What the *bleep* is Jigsaw?


June 14, 2019

Today, the Strait of Hormuz is covered in oil, and in America’s least-populous state crypto’s beginning to boil, but first…
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Google’s public service company acquired a Russian troll campaign (for an ‘experiment’)

The company’s name is Jigsaw, and they’re owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. 

Labeled as a “public service” company, Jigsaw bought and observed a commercial social media trolling service in Russia last year, Wired reports. 

There were some interesting insights

Through a website Jigsaw created called “Down With Stalin,” Jigsaw conducted forums that centered on the age-old Russian debate over whether Joseph Stalin was a national hero or global disgrace.

The company then hired an SEO-based troll farm to run a disinformation campaign against the “Down With Stalin” website, using a miniscule amount of resources and a menial amount of cash.

While deliberately small, the experiment illustrated how low the barrier to entry for organized disinformation online has become — for only a few hundred dollars, campaigns like this are now accessible to government agencies, tech companies, hell, even the latte-drinker working on his or her screenplay at a Starbucks next to you. 

Is Jigsaw a public service? Or a Google service?

Chiefed by Jared Cohen, a Rhodes scholar and former State Department policy wonk, the Alphabet subsidiary defined itself back in 2017 as an incubator that designs “tools to make the world safer [from cyberattacks].”

The model plays the philanthropic card, but it’s more of a hybrid (phil-anthropomorphic shall we say). Jigsaw still operates as a business, no different than any other supergroup brought to you by Alphabet.

In Jigsaw’s case it acts as the security team for Google and it’s myriad other businesses like Android, Gmail, and YouTube.

But did the Google Gestapo’s latest experiment go too far? 

Jigsaw’s critics believe the company is interfering in Russian affairs (something the US claims to be against). At this point, many worry that experiments like Jigsaw’s latest could be fighting fire with fire.

Other critics argue that they’re fine with experimentation, but take issue with the secrecy surrounding it until now — on the other hand, how do you successfully conduct a secret experiment with full transparency?

Where do the pieces fit?
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After Gulf of Oman oil-splosions, buyers start eyeing Texas’ fossil juice

Yesterday, mysterious explosions rocked 2 oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, clogging up a crucial oil supply route.

Although US authorities blamed Iran, details are still hazy. But what’s clear is that oil prices rose more than 3% as concerns mounted.

Why is the Gulf of Oman so important?

The gulf’s Strait of Hormuz is a route for ⅓ of the world’s oil — so disruptions cause mayhem in the markets.

Yesterday’s attacks — which came after 4 other attacks in the area on May 12 — suggest continued volatility, a problem for anyone who buys Middle Eastern hydrocarbons.

Texas just got really important

Now, with 2 of the world’s largest oil-producing regions — Venezuela and the Middle East — in chaos, Texas’ booming Permian basin region is suddenly a crucial point of stability in global oil markets.

Shares in US oil operations spiked significantly yesterday in response to the volatility in the market. 

Most oil buyers won’t abandon their existing suppliers… yet. But if conditions continue to deteriorate, lots of global oil junkies are going to start lining up on Texas’ dusty doorstep.

» Oman, this could be bad
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The least-populous state in the US has become a hub for crypto companies

While Wyoming still represents cowboys, cattle ranches and canyons, bereft of those aiming toward metropolis, a cortege of lobbyists and legislators are on their soapboxes in the state arguing the perks that Wyoming has to bring to blockchain.

The blockchain boosters

Until recently, strict money-transmitter laws meant residents of the sagebrush state couldn’t even access a Coinbase account. But in the last 2 years, Wyoming has enacted 13 blockchain laws, with a long line of other crypto-focused proposals in the works.

So what does the country’s least-lived-in state (housing less than one-fifth of 1% of Americans) want with a decentralized technology like blockchain?

When one ethos leads to another

In Wyoming, the party line is more between conservatives and socially moderate libertarians than it is Republicans and Democrats. The state’s laws have long been created in the absence of clear federal rules — the very same ethos in which blockchain was built on.

Many lobbyist groups are pushing for crypto-friendly bills, including automated LLC registration, a focus that could be incredibly enticing to an industry where many states favor staunch regulation — like New York’s BitLicense laws.

» Wyoming with a capital ‘why’

Spain’s La Liga defends its tapping of users’ microphones at bars

Spain’s pro soccer league La Liga got a $282k kick to the pants from the Spanish data protection agency for using its mobile app to listen to fans so it could find bars illegally live-streaming games.

But there’s a twist: The app’s Terms of Service technically acknowledged the spying program — raising questions about the purpose of the fine print.

Betrayal at the bar

La Liga marketed its app — which was downloaded more than 10m times — as a tool for soccer fans to track scores, schedules, and news.

But the app also used geolocation data to turn on phones’ microphones to record audio upon entry to bars, using Shazam-like tools to scan for illegal streaming.

How do you define invasion of privacy?

La Liga plans to challenge the data protection agency’s fine, arguing that it offered required info and deactivation options in the fine print. 

But regulators say that the app intentionally misled people, adding that it should also have alerted users every time it used their microphones.

La Liga’s app was not the only sneaky eavesdropper: A New York Times report found that 1k+ apps had similar mic-tapping software.

» More like La il-Liga…
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This card is money → shower thoughts
  1. It’s weird that we, as a society, have just decided to wear blue pants most of the time.
  2. The price of gumballs from gumball machines has been remarkably stable in the face of inflation.
  3. If high school was a movie, high schoolers wouldn’t be allowed to watch it.
  4. “Based on a true story” is the “made with real fruit juice” of the film industry.
  5. When cell phones were new, it was cool to have a fun or interesting ringtone. Today, if your phone isn’t permanently on silent mode, you’re a scumbag.
  6. via Reddit
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