Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Continuous Random Activity Provider

Data-mine this!
  [vote for,

This is an ‘always-on’ application for broadband users which simulates someone browsing the internet. It accesses random web pages, occasionally backing up to previously viewed pages, waiting a while to ‘read’ content, clicking on links, generating occasional random searches in your search engine of choice etc, all with the intent of hiding your actual activity amongst a welter of ‘noise’.
DrBob, Apr 19 2012

Trackmenot http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/
"TrackMeNot runs in Firefox as a low-priority background process that periodically issues randomized search-queries to popular search engines, e.g., AOL, Yahoo!, Google, and Bing." [calum, Apr 19 2012]

ECHELON and friends http://en.wikipedia...gnals_intelligence)
Most of what I know about it is actually here. Secrets never last. [Alterother, Apr 22 2012]

Text Message Brands Quebec Man a Terror Suspect http://boingboing.n...tivational-tex.html
Yep, echelon is scary. [xaviergisz, Apr 22 2012]


       About 50% of the time it's going to stumble onto a porn site, as well as confuse the heck out of the MIB's.
RayfordSteele, Apr 19 2012

       I like the general idea, and, if THEY were looking through your connection logs manually, it might act as a reasonable obfuscation-tactic.   

       If however, THEY, are using computers, then (depending on implementation) a simple grep, or SELECT * FROM clause would probably be undeterred by such activity.   

       I'm making the assumption here that THEY are only interested in communications to specific users and/or locations/websites and not to other ones such as Party Puffin, which would of course, mean that THEY are missing a trick.
zen_tom, Apr 19 2012

       One way to do this would be to outsource an obfusticatory browsing sweatshop in some emerging economy, with scores of barely nourished urchins earning fractions of a dollar a day by indolently farting about on the internet. Or you could cajole a dweebish young relation to make this their comp sci dissertation project, and get it for nothing.
calum, Apr 19 2012

       [zen] No! - the terrorists in the film "Four Lions" used Party Puffin to exchange messages with each other
hippo, Apr 19 2012

       calum, this sweatshop of yours. Are they hiring?
DrBob, Apr 20 2012

       Yes, CVs to [calum] Enterprises, Scourie. Oh, now there's a thought. This could be done by way of sneaky peteing your way to getting a feed of your friends/colleagues/total strangers web activity (presumably this is trivial for morally fluid programming types) and using the aggregate of the feed to mask your own web activity.
calum, Apr 20 2012

       Given the random nature of links in this place, the halfbakery itself could serve as a quick surrogate.
RayfordSteele, Apr 20 2012

       So, basically if we all do this then no one would be able to use the internet as a big chunk of the bandwidth would be pulling random material off the net?   

       Watch as humanity does a Denial of Service attack on itself..it might be an improvement.
not_morrison_rm, Apr 21 2012

po, Apr 21 2012

       A nice bit of software to insert into your boss's computer, especially if you could customize it to ring every bell in NSA's electronic surveillance unit. Men in back suits would arrive and take the odious man away.
ldischler, Apr 21 2012

       The most ingenious bit about Echelon, IMO, is not how good it is at sifting out tiny little details, but how good it is at ignoring things that warrant no scrutiny.
Alterother, Apr 21 2012

       Is there a difference between those two things?
mouseposture, Apr 21 2012

       Um... well, we're a good example. Every day we discuss something or other that would get alarm bells good and rung if it were up to human eyes to determine whether red flag activity were taking place, and every day Echelon casually glances over at us and shuffles us back into the 'Mostly Harmless' pile.
Alterother, Apr 21 2012

       //shuffles us back into the 'Mostly Harmless' pile// You quite sure of that?   

       But it occurrs to me that I myself am very good at sifting out tiny details, and completely incompetent at ignoring things that warrant no scrutiny. So they probably are quite different abilities.
mouseposture, Apr 21 2012

              // You quite sure of that? //   

       Yes. I can't publicly tell you how I come by that certainty, but [8th] can confirm (through different sources) that it's legitimate.
Alterother, Apr 21 2012

       <unwarranted> sp. occurs </unwarranted>   

pertinax, Apr 21 2012

       //shuffles us back into the 'Mostly Harmless' pile//   

       Yay Elite!
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 21 2012

       That's spelled l33t, you n00b!
4whom, Apr 21 2012

       In the interest of pedantic accuracy, I suppose I must ruin my own fun and go on to explain that I can't claim to know that sigint data- sifters like Echelon disregard HB _specifically_; if I asked the person I know, or if [8th] asked the person(s?) they know, the answer would be an arched eyebrow and an incredulous "you know I can't tell you that." What I do know is that individuals like us and our lovely little forum, seditious as it may be, do not fall within the scope of their interest. I wouldn't be surprised to learn we'd been checked out and vetted, but I'd be equally unsurprised if we haven't.   

       We're not who they're after. The really scary part is that they've got a computer program that can tell the difference between us and the bad guys with no human involvement, and there's nothing we or anybody else can do that will fool it. Activity randomization won't even slow it down. It monitors Internet chatter, it reads email, it even listens to phone calls and radio transmissions, and it finds what it's looking for. And no, I haven't had somebody blowing the wind up me.
Alterother, Apr 21 2012

       //And no, I haven't had somebody blowing the wind up me.// You and me both. Man, I miss those days. Pliny, the Elder, one must say, gently toking on tincture of goat's foreskin and hemlock, and then the gentle applilcation. It brings tears to my eyes, as it did back then.
4whom, Apr 21 2012

       //The really scary part is that they've got a computer program that can tell the difference between us and the bad guys//   

       And that is scary why?
ldischler, Apr 21 2012

       Any evidence that machine intelligence is reaching parity with human intelligence is scary, for the humans, because machine intelligence is improving faster than humans'. It implies the AIs are overtaking the humans.   

       One could, of course, dispute that this is bad news for the humans, but it shouldn't be surprising that it frightens them.
mouseposture, Apr 21 2012

       Scary in the way that for a reasonably well-educated fiction writer like me we're only a hop, skip, and proverbial jump from computer programs that predict what we want them to do and take action without prompting. Not like the whole 'AI run amok, computers take over the world' scenario, but at what point does the programming become _too_ advanced? There easily exists the possibility that we could overstep our own bounds; yes, they only do what we tell them to do, but we must be increasingly careful about what exactly that is.   

       In other words, I'm not suggesting that SkyNet is going to nuke us, but I am suggesting that (as we did with nuclear weapons) we could quickly get in over our heads.
Alterother, Apr 21 2012

       //We're not who they're after//

Not today, perhaps.
DrBob, Apr 21 2012

       I don't know how great governments are at intelligence disemination.. and suspect there abilities are most useful to building a case after the fact. Unless your online conduct i probative of an offence, I don't think there is much to worry about.   

       That said, I hate targeted ads, and love the idea of trackmenot for that purpose.
bob, Apr 21 2012

       Hey Alterother and 8th:   

       What does Echelon do with Aesopian language and Doublespeak? any ideas? From my experience even humans have trouble interpreting it with conviction.
bob, Apr 21 2012

       //computer programs that predict what we want them to do and take action without prompting//   

       Erm, I remember in the UK the ambulance service just ran all the accident statistics through the machine and were using it to place ambulances where there were likely to be needed...<cuts to me about of try and change light-bulb by standing on rickety chair..glimpses ambulance just pulling up outside the house>
not_morrison_rm, Apr 22 2012


       Echelon is a very complex system that carries out a remarkably simple task: search terms and parameters are entered and it combs every electronic signal communication to locate the desired words, phrases, and association. The genius lies in how it is able to prioritize the results in a way that does not leave mountains of data to sort through. Exactly how it does this, I don't know. As far as cryptic references and doublespeak are concerned, I don't think it has any way of intpreting them. It is, at heart, a very powerful and clever search engine.   

       After reviewing the wiki, I have discovered to my mild chagrin that much of what I was told in confidence about three years ago is now publicly known or accurately speculated upon.
Alterother, Apr 22 2012

       //Exactly how it does this, I don't know.//   

       It's the rise of the machines, I tell you.
not_morrison_rm, Apr 24 2012

       //Wouldn't fool the government...they're only interested in certain sites//

Ah, but that's part of the point. If such sites are being accessed more often due to random hits then accessing them can no longer be treated, in itself, as evidence of whatever behaviour it is that whoever it is is watching out for.
DrBob, Apr 24 2012

       Who watches the watchers who watch the watchers?
UnaBubba, Apr 25 2012

       Rolex, IIRC.
4whom, Apr 25 2012

       //the recreational nature of this place would eliminate it from consideration//

Not necessarily. If just one halfbaker were on, for example, a government watch list, then that makes the 'bakery a possible drop-box and all the rest of us potential contacts.
DrBob, May 01 2012

       //and the playfulness would be perceived as a loathsome distraction in the finality of their plans.// They may have installed a hand drier, or are possibly considering the uses of an automatic bag of sand in their evil plans.
4whom, May 01 2012

       //With that argument, everyone on the internet could find themselves on a list of potential contacts, eh.// I think that's the point. If everyone is on the list, what good is the list?
4whom, May 01 2012

       There are more than just one list. Every country has different lists, and those lists are prioritized. There are lists of 'persons of interest', and there are also so-called 'blind lists' that just contain words, phrases, and topics 'of interest'.   

       [simpleton] is on the right track; in my reasonably informed opinion, one of the things that keeps us above suspicion is that we talk about this stuff freely with no attempt to conceal our topics or motivation. We can spend days or weeks discussing explosives both nuclear and convential, novel new ways to commit various heinous crimes, hacking computer systems, or deadly biological agents, but it's all right out in the open and our intent is clearly abstract and intellectual. None of us are building dirty bombs in our garages.   

       Another possible reason is that a handful of us have already been vetted by various agencies (I can think of two others besides yours truly). In my case, it's simply because of family connections. I've also worked for a private security firm at an armed post, meaning I've been subjected to an intensive background check; I'm sure quite a few others here have as well, for various reasons. Anyone who travels overseas on a regular basis has been, whether they know it or not. Let's face it: we're clean people. As far as (inter)national security is concerned, we're a bunch of harmless brainiacs and kooks.
Alterother, May 01 2012


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