Hatemail 2020-12-03: A Positive Privacy Trend in ‘Edge’ Computing

Newsletter and intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

Even though there is plenty of room for criticism in the tech industry, there is a positive privacy trend that deserves a closer look. Edge computing may not be the most well-known buzzword, but that’s probably for the best. Because the internet is a series of networks and hops, developers who want to provide fast services for their users try to be as close to the user (a concept referred to as the “edge”) as possible. 

The need for an “edge” arose out of the increase of users on the internet requesting a larger throughput of data. So, if you are a video streaming service, it makes sense to invest in regional data center outlets that can provide a faster transmission of data to their customers.

Here is where we see a cool opportunity: Right now, the model of mass data collection on users is more or less the standard tech industry model for monetization. This model implies the centralization of the data in some sort of processing pipeline. So, despite edge networks being a means to optimize the delivery of some tech company’s widget, they can actually be a method to break this cycle of mass collection. By computing on the edge, a service can theoretically do the bulk of computation closest to the user, without sending data back to a central system. Not only is this faster for the user experience, but it could also be a huge leap for privacy and data retention.

Unfortunately, companies don’t seem interested in exploring the pro-privacy possibilities of edge computing right now. Apple famously claimed that they were handling personal data on-device (as close as the “edge” as you can get, really), but it is not clear how much of this approach is used in their operating systems and services beyond novelty. 

Something like edge computing could benefit users in two ways: personal privacy and a faster user experience. Perhaps what would make it truly “game-changing” is if this also translated to profit for the service provider, so that they don’t need to farm our data at the end of the day.

Conference: 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics (Thursday, December 3 - December 5) - A 3-day conference of activists, social scientists, data scientists, engineers, artists, researchers, policymakers, anthropologists, and other brilliant women from technical AND non-technical backgrounds from around the world come together to showcase how diversity leads to more ethical and inclusive AI that works for ALL of us. [Women in AI]

Governing an Algorithm in the Wild: David Robinson in conversation with Alex Rosenblat (Tuesday, December 8 - 3 pm EST) - Data and Society is hosting this chat that will discuss how algorithms might be governed, assuming that they might operate with bias. [Data and Society]

Cypurr's End of the Year Cyber-Security Game Show Spectacular aka SO LONG 2020! (Saturday, December 19 - 2 pm EST) - Our tech activist comrades at Cypurr Collective are hosting some end-of-year fun! They’ll be doing a review of the year’s security and privacy stories, with some hopeful discussion of the future. [Brooklyn Library]

Surveillance by Large Corporations and State Governments

  • [Verge] A former Google employee (@laurenceb) cried foul when they were fired last year for an exaggerated accusation of data exfiltration. Now, the National Labor Review Board is joining their legal case against Google, after finding that the tech mammoth violated federal law.

  • [The Information] Amazon promised to spend billions on pandemic safety measures for warehouse workers this year while also adding over 427,000 employees over the past 10 months. One such program (now-abandoned) tracked workers’ locations through their personal cell phones, according to reporting by the Information.

  • [VICE] [Citizen Lab] Citizen Lab’s excellent security research unveils the global scope of Circles — a cyberespionage firm that exploited weak security in cellular networks around the world in order to conduct surveillance on behalf of governments.

Radicalized Hate and Fringe Media Outlets

  • [Google Jigsaw] Google Jigsaw is the tech giant’s internal policy think tank, known for their attention to online humanitarian issues. It’s recently released research series examines white supremacy online, and recalls the organization’s previous studies into how ISIS utilized the internet to radicalize potential recruits.

  • [The New Yorker] This still relevant 2017 profile on far-right doomer David Crowley is a deep look into one person’s gradual descent into an extremist mindset.

  • [The Atlantic] With Fox News drawing the ire of those who prefer disinformation over facts, Donald Trump’s “true believers” appear to be cementing their trust in deeper fringe outlets like OAN (One American News Network) and NewsMax.

  • [Literary Hub] Rebecca Solnit argues that liberal Democrats’ usual strategy — to respond to far-right hate with meaningless platitudes — puts vulnerable communities at risk with no political payoff. 

On Our Radar...

  • [French Ministry of Armed Forces] French military researchers published this fascinating study on the increasing use of assassination as a political tool.

  • [Project Zero] This novel vulnerability disclosed by Project Zero’s Ian Beer is a one-of-a-kind technique with high impact; with no interaction from a user (“zero click”), an attacker could cause a kernel corruption in an iPhone and crash the device.

  • [Amnesia] Amnesia is an interesting project and toolkit that seeks to remove the most sensitive and private data from any dataset.

Hate speech website: newsmax[.]com

Who hosts: Broadbandone, LLC 

Today’s site is newsmax[.]com. As part of the exodus of far-right folks away from platforms like Facebook and Twitter and outlets like Fox News, Newsmax has claimed millions of new viewers. Researchers of hate speech and extremism have voiced concern in the shift towards increasingly fringe media outlets like Newsmax. 

We have observed that Newsmax’s site resolves to an IP address hosted by Broadbandone, a regional internet hosting and services provider, at 64.135.21[.]3.