Friday, February 17, 2017
Weaponization, Airports and Populist Leaders
“This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”
Jonathan Albright, assistant professor/data scientist at Elon University
As if you haven’t noticed, there have some very big changes in the way the world works these days. Social media might be cool way for you to keep up relationships and share more of your life with business acquaintances, family and friends and keep up with what’s happening… to you. But, as artificial intelligence combines with religious and political extremism, what passes for communication has become a sophisticated political influencer/recruitment tool that knows more about you than your worst nightmare. God only knows what Adolph Hitler could have done with this technology. There are so many Americans resistant to facts and addicted to fake news… which they take as truth. Here is just one example of how it’s done.
“By leveraging automated emotional manipulation alongside swarms of bots, Facebook dark posts, A/B testing, and fake news networks, a company called Cambridge Analytica has activated an invisible machine that preys on the personalities of individual voters to create large shifts in public opinion. Many of these technologies have been used individually to some effect before, but together they make up a nearly impenetrable voter manipulation machine that is quickly becoming the new deciding factor in elections around the world.
“Most recently, Analytica helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, secured a win for the Brexit Leave campaign, and led Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign surge, shepherding him from the back of the GOP primary pack to the front.
“The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention.
“Presumably because of its alliances, Analytica has declined to work on any democratic campaigns -- at least in the U.S. It is, however, in talks to help Trump manage public opinion around his presidential policies and to expand sales for the Trump Organization. Cambridge Analytica is now expanding aggressively into U.S. commercial markets and is also meeting with right-wing parties and governments in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
“Cambridge Analytica isn’t the only company that could pull this off -- but it is the most powerful right now. Understanding Cambridge Analytica and the bigger AI Propaganda Machine is essential for anyone who wants to understand modern political power, build a movement, or keep from being manipulated. The Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine it represents has become the new prerequisite for political success in a world of polarization, isolation, trolls, and dark posts.” The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine by Berit Anderson & Bret Horvath in Scout.AI.
Oh, and now we have a new sheriff in town who sees terrorists in tourists, too many enemies in people of color (especially with non-Western-sounding names who practice outside of Judeo-Christianity and super-especially in immigrants) and hates anyone who disagrees with him. He sees conspiracy even within his own camp, prioritizing “national security” as an excuse to trump every other personal right. What form of government is he protecting? Don’t believe me? Try this on for size: “On January 30th, Sidd Bikkannavar, a US-born scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory flew back to Houston, Texas from Santiago, Chile.
“On his way through through the airport, Customs and Border Patrol agents pulled him aside. They searched him, then detained him in a room with a bunch of other people sleeping in cots. They eventually returned and said they’d release him if he told them the password to unlock his phone.
“Bikkannavar explained that the phone belonged to NASA and had sensitive information on it, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. He eventually yielded and unlocked his phone. The agents left with his phone. Half an hour later, they returned, handed him his phone, and released him.” FreeCodeCamp.com, February 14th. Bikkannavar is just one example. Outrageous? Illegal? Think again. As we shall see, it seems to be perfectly legal. That’s just the United States; a lot of other countries have even more intrusive requirements.
The United States Supreme Court – in United States v. Martinez-Fuerte (1976), United States v. Montoya De Hernandez (1985) and United States v. Flores-Montano (2004) – reinforced the principle that the Fourth Amendment (which otherwise bars unreasonable, warrantless searches and seizures) does not prevent searches and seizures without probable cause or a warrant at international border checkpoints.
In 2008, the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, the only federal appellate court to have addressed the issue, also ruled (United States v. Arnold) that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution does not require government agents to have [even] reasonable suspicion before searching laptops or other digital devices at the border, including international airports.” Wikipedia. And once government authorities have your cellphone, tablet, digital camera or laptop – even for a short time – they can learn just about everything about you… and can most probably tap into your future communications as well.
So our international borders are a constitutional no-man’s-land, even for U.S. citizens. And what exactly is being done with that private information? Think about the blackmail potential, the data-influencing potential… and start wondering if we are really a government “of the people and by the people.” But how much information can they really get if they only have your device for a short time?
“Companies like Elcomsoft make ‘forensic software’ that can suck down all your photos, contacts — even passwords for your email and social media accounts — in a matter of minutes. Their customers include the police forces of various countries, militaries, and private security forces. They can use these tools to permanently archive everything there is to know about you. All they need is your unlocked phone.´FreeCodeCamp.com. Away from the border, those Fourth Amendment rights kick in, and governmental authorities are forced back into that probable cause/warrant-driven requirements.
So when you travel, should you stash your personal electronic devices? Should you use something entirely different for international travel? Re-read the above… and you decide.
I’m Peter Dekom, and technology and personal rights/freedoms will struggle against each other forever… and are dependent on our leaders to prioritize our rights over their personal desire for power.