@DotPolitics Weekly: Why the entire Internet suddenly wants to read one grandma’s emails

Political cartoon of Obama, NSA and Bill Clinton

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Remember that Texts From Hillary meme? The one that took a picture of Hillary Clinton typing away on her smartphone and let us imagine all the sassy text messages she was sending?

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In retrospect, it clearly came from a pre-9/11 mindset. Why would everyone assume Hillary was sending text messages? Hillary is a Baby Boomer and, as a Baby Boomer, she was undoubtedly using email to forward large-font chain letters filled with pictures of angels. All of this should have been a clue that it might not be entirely believable that a Secretary of State who appeared to be constantly glued to her phone was never conducting official business via email.

Hillary Clinton used private email as secretary of state. What comes after the @ symbol in your email address matters. For example, giving someone an email that ends in @hotmail sends the signal that you don’t actually want them to contact you because you haven’t checked your Hotmail account since 2004. In the case of Presumptive Democratic Frontrunner® Hillary Clinton, some rabblerousers discovered that the email address she used during her tenure running the State Department was a non-governmental one run on a private server with an @ClintonEmail.com domain registered to her home address on the very same day as her Senate confirmation hearing.

The scandal here is that the move seemed to be aimed at circumventing the Federal Records Act, which requires government officials to make all of their work-related correspondence available both to public records requests and governmental and congressional investigators. By running her emails on a private server, Hillary could ensure those emails never saw the light of day.

Why Hillary would be worried her political opponents might obsessively dig through every speck of her history in a single-minded effort to impugn her motives and damage her future electoral prospects, we have no idea.

Hillary is far from the first politician to set up a shadowy private server for emails. During the George W. Bush administration, when Congress asked for the email records of Republicans officials while investigating the politically motivated firings of eight U.S. Attorneys, they were told that those messages were unavailable becuase the emails were sent over private servers—on domains like georgewbush.com, rnchq.org and gwb43.com—run by Republican Party groups, and they had been deleted. For some reason, instead of saying, “Yeah, well, Bush did it too,” Hillary has pledged to do what she can to ensure her emails are released and her aides have already turned over some 50,000 to the State Department for review.

TIL “Yeah, well, Bush did it too” might be the best campaign strategy for 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.

How Hillary Clinton’s email scandal undermines your rights. Does this whole Hillary email thing seem like a boring, tempest-in-a-teapot that only right-wing cranks and politics-obsessed media nerds care about? That’s because it is! But the Daily Dot’s Patrick Howell O’Neill lays out why this scandal really matters:

“As more and more of the business of government is conducted over email, the transparency surrounding the ubiquitous medium has become increasingly important. In recent days and months, numerous scandals have been kicked up over how government at various levels keeps track of its email records.

“Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has come under fire for fully implementing a policy that automatically deletes government emails after 90 days. Similarly, Republican Texas governor Greg Abbott’s policy of automatic email deletion after 30 days has received harsh criticism from open-government activists.

“Emails are how government works. If citizens cannot read these emails—as is their legal right under laws like the Freedom of Information Act—transparency breaks down, critics say, giving way to a culture of secrecy that directly contradicts current decades-old legislation. Equally troubling, the practice potentially jeopardizes sensitive governmental communications.

A man whose employees once hacked the voicemail on a dead girl’s phone has concerns about a public figure’s data privacy.

U.S. plan to weaken foreign encryption has backfired on American companies. Story time! Back in the 1990s, the U.S. government grew worried that nerds were building strong, relatively easy-to-use encryption programs that made the wealth of information on the Internet infinitely more difficult for it to spy on. The government placed export controls on what encryption software could be sent overseas. People in the U.S. could legally distribute strong encryption tools, but those given to filthy, disease-ridden foreigners had to be considerably weaker.

Eventually, the government came to its senses and allowed strong encryption to be sent everywhere. You probably remember the street parades that spontaneously erupted in every American city after the final treaties were signed at the end of the Crypto Wars.

However, security researchers recently discovered a expolit called “FREAK” that can trick websites into using the weaker, formerly export-only version of encryption software, which can cracked with today’s technology fairly easily. There are over five million websites currently vulnerable to FREAK—including those belonging to the White House, the FBI and (of course) the NSA. Also, every single computer running Windows is vulnerable.

Our take: stop using websites.

We can’t imagine why TSA agents might be curious about the contents of a mysterious locked box members of the Wu-Tang Clan were trying to carry through customs.

In major goof, Uber stored sensitive database key on public GitHub page. In the future, no one will own cars. Instead, Uber will operate a fleet of autonomous, self-driving vehicles that can be summoned remotely with the touch of a button and ferry you to your destination for a fraction of the cost of owning your own automobile. Not only will your robot driver not pester you with annoying questions like, “How’s your day been so far?” but Uber is even working on how to make the car automatically hit you in the face with a hammer to simulate the experience of riding with a human Uber driver.

All of this high-tech imagineering takes a lot of smart-guy know-how, which is why it was a big oopise when, based on a recent Uber court filing, someone working for Uber likely posted an authorization key to get into the company’s systems on a public-facing page on the online code repository Github. Uber has admitted that the names and license plate numbers of some 50,000 drivers were exposed.

Unlike every other time you’ve read a news story about Uber, this looks like an example of general incompetence rather than outright evil. We’re calling it a step in the right direction.

It took us under three minutes to find eleven separate instances of Uber doing something terrible in the past seven weeks. Food for thought next time you’re wondering how about how you’re getting home.

Ex-Anonymous hacker Sabu reviews ‘CSI: Cyber’. What did hacker-turned-FBI informant Hector “Sabu” Monsegur think of CSI’s show about people who solve crimes by frowning at computer screens all day?

“So it starts with a very decent, realistic story about professional hackers infiltrating baby cams for the purpose of stalking newborns to be sold on the black market. So far so good….Then it portrays Linux, the operating system, as a virus.”

Which Internet users is Turkey cracking down on this week? Answer: Atheists and 13 year-old boys. It’s maybe a little bit ironic that Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan would be trying to send so many people to jail for inflammatory speech after he himself once spent time in prison for reading a subversive poem in public.

Ferguson police officers disciplined after scathing Department of Justice report. Here are some of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad practices a Department of Justice report found the Ferguson police department to have engaged in:

  • Basing its entire justice system on extracting money from the city’s African-American population rather than keeping that population safe from crime

  • Stopping vehicles driven by blacks 85 percent of the time in a city that’s only two-thirds black

  • Arresting black people 93 percent of the time in a city that’s two-thirds black.

  • Going two years exclusively charging blacks with “resisting arrest”

  • Only sicking police dogs on black suspects

  • Sending a woman to jail for a single parking ticket issued seven years prior

  • Using arrest warrants “almost exclusively for the purpose of compelling payment through the threat of incarceration”

How did the Ferguson city officials respond to this report? Firing one officer and suspending two more for forwarding racist chain letters.  

Our advice: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ . Although, a lot of people in Ferguson already tried that.

Sometimes people have weird reactions to things.

Likely GOP presidential candidate says prisons prove that being gay is a choice. If you like people who say dumb things, you’ll love GOP 2016 presidential hopeful Ben Carson.

Inside the fundamentalist troll hole of Christians Against Dinosaurs. If you like not being able to tell if people who espouse irrational beliefs are being serious or just f**king with you, you’ll love Christians Against Dinosaurs.

Why teens are joining ISIS. If you like feeling superior to #teens who have made poor life choices, you probably need more empathy for other people. Everyone attempts to establish their own identity by rebelling both against their parents. Some do it by joining ISIS, others

Sincerely,

Aaron Sankin & The Daily Dot Politics Team

Illustration by J. Longo.


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Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin

Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.