USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, May 9 - 15, 2013

Table of Contents

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Meet the Woman Behind Pakistan's First Hackathon
Sabeen Mahmud has short-cropped hair and rectangular glasses; she'd fit right in hunched over a laptop at Philz or behind the counter at one of Apple's Genius Bars. Her resume matches her style. She's founded a small tech company, opened a hip coffee shop and organized a successful hackathon. But Mahmud doesn't hail from the Bay - she lives in Karachi, a city more closely associated with extreme violence then entrepreneurs.
See the full article (Wired, Lois Parshley, 5/15/13)
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Saudi Telecom Sought U.S. Researcher's Help in Spying on Mobile Users
A prominent computer security researcher says he recently rejected a request by a Saudi telecommunications company to help it spy on mobile customers using social networking accounts such as Twitter. The security researcher said he was contacted via email earlier this month by an employee of Mobily, a mobile phone operator in Saudi Arabia.
See the full article (Wired, Kim Zetter, 5/14/13)
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For Palestinians, Google's Small Change is a Big Deal
The webpage used to read "Google: Palestinian Territories." On May 1, the company quietly changed that regional search page to say "Google: Palestine." Google didn't announce the name change, but it didn't have to. In a place where small gestures can carry great symbolism, Palestinians noticed right away.
See the full article (NPR, Emily Harris, 5/14/13)
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Ushahidi's Rugged BRCK, 'The Backup Generator for the Internet'
Sometimes, when you need access to the web the most is when it's most likely to be hard to find. It could even be a matter of life or death. So having a backup connection that you can carry in your pocket, that will work from Windhoek to Williamsburg, sounds like a good idea. That's the concept behind Ushahidi's BRCK.
See the full article (, Ian Steadman, 5/13/13)
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Beijing's 'Bitskrieg'
As the Pentagon's annual report to Congress makes abundantly clear, China is on something of a long march in cyberspace. While most attention is being drawn to the report's assertions about Chinese snooping into sensitive classified areas and theft of intellectual property from leading American firms, there is some intriguing analysis of Beijing's broader aims as well.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, John Arquilla, 5/13/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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U.S. Cyberwar Strategy Stokes Fear of Blowback
Even as the U.S. government confronts rival powers over widespread Internet espionage, it has become the biggest buyer in a burgeoning gray market where hackers and security firms sell tools for breaking into computers. The strategy is spurring concern in the technology industry and intelligence community.
See the full article (Reuters, Joseph Menn, 5/10/13)
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Think Again: Big Data
The MacArthur Foundation recently awarded an 18-month, $175,000 grant to Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Human Rights Science to investigate how big-data analytics are changing human rights fact-finding, such as through development of "credibility tests" to sort alleged human rights violations posted to sites like Crisis Mappers, Ushahidi, Facebook, and YouTube. The director of the center notes that there are "serious questions emerging about the use of data and the responsibilities of academics and human rights organizations to its sources. In many cases, it is unclear whether the safety and security of the people reporting the incidents is enhanced or threatened by these new technologies."
See the full article (Foreign Policy, Kate Crawford, 5/9/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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The Technology China Wants in Order to Catch Up with Western Militaries
The Pentagon's latest report on the capabilities of the Chinese military mentions an important aspect to its buildup: China's efforts to develop advanced technologies that have both civil and military use. This means that China is trying to acquire tech that can be used to drive modern aerospace, computing, and transportation industries -- as well as 21st-century military equipment.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, John Reed, 5/9/13) *Foreign Policy sign-up may be required to view the full article
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