Hushed Tones

AT&T's "net neutrality campaign"; Facebook buys company to verify government-issued IDs; and more


  • Tech and politics: The government agency that provides cybersecurity for the Senate doesn’t protect staffers’ personal devices or accounts, leaving a particularly large vulnerability for foreign hackers, Kevin Collier reports for BuzzFeed.

  • It appears as though AT&T is behind a campaign to push faux-net neutrality legislation through Congress, Fight for the Future posts on Medium. They’re urging you to not be fooled by their calls for “real net neutrality” and to tell your senators and representatives that you support the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution that would allow Congress to block the FCC decision with a simple majority vote.

  • In happier news, Karl Bode reports for Motherboard that there are now more than 750 community-owned broadband networks, rural electric cooperatives, or publicly available fiber networks.

  • Following Montana’s lead, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring internet providers with state contracts to follow net neutrality principles.

  • After Motherboard publicized the fact that Apple had blocked an app that detected net neutrality violations, the company reached out to the app creator to say that they encounter a lot of apps that don’t do what they claim to do, and asked to see a technical description of his app, Jason Koebler reports. The app has now been approved, but it’s still not clear why it was summarily rejected in the first place.

  • Joshua Cuevas wrote about his experience as a Hispanic professor who happened to tick off the wrong white supremacist on Twitter, and what he learned about how the subsequent attacks against him were formulated and carried out. Although the administration at his school was understanding and supportive because Cuevas was able to document the plan to delegitimize his standing at the school and eventually get him fired, he says that academia in general has been too timid. “We should not have to speak in hushed tones when we condemn hate groups,” Cuevas wrote. “We should not have to be apprehensive when we promote democratic ideals and equality.”

  • Convincing fake videos created with assistance from machine learning have arrived alarmingly quickly after their original, somewhat sloppy genesis, Samantha Cole reports for Motherboard. So far, most of the videos are pornographic, in which the face of a celebrity is swapped in for that of a porn actress, but the potential to use the technology to put anyone anywhere is there.

  • Facebook has bought a company that verifies government-issued IDs, Mariella Moon reports for Engadget.

  • When they say “Location History” they really mean Location History. David Yanofsky reports for Quartz on how Google tracks many Android users’ every step.

  • The Chinese market is too damn big for Apple to resist. The company has built their first data-storage center in China with a state-owned company, and starting in late February Chinese users will have to agree that both Apple and this state-owned company will have “access to all the data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law,” Chen Guangcheng reports for The New York Times.

  • Personal health: Adam Popescu reports for The New York Times on the harmful side effects of constant smartphone use.

  • Opportunity: New Media Ventures is still accepting applications for their Innovation Fund until February 2. They’re looking for startups working on “changing hearts and minds” or “building movements for the future.” Learn more here.