I’m sure Alexander didn’t use his position, influence or knowledge while at the NSA for his inventions. Oh! It just happens that the co-author of the patent also worked at the NSA. And Patrick Dowd just happened to be the Chief Technical Officer and Chief Architect of the NSA. 

A source familiar with Alexander’s situation, who asked not to be identified, said that the former director developed this new technology on his private time, and that he addressed any potential infractions before deciding to seek his patents.

But Alexander started his company almost immediately after stepping down from the NSA.

So Alexander could have helped fight terrorist but decided to cash in on the American Dream.

Asked why he didn’t share this new approach with the federal government when he was in charge of protecting its most important computer systems, Alexander said the key insight about using behavior models came from one of his business partners, whom he also declined to name, and that it takes an approach that the government hadn’t considered. It’s these methods that Alexander said he will seek to patent.

During his time at the NSA, Alexander said he filed seven patents, four of which are still pending, that relate to an “end-to-end cybersecurity solution.” Alexander said his co-inventor on the patents was Patrick Dowd, the chief technical officer and chief architect of the NSA. Alexander said the patented solution, which he wouldn’t describe in detail given the sensitive nature of the work, involved “a line of thought about how you’d systematically do cybersecurity in a network.”

What are the odds that IronNet is going to be staffed with intelligence people from the military complex? Pretty high.

What are the odds that IronNet gets its hands on the treasure trove of data harvested by the NSA?

Cybersecurity FUD is $ b!

mobile realities

Apple’s App Store design is a big part of the problem. The dominance and prominence of “top lists” stratifies the top 0.02% so far above everyone else that the entire ecosystem is encouraged to design for a theoretical top-list placement that, by definition, won’t happen to 99.98% of them. Top lists reward apps that get people to download them, regardless of quality or long-term use, so that’s what most developers optimize for. Profits at the top are so massive that the promise alone attracts vast floods of spam, sleaziness, clones, and ripoffs.

Quality, sustainability, and updates are almost irrelevant to App Store success and usually aren’t rewarded as much as we think they should be, and that’s mostly the fault of Apple’s lazy reliance on top lists instead of more editorial selections and better search.

The app market is becoming a mature, developed industry, with vastly increased commoditization compared to its early days. Competition is ubiquitous, relentless, and often shameless, even in categories that were previously under-the-radar niches. Standing out requires more effort than ever, yet profits are harder to come by than ever.2

Full-time iOS indie developers — people who make the majority of their income from sales of their apps, rather than consulting or other related work — are increasingly rare. I thought Brent Simmons would get flooded with counterexamples when he proposed that there are very few, but he didn’t.

Consulting isn’t immune to decline, either. Clients were spending top dollar on app development in 2008 because they had to, as almost nobody could make apps. Now, mobile-app developers are everywhere. App development is no longer a specialty — it’s a commodity.

A lot of VCs are full of bluster and bombast, with larger than life personalities informed by working in one of the toughest businesses around.

But perhaps befitting an investor based in a land of more modest returns like Boston, Spark Capital’s Bijan Sabet, is a creature of humility. Soft-spoken but brutally intelligent, the early Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare investor shared wicked insight on a number of topics at our most recent PandoMonthly in New York, including: what’s kept Boston from becoming as big a technology hub as Silicon Valley, the ethical dilemmas facing the venture capital world, how New York can mature as a market by playing to its strengths, and whether or not Biz Stone can turn things around at Jelly.



Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

OK Cupid’s Christian Rudder has responded to the outcry over Facebook’s experiments with user emotions by… publishing a list of experiments that the dating site has run on its users, along with their results.

And it’s…

When it comes to Facebook, there’s privacy and there’s privacy. And the way things are playing out, improvements on one kind of privacy could in effect act to the detriment of the other.

The all-seeing gatekeeper

The emerging-markets carrier deals and the wider Internet.org initiative, the Save tool and the Anonymous Login feature — and arguably even the trust-us shift on a certain kind of privacy — all point towards the social network gaining an ever-expanding view over not only how its users communicate on the platform, but how they consume online content in general.

By playing this powerful gatekeeper role, Facebook will have ever more profiling data with which to sell targeted advertising, and more data to offer up to the authorities if and when they come knocking on Facebook’s door, PRISM-style. We must also consider the impact of this role on the open web, but that’s a whole different story.

It’s great that Facebook now feels able to abandon its former dishonest strategy around the public-versus-private kind of privacy. But as for the other kind – the one that relates to building ever more detailed profiles of Facebook’s users – things look set to get worse for privacy fans, not better.

And let’s not forget, Wired’s article from April 2010, Report: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Believe In Privacy

Also interesting is how this came about: Not in a proper article, but in a tweet by Nick Bilton, lead technology blogger for the The New York Times‘ Bits Blog, based on a conversation he says was “off the record” and which he may have confused with “not for attribution.”

“Off record chat w/ Facebook employee,” begins Bilton’s fateful tweet. “Me: How does Zuck feel about privacy? Response: [laughter] He doesn’t believe in it.”

Props to Natasha. A must read.

There’s a problem with total recall. It doesn’t allow us as a society to forget. And that means, paradoxically, we lose something. Perfect memory engenders individual paralysis — because any legacy of personal failure is not allowed to fade into the background. And individuals are not, therefore, encouraged to evolve and move on.

Total recall shuts us down. It encourages conformity and a lack of risk taking. If trying to do something results in a failure that follows you around forever then the risk of trying is magnified — so maybe you don’t bother trying in the first place. It’s anti-creative, anti-experimental, even anti-entrepreneur. To cite a Steve Jobs-ism, it’s anti-foolish.

Name the human society where total recall is considered the norm. It’s far more human to forget. Forgetting allows for new beginnings. As a creative medium, a little forgetting goes a long way. While too much recall smacks of dystopia, or prison, or the dragnet digital surveillance programs set up in secret by our own governments. It’s hardly an accident that corporate power and state machinery are aligning along the same digital fault lines here.

There was an attempt under the Stasi in East Germany to exhaustively document individual citizens. To create systemic, mechanized total recall — and that was using records kept on paper. Digital technology enables so much more.

These are the issues currently being wrestled with in Europe. Regulators seeking to safeguard individual privacy rights are clashing with tech giants like Google who monetize their algorithm-powered total recall.

Google continues to spin the European ruling as ‘knowledge censorship’ — and has so far turned the process of de-indexing private individuals’ links into a theatrical farce by co-opting the media, whose business models generally align with its own here, to be its outraged mouthpiece. But that spin just obscures the genuine nuance of this debate. (Gigaom’s David Meyer wrote a great piece this week dissecting some of the political complexities involved in the rights and wrongs of online censorship.)

Bill Maher took on two of his guests, a Republican and a libertarian, who were criticizing President Obama over his foreign policy. Maher challenged them to say exactly what Obama should be doing differently, and repeatedly emphasized that they should be specific in their criticisms. FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe acknowledged it’s not all Obama’s fault––Bush is partly to blame for the chaos in the world––but at the same time, he said, “this president has zero respect in the world.” When Maher asked what Obama should do, Kibbe said, “It’s called leadership.”

Maher said, “Remember when I said be specific?” and added, “What the fuck does that mean?”

Republican Hogan Gidley jumped in to say Obama refuses to act like a strong leader would, such as naming Putin “as a bad actor in the planes coming down.” Maher repeatedly pressed him on what Obama should do, and when Gidley didn’t directly answer, he cries, “You keep veering off the point of what we should be doing!”

In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.