Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryData Privacy

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hacker virus malware attack during coronavirus pandemic concept

Computer Hacks of Governments, Hospitals, Firms Increase

Even the ones we depend on are vulnerable. They’re not always anxious to talk about it

It’s not just companies, it’s countries that get hacked these days. Here are some examples from the United States: ➤ The big story was the Solar Winds case last month. One version is that an intern thought that SolarWinds123 was a safe password: At this point though, it’s still uncertain whether the password leak played a role in the SolarWinds hack, CNN noted, which is believed to be the largest foreign intrusion campaign in U.S. history. This month, White House national security adviser Anne Neuberger stated that approximately 100 different companies and nine federal agencies, including the one that oversees the country’s nuclear weapons, had been compromised by foreign hackers. Jody Serrano, “SolarWinds Officials Throw Intern Under the Bus for…

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Like facebook 3d box with white background. 3d rendering

Who’s Afraid of Facebook? Maybe We Should All Be More Wary

A whistleblower showed that rules are enforced very unevenly. Facebook allows extremist language to flourish in some venues and censors mainstream speech in others

Facebook is, according to Fortune Magazine, the “dominant social media app,” with $84.2 billion in revenue in 2019, especially after acquiring Instagram. So dominant that government hearings into questionable activities offer mere slaps on the wrist. There is a reason for that, as we shall soon see. Facebook is, of course, a censor but at best a clumsy one. It removed a page by international disease experts critical of the COVID lockdowns, as if they were mere health cranks. Recently, Facebook announced that it plans to continue to take down posts whose claims its fact checkers “deem false” (February 8, 2021). To get some sense of what that means, Facebook censored an article at UnHerd that was critical of the…

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Kashgar, China - with more than 80% of the population made by Uyghurs, Kashgar displays a lot of Islamic landmarks. Here in particular the Id Kah Mosque, the biggest mosque in China

Leaked Police Database: Total Surveillance of China’s Uyghurs

Human Rights Watch notes that many countries engage in human rights abuses, but “more than any other government, Beijing has made technology central to its repression.”

Human Rights Watch has released its 2021 annual report of global human rights abuses in 2020. In his keynote article, Executive Director Kenneth Roth said “this has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.” The report outlines several ways that the Chinese Communist Party has repressed Chinese citizens. Among those are the Uyghurs, an ethnically Turkish majority Muslim people living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in western China. The CCP continues to use every means, including massive technological surveillance, to control the Uyghur population. This is the second year that China has been one of the biggest offenders of human rights. Last year’s keynote article pointed out…

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Hands hold a paper sheet with the message your vote matters over a crowded street background. People legal and democratic rights, every voice counts. Election campaign and electoral agitation concept

How Crypto Can Help Secure Fair Elections

Here’s what we need for a cryptosecure election protocol (CEP)

(Recently, we’ve been asking readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics used to demonstrate propositions in a variety of contexts but we began to focus on what happens if Alice and Bob are competing for a political office. Bernard Fickser, whose argument for reform we have been following, offers a look at how a crypto secure election system might work.) We now come to the most interesting part of this article, namely, a cryptographically based protocol for securing elections. If such a protocol can be made to fly, it will do much to secure free and fair elections as well as to boost voter confidence that votes are being accurately counted and not mixed with…

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How Can Ballots Be Both Secret and Fair?

The secrecy of ballots would not be compromised if voters used some markers of their identity known only to themselves

In these times, that’s an important question. Last time, we asked readers to think about Alice and Bob, the famous pair in physics (used to demonstrate propositions) as if they were running for office. Bernard Fickser continues to think about that question at Expensivity: To the question “How did you vote?” a friend of mine used to quip “By secret ballot.” My friend’s quip underscores the fundamental difference between the financial and the electoral context. Money in a financial ledger always has an explicit provenance. There’s a source for the money and a tracking history of how it ended in, say, the ledger of financial Alice. This is not to say that Alice’s ledger is an open book for everyone…

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european Union parliament election concept - hand putting ballot in blue election box

How Can We Prevent Financial or Election Fraud?

Both contexts come down to an accounting problem, keeping track of money or votes over time.

Here’s an idea from Expensivity, a blog about money and a lot of other things. Let’s take two people, the famous Alice and Bob, used to demonstrate many propositions in math and science: In an electoral context, we think of Alice and Bob as candidates running against each other for the same office. Alice’s ledger indicates votes that have been added or subtracted over time (with dates and times of the additions and subtractions), as well as her current vote total. Similarly for Bob. The vote total in each ledger starts at zero and can never drop below zero. If only legitimate votes are added to Alice’s ledger, there should be no need for votes ever to be subtracted from…

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burst set of random numbers glowing on a black background

How Spooky “Quantum Collapse” Can Give Us More Secure Encryption

If entangled photons linked to random numbers are transmitted, parties on either end can know, via high error rates, that they’ve been intercepted.

In a recent podcast, “Enrique Blair on quantum computing,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks talks with fellow computer engineer Enrique Blair about why quantum mechanics is so strange but important to our future. They discussed “quantum communication” (generally, quantum encryption) and why safer quantum encryption might be easier to achieve than general quantum computing. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-110-Enrique-Blair.mp3 The discussion of quantum communication begins at approximately 55:32. The Show Notes and transcript follow. Robert J. Marks: I know there’s lots of interesting quantum communication today. The NSF and the Department of Defense are throwing big bucks at it. What is it, just roughly? Enrique Blair: Quantum communication really is the use of quantum mechanics to share information in a secure manner.…

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Black diagonal chain, a blockchain concept, double

Can Blockchain Help Ensure Fraud Free Voting?

Could blockchain have prevented the current controversy around voter fraud in the recent U.S. election?

In Wednesday’s meeting between Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Republican senators from the Pennsylvania legislature about potential voter fraud in the state, one state senator suggested blockchain as a potential cure for the type of voter fraud being alleged. A company called VOATZ has the technology to do this and was mentioned by name. Blockchain is the secret sauce that keeps bitcoin working. Each new bitcoin transaction is encrypted as a new link in the chain, which is distributed to numerous sites. If anyone tries to change a link in the blockchain, everyone who stores the bitcoin blockchain knows it, so the fraud is detected and removed. The beauty of blockchain is that trust is assured among people who…

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digital world

China’s Eyes Are Watching Africa Closely

In exchange for help with high-tech communication systems, China gets to install mass surveillance technology

Depending on who you talk to, the twenty-year relationship between China and several countries in the African Union has been described as everything from mutually beneficial to asymmetric and dysfunctional right down to exploitative and neo-colonialist. Recent pre-COVID-19 surveys indicate that citizens of several African nations see their country’s interaction with China as largely positive. But if some African science fiction writers are any indicator, others see a dystopian future. The current onslaught of high-tech surveillance technologies from China provides a chance to compare the two views. Recently, I have written about racial tensions between African nationals and local government in Guangzhou amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and about how the pandemic has worsened African countries’ debt crisis, particularly due to…

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Social media facebook dis-like

Facebook Goes After Research Group Studying Its Ad Policies

The researchers received information from volunteers in order to study apparent violations of ad policies during the recent U.S. election

Facebook, one of the most ambitious companies in modern history—it is, after all, contemplating its own currency—is also trying to shut down an academic research group it doesn’t Like. The Ad Observatory, a project of NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, monitors ads on Facebook. In the most recent American election, they studied “Which candidates, super PACS, and dark money groups are spending most on Facebook advertising nationwide? What topics do they emphasize and what objectives do they seek to achieve with ads?” The project asked volunteers to install a plugin, Ad Observer, that automatically scrapes ads presented on Facebook and sends them in. Why does it matter? Because most of us see only a small proportion of the ads that…

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Schrodinger's cat

Does Schrödinger’s Cat Think Quantum Computing Is a Sure Thing?

It might lead to more security, though not to thinking computers

Some hope that a move to quantum computing—qubits instead of bits, analog instead of digital—will work wonders, including the invention of the true thinking computer. In last week’s podcast, futurist George Gilder and computer engineer Robert J. Marks looked at, among other things, what’s really happening with quantum computing: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-108-George-Gilder.mp3 (The quantum computing discussion begins at 15:04.) Robert J. Marks: What’s your take on quantum computing? It seems to me that there’s been glacial progress in the technology. George Gilder (pictured): I think quantum computing is rather like AI, in that it moves the actual problem outside the computational process and gives the illusion that it solved the problem, but it’s really just pushed the problem out. Quantum computing is…

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Ai identify person technology for recognize, classify and predict human behavior for safety. Futuristic artificial intelligence. Surveillance and data collection of citizens through city cameras.

The Information We Just Give Away Obliterates Privacy

Privacy may turn out to be one of the biggest political issues of the new decade

A story came to light at VICE in 2017, that the CIA spied on people through their smart TVs. Without getting into those weeds, note this conventional warning offered by manufacturers: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.” An old birdwatcher’s tip: If you can see them, assume they can see you. If the internet is wide open to us, we are potentially wide open to the internet. Here are three surveillance issues worth pondering, about the systems we take for granted: ➤ Alexa employees listen in: Amazon.com Inc. employs thousands of people…

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Group of friends using smartphones to communicate in social media. Concept of a generation of millennials who are online all the time. Warm hipster filter.

The Social Dilemma: You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product

A new Netflix documentary explores the techniques used to explore, then shape and sharpen, our attitudes, values, and beliefs

What is truth? This question has likely been pondered by man for as long as man has been able to ponder. How do you know that what you read or hear is true? How do you know that what you think is true? Why is it that people with different worldviews or belief systems can look at the exact same raw objective data and interpret it in radically different ways? The answers to these questions are important to “know”, insofar as anyone can know anything within a reasonable degree of certainty. However, in our society today, it is becoming more and more difficulty to determine what is true––with any degree of certainty. A recent 90-minute Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma,…

Digital globe with mosaic of images
Digital globe with mosaic of images

Why Some Nation States Are Banning TikTok

The United States is not alone in questioning the social medium’s allegiance to the Chinese government

Why is TikTok so controversial? It’s the first Chinese technology company that has reached a billion users outside of China. Its main demographic is Generation Z—teens and twenty-somethings. If you take a look at TikTok videos, most are goofy and irreverent. They’re frenetic shorts of everything from fashion tips to pranks and, of course, (bad) dancing. TikTok’s stated mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” What could go wrong? Here’s what. Working with China, as Disney and the NBA can attest, comes with certain strings attached, including acquiescing to the Chinese Communist Party’s rules for acceptable speech. Because ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is a Chinese company (although partly owned by investors from the U.S. and Japan), the Chinese Communist…

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Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima
The Atomic Bomb Dome Panorama in Hiroshima and the surounding garden in autumn at sunset on the side of Motoyasu River in Japan, with the Peace Memorial Park

Does Government Watch Us on Social Media? Yes… So Does Business

They may all be getting to know you way better than you feel comfortable with

Discerning public opinion on political and national security issues via social media platforms showed its worth during the Arab Spring of 2010. The protests, which began in Tunisia, spread throughout the Middle East, where social media were the key platform for expressing anger about corruption, poverty, human rights violations, unemployment, and authoritarianism. These protests resulted in changes to leadership and policy in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen. They also resulted in immigration issues and sadly, even terror attacks, military conflicts, and civil war. Social media not only enables coordinated action such as rallies, strikes, resistance, riots, and other methods of activism but also provides status reports and communicates outcomes. One research team has developed an AI metric for predicting such events:…

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Twitter handle with care

What’s the Main Thing We Should Learn from the Big Twitter Hack?

Yes, Twitter got control of its platform back but not before its credibility in security matters was significantly weakened

As we reported at the time, on July 15, hackers gained control of a number of Twitter “Blue Checkmark” accounts. Twitter hands out Blue Checkmarks to accounts that exert heavy influence and have verified identities. That status permits many parody accounts to operate without generating confusion over who is really tweeting, the account or the parody. In any case, on Twitter, the Blue Checkmarks have quite a bit of power. They get access to analytics on their posts so they can measure (and manipulate) their engagement with their followers. Many influencers look for “Blue Checkmark” status to see if an account is worth engaging with. Twitter even allows the “Blue Checkmarks” to filter their conversations so as to limit them…

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iron chain and castle on the silk national flag of Hong Kong with beautiful folds, the concept of a ban on tourism, political repression, crime, violation of the rights and freedoms of citizens

Hong Kong: Tech Companies Face Serious Ethical Decisions

As Hong Kong is transformed into a police state, Western companies, faced with demands for snitching on users, are rethinking cozy relationships with China

The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong is no longer semi-autonomous, at least in practice. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), circumventing Hong Kong’s parliament and courts, passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 that effectively abolishes the “one country, two systems” regime outlined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The law was passed one day before the anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (July 1, 1997), in time to quash any pro-democracy candidates who would likely win in the September elections. Although the CCP justifies its moves from the Hong Kong Basic Law and claims that Hong Kong will maintain autonomy, in practice, it has already arrested dissidents and formed a secretive agency called the Office…

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AT&T CTO Says, Yes, You Can Live Without Your Smart Phone

At COSM 2019, Jay Richards interviewed AT&T CTO Andre Fuetsch (the guy who says your smart phone will disappear). Is that true? And how will we live? From the interview: Andre Fuetsch: We are now on the brink of being able to connect many, many more things than we’ve ever seen before. And just by the fact of being able to connect more things … look at the more traditional wireless networks that we’ve had in the preceding generations. It frankly was just about connecting phones, right? “Some were sort of dumb phones, some were more feature phones. Some are now obviously more smartphones. And these were really more of kind of a one to one relationship with people. 5G,…

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Smart technologies in your smartphone, collection and analysis of big data

The Birds Aren’t Real. But Maybe the Spying Is.

A defense of our fundamental right to privacy

Technology frees us from drudgery but also enable surveillance that enslaves us. Then, far from computers becoming more like humans, we may become more like computers.

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