Algorithms try to channel us into repeating our lives

Molly Sauter (previously) describes in gorgeous, evocative terms how the algorithms in our life try to funnel us into acting the way we always have, or, failing that, like everyone else does. Read the rest

In a leaked "weaponized information" catalog, Indian cyberarms dealer offers blackest-ever SEO

In 2014, an Indian company called Aglaya brought a 20-page brochure to ISS World (AKA the Wiretappers' Ball -- the annual trade fair where governments shop for surveillance technology): the brochure laid out the company's offerings, which ranged from mobile malware for Ios and Android to a unique "Weaponized Information" selection that combined denial-of-service with disinformation to "discredit a target" online. Read the rest

Class action suit: smart sex toys spy on their owners and transmit their masturbation habits

An anonymous woman has filed a class action suit against Standard Innovation, a company that makes We-Vibe "smart" sex toys that record exactly how their owners masturbate and transmit detailed dossiers, along with personally identifying information, back to the company. Read the rest

How surveillance capitalism tracks you without cookies

Princeton computer science researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan (previously) have just published a new paper, Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, which documents the state of online tracking beyond mere cookies -- sneaky and often illegal techniques used to "fingerprint" your browsers and devices as you move from site to site, tracking you even when you explicitly demand not to be track and take countermeasures to prevent this. Read the rest

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

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

For 90 years, lightbulbs were designed to burn out. Now that's coming to LED bulbs.

In 1924, representatives of the world's leading lightbulb manufacturers formed Phoebus, a cartel that fixed the average life of an incandescent bulb at 1,000 hours, ensuring that people would have to regularly buy bulbs and keep the manufacturers in business. Read the rest

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

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"

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

Peak indifference: privacy as a public health issue

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

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

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

Your cable operator is spying on you and selling the data from your set-top box

As the fight over the FCC's Unlock the Box plan heats up, the cable and satellite TV companies have pulled out all the stops in a bid to force you to continue spending more than $200/year to rent an insecure, power-hungry, badly designed set-top box, rather than introducing competition by letting you buy your cable-box on the open market. Read the rest

A taxonomy of unethical technology design patterns

Tristan Harris, formerly Google's Design Ethicist and Product Philosopher, delves into the way that technology design can "hijack your attention," by introducing casino-like intermittent reward; by framing a subset of possible actions as a comprehensive-seeming menu; by deliberately introducing a sense that you might miss out; by forcing you to move though a clickbaity newsfeed to access your friends' updates; by paraphrasing one request ("where can we go for a quiet chat") as another ("which nearby bars make good cocktails?"). Read the rest

The price of stealing an identity is crashing, with no bottom in sight

The sharp increase in known, unpatched vulnerabilities in the tools we use to access the Internet has caused the price of exploits is falling through the floor. Read the rest

How libraries can save the Internet of Things from the Web's centralized fate

Everyone thinks libraries have a positive role to play in the world, but that role differs greatly based on whether you’re talking to a librarian or a patron. Ask a patron what libraries have in common and they’d probably answer: they share books with people. Librarians give a different answer: they share a set of values. It’s time for libraries to step up to those values by supporting access to the Internet and taking the lead in fighting to keep the Internet open, free, and unowned.

McAfee shovelware emits tracking beacons

Researchers at Duo Labs bought a "stack" of OEM laptops and audited the preinstalled shovelware they came with, looking specifically at the security implications of the default settings. Read the rest