Tuesday S&T III

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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51 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    [SM1] Far more of a problem with Facebook is this. Waiting for some lawyer to put the screws to them for violation of their consent decree. Bamp! Let them burn.

    [SM5] “How do we fix life online without limiting free speech?” You can’t. The question itself is foolish.
    “life online” doesn’t need to be “fixed” just because is differs from your preferred vision of it. But you CAN change people..by force. That’s what they want to do.

    [Cy6] Oh dear god, what a bunch of whining bitches.

    [Sp2] Funny, not sure how a domestic agency has authority over what’s launched in India, much less the authority to regulate something clearly outside the County and Planet.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Damon says:

      @damon FWIW, I really really hate the word bitch/bitches/etc as a pejorative. Like, more than just about any other word.

      It’s not against the comment policy to use it as long as it’s not directed at anyone here personally, but I’d take it as a personal favor if you stopped.Report

      • Damon in reply to Maribou says:

        I’ll try to remember that @maribou

        I don’t use it exclusively on women, if that’s any comfort. I use it in a gender neutral term.

        “(1) Word used to describe the act of whining excessively. “Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

      CY6: Clearly not a place for anyone without an adamantium self-esteem. It’s more than possible to be critical of a persons art without being cruel and demeaning. The fact that they choose not to…Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    Cy2: We can expand this to a general idea of threat porn, which media just loves and more often treats breathlessly & uncritically.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Bruce Schneier used to run an annual “movie-plot threat contest” to devise outlandish threats that would be both sensational enough to politically demand a response, and over-specific enough that any politically acceptable response would be ridiculous security theatre. There were some amusing ones in there…Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      As recent events have shown, the most devastating threats are often the ones that we can’t imagine.
      Weaponizing a combination of gossip, ethnic hatreds, and social media to elect an authoritarian bully” would be ranked lower on any list below “hacking into the electric grid“.

      For me, the takeaway is that it wasn’t some entirely high tech plot that resulted in the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica/ Trump plot, it was the combination of meatspace and cyberspace, the mix of primal ethnic fears and cutting edge psychological targeting.

      In most of our imagination, we focus on the new and novel, forgetting about the mundane and existing.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    SM1: For some reason, this made me think of Life During Wartime by the Talking Heads especially when David Byrne sings about not knowing his own name. But listen, everyone can understand why Fizzy Whistlethistle would prefer to be Will Truman.

    Rest of the Social media links: The big problem with facebook now is how ubiquitous it has become. I first heard of facebook in 2008 during my last semester of grad school. I joined because it turned out I was missing lots of parties. I would hear about a party that happened over the weekend and ask why I wasn’t invited. The answer was “we posted about it on facebook.” So I joined and got invited to parties. I’ve seen people fret about deleting their social media accounts because it will lead to real world social isolation.

    Fun space fact: Living and working facilities for Astronauts are kept really cold because it is physiologically very hard to shiver and vomit at the same time.Report

    • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I’ve seen people fret about deleting their social media accounts because it will lead to real world social isolation.

      This is the only reason I keep facebook. As much as I’d like to get rid of it I’d miss out on too many invitations.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to InMD says:

        Facebook is how I learn about a lot of interesting social events to. Even now, there would be a social event or dance event that I want to go to but miss out of because Facebook only told me after it happened.

        I’m not sure if social media is the best way to create events. The old method of real world discussion and phone calls was more exhausting work but was better at ensuring everybody got the invite, especially without a dedicated guess list. This decreased the chance of people missing the invitation. Facebook is easier but because it is easier, things have a better chance of getting messed up.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    Michelle Goldberg on the Cambridge Analytica scandal:


    There’s a lesson here for our understanding of the Trump presidency. Trump and his lackeys have been waging their own sort of psychological warfare on the American majority that abhors them. On the one hand, they act like idiots. On the other, they won, which makes it seem as if they must possess some sort of occult genius. With each day, however, it’s clearer that the secret of Trump’s success is cheating. He, and those around him, don’t have to be better than their opponents because they’re willing to be so much worse.


  5. Jaybird says:

    Yeah, “Big Data” is messing with all sorts of attempts to compartmentalize one’s life. My RL accounts and my Twitter/Facebook are totally cross-pollinated at this point.

    I suppose I’m pleased that if my boss’s boss’s boss looked at my posts he’d see more reasons to make fun of me for being such a flaming liberal than for anything he’d see as troublesome-for-real.

    I suppose that that’s not the scary thing, though. The scary thing is journalists being told to friend their anonymous sources or people who see the same psychologist being told to friend each other.Report

  6. Marchmaine says:

    The “Golden Age” of the Internet is over… the idea that people will build things for “free” in exchange for our information (usually “clearly” consented to in EULA’s we never read) is probably almost over. Maybe. Sort of. Mostly.

    There are two things to note about Cambridge Analytics: 1) What they did may have been illegal, but if it was it was only emerging and recently so as of 2015, and 2) What makes it problematic is the extent of the data we’ve made public, not the “psychological manipulation*” that goes by targeted advertising when we’re ok with the product.

    Even the Guardian article recognizes this:

    Hundreds of developers — including those who made popular dating and gaming apps and those who built political apps for campaigns — used Facebook to gain access to huge amounts of information about users and their Facebook friends. Data that could be easily accessed from friends included names of users, their education and work histories, birthdays, likes, locations, photos, relationship statuses, and religious and political affiliations.

    The data collected by the app reportedly was shared with Cambridge Analytica and used to help the firm build profiles of individual voters and their political preferences to better target advertising to them. Cambridge Analytica has denied wrongdoing or improperly acquiring Facebook data.

    Such collection techniques were within the bounds of Facebook’s data-handling policy at the time, the company has said, but later were severely restricted through policy changes in 2014 and 2015.

    I work in a tangential space with Data, and all that information was available for harvesting as long as you the entity (or app) had the relationship with the client and the proper opt in. The client gave you their connections (which are their “content”) and the network gave you information that *they* had made public. Over time Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter realized that they were giving away too much information – not out of concern about Privacy – but out of concern other people were monetizing *their* platform’s relationships. So slowly the API’s changed to restrict what data you could extract from your Company’s customers (the ones who had signed up for whatever it was you offered in an app or via Facebook).

    2015 sounds about right… before 2015 all my customers wanted social media data and connectors, in the past couple of years? None.

    IMO I’m glad the social medias are slowly moving towards hoarding the social network data, but hoarding is still not the same a protecting, and protecting is not the same as making it private and unavailable for government seizure. I’d like to see much tougher laws about Data Privacy and usage where the presumption is that my data is mine and use of it made explicit for fees.

    I’d like to think that the movement was a result of seeing what the Obama team was able to do in 2012 and starting to think through the implications before Trump was even a stump in the swamp, but my suspicion still runs towards the fact that they wanted to hoard the data to make sure they were the ones who monetized it… not that we weren’t going to be subjected to psychological manipulation during election cycles.

    * Its possible that Cambridge is doing something truly nefarious with the data, and I’m perfectly willing to condemn them for inventing some sort of mind-control algorithm once I’m educated on it… but reading what they did just sounds like using a thesaurus to describe advertising and new media influence peddling… the kind of thing every one of my customers was hoping to do with their shiny new Social Media data.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Marchmaine says:

      Most leaps in technology are the result of pairing a new thing with some old things, or using an old thing in new ways or for new applications no one thought of.

      What strikes me as being dangerous here wasn’t “harvesting data”; that much was done in the days of direct mail advertising.

      What seems new to me is the weaponizing of rage and fear, by being so much better at pinpointing people’s fears and hot button issues.Report

  7. Oscar Gordon says:

    En7: That is a massively uninformative link. Just a bunch of names and funding levels and a reference to something about power and plants. This is more helpful. The short of it is, it’s a bio-reactor, capturing the electrical potential from bacteria that live around plant root systems.

    Sp1: The trick won’t be mining the asteroid in it’s current orbit, it’ll be figuring out how to get it into our orbit.

    Sp2: Aww, that’s cute that the FCC thinks it can actually regulate anything outside of the borders of the US.

    Sp5: And just how long did they spend figuring out the words to make up the acronym HAMMER?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Sp2: “Jurisdiction” and “Power” are a lot more coextensive than we want to admit.

      If you don’t have the latter, let’s face it, you won’t have the former.
      If you have the latter, the only thing keeping you from having the former is restraint.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

        What I don’t get is how it’s in the FCC lane. Regs on stuff that go up I thought was the job of the FAA and NASA. And, (looking it up), possibly this treaty.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

          My assumption is that the problem isn’t the going up it’s the signals they’re spitting out once they’re up there (and the signals they may or may not be interfering with).Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

            Nope, says in the article that their objection was that the satellite is too small to track and they weren’t happy with the GPS transmitter or the radar reflective material they put on the satellite.

            Pretty sure the only thing the FCC should be worrying about with regard to a satellite is what part of the spectrum it’s broadcasting on.Report

            • Causing interference between other people’s satellites and ground stations is as much about direction as it as about frequency. So early on, the FCC had to be concerned about orbital mechanics and data. The full responsibility got dumped on them because they were the ones who already had the skill set to do it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                But they have no regulatory authority over what other countries put in orbit. If India wants to launch a rocket with satellites, it’s polite to make sure they don’t mess with other nations satellites, but they don’t have to ask permission.

                This is where the FCC seems to be overstepping. They can certainly say, “not going up on a rocket launched from the US”, and they can make noise about geostat satellites positioned over the US, but that’s about it.

                And the complaint about the reflective material maybe not reflecting some radar frequencies? Does it reflect the frequencies in common use by tracking stations, (yes/no)? I mean, I can do orbital mechanics same as any rocket scientist, so I get the concern, but the company seems to be making a good faith effort here to be responsible, so I’m curious what tracking radars the FCC is worried about.Report

              • But they have no regulatory authority over what other countries put in orbit.

                International space law is peculiar. By treaty, the US government is absolutely liable for any damage caused by an orbiting satellite owned by a US citizen or company incorporated in the US, regardless of how it got to orbit. Once delivered to orbit, if one of the Swarm satellites takes out someone else’s satellite, India has no liability; Swarm has no liability; the US government is on the hook.

                The government’s long-standing position on that is to not license satellites too small for DOD’s space surveillance network to track reliably, so that suitable warnings can be given. SSN says its limit is a 1U CubeSat, 10x10x10 cm. Swarm’s original application was for a 1U object, and a license was issued. That license was rescinded when it came to light that they hadn’t informed the FCC that once in orbit, the device would separate into four smaller independent objects.

                Launch operators are bound by treaty to register the ownership and initial orbital parameters of every package they deploy. The manifest for the Indian rocket listed the 1U Swarm package as “USA”. My working assumption is that Swarm lied to them about the license status, rather than that ISRO decided it will be in the business of launching unlicensed payloads for US customers.

                There are countries that are willing to take their chances, and have licensed PocketCube (5x5x5 cm) satellites, even though they can’t be reliably tracked.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                That is peculiar and that makes more sense as to why regulators would be sticky about what US companies send up.

                Is SSN under the FCC then?Report

              • Is SSN under the FCC then?

                Overall, US regulation of satellites is a muddle. SSN is a DOD function. (There is suspicion that DOD can track smaller objects than they say, but are unwilling to announce their actual capabilities.) NASA is in charge of promulgating the civilian version of that DOD database. The FCC handles basic licensing because they have the responsibility for approving the communication plan for all satellites, including any adverse effects on terrestrial applications, and excepting the military which have their own dedicated spectrum. NOAA handles additional licensing for remote sensing platforms because of their civilian expertise in that field. (There are legal limits on the resolution of civilian remote sensing devices.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Thanks, @michael-cain

                I get why it is this way, but shouldn’t responsibility for things above normal air traffic fall under a dedicated agency, rather than suborned to the FCC?Report

              • I could make an argument either way. It would certainly be more convenient for the people who own satellites if it all went through one agency. OTOH, that agency would have to either farm out a bunch of the work, or duplicate a lot of expertise. Having the FCC and a satellite agency argue over RF interference would be a serious pain. (The fact is, there is a horrible shortage of high-quality spectrum given the number of uses, and satellite/terrestrial applications have to overlap a lot.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Wouldn’t the FCC just have a basic veto point over the decisions if the satellite had spectrum concerns?

                I’ll defer to your government experience if I’m being naive, but in my mind, the SSN would check the proposed satellite against their tracking capabilities, then verify the orbit is clear and that the satellite will not be making any axis rotations while in the mission orbit that might cause a perturbation. The orbit and orientation data would then be sent to the FCC, who would check it against their database of RF emitters to look over conflicts, and give it a go/no go.Report

              • Increasingly, the FCC is asked to certify systems rather than individual devices.

                Consider the proposed SpaceX internet access service, a system consisting of hundreds (and possibly thousands) of LEO satellites and (if commercially successful) tens of millions of earth stations. The only spectrum with sufficient bandwidth is the Ka and Ku bands, which are already “full”. SpaceX has asked the FCC to certify a real-time distributed control system that will — according to the hundreds of pages of documentation provided by SpaceX — keep the earth stations from transmitting at alt-azimuth angles that would hit the satellites of other Ka/Ku users. Among those users are the satellite TV companies, with dozens of geostationary satellites up. Similarly, the SpaceX satellites must avoid transmitting at angles that would interfere with the earth stations for the other services. OneWeb is asking for certification of their own system involving a constellation of ~900 LEO satellites.

                It’s an exciting/terrifying time to be working the satellite end of the FCC.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                That’s not a satellite analysis, that’s full systems model. IIRC there are good existing computer models for that kind of analysis (I think they were originally developed to help track space junk), and SpaceX should have such a model ready for the FCC to examine, but that’s still going to be a bear of a model to examine.

                This is, actually, something the FAA has gotten quite good at.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Also, why wouldn’t the responsibility transfer to the agency tasked with tracking once it was up and running? They are constantly computing orbits and all that, makes sense they would take over. Or is this just institutional inertia (it’s our job and we are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the responsibility and it associated budget/power)?Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                It makes sense now that Michael has explained it that there *isn’t* another agency. Just about everything up there that isn’t some sort of comms link facilitator is owned by the government, and usually the military, which tends to be self-regulating*.

                *for example, the sailors that work on nuclear plants on submarines do so under the Navy’s own rules, largely independent of the NRC ones. But, in contrast, the sailors that fix the air conditioning are EPA certified.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:


            The FAA regulates navigable air space, from about 500 feet above the ground (varies depending on exactly where you’re talking about) to as high as planes and ballons can fly. Air traffic control typically tops out at 60,000 feet or so. I recall Air Force stories about SR-71 pilots asking for permission to “descend to 60,000 feet” on some heading and at an absurd speed just to annoy the controllers. Because launch vehicles pass through navigable air space, they come under the FAA.

            The FCC got all of satellite regulation because so many of the early birds were communications satellites and the biggest problem was managing spectrum overlap. Still is the biggest problem in some cases. Find the SpaceX application for their internet access service using hundreds of low earth orbit satellites. Reams of information and calculations on how each satellite and each terrestrial transmitter will be equipped with real-time software and orbital data to avoid transmitting in directions that would cause interference with other people using the shared spectrum.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      When all you have is a Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response, everything looks like a Nearby Asteroid Imperiling Life…Report

  8. Mike Schilling says:

    En7: What’s new about power plants?Report