Research Blog #8

The Sneaky Program to Spy on Baltimore From Above

In the summer and spring of 2016, the police in Baltimore, in association with a private company, were found to have been secretly watching and recording the city’s residents. This is possible thanks to high-resolution cameras and sophisticated technology that can give the surveillant a real-time 3D view of what is going on in the streets. The police in Baltimore did this without discussing the plan with the mayor and without notifying the public that they were being watched. The owner of the technology, Ross McNutt, was involved in another similar case back in when the LAPD used this technology to survey Compton. Baltimore police were able to get around the city’s elected officials because they were on the payroll of private funding from Texas billionaires, John and Laura Arnold. A spokesperson for the Baltimore police said, “This technology is about public safety. This isn’t about surveilling or tracking anyone. It’s about catching those who choose to do harm to citizens in our city.” In summary, everyone is being watched in order to find the small amount of people that actually commit crimes. Of course this bring up the normal questions like who has access to the data? How long does the footage stay in the system? If a police department wants to record footage of their city they should have to get the consent of the elected officials and the public who is under surveillance.

In a quote of a quote, “‘The only people who should be concerned in the city of Baltimore are criminals’, the police spokesperson continued, betraying ignorance of the dangers technology like this poses.” I chose this quote because the author of this article demonized panopticon throughout the whole article when they failed recognize some of the benefits that come with panopticon. I would rather have someone watching me in public in order to protect me rather than not having it at all and letting a criminal stay on the streets that can continue to harm people because there was no way to find the wolf among the sheep.

Mass Surveillance Isn’t Just Intrusive – It’s Ineffective

Agencies that are supposed to protect us from terrorism and network attacks have new challenges of facing forces that are not governments or countries, but groups that have a larger number of followers that are dangerous. To try and combat these forces, the foreign intelligence surveillance agencies need to look at a broad scope of possible threats. As uncovered by Edward Snowden, mass surveillance doesn’t do that great of a job of identifying possible terrorist attacks. An example of the deficiency of this system is the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. When the bombing happened, the NSA was actively surveying but the bombing still happened. A few years prior to the bombing, the Russian government warned the FBI that Tsarnaev family was dangerous but after a brief investigation, the FBI found nothing to associate the family with terrorism so the investigation was closed in 2011. After this info was sent to the FBI the Russians sent it to the CIA got the suspects on a terrorism watch list. There are more than a million people on this watch list so it is hard for the government to identify a serious threat among the others. So the Tsarnaev family was on the watch list along with their recorded phone calls and emails but their plan was not recognized and as a result the bombing happened. After the bombing occurred, there were so many videos and photos taken near the scene that the many of them were used in order to identify the bombers. Even though the terrorists were caught the bombing still occurred so what good is mass surveillance if it is not going to prevent a tragedy.

“The Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013 illustrates how broad proactive surveillance is no panacea against attacks.” I agree and disagree with this because, yes, mass surveillance didn’t stop an attack this one time, but how many other Boston Marathons have been prevented as a result of mass surveillance?




Research Blog #7

Hackers: the Internet’s immune system

Kelen Elazari, a cyber security analyst, brought a new way of thinking about hackers in her TEDtalk appearance in 2014. She believes that ordinary hackers are key components in finding weakness in the current cyber world. For example, she shares a story about a man who found a flaw in wireless routers that allowed anyone to connect to the router and download files off of hard drives that are connected to those wireless routers. When he reported it to the company, they ignored it because they did not believe it was a major problem. To prove a point, a group of hackers used this feature to get into people’s files but they did not steal anything from the person’s computer, instead they left a note that warned the user that anyone can get into their files so they left instructions on how they could prevent this from happening again. This incident forced the manufacturer of the router to go and fix their product. This practice is called ‘full disclosure’ to the hacker community. Many groups, such as Anonymous, have used their hacking skills to uncover corruption throughout the world that would otherwise go unnoticed by the average user. Rather than using their skills to take money or steal documents they bring issues to public so that people can act and force a change to be made. Miss Elazari mentions a story about General Keith Alexander, retired Director of the NSA, who went to hacker convention and said that the people that were in the audience were the ones that the US needs. The irony is apparent because the NSA has a job to prevent hacking. Hackers are the only people that can keep us in the loop about what is secretly going on in the government.

This TEDtalk source is different because it shows hackers can also be beneficial to the public when they are assumed to be menaces to society. It was interesting how hackers, to make a point, would display something on someone’s computer letting them know that they were at a security risk. There were no references available for this TEDtalk. After listening to this presentation, I am curious to find out how often hackers find flaws in popular products and services.

 All your devices can be hacked

Avi Rubin, a computer security professor at Johns Hopkins University, shows that some unexpected devices are hackable. Some of the items that Professor Rubin mentions are: pacemakers, cars, cochlear implants, and other wireless devices that regulate internal body functions. He shares a story about a group of scientists who could hack into a cars motherboard and command it to do actions that the driver was not telling it to do. The objective of the presentation was to prove that anything that has software in it is susceptible to hacking. Many new technologies are accepted without the user considering the risk and consequences that are associated with it.

Mr. Rubin brought up important information about the availability of devices that hackers can use to cause harm or to spy on an individual or group of people. This presentation was different than others because he doesn’t focus on just personal computers and phones that can be hacked, he shows items that we unconsciously think are safe from malicious activity,might in fact, not be so secure after all.


Research Blog #6

Sherry Turkle Notes:

In early May of 2015, a federal appeals court ruled that the N.S.A.’s secret program to collect massive amounts of phone recording was illegal. The N.S.A. had been using an interpretation of the Patriot Act to legally record the phone calls from American citizens. After an extensive amount of legal talk, a panel of three judges decided that the Patriot Act, specifically Section 215, could not be transformed to mean that the N.S.A. could collect huge pools of domestic calling records. This was the first time that the Judicial System had ever reviewed the N.S.A.’s phone recording program. At the time of this article, the Patriot Act was running out of life. Consequently, the day after the bill had been repealed the House passed U.S.A. Freedom Act, which,”restored in modified form several provisions of the Patriot Act. As a result of the Freedom Act, the N.S.A. can analyze connections between callers to hunt for terrorists but the pools of records are given to the phone companies for 18 months then thrown out. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who was in opposition to the bill, stated.”Section 215 helps us find a needle in the haystack. But under the U.S.A. Freedom Act there might not be a haystack to look at.” Mr. McConnell is worried that there will not be enough information for the N.S.A. to search in hopes to find potential terrorists. This topic came to the public eye in 2013 after the Edward Snowden leaks.

Also Sherry Turkle Notes:

After the Edward Snowden leaks in the summer of 2013, a N.S.A. computer system known as “XKeyscore” was exposed for being able to track users using encryption services that were supposed to mask their locations and identities. A German group known as Tagesschau inspected the code of Xkeyscore and found that nine servers that were running an encryption service called Tor were under surveillance. The code also provided certain action a user could take to become immediately tagged for a thorough inspection. One way is to research or use a source that enhances your privacy on the web. Another way is to visit a website forum called Linux Journal. In an effort to protect more of your online privacy, you could be become more watched than ever.

Since the internet has only been around for a relatively short period of time, there is not a strong backbone on laws protecting a user. A lack of internet freedom could cause people to die in parts of the developing world. While healthcare is getting better in the developing world, more people will be living so more people will be getting on and using the internet. Many of the ways that users can protect themselves from online snooping are very difficult and only the tech savvy ones would be able to get adequate protection. Ninety percent of all of the data ever created on the internet was created in the last few years. When the line between private and public information appears, people can start to worry less about who is watching them

Research Blog #4


This Washington Post article has a focus on how much information and power the NSA and agencies alike have. Thanks to Edward Snowden, the security blanket over the NSA was lifted and a whole heap of cats got out of the bag. Throughout the article the author uses multiple people that work for the government as references to describe the vastness of knowledge that the NSA had. For example, “incidental collection” is when someone is being ‘tagged’ but whoever else they interact with via internet or telephone could also but considered hostile also. This idea is like throwing out a net into the ocean to catch some fish but with the fish you also get seashells and trash. To show the enormity of this, there were 900,000 people under surveillance but only a little under 90,000 were considered “targets.” Later in the article the author shares a story about a woman who had a relationship with a wannabe Taliban. The woman would have not have been under surveillance if it was not for her, what was then, boyfriend. Later when asked about the incident she said that she did feel violated by her lack of privacy but she understands why it happened. The author is a Pulitzer Prize winner, Barton Gellman, who is known for his writings on the 9/11 attack in New York City and He was his role as the lead journalist on the Edward Snowden case.

Research Blog #3

There are a million different sources that talk about internet and privacy, so when a TEDTalks video pops up I get excited because I would rather listen to someone talk than read a very long article. Christopher Soghoian, a privacy researcher and activists, speaks about different software that countries can use and the capabilities that certain software can allow users to do. For instance, one software that is mentioned is called Gamma. One use of this product can allow the user to use the webcam on one’s computer without the light notification coming on that alerts the client that their webcam is in use. Christopher then shows a picture of the Managing Director of Gamma, Martin Muench. The picture shows Mr. Muench sitting with his computer facing towards him with a piece of white tape over the webcam. This is ironic because he works for a company that sells surveillance software and even he is not immune to being spied on. After a little bit of research I found that Christopher Soghoian has a leading role in uncovering secrets behind malicious surveillance. TED is a notable publisher that is renowned for having speakers that promote new ideas and concepts on a multitude of different topics. Mr. Soghoian also mentions in his presentation that the FBI has a team dedicated to hacking into phones and computers without the user knowing. This raises the question on whether this is an invasion of privacy or a way to protect citizens? What are the qualifications for someone to get on the list to be spied on? Are there any ways to prevent from happening other than just staying off devices?

The second article talks about big internet companies moving parts of their company to Russia where their legal policy allows information that is stored in Russia can be searched. Several large companies have bought spaces in Russia; such as Apple, Ebay, PayPal, and others. Companies that agree with the Kremlin, also known as the Russian Government, allow their data to be monitored. Although many large companies have put business in Russia the “big dogs”(Google, Facebook, and Twitter) have not stated whether or not they will buy space in Russia to store data. This is such a big problem that over 44,000 people have signed a petition to try and stop companies from putting their business in Russia. Can large companies sell privacy to countries? Is this a problem in other countries too or is it limited to the United States?

As I do more and more research on the topic, I feel that internet security is a bigger problem than I thought it was. I first thought that it was just government agencies that would look at your information but it seems as if large corporations also look at private information. I think that I will need to make my question more specific because there is a ton of information on my topic that is clouding what I would really like to find out.

Argument as Conversation

Stuart Greene does an excellent job providing information on how to set up a research topic and where to go after the topic has been formed. One of the tips that he gives is to research information that opposes your topic. I believe that this is of the most important things that one can do in an argument. If you can pick apart the opposing argument and then proceed to explain the valid points of your side, then that is more likely to sway opinions. This is kind of like how The Incredibles took down the giant robot at the end of the movie. They took off one of the robots feet and fired it back into the robot because its most dangerous enemy was itself. Greene notes that part of the criteria to setting up a good question is to make it clear who you are answering the question for. To me, this is the hardest part. I find it easier to display an idea to a wide range of views than just one or two similar views. Greene infers that reading as a search for information is a more direct path to find the answer to a question. On the other hand, reading as inquiry is more of a way to find out what causes something and what could happen as a result of the event.

Framing is a very popular trend in media today. Greene describes this idea as focusing on one topic and blurring out some of the less important ideas or unwanted parts associated with the topic. For instance, National Geographic frequently has articles and shows that are devoted to persuading viewers that global warming is caused by humans. Throughout the article they would give facts and numbers that help support their idea and then leave the decision to the reader to decide if they agree with what was stated. The authors job is to pave the road that they want the reader to travel down.

Atkins Adventure

To start, I tried to take the elevator to the the 10th floor to take a picture of the Charlotte skyline but the outdated elevator would only take me to the 8th floor. Once I was on the 8th floor, I took the stairs to the 10th floor. On the door that leads into the 10th floor is a sign that says that an alarm will go off if you try to open that door without permission. As a result, my journey to take a picture of the Charlotte skyline ended right there at the 10th floor stairway door.

When I first went in to check out a book I thought the process to check it out was going to be difficult. I used the computer that was inside to search for a book that I wanted. The book happened to be checked out so I decided to search for a book that was similar to my research question. After I found an interesting book I took a picture of the location and went to get it. Once I arrived to the books location, the book was not there. After skimming over the isle a few more times I picked up a book that I thought sounded interesting, Formulating and Reaching Goals by Wayne Lee. I took the book to the checkout area and the librarian laughed at me when I told her that this was my first time checking out a book. As she was checking out my book she narrated, very slowly, everything that she was doing in order to get my book checked out. I found this very patronizing because I am sure I’m not the only that has never checked a book out at the library before. Overall, the checkout process was very straight forward.

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Most of the students that were in the library seemed to be working on school work or doing something else on their phone. When I spent a brief time on the 8th floor I only saw one person who looked to be about 40 to 50 years old. On the lower floors, there were more people sitting in groups but as you go up people seemed to be more spread out. I believe that as you the higher you get in floors the more quiet that it gets.

My favorite place in Atkins is a cubicle on the 3rd floor. I find it to be quiet there but there is also a decent amount of foot traffic to people watch so I don’t get bored doing school work. If I am with a group I find the second floor to be the best place to work because they have a bunch of tables in there that can fit a large group.


Blatant Daydreaming

Curiosity, to me, is one of the reasons why we are so attracted to be on our phones at times that could be used socializing. The lingering thought that something on our phone will provide us with an experience that is more interesting or more captivating than what is happening in the real life. This same curiosity is what drove and drives people all throughout history; the idea that there is something new and exciting somewhere else has always caused people to pay less attention to what is in front of them. Cell phones are the most obvious way to day dream, you get bored with a conversation so you just slide your phone out and look at some random thing that grabs your attention.

In our parlors, we have talked about if online friendships are really real just because there is an absence of face to face contact. This interests me because I am an avid gamer and I meet new people all of the time that have similar interests. There are some people me and some of my school friends use to play with and talk to everyday on a video game. Occasionally I’ll be with one of my school friends and we’ll recall something funny that happened with that online friend and just enjoy that memory. Is that not what friendships are for, making memories to share and reflect on in the future? For me, I believe that friendships can be made with anyone via any socializing tool as long as there is a connection between the two parties. I think this topic interests me because I feel it’s easier to connect with people when you can’t see them. Without seeing a person, the prejudices or standards of what your ideal friend looks like are not there. If I see someone in person that dresses a certain way or has a feature that I find unfavorable, the chances are that I will not talk to them. But on PlayStation, when I can’t see who I’m talking to, my preferences are not there because I can only listen to what the person has to say before I can make my judgement on whether we can relate or not.

Alone Together

I chose “The Nick of Time” chapter because I thought there might be an exciting story in it. The title makes it sound like there is some kind of hero who swoops in at the end and solves all of the problems that the book has been talking about. In actuality, this chapter talked about using face-to-face conversation instead of text conversation to talk because it helps give more undivided attention to whomever we may be talking to. Throughout the chapter, Sherry encourages readers to reserve a “tools down” time out of our day for solitude and reflection. This is to slow down the life of a fast paced technology filled day. I agree that we should have time away from cell phones, especially when we are with people that did not grow up with the same technology as we did, like grandparents. People that did not grow up in the same technologically advanced age as we did do not view cell phones as important and as necessary as someone who has had a cell phone since a young age. I think that the people who do not view a cell phone as a necessity deserve to have undivided attention when in face-to-face contact because they might take the ‘unassertiveness’ as very disprectful, whereas someone who is use to there always being a cell phone present during a conversation would not be fazed by the lack of attention.

Also in this chapter, Sherry says that we need to “Talk to people whom you don’t agree.” She says that people are afraid to state their political opinions online because they are scared that other people will disagree with it. I think that that is absurd. People are very open online because they do not have to confront anyone that opposes them face to face, which makes it a lot easier to defend your side when it is through ‘virtual you.’ For me, this is something very hard to do because I hate any confrontation. I prefer to listen to all sides of an argument and pick a side, in my head, based on what makes the most sense. So I do not state my opinion in real life nor online (besides these reflections).

False Security

In the age of the internet, security has always been a problem. Some people even cover up their webcam altogether out of fear that someone might be looking through the other side. This is a reasonable fear because our phones, computers, and gaming consoles are always listening. For example, my iPhone keeps Siri listening 24/7. How do I know this? When someone says “Hey Siri”, or something that sounds relatively close to that, the phone reacts as if you are asking a person a question. For this to work, the phone has to be listening all of the time in order for it to pick up the on phrase that brings the phone to life. It’s like going into the bathroom and saying “Bloody Mary” three times so that the ghost listening will show itself. The key concept is that a device is always listening in on a conversation, whether it’s a casual chat or a private conversation.

Sherry Turkle referenced Michel Foucault, a French sociologist, who made the notion that there is an internal sense of surveillance because the prevalence of cameras in public places. “Panopticon” is a great reference for “The Public Square” chapter because the idea makes a lot of sense, if people think they are being watched they will be less likely to break a rule for fear of being caught. A perfect example is when someone is in a grocery store and they are about to shoplift but they see a camera and decide it is not the best idea because they might get caught. This is a plausible fear but the likelihood that someone is actually watching camera in a grocery store is very unlikely. I worked in a grocery store for two years and the cameras were hardly ever watched and if someone was spotted shoplifting I could not do anything to stop them, for safety and liability reasons. Cameras play mind games with people to make them question if they should do a deviant act or not.