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AUGUSTA — Augusta, is America’s ninth-best “Value City” for travel in 2016 according to trivago.com, a search engine that helps visitors find hotel deals.
In a press release, the site said “American travelers are craving small town comfort and charm. Travel interest to towns with fewer than 50 hotels has been on the rise throughout 2014 and 2015, as Americans seek out less crowded and more budget-friendly destinations.”
To reach its findings, the site used a combination of consumer ratings and hotel prices with a top score of 100. Cities with more than 50 hotels, like Augusta, are included in the “Best Value Cities” index. Cities with less than 50 hotels were considered in the “Best Value Small Town” category.
Branson, Missouri topped the list with Macon, Georgia second:
- Branson, MO 90.50
- Macon, GA 89.80
- Montgomery, AL 89.51
- Wichita, KS 89.21
- Sioux Falls, SD 89.17
- Lincoln, NE 88.98
- Springfield, MO 88.00
- Little Rock, AR 87.88
- Augusta, GA 87.83
- Tulsa, OK 87.77
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For the 2 billion users of the world wide web, Tempora represents a window on to their everyday lives, sucking up every form of communication from the fibre-optic cables that ring the world.
But the big question was: what exactly did GCHQ do with that huge amount of information? Two years later, we finally know, thanks to a new article in The Intercept, which provides
— the name of
, with the repeated line “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us”.
indicates that Karma Police goes back some years — at least to 2008. It provides the following summary of the project’s aims:
KARMA POLICE aims to correlate every user visible to passive SIGINT [signals intelligence] with every website they visit, hence providing either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the internet.
Profiling every (visible) user, and every (visible) Web site seems insanely ambitious, especially back in 2008 when computer speeds and storage capacities were far lower than today. But the information that emerges from the
published by The Intercept suggests GCHQ really meant it — and probably achieved it.
As of 2012, GCHQ was storing about 50 billion metadata records about online communications and Web browsing activity every day, with plans in place to boost capacity to 100 billion daily by the end of that year. The agency, under cover of secrecy, was working to create what it said would soon be the biggest government surveillance system anywhere in the world.
That’s around 36 trillion metadata records gathered in 2012 alone — and it’s probably even higher now. As Techdirt has covered previously, intelligence agencies like to say this is “just” metadata — skating over the fact that metadata is actually much more revealing than traditional content because it is much easier to combine and analyze. An important document released by The Intercept with this story tells us exactly what GCHQ considers to be metadata, and what it says is content. It’s called the “
“, and reveals that
as far as GCHQ is concerned, “authentication data to a communcations service: login ID, userid, password” are all considered to be metadata
, which means GCHQ believes it can legally swipe and store them. Of course, intercepting your login credentials is a good example of why GCHQ’s line that it’s “only metadata” is ridiculous: doing so gives them access to everything you have and do on that service.
The trillions of metadata records are stored in a huge repository called “Black Hole”. In August 2009, 41 percent of Black Hole’s holdings concerned Web browsing histories. The rest included a wide range of other online services: email, instant messenger records, search engine queries, social media, and data about the use of tools providing anonymity online. GCHQ has developed software to analyze these other kinds of metadata in various ways:
SOCIAL ANTHROPOID, which is used to analyze metadata on emails, instant messenger chats, social media connections and conversations, plus “telephony” metadata about phone calls, cell phone locations, text and multimedia messages; MEMORY HOLE, which logs queries entered into search engines and associates each search with an IP address; MARBLED GECKO, which sifts through details about searches people have entered into Google Maps and Google Earth; and INFINITE MONKEYS, which analyzes data about the usage of online bulletin boards and forums.
In order to connect these different kinds of Internet activity with individuals, GCHQ makes great use of information stored in cookies:
A top-secret GCHQ document from March 2009 reveals the agency has targeted a range of popular websites as part of an effort to covertly collect cookies on a massive scale. It shows a sample search in which the agency was extracting data from cookies containing information about people’s visits to the adult website YouPorn, search engines Yahoo and Google, and the Reuters news website.
Other websites listed as “sources” of cookies in the 2009 document are Hotmail, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, WordPress, Amazon, and sites operated by the broadcasters CNN, BBC, and the U.K.’s Channel 4.
Clearly the above activities allow incredibly-detailed pictures of an individual’s online activities to be built up, not least their porn-viewing habits. One tool designed to “provide a near real-time diarisation of any IP address” is called, rather appropriately, Samuel Pepys, after the famous
The extraordinary scale of GCHQ’s spying on “every visible user” raises key questions about its legality. According to The Intercept story:
In 2010, GCHQ noted that what amounted to “25 percent of all Internet traffic” was transiting the U.K. through some 1,600 different cables. The agency said that it could “survey the majority of the 1,600” and “select the most valuable to switch into our processing systems.”
Much of that traffic will be from UK citizens when they access global services like Google or Facebook, which GCHQ has admitted it defines as “
“, and which is thus completely stripped of what few safeguards UK law offers against this kind of intrusive surveillance by GCHQ.
This means that it is certain that many — perhaps millions — of UK citizens have been profiled by GCHQ using these newly-revealed programs, without any kind of warrant or authorization being given or even sought. The information stored in the Black Hole respository, and analyzed with tools like Samuel Pepys, provides unprecedented insights into the minutiae of their daily lives — which Web sites they visit, which search terms they enter, who they contact by email or message on social networks. Within that material, there is likely to be a host of intimate facts that could prove highly damaging to the individual’s career or relationships if revealed — perfect blackmail material, in other words. Thanks to other Snowden documents, we know that the NSA had plans to use this kind of information in precisely this way. It would be naive to think it would never be used domestically, too.
It’s frustrating that it has taken over two years for these latest GCHQ documents to be published, since they reveal that the scale of British online surveillance and analysis is even worse than the first Snowden documents indicated, bad as they were. They prove that the current calls for additional spying powers in the Snooper’s Charter are even more outrageous than we thought, since the UK authorities already track and store British citizens’ online moves in great detail.
When Edward Snowden handed over his amazing trove of documents to journalists to release as they thought best, he also placed a huge responsibility on their shoulders to do so as expeditiously as possible. If, as seems likely, there are yet more important revelations about the scale of US and UK spying to come, it is imperative that they are published as soon as possible to help the fight against those countries’ continuing attempts to bolster mass surveillance and weaken our freedoms.
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But to understand why this two-year venture matters, and why schools and organizations should be lining up to partner with him, it helps to know a little about Mobley, a 36-year-old married father of three and the only person I’ve ever met who has served in three branches of the military.
After four years in the Marines straight out of high school, Mobley joined the Air Force, where he got into a computer-tech field. In the Army National Guard, which he joined later, he earned a degree in finance from Temple University. He also served a tour of duty in Iraq.
When he returned, he didn’t just want a job; he wanted to have an impact.
He thought of his own struggles in school: He graduated but was a terrible student – one who excelled in math but still fell between the cracks. He thought about his friend, a chess whiz who joined the military with him but who ended up in prison for armed robbery.
“He could have done so much more, but ended up essentially wasting his life,” Mobley said. “How many more kids have the ability and talent to do more but slip through the cracks?”
Mobley needed only to look around his own city to answer that. He had an idea, spurred by his own experience with how few people of color there are in technology: What if he used the technological skills he learned in the military to teach kids who lacked the computer literacy expected in the most entry-level jobs?
More than 40 percent of Philly residents don’t have Internet access at home.
Coded by Kids started with Mobley and one kid at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center in Southwest Center City, where the weekly classes are still held. The recreation director asked Mobley if he was sure he wanted to continue. He did. The first year, Mobley ran 39 classes. The second, close to 200. The classes are also taught at two schools, with three more potentially signing up soon. Mobley still has a day job, but soon he hopes to run the program full time. The program recently received a $20,000 grant from StartUp PHL.
The program’s success so far is testament to how important these skills are to kids in Philly.
But it’s also testament to something else: the importance of showing kids how much bigger the world is than their neighborhood, how many more opportunities there are once they realize that.
I know, people say this a lot. I say this a lot – because I’m a product of that thinking and because I know it to be true.
The proof is in Mobley, a typical Philly kid who went out in the world, succeeded and came back determined to share what he learned.
It’s in the adorable Jones twins, creators of more websites than they can list. And they listed a lot.
It’s in 17-year-old Da’Jour Christophe – another Coded by Kids student who is working with a startup and headed to college. “Sylvester encouraged me not to give up,” he said.
And it’s in a young woman with some admittedly odd viewing tastes.
“I watched one of our 10-year-old girls watching a Web series about project management and I laughed,” Mobley said. “I’m a project manager and I wouldn’t want to watch that. But now that she understands what it means, she says she wants to be one.”
“A lot of times I tell volunteers that we are literally changing the world,” he said. “I know that seems dramatic, but every time we have an impact on one of these kids, they go on to have an impact on others. There is a ripple effect, I really believe that.”
So do I.
On Twitter: @NotesFromHel
On Facebook: Helen.Ubinas
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