The CSS Blog Network

Pre-crime Identification – the FAST Program

Sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate: are you having bad thoughts? Photo: barrowboy/flickr

The Department of Homeland Security seems to be developing technologies reminiscent of the pre-crime unit depicted in Phillip K. Dick’s “Minority Report”.

The department’s so-called “FAST” project — which stands for Future Attribute Screening Technology — aims at nothing less than screening people for malign intent: for crimes they have not yet committed.

As the homepage for the FAST project describes, non-invasive sensors will be used to scan people for indications of bad thoughts. Currently, these indicators factor in posture, gait, thermal imaging of the face and changes in vocal tension while speaking, but might be extended to include other things, such as pheromones. » More

The New Passive Activism?

Revolution at the click of a mouse? Photo: Brian Leadingham/flickr


  “Dear incredible Avaazers,
Just a few hours ago, our community reached 10 million people!”

Last week’s announcement by Avaaz, an online pressure group, speaks volumes for the continued enthusiasm for a form of political action that requires little more than a couple of mouse clicks. Once you’ve registered on a site like Avaaz, all you need to do to support a cause is enter your email address and click a button – or two, if you want to advertise your deed on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. » More

A Reading List on: Cybercrime and Cybersecurity

The world has entered the digital age. We rely on the internet for information, communication and so much more; and technology influences almost every aspect of modern society, from personal banking to the management of global conflict.   As an area of academic study, ‘cybercrime’ is still very much in the initial stages of development, as even the experts struggle to come to terms with ever-quickening pace of technological change and proliferation.  This syllabus provides insight into some of the sources currently available on cybercrime and cybersecurity (with an additional focus on the controversial issue of ‘cyberwarfare’). » More

The ‘Wikipedia Dispute Index’: A Collaborative Seismometer?

Exploiting online networks in order to map and predict cross-linked social phenomena such as the commonality in consumption (Amazon), electoral behavior (Google), the spread of civil unrest (Twitter) or even the outbreak of diseases (Google and EMM) continues to be both an intricate and promising field of research.

Thus, it comes as little surprise that Gordana Apic, Matthew J. Betts and Robert B. Russell from the University of Heidelberg recently suggested an indicator for measuring geopolitical instability by applying the principle of association fallacy, primarily used in life sciences, to online encyclopedia Wikipedia’s entries whose impartiality is contested. In their brief research paper titled ‘Content Disputed in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability‘, the authors accordingly argue that “quantifying the degree to which pages linked to a country are disputed by contributors” correlates with a country’s political stability. In other words: since instability is best represented by its underlying conflicts, the multitude and diversity of user-generated associations, namely: disputes, is believed to reveal some form of qualitative pattern that can be arranged as a stability ranking. » More

Bitcoin: Cryptography and the Crowd

Direct democracy from a geek’s perspective. Image: TraderTim/flickr

Bitcoin is the world’s first decentralized, digital currency. Its extraordinary performance over the last half year has caused quite some stir, not only among ‘cyber geeks’. Users and supporters see Bitcoin as a technological breakthrough and expect its spending possibilities to increase as exponentially as its price. Meanwhile, critics point to many of these same characteristics as flaws. They are waiting for the bubble to burst, calling it a structurally flawed experiment.


How it works: This video – made possible with donations from the Bitcoin community– explains the basic idea behind the new currency:


To acquire Bitcoins, users can buy them on a trading platform or become ‘miners.’ The latter requires hardware and electricity – both usually purchased with conventional money. » More

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