The Secret Service is buying social media location data

New documents confirm that the government agency—one of many—has been using a tracking company.

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  • Documents reveal that the Secret Service used Locate X as part of a social media tracking package.
  • The service "allows investigators to draw a digital fence around an address or area, pinpoint mobile devices that were within that area, and see where else those devices have traveled, going back months."
  • Other agencies that have used this service include the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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Penn Jillette: The year that shattered America's illusions

The year 2020 will go down in history as one that shook our inner and outer worlds.

In this Big Think Live session, magician, author, and cultural critic Penn Jillette will discuss the giant upheavals of 2020 through the lens of what he knows best: illusions.
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8 powerful speakers that might make you think differently about racism

8 powerful voices share what it's like to be black in America, and why white people must break the racist status quo.

  • Black communities have been telling the nation, for more than a century, that they have been targeted, beaten, falsely accused and killed by the police and other institutions meant to protect them.
  • They have not been believed until recently, when the rise in camera phones and social media finally enabled them show and disseminate proof.
  • Even after the video of George Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, there remains defensiveness and denial among white Americans and institutions—a defensiveness that prevents change to the root of the problem: systemic racism. In this video, eight powerful voices share perspectives on being black in America, and why white inaction and white politeness must end.
To learn more about what you can do to end the racist status quo, educate yourself and take action. Here is Robin DiAngelo's list of resources.

An expert explains what 'Abolish the Police' really means

It turns out big ideas don't always fit in sign-sized slogans.

Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images
  • People are talking a lot about abolishing police lately, but what does that mean?
  • We spoke with an expert on the subject, who reveals the nuance in the idea.
  • Like any broad concept, there are a diversity of ideas expressed in the slogan.
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A decade ago, this scientist predicted 2020 would bring 'peak' chaos to the U.S.

Can researchers use data science to accurately predict the future?

  • Cliodynamics is a relatively new area of research that aims to take a scientific approach to studying history.
  • In 2012, a scientist named Peter Turchin published a paper describing how political instability in the U.S. tends to repeat over short- and long-term cycles.
  • Turchin suggests that political instability in the U.S. is driven by underlying factors like falling wages, wealth inequality, and intra-elite competition.
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