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net neutrality

Friday News: Wireless ISP allegedly blocks email encryption; Whisper v. Guardian on privacy; diversity in publishing; and 33 free Philip K. Dick stories

Friday News: Wireless ISP allegedly blocks email encryption; Whisper v. Guardian...

In the second instance, Golden Frog shows that a wireless broadband Internet access provider is interfering with its users’ ability to encrypt their SMTP email traffic. This broadband provider is overwriting the content of users’ communications and actively blocking STARTTLS encryption. This is a man-in-the-middle attack that prevents customers from using the applications of their choosing and directly prevents users from protecting their privacy.

This is scary. If ISPs are actively trying to block the use of encryption, it shows how they might seek to block the use of VPNs and other important security protection measures, leaving all of us less safe. Golden Frog provides more details of what’s happening in this case. . . –Tech Dirt

Among other things, Whisper Editor-in-Chief Neetzan Zimmerman says:

Whisper does not collect nor store any personally identifiable information (PII) from users and is anonymous. To be clear, Whisper does not collect nor store: name, physical address, phone number, email address, or any other form of PII. The privacy of our users is not violated in any of the circumstances suggested in the Guardian story. The Guardian staff, including its CEO and multiple members of the US editorial team, have met with, partnered, and worked with Whisper since February 2014 and published multiple stories utilizing Whispers, with full understanding of our guidelines. The Guardian’s assumptions that Whisper is gathering information about users and violating user’s privacy are false.

The Guardian insists:

The company behind Whisper, the social media app that promises users anonymity and claims to be the “the safest place on the internet”, is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed.

The practice of monitoring the whereabouts of Whisper users – including those who have expressly opted out of geolocation services – will alarm users, who are encouraged to disclose intimate details about their private and professional lives.

Whisper is also sharing information with the US Department of Defense gleaned from smartphones it knows are used from military bases, and developing a version of its app to conform with Chinese censorship laws. –The Guardian

Let’s go back to some of those stats that Chris was throwing out. Do publishers just not think there’s an audience for work by writers of color?

[Chris] Jackson: No, I don’t think that’s true. I would say what’s happening in some of the larger publishing companies is that they’re publishing fewer books generally than they have in the past, and so they’re trying to publish those to audiences that they think they have mastered, they’ve already identified. And there’s a lot of data now in the way there wasn’t in the past, which can cut two ways. The olden days of “gut feelings” is passing away, and that’s not such a bad thing—gut feelings are often laced with implicit and untested biases. But my fear about more data-driven publishing is that it leads to companies engineered to sell books to people they’ve already identified.

And that means that it’s almost like, if you got on the boat already, you’re in. But if you’re not on the boat already…then the boat’s gone, and you’re not getting in. So lots of audiences that haven’t been as identifiable or easy to reach, or whatever, I think you have a lot more trouble with those kinds of books.

The good thing is that there are a lot of writers who are finding ways to get themselves out there without needing a publishing machine the way that they did in the past. –Scratch Magazine

If you’re not intimately familiar with his novels, then you assuredly know major films based on Dick’s work – Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report. Today, we bring you another way to get acquainted with his writing. We’re presenting a selection of Dick’s stories available for free on the web. Below we have culled together 33 short stories from our two collections, 600 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices and 550 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. The stories, it appears, are all in the public domain. –Open Culture

Wednesday News: Google & Net Neutrality, Gamergate, the ‘science’ of extraordinary appeal, and extreme OKCupid date = new romcom.

Wednesday News: Google & Net Neutrality, Gamergate, the ‘science’ of extraordinary...

Google is all grown up

This is the realpolitik theory, and represents the simplest and most likely explanation. The point, which National Journal makes too, is that Google is a mature, diversified company that sits on both sides of many policy issues. The company has less interest in staking out idealist positions and, in the case of net neutrality, is rich enough to cut a “fast lane” check to whoever is demanding one.

There is, of course, an irony here in that companies like Google, and especially YouTube, might not have emerged in the first place were it not for net neutrality. But that was then and this is now. –Gigaom

By design, Gamergate is nearly impossible to define. It refers, variously, to a set of incomprehensible Benghazi-type conspiracy theories about game developers and journalists; to a fairly broad group of gamers concerned with corruption in gaming journalism; to a somewhat narrower group of gamers who believe women should be punished for having sex; and, finally, to a small group of gamers conducting organized campaigns of stalking and harassment against women.

This ambiguity is useful, because it turns any discussion of this subject into a debate over semantics. Really, though, Gamergate is exactly what it appears to be: a relatively small and very loud group of video game enthusiasts who claim that their goal is to audit ethics in the gaming-industrial complex and who are instead defined by the campaigns of criminal harassment that some of them have carried out against several women. (Whether the broader Gamergate movement is a willing or inadvertent semi-respectable front here is an interesting but ultimately irrelevant question.) None of this has stopped it from gaining traction: Earlier this month, Gamergaters compelled Intel to pull advertising from a gaming site critical of the movement, and there’s no reason to think it will stop there. –Deadspin

What Rudder and his team found was that not all averages are created equal in terms of actual romantic opportunities — greater variance means greater opportunity. Based on the data on heterosexual females, women who were rated average overall but arrived there via polarizing rankings — lots of 1’s, lots of 5’s — got exponentially more messages (“the precursor to outcomes like in-depth conversations, the exchange of contact information, and eventually in-person meetings”) than women whom most men rated a 3. –Brain Pickings

What happens when “a reclusive writer who spends hours identifying new constellations in the ceiling paint” agrees to go on an OKCupid date with “a wildly energetic university professor”? Well, if they’re two twentysomethings who share an overly robust sense of whimsy, the date turns into a spontaneous three-week trip around the world, which turns into a Salon essay and then into a big-time Hollywood movie. –New York Magazine