Open Thread: Social Media Privacy Update, Maybe?

I don’t actually have a twitter account, because I’m fortunate enough not to need one, and I’m barely tech-competent enough to lurk there. But I’m seeing messages about the company’s latest “improvements”. Per Marketing Land:

When you visit a site that features a tweet button or an embedded tweet, Twitter is able to recognize that you’re on that site and use that information to target you with ads. And now it’s going to hang on to that information for a bit longer but give you more control over it.

Twitter updated its privacy policy on Wednesday so that it can use the information it collects about people’s off-Twitter web browsing for up to 30 days, as opposed to the previous 10-day maximum, according to the updated document that takes effect on June 18. The extension could help Twitter when it comes to making sure its ads are aimed at enough of the right people, which could aid its struggle to attract direct-response advertisers and reverse its advertising revenue declines…

While Twitter will no longer support Do Not Track once its new privacy policy takes effect on June 18, the company still offers options for people to disable ads targeted based information collected off Twitter. People can pull up Twitter’s settings menu, select “Privacy and Safety,” then “Personalization and data” and then toggle off “Personalize ads.” That menu also includes an option to disable Twitter from being able to see when a person visits a site that features a tweet button or an embedded tweet as well as a nuclear option that also prevents Twitter from sharing a person’s data with other companies, using location-based data to personalize content on Twitter and connecting data across the different devices a person may use to log in to Twitter…

More at the link. By all means, feel free to explain what I’ve gotten wrong in the comments.

Late Night Open Thread: A (Tech) Hero for Our Times?

I have absolutely no idea if this is plausible / true, but it makes a great story. (The ransomware attack certainly seems to have been real.) From the Washington Post, “How a $10.69 purchase may have sidelined the global malware attack“:

LONDON — As the world began Friday to understand the dimensions of Wanna Decryptor 2.0, the ransomware that has crippled computers worldwide, a vacationing British cybersecurity researcher was already several steps ahead.

About 3 p.m. Eastern time, the specialist with U.S. cybersecurity enterprise Kryptos Logic bought an unusually long and nonsensical domain name ending with “” The 22-year-old says he paid $10.69, but his purchase might have saved companies and governmental institutions around the world billions of dollars.

By purchasing the domain name and registering a website, the cybersecurity researcher claims that he activated a kill switch. It immediately slowed the spread of the malware and could ultimately stop its current version, cybersecurity experts said Saturday. Britain’s National Cyber Security Center confirmed Saturday that it was collaborating with the 22-year-old and other private researchers to stop the malware from spreading.

Hidden in the malware, the kill switch probably was not supposed to be activated anytime soon. Perhaps it was never supposed to be there in the first place.

“What it had not counted on was a researcher doing the world a service and taking advantage of a flaw that now seemed glaringly obvious in hindsight,” said Robert McArdle, a research director with Tokyo-based cybersecurity company Trend Micro…

Read the whole thing for further details, and perhaps send out a blessing to the IT guy who tweets as @MalwareTechBlog.

Another Nuclear Disaster That’s Not Going To Happen

The Hanford tunnel collapse post comment thread got hopelessly confused with other disasters like commenting in comic sans, so here’s another thread where you can leave your questions and panicked comments.

Will a North Korean nuclear test cause a volcanic eruption?

Spoiler: No. Even nuclear blasts are trivial in comparison to the energy of natural processes.

The article looks at previous nuclear testing experience, including the most likely to cause an earthquake:

the largest underground thermonuclear tests conducted by the US were detonated in Amchitka at the western end of the Aleutian Islands and the largest of these was the 5 megaton codename Cannikin test which occurred on November 6, 1971. Cannikin had a body wave magnitude of 6.9 and it did not trigger any earthquakes in the seismically active Aleutian Islands.

And open thread, but please do not comment in comic sans for the sanity of other commenters.


Tunnel Collapse at Hanford


A tunnel collapsed in the 200 Area of Washington State’s Hanford Reservation. The 200 Area is where fuel elements from Hanford’s reactors were processed to recover the plutonium that went into American nuclear weapons. I was not aware of an underground rail system there. The system is probably in the 200 area only because the reactors are much too far away to make an underground system possible. Read more

John Locke, A Thermometer, A Bullet, And What Gets Lost When Feral Children Break Things

I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that takes a kind of odd look at why Trump’s dalliance with destroying NATO was so pernicious.

Basically, I look at what goes into making an alliance or any complex collaboration function.  Spoiler alert: it’s not the armchair strategist focus on troop numbers or budget levels.  It is, rather, the infrastructure, in its material and especially social forms that determine whether joint  shared action can succeed.

To get there I leap from the story of something as basic as agreeing on one common cartridge to be used across the alliance to an anecdote from the early days of the scientific revolution, when John Locke (yup, that Locke) left his borrowed rooms in a house in Essex to check the readings from the little weather station he’d set up at the suggestion of Robert Hooke.

A sample:

While this first step toward the standardization of the tools of science was a milestone, it took the development of a common process — shared habits, ways of working — to truly transform the eager curiosity of the 17th and 18th centuries into a revolutionary new approach to knowledge, the one we now call science. In 1705, the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society published an article by the philosopher John Locke. It was a modest work, just a weather diary: a series of daily observations of temperature, barometric pressure, precipitation, cloud cover. He was a careful observer, working with the best available instruments, a set built by Tompion himself. On Sunday, Dec. 13, 1691, for example, Locke left his rooms just before 9 a.m. The temperature was 3.4 on Tompion’s scale — a little chilly, but not a hard frost. Atmospheric pressure had dropped slightly compared to the day before, 30 inches of mercury compared to 30.04. There was a mild east wind, 1 on Locke’s improvised scale, enough to “just move the leaves.” The cloud cover was thick and unbroken — which is to say it was an entirely unsurprising December day in the east of England: dull, damp, and raw.

The reasoning does, I think, more or less come together — and you might enjoy reading such a convoluted bit of historical argument.


In any event, posting this here lets me think thank our own Adam Silverman, who talked through some of the ideas with me and gave me other valuable help. Any errors you might find within the piece are all mine.

Image: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Nagamaya Yaichi Ducking Bullets1878.

Open Thread: On Mars, I Agree with Bill Maher

Sure, I want humanity to become “a multi-planet species” — but that won’t happen while we’re treating the one we’ve already got as disposable, something to be used up and discarded.

Hell, just getting to Mars is gonna involve a level of “reduce, reuse, recycle” that we’ve barely contemplated. Let’s practice here, where if/when things go wrong — as they did during Steve Bannon’s Biosphere II experiment — the messy aftermath can be measured in lawsuits, not deaths.

Monday Morning Open Thread: Standing Together and Fighting for Truth

Chaz Danner, NYMag, “Scientists and Their Allies Stage Unprecedented Worldwide Protest“:

Scientists and their supporters amassed in large numbers in hundreds of cities across the globe on Saturday to participate in the March for Science, a worldwide protest in support of science, scientists, and the value of scientific research. More officially, the nonpartisan event was meant to encourage “political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.” Many attendees in the U.S., however, appeared to be motivated as much by their respect for science as they were by the Trump administration’s perceived antipathy towards it. The sweeping White House-proposed budget cuts to federal agencies that fund scientists and their research was instrumental in driving interest in the march over the last few months, and government science budgets were clearly on the mind of many other marchers across the world too, as was the threat of human-driven climate change. Evidence and reality may be neutral, but in the present political climate, scientists may no longer be able to be so.

Whatever the specific motivations of individual participants, the overall march was undoubtedly a unique event in the history of science and politics. As the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney explains after talking to some science historians, “While scientists and their allies have argued about and even occasionally protested on specific political topics over the years, taking to the streets in a sweeping defense of scientific truth itself and its role in policymaking seems considerably broader and, for the research world, more fundamental.”…

Apart from continued #Resistance, what’s on the agenda as we start another week?