DebuggerJul 19, 2023
The Frances Haugen interview: Two years after Facebook, what now?
Whistleblower Frances Haugen joins host Bob Sullivan to talk about life after taking on Facebook: the slow pace of change, the research she is conducting (some with Duke students) and why she's become interested in Ralph Nader's battle for automobile safety.
Rules for Whistleblowers: a Handbook for Doing What's Right
When Whistleblower Francis Haugen came forward and testified before Congress about what she thought was going wrong inside Facebook, she changed big tech forever. But how? Here to discuss that with me is Stephen Cohen, author of the book, Rules for Whistleblowers, A Handbook for Doing What's Right, and many, many other books and publications on whistle-blowing. He's also one of the nation's leading whistleblower attorneys.
Nonconsensual Tracking: A Case Study in Abusability
Eva Galperin is director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and one of the leading voices against stalkerware and other technology used for non-consensual tracking of victims. She joins Debugger to discuss research she is conducting with Duke University on tracker gadgets, like AirTag or Tile devices, and how well software warns potential victims they're being watched.
The Battle for Your Brain -- preserving 'cognitive liberty' in the age of neurotechnology
If you feel a little creeped out by the idea of wearing gadgets that send your pulse rate or oxygen levels or sleep patterns to a big tech company …wait until you hear what Duke University professor Nita Farahany is warning people about in her brand new book, The Battle for Your Brain. Earbuds might be able to spy on your thoughts. And like it or not, you might have to let tech into your brain just so you can compete with artificial intelligence.
Maybe smart gadgets need 'nutrition' labels
Your home is getting "smarter" all the time...full of smart gadgets, anyway. But most people know precious little about what these Smart TVs -- what ALL these smart gadgets -- are learning about us, and what happens to that data? Duke University professor Pardis Emami-Naemi is hoping to change that. She's working on a proposal to add nutrition-like labels to gadgets, so the privacy trade-offs we are all making all the time make are easier to understand
Why are U.S. states banning TikTok?
North Carolina recently joined a growing list of states – more than 20 now -- that have banned social media app TikTok from government-issued devices. Here to discuss this with me is Ken Rogerson, professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy.
Developing cybersecurity capacity in the developing world
How do developing nations learn to protect their developing Internet capacity? One option: free training from the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI). What is USTTI? Here to explain that is Chairman and CEO Jim O’Connor.
What's going on with Twitter Blue Checks? It's a long story
Elon Musk has taken over Twitter and .. well, a lot is going on. One really important development that might be overlooked is Musk's new ... and now delayed ... attempt to change Twitter's Blue Check system. Verification online is a very, very tricky subject. In this episode of Debugger in 10, Robyn Caplan of Duke University offers a bit of a history lesson on Twitter's Blue Checks. It's a good reminder that many people have never really been happy with how they work.
The problem with 'Do your own research'
"Do your own research" sounds like a harmless suggestion. It's more complicated than that, says today's guest, UNC professor Francesa Tripodi, author of the new book The Propagandists' Playbook. In this episode of Debugger in 10, Tripodi discusses the IKEA Effect in research, why Googling is more like a scavenger hunt, and how algorithmic polarization means the question you ask leads you to the answers you get.
Uber exec convicted for hiding hack; should cybersecurity workers worry?
Should a company executive face criminal charges after a data breach? That's one of the questions opened up by the remarkable trial recently of Joe Sullivan, former head of cyber security at Uber, who was recently convicted of essentially hiding a hack from federal investigators. The case has people in cyber security divided and maybe a little bit scared. In this episode of Debugger in 10, Duke University Law Professor Shane Stansbury dives into the details.
Data brokers and scammers team up to target the elderly, vulnerable
Research by Duke University shows data brokers have collaborated with scammers - and they've fine-tuned their algorithms to attack the most vulnerable consumers, such as people facing cognitive issues. Duke's Alistair Simmons and Justin Sherman discuss their findings on this episode of Debugger in 10.
Should the FTC stop Facebook from acquiring VR firm? And make it 'give back' Instagram and WhatsApp?
There’s a new front that’s opened in the years-long battle between the FTC and Facebook. Federal regulators have sued to stop the social media giant’s proposed acquisition of a company named Within, which makes a popular virtual reality fitness app called Supernatural. In this episode of Debugger in 10, we talk with Duke University law professor Barak Richman about the merits of the case, and about the larger context of the FTCs legal battles with Facebook / Meta.
From soulless...to soulful work in cyber
Bryan Palma, CEO of cybersecurity firm Trellix, spoke recently at the biggest cybersecurity conference in the world, the RSA conference, and delivered quite the call to action. Social media companies "have revealed themselves as soulless," he said. Tech workers who want to find more meaning in their work...well, there's plenty of work to do in cybersecurity. Palma lays out his plan to fill millions of unfilled tech jobs by first explaining that cybersecurity work is....heroic....through an effort he calls #SoulfulWork.
Defending Democracy Part 1: Too Big To Sue
Big Tech makes big decisions over our lives: What products we see, how we feel about world events, what to censor -- to some degree, what medical decisions we make. Yet who controls Big Tech? The firms are so powerful and rich they really act as judge and jury now. Increasingly, they are accountable to no one. So at Duke University, we are exploring ways to balance the power of Big Tech. This is part 1 of a three-part series "Defending Democracy from Big Tech." Host Bob Sullivan tries to put tech firms' vast power and influence into perspective. Guests include Marty Abrams, Jolynn Dellinger, David Hoffman, Chris Hoofnagle, Francella Ochillo, Barak Richman, Johnny Ryan, David Vladek, and Michael “Buz” Waitzkin.
Defending Democracy (and us!) from Big Tech -- series overview
In this five-minute sizzle reel, you'll hear from all the voices in our 3-part docu-podcast about the problem of Big Tech. Big Tech makes big decisions over our lives: What products we see, how we feel about world events, what to censor -- to some degree, what medical decisions we make. Yet who controls Big Tech? The firms are so powerful and rich they really act as judge and jury now. Increasingly, they are accountable to no one. So at Duke University, we are exploring ways to balance the power of Big Tech.
Defending Democracy Part 3: Begged and Borrowed
This isn't the first time the American Way has been threatened by an industry with too much power and influence. What has been done in the past to rebalance the scales? We talk with a field of experts to learn what can be borrowed from the epic struggles of the past -- in finance, food, drugs, the environment. How do we make sure that data works in the service of humankind, rather than the other way around? The conclusion of Defending Democracy (and Us!) from Big Tech includes interviews with Jolynn Dellinger, David Hoffman, Chris Hoofnagle, Francella Ochillo, Barak Richman, Johnny Ryan, Kyle Taylor, Rory Van Loo, and David Vladek.
Defending Democracy Part 2: What *hasn't* worked?
Even Big Tech companies understand they wield too much power. Facebook's attempt to create an Oversight Board is a nod to this reality. In practice, it also demonstrates why this problem is so challenging. And how an effort to bring sense to the 2020 presidential election ended up as a Twitter food fight instead. In episode 2 of Defending Democracy from Big Tech, we take a deep dive into what's been tried -- self-regulation, lawsuits, outside independent organizations. There's lots to learn from our mistakes so far. Includes interviews with Jane Horvath, Alexys Ogorek, Bobbi Spector, Kyle Taylor, and David Vladek.
Cancer patient victim of $500,000 crime, but Big Tech is the tool
Bob Sullivan hosts Duke's Debugger podcast and AARP's The Perfect Scam podcast. This Debugger in 10 episode brings the work of these two projects together. In a recent two-part series for AARP, Bob told the story of Matthew West, afflicted with a deadly form of brain cancer, and the terrible things that happened to him when he went online looking for pain relief. In this short Debugger episode, Bob talks with Duke's professor David Hoffman about all the ways technology firms failed Matthew and many people like him. "If the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members...we are completely failing," David says.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Johnny Ryan, Irish digital rights advocate
Dr. Johnny Ryan is senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. We discussed the critical role Ireland plays in regulating the world's Big Tech companies, and why he sees the online advertising ecosystem as "the biggest data breach of all time."
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Jane Horvath, Apple
Jane Horvath is Apple's chief privacy officer. We talked with her about Apple's role as "judge and jury" when it comes to inclusion in the App Store, and how the firm might be more accountable for its decisions.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Francella Ochillo
Francella Ochillo is a digital rights advocate. A fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School and Executive Director of New Century Cities, we talked with her about making sure underserved communities are represented in discussions about platform accountability.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Duke's David Hoffman - where's the 'platform perp walk?'
David Hoffman is a cybersecurity policy expert at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. He told us Big Tech should take much more responsibility for the harm done using their platforms.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Berkeley's Chris Hoofnagle -- data equals power
Chris Jay Hoofnagle is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert in privacy law and computer crime law. He believes Internet regulators could adopt strategies similar to the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Buz Waitzkin, Duke Science
Michael “Buz” Waitzkin is the Deputy Director of Science & Society at Duke University. We talked with him about the outsized impact technology has on consumer decision-making -- even intimate healthcare choices.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Robin Spector, Federal Trade Commission
Robin Spector is a long-time Federal Trade Commission attorney who now works in the Office of Commissioner Christine S. Wilson. She talks about the challenges the FTC faces when enforcing the law with a small staff of 30 or 40 who focus on privacy-related cases.
Defending Democracy, extended cuts: Kyle Taylor, the 'Real' Facebook Oversight Board
Kyle Taylor serves on the 'Real' Facebook Oversight Board, created in anticipation of social media issues surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Taylor says Facebook hasn't engaged in sincere dialog around issues like hate speech or disinformation.
Defending Democracy Extended Cuts: Alexys Ogorek, Duke Law
Duke Law School student Alexys Ogorek spent months researching the Facebook Oversight Board. She explains why the concept is good, but the execution has -- so far -- fallen short.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Duke's Jolynn Dellinger on the role of whistleblowers
Jolynn Dellinger teaches privacy at Duke University Law School and is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. She talks about the need for more transparency when companies like Amazon use algorithms to recommend choices to consumers.
Defending Democracy Extended Cuts: David Vladeck, former FTC
As former head of the FTC's bureau of consumer protection, David Vladeck had a front-row seat at some of the landmark lawsuits against Big Tech. He's in a great position to explain why it's so hard for the U.S. government -- any government -- to balance Big Tech's power. "It's not just David vs. Goliath...we're a pretty tiny David."
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Ken Rogerson, Duke Sanford School of Public Policy
Ken Rogerson teaches at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, where he is the director of graduate studies. He explained that market economics alone cannot create incentives for companies to address the harms caused by new technologies.l
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Barak Richman, antitrust expert
Duke University law school professor Barak Richman studies the economics of contracting, new institutional economics, antitrust, and healthcare policy. We talked with him about the role that antitrust law might play in creating accountability for Big Tech.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Shane Stansbury, former prosecutor
Duke University professor Shane Stansbury served for more than eight years as Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), where he led some of the office’s most sensitive and noteworthy prosecutions in the areas of terrorism, cybercrime, espionage, money laundering, international public corruption, and global weapons trafficking. We talked with him about the problem of evidence in the digital age.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Rory Van Loo, former CFPB
Rory Van Loo has tackled big problems with big ideas before. He helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the Great Recession. What big steps can be taken to rein in Big Tech? What lessons can be learned from other regulatory agencies? Van Loo is now a law professor at Boston University.
Defending Democracy extended cuts: Marty Abrams, industry advocate
Martin Abrams is Executive Director and Chief Strategist for the Information Accountability Foundation, which receives funding from large technology companies. We talked with him about early efforts at accountability and why technology firms would support such efforts.
Last Week Tonight takes on data brokers, with Duke's Justin Sherman
John Oliver draws attention to serious subjects with irreverent humor and made-for-TV stunts. He made some people in Washington D.C. very nervous recently when his show, Last Week Tonight, took on the data broker industry and acquired sensitive information about people in and around the U.S. Capitol. The segment featured work by Duke's Justin Sherman, who recently authored a paper titled "Data Brokers and Sensitive Data on US Individuals." Here, Sherman talks about work with Last Week Tonight, and about the data broker problem.
Debugger in 10: Executive Ed program at Duke - June 13-15, 2022
Cybersecurity isn't just for IT workers -- for geeks -- anymore. Everyone, at every level of every organization, must make it a priority. Executives who sit on boards of directors should play a critical oversight role as companies make their cybersecurity plans, but many have little training or expertise in this area. Duke's Univerisity has put together a training program that will help fill this knowledge gap. In this episode of Debugger in 10, Duke professor David Hoffman describes the program. It combines the expertise of Duke’s public policy school, computer science department, engineering school, and law school. The program faculty includes not only subject matter experts from Duke, but also leaders who have managed and responded to cybersecurity risks at the highest level of industry and government. The event takes place in on Duke's Durham, N.C. campus from June 13-15. Learn more and apply at https://execed.sanford.duke.edu/blog/marketing_page/cybersecurity-home/
The IRS "upload your selfie" controversy - now what?
The IRS recently began asking taxpayers to upload selfies as a way to authenticate users. it went over as well as you might expect. Despite the controversy aroused by facial recognition and government vendors, today's Debugger in 10 guest thinks "we can't say no to everything." Something must be done to allow government services to enter the 21s Century, says Jeremy Grant, who works at cybersecurity firm Venable. I ask him: What?
Can Facebook really change? Or be changed?
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate Committee on Tuesday and really delivered some stark assessments of the social media giant and the way it does business. She said Facebook is buying its profits with our safety. On this episode of Debugger in 10, Duke professor Jolynn Dellinger, a privacy expert, is here to discuss options for Congress -- and for the rest of us.
Facebook faces yet another grilling by Congress. Will anything change?
Facebook was again hauled before Congress this week, this time to answer for a set of stories published in the Wall Steet Journal saying the company has internal research showing its tools hurt kids -- Instagram exacerbates body image issues for teen girls, for example -- but it hasn't really done much about that. So, what now? What next? Here to help untangle that is David Hoffman, professor at Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy -- he's a cybersecurity expert.
Texas social media censorship ban -- a victory for disinformation?
Will a new Texas law require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to host vaccine disinformation, or even hate speech? The law also makes it a crime to "de-boost" comments and other posts, forbidding firms from taking away algorithmic amplification that helps extreme posts go viral. But are Facebook and Instagram users entitled to -- not just free speech, but also free reach? Duke University's Phil Napoli joins me for a Debugger in 10 discussion.
Debugger: 1 click, 1,000 spies
You probably don't realize, or don't think about, the hundreds of small companies that attach themselves to name-brand websites like CNN.com which track you in the same way. Then these billions of pieces of information about us is married to billions of dollars being spent trying to get our attention. That idle Google search out anxiety medicine or sexual disfunction is auctioned off to the highest bidder, and shared with thousands of other firms, too. The result? A one-way mirror that not only intrudes on our most intimate thoughts but logs them forever, making them easy prey for murky data brokers and creepy hackers. For the rest of Internet time. That's what this podcast is about. The Internet has a third-party problem -- a number of third-party problems, really -- and it's time we talked about them.
Can you ask your friends to stop spying on you?
What do you do if you think your friend is bugging you? I don't mean bothering you. I mean...bugging you...using a device to listen to you, maybe even recording your conversations, when you visit their home. Well, that's the world most of us live in now. Personal assistants, many modern TVs, smart doorbells...they all incorporate listening devices. What if you don't want to be surveilled like that? Should you ask your friends to turn off their Alexa when you walk in the door? Should they offer? In this episode of Debugger in 10, Bob Sullivan talks with Dr. Jolynn Dellinger, a privacy law professor at Duke University, where she is also a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Kenan and Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy bring you this podcast.
Want to stop ransomware? Cut off the cryptocurrency
The Colonial Pipeline cyberattack got the attention of U.S. consumers when gasoline stations started running out of fuel, but the ransomware crisis has been festering for a long time. What steps did the White House take to stop, or at least slow down, ransomware gangs? In this mini-episode, host Bob Sullivan discusses an executive order signed by President Biden -- what it says, and what it's missing -- with Duke University Professor David Hoffman.
What is the Original Sin of the Internet, Part 2
The technologists who built the Internet were naive, and their failure of imagination led us all down a path to rampant fraud, abuse, and misinformation. In part 2 of this episode, Jessica Rich, Ari Schwartz, and Tim Sparapani join me to discuss why things went so wrong.
What is the Original Sin of the Internet? Part 1
Is there an Original Sin of the Internet? The techlash is real: Did it have to be this way? In this launch episode of Debugger, Bob Sullivan talks with a set of researchers and technologists who were there at the beginning of the Digital Age and you'll hear: The Internet is in crisis. We could have fixed it long ago. It wasn't hard. We just failed. In part 1, you'll hear from pioneers Richard Purcell, Bill Woodcock, and Jolynn Dellinger.
Coming soon: Debugger
What's the Original Sin of the Internet? Why is technology such a powerful tool for attacking democracy? How many data brokers stalk you every time you open a web page or use an app? And what can we do to domesticate the wild animal that is the Internet? These are the kinds of questions we'll be asking on Debugger, my new podcast -- brought to you by Duke Unversity's Sanford School of Public Policy and the Keenan Institute for Ethics.