able to watch movies and series online? 

In 1997, a company named Netflix was founded by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings. With the help of the internet, they were able to offer a service to rent movies online.  Instead of going to the video stores to rent them, people were able to stay at home and order them from behind their computers.  In 1999 they launched a subscription service which made it possible for people to get unlimited rentals for a monthly price. This became popular and in 2002 the company had 857,000 members.  It was a fast growing business for the company and more people joined, nowadays there are 30 million members globally. 

The last few years however, the company changed their strategy and went from being one of the largest mail-order services to a source of streaming. People are not only able to rent movies, but can also watch their shows online. Reed Hastings made use of the internet in a way that he could get the company spread out globally. It wanted to get its own hard drive so it would download movies, however it would take a long time for one movie to download. When YouTube came up in 2005 and Hastings saw the opportunities of streaming, he decided to develop streaming technology so people could watch the movie online.

Everything that a member watched is registered in the system, so Netflix tries to provide its members with suggestions of what to watch; movies and shows that fit their interests. It collects all your data, what you search, what you rate as good or bad and when you watch it. This is where different opinions come in, because if you watch one movie once because someone suggested it to you, but it is actually not the genre you like, will it provide you with wrong information?  You can rate the movie, so in order to get the right movies people would have to rate everything they watch.

The new law will let Netflix shared your rental history on social media, in that way everyone will know what you watch and how many times. What does it do to CEOs of big companies, or teachers who should be respected at school, if everyone know what they watch all the time? Will that affect their image? I think people should really think about what they watch then, because people will know all the details.

Next to their abilities to share the history, there is also further development towards being the new HBO, with producing their own series. will there be a new way of watching TV?

 


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