Banning data encryption is “moronic”: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has launched scathing criticism at governmental plans to ban data encryption, arguing that encryption is both impossible to prevent and a direct result of overreaching digital surveillance.

Speaking at the IP Expo Europe event in London today, he referred to comments made earlier this year by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who asked: “in our country, do we want to allow a means of communication we cannot read? My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not’.”

“Too late, David,” Wales retorted. “It is not possible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban encryption. More to the point, it’s a moronic thing to do.”

“Human rights don’t go away just because you’re on the internet. We still have rights that governments need to respect.”

Wales said that he was not against any form of governmental access to data, pointing out that it would be reasonable for there to be certain points in to network that were accessible by governments with a court-approved warrant.

“What I’m opposed to is to have zero privacy and scan everyone’s data all the time in case we see something,” he added.

“Human rights don’t go away just because you’re on the internet. We still have rights that governments need to respect.”

However, this hasn’t stopped some governments around the world from using browsing data to arrest civilians, said Wales, citing the example of a Wikipedia editor who made edits to certain pages anonymously but was arrested and tortured for some of the information he had posted.

“It has been routine in recent years, and most cases don’t become famous.”

Image courtesy of Joi Ito. Featured image courtesy of Lane Hartwell / The Wikimedia Foundation

Image courtesy of Joi Ito. Featured image courtesy of Lane Hartwell / The Wikimedia Foundation

Ironically, the extreme attempts by governments to gain data in recent years have led to a greater move to encryption, according to Wales.

“The overreach has actually cost the security services in a legitimate sense,” he said. “Because they’ve been so ridiculous, people are moving to end to end encryption.”

He said this move meant security services were losing the ability to access data legally, giving them less data about genuine threats than they would have had if they had avoided programs such as the one made famous by the Snowden revelations.

The percentage of the internet’s data packets sent using SSL encryption has, according to Wales, increased significantly in recent years, accounting for 29.1% of traffic in April this year, and is set to grow further.

“That will change by 2016 to 64.7%,” he said, pointing out that a large part of this jump would be due to Netflix’s transition to SSL.

“All major traffic is going to be encrypted very, very soon,” he added. “And that’s a very good thing.”

Russia announces testing of country-wide drone control network, paving way for commercial boom

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has announced that it will begin testing a vast drone control network that will run across the nation.

The network, which is based on the country’s extensive existing satellite system, will allow small UAVs to safely operate in massive numbers within Russian airspace.

Once established, it will likely lead to an explosion in the commercial use of drones in the country, with drone deliveries in particular becoming viable on an unprecedented scale.

The announcement was made at Navitech 2017 in Moscow yesterday by experts from Russian Space Systems, a space hardware company owned by Roscosmos. Outlining the details of the system, they said that testing would begin this year, but did not provide a precise date for its start.

Each drone in the network will follow a route determined by the system, with ground-based infrastructure continuously receiving real-time data about its location and flight parameters.

This will immediately be processed and disseminated across the network, to ensure that large numbers of drones can be safely flown at any time, without interfering with both each other and traditional airspace traffic.

The network will not require the establishment of major new infrastructure, as all data will be transmitted through a combination of existing systems: FM transmitters, the country’s established cellular communication systems and GLONASS, Russia’s global satellite navigation system, which has provided 100% coverage of the country since 2011.

The system will also provide real-time data about no-fly zones, allowing routes to be adjusted immediately in response to changing information, and will offer a “platform of integrated applications” to UAV operators, content providers and insurance companies.

Roscosmos believes that the system will significantly reduce operating costs for drone owners by limiting the risks involved with running a commercial drone operation, as well as creating the conditions for new industries to emerge.

Among the industries the space agency expects to blossom through the adoption of the network are drone insurance, cloud software that would increase the capabilities of drones and what it calls “convenient services” – a term that likely refers to drone deliveries.

If the platform does deliver on this hope, it is likely Russia would become the first country with an extensive drone delivery network, realising a dream that was first brought to prominence by Amazon back in 2013. However, the US-based company is unlikely to become the main player in the Russian market, having as yet shown little interest in the country for its Prime Air operations.

As with many countries, drone deliveries are currently a rare occurrence in Russia, with notable exceptions including DoDo Pizza, a Syktyvkar-based company that began delivering pizzas to local residents back in 2014.

NFL players’ union signs historic deal that will enable players to sell their own performance data and make them “healthier and wealthier”

The NFL players association (NFLPA) has signed a landmark deal with human performance company WHOOP that will give players access to, ownership of and the option to sell their individual health data.

All current and future NFL players will be issued with a WHOOP Strap 2.0, which allows them to, without interference from their clubs, monitor their own performance, recovery and sleep.

WHOOP’s strap contains five sensors that measure data 100 times per second and automatically transmit it to accompanying mobile and web apps. WHOOP has also developed a Team Dashboard, which it says has “27 levels of privacy to ensure sharing data is completely secure and comfortable for all parties involved”.

“Our mission at WHOOP is to empower athletes. This partnership with the NFLPA is truly the first of its kind in that athletes will finally become both healthier and wealthier by collecting, controlling, and ultimately having the ability to sell their own health and performance data,” said Will Ahmed, founder and CEO at WHOOP.

“We applaud the NFLPA’s vision and share its commitment to work with athletes to better monitor their recovery and enable longer careers.”

Image and featured image courtesy of Alan Kotok

The partnership between the NFLPA and WHOOP is the first of its kind and was secured through the OneTeam Collective, which is an initiative designed to give companies like WHOOP the opportunity to leverage the NFLPA’s exclusive player rights.

WHOOP has hinted at seeking further partnerships with players’ unions in future.

In addition to owning their own data, as part of the agreement NFL players can design custom licensed bands for the WHOOP Strap, which will be made available commercially and allow players to further monetise the arrangement between the two parties.

“Every day, NFL players produce data that can translate into physiological and financial opportunities. We see partnering with WHOOP as the first step in harnessing this exciting technology,” said Ahmad Nassar, President of NFL Players Inc.

“We are excited to have WHOOP and its innovative, holistic monitoring technology serve as our first OneTeam Collective deal. Together, we’re paving the way towards a new frontier where athletes are empowered by data.”

Russell Okung playing for the Denver Broncos in 2016. Image courtesy of By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0

Along with the commercial opportunities WHOOP will offer players, the partnership also promises to help players optimise training and recovery, improve performance and reduce injuries.

The NFLPA and WHOOP will both study the effects travel, sleep, scheduling and injuries have on recovery and generate reports for players aimed at boosting athletic performance.

“WHOOP and the NFLPA are putting the power of data directly in the players’ hands. I want to recover faster, avoid injuries, and have a longer career. This partnership has the potential to contribute to my health, which is imperative to my career in football,” said Russell Okung of the Los Angeles Chargers.