Andrea Peterson

Don’t buy the hype: The Internet hasn’t killed TV advertising

For the first time, advertisers spent more on online ads than broadcast television in the US, according to a new report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Online advertising as a whole brought in a record breaking $42.7 billion in 2013, a 17 percent increase over 2012, compared to the $40.1 billion spent broadcast television.

That's certainly a significant milestone, and it's meant to be the eye-catching part of a press release.

But the details of the report show a much more complicated rivalry between online and broadcast, and tell us more about why tech companies are so eager to get onto television. Television is where the money is. And for good reason: It's where the attention is. According to data from Nielsen published in February, Americans watched 185 hours of television in December of 2013 -- up six hours from December 2012. That was nearly seven times as long as people spent online at their computers, and more than five times as much as they spent using mobile devices like smart phones.

With that sort of consumer interest, it's no wonder big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo are trying increase their presence on most Americans' living room display. Online video has been expanding too -- for instance, Disney recently announced a half billion deal to buy the YouTube-based Maker Studio.

Tor usage in Turkey surges during Twitter ban

Since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan implemented a ban on Twitter, Tor usage in the country has surged -- with connections nearly doubling from around 25,000 direct connects in the country to over 40,000, according the anonymous browsing tool's internal metrics.

While Twitter now appears to be blocked at the IP level, there are still a few ways to circumvent the ban, including using a Virtual Private Network to forge an encrypted tunnel outside of Turkey, using SMS (the method tweeted about by Twitter's policy account near the beginning of blocking efforts), and Tor. Because the anonymous browsing tool reroutes users' traffic through onion nodes throughout the world, it helps users bypass local censorship.

Syria hit with a near nationwide Internet outage

Multiple Internet monitoring companies are reporting that Syria has been hit with a near country-wide outage. According to Renesys, the outage started at 12:26 UTC, and the only online link remaining is one via TurkTelecom that connects the city of Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city, has been the site of some of the most intense fighting in the country's three-year civil war.

A group calling itself the "European Cyber Army" is claiming responsibility for the outage on Twitter and in a posting to text sharing site PasteBin. In the note on PasteBin, the group calls the outage retaliation for attacks on western systems by the Syrian Electronic Army -- an unofficial group of pro-Assad regime hackers that have gone after prominent western figures and media outlets, including The Washington Post.

Former Church Committee chief counsel: ‘New technology adds a lot to government power’

A Q&A with Frederick A.O. (“Fritz”) Schwarz, Jr, chief counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. In the 1970s, Schwarz served as the chief counsel for the Church Committee -- a US Senate committee chaired by Sen Frank Church (D-IH) -- which investigated overreach by the intelligence community and provided close oversight of their activities following the Watergate scandal.

The Switch spoke to Schwarz about his time on the Church Committee and the parallels between the post-Watergate era and the post-9/11 era. Asked about his commentary in the Nation that it is “time for another Church Committee,” Schwarz elaborated: “I think periodically you need a methodical, deep investigation of secret government. And I think it's time for another major one.

He added, “I think it's particularly important now because new technology makes government have even greater power than it always has had. I think the Snowden leaks are a good example of what the government can do with their new technological powers.”

Sen Feinstein doesn’t like the CIA spying on her committee. But she’s fine with NSA bulk data collection.

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) made waves when she publicly accused the Central Intelligence Agency of spying on Senate computers in an alleged attempt to thwart her committee's investigation into Bush era interrogation and detention practices.

The senator even suggested that the agency had violated the Constitution and federal law. But while Sen Feinstein is up in arms about the intelligence agency's search of her staff's computer system and network, she has been an avid defender of National Security Agency surveillance programs.

"It’s called protecting America," she said shortly after the news broke that the NSA was collecting domestic phone records in bulk. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, Sen Feinstein further suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attack likely would have been prevented if the phone metadata program was in place. And when it came to reform, many privacy advocates and journalists have suggested that her proposal for changes to the spy agency's programs amounted to codifying certain powers and expanding others.

Is the CIA spying on congressional computers? Here’s what you need to know

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) accused the Central Intelligence Agency of an "unauthorized search" of her committee's computers -- while the committee was performing oversight over the Central Intelligence Agency itself. In doing the search, she says the CIA potentially violated the separation of powers as enshrined by the constitution, along with federal laws and an executive order.

Along with the 6,000-page study on “enhanced interrogation” conducted by the Obama Administration, there was also an internal CIA review, often called the "Panetta Review" because it was started during Leon Panetta's tenure as head of the agency that some officials say agrees with the committee's findings. The exact details of what happened the discrepancy between these two reports are still murky, but according to Sen Feinstein the CIA searched computers and networks used by committee staffers preparing their review of CIA detention and interrogation programs.

According to Sen Feinstein, staffers had access to a draft of the review that they found during their investigation using a search tool provided by the CIA. In a Jan 15 meeting, Sen Feinstein says CIA Director John Brennan informed her and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) "that without prior notification or approval, CIA personnel had conducted a search ... of the committee computers at the off-site facility." That search allegedly included not just an audit of the CIA documents available to the staff, but also their own internal work products and communications.

[March 11]