Archive for the ‘Media and News’ Category

Nintendo Is Finally Bringing Mario to Mobile Phones (with DeNA)

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Wired and others have stories about how Nintendo Is Finally Bringing Mario to Mobile Phones. They are entering into an alliance with DeNA by buying DeNA stock (and DeNA will buy Nintendo stock.) Iwata (Director and President of Nintendo) and Isao Moriyasu (President and CEO of DeNA) made a joint announcement. You can see a translated version of the presentation on YouTube here.

This is a big change for Nintendo as they have been losing money as the traditional console gaming industry loses market share to casual and mobile platforms. I had heard ex-employees say Nintendo would never make the transition, but stay committed to tight integration of their games and dedicated devices. Obviously things have changed and now Nintendo will be deploying their IP to smartphones, especially to reach a global market. Nintendo stock closed 27.5% up.

My understanding of Iwata’s explanation was that they now see mobile versions as building their fan base and therefore helping sell dedicated devices/content. They are afraid that they will be marginalized globally if they don’t expand the reach of their IP. They have now decided how to use smart devices as a way into dedicated systems.

Because the interfaces are different, they don’t intend to just port existing titles to mobile platforms. Instead they will work with DeNA to create new content specifically for smart devices.

NSA phone record collection does little to prevent terrorist attacks, group says

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

One of the key issues raised by Snowden is whether all this surveillance works. The Washington Post has a story from a year ago reporting that NSA phone record collection does little to prevent terrorist attacks, group says. This story is based on a report:

(more…)

Snowden Surveillance Archive

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and partners have announced and released a searchable Snowden Surveillance Archive. This archive is,

a complete collection of all documents that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked in June 2013 to journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and subsequently were published by news media, such as The GuardianThe New York Times, The Washington PostDer SpiegelLe MondeEl Mundo and The Intercept.

It is dynamic. As new documents are published they will be added.

You can hear the announcement and Snowden in CBC’s stream of Snowden Live: Canada and the Security State.

One thing I don’t understand is why, in at least one case, the archived document is of lower quality than the one originally released. For example, compare the Snowden Archive of the CSEC Document about Olympia and the version from the Globe and Mail. The Snowden one is both cropped and full of artefacts of compression (or something.)

One of the points that both Snowden and the following speakers made is that the massive SIGINT system set up doesn’t prevent terrorist attacks, it can be used retrospectively to look back at some event and figure out who did it or develop intelligence about a someone targeted. One of the speakers followed up on the implications of retrospective surveillance – what this means for citizens is that things you do now might come back to haunt you.

It’s official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Slashdot pointed me to a ZDnet story that It's official: NSA spying is hurting the US tech economy. As one can imagine, the Snowden revelations are having an impact on American businesses. Who trusts them anymore?

A related story describes the brokers who handle data requests for companies like those from the FISA court. See Meet the shadowy tech brokers that deliver your data to the NSA. One of the bottlenecks is the shortage of lawyers with security clearance who could fight orders. The system seems designed so that few think about whether government orders should be resisted at all.

The problem with calls for more online data laws

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

One of the outcomes of the Charlie Hebdo attack is that politicians are using the terrorist attacks to call for more intrusive surveillance legislation. For example the BBC reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron says new online data laws needed. Gibbs and Hern for the Guardian interpret Cameron as calling for “anti-terror laws to give the security services the ability to read encrypted communications in extreme circumstances.” (David Cameron in ‘cloud cuckoo land’ over encrypted messaging apps ban, Jan. 13, 2015) This would mean that either back doors are built into communications technologies with encryption or the technologies are banned in the UK.

Needless to say all sorts of people are responding to these calls for new legislation by pointing out the dangers of deliberately crippling encryption. If there are back doors they can be found and used by criminals which will mean that all sorts of companies that need/offer strong encryption will move out of the UK. For that matter, what would this mean for the use of global systems that might have encryption. (See James Ball’s article in the Guardian, Cameron wants to ban encryption – he can say goodbye to digital Britain, Jan. 13, 2015).

What few people are commenting on is the effectiveness of SIGINT (signals intelligence) in cases like the attacks in Paris. Articles in The Globe and Mail and the Guardian suggest that a combination of human intelligence and early interventions would be more likely to make a difference. The alleged culprits were known to all sorts of people (neighbours, people at their mosque, police). The problem was how difficult it is to know what to do with that information and when to intervene. This is a human problem not a signals intelligence problem. SIGINT could just add to the noise without guiding authorities as to how to deal with people.

To be honest I don’t know what would work, and perhaps predictive analytics, for all its problems, could be part of identifying at-risk youth early so that they are not thrown together in prison (as the Paris attackers were) and so interventions could be organized. Nonetheless, we clearly need more studies of the circumstances of those that are radicalized and we need to seriously try to intervene in positive ways. The alternative is arresting people for intents which are very hard to prove and has all sorts of problems as an approach.

We also need research and discussion about the balance of approaches, something that is impossible as long as surveillance is inaccessible to any oversight and accountability. Who would know if funding was better spent on human approaches? Who would dare cut the budget to nice clean modern digital intelligence in favour of a messy mix of human approaches? How to compare approaches that are hard to measure given the thankfully small numbers of incidents?

Some links:

And … we need to be able to talk openly about the issues without fear – Je suis Charlie

The computer program billed as unbeatable at poker

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

The Toronto Star has a nice story, The computer program billed as unbeatable at poker, about a poker playing program Cepehus that was developed at the Computer Poker Research here at the University of Alberta. Michael Bowling is quoted to the effect that,

No matter what you do, no matter how strong a player you are, even if you look at our strategy in every detail . . . there is no way you are going to be able of have any realistic edge on us.

On average we are playing perfectly. And that’s kind of the average that really matters.

You can play Cepehus at their web site. You can read their paper “Heads-up limit hold’em poker is solved”, just published in Science here (DOI: 10.1126/science.1259433).

Trolling and Anonymous

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Useful research is finally emerging about trolling in its different forms. The Guardian had a nice overview article by a professor of business psychologies titled Behind the online comments: the psychology of internet trolls. Researchers at the University of Manitoba and UBC have published an article with the title Trolls just want to have fun (PDF preprint) that found evidence that sadists like to troll. They conclude,

The Internet is an anonymous environment where it is easy to seek out and explore one’s niche, however idiosyncratic. Consequently, antisocial individuals have greater opportunities to connect with similar others, and to pursue their personal brand of ‘‘self expression’’ than they did before the advent of the Internet. Online identity construction may be important to examine in research on trolling, especially in terms of antisocial identity and its role in trolling behavior. The troll persona appears to be a malicious case of a virtual avatar, reflecting both actual personality and one’s ideal self . Our research suggests that, for those with sadistic personalities, that ideal self may be a villain of chaos and mayhem – the online Trickster we fear, envy, and love to hate: the cybertroll. (Buckels, E. E., et al. Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.01.016)

By contrast, McGill professor Gabriella Coleman recently published a book about Anonymous, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Coleman also compares the trolling of Anonymous to traditions of the trickster, but is far more sympathetic as she tracks the politicization of Anonymous. About trolling she writes,

Trolls enjoy desecrating anything remotely sacred, as cultural theorist Whitney Phillips conveys in her astute characterization of trolls as “agents of cultural digestion [who] scavenge the landscape, re-purpose the most offensive material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace.” In short: any information thought to be personal, secure, or sacred is a prime target for sharing or defilement in a multitude of ways. Lulz-oriented actions puncture the consensus around our politics and ethics, our social lives, and our aesthetic sensibilities. Any presumption of our world’s inviolability becomes a weapon; trolls invalidate that world by gesturing toward the possibility for Internet geeks to destroy it—to pull the carpet from under us whenever they feel the urge. (Location 491)

She sees anonymous hacking as one of the ways we can resist the blanket surveillance that Snowden revealed. Anonymous may be the future of resistance even as it emerges from the nasty side of trolling. I can’t say that I’m convinced the ends justify the means, at least when you aren’t willing to take responsibility for the means you employ, but, she is right that it has become a form of resistance for the surveillance age.

Anonymous is emblematic of a particular geography of resistance. Composed of multiple competing groups, short-term power is achievable for brief durations, while long-term dominance by any single group or person is virtually impossible. In such a dynamic landscape, it may be “easy to co-opt, but impossible to keep co-opted,” … (Location 5691)

Trans-Atlantic Platform

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Trans-Atlantic Platform: Social Sciences and Humanities is a collaboration among social science and humanities funders in different countries. In their About Us page they describe the purpose of this collaborative platform thus:

This Trans-Atlantic Platform will enhance the ability of funders, research organizations and researchers to engage in transnational dialogue and collaboration. It will identify common challenges and promote a culture of digital scholarship in social science and humanities research. It will facilitate the formation of networks within the social sciences and humanities and help connect them with other disciplines. It will also heighten awareness of the crucial role the social sciences and humanities play in addressing 21st century challenges.

The T-AP is co-chaired by the (then) President of SSRHC and the Netherlands social sciences funding agency. It likewise seems to be co-administered by SSRHC and NWO Social Sciences. The T-AP got funding that helped launch it from the European Commission 7th Framework Programme.

What is interesting is who is in T-AP. The German DFG and Americans NEH/NSF are down as “associated partners”. Brazilian, Canadian, Finish, French, Mexican, Dutch, Portuguese, and UK funding organizations are “key partners.” (See Partners page.)

I also have questions about T-AP:

  • Does this mean we will see more programmes like Digging into Data that can fund teams across countries? Wouldn’t it be great if a project could include the right people rather than the right people in Canada?
  • Or, will we see thematic collaborations like call on Sustainable Urban Development?
  • Will they try to harmonize research data policies?

Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

AdobDR4

Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader blog has broken a story about how Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries. He and Arts Technica report that the Adobe’s Digital Editions 4 send data home about what you read and how far (what page) you get to. The data is sent in plain text.

Hoffelder used a tool called Wireshark to look at what was being sent out from his computer.

Gamergate: the community is eating itself but there should be room for all

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The Guardian has a good story summarizing the Gamergate controversy. This follows an essay about How to attack a woman who works in video gaming that outlined the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency and Zoe Quinn. A hard-core of gamers seem concerned that game journalists are falling for political correctness and that so they are abusing and threatening women designers and critics.

The abuse mirrors the violence against women that Sarkeesian points out in the video essay above. Abuse of women is used as background plot decoration. The abuse provides a “quick emotional punch to the player” making it quickly clear who are the bad guys players can kill so they can save the women (or watch them be abused first). Now that the abuse is happening for real in the gaming community we should ask if some trolls have started to behave in imitation of game worlds they take as normative. Life imitates arts when we take an art too seriously. It is time to study the homosocial environments that have evolved around gaming and in gaming to understand the ideas of masculinity that have become currency.

And the abuse should stop.