Cell phones the police can’t tap into

You can set up a passcode to protect the information on your cell phone.  But the manufacturers can still unlock that information if given a court order, giving police and other government agencies access to people’s private data.  But Apple has announced that the new operating system for iPhones, iOS 8, will not give the company access to passcode-protected phones, making it technologically impossible to comply with snooping requests.  Android is following suit.

What do you think of this?  Is it a commendable blow for personal privacy against government surveillance?  Or is it an abdication of responsibility to help authorities fight crime?

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Are spies manipulating your Facebook polls?

According to new revelations from Edward Snowden, a British spy agency is manipulating online polls, inflates YouTube numbers, directs online traffic, and manipulates the web in other ways for propaganda purposes. [Read more...]

Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more...]


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