With more services than ever collecting your data, it’s easy to start asking why anyone should care about most of it. This is why. Because people start having ideas like this.
In a new blog post for the International Monetary Fund, four researchers presented their findings from a working paper that examines the current relationship between finance and tech as well as its potential future. Gazing into their crystal ball, the researchers see the possibility of using the data from your browsing, search, and purchase history to create a more accurate mechanism for determining the credit rating of an individual or business. They believe that this approach could result in greater lending to borrowers who would potentially be denied by traditional financial institutions.
At its heart, the paper is trying to wrestle with the dawning notion that the institutional banking system is facing a serious threat from tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple. The researchers identify two key areas in which this is true: Tech companies have greater access to soft-information, and messaging platforms can take the place of the physical locations that banks rely on for meeting with customers.
Back in 2008, Barack Obama famously harnessed the internet and social media to help win the White House. He kept up the embrace once he got there.
Now he worries that the internet and social media have helped create “the single biggest threat to our democracy.”
Obama has been saying a version of this for four years — since he left the White House — but his words are getting steadily more pointed. He’s clearly sounding an alarm, but it’s not exactly clear what he thinks we should do about it.
After a bit of research into the Biden-Harris digital operation, I found a likely answer to my question. It’s no secret to anyone in the digital subcontracting business that India’s troll farm industry is the largest in the world. It boasts a global clientele, and it is also the cheapest, and most decentralized and robust in the world. This service is available for anyone who is willing to pay – western PR agencies, fashion brands, entertainment companies, and political campaigns. The more money you have, the more online muscle you can flex. As it turns out, in 2020 one of this shady industry’s biggest and best paying clients has been the Biden-Harris campaign.
As one troll farm operator in India told Newsweek recently, “We don’t pick and choose. Joe Biden the person is irrelevant to us. We got a target in August to follow him and engage with his tweets, and we did. The agencies in Delhi who we work with don’t tell us any details, and we don’t ask.”
With very little popularity online and with the election drawing near, in August the Biden campaign reached out to troll farms in India in order to artificially boost Joe’s lack luster Twitter presence, and received an immediate injection of tens of thousands of fake followers which were literally purchased from troll farms located throughout rural India. On this point, Newsweek added:
“Within two weeks of Biden selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate on August 12, his Twitter following jumped by 738,595 new followers—a 9.1 percent leap. The number hit 11 million by the third week of October.”
If memory serves me correctly, aren’t these the very same practices that federal law enforcement agencies spent the last four years condemning as systemic during the 2016 presidential election?
Civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress have joined forces to call for canceling a little-known executive power.
Sens. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Ron Wyden (D–Ore), and Gary Peters (D–Mich.), along with Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) and Thomas Massie (R–Ky.), introduced bills this week to abolish the so-called “internet kill switch”—a sweeping emergency executive authority over communications technology that predates World War II.
“No president from either party should have the sole power to shut down or take control of the internet or any other of our communication channels during an emergency,” Paul argued in a statement announcing the Unplug the Internet Kill Switch Act.
The bill aims to revoke Section 706 of the Communications Act of 1934. When that law was passed, there was no internet. But the broad language included in Section 706 means that it could be invoked today to give a president “nearly unchallenged authority to restrict access to the internet, conduct email surveillance, control computer systems, and cell phones,” Gabbard explained in her statement on the bill.
It’s even worse than that. As Michael Socolow wrote in Reason last year, the law is so broad that it effectively gives the president the ability to commandeer any electronic device that emits radiofrequency transmissions. These days, Socolow noted, that includes “everything from your implanted heart device to the blow dryer for your hair. It includes your electric exercise equipment, any smart device (such as a digital washing machine), and your laptop—basically everything in your house that has electricity running through it.”
Since the United States is technically engaged in 35 ongoing “national emergencies“—thanks in large part to an executive branch that has stripped those words of their meaning—we should probably be grateful that President Donald Trump hasn’t yet reached for this power. He’s already invoked Cold War–era laws to impose greater executive control over global commerce in the name of “national security” and has declared illegal immigration to be a national emergency as a political maneuver to redirect funding for a border wall.