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The Real Dangers of Surveillance

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This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.

How citizens and authorities respond to one another during large-scale protests — including how they use technology as a tool in the battle — can say a lot about trust in the entire political system.

Paul Mozur, who has written extensively about the Chinese state surveillance machine for The New York Times, told me that mistrust of the authorities in Hong Kong was reflected in constant digital surveillance and paranoia during the pro-democracy demonstrations that started a year ago and continue to break out.

Paul and I talked about how police and protesters used surveillance technology during the height of the Hong Kong protests last year, and what Americans — now gripped by their own protests — can learn from it.

Shira: What were Hong Kong protesters’ worries about digital surveillance?

Paul: They were constantly trying to avoid being tracked by law enforcement, although it wasn’t clear what the authorities were doing. People obsessively covered up with face masks, and this was before the coronavirus. Protesters avoided using subway cards that linked to their identity. To disrupt monitoring, protesters smashed every security camera they could, and some flashed laser pointers at police cameras.

There was a suspicion that police filmed every demonstration to identify people through facial recognition software and target them. It wasn’t conclusively shown that was happening. But Hong Kongers took extreme measures because they were afraid of China’s government next door and its use of technology to watch and intimidate people.

How did demonstrators use technology?

There were protest channels on the messaging app Telegram to identify police officers who seemed to be overly aggressive during demonstrations. Some people publicly posted personal information about officers or their relatives, in an act known as doxxing. From the beginning, police took off identification badges, which drove the doxxing campaign.

This sounds like constant chaos and fear.

Both sides were fighting a surveillance war, and trying to shift the surveillance advantage toward themselves and cut off the other side. Though protesters were usually outmatched.

How does that compare to what’s happening in the United States?

I’m not there, so I might be missing things, but the U.S. protesters don’t seem to have the same level of paranoia about law-enforcement surveillance.

If we start seeing U.S. protesters getting so afraid that they’re all wearing masks to shield their faces, or not driving to protests because they’re worried about license plate scanners, or not using credit cards, that would be a sign that U.S. protesters have lost trust in legal systems designed to protect their privacy. That’s what happened in Hong Kong.

Isn’t there an argument that keeping people safe justifies surveillance?

That’s the argument that gets made in China. But Hong Kong made it clear that to have civil liberties, a level of privacy is necessary. Without proper regulation, sweeping surveillance invites the potential abuse of power.

The tools are there for the U.S. government to digitally track who is at these protests. Hopefully U.S. legal safeguards stop the tools from being abused. But it’s worth worrying about.

Would you want a digital record of your presence at a political march, particularly if it could bring reprisal? In Hong Kong, that’s the fear people lived with.


There’s more evidence that we’re trying online shopping outlets other than Amazon during the pandemic.

I wrote in April that Americans had been spending less of our e-commerce money on Amazon than we typically did. I took another look at data through May, and that’s still largely the case. The pandemic might be permanently altering how and where we spend our money.

Through May, out of each dollar of purchases that Americans made online, 35 to 37 cents of that went to Amazon, according to figures from Rakuten Intelligence. That’s a bit higher than it was in April, but we had been spending at least 42 cents of every e-commerce dollar on Amazon before the pandemic.

It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it is when we’re talking about the habits of many millions of people.

What does this mean? Amazon has been the go-to online shopping stop for the biggest chunk of Americans, but that habit hasn’t stuck as much during the pandemic. This could be because of Amazon’s temporary delivery hiccups, our shift to buying more groceries during this time or other factors.

Compared to the first couple months of 2020, people are spending a bigger chunk of their e-commerce budget with the grocery delivery service Instacart, Target, Home Depot and Best Buy, according to Rakuten, which has the permission of more than 1 million Americans to view their emailed purchase receipts.

This news isn’t necessarily bad for Amazon. Americans have been shopping online more than ever during the pandemic. If this behavior sticks, Amazon is a big winner even if it takes a smaller slice from this much larger e-commerce pie.

But for those of us who worry about a few companies taking too much power, spreading out the riches is probably a good thing.


  • Twitter’s sweep against disinformation: Twitter is deleting more than 170,000 China-linked accounts that pushed disinformation about the coronavirus and other topics, my colleague Kate Conger reported. This step followed a Times analysis that found what seemed to be a coordinated online campaign to amplify the Chinese government’s views. It’s another reminder of the cat-and-mouse game to flesh out government-backed online propaganda campaigns.

  • Who decides what habits are good for us? A Japanese teenager is fighting against government limits on the amount of time that young people can spend playing video games or using the internet. My colleagues Ben Dooley and Hikari Hida write that concerns about children’s addiction to video games is clashing with discomfort about government intrusion into people’s personal lives.

  • Moving beyond “diversity theater”: The Washington Post writes about the ripple effects from the tiny number of black investors in the upper ranks of firms that back young technology companies. The start-up investment industry, the Post writes, is now confronting its track record on race and the dearth of investment money going to black founders of tech start-ups.

This dog … zoom! … is … zoom! … extremely excited … zoom! … about its wading pool. (It includes language not for kids.)


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We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

Get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday; please sign up here.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/technology/surveillance-protests-hong-kong.html

Ethical Markets

Poems for the Solar Age by Hazel Henderson

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Poems for the Solar Age

MIXED MEDIA READINGS

By Hazel Henderson

Kosmos | Dear Hazel, everyone knows you as a futurist and as an evolutionary economist, an author and a consultant, but I don’t think many people know you as a poet.

Hazel | I knew, for my mission in this lifetime, I would have to do battle with all the alpha males who run the public and private bureaucracies in most countries, and also run most of the academic scene and the silos and the boundaries between disciplines and all the competition and so on. I knew I would have to shift to my left brain and document everything very deeply. So the poetry was when I came home after doing battle in Room 100 under the Capitol Dome for six years as a cabinet level science policy advisor. I would get home and all I wanted to do was to write poems.

[READ MORE]

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Exciting Kelp Update from 2040

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The Australian Marine Permaculture Project is bringing seaweed solutions to life

 Marine permaculture is the practice of regenerating kelp and seaweed to reforest our oceans
and is being pioneered by Dr Brian von Herzen and his team at the Climate Foundation.

Establishing Australia’s first offshore seaweed platform

In an innovative initiative to bring the seaweed solution to life, The Intrepid Foundation partnered with ‘2040’ and the Climate Foundation to launch a public crowdfunding campaign and raised A$600,000 in 2019.

We were blown away by the outpouring of support for this exciting pilot project. And, with this support, we can now build and deploy the first marine permaculture platform in Australian waters, located off the coast of Tasmania in Storm Bay.

Progressing the project

In December 2019, Damon Gameau (Director of ‘2040’ film) had the opportunity to visit the team at the University of Tasmania with Dr Brian von Herzen to see the kelp breeding program first-hand. At the Phase 1 site at Storm Bay, test lines had been successfully populated with kelp bred in the lab. The baby kelp was grown from spores collected from ‘wild’ specimens in remnant populations.

It’s now one year since the microscopic kelps were outplanted adjacent to salmon pens and the largest of them is now a spectacular 10 metres in length! Other kelps outplanted at the same time in the same area, but further away from the salmon pens are considerably smaller (<3m), reflecting the importance of nutrient supply from the pens for kelp growth

Photographed at the end of October 2020, these kelps were0
microscopic when they were first outplanted a year ago at the

Huon Aquaculture

Storm Bay salmon lease as part of the collaborative project
between 

Climate Foundation,IMAS, and Huon Aquaculture. Photo credit: Cayne Layton.

Other key project findings include identifying family lines of kelp that are tolerant of warm water. The project team has also developed a cold storage technique to enable long term storage of kelp in its microscopic stages, producing a kind of ‘seed bank’ that doesn’t require demanding husbandry.

The successes of the project so far, including finessing techniques around kelp husbandry and lifecycle management have laid the foundations to greatly expand the scope and scale of the work.

In 2021, the project team is planning to submit a collaborative research proposal with the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre to take the next steps towards growing kelp offshore for commercial and environmental benefit. This collaboration will involve the University of Tasmania (Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and Australian Maritime College), Climate Foundation, CSIRO and the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment.

Like most major research projects, the project has also encountered some challenges. When trialling methods to restore kelp beds on natural reefs, initial plantings at the three restoration sites had limited success and the primary method of planting – using twine carrying kelp seedlings – resulted in poor survivorship. Encouragingly, a secondary method trialled at the same time using small 50 x 50 mm plates seeded with micro-kelp, resulted in good survivorship. In 2020, the three restoration sites were replanted with plates densely seeded with tiny kelp seedlings and, at each site, 100 plates were bolted to boulders that comprise the reef substratum.

The University of Tasmania and the Climate Foundation have been working closely on the development of methods of natural reef restoration and in the coming months, the project team will apply for the permits for upwelling water and irrigating seaweed in Australia.

Damon gets up close and personal with remnant Giant Kelp in Storm Bay, TAS

Prototype testing gets underway in the Philippines

While the Tasmanian nutrient trial demonstrated the strong response of kelp to sufficient nutrients, concurrently the Climate Foundation has been testing seaweed responses to restoring overturning circulation and irrigating seaweed forests with the upwelled water – deeper, colder water which rises to the surface.

The team have successfully irrigated red seaweeds with upwelled water at a deepwater marine permaculture platform testing site in the Philippines. Below are some images of the Philippines trial site where the Climate Foundation team built two troughs for the platform, successfully deploying the system into water over 1,000 feet deep.

While the work that Brian and his team have been doing in the Philippines hasn’t been directly funded by the Australian Marine Permaculture Project, the new findings and technological advancements being prototyped in the Philippines are now informing the Tasmanian project – ready to enable the Australian team to progress with Marine Permaculture deployment in Australia.

The Climate Foundation team deployed a prototype trough-based marine permaculture system in the Philippines. Photo credit: Sam Donohue

Prototype trough-based marine permaculture deployed in the deep sea in the Philippines. Photo credit: Sam Donohue

Red seaweeds grown in surface water (right) and in upwelled water (left) with the darker colour indicative of greater seaweed health. Photo credit: Sam Donohue

Close up comparison of the baseline seaweed (tan) with deepwater irrigated seaweed (dark) shows the robust response of this red seaweed to deepwater irrigation.

While Brian and the Climate Foundation team await the results from the trial in the Philippines, early indications show that the seaweed has benefited from the deepwater irrigation, as can be seen in the above image. While neighbouring seaweeds outside the test irrigation site have been shrinking during the summer season, the irrigated seaweeds are growing dark and healthy.

As Dr Brian von Herzen states, “from the Philippines to Australia, Marine Permaculture irrigation is proving itself to be the key to growing strong, healthy seaweed forests that provide habitat for forage fish and may be essential to regenerating life in the ocean.”

If you can, please help with
a Climate Foundation financial donation by going  
HERE  

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Storage news: US electric sector is halfway to zero carbon emissions

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Rolls Battery Popular 4000 Series Models

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Technical Working Group on Enabling the SDGs through Inclusive, Just Energy Transitions

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Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Daily Report

Technical Working Group on Enabling the SDGs through Inclusive, Just Energy Transitions

The fifth of five Working Groups preparing a roadmap for presentation to the High-Level Dialogue on Energy in September 2021 asked what is meant by an “inclusive” and “just” transition and how women can be agents of change to drive the transition, and not just be beneficiaries of it. Read

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