Facebook gets all the bad press, but the bigger threat to your online privacy these days might be your Twitter account. Twitter knows you much better than you may realize. And as it prepares for an IPO, it's taking steps that may allow it to profit from your data in ways that would provoke howls of protest were Mark Zuckerberg to try the same.
Until now, by design, Twitter has mostly dodged privacy concerns. It's a given that anyone can see your tweets (unlike those beer pong photos you stupidly shared on Facebook). Twitter already analyzes your tweets, retweets, location, and the people you follow to figure out which "Promoted Tweets" (a.k.a. ads) to inject into your timeline. That's the Twitter everybody knows and accepts, but it's not the Twitter that big advertisers and investors really care about.
Much of the data Twitter collects about you doesn't actually come from Twitter. Consider the little "tweet" buttons embedded on websites all over the net. Those can also function as tracking devices. Any website with a "tweet" button—from Mother Jones to Playboy—automatically informs Twitter that you've arrived. Last year, Twitter announced that it would start using its knowledge of your internet browsing habits to better recommend people to follow on Twitter. That's a step beyond the approach of Facebook, which claims its "like" buttons are never used for tracking. And it's not a big leap from there to using the same information to serve you targeted ads on all sorts of mobile platforms.
12 13 people were killed in a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, DC, after a gunman opened fire shortly after 8 a.m. on Monday. That number included the gunman, reportedly a 34-year-old man from Texas, who was shot and killed by law enforcement personnel after a lengthy standoff. On Monday afternoon the FBI was looking for two other men it believed were involved in the shooting, but as of Monday night it began assuming that the gunman had acted alone.
Monday's attack represents the largest mass-casualty event in the District since a 1982 plane crash, and the fifth mass shooting in the United States since the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
As is often the case with breaking news events, numerous initial reports turned out to be false. The shooter was not 50-year-old Rollie Chance, whose ID badge was found in a car near the shooting scene and matched the description provided by law enforcement. Nor was there any corresponding gunfight at nearby Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. (To jump to the latest updates, click here.)
UPDATE, September 16, 2013, 3:40 p.m. EDT: Officials are identifying the suspected Navy Yard shooter who died after the killing spree as Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old man from Fort Worth, Texas.
UPDATE 2, September 16, 2013, 4:16 p.m. EDT: Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby confirms that Aaron Alexis was a Navy aviation electrician's mate and served from May 2007 to January 2011. And via the NBC station in Dallas-Fort Worth, here is Alexis' Fort Worth 2010 arrest report.
UPDATE 3, September 16, 2013, 4:38 p.m. EDT: The FBI posted this to their website, and is "asking for the public's assistance with any information regarding Alexis." The page includes this image:
According to a Navy document, Alexis is not listed as having served overseas, but is listed as receiving the National Defense Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
UPDATE 6, September 16, 2013, 5:55 p.m. EDT: According to the SPD Blotter, Aaron Alexis was arrested by Seattle police in 2004 for "shooting out the tires of another man's vehicle in what Alexis later described to detectives as an anger-fueled 'blackout.'"
UPDATE 7, September 16, 2013, 6:25 p.m. EDT: The US Navy has released the biographical information of alleged Navy Yards shooter Aaron Alexis. The former Aviation Electrician's Mate 3rd Class was most recently stationed with Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 in Fort Worth, Texas, from February 1, 2008, until January 31, 2011.
UPDATE 8, September 16, 2013 6:52 p.m. EDT: According to the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office, Alexis was also arrested on September 4, 2010, by Fort Worth police after being accused of recklessly discharging a gun, ABC News reports. "It was determined that Alexis was cleaning a gun in his apartment when it accidentally went off," the DA's office said in a statement. "A bullet entered an apartment upstairs. No one was injured."
UPDATE 9, September 16, 2013 7:06 p.m. EDT: From the Twitter feed of CBS executive producer Charlie Kay:
BREAKING. Spokesman for Hewlett Packard tells @CBSNews Navy Yard shooter was contractor working on the Navy-Marine intranet network.
UPDATE 10, September 16, 2013 7:35 p.m. EDT: According to the police report from the tire-shooting incident, Alexis attributed his actions to being present during "the tragic events of September 11, 2001," and described "how those events had disturbed him." Detectives later spoke to Alexis' father, who told them he'd participated in rescue attempts on 9/11 and later suffered from anger-management issues related to post-traumatic-stress syndrome.
The Seattle Timeshas more detail on the outcome of Alexis' gun-related arrests. Detectives in Seattle referred the tire-shooting case for charges, but the City Attorney's office says it never received the police report and thus never pursued the case. In Fort Worth, Alexis was released from jail the same day that he was arrested for discharging his gun in his apartment building. A spokesman for the Tarrant County DA said he was never charged with a crime.
UPDATE 11, September 16, 2013 8:26 p.m. EDT: An anonymous federal law enforcement official tellsUSA Today that Alexis did not appear to have an escape plan, and it was not clear that he was targeting specific people.
UPDATE 12, September 16, 2013 9:04 p.m. EDT: Does the shooter's race tell us anything about the Navy Yard attack, as some commenters have implied? Not if you look at the data. As MoJo's Lauren Williams writes: "16 percent of the 67 mass shootings that have occurred since 1982 were committed by black shooters, including the alleged Navy Yard shooter, while 66 percent were committed by whites."
UPDATE 13, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 2:01 a.m. EDT: Police have released the names of 7 of the 12 shooting victims.
UPDATE 14, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 10:22 a.m. EDT: According to CNN correspondent Pamela Brown, the "FBI Washington field office...confirmed gunman was NOT armed with AR15. Spokesperson says 1 shotgun and 2 pistols recovered."
UPDATE 15, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 10:43 a.m. EDT: The AP reports that Alexis "had been hearing voices and was being treated for mental problems in the weeks before the shooting rampage, but was not stripped of his security clearance..."
UPDATE 16, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 10:48 a.m. EDT: A Time exclusive:
A soon-to-be-released government audit says the Navy, in an attempt to reduce costs, let down its guard to risks posed by outside contractors at the Washington Navy Yard and other facilities, a federal official with access to the report tells TIME.
The Navy "did not effectively mitigate access-control risks associated with contractor-installation access" at Navy Yard and other Navy installations, the report by the Department of Defense Inspector General's office says. Parts of the audit were read to TIME by a federal official with access to the document.
UPDATE 17, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 11:00 a.m. EDT: WSB-TV Atlanta has the document showing that Aaron Alexis was "issued a citation after a disturbance at a nightclub on Chamblee-Tucker Road and Interstate 285" in Atlanta, Georgia in 2008. He was cited for "disorderly conduct after DeKalb County police said he damaged furnishings inside the club and yelled profanities outside."
UPDATE 18, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 3:46 p.m. EDT: The names of all 12 victims in the Navy Yard shooting have been released.
UPDATE 19, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 3:59 p.m. EDT: The Washington Post reports:
The lawyer for SharpShooters Small Arms Range and gun shop in Lorton [Virginia], J. Michael Slocum, this afternoon released a statement saying that Aaron Alexis purchased a Remington 870 shotgun and about two boxes of shells on Sunday.
Slocum said Sharpshooters ran a background check on Alexis through the federal National Crime Information System database and was approved.
UPDATE 20, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 4:32 p.m. EDT: Read the just-released Department of Defense Inspector General report on Navy access for contractors here. The report found that 52 convicted felons had received "routine, unauthorized installation access, placing military personnel, civilians, and installations at an increased security risk." The reason, the inspector general found, was because the Navy "attempted to reduce access control costs."
UPDATE 21, SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 4:44 p.m. EDT: Fox News reports:
Aaron Alexis was described at different times during his 2007- stint as a full-time Navy reservist as an "eager trainee" with "unlimited potential," who displayed a "get it done" attitude...[A 2008 evaluation] called Alexis, who was 34 when he died, a "talented technician" who meticulously carried out his duties as an aviation electrician's mate, working on aircraft electrical systems. It also praised him for work he did off the Georgia military base where he was stationed, calling him "community minded," and noting that he "dedicated over 10 hours of off-duty time to the Atlanta Food Bank distributing food to needy individuals in the metro Atlanta area."
A box on the review that read "must promote" was checked.
UPDATE 22, SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 10:11 a.m. EDT: "Friends Say Aaron Alexis Was Into Buddhism for the Thai Women," the Daily Beast reports.
First off, let's get one thing straight: You suck as a parent. This is obvious because you're human and thus almost certain to do unforgivable things like leave your baby alone in his or her crib for several hours at a time just so that you can sleep. But let's assume for the sake of argument that you never sleep: How do you really know that your sleeping child is healthy? By staring at her all night long? Please. It's time to admit that you have no idea how to raise a child, and that you should outsource the job to your friends in Silicon Valley. Let's face it, they're probably smarter than you, and their kids will probably have higher IQs than your kids and get into better colleges. So heed their advice, and buy these indispensable baby-rearing gadgets.
Withings Smart Kids Scale
During scheduled check-ups, your pediatrician will typically weigh your baby to make sure that his growth curve falls within the range of "normal." But given that your baby may go days, weeks, or even months between check-ups, how do you know he hasn't suddenly forked off onto an inexorable path towards anorexia or morbid obesity? That's why you need the Withings Smart Kids Scale. It weighs your baby and automatically transmits the measurements to a smartphone app. You can use the app to tweak your feeding strategy, stuffing or starving your infant into total normalcy.
Owlet Vitals Monitor
A sensor woven into your baby's sock tracks her heart rate, blood-oxygen levels, skin temperature, and "sleep quality." It streams this data in real time, along with any "roll over alerts," to your iPhone, where it's logged in perpetuity by a special app. Rest assured knowing that the slightest perturbations in your child's bodily rhythms will be brought to your immediate attention, enabling you to constantly wonder if you ought to rush her to the hospital before it's too late. Only 6 percent of Owlet customers have babies with health issues, according to Owlet founder Jordan Monroe. But nobody has health issues, you know, until they do.
Unfortunately, sensors and smart scales can't monitor everything that matters to your baby's health (and ultimate fantastic success in life). For that, you'll need the Babies' Diary, an app that tracks nursings, diaper changes, baths, doctor visits, baby length and head size, and the duration of stroller walks and play sessions. Concerned that constantly updating these details might detract from, say, your quality time with your child? Don't worry about it! Just sleep less.
True Fit iAlert Convertible Car Seat
When a VC drives his little guy around Menlo Park, how does he really know the kid is buckled in and happy? He could turn around and check on him, but who has time for that while updating their Baby Diaries and negotiating the gridlock on Sand Hill Road? That's why the True Fit iAlert Convertible Car Seat is such a lifesaver. For just $399.99, you get a seat that's fully integrated with your iPhone. You'll never have to take your eyes off the screen again to know that your child has overheated, jumped out the window, or been abandoned by you in the parking lot.
Why Cry Baby Cry Analyzer
Do you know why your baby is crying? Neither do the geniuses who rule Silicon Valley. That's why they own the Why Cry Baby Cry Analyzer. Who needs common sense when you've got algorithms?
Locate 1 GPS
Until robot nannies become viable, you may need to hire a human to help take care of your baby while you're at work. Instead of trusting your nanny's judgment, bug your baby's diaper bag with the Locate 1 GPS. For only $500 (and a $15 to $50 monthly service fee), it can tell you where your baby is going, if he has exceeded a certain speed limit, and whether he has crossed into any "forbidden zones" that you may wish to designate, such as East Palo Alto. The Locate 1 will also come in handy once your baby gets his own drivers license.
You can put your fetus on the waiting list of an exclusive preschool, but don't count on it being accepted without BellyBuds. As any good parent knows, children exposed to music in the womb develop sooner than children who aren't. Sure, affixing two giant suction speakers to your engorged belly every night might not sound like fun, but neither is raising a child that can't even get into MENSA.
Source: "Why Hasn't Democracy Slowed Rising Income Inequality?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, Summer 2013 edition
To the long list of problemslinkedtoincome inequality, you can now add another: political gridlock. As illustrated above, the dramatic fall and rise of income inequality over the past century correlates remarkably closely with the level of political polarization in the US House of Representatives.
On its face, this correlation seems incredibly counterintuitive. As a greater share of wealth concentrates in the hands of the top 1 percent of income earners, you'd expect the other 99 percent of Americans to act as a more-unified voting block, electing politicians who'd level the economic playing field.
But that hasn't happened. And nobody really knows why.
The creators of this chart, which accompanied a paper in the most recent issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, float a laundry list of explanations: the ideological influence of free market capitalism, falling rates of voter turnout among the poor, higher standards of living, gerrymandering, and the influence of money in politics.
Of course, correlation isn't causation—we can't say whether inequality fuels political polarization or vice versa. The widening ideological chasm in Congress has certainly prevented Washington from correcting the sort of policy mistakes—tax cuts, financial deregulation, "free trade" deals—that continue to enrich the few at the expense of everyone else. The question is whether the further growth of inequality will eventually change that, or, as it has in countries such as Egypt, fuel a politics ever more defined by extremes.
Buried in a Brazilian television report on Sunday was the disclosure that the NSA has impersonated Google and possibly other major internet sites in order to intercept, store, and read supposedly secure online communications. The spy agency accomplishes this using what's known as a "man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack," a fairly well-known exploit used by elite hackers. This revelation adds to the growing list of ways that the NSA is believed to snoop on ostensibly private online conversations.
In what appears to be a slide taken from an NSA presentation that also contains some GCHQ slides, the agency describes "how the attack was done" on "target" Google users. According to the document, NSA employees log into an internet router—most likely one used by an internet service provider or a backbone network. (It's not clear whether this was done with the permission or knowledge of the router's owner.) Once logged in, the NSA redirects the "target traffic" to an "MITM," a site that acts as a stealthy intermediary, harvesting communications before forwarding them to their intended destination.