Social Orders

Uber's promise to maintain social order; easier targeting of voters on Facebook; and more.


  • Cryptowars, continued: Implicitly rebuking their current colleagues, three former top American national security officials, Mike McConnell, Michael Chertoff and William Lynn, write in the Washington Post in support of “ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring,” saying this most serves “the greater public good.”

  • Annals of disruptive tech: In the Washington Post, the Fletcher School’s Bhaskar Chakravorti explains how Uber is navigating the challenge of winning the Chinese market. This paragraph is key: “no prescription for success in the Chinese market can be complete without a plan for managing the true source of political power: the Chinese government. As protests by taxi drivers erupted in multiple cities across China, Uber recently acknowledged its commitment to ‘maintain social order’ by using its GPS data to track drivers and their locations near protests and canceling their Uber contracts if they were near such protests—a strong signal to the government that its cache of data could be used for the ‘social order maintaining’ objectives of the state.”

  • Alex Rosenblat of the Data & Society Institute has a fascinating piece up on Motherboard detailing some of oddities of Uber’s ecosystem, including phantom cars that a user often sees when they open the app (to entice them to think drivers are close by?), and the strategies drivers and passengers alike use to take advantage of (or avoid) surge pricing.

  • Baby you can drive my car: Andy Greenberg of Wired has another scoop on a security researcher who has figured out how to perform a “man in the middle” attack on GM’s OnStar RemoteLink system, enabling him to track a target car, unlock it, trigger the horn and alarm and even start its engine. GM confirmed to Greenberg that it is working on a fix.

  • Tech and the presidentials: Ashley Parker reports for the New York Times on how Facebook “has been working to expand its digital domination in the political realm.” One critical innovation sure to be useful in 2016 “allows a campaign to upload its voter file—a list of those they hope will turn out to vote or can be persuaded to do so—directly to Facebook, where it can target those users.”

  • Government opening: The Library of Congress has added several useful new features to Congress.gov, including a tool that reads a bill summary out loud to a user and the ability to search within member profile and committee pages, librarian Robert Brammer blogs.

  • Open government groups in South Africa are challenging their country’s role in the international Open Government Partnership. In October, South Africa will become chair of the OGP, but civil society groups are facing “increasing surveillance, intimidation and censorship of activists and the media,” several leading organizations argue in an open letter.

  • Activistas: GenderAvenger is out with a new video (and mobile app) aimed at combating the all too frequent excuses conference and panel organizers give for failing to include meaningful numbers of women in their events. Here’s a recent example of GenderAvenger engaging Launch Festival founder Jason Calacanis for only have 24 percent women at his March event. And here’s a more promising interchange with John Koetsier of MobileBeat, who tells GenderAvenger “Thanks for the eyes on it. We’re trying, and yes, we still suck.”