Category Archives: Web Communications

When the cookie meets the blockchain: Privacy risks of web payments via cryptocurrencies

Here’s the abstract for Steven Goldfeder, Harry Kalodner, Dillon Reismany & Arvind Narayanan’s When the cookie meets the blockchain: Privacy risks of web payments via cryptocurrencies:

We show how third-party web trackers can deanonymize users of cryptocurrencies. We present two distinct but complementary attacks. On most shopping websites, third party trackers receive information about user purchases for purposes of advertising and analytics. We show that, if the user pays using a cryptocurrency, trackers typically possess enough information about the purchase to uniquely identify the transaction on the blockchain, link it to the user’s cookie, and further to the user’s real identity. Our second attack shows that if the tracker is able to link two purchases of the same user to the blockchain in this manner, it can identify the user’s entire cluster of addresses and transactions on the blockchain, even if the user employs blockchain anonymity techniques such as CoinJoin. The attacks are passive and hence can be retroactively applied to past purchases. We discuss several mitigations, but none are perfect.

H/T Freedom to Tinker post. — Joe

Forecasting global IP traffic growth for mobile and fixed networks by 2021

2021 looks like it will be a very good year if this forecast is on the money. CISCO’s Complete Visual Networking Index (VNI) forecasts the following for global IP traffic growth for mobile and fixed networks by 2021.

H/T to The Tech World Is Convinced 2021 Is Going to Be the Best Year Ever by Rachel Metz, MIT Technology Review, July 26, 2017. — Joe

Supreme Court website redesigned

Take a peak here. On SCOTUSblog, Andrew Hamm writes:

The court’s Public Information Office boasts that the site update includes “a more consistent menu structure, a more interactive calendar, faster access through Quick Links, improved page load times, and reduced page scrolling.” For example, instead of indicating only that the court will hear oral argument on a given day, the updated calendar provides case names for each argument day, with links to the docket entries and the questions at issue in each case.

The homepage also provides access to transcripts, audio and other case information.

Judging from the Twitter reactions of multiple Supreme Court practitioners and commentators, the most appealing element of the update – what John Elwood called a “tantalizing glimpse” – may be the light at the end of this newly-opened tunnel. According to the PIO, “the improvements will better support future digitization and the addition of electronic filing, and will enhance mobile access to information on the site.”

— Joe

Elected official cannot block constituents from ‘official’ Facebook page

At the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the court ruled that a politician who reacted to a constituent’s comment on her “official” Facebook post by deleting his comment and banning him from her Facebook page violated the First Amendment. Davidson v. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, 1:16-cv-JCC-IDD (July 25, 2017). On Constitutional Law Prof Blog, CUNY Professor of Law & University Distinguished Professor Ruthann Robson writes “This case should serve as a wake-up call for politicians who use their ‘official’ Facebook pages in ways that may violate the First Amendment.  The case may also be a harbinger of decisions to come in the ongoing litigation challenging the President’s practice of “blocking” people on Twitter.” — Joe

Dark web update: Someone is selling 40+ million voter records

For Mother Jones, A.J. Vicens reports that more than 40 million voter records from at least nine states are being offered for sale on a dark web forum, and the seller claims to have records for an additional 20 to 25 states, according to Dark Reading, a news organization focused on information security. See Someone is selling more than 40 million voter records on the dark web (July 26, 2017)

On a related dark web note, the DOJ announced last week “the seizure of the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay, which operated for over two years on the dark web and was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.” DOJ July 20, 2017 press release.

— Joe

 

Facebook plans to monetize Instant Articles sooner rather than later

Reporting for The Street, Kinsey Grant reports that Facebook is preparing to monetize its Instant Articles: “Instant Articles hosts news pieces on Facebook’s mobile app. Instead of operating a subscription service itself to get users on the Instant Articles, Facebook is said to be implementing a paywall after 10 articles on the app. Once a user hits 10 pieces from a particular publisher in a month, Facebook will send him or her to the publisher’s site to sign up for a subscription.” — Joe

LexisNexis adds ALM titles to LN Digital Library

LexisNexis announced yesterday that the company is adding 250 titles from ALM to the LexisNexis Digital Library.  From the press release:

As a result, the LexisNexis Digital Library will now feature titles from ALM’s publications including Law Journal Press, The National Underwriter Co. and analytical titles from respected regional brands such as The Legal Intelligencer, New York Law Journal, New Jersey Law Journal and more. These titles will provide in-depth information on the latest issues and insightful analysis from leading lawyers, practicing attorneys and experts.

–Mark

Search and politics

Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States reports the results of an online poll of Internet users about how they use search, social media, and other important media to get information about political candidates, issues, and politics generally. From the abstract:

Global debate over the impact of algorithms and search on shaping political opinions has increased following dramatic election results in Europe and the US. Powerful images of the Internet enabling access to a global treasure trove of information have shifted to worries over whether those who use search engines and social media are being fed inaccurate, false, or politically targeted information that distorts public opinion. There are serious questions over whether biases embedded in the algorithms that drive search engines and social media have major political consequences, such as creating filter bubbles or echo chambers. For example, do search engines and social media provide people with information that aligns with their beliefs and opinions or do they challenge them to consider countervailing perspectives? Most generally, the predominant concern is do these media have a major impact on public opinion and political viewpoints, and if so, for the better or worse.

— Joe

EdgeRack: Understanding the algorithmic basis of Facebook’s news feed

Reid Goldsborough describe the algorithmic basis for Facebook’s news feed, writing “The ever-changing algorithm behind Facebook’s news feed, called EdgeRank, is … crucial in today’s social media-infused world. It determines what you see when you check Facebook,” … adding … “Facebook is largely mum about EdgeRank, keeping many things private for competitive reasons. But based on what is publicly known as well as EdgeRank’s behavior, Facebook uses EdgeRank to help create your news feed mostly through Affinity Score, Edge Weight, and Time Decay.” Goldsborough proceeds by describing Affinity Score, Edge Weight, and Time Decay in layman’s terms. He also comments on the echo chamber effect of Facebook’s news feed in his Information Today article. Informative. — Joe

A manager’s guide for using Twitter in government

Like many technological tools, Twitter does not come with an instruction manual. To help both government executives who must decide whether Twitter is a useful tool for their organizations and frontline managers who will create and administer the Twitter account, Ines Mergel has written Working the Network: A Manager’s Guide for Using Twitter in Government, detailing the benefits—and risks—of hosting a Twitter feed, as well as the specifics on how to maintain a Twitter feed to achieve optimum results. From the executive summary:

Twitter updates are seen as public conversations and are increasing not only transparency and potentially accountability, but can also—when used appropriately—lead to increased inclusion of public opinion in policy formulation through information aggregation processes. Twitter can be used effectively to involve a large number of citizens and create conversations with an engaged, networked public. The outcome of these conversations can be new insights and even innovations in the public sector including suggestions on how to make government more effective, or rapidly accelerating emergency responses that help to improve public safety.

Perhaps someone will give President Trump this Twitter guide. — Joe

The law of emojis

In Surveying the Law of Emojis, Eric Goldman identifies three ways the emoji revolution will impact the law:

First, questions about what emojis mean will arise in a wide range of legal doctrines, from criminal law to contracts. Our standard interpretative tools generally can handle new communicative technologies, but several aspects of emojis will require careful consideration. Most significantly, senders and receivers will unexpectedly see different versions of an emoji due to technological intermediation, leading them to make reasonable—but different—interpretations of the same communication, with potentially adverse consequences for one or both parties. The article will explore some steps that would reduce the risks of these misunderstandings.

Second, emojis will often qualify for copyright and trademark protection. However, IP protection encourages platforms to differentiate their emoji implementations, which exacerbates the risks of miscommunications and misunderstandings. To mitigate this outcome, IP protections for emojis should be interpreted narrowly.

Third, emojis create some issues for judicial operations, including if and how judges will display emojis in their opinions, if emojis in court opinions will be searchable, and how best to present emojis as evidence to fact-finders.

— Joe

Trump truth hiders tracker launched by MoveOn

Following several LLB posts covering “Trump trackers,” here is an unusual addition to the list. On April 27th, MoveOn.org unveiled a new website, TrumpTruthHiders.com. The website is “an online tracker designed to expose how House Republicans have acted to hide the truth about Trump’s presidency—obscuring their votes in support of Trump’s agenda from their constituents.” In New Website Tracks GOP Voting Record Supporting Trump’s Dangerous Policy Agenda, Jo Comerford, campaign director for MoveOn.org. is quoted: “MoveOn worked with Members of Congress to launch TrumpTruthHiders.com so that the American people can see this infuriating display of hypocrisy in real time.” — Joe

Like having a personal assistant in your pocket: When AI-first becomes the new mobile-first

Two snips from David Skerrett’s very interesting EContent post, The Year AI-First Will Become the New Mobile-First:

For 6 years, achieving a mobile-first ethos has been a badge of honor within organizations and a genuine philosophy to solve problems for—or preview content on—the device users are most likely to turn to first. Now, true AI is progressing quickly, while there is already a proliferation of practical AI on our mobiles. Contextual assistants, bots, and digital concierges are right at our fingertips—notably Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now. … However, these intelligent helpers aren’t so helpful when it comes to playing well together. Once these assistants are able to “talk” to each other, it will create a more connected experience for us all, enabling even greater business transformation in the next few years.

Basically, AI will be completely and seamlessly woven into the fabric of our lives and how we get things done. Microsoft can already scan your emails and see you have a flight coming up. Cortana then adds it to your diary and helps get things done via reminders and prompts. Depending on how much trust we put in our devices and into AI, it will be like having a personal assistant in your pocket.

— Joe

Gender and race inequality in the legal blogosphere

From the abstract of Reproducing Gender and Race Inequality in the Blawgosphere, a draft chapter in Fate of Legal Scholarship (Cambridge UP, Forthcoming)  by Jane C. Murphy (Baltimore) and Solangel Maldonado (Seton Hall):

The use of the Internet and other digital media to disseminate scholarship has great potential for expanding the range of voices in legal scholarship. Legal blogging, in particular, with its shorter, more informal form, seems ideal for encouraging commentary from a diverse group of scholars. This Chapter tests this idea by exploring the role of blogging in legal scholarship and the level of participation of women and scholars of color on the most visible academic legal blogs. After noting the predominance of white male scholars as regular contributors on these blogs, we analyze the relative lack of diversity in this emerging form of scholarship. Finally, we offer suggestions for reversing these trends and creating a more inclusive blogosphere and enriching its potential for lively, informed scholarship.

— Joe

How Facebook plans to combat fake news

For Facebook, Jen Weedon, William Nuland and Alex Stamos write that the Company has “had to expand our security focus from traditional abusive behavior, such as account hacking, malware, spam and financial scams, to include more subtle and insidious forms of misuse, including attempts to manipulate civic discourse and deceive people. These are complicated issues and our responses will constantly evolve, but we wanted to be transparent about our approach.” That  approach is detailed by Facebook in Information Operations and Facebook (Apr. 27, 2017, version 1.0). — Joe

Net neutrality: If the Internet is not a utility, what is it?

“The theory goes something like this: as long as ISPs commit to protecting net neutrality in their terms of service, the FCC can eliminate its rules while the Federal Trade Commission would punish ISPs that fail to comply with their net neutrality promises.” — Jon Brodkin, “Unenforceable:” How voluntary net neutrality lets ISPs to call the shots, ars technica, Apr. 11, 2017.

Last Wednesday, FCC chairman Ajit Pai outlined his plans to loosen the government’s oversight of the Internet by rolling back the Commission’s Open Internet Order. See Pai’s speech on the future of Internet regulation and the chairman’s fact sheet, Restoring Internet Freedom for All Americans (Apr. 26, 2017). For a synopsis, see Ali Breland’s What killing net neutrality means for the internet, The Hill, Apr. 28, 2017. The proposal will be discussed at the FCC Open Meeting on May 18, 2017. (For background, see the FCC’s own explanation of its Open Internet Order when it was enacted.) “The chairman, Ajit Pai, said high-speed internet service should no longer be treated like a public utility with strict rules, as it is now. The move would, in effect, largely leave the industry to police itself.” Quoting from Cecilia Kang, F.C.C. Chairman Pushes Sweeping Changes to Net Neutrality Rules, NYT, Apr. 26, 2016.

In his NYT op-ed piece, Tim Wu notes that this action will be taken “despite [net neutrality’s] popularity, record of success and acceptance by most of the industry.” Quoting from Tim Wu, The ‘Fix’ for Net Neutrality That Consumers Don’t Need, NYT, Apr. 28, 2017. Writing for EFF, Kit Walsh warns “[r]olling back the FCC’s Open Internet Order would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection to shape your Internet experience and the market for services and devices that rely on that Internet connection. Since most Americans have only one option for broadband service, ISPs would have unchecked power to extract tolls from you and from businesses that wish to reach you.” Quoting from FCC Announces Plan to Abandon Net Neutrality and ISP Privacy, EFF Deeplinks Blog, Apr. 26, 2017. Walsh adds

Today’s announcement cleverly pretends that the current “bright-line rules,” which clearly prohibit blocking and throttling, might survive. The law says otherwise. If Chairman Pai follows through on his intention to “reclassify” broadband service, it would be legally impossible for the FCC to enforce any such rules. How do we know this? Because the DC Circuit said so.

Last Thursday, the FCC released guidance for commenting on this rule-roll-back process. As expected advocacy groups like EFF are already speaking out in opposition. See, e.g., The FCC Wants to Eliminate Net Neutrality Protections. We Can’t Let That Happen, EFF Deeplinks Blog, Apr. 25, 2017. AALL also released a statement in opposition last week. From the press release:

“Without net neutrality, law libraries may be unable to provide equal access to the legal information their users need,” AALL President Ronald E. Wheeler Jr. said. “We oppose efforts by the new FCC chairman to roll back the Open Internet Order, and we will continue to work to protect an open internet. Without free and fair access to information, there is no access to justice.”

Only time will tell but it is not looking good for net neutrality despite its acceptance by most of the industry. — Joe

Interest in pending federal legislation grows as web traffic soars on Congress.gov

Data analytics reveals that Congress.gov has seen record-breaking traffic since January 2017 according to Andrew Weber’s In Custodia Legis post, Reaching a Web Traffic Milestone on Congress.gov. Weber writes

Besides the large increases in visits, there are other interesting changes in our web traffic. The percentage of traffic from mobile devices has greatly increased from 27% in 2016 to 52% in 2017, and traffic from social media hit a high of 40% of visits in February 2017, compared to an average of 5% in 2016. Legislation went viral on Facebook, with the bill summary for H.R.861 shared more than 200K times.

Weber concludes his blog post as follows: “While we can not be 100% certain that these large increases in web traffic will continue, we can see that legislation is currently of great interest to the general public, and many new users are discovering Congress.gov.” — Joe

Under the search bar: The web’s most valuable real estate for ads

In How Google Cashes In on the Space Right Under the Search Bar (NYT, Apr. 23, 2017), Daisuke Wakabayashi wrote, “[w]hen Google’s parent company, Alphabet, reports earnings this week, the internet giant’s big profits are expected to demonstrate yet again that the billboard space accompanying Google queries is the web’s most valuable real estate for advertisements,” adding

In the 17 years since Google introduced text-based advertising above search results, the company has allocated more space to ads and created new forms of them. The ad creep on Google has pushed “organic” (unpaid) search results farther down the screen, an effect even more pronounced on the smaller displays of smartphones.

The changes are profound for retailers and brands that rely on leads from Google searches to drive online sales. With limited space available near the top of search results, not advertising on search terms associated with your brand or displaying images of your products is tantamount to telling potential customers to spend their money elsewhere.

— Joe

GPO redesigns its website

According to the press release, some of the new features of the GPO’s new website, which is in beta at this time, include being mobile friendly, improved internal site search, improved user experience, easy access to GPO products and services, and easy access to GPO social media platforms. Once out of beta, this site will replace the GPO’s current website.

Give the new site a test drive at https://beta.gpo.gov/ . Visitors can submit general feedback to the GPO at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/betagpodotgov

— Joe

National Archive reminds White House to save all Trump tweets

To comply with the Presidential Records Act, the Trump administration has agreed to archive all of Trump’s tweets including the ones he deletes or corrects. No word on how precisely the White House will do that. See Stephen Braun’s National Archives to White House: Save all Trump tweets for more. Therein Braun also reports that apparently some senior administration staff are using their private RNC email accounts. — Joe