Howls

Github and ICE; India's rapidly expanding biometric surveillance system; and more.


  • Movement moment: A Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll provides insights into the swell of people protesting and organizing since the 2016 election, Mary Jordan and Scott Clement report for The Washington Post.

  • Just launched: Defend Our Movements, a clearinghouse for news and developments about protecting digital devices and data for activists and organizers, a project by the Center for Media Justice and May First / People Link, among others.

  • Tech workers unite: Github apparently disinvited the CTO of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement from their company conference after the announcement was quickly condemned by employees and across social media, Caroline O’Donovan tweeted.

  • Near futures: Vindu Goel reports for The New York Times on India’s rapidly expanding biometric surveillance program—rapidly expanding in that it’s quickly enveloping the country’s 1.3 billion residents in its high-tech (but still fallible) grasp, and also threatening to spread to other countries. “The poor must scan their fingerprints at the ration shop to get their government allocations of rice. Retirees must do the same to get their pensions. Middle-school students cannot enter the water department’s annual painting contest until they submit their identification,” Goel writes. “Sri Lanka is planning a similar system, and Britain, Russia and the Philippines are studying it, according to the Indian government.”

  • Life in Facebookistan: “I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote Mark Zuckerberg in 2003—the ur-apology that has been repeated and echoed by the apologist and his colleagues for well over a decade now to no avail, Zeynep Tufekci points out in Wired. “There are very few other contexts in which a person would be be allowed to make a series of decisions that have obviously enriched them while eroding the privacy and well-being of billions of people; to make basically the same apology for those decisions countless times over the space of just 14 years; and then to profess innocence, idealism, and complete independence from the obvious structural incentives that have shaped the whole process.,” Tufekci writes. “This should ordinarily cause all the other educated, literate, and smart people in the room to break into howls of protest or laughter.”

  • Reminder: In 2010, Nicholas Carlson reported for Business Insider that Mark Zuckerberg once used Facebook (TheFacebook.com) login info to break into the emails of two Harvard Crimson reporters.

  • Jessica Guynn and Kevin McCoy report for USA Today that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is now team #DeleteFacebook. “Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and … Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off this,” Wozniak wrote in an email to USA Today. “The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back.”

  • Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon pose an even greater surveillance risk than Facebook, but they’re a lot harder to avoid, Salome Viljoen writes in The Guardian.

  • WikiLeaks dropped into the fray to point out that The Guardian (and most websites) are participants in this shitty system, tweeting “Everytime you read the @Guardian, which been castigating Facebook over data collection, it covertly sends your data to 58 tracking services.”

  • The answer, Jessica Rich opines in Wired, is stronger privacy laws.

  • BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz reports that YouTube will allow parents to opt-out of algorithmic recommendations in its Kids app, and only see whitelisted videos curated by a YouTube team.

  • Anil Dash, a parent and ethical tech advocate, tweeted that several third-party apps did something similar using parent-created public playlists, but those apps have since shut down.

  • Media matters: A Politico study found that Trump did better than Romney before him in areas with the lowest number of news subscribers, Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum report.

  • Yes, Snopes confirms that the Department of Homeland Security is working to compile a database of journalists and bloggers. Seven companies have bid on the contract so far.

  • A podcast for your commute: Radiolab on the future of fake news.

  • Job board: Brave New Films is looking for an outreach director. Learn more and apply here.

  • Coding it Forward is on the hunt for D.C.-based professionals interested in mentoring one or two of their student Civic Digital Fellows. Learn more and express interest here.