Archives October 21, 2019

Mozilla is Sharing YouTube Horror Stories To Prod Google For More Transparency

Mozilla is publishing anecdotes of YouTube viewing gone awry — anonymous stories from people who say they innocently searched for one thing but eventually ended up in a dark rabbit hole of videos. It’s a campaign aimed at pressuring Google’s massive video site to make itself more accessible to independent researchers trying to study its algorithms. “The big problem is we have no idea what is happening on YouTube,” said Guillaume Chaslot, who is a fellow at Mozilla, a nonprofit best known for its unit that makes and operates the Firefox web browser.

Chaslot is an ex-Google engineer who has investigated YouTube’s recommendations from the outside after he left the company in 2013. (YouTube says he was fired for performance issues.) “We can see that there are problems, but we have no idea if the problem is from people being people or from algorithms,” he said….

Mozilla is publishing 28 stories it’s terming #YouTubeRegrets; they include, for example, an anecdote from someone who who said a search for German folk songs ended up returning neo-Nazi clips, and a testimonial from a mother who said her 10-year-old daughter searched for tap-dancing videos and ended up watching extreme contortionist clips that affected her body image.

Would You Trust Amazon To Run Free and Fair Elections?

While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS — along with a broad network of partners — now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel and helps provide live election-night results, according to company documents and interviews… Amazon pitches itself as a low-cost provider of secure election technology at a time when local officials and political campaigns are under intense pressure to prevent a repeat of 2016 presidential elections, which saw cyber-attacks on voting systems and election infrastructure.

Most security experts Reuters spoke to said that while Amazon’s cloud is likely much harder to hack than systems it is replacing, putting data from many jurisdictions on a single system raises the prospect that a single major breach could prove damaging. “It makes Amazon a bigger target” for hackers, “and also increases the challenge of dealing with an insider attack,” said Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at cybersecurity startup Upguard. A recent hack into Capital One Financial Corp’s data stored on Amazon’s cloud service was perpetrated by a former Amazon employee. The breach affected more than 100 million customers, underscoring how rogue employees or untrained workers can create security risks even if the underlying systems are secure…

Vickery uncovered at least three instances where voter data on Amazon’s cloud servers was exposed to the internet, which have been reported previously. For example, in 2017, he found a Republican contractor’s database for nearly every registered American voter hosted on AWS exposed on the internet for 12 days. In 2016, he found Mexico’s entire voter database on AWS servers was leaked. Amazon said the breaches were caused by customer errors, adding that while AWS secures the cloud infrastructure, customers are responsible for security of what goes in the cloud.