This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America

This Man Is the Most Dangerous Political Operative in America:

Breitbart’s genius was that he grasped better than anyone else what the early 20th century press barons understood—that most readers don’t approach the news as a clinical exercise in absorbing facts, but experience it viscerally as an ongoing drama, with distinct story lines, heroes, and villains. Breitbart excelled at creating these narratives, an editorial approach that’s lived on. “When we do an editorial call, I don’t even bring anything I feel like is only a one-off story, even if it’d be the best story on the site,” says Alex Marlow, the site’s editor in chief. “Our whole mindset is looking for these rolling narratives.” He rattles off the most popular ones, which Breitbart News covers intensively from a posture of aggrieved persecution. “The big ones won’t surprise you,” he says. “Immigration, ISIS, race riots, and what we call ‘the collapse of traditional values.’ But I’d say Hillary Clinton is tops.”

GAI is set up more like a Hollywood movie studio than a think tank. The creative mind through which all its research flows and is disseminated belongs to a beaming young Floridian named Wynton Hall, a celebrity ghostwriter who’s penned 18 books, six of them New York Times best-sellers, including Trump’s Time to Get Tough. Hall’s job is to transform dry think-tank research into vivid, viral-ready political dramas that can be unleashed on a set schedule, like summer blockbusters. “We work very long and hard to build a narrative, storyboarding it out months in advance,” he says. “I’m big on this: We’re not going public until we have something so tantalizing that any editor at a serious publication would be an idiot to pass it up and give a competitor the scoop. ”

To this end, Hall peppers his colleagues with slogans so familiar around the office that they’re known by their abbreviations. “ABBN — always be breaking news,” he says. Another slogan is “depth beats speed.” Time-strapped reporters squeezed for copy will gratefully accept original, fact-based research because most of what they’re inundated with is garbage. “The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” says Bannon. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”

Given that the CEO of Breitbart is going to be the new CEO of Donald Trump’s campaign, it seems appropriate to read and reflect on how Bannon has successfully positioned both his news organization – Breitbart – and the thinktank – GAI – such that their news and investigations pervade the media.

The core takeaway is that Bannon understands the media in a more systematic (and arguably deeper) way than Trump. The question, however, is whether that understanding be sufficient to re-invigorate Trump’s campaign amongst traditional conservatives and undecided voters.


Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything

Dollar Shave Club and The Disruption of Everything:

The implications of this go far beyond P&G: fewer Gillette razors also mean less TV advertising and no margin to be made for retailers, who themselves are big advertisers; this is why I argued last month that the entire TV edifice is not only threatened by services like Netflix, but also the disruption of its advertisers, of which P&G is chief.

The importance of looking at secondary consequences of product disruption – in this case with regards to men’s razors – is key to mapping out the still-developing Internet-inflected economy. If it’s razors today, what might it be tomorrow?


How ‘white hat’ hackers could help in the Ashley Madison investigation

How ‘white hat’ hackers could help in the Ashley Madison investigation:

TORONTO – It’s not every day that the police appeal to the hacking community to help investigate a wide-scale hacking incident.

Because much of the Ashley Madison data leak unfolded on the dark web, it makes sense that authorities are appealing to “good” hackers who may have engaged with those behind the leak to come forward. However, according to cyber security expert Chris Parsons, it could have major implications.

“Such hackers possess a technical skill set and may use it to analyze leaked data or to try and track down or identify those suspected for leaking the Ashley Madison data,” said Parsons.

“The danger…is that in hunting for suspected leakers some parties may act beyond, or outside, the law in an attempt to help authorities. In the course of behaving this way they might actually endanger the investigation’s legitimacy or even compromise legitimate evidence.”

Parsons added that without a clearer set of ‘terms of engagement,’ police could bring on further investigations into those “recruited” to help them – putting a strain on resources and risking the integrity into the investigation into the Ashley Madison data breach.


Feds considering warrantless access to internet subscriber info: police chiefs

Feds considering warrantless access to internet subscriber info: police chiefs:

OTTAWA – A new administrative scheme that would allow police to obtain basic information about Internet subscribers without a warrant is one option being considered by federal officials following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that curbed access to such data, Canadian police chiefs say.

A researcher who has long pressed for more transparency around police access to subscriber data said Monday that law-enforcement agencies have yet to make the case for warrantless access – especially since companies can make information available quickly in a genuine emergency.

“We’re not at a point where it’s clear the police have a legitimate concern,” said Christopher Parsons, a postdoctoral fellow with the Citizen Lab at Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

In June last year, the Supreme Court ruled police need judicial authorization to obtain subscriber data linked to online activities. The high court rejected the notion the federal privacy law governing companies allowed them to hand over subscriber identities voluntarily.

The court judgment came amid swelling public concern about authorities quietly gaining access to customer information with little evident scrutiny or oversight.

Parsons wants police to release more statistical information about their requests. “They actually have to make the argument with data, so we can have an evidence-based policy discussion.”

He would also like to see civil society groups and others included in the discussions about possible legislative change.



Twitter closes off ability to track and repost politicians’ deleted tweets | Toronto Star

Twitter closes off ability to track and repost politicians’ deleted tweets:

Twitter has shut off the ability of more than two dozen accounts to track and repost tweets deleted by politicians and other officials in 30 countries around the world, including Canada.

Christopher Parsons, a fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said Twitter’s decision shows that the company “is unwilling to have its API routinely used to monitor what people have tried to delete.

“It appears as though Twitter is saying, ‘Look we know it’s possible, but we don’t want it being done.’ ”

According to Parsons, the weekend Twitter closures may force groups to analyze the different reasons tweets are deleted, rather than posting all deletions automatically, which could change the data’s impact.

“The way in which (the information is) published can be very different, the context can be much broader, and depending on the intent of the group in question, it could be more damning,” he said.

The debate, he added, shows the impact corporations such as Twitter can have on how public figures communicate with people.

“With the American election right now and the Canadian election going on, that’s where these sorts of deletions are often most interesting to the general public,” he said.



Canadian companies have no incentive to report cyber attacks, like that on Ashley Madison | Toronto Star

Canadian companies have no incentive to report cyber attacks, like that on Ashley Madison:

Canada’s Digital Privacy Act, passed by Parliament in June, will require companies to report breaches once regulations are prepared. But experts say it is essentially toothless because it contains few financial penalties.

The Act will introduce fines up to $100,000 for deliberately not reporting a breach.

“There’s the obligation to report, which is, of course, positive,” said Christopher Parsons, managing director of the telecom transparency project at the Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab.

“But without any sort of punitive consequences you run into the question of how useful is the notification itself.”

There is little data on how secure corporate Canada truly is partly because of a lack of breach notification laws, Parsons said.

Without a financial imperative to beef up security, companies are unlikely to shell out the millions of dollars required to identify and prevent them, Parsons said.

“For most companies, security is a drag,” Parsons said, adding that executives tend to reject investment in cybersecurity, where concerns tend to lead to IT professionals saying “no” to a lot of ideas, while also eating up company time, money and resources.

“All those no’s either inhibit fast fluid business, or they increase the cost and the friction of anything a company wants to do.”
Meanwhile, hackers are getting more sophisticated, but they don’t even need to because the defence systems are so weak, Parsons said.

“If you’re a hacker, you have to succeed once; if you’re a defender, you have to succeed every single time.”



So your name is in the Ashley Madison database … are you a cheater? | Metro News

So your name is in the Ashley Madison database … are you a cheater?:

“There was no requirement for verification prior to being added to their database,” said Christopher Parsons, a post-doctoral researcher and cyber-security expert at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

“It’s entirely possible that people’s email addresses were added by friends or co-workers as a prank.”

But, he said, the likelihood of that “is somewhat low.”

Just because someone’s email address can be found in the database doesn’t mean they were active users who committed adultery. They could have just been curious about the site, Parsons said.

While those who registered for the site using their official, government-issued email addresses may be naïve, Parsons said some of them may have done so intentionally.

“Perhaps they share a personal email account with their spouse or partner,” he said. “Using their government account might have been seen as safer.”

Although there have been larger data breaches in the past, Parsons said the Ashley Madison hack is worrying because government officials found using the site could become victims of blackmail.

It’s happened after data breaches in the U.S. and could happen just as easily in Canada, he said.