Show and Tell – 3rd April, 2018

We Know Where You Live

The subheadings for this link gathering exercise might seem like nonsense. They are, it’s true, but not random nonsense. 1 If you recognise their origin, maybe you've also picked up how this particular Python title has taken on more meaning recently.

MoviePass CEO: ‘We Watch How You Drive From Home to the Movies'   Surely we're waking up to all this, right? Beware the ills of convenience

According to Media Play News, CEO Mitch Lowe told those at a business forum that the movie subscription service's app not only tracks your location, but follows you to and from the theater. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” he said, adding that “we watch where you go afterwards.” Not surprisingly, the company is hoping to understand customer habits and “build a night at the movies.”

How Widely Do Companies Share User Data? Here’s A Chilling Glimpse | Fastcodesign The tangible cause and effect of the Facebook revelations have the tech media in a spin. Meanwhile, Paypal quietly released details of their data sharing practices in January to comply within European law. That the response was just as quiet shows how routine a practice this is. This one is particularly galling given the paucity of genuine alternatives.

Group Madness

I’m still coming to terms with the level of surprise writ large in this debacle. The contemporary social contract has been a digital exchange for some time. Self surveillance is the norm, not an exception.

Facebook Has Had Countless Privacy Scandals. But This One Is Different The optimist has it this will incite a revolt. As much as I’d like to believe it, I see little around me to support the claim. I haven’t logged into Facebook for months, my reticence long established. However, I would wager that rolling through my ‘news’ feed will be a strangely self contained outrage directed at Facebook, within Facebook itself.

This is a data collection scandal. This is a scandal triggered by a specific incident, but that is broadly about the ways massive companies track us, harvest information from us, and then sell us as coercion targets in sophisticated information campaigns that could be for anything from diapers to mattresses to anti-vax literature.

The story will endure not because of animosity toward political data use but because it perfectly touches upon a deeper anxiety about our online privacy that’s been building for years. Indeed, the Cambridge Analytica scandal could well be the catalyst for a much bigger targeting revolt — a full-scale personal and public reckoning that looks at the way we’ve used the internet for the last decade. It’s a moment that forces us, collectively, to step back and think about what we sacrificed for a more convenient and connected world. And on an internet that feels increasingly toxic it’s hard to look at the tradeoffs we’ve made and feel like we’re getting a fair deal.

Then again, I’m just as likely to find all the awkward emotional oversharing, inner monologues, and general nonsense as usual.

Why Nothing Is Going To Happen To Facebook Or Mark Zuckerberg  On the flip-side. Where some see revolt, others see business as usual.

With Wall Street leading the way, the four entities with the strongest ability to cause long-term damage to Facebook in response to revelations that Cambridge Analytica illicitly used 50 million of its users’ data for political purposes didn’t seem ready to do so: Analysts told investors to buy the dip. Advertisers kept spending. Legislators continued to sit on their hands while a basic ad transparency bill rotted in Congress. And though users posted #DeleteFacebook en masse, Facebook actually rose to 8th place from 12th in the iOS mobile App Store since the day before the Cambridge Analytica news broke. It’s holding steady on Android, too.

No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more | The Guardian

We have now reached the point where an unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook.

How to Use Facebook While Giving It the Minimum Amount of Personal Data | the Verge  Some advice for minimising the data you share with Facebook. I’m all likelihood it’s too late, but developing good, conscious habits is always a good thing

Towards a world without Facebook | TechCrunch  A modest proposal if ever I saw one. I have sniped and snarked at crypto currencies on these pages, often with vague hat tipping toward the untapped potential of blockchain technology for other purposes. But I’ll admit, I hardly ever come across hard coded examples, let alone share them. Interestingly, the Facebook debacle has given us a barn to aim at, so we should see some interesting attempts at turning the page

We’re approaching — or maybe already at — the point at which these tools could be put together to construct, say, a small-scale decentralized social network. It would still face the critical-mass problem: but that could be addressed by focusing on specific cohorts and communities; art collectives, churches, fandoms, etcetera. It would still face the ordinary-people-don’t-want-tokens problem: but that could be addressed by having a designated token-handling admin for each node, in the same way that online communities used to have designated email admins or local Usenet sysadmins, so ordinary users would just need a URL, a userid/password, and perhaps a decision whether to pay for access or be advertised to.

Are you ready? This is all the data Facebook and Google have on you | The Guardian — If you still need a readout, this provides a decent run down of that data hoarding at Facebook and Google. But wait, there’s more — much more.

Mark Zuckerberg Thinks We’re Idiots | Monday Note Not a novel point, the irony in this claim has reached catch phrase proportions by now. Then again, if ever there were a time to put a finer point on it.

As Facebook’s leader, Zuckerberg resolves to get things straightened out in the future (“it’s my job, right?”) while he delivers a callcenter-style broken record reassurance: “Your privacy is important to us”. Yes, of course, our privacy is important to you; you made billions by surveilling and mining our private lives. One wonders how aware Zuckerberg is of the double entendre.

What Else Floats on Water

Apple, everyone needs more free iCloud storage | The Verge  Honestly, Apple may as well give us the bird for all you can store in 5Gb. For all the talk of user hostile action on the design front, examples of inaction offer enough insight inot priorities. At least for anyone not prone to religious feelings.

Apple: Former Engineer Will Unlock iPhone X for $15,000 | Fortune   Despite the sense this has always been a lucrative business waiting to happen, surely setting up this enterprise involved navigating a labrynthe of  mind-bending legal chicanery.

Stanford Students Challenge Apple on iPhone Addiction | Inside Higher Ed  Yeah, I can’t see Apple helping people use their devices less. Unless, of course, there is a way to spin it.

iOS 11 Bugs Are so Common They Now Appear in Apple Ads | the Verge  This has since been cleaned up. Amusing, yes. At the same time, it points to a normalisation of novelty over stability. All but unique to software as a product,  we essentially purchase it broken, and pay to have it fixed. Even if we pay for it via the hardware. Rumour has it this year's update to iOS will be a stability release.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Facebook should have regulated itself, but it’s too late for that now | Recode – Call me a cynic 2, but this is a little convenient for — and from — Apple. If I prefer Apple's approach, I'm not so comfortable with subtle opportunism. Privacy wouldn’t be a selling point if they didn’t have anything to differentiate themselves from.

Cook has made a point of criticizing Facebook for both the Cambridge Analytica affair and its overall approach to consumer privacy in recent days. But it’s not a new stance for him or the company: He made similar comments about Facebook and Google in 2015, and his predecessor Steve Jobs went out of his way to contrast Apple’s privacy stance with rivals like Google in 2010.

I don't doubt the existence of influential voices arguing for it's inherant value, but if it didn't have that other kind of value we wouldn't find so many contradictions Look a little closer and you fill find a fair degree of enabling. Take the Uber debacle, Apple has been found greasing the wheels before. Or more recently, the situation in China with carte Blanche to encryption keys. Intentional or not, this looks a cynical intervention. Apple’s own iCloud even runs on Google infrastructure, so pull that apart.

Bob Burrough | Twitter — Further to the above, this from a former Apple luminary pointing to the absurdly broad language from Apple claiming to keep all data safe from prying eyes. The line is crossed where the claim is made that your web traffic is kept private, to which Burroughs counters:

Since This Is Obviously Not True, the Only Possible Options Here Are: – Apple Believes This Is True, and They're Too Foolish to See How It Isn't. – Apple Doesn't Believe This, and They're Misleading Customers for Marketing Reasons.”

Apple’s approach might be more desireble, but to think of them as some benevolent entity immune from the profit motive is naive at best.

Now, Look Here

A Startup Is Pitching a Mind-Uploading Service That Is “100 Percent Fatal” | MIT Technology Review  A materialist’s guide to the afterlife

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia).

‘Blockchain' Is Meaningless | the Verge  The Appropriation of language is a uniquely troubling proposition in a capitalist society. There’s too much incentive for opportunism. Scratch that, the appropriation of everything.

Bose Sunglasses Hands-on: Audio AR Makes More Sense Than You Think | Engadget  Or does it? Nobody seems to learn this lesson. Allow me to phrase it in the turned about syntax of a little green mad with a laser sword: A model for success nerds and fashion are not. 3

Exclusive: This Is the Most Dexterous Robot Ever Created | MIT Technology Review  If you’re not keeping up with robots, you might have missed this.

AI Has a Hallucination Problem That's Proving Tough to Fix | WIRED — Computer says no.

Spotify Needs Your Help Tagging and Sorting Tunes | Engadget  Economists of a particular persuasion worked this out a very long time ago. It’s called surplus value, and this is a clever, if insidious way to capture it. The more work consumers do, the less resources Spotify need to spend, and voila more profit from that surplus. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m merely bringing the aporia to your attention. This is the real gift economy

Broaden Your Mind

If we have come to the same intersection again, only to recognise it as such, I would at least like to think we might turn left this time. While the world is run by creeps, there are still good people out there, doing good work.

12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech | Humane Tech – You don’t need to agree with all of this to recognise its potential importance. A lot of these points seem obvious to anyone who can think even the smallest bit sociologically, but sadly are lost on most people working in, writing about, or commenting on technology. Usually to quote the first paragraph of an article is a good indication that linker hasn’t read it, in this instance it means this is the point.

…tech goes a lot deeper than the phones in our hands, and we must understand some fundamental shifts in society if we’re going to make good decisions about the way tech companies shape our lives—and especially if we want to influence the people who actually make technology.

It would appear the timing is right for a new approach to technology in general. What we have now is parristic, and disturbing.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

How Two Photographers Unknowingly Shot the Same Millisecond in Time | Petapixel  I have a thing for coincidence. So often the impression of synchronicity is a psychological phenomenon, but this one has irrefutable physical evidence. This is, in a word, neat.

Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format | Motherboard  Something that most academic users are intimately acquainted with.

Photo by Caroline Methot on Unsplash

  1. Don’t get me started on how people use the word ‘random’
  2. Many people do
  3. Sorry, Apple doesn’t count — they’re a fashion brand making consumer electronics these days, not the other way around.