The latest generation of chatbot toys listen to your kids 24/7 and send their speech to a military contractor

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Last year's Hello Barbie chatbot toy sent all your kid's speech to cloud servers operated by Mattel and its tech partner, but only when your kid held down Barbie's listen button -- new chatbot toys like My Friend Cayla and the i-Que Intelligent Robot are in constant listening mode -- as is your "OK Google" enabled phone, your Alexa-enabled home mic, and your Siri-enabled Ios device -- and everything that is uttered in mic range is transmitted to Nuance, a company that makes text-to-speech tech (you probably know them through their Dragon-branded tools), and contracts to the US military. Read the rest

Donald Trump weaponized fine-print to make it impossible to sue Wall Street for fraud

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In 1993, Donald Trump won a lawsuit brought by his investors that alleged he had defrauded them by lying in a prospectus; his defense was that his "perfect prospectus" contained lies, but it also contained enough fine-print cautioning investors about the possibility of lies that it was their own fault that he cheated them. Incredibly, the judge (a pre-Supreme Court Samuel Alito!) bought this. Read the rest

Why are license "agreements" so uniformly terrible?

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An excerpt from The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, coming this Friday from MIT Press.

Al Franken and FCC commissioner Clyburn want limits on forced arbitration

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Arbitration was conceived of as a way to allow giant corporations to avoid costly court battles by meeting with a mediator and talking things out: but since the Supreme Court ruled (in a series of mid-1980s cases) that companies could force their customers and employees into arbitration by adding "binding arbitration" clauses to the fine print in take-it-or-leave contracts, the US justice system has gone dark, which an ever-larger proportion of legal action disappearing into the opaque bowels of the arbitration system, where the richest participant usually wins. Read the rest

The privacy wars have been a disaster and they're about to get a LOT worse

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In my latest Locus column, The Privacy Wars Are About to Get A Whole Lot Worse, I describe the history of the privacy wars to date, and the way that the fiction of "notice and consent" has provided cover for a reckless, deadly form of viral surveillance capitalism. Read the rest

HacBook puts new Mac OS on old HP laptop

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The HacBook Elite is a "fully-functional Mac running OS X for 1/3 the price," which is to say a refurbished HP EliteBook with OS X hacked to run on it. It only has an i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and a 1600x900 14-inch display—the claim this is equivalent to a 2013 MacBook Pro is eyebrow-raising, to say the least—but it's only $350, so you know what you're getting.

HacBook Elite ships with everything needed to start running the latest version of OS X. Once installed, OS X cold boots in 15 seconds and boots from sleep in 1 second. • Perfect for developing iOS, Mac apps • Dual-boot with Windows • Comes with iTunes, iMessage, App Store, etc. • Looks like a Mac.

Kinda.

My favorite part of the HacBook experience is the way the website imitates Apple's own, but all the images of text are blurry on high-DPI displays. The people who made (and would buy) HacBook don't even notice, but true Macolytes will get hives just looking at it.

Remember Psystar? Read the rest

EFF takes a deep dive into Windows 10's brutal privacy breaches

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Microsoft's deceptive hard-sell to gets users to "upgrade" to Windows 10 (the most control-freaky OS to ever come out of Redmond) is made all the more awful by just how much personal, sensitive, compromising data Microsoft exfiltrates from its users' PCs once they make the switch. Read the rest

American Bar Association votes to DRM the law, put it behind a EULA

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Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "I just got back from the big debate on is free law like free beer that has been brewing for months at the American Bar Association over the question of who gets to read public safety codes and on what terms." Read the rest

Pokemon Go players: you have 30 days from signup to opt out of binding arbitration

Like most other online services, Pokemon Go's terms of service are a reboot of the Book of Revelations, full of bizarre horrors, each more grotesque than the last. Read the rest

Empirical proof that Terms of Service are "the biggest lie on the Internet"

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In The Biggest Lie on the Internet: Ignoring the Privacy Policies and Terms of Service Policies of Social Networking Services, a working paper by a pair of university communications professors, students were asked to try out a new social networking site as beta-testers; in reality they were being evaluated to see whether they reviewed the site's terms of service and privacy policy in any detail. Read the rest

Pokemon Go privacy rules are terrible (just like all your other apps)

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Pokemon Go wants access to your Google account (and thus your email and Google Docs) and its privacy policy is a Kafka-esque nightmare document that lets them collect every single imaginable piece of private information about your life and share it with pretty much anyone they want to, forever. Read the rest

Rebate for IoT thermostat requires that you give permission to your utility to read "all data"

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Aaron writes, "While filling out this seemingly great rebate for $100 for a recently purchased wifi-enabled thermostat, I happened to read the Terms and Conditions, which includes the fact that I must unwittingly agree to share all my thermostat data with my electric and gas companies (It was odd that they asked for my thermostat's MAC address). Because I have an ecobee3, this includes information on how often I'm in my bedroom, or when I'm home or out!" Read the rest

Class action: publishers paid writers "sale" royalties on ebooks whose fine-print says they're "licensed"

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When you sign a publishing deal, the contract spells out different royalty rates for different kinds of commercial activity; you get so much every time a copy is sold, and significantly more from every licensing deal for the book. Read the rest

To do in Austin: Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale on stage (and streaming!)

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Jon writes, "Austin, Texas theater maven Heather Barfield energizes the discussion of personal privacy with her highly interactive play 'Privacy Settings: A Promethean Tale,' running through June 18 at the Vortex Theatre in Austin (and streaming June 10)." Read the rest

Norwegian Consumer Council broadcasts live, marathon reading of app Terms of Service

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As I type this, the consumer rights organization has been broadcasting its live-reading of terms of service for Instagram, YouTube, Kindle, Spotify, Snapchat and other popular apps for more than one day and eight hours. Read the rest

Airbnb stealth-updates terms of service, says it's not an insurer and requires binding arbitration

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The March 29 edition of Airbnb's terms of service requires that people who rent out their homes acknowledge that despite the company's widely advertised Host Protection Insurance program, "you understand and agree that Airbnb does not act as an insurer." Read the rest

Leaked memo: Donald Trump volunteers banned from critizing him, for life

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The Daily Dot got a copy of the six-page, unenforceable, flaming pile of shit that Donald Trump's campaign revealed to prospective volunteers on Saturday. Even by trumpian standards, it's a conscience-shocker. Read the rest

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