The Internet With A Human Face:
Public and private surveillance are in a curious symbiosis with each other.
A few weeks ago, the sociologist Janet Vertesi gave a talk about her efforts to keep Facebook from learning she was pregnant. Pregnant women have to buy all kinds of things for the baby, so they are ten times more valuable to Facebook’s advertisers.
At one point, Vertesi’s husband bought a number of Amazon gift cards with cash, and the large purchase triggered a police warning. This fits a pattern where privacy-seeking behavior has become grounds for suspicion. Try to avoid the corporate tracking system, and you catch the attention of the police instead.
As a wise man once said, if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.
But there are also dangerous scenarios that don’t involve government at all, and that we don’t talk enough about.
I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.
What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?
What happens to all that data?
Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit:
This is not building anything new — it’s discriminating and restricting what we already have.
This is not making anything faster — it’s allowing ISPs to selectively slow down traffic that they don’t strategically or financially benefit from, and only permit traffic from their partners to run at the speeds that everything runs at today.
It’s ostensibly the FCC’s job to see through this bullshit language and do what’s right for the country and the people, but only the fool who believed that ISPs are trying to build something beneficial here would believe that the FCC gives a damn about what’s best for American citizens.
And 52.9% of us were that fool for believing in another big, empty political marketing campaign.
Haunted Empire review – great title, shame about the contents | Technology | theguardian.com:
I found the bizarre attribution of meaning to events which didn’t seem to have meaning more and more intrusive. I also found it incongruous to have an American journalist from the WSJ offering her own interpretations; I thought it was an article of faith in that trade to get someone else to express your opinions – just choose carefully so they’re the ones you wanted to express anyway. But hardly any experts are quoted in the whole book; a pity, as they could have provided a narrative framework.
More to the point, didn’t any of Kane’s 200 interviewees or her time on the WSJ team reporting on Apple uncover anything about the tension inside the company about the iPhone 5? It simultaneously changed the screen size and dumped the 30-pin connector it had used since 2003, replacing it with a thinner 8-pin one that was incompatible with hundreds of millions of third-party boom boxes. For third-party developers, it meant rewriting their apps just to fit the iPhone 5 screen, which was longer but not wider. For makers of music players, it meant redesigns and inventory headaches. Would Steve Jobs have done that? Post-Jobs Apple did, with the same lack of compunction with which Jobs used to hand out mandates. Does that mean it’s haunted by the spirit of Jobs (would he had done it)? Or not?
Surveillance by Algorithm:
Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection,” in government parlance.
So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.
This is why Clapper claims — to this day — that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
If the NSA collects — I’m using the everyday definition of the word here — all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects — I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word — everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected — NSA definition — until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data — in NSA terms — actually been collected.
How Steve Perlman’s “Revolutionary” Wireless Technology Works – and Why its a Bigger Deal than Anyone Realizes:
My brain almost exploded when I realized this. While 5G is a big leap in performance from existing 4G technology, it doesn’t provide any fundamentally new capabilities to us. Wireless power, though would be a total game-changer. What would the implications be?
- Consumer electronics that never need to be plugged in again – phones, tablets, laptops, televisions could all be powered wirelessly in the home and office.
- With transmission towers spaced every kilometer along major highways, electric cars would not need massive, expensive batteries. Everyone could afford a Tesla, and the demand for oil would drop.
- With transmitters on a few rooftops in a city, you could have drones and quadcopters delivering groceries and mail, again without heavy batteries that limit their flying time.
- You could build an electrical grid that’s a wireless mesh network, especially in developing countries, and have excess power from solar panels beamed to other locations which need it.
There are probably a slew of other ideas that I haven’t even considered – readers, please comment below!