Category Archives: Television

CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher


CIA Director David Petraeus unwinds with some Wii Golf, 2008. Photo: Wikimedia

Wired | Mar 15, 2012

By Spencer Ackerman

More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”

Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.” All of which is true — if convenient for a CIA director.

The CIA has a lot of legal restrictions against spying on American citizens. But collecting ambient geolocation data from devices is a grayer area, especially after the 2008 carve-outs to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Hardware manufacturers, it turns out, store a trove of geolocation data; and some legislators have grown alarmed at how easy it is for the government to track you through your phone or PlayStation.

That’s not the only data exploit intriguing Petraeus. He’s interested in creating new online identities for his undercover spies — and sweeping away the “digital footprints” of agents who suddenly need to vanish.

“Proud parents document the arrival and growth of their future CIA officer in all forms of social media that the world can access for decades to come,” Petraeus observed. “Moreover, we have to figure out how to create the digital footprint for new identities for some officers.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Online cache is not a spy’s friend. But Petraeus has an inadvertent pal in Facebook.

Why? With the arrival of Timeline, Facebook made it super-easy to backdate your online history. Barack Obama, for instance, hasn’t been on Facebook since his birth in 1961. Creating new identities for CIA non-official cover operatives has arguably never been easier. Thank Zuck, spies. Thank Zuck.

The CIA wants to spy on you through your TV


A Sony internet TV: The rise of ‘connected’ devices in the home offers spies a window into people’s lives – CIA director David Petraeus says the technologies will ‘transform’ surveillance.

  • Devices connected to internet leak information
  • CIA director says these gadgets will ‘transform clandestine tradecraft’
  • Spies could watch thousands via supercomputers
  • People ‘bug’ their own homes with web-connected devices

The CIA wants to spy on you through your TV: Agency director says it will ‘transform’ surveillance

Daily Mail | Mar 16, 2012

By Rob Waugh

When people download a film from Netflix to a flatscreen, or turn on web radio, they could be alerting unwanted watchers to exactly what they are doing and where they are.

Spies will no longer have to plant bugs in your home – the rise of ‘connected’ gadgets controlled by apps will mean that people ‘bug’ their own homes, says CIA director David Petraeus.

The CIA claims it will be able to ‘read’ these devices via the internet – and perhaps even via radio waves from outside the home.

Everything from remote controls to clock radios can now be controlled via apps – and chip company ARM recently unveiled low-powered, cheaper chips which will be used in everything from fridges and ovens to doorbells.

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The resultant chorus of ‘connected’ gadgets will be able to be read like a book – and even remote-controlled, according to CIA CIA Director David Petraeus, according to a recent report by Wired’s ‘Danger Room’ blog.

Petraeus says that web-connected gadgets will ‘transform’ the art of spying – allowing spies to monitor people automatically without planting bugs, breaking and entering or even donning a tuxedo to infiltrate a dinner party.

‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ said Petraeus.

‘Particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft. Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters –  all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing.’

Petraeus was speaking to a venture capital firm about new technologies which aim to add processors and web connections to previously  ‘dumb’ home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lighting systems.

This week, one of the world’s biggest chip companies, ARM, has unveiled a new processor built to work inside ‘connected’ white goods.

The ARM chips are smaller, lower-powered and far cheaper than previous processors – and designed to add the internet to almost every kind of electrical appliance.

It’s a concept described as the ‘internet of things’.

Futurists think that one day ‘connected’ devices will tell the internet where they are and what they are doing at all times – and will be mapped by computers as precisely as Google Maps charts the physical landscape now.

Privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have warned of how information such as geolocation data can be misused – but as more and more devices connect, it’s clear that opportunities for surveillance will multiply.

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching lots of TV


Down time: It would take about three weeks of heavy TV watching to earn a $5 gift card

Viggle listens to what’s on TV and gives approximately two points per minute watched  

App collects demographic information such as age, gender, ZIP code, and email address

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching TV – with gift certificates to Burger King and Starbucks

Daily Mail | Jan 24, 2012

Want to earn stuff by merely watching TV? There’s an app for that.

A new app slated to be released today for iPhones and iPads rewards viewers for watching shows – the more shows the better.

When you tap the screen, Viggle’s software for iPhones and iPads listens to what’s on, recognizes what you’re watching and gives you credit at roughly two points per minute.

It even works for shows you’ve saved on a digital video recorder.

Rack up 7,500 points, and you’ll be rewarded with a $5 gift card from retailers such as Burger King, Starbucks, Apple’s iTunes, Best Buy and CVS, which you can redeem directly from your device.

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But the company plans to offer bonus points for checking into certain shows such as American Idol and 1,500 points for signing up.

You can also get extra points for watching an ad on your device. The beta version awarded 100 points for watching a 15-second ad from Verizon Wireless.

The venture was launched by American Idol backer Robert Sillerman, whose former company, CKX, owns the popular show.

‘Viggle is the first loyalty program for TV,’ said Chris Stephenson, president of the company behind Viggle, Function (X) Inc. ‘We’re basically allowing people to get rewards for doing something they’re doing already and that they love to do.’

The idea behind Viggle is that by giving people an added reason to watch TV, the size of the audience will increase, thereby allowing makers of shows to earn more money from advertisers.

Advertisers such as Burger King, Pepsi and Gatorade have also agreed to pay to have point-hungry users watch their ads on a mobile device.

In exchange, users earn points, which Viggle converts into real value by buying gift cards at a slight discount from retailers.

If the company gets the point-count economy right, it can end up making more money from advertisers and networks than it gives away in rewards.

The app will also give the company valuable insight into who is watching what, as redeeming rewards requires putting in your age, gender, email address and ZIP code.

‘It really shows what social TV is going to evolve into,’ said Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at research firm Gartner. ‘For folks behind the scenes, this is a great way of seeing who really is watching.’

The company hopes that user activity will grow by word of mouth, especially by offering a 200-point bonus to people who successfully get their friends to try out the service.

The app makes its debut in Apple Inc.’s app store on Wednesday. Versions for Android devices and computers are in the works.

The company has put in some safeguards. You must watch a show at least ten minutes to earn bonus points.

And you can’t watch the same ad over and over again to earn more points; there’s a one-ad-view-per-person rule.

Function (X) has brought in $100million in investment capital, and its stock trades on the Pink Sheets, a platform that allows people to buy shares but doesn’t require the company release its financial results.

Function (X) currently has a market value of about $1billion.

Justice Elena Kagan: “It’s like nobody can use dirty words or nudity except for Steven Spielberg.”

ABC | Jan 10, 2012

Supreme Court Hearing on Indecency Leaves One Justice Blushing

In an hour-long argument, punctuated by lively exchanges, and even one blushing Justice, the Supreme Court grappled on Tuesday with the government’s policy on indecency on the airwaves.

The case stems from celebrities-such as Cher and Nicole Richie-uttering swear words during live television in primetime, as well as an episode of ABC’s show “NYPD Blue” that depicted partial nudity.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — charged with regulating the public airwaves — found that the incidents violated its prohibitions against the broadcast of indecent material before 10 pm.

But lawyers for broadcasters such as Fox Television and ABC, Inc., argue that the FCC’s policy is unconstitutionally vague and chills free speech. Facing daunting fines, the broadcasters argue that the government should no longer treat broadcast speech more restrictively than other media when it comes to the regulation of indecency over the airwaves.

Related

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The eight justices hearing the case (Justice Sonia Sotomayor was recused because she dealt with the issue as a lower court judge) showcased several aspects of the dilemma.

Justice Antonin Scalia most vocally defended the government’s position that the policy serves an important interest in protecting children from indecency.

“It’s a symbolic matter,” he said. “The government is entitled to insist upon a certain modicum of decency.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, the only justice with small children, suggested that the broadcast networks are a safe harbor for parents hoping to shield their children from indecency.

“What the government is asking for, is a few channels where you can say, ‘I’m not going to-they are not going to hear the S -word, the F -word.’”

Justice Anthony Kennedy brought up a core issue, and a key part of the broadcasters argument, regarding the pervasiveness of cable and the Internet.

Kennedy asked Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr, “But you’re saying that there’s still a value, an importance, in having a higher standard..for broadcast media. Why is that , when there are so many other options?”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued that the FCC’s policy problem seemed to be “an appearance of arbitrariness about how the FCC is defining indecency in concrete situations.”

She pointed out that the government allowed the use of expletives in the broadcast of Steven Spielberg’s war movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”

Justice Elena Kagan said, “the way this policy seems to work, it’s like nobody can use dirty words or nudity except for Steven Spielberg.”

The broadcasters urge the Court to overturn 34-year-old precedent in a case called FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. At issue in that case was a broadcast of comedian George Carlin’s “Filthy Words” monologue which was aired on a radio broadcast in the middle of the afternoon. After complaints from the public, the FCC ruled that the broadcast was indecent and could be subject to sanctions. The Supreme Court rejected a First Amendment challenge to the FCC’s determination finding “of all forms of communication, broadcasting has the most limited First Amendment protection.”

Carter G. Phillips, arguing on behalf of Fox Television, said that the FCC’s policies, which have been expanded since the Pacifica decision, have caused “thousands and thousands” of complaints so that “the whole system has come to a screeching halt because of the difficulty of trying to resolve these issues.”

One of the most humorous exchanges during the argument came when Seth Waxman, representing ABC, noted that the FCC has a pending complaint about an opening episode of the last Olympics, which included a naked statute similar to those actually depicted in the courtroom walls.

The justices began to look at the marble friezes in the courtroom depicting statues of historical figures.

“Right over here, Justice Scalia,” Waxman said pointing to the wall, “there’s a bare buttock there, and there’s a bare buttock here. ..frankly I had never focused on it before”

“Me neither,” said a laughing, blushing Scalia.

The Borgias: the past is all death and debauchery


Man of the cloth: Jeremy Irons stars as Rodrigo Borgia in the Sky Atlantic/Showtime period drama The Borgias.

“Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the Pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity.”

Television drama used to sex up history – but a new big-budget series about the Borgias, starring Jeremy Irons, doesn’t need to embellish reality, says William Langley.

telegraph.co.uk | Aug 14, 2011

By William Langley

Affecting that familiar air of above-it-all, actorly bewilderment, Jeremy Irons wondered last week what sort of society we’ve become. After all, he complained, a chap can’t even pat a woman on the backside without it being misinterpreted.

“The assumption must be that all men are evil, and that they are always going to act according to the wickedness of their spirits, whenever they have free scope,” he complained. Oops, no, that was Niccolò Machiavelli, explaining the subtleties of statecraft in 15th-century Italy. What Jeremy actually said, in the course of plugging his lavish new TV series, The Borgias, was that political correctness, and the various prohibitions it imposes, are largely a result of there being “too many people in power with too little to do”.

It’s hard to deny that he has a point. Under the Borgias, a spot of groping behind the pilaster wasn’t just tolerated, but positively encouraged. At the same time, the number of people in power was kept to an absolute minimum – essentially, those with the surname Borgia – and while rioting and looting weren’t unknown, they tended to be kept in tight check by punishments that began with being burned alive in public and rose in severity thereafter.

The new series, largely created by the director Neil Jordan, launched last night on Sky Atlantic, after a wildly successful run in the United States. It tells the story of Italy’s original crime family, and the decadent, corrupt but impressively efficient rule it established over Rome during the 15th century.

The Borgias had arrived from Spain, first in the ailing shape of Alfonso Borgia, who became Pope Callixtus III. Alfonso was an elderly, relatively benign former law professor, whose big achievement was the posthumous exoneration of Joan of Arc, and whose big mistake was to detect a glimmer of spirituality in his ambitious nephew Rodrigo.

By 1492, Rodrigo had bribed and schemed his way to the Papal Chair, becoming Pope Alexander VI. Almost immediately, his enemies began disappearing. Indeed, when Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, sought a true-life figure to base the character of Don Corleone upon, he didn’t have to look much further.

The new pontiff came to the job with an impressive string of mistresses and at least five children. Celibacy, as Rodrigo saw it, meant not marrying. Forgoing sex was a different matter entirely. His appetite for it was reputedly insatiable, and it was under his direction that the infamous “Chestnut Orgy” took place in 1501. According to contemporary accounts, handfuls of chestnuts were scattered on the marble floor of the papal apartments and 50 naked courtesans sent scrabbling after them. Then the male guests went after the courtesans. According to William Manchester in The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: “Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the Pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity.”

Most prominent among Rodrigo’s children were his son Cesare and daughter Lucrezia. Both appear to have inherited their father’s mixture of charm, self-discipline and licentiousness, but although the beauteous Lucrezia has gone down in history as the ultimate femme fatale, it was Cesare – hideously disfigured by syphilis, and rarely seen in public without a mask – who took care of the real villainy.

As the Borgias tightened their grip on the city, seizing wealth and eliminating rivals, the Venetian ambassador wrote in alarm to his superiors: “Every night four or five men are discovered assassinated. Bishops, prelates and others, so that all Rome trembles for fear of being murdered.”

Machiavelli, the Florentine courtier and maestro of political intrigue, was impressed by what he saw. His famous treatise, The Prince, is, in many ways, a handbook to the art of Borgias behaving badly. “Any man who tries to be good all the time,” wrote Machiavelli, “is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence, a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

By the time of Rodrigo’s death in 1503, Borgia rule was weakening. The family’s enemies – those of them who survived – had learned their methods, and forged outside alliances to undermine the family’s rule. The new Pope, Julius III, had Cesare arrested, and although he escaped from prison, he was killed soon afterwards, aged 31. Lucrezia died painfully in childbirth 12 years later.

While all this makes for lively television, it does raise the question of whatever happened to what we quaintly used to call “costume drama” – a lush and soothing screenscape of stately homes, panting stallions and earnest chaps with beards saying: “His Lordship must be told.” It’s not certain that his Lordship would stand the shock of being told about the Borgias, and some viewers may be starting to feel the same way. Especially as the series follows the BBC’s The Tudors, starring Henry VIII as a sweat-bathed, codpiece-caressing sex maniac, who only emerges from his Hampton Court boudoir to dispatch people to the Tower. Or the Beeb’s equally sexed-up Rome, described as “I Claudius on Viagra”. Or Camelot, in which the real magic is how quickly the cast’s clothes disappear.

The Borgias is billed as being a qualitative cut above – and despite some carping from experts on the period, the series has been praised for its attention to detail. Giving his own penetrating historical analysis, Irons, 62, who plays Rodrigo, says: “Life was very different then, and very cheap. People wore swords and daggers and poison rings. It was tougher. It was a whole different ball game.”

And, of course, there was no political correctness, and you could happily slap those Renaissance ladies on the bustle without any fear of the Borgias’ Equality Monitoring Unit getting involved. Life, as Jeremy says, was very different.

Scientologists buy Hollywood production studio to increase global reach through television and the internet


Charlton Heston starred in ‘El Cid’ which was filmed at the studio

The Church of Scientology has bought a landmark Hollywood production studio as it seeks to increase its global reach through television and the internet.

Church of Scientology buys landmark Hollywood production studio

Telegraph | Apr 26, 2011

By Nick Allen, Los Angeles

The 300,000 sq ft lot on Sunset Boulevard is currently home to KCET, the largest independent public television station in the United States.

It was used in the past to shoot films including “El Cid,” starring Charlton Heston, and “The Hurricane,” directed by John Ford.

The studio includes two sound stages and state-of-the-art post production, satellite and internet broadcasting facilities. The undisclosed asking price ran into millions of dollars. It has been valued at $14 million.

The organisation, founded in 1953 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, counts Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its followers.

It already has production facilities and numerous sound stages on a 500-acre site outside Los Angeles.

It said the newly acquired Hollywood studio would become a “central media hub” for its network of thousands of centres around the world. It will be used to produce television programmes, short information films and internet content.

The studio’s satellite uplink will be used to transmit video in high definition to centres worldwide, including footage of Scientology events.

In a statement the organisation said: “It is a perfect fit, in both size and location, for the expansion of the Church of Scientology’s production of religious and social betterment audio-visual properties, and we welcomed the unexpected opportunity to acquire it.” The struggling KCET station is planning to move to smaller premises.

The property is the longest continuously producing studio in Hollywood and has been in operation since 1912. It was formerly home to Monogram Pictures and Allied Artists.

Its recognised status as a historic and cultural monument protects it from being altered.

The Church of Scientology already owns dozens of properties in Los Angeles, including four on Hollywood Boulevard, and the studio is close to its headquarters in the city.

Condoleezza Rice set to make acting début as Alec Baldwin’s love interest

Condoleezza Rice set to make acting début on 30 Rock… as Alec Baldwin’s love interest

Daily Mail | Apr 16, 2011

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going where few political players have gone before – to 30 Rock.

The 56-year-old, who served as America’s top diplomat for four years under President George W. Bush, will turn in a brief cameo on the NBC comedy.

Tina Fey, the show’s star and creator, made the announcement yesterday on National Public Radio’s Leonard Lopate Show.

She revealed Rice, who now teaches political science at Stanford University in California, will appear in an upcoming episode in what Fey described an ‘amazing cameo.’

Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, bragged that Rice was his former flame throughout the first season of the programme.

While Rice’s appearance is a out-of-character for a buttoned up politico, she’s not the only one to appear on 30 Rock.
Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore has also appeared in a guest role on 30 Rock.

But former President Bill Clinton turned down an opportunity to turn in a cameo.

Rice, was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, has so far remained mum about the role.

Rice is well educated and has several college degrees.

Her initial university major was piano, but after realizing that she did not have the talent to play professionally, she began to consider an alternative major.

She obtained a master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975 and she got a job at the State Department in 1977, during Jimmy Carter’s administration.

In 1981, at the age of 26, she earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Denver.

Twenty years later, she became a national security advisor to President Bush and four years later she was named as the first African-American woman secretary of state, as well as the second African-American to hold the job after Colin Powell.

In March 2009, Rice returned to Stanford University, where she taught before joining the Bush administration.