Might as well continue in our ‘spying’ thread (see Facebook really is spying on you from the other day) with Your smart home is spying on you. That link starts with a nice little video you can share with your technology-trusting friends, and follows with some little tech tips on how to home brew a gizmo to see how much tracking is going on. It is well within the reach of all our majors here.
Okay, it’s been a while since I had a moment to update here but a WSJ article begs a bit more visibility. Yes, Facebook really is spying on you.
This doesn’t share anything we didn’t already know, but for those of you with friends who haven’t yet keyed in on how deeply they are being tracked (and not for their benefit, to be sure) this might be a useful link to share.
Two recent articles add to the list of materials that students in my lab should ponder.
The first deals with limitations of statistics in science, or at least, limitations in our understanding and application of statistics. This is an on-going topic for our data scientists to track.
A NYT article on NSA Shadow Brokers is especially worthy of your consideration, since so many of our present projects involve analysis and prediction of security-related properties.
To see how the above two readings are modestly related to one another, think about what data are used to predict opportunities to penetrate a site, what data predict potential intrusions over time, and what data are used to track uses of exfiltrated materials. Then … think about whether the science behind each is equally-well developed or applied. What limits someone performing those activities and how would scientists offer that person stronger tools? There are some great research activities lurking in the answer to that question.
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.
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.
An article in Scientific American summarizes what lots of us observe: Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom.
We hope nobody here is shocked by this revelation. Kids use devices to mess with social media rather than for purposes of supporting instruction? Good gosh … who’d have thought …
Scholars will try new approaches in education, assess carefully and use what works by objective criteria. Of course, here we have instructors who will stampede the herd toward one or another trendy idea because it validates their notion of what ought to be done, not because they know it works. (We’ll see it when we know it, I guess.) We have administrators who promote the tech since it sounds cheaper than investing in quality people – for them tech is a replacement, or at least a force multiplier. And what about tech company support for computers in the classroom? Gee, those would be the companies that have built a business model around convincing people that tech is good? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t look kindly on the above study either.
A Short History of Radio Explains the iPhone’s Success offers a nice chronology of market factors leading up to release of the iPhone just ten years ago. This is a study in both innovation and government over-regulation, and what happens when you can finally get more of the former and less of the latter.
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.
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.
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.