Privacy is Dead

Say Cheese: The FBI’s Facial Recognition System Is Now Fully Operational

FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Wikimedia Commons)

Remember that Big Brother-esque facial recognition software the FBI has been developing for a few years? It’s finally ready to go.

The FBI announced yesterday that its Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is now fully operational, the Verge reports. Among other features detailed here, NGI features the oft-fear-inducing Interstate Photo System (IPS), which stores millions of citizens’ photographs, and is designed to help law enforcement pair names and faces associated with criminal activity. Read More

Mad Data Science

OkCupid Brags About Manipulating Online Daters in Secret Tests

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After all of the furor over Facebook’s invasive experiments on users’ news feeds, other startups running the same plays had to be thinking: “What do we do now?” In the case of OkCupid, their version of ass-covering is to come out loud and proud about the games they’ve been playing with their users’ hearts.

OkCupid posted a snarky, image-loaded essay on their blog today called “We Experiment On Human Beings!” where they make a list of hijinxes they’ve pulled on their users without them knowing, all in the name of science. In the post, OkCupid cofounder Christian Rudder points to how offended people were that Facebook published a research report based on manipulating users’ news feeds. Read More

Q&A

Brooklyn Coder Lauren McCarthy Wants To Cure Your Crippling Social Awkwardness

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In a world where your friends can now set you up on virtual blind dates, it’s hard to believe tech could be the solution to any uncomfortable situation.

Lauren McCarthy is a coder and an artist whose strange art experiments put subjects face to face with their deepest social anxieties. She might not be able to cure your crippling awkwardness — or her own, for that matter — but she has designed over two dozen tech-based performances to help you breathe a little easier, even if it just means making a quick getaway. Read More

Freshly Minted

Freshly Minted: Mysterious Encryption Startup Wickr Nabs $30B and Jim Breyer Endorsement

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Welcome to Freshly Minted, where we examine an overlooked deal or funding announcement in tech from the past week, and tell you what you need to know, and why it matters.

This week’s deal: Secure messaging app Wickr closed a $30 million Series B to build a social network with NSA-level encryption.

If the naysayers are to believed, privacy is dead, and no one cares whether or not Facebook, Twitter and Google are collecting our personal data and selling it to marketers. Wickr, on the other hand, is an app for people who haven’t given up the fight to keep their correspondence private. And it’s growing rapidly. Read More

Privacy is Dead

Mysterious Website Shows Your Facebook Privacy Settings Aren’t So Airtight After All

(Screengrab: DigitalShadow)

My Facebook has been semi-private for quite a while, but just last week, I locked it up as tightly as possible. I figured I had made all my personal information totally inaccessible to outsiders — but a scary new website proved I was completely wrong.

With my new privacy settings, people who aren’t my friends see a nearly empty profile, consisting of only a profile picture, a cover photo, where I work and my friends list (only because I couldn’t figure out how to hide it). No one — as far as I knew — was able to see any photos, check-ins or any of those embarrassing “likes” from years ago. Nothing. Read More

Surveillance

Terrifying Eavesdropping Lamp Live-Tweets Your Private Conversations

Sounds great. (Screengrab: Vimeo)

Welcome to 2014, where it’s possible that a seemingly harmless piece of furniture could be broadcasting your private conversations across the Internet.

Two artists have just unveiled a creepy product called the Conversnitch, Wired reports, and sadly, it has nothing to do with Quidditch. Rather, it’s a device that looks exactly like a lamp, except it records nearby conversations, transcribes the audio files, and then posts snippets of the conversations to Conversnitch’s Twitter account.

The creators, Brian House and Kyle McDonald, believe the Conversnitch is reflective of the current NSA-related privacy threats Americans are currently facing. Read More

Social Media

Mad Genius Creates Ello, the Elegant Anti-Facebook

Paul Budnitz — exhibiting photographer and filmmaker, artist, designer toy maker, bicycle enthusiast. Add: social media magnate?

For tech entrepreneurs and investors, a social network is the great white whale of startups. Successful ones scale hard and fast, generating mountains of precious user data for advertising clients.

Paul Budnitz, an artist and designer toy maker, thinks that kind of marketer exploitation is downright evil, and has organized a supergroup of artists, programmers, and designers to build a safe haven. It’s called Ello, and it’s a social network with a manifesto. Read More