Bookmarked A Riveting ISIS Story, Told in a Times Podcast, Falls Apart (nytimes.com)

A Canadian’s gruesome account as an Islamic State executioner in Syria, which was the subject of the “Caliphate” podcast by The New York Times, was fabricated, officials say. A Times review found no corroboration of his claim to have committed atrocities.

With the discovery that Abu Huzayfah account (whose real name is Shehroze Chaudhry) was a hoax, the New York Times made the following announcement about the Caliphate podcast:

The episodes of “Caliphate” that presented Mr. Chaudhry’s claims did not meet our standards for accuracy.

In the absence of firmer evidence, “Caliphate” should have been substantially revised to exclude the material related to Mr. Chaudhry. The podcast as a whole should not have been produced with Mr. Chaudhry as a central narrative character.

Listened Rabbit Hole from nytimes.com

What is the internet doing to us? The Times tech columnist Kevin Roose discovers what happens when our lives move online.

In this eight part series, Kevin Roose dives down the rabbit hole in his investigation of the impact of social media and online life on today’s society. This includes the radicalisation of with Caleb Cain, the challenge to change YouTube algorithms and the rise of QAnon and the culture of conspiracy.

Along with Philip Howard’s discussion of lie machines, this series is a useful series to stop and assess the world we are in and the challenges that we face.

via Kevin Hodgson

Bookmarked How the Virus Got Out (nytimes.com)

We analyzed the movements of hundreds of millions of people to show why the most extensive travel restrictions to stop an outbreak in human history haven’t been enough.

Jin Wu, Weiyi Cai, Derek Watkins and James Glanz provide a timeline for how coronavirus started in  Wuhan and spread around the world to become a pandemic. This includes a range of graphics to breakdown the various events.
Bookmarked The End of Australia as We Know It (nytimes.com)

Australia, she argued, must accept that the most inhabited parts of the country can no longer be trusted to stay temperate — and, she added, “that means massive changes in what we do and the rhythm of our work and play.”

More specifically, she said, the economy needs to change, not just moving away from fossil fuels, a major export, but also from thirsty crops like rice and cotton.

Building regulations will probably stiffen too, she said. Already, there are signs of growing interest in designs that offer protections from bush fires, and regulators are looking at whether commercial properties need to be made more fireproof as well.

The biggest shifts, however, may not be structural so much as cultural.

Damian Cave stops and reflects on Australia’s fire crisis to consider where to next?

Mr. Cannon-Brookes said Australia could seize the moment and become a leader in climate innovation. Ms. Wallworth, the filmmaker, echoed that sentiment: What if the country’s leaders did not run from the problem of climate change, but instead harnessed the country’s desire to act?

“If only our leaders would call on us and say, ‘Look, this is a turning point moment for us; the natural world in Australia, that’s our cathedral, and it’s burning — our land and the animals we love are being killed,’” she said.

“If they called on us to make radical change, the nation would do it.”

Liked Opinion | Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide (nytimes.com)

More than one-third of Australians are estimated to be affected by the fires. By a significant and increasing majority, Australians want action on climate change, and they are now asking questions about the growing gap between the Morrison government’s ideological fantasies and the reality of a dried-out, rapidly heating, burning Australia.

The situation is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the ruling apparatchiks were all-powerful but losing the fundamental, moral legitimacy to govern. In Australia today, a political establishment, grown sclerotic and demented on its own fantasies, is facing a monstrous reality which it has neither the ability nor the will to confront.

Bookmarked Opinion | How Does a Nation Adapt to Its Own Murder? (nytimes.com)

Australia is going up in flames, and its government calls for resilience while planning for more coal mines.

Richard Flanagan warns about the threat to drought and bushfire ravaged communities, whether it be the cost of rebuilding or the case of omnicide where places become unlivable.
Building on a previous post, the question is how we the government respond?

If Mr. Morrison’s government genuinely believed the science, it would immediately put a price on carbon, declare a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects and transfer the fossil fuel subsidies to the renewables industries. It would go to the next round of global climate talks in Glasgow in November allied with other nations on the front line of this crisis and argue for quicker and deeper cuts to carbon emissions around the world. Anything less is to collaborate in the destruction of a country.

But the government is intent on doing nothing.

And to the names of those historic betrayers of their people — Vidkun Quisling, Benedict Arnold, Mir Jafar — perhaps one day will be added that of Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia who, when faced with the historic tragedy of his country’s destruction, dissembled, enabled, subsidized and oversaw omnicide, until all was ash and even the future was no more.

Liked Opinion | Twelve Million Phones, One Dataset, Zero Privacy (nytimes.com)

What we learned from the spy in your pocket.

Stuart Thompson and Charlie Warzel dig into the location data scrapped by apps and smartphones. To explain the systemic surveillance that we are all a part of, they unpack a single data source from a location data company.

The data reviewed by Times Opinion didn’t come from a telecom or giant tech company, nor did it come from a governmental surveillance operation. It originated from a location data company, one of dozens quietly collecting precise movements using software slipped onto mobile phone apps. You’ve probably never heard of most of the companies — and yet to anyone who has access to this data, your life is an open book. They can see the places you go every moment of the day, whom you meet with or spend the night with, where you pray, whether you visit a methadone clinic, a psychiatrist’s office or a massage parlor.

This information is often used in cc combination with other data points to create a shadow profile.

As revealing as our searches of Washington were, we were relying on just one slice of data, sourced from one company, focused on one city, covering less than one year. Location data companies collect orders of magnitude more information every day than the totality of what Times Opinion received.

Until governments step in to curb such practices, we need to be a little more paranoid , as Kara Swisher suggests. While John Naughton wonders how the west is any different to China?

It throws an interesting light on western concerns about China. The main difference between there and the US, it seems, is that in China it’s the state that does the surveillance, whereas in the US it’s the corporate sector that conducts it – with the tacit connivance of a state that declines to control it. So maybe those of us in glass houses ought not to throw so many stones.

Another example such supports Naughton’s point is presented by the Washington Post which reported on how some colleges have taken to using smartphones to track student movements.

Bookmarked The Jungle Prince of Delhi (nytimes.com)

For 40 years, journalists chronicled the eccentric royal family of Oudh, deposed aristocrats who lived in a ruined palace in the Indian capital. It was a tragic, astonishing story. But was it true?

This is an intriguing story and podcast. I feel that I should probably read more about India’s history, especially post-colonial.
Liked Opinion | This Video May Not Be Real (nytimes.com)

In the video Op-Ed above, Claire Wardle responds to growing alarm around “deepfakes” — seemingly realistic videos generated by artificial intelligence. First seen on Reddit with pornographic videos doctored to feature the faces of female celebrities, deepfakes were made popular in 2018 by a fake public service announcement featuring former President Barack Obama. Words and faces can now be almost seamlessly superimposed. The result: We can no longer trust our eyes.

Bookmarked

Chris Gilliard reflects on New York Times Privacy Project. This is something that the Luddbrarian has also critiqued. Pinboard also wonders about the irony of a series on privacy containing so many tracking cookies:

Bookmarked Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook (nytimes.com)

Imagine a competitive market in which they could choose among one network that offered higher privacy standards, another that cost a fee to join but had little advertising and another that would allow users to customize and tweak their feeds as they saw fit. No one knows exactly what Facebook’s competitors would offer to differentiate themselves. That’s exactly the point.

Chris Hughes puts forward the case for Facebook to be split up and regulated. He recounts his experience during the early days and the problem that the platform has in regards to the question, “how big is big enough?” Hughes discusses the spectre of antitrust that haunts the major platforms. Adi Robertson argues that we need to do more than create guidelines in order to fix Facebook.
Bookmarked Opinion | We Built an ‘Unbelievable’ (but Legal) Facial Recognition Machine (nytimes.com)

Our experiment shows that a person equipped with just a few cameras and facial recognition technology can learn people’s daily habits: when they arrive at the office each day, who they get coffee with, whether they left work early. When we identified Dr. Madonna, he was on his way to lunch with a job candidate — an example of how the midday outings of even law-abiding citizens can sometimes be sensitive information.

Sahil Chinoy reports on an experiment designed to demonstrate how easy it is to track people without their knowledge. Images captured by a public camera were run through through Amazon’s commercial facial recognition service. The system detected 2,750 faces from a nine-hour period at the total cost of about $60. It is interesting to think of this alongside the rise of NEC, Curtin Universities use of cameras and China’s development of social credit.

Marginalia

Facial recognition is categorically different from other forms of surveillance, Mr. Hartzog said, and uniquely dangerous. Faces are hard to hide and can be observed from far away, unlike a fingerprint. Name and face databases of law-abiding citizens, like driver’s license records, already exist. And for the most part, facial recognition surveillance can be set up using cameras already on the streets.

Bookmarked Opinion | It’s Time to Panic About Privacy (nytimes.com)

We claim to want it, companies claim to provide it, but we all just accept that, well, you have no privacy online.

This interactive post from the New York Times is a useful provocation to think about privacy, data and the internet of things. For more resources on the topic, read Chris Croft’s spring clean and Ian O’Byrne’s series on digital hygiene.
Liked Your favorite way to get around The New York Times paywall might be about to go away (Nieman Lab)

Publishers are increasingly blocking those who use incognito mode to sneak around their paywalls. But browser makers may have the last laugh.

Marginalia

There is one way the timing is odd, though. In order to treat incognito browsers differently, a website needs to be able to determine that they’re incognito browsers. Earlier this month, it came out that Google Chrome, the web’s most popular browser, was working to prevent sites from doing just that. Code that blinds servers to private browsing has already been added to the current Canary version of Chrome (a version used for early developer testing). New features in Canary, if all goes well, typically roll out to the standard Google Chrome in three or four months — so this sort of tactic will likely break by summer in the browser that currently has 63 percent market share.