Monday, 19 December 2011

Speech: Rebecca MacKinnon - Let's take back the Internet!

In this powerful talk from TEDGlobal, Rebecca MacKinnon describes the expanding struggle for freedom and control in cyberspace, and asks: How do we design the next phase of the Internet with accountability and freedom at its core, rather than control? 
She believes the internet is headed for a "Magna Carta" moment when citizens around the world demand that their governments protect free speech and their right to connection.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Article: Max's privacy war brings Facebook to heel

Original Article written by AP for The Age - Thursday 27, October 2011

Austrian student Max Schrems sits with 1222 pages worth of his personal data 
that Facebook provided to him. Photo: AP

Max Schrems wasn't sure what he would get when he asked Facebook to send him a record of his personal data from three years of using the site.

What the 24-year-old Austrian law student didn't expect, though, was 1222 pages of data on a CD. It included chats he had deleted more than a year ago, "pokes" dating back to 2008, invitations to which he had never responded, let alone attended, and hundreds of other details.
Advertisement: Story continues below

Time for an "aha" moment.

In response, Schrems has launched an online campaign aimed at forcing the social media behemoth that has 800 million users to abide by European data privacy laws - something the Palo Alto, California-based company insists it already does.

Yet, since Schrems launched his Europe vs. Facebook website in August, Facebook has increasingly been making overtures not only to Schrems, but to other Europeans concerned about data privacy, including Germany's data security watchdogs.

"Have we done enough in the past to deal with you? No," Facebook's director of European public policy, Richard Allan, testified before a German parliamentary committee on new

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Speech: John Pilger - Obama and Empire (2009)

A truly inspirational speech by author, journalist, film maker John Pilger, at Socialism 2009.
Filmed by Paul Hubbard at the Womens Building in San Francisco 07-04-09.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Article: WikiLeaks Posts Spy Firm Videos Offering Tools For Hacking iTunes, Gmail, Skype

Original Article written by Andy Greenberg for Forbes - Thursday 08, December 2011

It’s no longer a secret that firms like Gamma International, maker of Finfisher spyware, sell tools for hacking computers and secretly surveilling Internet and cell phone users. But nothing captures the creep factor of that business quite like the firm’s own low-budget, computer-animated marketing videos.

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks released a series of video files obtained from UK-based Gamma that show how its products can be used to monitor Wifi networks from a hotel lobby, hack cell phones and PCs with fake software updates, or infect computers from a USB key to intercept Skype conversations, log encryption passwords and read private files. The videos were posted as part of the secret-spilling group’s ongoing project in cooperation with Privacy International and Bugged Planet known as the Spy Files, which aims to collect and publish marketing documents and other revealing materials from technology firms that sell surveillance equipment.

While most of the capabilities shown in the videos have been previously revealed in a special report by the Wall Street Journal that published dozens of surveillance firms’ sales documents, the Journal had posted only screenshots and short segments of the videos, perhaps fearing that Gamma International would take legal action against the newspaper for copyright violations. WikiLeaks seems to have no such concerns.

After the downfall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, the BBC obtained evidence that Gamma had offered its technology to the country’s regime for surveilling Egyptians’ use of tools like Hotmail, Yahoo! mail, Gmail and Skype.

Click on the screenshots below to see the full videos on WikiLeaks’ site. (Though I should warn that each is temporarily obscured by an obtrusive fundraising pop-up window.)

And check out the complete collection of Gamma’s videos here, along with the reust of the Spy Files here.

An Internet service provider tool offers a fake iTunes update to a machine that infects it with spyware.

A desktop tool allows the customer to sit in a hotel lobby spy on fellow users of its Wifi network.

The company's spyware intercepts a user's Skype conversation and data he transfers from a folder encrypted with the common encryption software TrueCrypt.

Gamma's fake BlackBerry update infects the user's phone and offers access to its data.

Finfisher claims its training course can show staff how to break into webmail services including Gmail.

Video: Interview with Julian Assange, by John Pilger (2010)

An extended interview with Julian Assange recorded during filming of John Pilger's latest film The War You Don't See.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Article: Tahrir Square And The Occupy Movement

Original Article written by David Wearing for The Occupied Times - Friday 18, November 2011

In the rising wave of international protests happening under the Occupy banner, Cairo’s Tahrir Square has gained iconic status, frequently invoked by activists from New York and Oakland to Barcelona and London. The substantial differences between what is happening now in Zuccotti Park, or outside St Paul’s Cathedral, and events in Egypt at the start of this year, are obvious enough. Concerns about the abuse of civil liberties and the undemocratic distribution of power in Western societies are certainly real, but thankfully we do not live in anything like the sort of authoritarian police state that was presided over by Hosni Mubarak (and which in many ways persists today under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). In one sense, it is those very differences that form part of what makes Tahrir Square so important to activists in the West. If Egyptians can begin to achieve positive social change in spite of the huge obstacles they face, then what excuse do we have for not mounting successful challenges to our own structures of power? Tahrir Square undoubtedly stands as an inspiration, but the connection goes deeper than that.

Throughout his reign, Mubarak enjoyed long-standing and substantial military and diplomatic support from the United States and Britain. Barack Obama’s response, when asked if he viewed Mubarak as authoritarian, given the thousands of political prisoners held by the Egyptian regime, was to say “no, I prefer not to use labels for folks”. While gangs of pro-regime thugs were being unleashed on protestors in Cairo, Tony Blair saw fit to describe Mubarak as “immensely courageous and a force for good“.

During the revolution itself, the position articulated by the British government until very close to the point where Mubarak fell was that the dictator should “listen” to the protesters and make “reforms”. The call from Tahrir Square, by contrast, and as William Hague and David Cameron well knew, was not “the people demand that the dictator listen to our legitimate aspirations and enact reforms”. The call, now famous throughout the world, was

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Documentary: Century of Self - by Adam Curtis (2002)

Watch all four episodes. Descriptions below: 

Century of Self , Episode 1
Happiness Machines

The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

Bernays was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.

His most notorious coup was breaking the taboo on women smoking by persuading them that cigarettes were a symbol of independence and freedom. But Bernays was convinced that this was more than just a way of selling consumer goods. It was a new political idea of how to control the masses. By satisfying the inner irrational desires that his uncle had identified, people could be made happy and thus docile.


Century of Self , Episode 2
The Engineering of Consent

The programme explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

Politicians and planners came to believe Freud's underlying premise - that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires and fears. They were convinced that it was the unleashing of these instincts that had led to the barbarism of Nazi Germany. To stop it ever happening again they set out to find ways to control this hidden enemy within the human mind.

Sigmund Freud's daughter, Anna, and his nephew, Edward Bernays, provided the centrepiece philosophy. The US government, big business, and the CIA used their ideas to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people. But this was not a cynical exercise in manipulation. Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that lurked just under the surface of normal American life.


Century of Self , Episode 3:
There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: 
He Must Be Destroyed

In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas in America. They were inspired by the ideas of Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud's, who had turned against him and was hated by the Freud family. He believed that the inner self did not need to be repressed and controlled. It should be encouraged to express itself.

Out of this came a political movement that sought to create new beings free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people's minds by business and politics.

This programme shows how this rapidly developed in America through self-help movements like Werber Erhard's Erhard Seminar Training - into the irresistible rise of the expressive self: the Me Generation.

But the American corporations soon realised that this new self was not a threat but their greatest opportunity. It was in their interest to encourage people to feel they were unique individuals and then sell them ways to express that individuality. To do this they turned to techniques developed by Freudian psychoanalysts to read the inner desires of the new self.


Century of Self , Episode 4:
Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

This episode explains how politicians on the left, in both Britain and America, turned to the techniques developed by business to read and fulfil the inner desires of the self. 

Both New Labour, under Tony Blair, and the Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group, which had been invented by psychoanalysts, in order to regain power. They set out to mould their policies to people's inner desires and feelings, just as capitalism had learnt to do with products.

Out of this grew a new culture of public relations and marketing in politics, business and journalism. One of its stars in Britain was Matthew Freud who followed in the footsteps of his relation, Edward Bernays, the inventor of public relations in the 1920s.

The politicians believed they were creating a new and better form of democracy, one that truly responded to the inner feelings of individual. But what they didn't realise was that the aim of those who had originally created these techniques had not been to liberate the people but to develop a new way of controlling them.

Speech: Dan Ariely - Are we in control of our own decisions?

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Interview: Michael Gundlach (AdBlock For Chrome/Safari Developer)

Original Article written by Jeff Weisbein for BestTechie - Feburary 16, February 2011

I was fortunate enough to have a Q&A session with AdBlock For Chrome and AdBlock For Safari developer, Michael Gundlach. If you’re not familiar with AdBlock For Chrome or Safari, it’s an extension that blocks online advertisements from loading within the browser. There are over 2 million people who use AdBlock every day.

Let’s see what he has to say.

1. What was the inspiration to create AdBlock For Chrome?
Firefox’s Adblock Plus addon — I love it and have used it for years. I had halfway switched to Chrome from Firefox in 2009 because Chrome is so much faster, but couldn’t use it for long because of all the ads. So the first day that extension support shipped in Chrome, I went excitedly to download an ABP port and found to my dismay that it didn’t exist — and that the author had no plans to port it to Chrome. There were a few other ad blocking Chrome extensions in their infancy that weren’t terribly good, so I decided to build AdBlock For Chrome to fill the void.

I was also inspired by earlier frustrations with ABP’s somewhat difficult UI — I’m a power user but when I tried to change my filter settings to opt in to Google AdWords text ads, I managed to break ABP. So I wanted to make sure to make AdBlock For Chrome usable by anybody and their grandma. So I focused on making it work out-of-the-box, and making opting in to text ads a one-checkbox-click experience, and making an intuitive filter creation wizard. I try hard to balance making a powerful ad blocker with keeping the UI simple — a lot like Chrome.

2. Do you personally hate advertisements (online or offline)?
I like ads that help me solve the task at hand, so I like Google’s relevant text ads in response to commercial search queries. And when ads have enough intrinsic entertainment value that they’re virally being watched on demand online, I think the advertiser has done its job well.

But mostly, yes, “hate” might be the right word to describe how I feel about many ads. I hate the message of consumerism behind them: “Don’t value your life, your health, your

Friday, 2 December 2011

Documentary: The New rulers of the world (by John Pilger)

Indonesia is just another gem in the crown of asian capitalism, the prosperity of which is heavily dependent on oppressive regimes, sustainable poverty and the continuous influx of western capital. Our Gap boxers and nike shoes shall remind us all that the words development, democracy and fair trade have long now found their place in an orwellian dictionary. Also check out the documentary the Shock Doctrine (posted below).

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Documentary: The Shock Doctrine

A documentary adaptation Naomi Klein’s 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine. An investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.

Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism – the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock – did not begin with September 11, 2001.

The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.

New, surprising connections are drawn between economic policy, shock and awe warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay.

The Shock Doctrine follows the application of these ideas through our contemporary history, showing in riveting detail how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine, among them: Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Follow to part 2 here!

Article: OCCUPY - Then what?

Original Article written by EricAllenBell for Daily KOS - Wednesday 9, November 2011

In February of 2011 I wrote a very short article for called “Egypt is Just the Beginning” ( In it I said “LET'S GET TO WORK on removing the Plutocracy in this country. Let's take the power back from Wall Street, from the Military Industrial Complex. Let's be next to peacefully shift power from the privileged few to the restless many - the people who do all the work and deserve to have a government that reflects OUR interests instead of the piggish appetites of the power elite. Egypt is just the beginning.”

We just took a quantum leap forward by getting people organized and out on the streets. This is history in the making. This is an interruption from the regularly scheduled programming. But this is also disorienting and alarming so many people, who didn't see it coming, don't know what to make of it or don't know what it means. It's to be expected that the masses would have an initial knee-jerk reaction to the Occupation of Wall Street - or no reaction at all because they’re busy watching “Dancing With the Stars” and can’t kick the habit of feeding off the entertainment machine that has become America.

And many of us who are involved in this Occupation don't want to see it squandered, hijacked, sold out, fizzled out or forgotten. We know what we want. We know when we want it. And we realize that by a “reasonable” person’s standards, what we want is unreasonable. I write this article with the belief that we can be unreasonable together. History’s greatest achievements were fashioned and shaped by unreasonable people, with unreasonable ideas and unreasonable expectations. We just happen to have been born into a time when we are being invited to join their ranks. And in that spirit, I’d like to share a few ideas with you about how we can work together to revolutionize the world and leave