Sep 182017
 

More catch up as I transfer choice material from my tablet at home …

More people all the time look nervously at the effect Google has in their markets, wondering what might happen if the behemoth turns to the dark side. A journalist talks of how his profession has been transformed by Google, for example. The company enabled entirely new business processes for these writers … and now almost exclusively controls what writers can draw from it. Others go further, pointing out how the company has bullied others in order to have its way.

[You need not look very far these days to find many more examples emerging. The informal motto for Google was “don’t be evil.” We knew from the start that the moment a company feels compelled to assure you it is not evil, the more of the underworld has been on its minds.]

And finally we offer a very nice article about the specifics by which technology companies gain control. It is through leveraging intellectual property that (according to the author, with whom we concur) we are experiencing a modern sort of feudalism, in which don’t necessarily own much property, rather, we must ask for permission and hope the corporate owners has a benign eye upon our requests.

 Posted by at 5:58 pm on September 18, 2017
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
Jun 192017
 

Reckless Exploit: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers, and a Child Targeted with NSO Spyware is another fine bit of investigative reporting by Citizenlab.org (a group that is worth following.) Read at this link the use of spyware to target journalists and advocates of views that are inconvenient to what some might view are corrupt officials.

 Posted by at 9:01 am on June 19, 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
Nov 012016
 

A nice article at Discover Magazine tells some of the many ways our data are used. None of this is particularly surprising to privacy advocates, of course, but this is an interesting perspective since the author speaks from the algorithmic point of view; we of course would have wondered why we allowed data to be available for those algorithms to be used as such in the first place.

 Posted by at 7:29 am on November 1, 2016
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
Aug 242016
 

Bloomberg reports on Baltimore Secret Cameras, which constantly record in the city. It’s a good article on how much surveillance really goes on … and in a city that has just been issued a scathing report from the Department of Justice on persistent and long-term civil rights violations in its police department. Yes, it does seem like these things go together, doesn’t it?

 Posted by at 6:31 pm on August 24, 2016
Jun 292016
 

Clicking ‘I accept’ doesn’t mean you surrender right to know how a company uses your data“. That’s the title of an article about some of the many ways companies use your data, often without your full appreciation of what you have given away.

As described in the linked article, some people are working hard to help you and fellow consumers be more informed about the effect of those disclosures. Bravo!

 Posted by at 4:56 pm on June 29, 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
Mar 202016
 

The war on impure thoughts continues down its slippery slope.

Harvard Law School will ban retire its seal because it derived from the emblem of a slave-holding family … never mind that the family funded the school’s first professorship 200 years ago. The way ahead is described in a very nice piece of writing by a scholar who studied other problematic icons associated with Harvard.

It will be easier in the future. Today’s digital era, in which so much data are kept, will make it far easier for tomorrow’s enlightened people to reach back and study our private thoughts in order to recognize which of us must be condemned for violating that era’s sensibilities.

They will know better then than we do today.

 Posted by at 8:52 am on March 20, 2016