NSA Deleted Data It Promised To Preserve

The NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve.

NSA headquarters is pictured. | Getty Images

Imagine that.

This simply shows clear effort by those within the agency to be too irresponsible to wield the power they now abuse. This revelation also goes to further reinforce the state of the American union, democracy.

The agency tells a federal judge that it is investigating and ‘sincerely regrets its failure.’ 

This entire story is still being independently confirmed to verify it did indeed occur as reported by early sources.

The National Security Agency destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and apparently never took some of the steps it told a federal court it had taken to make sure the information wasn’t destroyed, according to recent court filings.

Word of the NSA’s foul-up is emerging just as Congress has extended for six years the legal authority the agency uses for much of its surveillance work conducted through U.S. internet providers and tech firms. President Donald Trump signed that measure into law Friday.

Since 2007, the NSA has been under court orders to preserve data about certain of its surveillance efforts that came under legal attack following disclosures that President George W. Bush ordered warrantless wiretapping of international communications after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. In addition, the agency has made a series of representations in court over the years about how it is complying with its duties.

However, the NSA told U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in a filing on Thursday night and another little-noticed submission last year that the agency did not preserve the content of internet communications intercepted between 2001 and 2007 under the program Bush ordered. To make matters worse, backup tapes that might have mitigated the failure were erased in 2009, 2011 and 2016, the NSA said.

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“The NSA sincerely regrets its failure to prevent the deletion of this data,” NSA’s deputy director of capabilities, identified publicly as “Elizabeth B.,” wrote in a declaration filed in October. “NSA senior management is fully aware of this failure, and the Agency is committed to taking swift action to respond to the loss of this data.”

In the update Thursday, another NSA official said the data were deleted during a broad, housecleaning effort aimed at making space for incoming information.

“The NSA’s review to date reveals that this [Presidential Surveillance Program] Internet content data was not specifically targeted for deletion,” wrote the official, identified as “Dr. Mark O,” “but rather the PSP Internet content data matched criteria that were broadly used to delete data of a certain type … in response to mission requirements to free-up space and improve performance of the [redacted] back-up system. The NSA is still investigating how these deletions came about given the preservation obligations extant at the time. The NSA, however, has no reason to believe at this time that PSP Internet content data was specifically targeted for deletion.”

An NSA spokesman declined to comment on Friday.

Defiance of a court order can result in civil or criminal contempt charges, as well as sanctions against the party responsible. Image result for court orderSo far, no one involved appears to have asked White to impose any punishment or sanction on the NSA over the newly disclosed episodes, although the details of what happened are still emerging.

“It’s really disappointing,” said David Greene, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has been leading the prolonged litigation over the program in federal court in San Francisco. “The obligation’s been in place for a really long time now. … We had a major dust-up about it just a few years ago. This is definitely something that should’ve been found sooner.”

The last legal showdown over the issue may have actually compounded the NSA’s problems. In May 2014, an NSA official known as “Miriam P.” assured the court that the data were safe.

The NSA is “preserving magnetic/digital tapes of the Internet content intercepted under the [PSP] since the inception of the program,” she wrote, adding that “the NSA has stored these tapes in the offices of its General Counsel.”

The agency now says, “regrettably,” that the statement “may have been only partially accurate when made.”

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The NSA says the impact of the misstatement and the deletion on the litigation should be “limited” because it has found back-ups of some content from about four months in 2003 and because it has a larger set of metadata from 2004 to 2007. That metadata should give a strong indication of whether the plaintiffs in the suits had their communications captured by the NSA, even if the communications themselves may be lost, the filings indicate. The NSA is also using “extraordinary” efforts to recover the data from tapes that were reused, it said.

Asked why the Electronic Frontier Foundation Image result for eff logo hasn’t publicized the episode, Greene said his group was waiting for the NSA to turn over data that the plaintiffs in the suits have demanded before considering next steps regarding the spy agency’s failure to maintain the records it said it was keeping.

“We don’t know exactly how bad it is,” the lawyer said, adding: “Even if you take them at their word that this was just an honest mistake, what it shows is despite your best intention to comply with important restrictions, it can be really difficult to implement. … It shows that with the really tremendous volume of information they’re vacuuming up, it is impossible to be meticulous.”

SOURCE | Senior White House Reporter Josh Gerstein, Politico



The Future of Human Work Is Imagination, Creativity, & Strategy

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It seems beyond debate: Technology is going to replace jobs, or, more precisely, the people holding those jobs. Few industries, if any, will be untouched.

Knowledge workers will not escape. Recently, the CEO of Deutsche Bank predicted that half of its 97,000 employees could be replaced by robots. One survey revealed that “39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated in the next 10 years. Separate research has concluded that accountants have a 95% chance of losing their jobs to automation in the future.”

And for those in manufacturing or production companies, the future may arrive even sooner. That same report mentioned the advent of “robotic bricklayers.”

Machine learning algorithms are also predicted to replace people responsible for “optical part sorting, automated quality control, failure detection, and improved productivity and efficiency.” Quite simply, machines are better at the job: The National Institute of Standards predicts that “machine learning can improve production capacity by up to 20%” and reduce raw materials waste by 4%.

It is easy to find reports that predict the loss of between 5 and 10 million jobs by 2020. Recently, space and automotive titan Elon Musk said the machine-over-mankind threat was humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” Perhaps that is too dire a reading of the future, but what is important for corporate leaders right now is to avoid the catastrophic mistake of ignoring how people will be affected. Here are four ways to think about the people left behind after the trucks bring in all the new technology.

The Wizard of Oz Is the Wrong Model

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In Oz, the wizard is shown to run the kingdom through some complex machine hidden behind a curtain. Many executives may think themselves the wizard; enthralled by the idea that AI technology will allow them to shed millions of dollars in labor costs, they could come to believe that the best company is the one with the fewest people aside from the CEO.

Yet the CEO and founder of Fetch Robotics, Melonee Wise, cautions against that way of thinking: “For every robot we put in the world, you have to have someone maintaining it or servicing it or taking care of it.” The point of technology, she argues, is to boost productivity, not cut the workforce.

Humans Are Strategic; Machines Are Tactical

Image result for McKinsey LOGOMcKinsey has been studying what kind of work is most adaptable to automation. Their findings so far seem to conclude that the more technical the work, the more technology can accomplish it.

In other words, machines skew toward tactical applications.

On the other hand, work that requires a high degree of imagination, creative analysis, and strategic thinking is harder to automate. As McKinsey put it in a recent report: “The hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people (9 percent automation potential) or that apply expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work (18 percent).” Computers are great at optimizing, but not so great at goal-setting. Or even using common sense.

Integrating New Technology Is About EmotionsImage result for heart icon

When technology comes in, and some workers go away, there is a residual fear among those still in place at the company. It’s only natural for them to ask, “Am I next? How many more days will I be employed here?” Venture capitalist Bruce Gibney explains it this way:

“Jobs may not seem like ‘existential’ problems, but they are: When people cannot support themselves with work at all — let alone with work they find meaningful — they clamor for sharp changes. Not every revolution is a good revolution, as Europe has discovered several times. Jobs provide both material comfort and psychological gratification, and when these goods disappear, people understandably become very upset.”

The wise corporate leader will realize that post-technology trauma falls along two lines: (1) how to integrate the new technology into the work flow, and (2) how to cope with feelings that the new technology is somehow “the enemy.” Without dealing with both, even the most automated workplace could easily have undercurrents of anxiety, if not anger.

Rethink What Your Workforce Can Do

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Technology will replace some work, but it doesn’t have to replace the people who have done that work. Economist James Bessen notes, “The problem is people are losing jobs and we’re not doing a good job of getting them the skills and knowledge they need to work for the new jobs.”

For example, a study in Australia found a silver lining in the automation of bank tellers’ work: “While ATMs took over a lot of the tasks these tellers were doing, it gave existing workers the opportunity to upskill and sell a wider ranges of financial services.”

Moreover, the report found that there is a growing range of new job opportunities in the fields of big data analysis, decision support analysts, remote-control vehicle operators, customer experience experts, personalized preventative health helpers, and online chaperones (“managing online risks such as identify theft, reputational damage, social media bullying and harassment, and internet fraud”).Image result for robot tech Such jobs may not be in your current industrial domain. But there may be other ways for you to view this moment as the perfect time to rethink the shape and character of your workforce. Such new thinking will generate a whole new human resource development agenda, one quite probably emphasizing those innate human capacities that can provide a renewed strategy for success that is both technological and human.

As Wise, the roboticist, emphasized, the technology itself is just a tool, one that leaders can use how they see fit. We can choose to use AI and other emerging technologies to replace human work, or we can choose to use them to augment it.

“Your computer doesn’t unemploy you, your robot doesn’t unemploy you,” she said. “The companies that have those technologies make the social policies and set those social policies that change the workforce.”

SOURCE | Harvard Business Review – hbr.org


Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders

Intelligence makes for better leaders—from undergraduates to executives to presidents—according to multiple studies. It certainly makes sense that handling a market shift or legislative logjam requires cognitive oomph. But new research on leadership suggests that, at a certain point, having a higher IQ stops helping and starts hurting.


Although previous research has shown that groups with smarter leaders perform better by objective measures, some studies have hinted that followers might subjectively view leaders with stratospheric intellect as less effective.

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Decades ago Dean Simonton, a psychologist the University of California, Davis, proposed that brilliant leaders’ words may simply go over people’s heads, their solutions could be more complicated to implement and followers might find it harder to relate to them. Image result for Journal of Applied Psychology. logoNow Simonton and two colleagues have finally tested that idea, publishing their results in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The researchers looked at 379 male and female business leaders in 30 countries, across fields that included banking, retail and technology. The managers took IQ tests (an imperfect but robust predictor of performance in many areas), and each was rated on leadership style and effectiveness by an average of eight co-workers. IQ positively correlated with ratings of leader effectiveness, strategy formation, vision and several other characteristics—up to a point. The ratings peaked at an IQ of around 120, which is higher than roughly 80 percent of office workers. Beyond that, the ratings declined.

The researchers suggest the “ideal” IQ could be higher or lower in various fields, depending on whether technical versus social skills are more valued in a given work culture.

“It’s an interesting and thoughtful paper,” says Paul Sackett, a management professor at University of Minnesota, who was not involved in the research.

Image result for University of Minnesota logo“To me, the right interpretation of the work would be that it highlights a need to understand what high-IQ leaders do that leads to lower perceptions by followers,” he says. “The wrong interpretation would be, ‘Don’t hire high-IQ leaders.’ ”

The study’s lead author, John Antonakis, a psychologist at the Image result for University of Lausanne in Switzerland logoUniversity of Lausanne in Switzerland, suggests leaders should use their intelligence to generate creative metaphors that will persuade and inspire others—the way former U.S. President Barack Obama did.

“I think the only way a smart person can signal their intelligence appropriately and still connect with the people,” Antonakis says, “is to speak in charismatic ways.”

SOURCE | Scientific American Journal


Brain Scan Reveal Creativity Is Pattern

Brain Scan_Creative

Donatella Versace finds it in the conflict of ideas, Jack White under pressure of deadlines. For William S. Burroughs, an old Dadaist trick helped: cutting pages into pieces and rearranging the words.

Image result for Donatella Versace Image result for jack white Image result for William S Burroughs

Every artist has their own way of generating original ideas, but what is happening inside the brain might not be so individual. In new research, scientists report signature patterns of neural activity that mark out those who are most creative.

“We have identified a pattern of brain connectivity that varies across people, but is associated with the ability to come up with creative ideas,” said Roger Beaty, a psychologist at Harvard University. “It’s not like we can predict with perfect accuracy who’s going to be the next Einstein, but we can get a pretty good sense of how flexible a given person’s thinking is.”

The scientists asked the volunteers to perform a creative thinking task as they lay inside a brain scanner. While the machine recorded their white matter at work, the participants had 12 seconds to come up with the most imaginative use for an object that flashed up on a screen. Three independent scorers then rated their answers.

One of the barriers to creative thinking is the ease with which common, unoriginal thoughts swamp the mind. Some people in the study could not get past these. For example, when asked for creative uses for a sock, soap and chewing gum wrapper, less creative people gave answers such as “covering the feet”, “making bubbles” and “containing gum” respectively. For the same items, more original thinkers suggested a water filtration system, a seal for envelopes, and an antenna wire.

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Reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found distinct patterns of brain activity in the most and least creative people. In the highly original thinkers, the scientists saw strong connectivity between three networks of the brain. One, known as the default mode network, is linked to spontaneous thinking and mind wandering, while a second, the executive control network, is engaged when people focus in on their thoughts. The third, called the salience network, helps to work out what best deserves our attention.

The first two of these three brain networks tend to work against one another, Beaty said, each dampening the other down. But the scans suggest that more creative people can better engage both networks at once. “It might be easier for creative thinkers to bring these resources to bear simultaneously,” he said.

Initial scans on men and women from the University of North Carolina were backed up by further scans in Austrian and Chinese volunteers. To make sure enough creative people took part in the study, the researchers recruited plenty of artists, musicians and scientists. Now, Beaty wants to look at brain activity in different creative pursuits, such as the arts and sciences, and investigate whether training helps boost creative powers.

In 2016, David Melcher, who studies creativity at the University of Trento, identified brain networks used in visual art. “A critical open question, for future research, is whether this ability to put the brain in creative mode transfers across tasks,” he said. “Do we learn to network our brain regions for creativity in new domains once we learn to do it, for example, in painting or freestyle rap?”

“There has been an educational policy, in many countries including the US, of reducing teaching hours in the arts and focusing instead on rote learning for yearly testing of basic knowledge,” he added. “We need to understand whether creativity is a transferable skill, a way of using the brain that students learn to use across fields.”

SOURCE | The Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America 

DOWNLOAD | White Paper Research – Robust Prediction of Individual Creative Ability From Brain Functional Connectivity



Dear Mark Zuck,

With Regards to Your Letter on Meaningful Interaction & Time Well Spent

A few days ago, you announced that your number one goal for 2018 was to make Facebook “Time Well Spent”.

This was especially gratifying for me because five years ago, I coined this term in a conversation with Tristan Harris (who’s worked tirelessly to spread and elaborate the concept, turning it into a movement).

Back in 2013, Tristan and I were worried about the entire tech industry, but your product’s News Feed was then — and is still — our best example of what needed to change. And that was before election manipulation, fake news, teen depression & suicide, worries about children’s videos.

Now that you’re on board with Time Well Spent, let’s get practical about how a company like Facebook (and an industry like consumer tech) can be retooled around “meaningful interactions” instead of engagement.

But first, how did Facebook screw this up? Popular articles place blame in certain places: the advertising business model, centralization, tech bro culture, tech-giant monopolies, or just capitalism-as-usual.Image result for fb

But I think the blame lies somewhere else: in the nature of software itself. I believe even the most well-intentioned teams, operating in the best possible culture would struggle with meaningful interactions and time well spent. Even in a small startup. Even at an open source, peer-to-peer nonprofit.

Why do I think so? I’ll tell you in this letter. Then, in the follow-up essay, I’ll say what to do about it.

It’s possible (but very tricky) to design software so as to address the users’ sense of meaning. But it requires profound changes to how software gets made! These changes make others your company has gone through (such as the adoption of machine learning, the transition from web to mobile) look easy.

But that’s what it will take.FB mZUCK.png

On Social Software & Meaningful Interactions

Sometimes new social software works out well. Few people would come out to a protest of Wikipedia, Couchsurfing, or Meetup, for example. These products — and the social changes that come with them — are welcomed, even embraced.

But people are less enthusiastic about Facebook, Twitter, the “Fake News” ecosystem, Uber, AirBnb, and even smartphones themselves. Why are reactions to these systems different? I think we need the concept of values to understand:

Values: The ideas a person has about how they want to live, especially ideas about what kinds of relationships and what kinds of actions are of lasting importance in their life.¹

Values are like vertebrae: even if you never think about them, you have them, and they structure much of what you do. Values are ideas that direct the manner in which you act, rather than the outcomes you want. Let’s say you’re planning a social event, like the F8 conference you put on once a year. You might have a goal in mind, maybe “getting a lot of people to participate”. But while you craft your invitation, you also have a manner in which you pursue that goal (perhaps honestly or cleverly). Maybe you were inspired by a friend who writes cleverly, or by another invitation from someone who spoke honestly and from the heart.

And here’s the problem: generally speaking, your product (Facebook) makes it more difficult for all of us to live according to our values.

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When a person spends hours on News Feed before bed, are they cultivating the type of social relationships they believe in? Are they engaging in acts of lasting importance?

Maybe! Facebook can be used in all sorts of ways. Perhaps this sleepy individual was planning a political revolution, or getting feedback on their first-ever breakdance video.

But many of us wake up the next day feeling like our late-night scrolling session was a waste of time. That’s because living according to our values doesn’t happen automatically. Some social environments make being honest more difficult, while others make it easier. It is similar with courage, creativity, and with every other manner in which a person wants to act or relate to others.

As we’ll see below, social software simplifies and expedites certain social relationships, and certain actions, at the expense of others. And if the simplified actions and relationships weren’t designed with a users’ particular values in mind, then using the software can make living by their values more difficult, which leaves them feeling like their time was not well spent.

For example, it may be harder to live by the value of honesty on Instagram, if honest posts get fewer likes. Similarly, a courageous statement on Twitter could lead to harassing replies. On every platform, a person who wants to be attentive to their friends can find themselves in a state of frazzled distraction.

As users, we end up acting and socializing in ways we don’t believe in, and later regret. We act against our values: by procrastinating from work, by avoiding our feelings, by pandering to other people’s opinions, by participating in a hateful mob reacting to the news, and so on.

This is one of the hidden costs of social software. Let’s call it the cost of values-misaligned systems.Image result for misaligned

Any social environment can be misaligned with our values, but with social software it is harder to resist. Compared to past social systems — governed by social conventions or laws — software gives less space for personal reinterpretation or disobedience. It tends to code up exactly how we are intended to interact.

Our Choices Are Structured

Consider how social conventions shape our lives: teenagers are ostracized for wearing the wrong clothes, adults for saying the wrong words or spouting unpopular beliefs. But it’s still possible to flout convention, and by operating expressively, outside of conventions, a person can sometimes initiate a new trend or subculture. With software, on the other hand, acting in a way the designers didn’t intend is often impossible: a user can’t sing “Thrift Shop” to a stranger on Tinder or wear their Facebook cover photo on the bottom of the screen. The software has structured the sequence and style with which they interact.²

We see something similar if we compare software with laws. Imagine if Twitter were implemented through government regulation: there’d be a law about how many letters you used when you spoke, and an ordinance deciding who wore a checkmark near their face and who didn’t. Imagine bureaucrats deciding who’s visible to the public, and who gets ignored. Could a law make you carry around and display everything you’d recently said?

In practice, laws can’t structure social life that tightly. Even in the worst dictatorships—when the Nazis had Jews wear stars—they couldn’t ensure complete compliance. As law, the “Twitter Code” would be impossible to enforce. But as software, it’s impossible not to comply.

Social software is therefore different from laws and social conventions.³ It guides us much more strictly through certain actions and ways of relating. As a result, we have less of a chance to pursue our own values. The coded structure of push notifications makes it harder to prioritize a value of personal focus; the coded structure of likes makes it harder to prioritize not relying on others’ opinions; and similar structures interfere with other values, like being honest or kind to people, being thoughtful, etc.

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This doesn’t just cause problems for individuals. In the follow-up essay, I show that the problems I mentioned at the outset — election manipulation, fake news, internet addiction, teen isolation/depression/suicide, the mistreatment of children — are fuelled by the fact that actors are guided along in ways that don’t accord with anyone’s values.

So Zuck, let’s return to the issues that you are struggling with: meaningful interactions, time well spent, and the future of politics.

Since they are connected to the nature of software, it won’t be an easy fix. But I believe you’re serious about making a time well spent Facebook, and serious about addressing the harms to democracy and society.

So what can you do? What can any software team do?

There are two approaches that could work: in the long-term, you (and other technologists) can learn to build software that’s less constraining, software that works more like social conventions, which can be defied, expressively reinterpretted, and remodeled by the user. But realistically, that will take decades of research, innovation, business change, and cultural evolution to achieve.⁴

The only other option (besides rejecting the idea of social software entirely) is to learn a lot about values, and to explicitly redesign everything to be as value-aligned as possible, making room for the broad diversity of values of your users.

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If you go this route, technology products must be re-conceptualized. They must be considered as spaces: virtual places where people struggle to live out the acts and relationships they find meaningful.

Teams will face questions like these:

  • What are the variety of values that users have?
  • For each such value, are there features of social spaces which make practicing it easier?
  • How do users decide which values to bring into their socializing? How can software support this decision?
  • Are there more or less meaningful kinds of conversations? Is there a way to identify less value-aligned talk?
  • Can we accomplish all of this without imposing our own corporate or personal values?⁵

Tackling such questions may seem impossible. But this kind of focus on meaning can work out. It’s part of what’s made Couchsurfing (in its heyday), Meetup, and Wikipedia less objectionable than Facebook has been. They were designed with a deeper understanding and prioritization of the values of their users, as spaces for practicing those values. A complex and general product like Facebook will have to go much further in this direction

SOURCE | Medium


Circadian Clock Kills Cancer Cells

Compound that targets the clock reduces brain cancer growth without side effects in mice.

Women who work night shifts have substantially higher risks of breast, digestive system, and skin cancers, a recent study found. The findings reinforced a c

Chemical line structure of SR9009.

onnection researchers have observed between cancer and the circadian clock, a biological system that controls the daily schedule of physiological processes.

Now, in findings that could lead to a new class of cancer drugs, researchers have uncovered details about a key molecular link between circadian rhythm and cancer.

The nuclear hormone receptors REV-ERBα and REV-ERBβ are essential components of the body’s circadian clock.


A line structure of SR9011.

Gabriele Sulli and Satchidananda Panda at Salk Institute for Biological Studies and coworkers show that when each of two small organic molecules, SR9009 and SR9011, turn on the receptors in cell culture, the interactions kill breast, colon, leukemia, melanoma, and brain cancer cells, as well as dormant premalignant cancer cells (Nature 2018, DOI: 10.1038/nature25170).


Learn More & Download the Study @ Chemical Engineering News | cen.com



KodakCoin Reveal: Stock Soars

Following the surprise announcement Kodak stock price sky-rocketed over 60% signaling the potential game changing nature of this out of the blue pivot.

There’s a growing list of companies that have added language about blockchain or cryptocurrency into their names and mission statements, and it makes sense.  Kodak, which just launched its own KodakCoin, a cryptocurrency for photographers. As soon as the news was announced, Kodak’s stock (KODK) jumped up, and as of this writing, its stock price is $5.02, a 60 percent gain.

KodakCoins will work as tokens inside the new blockchain-powered KodakOne rights management platform. The platform will supposedly create a digital ledger of rights ownership that photographers can use to register and license new and old work. Both the platform and cryptocurrency are supposed to “empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management,” according to the press release. The digital currency is meant to create a new economy for photographers to receive payment and sell work on a secure platform.

Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke said in a press statement, “For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem.”

There’s also a precedent for selling artwork or illustrations through blockchain technology, as the world saw with the Ethereum-based CryptoKitties. CryptoKitties features artwork drawn by Guilherme Twardowski, who drew every single cat and cat feature in the game.

But while Kodak’s proposed blockchain-powered platform and virtual coin sound good on paper, it’s not clear why the photography company needs to use blockchain to achieve its goals, rather than just create another social media platform instead. It appears that Kodak, like the other tea and vape companies that received media attention last month for making the abrupt leap to blockchain, could just be trying to capitalize on the current cryptocurrency mania.

KodakCoin’s initial coin offering opens on January 31st, under SEC guidelines as a security token, and it’s open to US, UK, Canadian, and other investors.

Source | The Verge • AP Newswire

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