Tag: information

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Trading Privacy

// Posted by on 05/30/2015 (11:01 AM)

Everyday we make the choice to trade privacy for convenience; we swipe a finger and pay for a purchase, ask Siri for directions, and allow others to track us. We monitor our driving habits and compare the results with strangers… Read more


Everyday we make the choice to trade privacy for convenience; we swipe a finger and pay for a purchase, ask Siri for directions, and allow others to track us. We monitor our driving habits and compare the results with strangers for lower insurance rates. The instant gratification, cost savings, and seamless experiences, leave behind a digital trail that reveals a lot about us. Thus, creating a massive public web of data to be extracted. These conveniences create a matrix that can and probably will be used against us; we just don’t know it yet.

It is easy to limit the data and information that we put out there but once that data is forfeited there is no taking it back. Daily American’s trade privacy for functionality and the actual cost of the trade is ambiguous. Right now there is no real impact with the trade, many people are fine with networks using their search habits and other information to tailor ads that are more relevant. This is the now but what about the tomorrow, the actual cost of trading could look very different in the future. I wonder how long will it be before a company thinks up a truly offensive way to use the information and when this happens I wonder if people will still feel that the trade was worth it. My guess is that until then, there will not be a big push for privacy protection. So the responsibility to keep our information private will be our own.

To keep information private while surfing the web many browsers have add-ons that identify the sites that track your activity and then transmit the data to third parties without your knowledge. Here are two that I found that allow you to opt out:

Adblock Plus – Free: blocks tracking, malware domains, banners, popups and video ads even on Facebook and YouTube.

Ghostery – Free: provides online transparency and control to individuals.

Know Privacy is also a great site that shows the current state of web privacy and information sharing. The key findings indicate that people are concerned about the data that is requested, how much data is required for the services that are wanted, and how that data is being used. Here is the link:

In the end, knowing the cost of the trade is important and it is essential that people take control over the information they give up and know what information is being surrendered to public and private databases. I don’t necessarily think that privacy is a thing of the past, I just think that it now takes due diligence to maintain it.

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Assange & Snowden: whistleblowers of the internet (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by on 02/14/2014 (5:01 PM)

By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you… Read more


By: Molly Reilly, Deirdre O’Halloran, Rachel Hall, and Claire Hollingsworth

You can be in your own home on your personal computer or tablet, yet there are people out there who can see everything you search, watch, and do. When you visit certain websites they install a “cookie,” which is a piece of data kept in your browser to track your activity once you’ve opened that web page. The purpose of this is to store information for your convenience (added items in a shopping cart, edits to your facebook page), however it seems crazy that numerous websites can then access your personal information. Tracking and third-party tracking cookies can be used to get hold of your long-term history; even beyond when you had authorized a site to put a cookie on your computer (created a username or account).

This lack of privacy and lack of regulations were just a few of the reasons Edward Snowden felt an obligation to the American people to expose the NSA. His core beliefs of freedom of privacy and freedom on the internet lead him to make this massive sacrifice and turn over confidential documents. Snowden was quoted in the guardian article Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations, as saying “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” The lack of privacy at the corporate level through cookies and data tracking is a source of great concern, however the fact of government sponsored tracking is of much greater concern.

While it might not be completely ethical, corporations have gotten around the laws in order to capitalize on the data available on the internet for their own personal gain. The government, on the other hand should be there to set guidelines helping to protect us from these very corporations, not utilizing the same tactics they implement. Snowden exposed these policies in hopes of forcing government officials to rethink how they gather data and making a more transparent U.S. government. While we will never really know the extent to which Snowden made an impact on NSA policy, it has made everyone in the U.S. more aware and wary of the policy regarding privacy. We could say he has successfully completed his goal of transparency to a small degree, allowing this information exposed and analyzed.

The article “Leaky Geopolitics” looks at the unprecedented reactions of the “free world” in attempting to take down WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.  The author’s bias is evident from the very beginning: any charges against Assange were trumped up by a capitalist-governmental elite class to attempt to discredit him after the leaks began.  The way this article looks at the idea of crime — outside of formal charges, in the court of public opinion — seems to be a pretty accurate way of representing how people are perceived on the internet.  But the court of public opinion seems to be pretty divided on WikiLeaks: groups like Anonymous that prize freedom of information have stood behind the site, but other groups point to a security risk that can come from leaking government documents.

The idea that WikiLeaks and the public reaction to it can have such profound impacts on the geopolitical order –that it can lead people to question the authority of the state, and to think critically about issues of transparency and privacy — leads me to question if, in some ways, Assange and Snowden may have really won, regardless of the threats on their heads.  If the goal was to spur a conversation about these limits, it seems impossible to say that they didn’t achieve that goal with flying colors. The article also takes on the question of the government-industry connection in looking at the corporate responses of MasterCard, PayPal, etc, in taking on the role of protector and enforcer: roles usually reserved for the government, after extensive trial.  The success of WikiLeaks in exposing this portion of the problem also seems pretty undeniable.

In another article, “The War on Wikileaks and Why it matters” Author Glenn Greenwald illustrates the ways in which the U.S. Government has responded to the wikileaks. Wikileaks and Snowden have been a topic of great controversy and debate.  This has surely set the stage for political and public conversation surrounding privacy and regulation of the internet. As government officials the army and its supporters consider snowden to be a criminal and traitor, supporters of Snowden and the wikileaks revolution, see these actions as efforts to expose the government in the name of freedom of information.  Those opposed to wikileaks consider it a threat to American national safety, while Greenwald suggest sites like wikileaks are vital to Americans to provide information where the media is becoming more unreliable at “exactly a time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions osensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed”.  This is mostly because media and journalism are generally co-opted outlets controlled and regulated by the U.S. government more so than ever  as “private efforts to manipulate public opinion has proliferated”. Wikileaks, who consider their work to serve as the intelligence agency of the people, see the governments efforts to harass and ultimately destroy them altogether as a result of feeling threatened.

This provokes the idea, is information free?? If its not, should it be? Do we as citizens have the right to know information considered “classified”?  Wikileaks also exemplifies the rise of the term “netizen” in which people are turning to the web as a medium to facilitate social and political change. Is this a good thing? or potentially detrimental?  Setting aside personal views and opinions on the ethical side of wikileaks, it is undeniable that it has opened up the door for conversation as to whether digitization and diplomacy is helpful, or harmful.

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Protesters or Pirates (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by on 02/14/2014 (4:58 PM)

          Does information really want to be free? Information may want to be free, however intellect does not. Intellect has forever been valued and should never be tampered with. People have the right to their own ideas, whether you publish… Read more


          Does information really want to be free? Information may want to be free, however intellect does not. Intellect has forever been valued and should never be tampered with. People have the right to their own ideas, whether you publish it in a book or “tweet” it, every thought belongs to its owner. Anonymous should no longer be able to hack our systems and retrieve information that is not rightfully theirs. Although some of their motives may have universally positive impacts, their behavior outside of the law qualifies them as a near terrorist organization. According to the FBI, the definition of domestic terrorism is, “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the content of a government by mass destruction.” We believe by this definition the actions of the member from Anonymous are considered domestic terrorist.

WikiLeaks, run by the non-profit group Sunshine Press, is a website that promotes itself as “the intelligence agency of the people”.  The site is committed to exposing suppressed government & corporation corruption by publicizing many of their closely guarded secrets.  Over the past few years, it has become an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites worldwide, as it has been responsible for the exposure of numerous confidential, incriminating documents that publicized the activities of many different governments and corporations.  Within our group, we tried to reason whether WikiLeaks should be regarded as free speech or illegal speech.  The general consensus was that, although WikiLeaks prides itself on being the intelligence agency of the people, it is generally threatening to the confidentiality and safety of the various world governments as well as the people themselves.  The Site is based on obtaining a wide-array of secret documents and sharing them with the public, but how do we know what effects that will have?  They are sharing incriminating information under the guise of free speech and we have to wonder to what degree is that justifiable?  There is an increasingly blurred line between what information should be “free”, as hackers can access almost anything and, as we have learned, the government can too.  In a society where the Internet and information are becoming more easily accessible and widely shared, it is difficult to decipher the boundaries between private and public.

        As Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore discuss in their article, “The End of Hypocrisy” the WikiLeaks group needs to be stopped. Farrel and Finnemore call the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a “high-tech terrorist.” We totally agree with these two authors as high valued information, such as government operations should never be leaked to the public. There are certain facts and/or ideas that the American citizens and foreign countries should never find out. Hacking into the government database and retrieving knowledge and confidential documents should never happen. I do agree with Farrell and Finnemore that the American public should no longer be lied to about government information. We all deserve to know more, however not as much as the WikiLeaks uncover. There is certain restricted information that should forever be kept secret.

The argument of cyber libertarianism made David Golumbia, that information wants to be free, does not hold true in all cases. While many of us are willing and happy to publish our thoughts and ideas online for free in the form of blogs, tweets, and Wikipedia. This does not hold true in case of classified government documents. During the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden an employee of a company contracted by the National Security Agency. He leaked the details of two high-level intelligence programs the FBI and NSA use to collect information in order to protect American citizens from terrorists attacks. Upon the initial leak of information, the public was in shock of our government’s ability to collect information such as call logs and email chains. Upon further investigation, provide by the United States Congressional hearing of the FBI and it’s director Robert Mueller, it is the clear that this programs have provided the FBI with important information, crucial to protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks. Edwards Snowden’s actions do not classify him as a whistleblower but rather an American traitor.  The ability to share and spread information over the Internet does not mean that all information that is store in a digital format is meant to shared with the public. In Snowden’s interview with The Guardian, He explains how he exposed this information to make the public aware of the actions of it’s government, but no where in the article or interview does he go into the real specifics of the program. The truth behind the government’s abilities and actions are best explained in the Congressional hearing, available on C-span.

This is how information should be provided to the people, by our own government not by individual actors motivated by private agendas. While it is important to have oversight on our government and to hold them responsible for their actions, we do not believe that hacking and leaking is the most efficient and legitimate way to go about this. Hacking and leaking does not provide for any formal structure to prevent issues exposed by hackers from happening again. It simply gives instant gratification to those who feel that an injustice has occurred. This is not the way to build a safe and product society.

Transparency and accountability within government processes and corporations are expected now more than ever in the Internet era. The Internet has allowed people to access and share information more readily, which, in the case of Wikileaks, can have questionable ethical implications. The notion of “Information wants to be free” is the driving force behind Anonymous, hackers, and Wikileaks, but what does this really mean? Unfortunately, because of the dangerous consequences of Wikileaks in regards to government operations, the State has to respond in a more authoritarian way, which results in harsher penalties for hackers and cutting off access to revenue in the case of Wikileaks. The State is aware that their consequences are being scrutinized by the public, and in some ways, this is a good thing—the State can no longer can deceived the population. We have been grappling with the ethical motives behind Annoymous hacks and Wikileaks. What makes the debate harder is that some things that are leaked and brought to the public eye are done with good intentions—to bring hard issues to light, such as the dealings with the Ohio rape case. However, in most other cases, confidential information is someone’s property, and leaking that confidential information is piracy. Further, Wikileaks and Anonymous could be considered a “foreign terrorist organizations” because they are threatening organizations and intimidating their opposition. If you try to take down Anonymous response to their hackings, you get destroyed.

           In previous weeks, we’ve talked about the “third space” that the internet provides for a shared global culture. This idea of a shared space seemed to be a running theme in many of the arguments about WikiLeaks in the article “Leaky Geopolitics.” Many of the contributors discussed how a site like WikiLeaks provides a space for an overwhelming wealth of information and knowledge, but the article also expresses the concerns that a space like this presents: a challenge to the sovereignty of physical nations, the amorphous and expanding nature of WikiLeaks and the danger and the geopolitical influence such shared information has. But the authors also make a point to discuss how WikiLeaks points out flaws within our current geopolitical culture: the notion that a site of free flowing information like WikiLeaks must be controlled, the violent extent to which governments will go to do so and how this highlights issues such as hypercapitalism, privacy and political corruption. There doesn’t seem to be a distinct opinion on whether WikiLeaks is inherently “good” or “evil.” The debate mostly shows the uncertainty surrounding the site.

        The big issue presented by WikiLeaks is that it is completely unassociated with any state. In the first section by Simon Springer and Heather Chi, they describe how such a fluid flow of information will intrinsically pose a threat to and destabilize state power. Critical public scrutiny of state action opens up the idea of sovereignty and where power really lies. Springer and Chi emphasize the shift toward the values of transparency and accountability, yet the reaction of the state to leaked information is the authoritarian action of shutting down and blocking websites. Not only does WikiLeaks become a grey area of who controls what, but it also prompted governments to act in unexpectedly harsh ways. In democratic nations like the United States, the government’s need to strictly control WikiLeaks begins to question how democratic those actions are.

        What I found most interesting in this article, though, was Fiona McConnell’s concluding line about the overall perception of WikiLeaks: “WikiLeaks may have made certain procedures of foreign policy transparent, but having the information and acting upon it are two very different processes.” This brings up the question of whether WikiLeaks is really that much of a threat, or if nation states are overreacting in their handling of it. How do you control the flow of information in such a decentralized space such as the internet, and how do you determine if it’s even worth controlling at all?

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The Free Encyclopedia

// Posted by on 01/31/2013 (11:03 AM)

Growing up, the “Encyclopedia” was an extensive set of 20 or so books that lined our family bookshelf in alphabetical order. I could look up basically anything I wanted and find at least a paragraph about the topic. The books… Read more


Growing up, the “Encyclopedia” was an extensive set of 20 or so books that lined our family bookshelf in alphabetical order. I could look up basically anything I wanted and find at least a paragraph about the topic. The books were easy to use and exciting. I loved projects that required me to look things up.

Enter 2001 and the “Encyclopedia” now had a new definition: Wikipedia. It started with an idea and 100 volunteers on a mission to create thousands of entries about pretty much anything. The pages also included the option to edit now, giving all users the option to contribute to the existing information. The concept challenged human interaction in a public forum; the pages were supposed to maintain unbiased and just communicate the facts. The pages were constantly changing, for better or for worse. was the first fluid Encyclopedia. Then, it became the Free Encyclopedia.

The evolution of the Wikipedia logo ^^ (from

The creation of Wikipedia strikes me as similar to Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog  whereby it represented a collection of various tools, items, and products compiled in a manner to appeal to the “New Communalists” and the “cowboys and nomads.” Both Wikipedia and the Whole Earth Catalog strike me as conglomerations of products and theories of their decades. Brand’s Catalog offered new ways to approach the computer. Wikipedia embodies an example of a fresh approach to personal computing, communal knowledge, and social forums.

An article in the New York Times published Septemeber 20, 2001 was used for the factual pieces of this post. The article can be found here.

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