Aug 082017
 

A nice bit of analysis by folks at CMU, in support of the Center for Democracy & Technology, exposes that a VPN service is apparently selling user traffic for commercial purposes.

Usually people seek a VPN in order not to have their web and mail interactions mined for profiling by operations they never heard of. It isn’t like web sites don’t track an immense amount of data that can be used for … almost anything. But at least when users visit a site they can make an informed decision about what to share. Not so with a provider like Verizon or Comcast, which can harvest your open data flows. VPNs limit that potential. Unless they’re in cahoots with advertisers and other entities too.

 Posted by at 3:19 pm on August 8, 2017
Jul 062017
 

The labor market is evolving quickly; how we prepare young people to enter it isn’t.

Vocational Ed, Reborn tells about the evolution under way now. At least in some places, even if not Maryland where officials see students as means of sustaining business models that serve them, not consumers whose future needs might be better served if only we got out of our comfort zones a bit. Maryland educators continue to eschew the word “vocational” in our programs. Here it is called career and technology education.

 Posted by at 9:29 am on July 6, 2017
Jul 062017
 

We love tracking the unwelcome consequences of policy decisions that are made under a banner of righteousness but which bring surprises to those who weren’t listening to scholars who tried to point out what was in the fine print. This one’s a doozy.

National Review points out Discarded solar panels are piling up all over the world, and they represent a major threat to the environment. If you only measure the value of solar power from after the panels are up and before they come down, then probably there is a net plus – plus or minus those awkward moments when the sun isn’t shining of course. If you only drive forward with that in mind, the surprise waiting you is a net loss to our environment’s health, since the cost of procuring the more exotic materials needed for these panels is great (a lot more waste water, a lot of pollution) and the discarded panels pile up rather than become recycled. (Also batteries, this is not a prime consideration in the linked article.)

Scholars would want to objectively weight the lifecycle properties and make sound decisions; cherry picking your results is something you only do to justify outcomes you’ve already figured out. That may be good for your wallet if you’re in the enviro business, but it isn’t necessarily good for the environment.

 Posted by at 8:19 am on July 6, 2017
Jun 202017
 

A Supreme Court decision this week took a little step back toward sanity in allowing people some bit of flexibility in what it is they can do with “stuff” they buy. In this case it was with ink cartridges for printers, but it will be applied in more ways we trust.

Who’d have thought you didn’t have freedom to do things with such tangible products? The companies that want to use intellectual property and contract laws to prevent you from doing things other than pay money on their products. Read up on it at New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own.

This still doesn’t help much on software, which today you almost never are able to buy – only to pay for license, which gives the product creator control over what you do with it. What’s important is not what you want to do but what he wants to do, they argue.

 Posted by at 7:58 pm on June 20, 2017
Jun 152017
 

… selling us stuff.

(This is the last of this morning’s roll ups.)

We already know the internet is about revenue streams for the Googleplex. Interfaces Need To Stop Selling Us Stuff And Start Treating Us Like Human Beings.

Giving those same companies the opportunity to mine information about our fine-grain activities in the home offers them the mother lode of profiling data: Rise of the machines: who is the ‘internet of things’ good for?.

 Posted by at 10:09 am on June 15, 2017
Oct 222016
 

Of course, to skeptics who lament the absence of privacy practices that put consumers in control of their own information, there is no surprise in the the following: Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking (link to ProPublica). There was just too much money to be made not to join web tracking data with Google user profiles.

User profiles like in Google Apps for Education, for example. This would mean all Maryland students, faculty and staff who use our campus-supplied, Google-implemented mail and services are not only coloring in profiles for Google to use in commercial ventures – Google does that already – but these profiles will be joined with all our web activities (on and off campus.) All as a condition of being affiliated with University of Maryland.

Can you opt out? Maybe, but at some point employees will be opting out of getting official information from their employer and students will be opting out of getting traffic from their instructors. At least this is how it looks from here.

UM leadership puts our personal information into a stream of commerce in order to obtain its technology infrastructure. Once again Wallace Loh writes checks that we must cash.

 Posted by at 4:36 pm on October 22, 2016
Jun 102016
 

We should be so lucky that it is only the government making unfathomable decisions about us based on data they harvest without explanation for how it is used, as you might draw from today’s Washington Post article Creepy startup will help landlords, employers and online dates strip-mine intimate data from your Facebook page. (Also as linked from Slashdot, which tipped us off first.)

As a condition of doing business, the prospective clients, tenants or customers of participating firms must turn over all social media access to the startup which will profile and analyze the applicant in order to delivery a “more accurate” picture of the applicant’s ability to pay bills. (And probably a lot more.) We’ve seen this before, where social media data can contribute to one’s credit rating, so the present development just takes it to new heights … err, depths.

This is an unregulated area, with greatest impact on people who probably have the least ability to push back against inappropriate intrusions. But once businesses get you to dance to their tune, it is difficult to see where things stop, as tenants in Utah found recently (Apartment in US asks tenants to ‘like’ Facebook page or face action).

 Posted by at 7:31 am on June 10, 2016
Apr 052016
 

Telling travelers about to be screened whether to go left or right is an important job. It keeps people from getting in line in a way that would let them avoid more detailed screening. That’s why TSA bought $1.4 million of systems to do that. The product that costs 25 cents per installation – a quarter that screeners would flip – obviously won’t do. We need the cyber security version.

 Posted by at 10:14 am on April 5, 2016