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Cyberspace is critical infrastructure – it will take effective government oversight to make it safe

Cyberspace is critical infrastructure – it will take effective government oversight to make it safe



Cyberspace has become indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic, heightening the need for online protections. Ariel Skelley/DigitalVision via Getty Images

A famous 1990s New Yorker cartoon showed two dogs at a computer and a caption that read “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The cartoon represents a digital past when people required few safeguards on the internet. People could explore a world of information without having every click tracked or their personal data treated as a commodity.

The New Yorker cartoon doesn’t apply today. Not only do your browser, service provider and apps know you’re a dog, they know what breed you are, what kind of dog food you eat, who your owner is and where your doghouse is. Companies are parlaying that information into profit.

Legal and regulatory protections in cyberspace have not kept up with the times. They are better suited to the internet of the past than the present. Today’s dependence on the internet has thrust society into a new era, making effective public protections critical for a healthy cyberspace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made cyberspace critical infrastructure. When schools, stores, restaurants and community gathering places closed, the U.S. went online and digital technologies became the primary platform for education, grocery delivery, services and many workplaces.

In the last four months, I’ve attended a Zoom funeral, a Zoom wedding and taken ballet classes online. This fall I’ll teach online. Many of the shifts from on-site to online are here to stay, and I predict the “new normal” will put much more emphasis on interacting in cyberspace.

This creates new urgency for public protections. As former head of a national Supercomputer Center and a data scientist, I’ve seen that digital exploitation of personal information is the pandemic in cyberspace. It puts individuals and society at risk.

The need for government action

Public leadership is needed to solve this public problem. But for the most part, the federal government has left the private sector to regulate itself. Today, data is a commodity, and relying on the fox to guard the henhouse has not brought the needed protections.

Evidence of digital exploitation is everywhere. Online dating services Grindr, Tinder and OKCupid share personal data on sexual orientation and location with advertisers. Commercial data brokers sell lists of “dementia sufferers” and “Hispanic payday loan responders” to predators and others. Cambridge Analytica used personal information to manipulate a presidential election. Before public outcry, Zoom handed over user information to Facebook. High school students, peaceful protesters and others have become targets of mass surveillance and facial recognition.

woman's hands holding smart phone showing dating app
The Norwegian Consumer Council said it found ‘serious privacy infringements’ in how ad companies access personal information from dating apps. AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Experiences with data protection regulation in Europe and California demonstrate that getting protections right is complicated and politically fraught, and many people have little confidence in government protection or effectiveness. But with cyberspace serving as public infrastructure, I believe safeguards must come from the public sector.

Regulating protections

So what needs to be done? Political leaders can initiate digital reforms by enacting effective legislation and empowering independent oversight agencies. Federal efforts to safeguard Americans in other areas provide a blueprint: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects private health information. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates protective gear to keep workplaces safe. The Food and Drug Administration works to ensure that drugs are safe to ingest.

In these instances, government stepped in because industry could or would not, and companies in these sectors conform to government expectations for public protections or pay a price.

Cyberspace needs the same strategies. Multiple bills in the 116th Congress could provide a baseline for federal digital reforms.

The most comprehensive of the bunch, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, is Reps. Eshoo and Lofgren’s Online Privacy Act. This bill would promote individuals’ rights to access, control and delete personal data. Sen. Gillibrand’s Data Protection Act would create an independent Data Protection Agency, needed to monitor and enforce public protections. Sen. Markey’s Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would ban federal use of facial recognition technology.

Despite the urgency of enacting privacy protections in the wake of COVID-19, Congress has yet to hold hearings, invite experts or seek public comment on these bills.

First steps

Passing legislation now is important because building healthy digital infrastructure takes time. Legislation and policy are only the first step. When digital reforms are enacted, technology companies will need to design new protections into existing and next-generation digital products, services, protocols and algorithms. This could change the software architectures of everything from baby monitors to Fitbits to Facebook.

Digital protections will need to be monitored and effectively enforced by independent federal agencies. They will impact business models in Silicon Valley and the marketplace for information. They will constrain the way the private sector deploys surveillance technologies, accumulates huge personal digital profiles and exploits data.

[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversation’s science newsletter.]

With unconstrained digital exploitation, the privacy and safety of cyberspace will continue to erode and with it the social fabric. Digital reform is the basis for a healthy cyberspace where users control what personal data is collected and how it is used, where digital products and services meet standards for privacy, safety and security, and where individuals can opt out and still function without commercial penalty.

Cyberspace can function as critical infrastructure only when it’s safe for everyone. Federal digital reforms are stuck in committee; redesigning cyberspace for protections later will limit effectiveness. Safeguards must be incorporated into today’s and tomorrow’s digital products now, including new surveillance technologies and AI. Congress must take the lead to effectively contain the digital exploitation pandemic and make cyberspace safe for the public.

Francine Berman receives funding from the National Science Foundation. She is on the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Board of Trustees of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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New York Refuses To Give More Money For Offshore Wind Projects As Cheap “Green” Myth Implodes

New York Refuses To Give More Money For Offshore Wind Projects As Cheap "Green" Myth Implodes

By Irina Slav of,

The New York…



New York Refuses To Give More Money For Offshore Wind Projects As Cheap "Green" Myth Implodes

By Irina Slav of,

The New York state authorities have rejected a request by Orsted, BP, and Equinor for raising the price of electricity in future power purchase contracts featuring offshore wind energy.

Offshore wind developers have been pressured by rising raw material and component costs, and higher borrowing costs, which has cast doubt over the viability of many projects. Indeed, Reuters reported that some projects planned for the waters off the coast of New York may need to be reconsidered in light of the authorities’ decision.

"Sunrise Wind's viability and therefore ability to be constructed are extremely challenged without this adjustment," Orsted told Reuters.

Sunrise Wind is an offshore project with a planned capacity of 924 MW that could supply electricity to 600,000 households. According to Orsted, it would also involve several hundred million dollars in investments in the state and 800 jobs.

"These projects must be financially sustainable to proceed," the president of Equinor Renewables Americas told Reuters, referring to the offshore wind projects the Norwegian energy major is leading in the U.S.

Per Reuters, Equinor is involved in three projects with BP—the 816 MW Empire Wind 1 and the 1.26 GW Empire Wind 2, as well as the Beacon Wind farm, with a projected capacity of 1.23 GW.

Indeed, rising costs have compromised the financial sustainability of many wind power projects and earlier this year led to the cancellation of a large-scale one off the coast of the UK.

Swedish Vattenfall, which led the Norfolk Boreas project, said it would quit it after it saw costs rise by 40%, which made the project unviable.

To tackle the rising cost problem, wind developers have turned to governments, asking for additional tax incentives and higher electricity prices, busting the myth of cheap wind power.

The New York Public Service Commission said that if they had agreed to do what the wind developers wanted, that would have added 6.7% to New Yorkers’ electricity bills, which are already among the highest in the State.

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 10:30

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Russia Denies Talks Of A Gas Cartel

Russia Denies Talks Of A Gas Cartel

By Michael Kern of

There are no plans for the creation of a natural gas cartel similar to…



Russia Denies Talks Of A Gas Cartel

By Michael Kern of

There are no plans for the creation of a natural gas cartel similar to the OPEC cartel in crude oil, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday. 

“There are no discussions to set up a (gas) cartel,” Novak told RT Arabic TV as quoted by Reuters

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) is an organization of gas producers and exporters but it is not coordinating supply to the market the way OPEC does. Russia is a member of the GECF and its top energy official Novak said in the televised interview that the gas organization was “mostly about exchanging views.”  

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the halt of most of Russian pipeline gas supplies to Europe, the EU has turned to LNG imports and increased deliveries via offshore pipelines from Norway and North Africa to replace the Russian supply, which accounted for around one-third of all European gas imports before the war in Ukraine. 

The EU aims to ditch Russian gas by 2027. 

Having lost the European market, Russia has raised pipeline exports to China and its global LNG exports, which are neither sanctioned nor too shunned in gas-starved Europe. 

This year, the exports of Russian gas giant Gazprom to Europe have slumped and dragged its profits down. Gazprom has reported a massive drop in its first-half net profit as deliveries to Europe plunged compared to the same period in 2022 when Russia was still supplying pipeline gas to its European customers.  

The major drop in Gazprom’s gas deliveries to key customers was due to the halt of Russian pipeline gas exports to nearly all European countries.

Gazprom started to reduce supply via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany in June 2022, claiming an inability to service gas turbine maintenance outside Russia due to the Western sanctions against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine. This was weeks before the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines at the end of September 2022, which definitively closed all pipeline gas routes of Russia’s gas to Germany. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 09:20

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Hamas Claims 26 Hostages Died From Israeli Airstrikes, Including Foreigners, After IDF Finds Several Bodies

Hamas Claims 26 Hostages Died From Israeli Airstrikes, Including Foreigners, After IDF Finds Several Bodies

Israeli media is reporting a "greenlight"…



Hamas Claims 26 Hostages Died From Israeli Airstrikes, Including Foreigners, After IDF Finds Several Bodies

Israeli media is reporting a "greenlight" has been given for the expected major Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip as massive convoys of Palestinian civilians have been observed fleeing to the southern part of the densely populated strip. So far there has been limited ground incursions by the army into the strip, targeting Hamas operatives and reportedly to gain intelligence on the whereabouts of hostages. 

The United Nations has issued a report saying at least 423,000 Palestinians have already been internally displaced within Gaza and this massive figure is expected to ratchet further. Likely it has surpassed a half-million as of Saturday, following the Israeli-issued evacuation order, which included dropping thousands of leaflets and warnings over Gaza City. 

Via The Guardian

The UN said it "considers it impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences." Middle East Eye and other regional sources have said over 700 Palestinian children were killed in one week of fighting. As of Friday Israel authorities tallied that over 1,300 Israelis were killed by the Hamas terror attacks on the southern settlements and the music festival, and rocket fire, with at least 3,200 wounded. 27 among the dead were Americans.

Middle East Eye on Saturday reports the following of the mounting Palestinian death toll in both Gaza and the West bank as follows:

Israel has killed at least 2,215 people in Gaza over the past week, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Of those killed, 724 are children and 458 are women. Some 8,714 people have been wounded in the besieged enclave in that time, it added. 

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed 54 people and wounded 1,100 others in the occupied West Bank.

According to a review of the last hours of developments, the population is about to run out of water as the remaining supply dwindles after Israel cut off external supply sources

  • UN agency for Palestinian refugees says its shelters in Gaza “are not safe anymore” as it warns water running our for besieged enclave’s residents.
  • More than 320 Palestinians have been killed in the past 24 hours, including many women and children killed in Israeli air raids on convoys fleeing Gaza City, according to health officials.
  • The rising toll comes as Israel continues bombing Gaza a day after telling 1.1 million residents to head south ahead of a looming ground offensive following Hamas’s attack inside Israel last week.
  • At least 2,215 Palestinians have been killed and 8,714 wounded in Israeli air attacks on Gaza. The number of people killed in Israel has reached 1,300, with more than 3,400 wounded.
  • In the occupied West Bank, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli fire in the past week has topped 50. More than 1,000 have been wounded and hundreds arrested.

The fate of the estimated 100 to 200 hostages in Hamas captivity still remains largely unknown, but Hamas in statements which have been underreported in Western press has claimed that over two dozen of the hostages have been killed by the IDF's ongoing aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip

Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades said nine more captives were killed in indiscriminate Israeli shelling in the last 24 hours, including a number of foreigners

Qassam has previously announced the death of 17 captives in Israeli air stikes in Gaza over the past week. 

Sky News and others are also reporting, based on Israeli sources, that bodies of hostages have been recovered after some of the initial IDF infantry cross-border raids which began Friday into Saturday:

Raids carried out on the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces discovered human remains of those who had been missing since Hamas's attack last weekend, local media is reporting.

According to Haaretz, armed forces entered an enclave where it is thought up to 200 people were being held hostage by Hamas, and retrieved the bodies of several people.

Items belonging to the missing people were also discovered. 

The US said Friday it chartered its first successful evacuation flight, with talk of more to come.

TOI: A military official at the forensic center at the Military Rabbinate's headquarters in Ramle stands in front of the remains of the victims of Hamas's October 7 shock onslaught in Israel, October 13, 2023. Flash90

There are Americans (many of them likely dual nationals) among the population of Gaza, which Washington says it is trying to facilitate safe exit for as Israeli airstrikes continue. Dangerously, the lone Raffah border crossing into Egypt has at this point been bombed several times. 

But regional media is reporting there's been a diplomatic breakthrough on this front, as Israel, Egypt, and the United States have forged an agreement to let foreigners residing in Gaza pass through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.

Scene from the frontlines as the IDF build-up outside Gaza continues:

Huge civilian convoys have been witnessed fleeing to the southern half of Gaza, creating bottlenecks...

The Times of Israel cites a senior Egyptian official as follows:

The official says Israel has agreed to refrain from striking areas the foreigners would pass through on their way out of the besieged Palestinian territory. He adds that Qatar was involved in the negotiations and the participants received approval from the Palestinian terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The agreement  does not deal with hostages being held by Hamas.

A second official at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing point says they received “instructions” to reopen it on Saturday afternoon for foreigners coming from Gaza.

But Egypt is by and large not letting Gazans exit, even erecting bigger concrete barriers of extra border protection, amid what's setting up to be a catastrophic humanitarian crisis as the Israeli pressure ratchets.

The IDF says it is about to attack the northern half of the Gaza Strip with "great force" - while the US and other countries are urging for caution regarding Palestinian civilians. Below is rare footage of an elite Israeli rescue squad in action (intentionally blurred by IDF sources):

Washington has still all the while said it "stands with Israel" - and has not tried to actually halt the unrelenting IDF bombardment of civilian areas.

Meanwhile, things continue ratcheting in south Lebanon, with reports of new strikes being exchanged between Israel and Hezbollah, and other pro-Palestinian factions.

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 09:55

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