Customer support is deliberately unbearable (unless you complain in public)

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Companies that lock you in with long-term contracts (mobile phones) or have a monopoly over your business (cable) carefully calculate exactly how terrible their customer service can be before you incur the pain of trying to get out of your contract or find an alternative. Read the rest

Peak indifference: privacy as a public health issue

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My latest Locus column, "Peak Indifference", draws a comparison between the history of the "debate" about the harms of smoking (a debate manufactured by disinformation merchants with a stake in the controversy) and the current debate about the harms of surveillance and data-collection, whose proponents say "privacy is dead," while meaning, "I would be richer if your privacy were dead." Read the rest

Low income US households get $0.08/month in Fed housing subsidy; 0.1%ers get $1,236

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America is in the grips of one of the worst housing crises in its history, with 1 in 3 households spending more than 30% of their income on mortgage or rent payments; the US government has two kinds of housing subsidy, one for poor renters and the other intended for middle-income mortgage payers, but guess who gets most of the money? Read the rest

London luxury property prices plummet after Brexit vote

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A Russian home-buyer pulled out of a "agreed offer" of £6.95m for a six bedroom Kensington flat, now it's listed for £6.75m; a three-bedroom in Swiss Cottage is down to £1.05m from £1.5m; a £1.1m 2-bedroom in Whitechapel is now £720,000; a 2bm maisonette in Notting Hill fell from £1.59m to £1.35mk; a £1.3m 5br in St. Reatham is down to £850,000 and estate agents have mutually agreed to go back to calling it Streatham. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren on monopolies in America, including Apple, Google, and Amazon

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Elizabeth Warren is on fire in this speech at a New America Open Markets conference on monopolies this week in DC; Senator Warren is pitiless, lucid and laser focused on the way that corruption creates monopolies, and monopolies suborn corruption. Read the rest

White House plan to use data to shrink prison populations could be a racist dumpster fire

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The US imprisons more people than any other country in history, both as a total number and as a proportion of its population; a White House data-mining effort proposes to set free prisoners who are "low risk," which is something we can all get behind. Read the rest

Even if Moore's Law is "running out," there's still plenty of room at the bottom

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A very good piece by Tom Simonite in the MIT Technology Review looks at the implications of Intel's announcement that it will slow the rate at which it increases the density of transistors in microprocessors. Read the rest

Black-hat hacker handles are often advertisements

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When Bruce Sterling wrote his seminal book The Hacker Crackdown -- a history of the rise of hackers, the passage of the first anti-hacking laws, and the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- most of the hackers he chronicled had handles that were a combination of playfulness and menace, like Phiber Optik, Scorpion and Acid Phreak. Read the rest

Tesla car involved in fatal crash while in Autopilot mode, U.S. says

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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today said it is opening a preliminary investigation into 25,000 Tesla Model S cars, following the death of a driver who was killed using the vehicle's Autopilot mode.

Read the rest

Eye-Fi orphans 14 products, which will therefore cease to function

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Eye-Fi makes clever wifi hotspots in the shape of SD cards; your camera sees them as SD cards but you can mount them on your network and automatically feed the images captured by your camera to a nearby laptop. But to make all this work with some models, you need an account on "Eye-Fi Center," a cloud service run by the company that sends configuration data to your card. Read the rest

Singaporean bank stops lending money to UK property speculators

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Singaporeans are the most prolific speculators on UK commercial property, and the United Overseas Bank is the most prolific lender to Singaporeans who want to speculate in that market -- and now they're turning off the faucet. Read the rest

How to Break Open the Web: a report on the first Decentralized Web Summit

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June's Decentralized Web Summit at San Francisco's Internet Archive was a ground-breaking, three-day combination of workshops, lectures, demos and a hackathon, all aimed at figuring out how to restore the decentralized character of the early internet -- and keep it that way. Read the rest

Moral economy and software development: software without politics is recipe for totalitarianism

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Maciej Cegłowski (previously) keynoted the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics conference with a characteristically brilliant speech about the "moral economy of tech" -- that is, the way that treating social problems like software problems allows techies to absolve themselves of the moral consequences of their actions and the harms that result. Read the rest

Electoral fraud: Trump sends fundraiser emails to foreign politicians

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US election law makes it a crime to knowingly solicit campaign funds from foreign nationals who do not have permanent residence in the USA. Read the rest

SEC sues ‘Frack Master’ CEO for using “whore card” to spend investor cash on sex workers and strippers

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Breitling Energy Corporation of Dallas, Texas, and its CEO, "Frack Master" Chris Faulkner, for fraudulently spending $80 million dollars of investors' money on fancy dining, luxury cars, strippers, sex workers, and all the other fixins of a jet-setting sociopath's lifestyle.

Read the rest

Volkswagen's US diesel emissions fraud settlement: $15 billion, largest in US history

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Volkswagen AG's settlement with half a million U.S. regulators and diesel vehicle owners over polluting vehicles is valued at more than $15 billion cash, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters Monday.

A separate report from AP puts the figure around $14.7 billion.

If that's accurate, the settlement will be the largest ever automotive buyback offer in American history, and the most expensive auto industry scandal ever.

The historic lawsuit followed the German automaker's admission in September 2015 it lied to regulators and installed secret software that let U.S. cars emit up to 40 times legally permitted pollution levels. Read the rest

Phishing for Bitcoin with fake 0-days

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Arriving in my inbox at a steady clip this morning: a series of phishing emails aimed at Bitcoiners, promising that the sender has found a bug in "the Bitcoin client" and promising "Pay 0.07 BTC today, get 10 BTC for 15 hours." Read the rest

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