Rules for trusting "black boxes" in algorithmic control systems


Tim O'Reilly writes about the reality that more and more of our lives -- including whether you end up seeing this very sentence! -- is in the hands of "black boxes": algorithmic decision-makers whose inner workings are a secret from the people they affect. Read the rest

The Equation Group's sourcecode is totally fugly

With the leak of exploits developed by The Equation Group, the long-secret, NSA-adjacent super-elite hacking squad -- published by The Shadow Brokers, who have some extremely heterodox theories about auction design -- it's now possible to audit the source code of some of the NSA's crown-jewel cyberweapons. Read the rest

EFF fights order to remove public records documents detailing Seattle's smart-meters

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Earlier this week, I wrote about the legal threats from Landis and Gyr against the Freedom of Information service Muckrock, which had received documents from the City of Seattle detailing the workings of Landis and Gyr's smart-meter system, which Seattle has purchased from them at public expense. Read the rest

Smart-meter vendor says that if we know how their system works, the terrorists will win


Phil Mocek filed a public records request to find out how Seattle's new smart meters -- supplied by Landis and Gyr -- will work. As Mocek writes, these meters are based on "unspecified and unverifiable sensors that monitor activity inside of private property and can communicate collected information in real-time to unspecified machines in remote locations, the workings of which are obscured from ratepayers, with interfaces used by [the city] that require specialized equipment and are thus completely unavailable to ratepayers for personal use or monitoring and verification of information communicated, is already shrouded in secrecy and seemingly proceeding despite repeated voicing of public concern and complete lack of public justification of expense." Read the rest

UK government spent a fortune fighting to keep the number 13 a secret


The BBC's Social Affairs Correspondent, Michael Buchanan, wanted to know how often the UK government's new "red tape-busting cabinet panel, the Reducing Regulation Committee" was meeting, because he thought that it was probably "all froth and no action." Read the rest

Parenting and sysadminning are remarkably similar


Six years ago, I wrote a column comparing IT managers' prohibitions on using your own devices and applications to abstinence-only sex ed: a high-handed approach that leaves its audience ignorant and resentful, and dedicated to undermining you behind your back. Read the rest

TSA: we still trust body-scanners, though "for obvious reasons" we can't say why

Yesterday, I wrote about Jon Corbett's video, in which he demonstrates a method that appears to make it easy to smuggle metal objects (including weapons) through a TSA full-body scanner. The TSA has responded by saying that they still trust the machines, but they won't say why, "for obvious security reasons."

As Wired's David Kravets points out, Corbett is only the most recent critic to take a skeptical look at the efficacy of the expensive, invasive machinery. Other critics include the Government Accountability Office ("the devices might be ineffective") and the Journal of Transportation Security ("terrorists might fool the Rapiscan machines by taping explosive devices to their stomachs").

Corbett responded to the TSA's we-can't-tell-you-or-we'd-have-to-kill-you rebuttal with "You don't believe it? Try it."

“These machines are safe,” Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview.

In a blog post, the government’s response was that, “For obvious security reasons, we can’t discuss our technology’s detection capability in detail, however TSA conducts extensive testing of all screening technologies in the laboratory and at airports prior to rolling them out to the entire field.”

TSA Pooh-Poohs Video Purporting to Defeat Airport Body Scanners Read the rest