"cryteria"

Networked authoritarianism may contain the seeds of its own undoing

James Scott's 1998 classic Seeing Like a State describes how governments shoehorn the governed into countable, manageable ways of living and working so that they can be counted and steered by state bureaucracies. Political scientist Henry Farrell (previously) discusses how networked authoritarianism is touted by its advocates as a way of resolving the problems of state-like seeing, because if a state spies on people enough and allows machine-learning systems to incorporate their behavior and respond to it, it is possible to create "a more efficient competitor that can beat democracy at its home game" -- providing for everyone's needs better than a democracy could. Read the rest

Tiny alterations in training data can introduce "backdoors" into machine learning models

In TrojDRL: Trojan Attacks on Deep Reinforcement Learning Agents, a group of Boston University researchers demonstrate an attack on machine learning systems trained with "reinforcement learning" in which ML systems derive solutions to complex problems by iteratively trying multiple solutions. Read the rest

"Out of Home Advertising": the billboards that spy on you as you move through public spaces

Outdoor advertising companies are tapping location data brokers like Placeiq (which aggregates location data leaked by the spying dumpster-fire that is your phone's app ecosystem) and covertly siting Bluetooth and wifi sniffers in public space to gather data on the people who pass near to billboards: "gender, age, race, income, interests, and purchasing habits." Read the rest

A woman's stalker compromised her car's app, giving him the ability to track and immobilize it

An Australian woman's creepy, violent ex-boyfriend hacked her phone using stalkerware, then used that, along with her car's VIN number, to hack the remote control app for her car (possibly Landrover's Incontrol app), which allowed him to track her location, stop and start her car, and adjust the car's temperature. Read the rest

Transcription service rev.com cuts "professional transcriptionists'" effective hourly wage from $6.35 to $4.50

Rev.com is a "gig economy" audio transcription company that operates under the fiction that its employees are "independent contractors." Read the rest

Educational spyware company to school boards: hire us to spy on your kids and we'll help you sabotage teachers' strikes

Gaggle is one of a handful of creepy companies that sell surveillance software to school districts, which monitor every keystroke and click on school networks -- they're the latest evolution in spy-on-kids tech, which started off by promising that they'd stop kids from seeing porn, then promised they could end bullying, and now advertise themselves as a solution for school shootings, under the banner of being a "Safety Management Platform." Read the rest

When the HR department is a robotic phrenologist: "face-scanning algorithm" gains popularity as a job-applicant screener

Hirevue is an "AI" company that companies contract with to screen job applicants: it conducts an hour-long videoconference session with applicants, analyzing their facial expressions, word-choices and other factors (the company does not actually explain what these are, nor have they ever subjected their system to independent scrutiny) and makes recommendations about who should get the job. Read the rest

Information security and warfare metaphors: a toxic mix made in hell

I once found myself staying in a small hotel with a "State Department" family whose members clearly all worked for some kind of three letter agency (the family patriarch had been with USAID with the tanks rolled into Budapest) and I had some of the weirdest discussions of my life with them. Read the rest

Critical essays (including mine) discuss Toronto's plan to let Google build a surveillance-based "smart city" along its waterfront

Sidewalk Labs is Google's sister company that sells "smart city" technology; its showcase partner is Toronto, my hometown, where it has made a creepy shitshow out of its freshman outing, from the mass resignations of its privacy advisors to the underhanded way it snuck in the right to take over most of the lakeshore without further consultations (something the company straight up lied about after they were outed). Unsurprisingly, the city, the province, the country, and the company are all being sued over the plan. Read the rest

They told us DRM would give us more for less, but they lied

My latest Locus Magazine column is DRM Broke Its Promise, which recalls the days when digital rights management was pitched to us as a way to enable exciting new markets where we'd all save big by only buying the rights we needed (like the low-cost right to read a book for an hour-long plane ride), but instead (unsurprisingly) everything got more expensive and less capable. Read the rest

Guy returns his "smart" light bulbs, discovers he can still control them after someone else buys them

You know what's great about putting wifi-enabled, Turing-complete computers into things like lightbulbs? Not. A. Single. Fucking. Thing. Read the rest

Rage Inside the Machine: an insightful, brilliant critique of AI's computer science, sociology, philosophy and economics

[I ran a review of this in June when the UK edition came out -- this review coincides with the US edition's publication]

Rob Smith is an eminent computer scientist and machine learning pioneer whose work on genetic algorithms has been influential in both industry and the academy; now, in his first book for a general audience, Rage Inside the Machine: The Prejudice of Algorithms, and How to Stop the Internet Making Bigots of Us All, Smith expertly draws connections between AI, neoliberalism, human bias, eugenics and far-right populism, and shows how the biases of computer science and the corporate paymasters have distorted our whole society. Read the rest

Amazon's surveillance doorbell marketers help cops get warrantless access to video footage from peoples' homes

Every time I write about the unfolding scandal of Amazon's secret partnerships with hundreds of US police departments who get free merch and access to Ring surveillance doorbell footage in exchange for acting as a guerrilla marketing street-team for Ring, I get an affronted email from Amazon PR, implying that I got it all wrong, but unwilling to enter into detailed discussions of what's actually going on (the PR flacks also usually ask to be quoted officially but anonymously, something I never agree to). Read the rest

You have the right to remain encrypted

“You have the right to remain silent.” We’ve heard the Miranda warning countless times on TV, but what good is the right to remain silent if our own cellphones testify against us? Imagine every incriminating and embarrassing secret our devices hold in the hands of prosecutors, simply because you’ve been accused of a minor crime. This is the brave new world that Attorney General Bill Barr advocated when he recently addressed the International Conference on Cyber Security and called for an end to encryption as we know it. Read the rest

Cathay Pacific's new privacy policy: we are recording you with seatback cameras, spying on you in airports, and buying data on your use of competing loyalty programs

When airline seatback entertainment systems started to come bundled with little webcams, airlines were quick to disavow their usage, promising that the cameras were only installed for potential future videoconferncing or gaming apps, and not to allow the crew or airline to spy on passengers in their seats. Read the rest

Amazon's secret deals with cops gave corporate PR a veto over everything the cops said about their products

Last week, Motherboard broke a story revealing that Amazon had entered into secret agreements with local law enforcement agencies that had the cops pushing Ring surveillance doorbells to the people they were sworn to protect, in exchange for freebies and access to a system that let them request access to footage recorded by the Amazon's industry-leading internet-of-shit home surveillance tools. Read the rest

Cisco's failure to heed whistleblower's warning about security defects in video surveillance software costs the company $8.6m in fines

In 2008, a security researcher named James Glenn warned Cisco that its video surveillance software had a defect that made it vulnerable to a trivial-to-exploit attack; for four years afterward, the company continued to sell this software to schools, airports, hospitals, state/local governments, the US military, FEMA, the Secret Service and police departments without mitigating the defect or warning their customers that internet-connected randos could undetectably peer through their security cameras, unlock their doors, disable their alarms, and delete footage. Read the rest

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