USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, July 12 - 18, 2012

Table of Contents

Google Illicit Networks Summit Calls for Unity Between Activists and Technology
Google has unveiled an ambitious agenda to use the internet and other technology to boost state law enforcers and civic society activists around the world. Senior executives cast the company as a global force which could team up with Interpol and other agencies to counter crime, repression and terrorism. Using the internet to simply expose criminality and human rights abuses was not enough - Google, and the rest of Silicon Valley, needed to empower the right side with technology.
See the full article (Guardian, Rory Carroll, 7/18/12)
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Flawed Analysis of Drone Strike Data Is Misleading Americans
Peter Bergen is among the most influential people in America when it comes to shaping public attitudes about drone strikes inside Pakistan. An author, print journalist, and broadcaster, he is a national security analyst at CNN and the director of the New America Foundation's National Security Studies Program. But Bergen and others are repeatedly overstating the conclusions that can be draw from their research. As a result of this wrongheaded analysis, published most prominently at CNN, countless Americans are being misled about our drone war.
See the full article (Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf, 7/18/12)
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Computer Analysis Predicted Rises, Ebbs in Afghanistan Violence
Researchers used previous data of violence in Afghanistan to predict with striking accuracy which areas of the country in 2010 would see more bloodshed and which would see less. The project, whose results were published online Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of a growing movement to understand and predict episodes of political and military conflict using automated computational techniques.
See the full article (Los Angeles Times, Jon Bardin, 7/17/12)
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Middle East Officials Targeted by Cyber Espionage 'Madi' Attackers
Government officials in the Middle East are among 800 victims of a sustained cyber espionage attack, dubbed Madi, targeting critical infrastructure in Iran and Israel, security experts have discovered. A sophisticated hacking group stole hundreds of sensitive documents from the officials and businesspeople in an eight-month spying campaign. Email and Facebook accounts belonging to the victims were also spied on during the attack, which follows a string of attempts to snoop on top-secret projects in the Middle East.
See the full article (Guardian, Josh Halliday, 7/17/12)
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Google Executives Say Technology can be Harnessed to Fight Drug Cartels in Mexico
[The city of Juarez, Mexico] has been overwhelmed by crime, their lives overcome with fear. There may be a technological workaround to the fear: Sources don't need to physically turn to corrupt authorities, distant journalists or diffuse nonprofits, and rely on their hope that the possible benefit is worth the risk of exposing themselves. In a sense, we are talking about dual crowdsourcing: Citizens crowdsource incident awareness up, and responders crowdsource justice down, nearly in real time.
See the full article (Washington Post, Eric Schmidt and and Jared Cohen, 7/17/12)
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For Ushahidi, Which Is Better: Depth or Reach?
When we look and see over 30,000 deployments in 156 countries, it seems like a strong signal for the [Ushahidi] platform. It's not. The test of our platform's success isn't built into pure numbers alone. The test of Ushahidi's success is whether or not it's used when someone needs to map something with input from the crowd quickly and easily. The test is whether people's lives are positively changed by having access to Ushahidi.
See the full article (PBS, Erik Hersman, 7/16/12)
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FBI Investigating Major Chinese Firm for Selling Spy Gear to Iran
The FBI has launched an investigation into allegations that a top Chinese maker of phone equipment supplied Iran with U.S.-made hardware and software, including a powerful surveillance system, in violation of federal laws and a trade embargo. Mahmoud Tadjallimehr, a former telecommunications project manager in Iran, told Reuters that the ZTE monitoring system was "countrywide" in Iran and could be used to intercept voice calls, text messaging, e-mails and chats, as well as to locate users.
See the full article (Wired, Kim Zetter, 7/12/12)
Click to read "Business and Human Rights," a USIP Peace Brief by Jill Shankleman and Hannah Clayton.
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Secure Social Network Helps U.S. Detect Bomb Chemicals
A U.S.-led effort to stop the spread of roadside bombs in places like Afghanistan and Iraq is meeting with some success, by using a secure Facebook-style network to trade tips with other countries about suspect chemical shipments. Operation Global Shield gets countries to sign up to a secure site resembling a social media portal, where they can alert each other to irregular shipments. It also introduces customs-tracking technology to parts of the world more used to using ledgers and handwritten notes.
See the full article (Reuters, Ethan Bilby, 7/12/12)
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U.S. Drones Make Peace with Pakistan Less Likely
Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman recently made an unsurprising statement that her government has not approved any drones strikes. The issue of drones in Pakistan is terribly complex. Pakistanis seem, simultaneously, to love and hate them: love, because drones are responsible for killing many of the terrorists who have brutalized communities across the northwest; hate, because they kill innocent people and because it's humiliating to grant America the right to bomb your country.
See the full article (Atlantic, Joshua Foust, 7/12/12)
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The Mobile Technologies Making Africa Cheaper and Safer
I am an African technology entrepreneur and have operated on the continent for over 20 years. In my time, the most significant development in the space has been the emergence of the internet and the proliferation of mobile-phone use. Impressed by the efficiency with which mobile phone messaging technologies were employed during the Arab Spring and the London riots, we decided to develop an affordable mobile phone-based security system, Hei Julor, to help address this dire situation.
See the full article (BBC, Herman Chinery-Hesse, 7/12/12)
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