It could happen here: How China's social credit system demonstrates the future of social control in smart cities

Adam Greenfield (previously) is one of the best thinkers when it comes to the social consequences of ubiquitous computing and smart cities; he's the latest contributor Ian Bogost's special series on "smart cities" for The Atlantic (previously: Bruce Sterling, Molly Sauter). Read the rest

China's Internet Czar has been purged

It's been months since Xi Jinping secured another five years in office and got his second five-year plan through Chinese Communist Party, and he's cleaning house: last week, the Chinese state news agency announced that Lu Wei, one of the most powerful internet policymakers in the world, had been fired, purged from the Party, and would be prosecuted for corruption. Read the rest

Once again, a stalkerware company's had its servers pwned and wiped by a hacker who thinks they're selling an immoral product

It's been less than a year since a public-spirited hacker broke into the servers of Florida stalkerware vendor Retina-X, wiping out all the photos and data the company's customers had stolen from other peoples' phones (including their kids' phones) by installing the spying apps Phonesheriff on them. Read the rest

London demonstrates the stupid, janky future of Smart Cities

Bruce Sterling's scathing editorial in The Atlantic on the future of "Smart Cities" uses London's many smart city initiatives as a kind of measuring stick for the janky and dysfunctional future of civic automation: a city that throws great smart city conferences while its actual infrastructure is a mess of "empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat" that require decades of planning an attention to cope with -- significantly beyond the attention spans of any of the tech giants vying to be the smart city providers of the future. Read the rest

Seattle spends five years failing to come up with a privacy policy for its $3.6m surveillance network, then spends $150k ripping it out

Five years after activists forced Seattle's mayor to return the city's surveillance drones to their manufacturer, the city has announced that it is terminating its warrantless mass-surveillance program altogether. Read the rest

Charles Stross's "Dark State": transdimensional, nuclear-tipped mutually assured destruction by way of a first-rate spy novel

Dark State is the sequel to Empire Games, a reboot/latter phase of Charles Stross's longrunning, excellent economic science fiction/high fantasy Merchant Princes series.

Motherboard files legal complaint against London police to force it to explain why an officer bought creepy, potential illegal stalkerware

Flexispy is the creepy stalkerware advertised to abusive spouses and exes that Motherboard's Joseph Cox has been relentlessly tracking; when he acquired a leaked trove of the company's files, he started to mine it to see who was buying the potentially illegal app. Read the rest

Empire Games: Charlie Stross starts a new phase in the Merchant Princes series, blending spycraft, Leninist thought experiments, and parallel dimensions

Charlie Stross's longrunning Merchant Princes series are a sneaky, brilliant techno-economic thought experiment disguised as heroic fantasy, and with Empire Games, the first book of the second phase of the series, Stross throws in a heavy dose of the noirest spycraft, an experiment in dieselpunk Leninism and War on Terror paranoia.

Chinese transit cops deploy face-recognition glasses to spot indebted people, oppressed ethnic/religious minorities and criminals

Chinese transit cops are wearing glasses with heads-up displays and cameras tied into the country's facial recognition to spot criminals, people smugglers, and riders who are using high-speed trains in defiance of rules that prohibit indebted people and people from ethnic and religious minorities from traveling. 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

Watch man's clumsy but persistent attempt to break into truck with a mop handle

In Seattle, a man attempted to break into the car of a KIRO Radio employee by banging on it with a mop handle. Then he climbed on the building's roof and fell off. Seventeen minutes later, he got up and vanished into the night. Below, John Curley of the "Tom & Curley Show" gives a play-by-play of the surveillance footage. (via Laughing Squid)

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America's school systems serve unencrypted web resources that are riddled with ad-tech trackers

Edtech Strategies, "a boutique consultancy focused on providing strategic research and counsel on issues at the intersection of education, public policy, technology, and innovation" has published a report detailing the dismal state of America's state education agencies web-practices, where encrypted connections are hard to find and adtech trackers are everywhere. Read the rest

For a few thousand bucks, Detroit police will give a business higher 911 priority

If someone has been trashing your Detroit gas station for an hour, and cops still haven't responded, chances are your business hasn't enrolled in Project Green Light. Read the rest

Thanks to "consent" buried deep in sales agreements, car manufacturers are tracking tens of millions of US cars

Millions of new cars sold in the US and Europe are "connected," having some mechanism for exchanging data with their manufacturers after the cars are sold; these cars stream or batch-upload location data and other telemetry to their manufacturers, who argue that they are allowed to do virtually anything they want with this data, thanks to the "explicit consent" of the car owners -- who signed a lengthy contract at purchase time that contained a vague and misleading clause deep in its fine-print. Read the rest

A comprehensive guide to corporate online surveillance in everyday life

Cracked Labs' massive report on online surveillance by corporations dissects all the different ways in which our digital lives are tracked, from the ad-beacons that follow us around the web to the apps that track our physical locations as we move around the world. Read the rest

EFF to NSA: you scammed your way to another six years of warrantless spying, and you'd better enjoy it while it lasts

Last week, cowards from both sides of the aisle caved into America's lawless spy agencies, and today bipartisan senators reprised that cowardice to ensure that the Senate would not get a chance to vote on amendments to the renewal of Section 702, the rule that has allowed the NSA to conduct mass, warrantless surveillance on Americans in secret, without meaningful oversight or limits. 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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