some links for you

i read all of it so you dont have to - 2/20/20

I did the unthinkable and actually went into my Twitter bookmarks to read some of the long pieces I told myself I was going to read but really never intended to. 

Among them was this, an excellent analysis of why the internet is so bad these days: The Internet of Beefs.

There’s a lot to it, but the basic idea is that everyone is turning into a beef-only thinker: 

A beef-only thinker is someone you cannot simply talk to. Anything that is not an expression of pure, unqualified support for whatever they are doing or saying is received as a mark of disrespect, and a provocation to conflict. From there, you can only crash into honor-based conflict mode, or back away and disengage.

They are everywhere. I know I’ve sure seen my share as someone cursed with followers, most of which come from my beef-oriented field. 

To continue operating in public spaces without being drawn into the conflict, you have to build an arsenal of passive-aggressive behaviors like subtweeting, ghosting, blocking, and muting — all while ignoring beef-only thinkers calling you out furiously as dishonorable and cowardly, and trying to bait you into active aggression.

We all know everyone beefs, but the real brilliance of this piece is the categorization of beef-only thinkers into two types: knights and mooks. Knights are the big accounts who, through their beefing, direct armies of cloutless mooks that amplify their attacks. I figure a good way to measure a knight is how well they can do the reply-gets-more-likes-than-OP thing (which by the way is NOT a “ratio”). 

What drives a mook? The realization that being granted favor by enough knights through distinguished service in beefing is an established path to becoming a knight yourself. 

There is no higher honor for a mook than to be noticed by the knights they fight for. As a result, the fealty of the mook is the currency of the manorial economy of the IoB. Mookcoins are mined by knights through acts of senpai-notice-me. Call it proof-of-favor. And on mookcoins runs the economy of the IoB.

The dynamic helps knights too:

The more mooks a knight of the IoB can maintain in a stable state of combat-readiness, the bigger a player they are on the IoB.

I could really go on quoting the whole piece. Just read it.

Last week China began temporarily quarantining physical cash as part if its virus containment plan:

“Money from key virus-hit areas will be sanitized with ultraviolet rays or heated and locked up for at least 14 days, before it is distributed again,” Fan said at a press conference on Saturday. Money circulated in less riskier areas is subject to a week of quarantine and commercial lenders have been asked to separate cash from hospitals and food markets, he said.

This week, China began tapping its access to the electronic purchase history of its citizens: 

China’s Hubei province said it will use recent purchases of fever and cough medicines to sweep for unidentified coronavirus patients, a new step that leverages the government’s surveillance powers to try and stop the virus.

The measures may ultimately be necessary in this emergency situation, but it’s not hard to imagine how the combination of these two abilities can be easily abused. In particular by a government that seems so prone to abuse. 

Financial privacy is not just a concern limited to dealing with authoritarian governments. Big business wants to see what you’ve bought, too. 

Luckily for them, they can just buy that information from each other. Enter data brokers like Yodlee, which has been in some hot water lately. It just got hotter, as Motherboard reports

Yodlee, the largest financial data broker in the U.S., sells data pulled from the bank and credit card transactions of tens of millions of Americans to investment and research firms, detailing where and when people shopped and how much they spent. The company claims that the data is anonymous, but a confidential Yodlee document obtained by Motherboard indicates individual users could be unmasked.

A trove of data detailing what you’ve bought and when, that can possibly be linked to your identity, being bought and sold by multiple companies that you then have to trust to keep it secure. Seems bad. 

Here’s NY Times’ Charlie Warzel on the risk inherent in the existence of such brokers

On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it was charging four members of China’s People’s Liberation Army with the 2017 Equifax breach that resulted in the theft of personal data of about 145 million Americans.

The attack, according to the charges, was part of a coordinated effort by Chinese intelligence to steal trade secrets and personal information to target Americans.

Using the personal data of millions of Americans against their will is certainly alarming. But what’s the difference between the Chinese government stealing all that information and a data broker amassing it legally without user consent and selling it on the open market?

Have you ever bought anything embarrassing? Someone may one day find out. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some thoughts about privacy and cryptocurrencies

EFF has been watching the evolution of privacy-enhancing technologies such as privacy coins and decentralized exchanges. While not widely used today, these technologies hold the potential to bring some of the privacy-preserving attributes all of us already enjoy with cash into the digital world. It’s vital that future regulation doesn’t threaten these innovations before they’ve had a chance to find a foothold.

It’s good to have them in the fight.

Insider threats are fascinating to me. All the security and privacy promises in the world aren't going to help you if an employee with access is being bribed or blackmailed. 

The Saudi government did just that, turning a Twitter employee with the right access to their side as they hunted for the identities of dissidents and critics.

As Buzzfeed reports

Accessing two Saudi dissidents’ information — one a prominent critic with more than 1 million followers, the other an impersonator of a Saudi Royal family member — Abouammo allegedly passed the information to al-Asaker. Twitter had long been a godsend to dissidents: Unlike Facebook, it had no policy requiring people to use their real names, allowing critics of repressive government to speak more freely. The allegations threw its value as a tool of anonymous dissent into question.

When it built its global media team, Twitter didn’t prepare for possible scenarios in which employees with access to sensitive data and close relationships with foreign governments might use it to spy, according to former employees.

Something for people who depend on anonymity to speak truth to power to consider. 

Here’s a weird tweet

Here’s a good one