Amazon has a real fake review problem

A "vast web" of fraudulent reviewers have come to dominate Amazon, with shills being paid cash to order a product, photograph it on arrival, and write a glowing, 5-star review. Read the rest

Amazon doesn't like how Signal circumvents censorship

Signal is an encrypted messaging app for smartphones and desktops that I and a lot of other folks use on a daily basis to communicate with discretion and security. I like it so much that I've moved away from using other services on my iOS and Android phones to using Signal for all of the texting I do, even with those who don't use the app. Unfortunately, according to The Verge, the Signal team is having a difficult time trying to provide its services to users in the UAE, Egypt and Oman, where the app has been banned by the government. Considering the fact that these states aren't known for treating political dissidents and minorities none too well, that's a big deal. For some people, encrypted comms are essential to avoiding incarceration or worse.

The crux of Signal's issues with providing services to users in these countries is that Amazon, whose CloudFront web services Signal's parent company, Open Whisper System, uses, has banned domain-fronting. Domain-fronting, put simply, is a technique for making traffic from one site look like it's from another site. In an email received by Open Whisper System's founder, Moxie Marlinspike (best damn name in the business,) the General Manager of Amazon CloudFront called Open Whisper Systems' domain-fronting out, telling Marlinspike that Amazon would love to have their business, but not his company refuses to comply with their no domain-fronting policies.

From the email:

When access to Signal was originally censored in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and UAE, we responded by through Google App Engine.

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Amazon orders Signal to stop using AWS to defeat censorship

Repressive autocracies like Egypt, Oman, and the UAE ban Signal and other encrypted messaging apps, using national firewalls to try to block their traffic; Signal evades these blocks by using "domain fronting," in which the service's cloud provider shows up as the origin of its traffic, forcing countries to block Google or Amazon to get at a single service hiding behind them. Read the rest

Security researchers can turn Alexa into a transcribing, always-on listening device

Checkmarx researchers including Erez Yalon have created a "rogue Alexa skill" that bypasses Amazon's security checks: it lurks silently and unkillably in the background of your Alexa, listening to all speech in range of it and transcribing it, then exfiltrating the text and audio of your speech to the attacker. Read the rest

I just wanted to maintain my bicycle

It is spring. I wanted to lube the chain on my mountain bike. I prefer dry, wax-based lubricant as it sheds dirt and is more easy to maintain.

Amazon had other ideas.

I use White Lightning on the bike chain. I have not tried #Lube Life. While #LL's reviews are entertaining and generally positive, there is gratefully no mention of bike chains. Read the rest

Want to review Comey's book on Amazon? You gotta buy it

Amazon has long had a problem with shill reviews and quiet removal of negative reviews, but the flood of questionable anti-Comey book reviews by non-purchasers finally prompted them to require a verified purchase in order to rate the book. Read the rest

Russia blocks Google & Amazon IP addresses, saying they're used by Telegram app Putin just banned

Russia's communications regulator says it has blocked IP addresses owned by Google and Amazon because Moscow claims the internet addresses are used by the Telegram messaging service that was banned by Putin's regime this week. Read the rest

Alexa Ruins Families, cartoonified

Cartoonist Lauren eLL secretly recorded a funny family video, then turned it into a charming cartoon about how Alexa Ruins Families. Read the rest

The Kindle Oasis is stupid expensive and stupid lovely to use

I've mentioned it online before, but here we go: Two years ago, my wife and I decided to leave our rented home behind and move into a 40-foot RV. We spend our spring and summer in Alberta, Canada where she has a job for six months of the year working as an addictions counselor. The other half of the year, we head south to Mexico and beyond so that she can work as a dive Instructor.

This might be an excellent time to point out that my partner is far more interesting than I'll ever be.

We love this life, but it's not without its difficulties. We have all the repairs that come along with home ownership and owning a semi-truck, rolled into one. Our paychecks can sometimes take weeks to catch up to us, leaving us eating rice and beans. Again. But perhaps the worst thing about living in a motorhome, for us, is that we had to get rid of our book collection. Between us, we owned hundreds of books. We looked upon them as shelves of old friends who we could turn to, no matter what life brought us. But, sometimes, you have to leave old friends behind in order to grow. A motorhome can only carry so much weight, not to mention the limited amount of space that you'll find inside of one. We packed them up and took them to our favorite used bookstore where they'll, hopefully, find new homes.

When I'm not guest blogging here, part of my job is to review e-readers. Read the rest

Replica of 2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 powered by Amazon Alexa

Master Replicas Group will soon sell a limited edition Hal 9000 interface that integrates an Amazon Fire tablet and Echo. Sadly, Alexa doesn't sound anything like Douglas Rain.

Hal 9000 Replica (via Uncrate)

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Amazon to acquire Ring.com for over $1 billion

Amazon will acquire Ring, the Santa Monica, CA-based home video surveillance maker. Read the rest

Man discovers he has been impersonated on Amazon by a money-launderer selling $555 "books" full of computer-generated word salad

Amazon reported to the IRS that Patrick Reames had made $24,000 selling books on its Createspace self-publishing platform, but Patrick Reames never got a dime of that money; it appears that a money-launderer who had Reames's Social Security Number used a fake book to cash out money from stolen credit cards by buying the garbage book repeatedly and pocketing the 70% from each sale. Read the rest

Fully Automated Small Screen Luxury Communism: Amazon is making a TV show out of Iain Banks's Culture novels

The late, lamented Scottish writer Iain Banks (previously) was several kinds of writer, but one of his main claims to fame is his role in developing the idea of fully automated luxury communism, in his beloved Culture novels, a series of wildly original space operas about a post-singularity, post-scarcity cooperative galactic civilization devoted to games, leisure, and artistic pursuits, populated by AIs, city-sized space cruisers, spy networks, and weird bureaucracies. Read the rest

I would replace my Kindle Voyage with a Kindle Voyage

I mistakenly left my e-reader, a Kindle Voyage behind, in a hotel room last weekend. Faced with with the fear of having lost my most favored device, I pondered its replacement. Read the rest

Fedex bought a company that stored 119,000 pieces of scanned customer IDs in a public Amazon cloud server, shut the company down, left the scans online for anyone to download

Fedex acquired a company called Bongo International in 2014; Bongo specialized in helping North American companies sell overseas and after the acquisition, Fedex renamed the company FedEx Cross-Border International. Read the rest

Amazon patent could lead to downturn in workplace masturbation

A recent patent awarded to pudding home delivery juggernaut Amazon, reveals that the company is investigating the possibility of equipping their warehouse staff with hardware capable of tracking their hand movements.

According to the patent filing, first reported on by Geekwire, the tech would come in the form of bracelets that can track users movements as they go about their work. The bracelet could use the location of an employee inside of a given area, and the orientation of the worker's hands, to assist them in locating items on warehouse shelves. To do this, the bracelet would vibrate to indicate where to move their hands in order to find the item that they're looking for. All of this is in the name of speedier order fulfillment for Amazon's gazillions of customers, being forced to don a wearable like this while you're at work presents some potential privacy and health concerns.

Amazon's already got a reputation for pushing their workers to their limits when it comes to order fulfillment. As part of their report on this story, The Guardian points out that back in 2016, a BBC investigation uncovered the fact that the Amazon's employees are pushed to their emotional and physical limits in an effort to meet the company's efficiency standards. Being forced to wear a device that tracks your every move for efficiency like this bracelet's technology could, would likely add to the feels of anxiety that many of Amazon's employees likely experience on a daily basis. As for privacy, you've got to wonder if a wearable like this could track your movements in the washroom. Read the rest

Amazon's useless "transparency reports" won't disclose whether they're handing data from always-on Alexa mics to governments

Amazon was the last major tech company to issue a "transparency report" detailing what kinds of law-enforcement requests they'd serviced, and where; when they finally did start issuing them, they buried them on obscure webpages deep in their corporate info site and released them late on Friday afternoons. Read the rest

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