This Week in Web #37

Ed Snowden’s Chance for Clemency is Closing

Edward Snowden has taken refuge in Russia for over three years, ever since leaking millions of documents worth of proof of illegal activity on part of the US Government. He has stated his wish to return to the United States if he

The Oliver Stone biopic, ‘Snowden’, hits theaters today, and his legal team is hoping that it can help turn public opinion enough to help convince President Obama to pardon the whistleblower. Immediately before leaving office is generally the time that most noteworthy presidential pardons are given. Both major party nominees have indicated that they would most likely not grant leniency to Snowden, even if Bernie Sanders publicly supports the idea.

The President will need quite a bit of convincing. He has made it clear that he does not condone Snowden’s actions in anyway whatsoever, and already has demonstrated his dislike of whistleblowers, prosecuting them under the Espionage Act more than all past presidents combined. This is the same law that is under review again for being potentially unconstitutional, and which has been used to silence other whistleblowers, as they are not allowed to make a case based on public good of their leaks.

The NSA leaks, part of a broader picture of surveillance culture, mass leaks, and the increasing interconnectedness of our world, have definitely had an impact felt worldwide. Here in the United States, we’ve had a conversation about the role of surveillance in our society, new bills intended to curb abuses of surveillance power, and court rulings that have declared several NSA activities, including the bulk collection of phone records and metadata. Corporations have become emboldened as well, building encryption directly into their products to avoid some surveillance, and standing up to the government to draw a line and say that they will not bend to unreasonable demands.

From early reviews, the film takes some liberties with its source material. The most good that it can do is to raise awareness of the man, who has already been featured in an Academy Award winning documentary, ‘Citizenfour’, which does a good job of explaining who he is and what he did for us. His interview with John Oliver last year, while showing a depressing number of people who even knew who Snowden was (see awareness issue above), was also a good primer on personal security, and a humorous look at a man who has been taken so serious for the past three years.

The Feds Will Soon Be Able to Legally Hack Almost Anyone

Senator Ron Wyden, Matt Blaze and Susan Landau, Wired

Sometimes the government is more transparent in how they surveil. Currently, Expansions to Rule 41 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure are under consideration in Congress. The fallout of this could very well allow the government to legally do what it’s already doing, and hack computers of criminals, their victims, and unrelated third parties in the millions with a single warrant. Beyond the privacy implications, security is something that isn’t really taken into account here. Well, it is if you are oblivious enough to think that the government can crack your devices but no one else would be able to take advantage of those cracks.

A better bill to support would be the Stop Mass Hacking Act, which Senator Wyden introduced with Senator Rand Paul in May.


The state of the Octoverse 2016

Github

Github is the most widely used public code repository in the world, so it is also the def facto place to see trends in code. JavaScript and Java both had huge gains in popularity in the past year, though newer languages like Go, Swift, and TypeScript are also seeing growth. Microsoft has overtaken Facebook and Google for the most open source contributions on the platform.

See all this and more, like the issue message that got the most reactions (it might sound awfully familiar to NASA buffs), with an infographic of stats on the code repository network that came out in conjunction with the Github Universe conference this week.


YouTube Is Building Communityβ€”And It’s Not Just About Video

Harry McCracken, FastCompany

This is a long read, but if you’re more inclined to video, the YouTube channel The Know stated it succinctly: Facebook is becoming YouTube, while YouTube is becoming Facebook.


How WIRED Completely Encrypted Itself

Zack Tollman, Wired

Zack Tollman is a smart guy. He can teach most anyone the basics of security and encryption, even me. When Wired moved to encrypting their entire network of sites, covering 23 years worth of publishing, there was a lot to do. Their hope is that a post about the problems that they faced and how they overcame them will be useful to other publishers. I’m also glad to have something to point to so I can say “yeah, this isn’t always as easy as it looks, and sometimes it looks hard.”


Twitter’s new, longer tweets are coming September 19th

Chris Welch, The Verge

This and other articles about the change in tweet character counts have been a bit clickbaity, but it’s still a change that I eagerly await. Following announcements earlier this year that things like usernames, links, and media attachments would no longer count toward character limits in tweets, it appears that we’re almost there. I personally can’t wait to quote people and tag people and spam links everywhere with impunity. Follow me on Twitter if you dare😝

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