Why would Amazon and Facebook want to predict the end of a relationship? “When a relationship ends, people go shopping.” [E.J. Dickson] www.vox.com
“The New York Police Department on Tuesday unveiled plans to deploy 14 [drones] and to train 29 officers to operate them, opening an intense debate about whether an agency previously criticized for illegally surveilling citizens should possess such powerful technology.”
Cops say the drones would be used for monitoring big crowds, investigating hazardous waste spills, handling hostage situations and reaching remote crime scenes, among other jobs. “They will not be used for routine police patrols, unlawful surveillance or to enforce traffic laws, the officials said. Nor will they be equipped with weapons…. ”
But civil rights activists are concerned about “mission creep” — spying on black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and exploitation by the Trump administration to target illegal immigrants.
John Hennessy, the chair of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., was recently asked whether Google providing a search engine in China that censored results would provide a net benefit for Chinese users. “I don’t know the answer to that. I think it’s — I think it’s a legitimate question,” he responded. “Anybody who does business in China compromises some of their core values. Every single company, because the laws in China are quite a bit different than they are in our own country.”
Hennessy’s remarks were in relation to Project Dragonfly, a once-secret project within Google to build a version of its search engine that meets the demands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party — namely, that Google proactively censor “sensitive” speech and comply with China’s data provenance and surveillance laws.
I worked as a research scientist at Google when Dragonfly was revealed — including to most Google employees — and resigned in protest after a month of internally fighting for clarification. That’s part of why I object to this constant drift of conversations about Dragonfly from concrete, indefensible details toward the vague language of difficult compromise.
Police want courts to compel Amazon to turn over Alexa recordings from the scene of a grisly double murder in a New Hampshire home – if those recordings even exist. [Meagan Flynn/The Washington Post]
Predicting the future isn’t what science fiction is for, says Cory. Science fiction reflects the aspirations and anxieties that people have about technology at the moment it was written.
It’s not just technology. It’s also politics and social change. And it applies to fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft in real life was a full-throated bigot who feared invading hordes of filthy mongrel immigrants; he turned that into some of the most powerful horror and fantasy written (enjoyed by legions, including the descendants of those same filthy mongrel immigrants). Star Trek has always been a reflection of whatever was going on in the news at the time the shows and movies aired.
Cory covers a lot of ground in this lively interview with Utah Public Radio’s Access Utah:
In a recent column, Doctorow says that “all the data collected in giant databases today will breach someday, and when it does, it will ruin peoples’ lives. They will have their houses stolen from under them by identity thieves who forge their deeds (this is already happening); they will end up with criminal records because identity thieves will use their personal information to commit crimes (this is already happening); … they will have their devices compromised using passwords and personal data that leaked from old accounts, and the hackers will spy on them through their baby monitors, cars, set-top boxes, and medical implants (this is already happening)…” We’ll talk with Cory Doctorow about technology, privacy, and intellectual property.
Cory Doctorow is the co-editor of popular weblog Boing Boing and a contributor to The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, Wired, and many other newspapers, magazines and websites. He is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil liberties group that defends freedom in technology law, policy, standards and treaties. Doctorow is also an award-winning author of numerous novels, including “Little Brother,” “Homeland,” and “In Real Life.”
De-Cix says the German government’s surveillance mandate violates the nation’s own law.
Peter Thiel, The New York Times:
Last month, I spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland because I believe our country is on the wrong track, and we need to solve real problems instead of fighting fake culture wars. I’m glad that an arena full of Republicans stood up to applaud when I said I was proud to be gay, because gay pride shouldn’t be a partisan issue. All people deserve respect, and nobody’s sexuality should be made a public fixation.
Unfortunately, lurid interest in gay life isn’t a thing of the past. Last week, The Daily Beast published an article that effectively outed gay Olympic athletes, treating their sexuality as a curiosity for the sake of internet clicks. The article endangered the lives of gay men from less tolerant countries, and a public outcry led to its swift retraction. While the article never should have been published, the editors’ prompt response shows how journalistic norms can improve, if the public demands it.
Not mentioned here: The vast databases of private information compiled by business and government in the name of marketing and national security. That kind of information is potentially far more damaging to far more people than sex tapes.
Also, while Thiel is right that even public figures have a right to privacy,I don’t want to live in a world where billionaires decide the boundaries of legitimate journalism. (See also.)
Los Angeles police are investigating Playboy model Dani Mathers after she snapped a photo of a woman in a locker room shower at an LA Fitness exercise center, then posted the photo to Snapchat “with disparaging comments about the woman’s body.”
Mathers sparked a public backlash after she shared the photo of the naked woman in the gym’s locker room with the caption: “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.”
Critics accused Mathers of body-shaming the woman. Others said her actions were illegal.
LA Fitness on Friday responded to Mathers’ action by permanently revoking her membership at all of its health clubs.
“Her behavior is appalling and puts every member at risk of losing their privacy,” said Jill Greuling, the company’s executive vice president of operations. The company would not say at which gym the incident occurred.
“Our written rules are very clear: Cellphone usage and photography are prohibited in the locker rooms,” Greuling said. “This is not only our rule, but common decency.”
Mathers apologized on Snapchat and deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“That was absolutely wrong and not what I meant to do,” she said. “I know that body-shaming is wrong. That is not the type of person I am.”
Why do they always say “that’s not the type of person I am”? You did it. It’s who you are.
Dana Liebelson and Ryan J. Reilly investigate jailhouse suicides and other deaths for the Huffington Post:
Suicide has been the leading cause of death in jails in every year since 2000, according to the latest Justice Department data. This is not the case in prisons, where inmates are more likely to die of cancer, heart and liver disease. There’s a reason for this difference. People land in jail right after they’ve been arrested. They’re often angry, desperate or afraid. They may be intoxicated or have psychiatric conditions that officers have no way of knowing about.
The experts we spoke with emphasized that entering jail is an instantly dehumanizing process. “You get clothes that don’t fit you, you get strip-searched, you lose any semblance of privacy, you don’t get to make many decisions that we all take for granted,” said Jeffrey Metzner, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado in Denver who specializes in inmate mental health. “I don’t think most of us realize just how frightening that experience is,” added Steve J. Martin, a corrections expert who is monitoring reforms at Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York City. “You have a total and absolute loss—immediate loss—of control over your being, over your physical being.”
Under these circumstances, people can deteriorate at an alarming speed. About two weeks after Bland’s death, 20-year-old Brissa Lopez was arrested for allegedly fighting with her boyfriend, and arrived at a Texas jail around 4:47 a.m. She was “very cooperative” and “chuckled as she removed her tongue and lip ring,” according to a sergeant who admitted her. Staff checked on her at 6:15 a.m. Some 40 minutes later, she was found hanging from a fire alarm cage by a bedsheet.
Businesses will be less likely to trust hosting services if the services can be required to divulge information to police. [Carol Wilson – Light Reading]
The Senate’s Draft Encryption Bill Is ‘Ludicrous, Dangerous, Technically Illiterate’ [Andy Greenberg – Wired]
In early 2015, Reddit published a transparency report that contained heading for National Security Requests, noting, “As of January 29, 2015, reddit has never received a National Security Letter, an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or any other classified request for user information.”
Reddit’s Thursday update omits that section.
“Warrant canaries” are a response to the practice by governments of serving warrants on service providers that include gag orders forbidding the service from disclosing the warrant’s existence.
Service providers get around the gag order by “publishing regular transparency reports listing the number of secret warrants received to date as “0,” then omitting the section dealing with those warrants once the first warrant has been served.”
Reddit’s Warrant Canary just died [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]
The Justice Department asked a federal judge in California court to vacate its petition to force Apple to help it hack the phone. “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order,” the filing reads.
The filing doesn’t elaborate on the method used, nor does it hint at any of the information revealed. What it means is that the FBI has achieved a method to access the data stored on the phone, circumventing its security features.
While this case is now moot, there “may well be similar conflicts down the road,” a Justice Department spokeswoman says.
FBI Drops iPhone Case Against Apple After Outside Hack Succeeds [Arik Hesseldahl – re/code]
Rob Horning reviews media scholar Mark Andrejevic’s book, Infoglut: How Too Much Information Is Changing the Way We Think and Know, arguing that Big Data allows governments and big business to control behavior without ever knowing who any of us are as individuals. This relatively recent model for surveillance strains our ideas about privacy and surveillance past the breaking point.
Surveillance has become as thorough as technology permits it to be, as the legal restraints devised to limit it in earlier eras have become outmoded, irrelevant. Given that many are becoming alert to the surveillance threat through the way it’s borne by the atomizing technology of smartphones, we tend to imagine the problem is that it can single us out and expose us. Surveillance is conceived as a kind of panoptic voyeurism that selects us for unfair scrutiny and treatment, require us to adopt a superficial conformity as camouflage. It plays on our worry for our personal reputation.
But Andrejevic argues that in an era of mass surveillance, the surveillance apparatus doesn’t care about our individual story. Instead Big Data is interested in broader statistical profiles of populations. Mass surveillance controls without necessarily knowing anything that compromises any individual’s privacy. To the degree that they have access to the devices we use to mediate our relation to everyday life, companies deploy algorithms based on correlations found in large data sets to shape our opportunities—our sense of what feels possible. Undesirable outcomes need not be forbidden and policed if instead they can simply be made improbable. We don’t need to be watched and brainwashed to make them docile; we just need to be situated within social dynamics whose range of outcomes have all been modeled as safe for the status quo. It’s not: “I see what you are doing, Rob Horning, stop that.” It’s: “Rob Horning can be included in these different data sets, which means he should be offered these prices, these jobs, these insurance policies, these friends’ status updates, and he’ll likely be swayed by these facts.”
Mass data collectors don’t want “potentially incriminating information about you as an individual so much as mundane information at the scale of populations,” Horning says. Mass data collectors want to “construct a working model of society in data, so the more conforming you are, the more you need to be watched, to weight the models properly.”
By figuring out what the average, conforming person looks like, powerful institutions can better spot deviant and threatening behavior, to be neutralized (in the case of security) or marketed to (in the case of business). People going through life transitions such as death in the family, divorce, pregnancy, job loss, and relocation are particularly susceptible to advertising.
Of course social media and wearable devices like Fitbit play a big role. We voluntarily contribute to the profiles being built about us.
This form of surveillance and profiling has implications for politics, government, and even our ideas of self.
Goldman asked a US judge to order Google to delete an email from a Gmail inbox, after a contractor accidentally sent confidential documents to that address.
The breach occurred on June 23 and included “highly confidential brokerage account information,” Goldman said in a complaint filed last Friday in a New York state court in Manhattan.
Goldman (GS.N) did not say how many clients were affected, and wants Google’s (GOOGL.O) help in tracking down who might have accessed the data. The Wall Street bank also said Google “appears willing to cooperate” if there is a court order.
The judge should deny this request. The items of an inbox are the property of the recipient. One the toothpaste is out of the tube, you can’t put it back in. If we start granting this request, the floodgates will open.
The “emotional contagion” study dramatically rips off a curtain that separated Facebook’s public face and its backstage. Publicly, Facebook woos us with a vision of a social information stream shaped by our individual needs and networks; backstage, the folks behind the curtain are pulling levers to find more efficient ways to hijack our attention and sell us stuff. (The frontstage/backstage theory sounds like The Wizard of Oz but is actually Erving Goffman’s.)
I started this blog in April as a means of maximizing the benefit I get from social networks. But over time, I find I like getting the most from social platforms while keeping them at arm’s length. That’s particularly true of Facebook.
Today’s teens are desperate for any form of freedom. In a world where they have limited physical mobility and few places to go, they’re deeply appreciative of any space that will accept them. Because we’ve pretty much obliterated all public spaces for youth to gather in, they find their freedomin commercial spaces, especially online. …
Why should we expect [teens] to stand up to commercial surveillance when every adult in their world surveils their every move “for their own good”? Why should these teens lament the commercialization of public spaces when these are the only spaces that they feel actually allow them to be authentic?
The problem with the normals and tech is the same as the problem with the normals and politics, or society in general. People believe they are powerless and alone, but the only thing that keeps people powerless and alone is that same belief. People, working together, are immensely and terrifyingly powerful.
The phone is designed to help users block data from leaking out to criminals, private companies, and governments.
–Me on Light Reading.
I was much more relaxed and confident Friday than I’ve been in a while.
I stress out a lot. I fear failure. I compare my life unfavorably to the lives of others.
Yesterday, not so much. Oh, a couple of twinges here and there. But mostly I just did my thing and felt happy and satisfied. Well, as happy and satisfied as a person like me ever gets (to paraphrase a line from the sitcom Mad About You. I have found that line to be so, so true.)
One thing that made yesterday different: I didn’t go on Facebook and Google+ at all, and I only checked Reddit once in the evening. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
I don’t think that social media causes my anxieties. But if I’m feeling down or stressed, social media helps push things along. Social media is great for things that make you sick about humanity. I call it the Outrage of the Day — you know, like that basketball billionaire with his racist thing or some wingnut saying something moronic about slavery or homosexuality.
Facebook in particular is a great place to go to compare your own lives to others and find your own life wanting. Friends post that they’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world. What are you doing? You’re sitting around reading Facebook. On the days when you’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world, you’re not on Facebook — you’re busy doing those things.
I’m not planning to give up social media. There’s a lot of value in social media. It’s put me in touch with friends I’d lost track of years ago. It keeps me up with headline news. It helps me professionally. But I can certainly stand to do a lot less social media.
That’s one of the main reasons I started this blog. It’s a way for me to continue sharing what I’m thinking about without opening the door and letting anybody and everybody into my brain. Because I love you all but sometimes you can be a bit much, y’know?
P.S. You’re welcome to respond to this on Facebook or Google+. But I probably won’t see your response until Sunday. Or maybe Monday. Because I already did my social pass this morning and after that whole business with the dog this morning I don’t want any more stress today.