UK Archives, FCC, Echo, More: Monday Afternoon Buzz, October 26th, 2015


The UK’s National Archives have released a number of MI5 files from the Cold War era. “Today we are releasing over 400 files from the Security Service (MI5), Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Cabinet Office which focus on Cold War investigations that revealed Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to be part of the Cambridge Spy Ring, one of the most famous spy cases in history.” Only a certain number of these are online. The rest you’ll have to read at the National Archives reading rooms in London.


The FCC has announced (in a DOCX file for some reason, sorry) that it will be releasing phone numbers and telemarketer numbers on a weekly basis. “The Federal Communications Commission announced today the Commission will release robocall and telemarketing consumer complaint data weekly to help developers build and improve ‘do-not-disturb’ technologies that allow consumers to block or filter unwanted calls and texts. The data, including originating phone numbers of telemarketers and automated robocalls, will be released and available on the FCC’s Consumer Help Center’s website.” I look forward to lots of lovely call-blocking solutions being built out of this.

Amazon’s Echo now offers information about local businesses, though how it pronounces names is a bit of a crap shoot. “Alexa taps into Yelp’s massive database of recommendations to provide information about businesses located near you, Echo users can tap into Local Search results for nearby businesses and easily see what options are available closeby.”

Twitter’s new Moments: now with advertising. I didn’t care for it before and now I really don’t care for it.


The Port of Los Angeles Archives are apparently in serious trouble. “In early 2015, the Port of Los Angeles clandestinely closed its archival facilities and ended its program to preserve and protect its historic records. The historic resources were removed from the appropriate archival storage facility and placed in storage conditions that are inhospitable to any kind of records. The current facilities suffer from vermin infestation and are located directly adjacent to the water; the humidity is on any given day approximately 15-20 percent higher inside than it is outside the facility. The historic records are in immediate danger of being lost forever.”

Vice: LinkedIn is filled with fake degrees. Eeesh. “We found thousands of profiles listing the names of known degree mills on their résumés. A woman claiming to work in Ebay’s compliance department. A specialist in wireless technology, who according to his profile works for the US government. A supposed airplane engineer in Belgium. An Egyptian reporter who used to work for Al Jazeera. A security consultant who claims to work for Hewlett-Packard in Germany. They all ‘studied’ at sham universities.”

Wow: Google has six services with more than a billion users. SIX. “Those numbers are pretty staggering. Facebook, for example, has several services that have close to 1 billion users (WhatsApp: 900 million, Messenger: 700 million), but only the ‘Big Blue App’ has passed the magical threshold, with 1.4 billion users.”

The new “YouTube Red” service means that ESPN has had to pull its videos from YouTube. “Today, the majority of ESPN’s video content has been pulled off of YouTube in the US, as the sports network currently can’t participate in the YouTube Red service due to rights issues surrounding its content.”


A judge has ruled that a Facebook post has equalled an illegal campaign contribution. “A state judge has ruled that a Facebook post by Liberty Common School amounts to an illegal campaign contribution to a Thompson School District board candidate.” While I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, my concern here has, once again, to do with Facebook algorithms. It may be that early likes and shares will increase the reach of a page post. And that might be something that should be taken into account when you think about who should and should not be able to share/spread posts according to campaign finance laws. But you can’t, because Facebook algorithms are not transparent, and when considering what makes a post reach more people organically you have to pretty much guess.

It looks like the British access provider TalkTalk has been hacked. “TalkTalk, which provides mobile phone, broadband Internet and pay television services, has said private data from its 4 million British customers may have been compromised in a ‘significant and sustained’ cyberattack on its website.” Apparently it’s the third attack on TalkTalk in the last year and it’s not clear if customer information was encrypted or not. If TalkTalk has been attacked three times in a year, and it turns out customer information wasn’t encrypted… well good grief. Good afternoon, Internet…

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