Our weekly roundup of stories that caught our attention includes reports on possible proof of war crimes committed in Syria, predictive software for social upheaval, online privacy compromised and new online privacy tools, and a cautionary tale about metadata via cat photos. “WITNESS Picks” are taken from links that our staff and community share via social media. Follow us and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
This story on NPR caught my ear because it first broke in January and I have been curious to hear developments: “A Syrian defector who worked for the Assad regime as a military police photographer took thousands of pictures of dead regime opponents, some of whom were tortured. The regime says they are fabrications, but U.S. officials say the pictures could provide evidence of war crimes.”
Our Digital Producer M.J. Moneymaker shared this article from Vice’s “Motherboard” blog and some thoughts on prediction:
Years ago when I was an analyst in the Navy, we used prediction software. I learned what information the system needed to give better data for what I needed. Fast forward to today, information is so readily available I’ve become re-interested in prediction software for social events, social media monitoring, sentiment analytics and more. I came across this article that ties food prices data to conflict. It explains how monitoring higher food prices ‘predicted’ revolutions. The one thing about predictive software I’ve learned that is vitally important… is finding the data that correlates directly to wanted results… your hypothesis.
M.J. also shared news that Tor, the online anonymity service, was compromised. And that in a seemingly unrelated but forthcoming ‘attack’ on Tor, the Russian has offered over US $110,000 in a competition for hackers to crack the service. (Submissions must be made by August 13th.)
The Los Angeles Times reports on a service called Bleep that connects people online without using central servers or indices, making mass surveillance difficult. Shared by Sarah Kerr, our Program Associate.
From the New York Times’ Upshot blog, quite a few of us took note of it this week when it was shared by Program Director Sam Gregory who had this to say about it: “Metadata dangers illustrated via cat photos…genius.” Check out this blog post by our colleague Morgan Hargrave about why metadata is something that we all need to be more aware of – and how it can actually help activists.Featured image generated on memegenerator.net