"cryteria"

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

Fascinating, accessible guide to cryptographic attacks, from brute-force to POODLE and beyond

Ben Herzog's Cryptographic Attacks: A Guide for the Perplexed from Check Point Research is one of the clearest, most useful guides to how cryptography fails that I've ever read. Read the rest

Cop says Amazon told him they had "partnered" with 200 US police forces to sell and tap into Ring surveillance doorbells

Last week, Motherboard reported on a public record request that revealed that Amazon had struck confidential deals with local police forces to get them to promote the company's Internet of Things "Ring" doorbells, and the accompanying "Neighbors" app that produces a kind of private surveillance mesh overlooking nearby public spaces -- under the terms of the deal, cops would be able to see a map noting locations of Ring surveillance cams and request footage from their owners. Read the rest

Amazon struck secret deals with local cops to get them to push surveillance-camera doorbells

Amazon quietly struck deals with dozens of local law enforcement agencies across America that gave the police access to a distributed surveillance feed from its Ring "smart doorbell" products in exchange for the cops providing free advertising for the products without revealing their contractual requirement to do so. Read the rest

Eminent psychologists condemn "emotion detection" systems as being grounded in junk science

One of the more extravagant claims made by tech companies is that they can detect emotions by analyzing photos of our faces with machine learning systems. The premise is sometimes dressed up in claims about "micro-expressions" that are below the threshold of human detection, though some vendors have made billions getting security agencies to let them train officers in "behavior detection" grounded in this premise. Read the rest

Like Amazon, Google sends voice assistant recordings to contractors for transcription, including recordings made inadvertently

After Bloomberg revealed that Amazon secretly sent recordings from Alexa to subcontractors all over the world in order to improve its speech-recognition systems, a whistleblower leaked recordings from Google Home to investigative reporters from VRT, revealing that Google, too, was sending audio clips from its voice assistant technology to pieceworkers through the Crowdsource app. Read the rest

AI is like a magic trick: amazing until it goes wrong, then revealed as a cheap and brittle effect

I used to be on the program committee for the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences; one year we decided to make the theme "magic" -- all the ways that new technologies were doing things that baffled us and blew us away. Read the rest

Police cameras to be augmented with junk-science "microexpression" AI lie-detectors

The idea that you can detect lies by analyzing "microexpressions" has absorbed billions in spending by police forces and security services, despite the fact that it's junk science that performs worse than a coin-toss. Read the rest

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