Electronic badge monitors workers' conversations, toilet usage and posture

The Economist reports that a tech startup sells a surveillance and control badge for the workforce. The device monitors workers' conversations and tracks their movements. You can even use it to make them sit straight.

The company that makes the creepy "sociometric" combadge has a creepy name — Humanyze — and its marketing is a cold wall of data jargon. The CEO and co-founder, Ben Waber, is an MIT Media Lab alumnus who boasts that he "literally wrote the book on People Analytics" and who published research on having workers take coffee breaks together to improve their productivity.

If it weren't reality, it would be too crudely dystopian to pass muster as fiction.

"I literally wrote the book on People Analytics. You're spending WAY too long on the toilet" Read the rest

Why we should ban facial recognition technology everywhere

In the wake of Berkeley joining the growing list of cities that ban the use of facial recognition by governments, RIT philosophy prof Evan Selinger and Northeastern law/comp sci prof Woodrow Hartzog make the case in the New York Times for a nationwide ban on facial recognition technology. Read the rest

Police databases contain the faces of nearly half of Americans

"Right now, most Americans are in a perpetual police lineup because they got a driver's license," says Clare Garvie, a Washington DC privacy expert. In this New York Times video, Garvie says that driver license photos are scanned and translated into a "face print" that face recognition software can use to compare photos and find matches. "Now any police officer can run searches against your face for any reason."

Image: New York Times Read the rest

Civil rights groups call for a stop to Amazon's doorbell surveillance partnerships with cops

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "More than 30 civil rights organizations, including Fight for the Future, Color of Change, National Immigration Law Center, and CAIR, have signed an open letter calling for elected officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and put an end to all Amazon-police surveillance partnerships. This is the first major action taken by groups to pressure lawmakers to address these partnerships and the threats they pose to privacy, civil liberties, and democracy. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both. If you're concerned about Amazon's surveillance partnerships, there's a petition you can sign to your local elected officials here." Read the rest

America's rotten ISPs object to encrypted DNS, argue that losing the ability to spy on your traffic puts them at a competitive disadvantage

I'm 100% in favor of pro-competitive regulation of Big Tech, and that is because I'm 100% in favor of pro-competitive regulation of all our hyper-concentrated, monopolistic industries. Read the rest

Google will now allow you to set your data history to self-destruct

Google has long allowed you to delete all the data it's stored on you, or to turn off collection, but turning off collection altogether made its services a lot less useful (for example, it made the auto-suggested locations in the Maps app of your phone worse, forcing you to do more typing on a tiny keyboard while on the go), and otherwise you had to remember to periodically open Google's privacy dashboard and delete your stored history. Read the rest

Permanent Record: Edward Snowden and the making of a whistleblower

I will never forget the moment on June 9, 2013, when I watched a video of a skinny, serious, unshaven man named Edward Snowden introduce himself to the world as the source of a series of blockbuster revelations about US spy agencies' illegal surveillance of the global internet. Please, I thought, be safe. And Please, don't turn out to be an asshole. Read the rest

This robot tuna could become a swimming surveillance system

Do androids dream of electric sashimi? Read the rest

Data leak exposes surveillance at Russia's top telecommunications firm

Documents on an unprotected, network-connected drive owned by an employee of Nokia shed light on the inner workings of Russia's networked surveillance system known as SORM (Russian: COPM). Read the rest

This is your smartphone on feminism

Maria Farrell admits that comparing smartphones to abusive men (they try to keep you from friends and family, they make it hard to study or go to work, they constantly follow you and check up on you) might seem to trivialize domestic partner violence, but, as she points out, feminists have long been pointing out both the literal and metaphorical ways in which tech replicates misogyny. Read the rest

Majority of period-tracking app share incredibly sensitive data with Facebook and bottom-feeding analytics companies

It has been 0 days since Facebook's last privacy scandal. Read the rest

Ring: "We don't use facial recognition"; also Ring: "We have a head of facial recognition research"

One of the most obvious facts I've learned in covering the unfolding scandal of the secret deals between Amazon's Ring surveillance doorbell group and hundreds of US police departments is that Amazon loooooves to play word-games. Read the rest

Microsoft contractors listened to Xbox audio recordings of children in their homes, to improve voice command

Contractors working for Microsoft say they listened to audio captured by Xbox consoles

Tech conference changes policy, rescinds requirement for chipped, unremovable bracelets for attendees

Update: Justin Reese from Abstractions writes, "policy changes were implemented last night and additional changes were made this morning."

He adds, "The article was also inaccurate from the start by calling the wristbands surveillance devices in the title. They are only used to control access and don't track where users are or have been except in the case where the attendee has given explicit permission in their profiles to share with sponsors and completed a double opt-in by scanning their ID at the sponsor table (the read range is about 2"). Unless we receive a double opt-in, the ids on the wristband are never associated with a user. It is no more a surveillance device than any other conference badge. I'd appreciate a retraction of this inaccuracy and an update regarding our policies."

Reese is correct that the manufacturers design RFID chips to be read from inches; however, that doesn't mean that they can't be read from longer distances (for example, distant, directional antennas can read them at longer distances while they are being energized by a nearby reader). Likewise, the idea that users can't be identified from persistent, anonymous identifiers is incorrect.

It's a pretty good example of how a thin understanding of privacy issues in wireless technologies and statistical analysis can result in selecting authentication systems that expose users to privacy risks.

Sumana Harihareswara (previously) writes, "The Abstractions tech conference (Aug 21-23, in Pittsburgh) doesn't tell attendees this before they buy a ticket, but attendance requires you wear their wristband with an embedded tracking chip -- and that you don't take it off at night or in the shower till the conference ends. 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

Leaks reveal that disgraced, hacked surveillance company wrote Republican Congressman's border security talking-points

Remember Perceptics, the Border Patrol contractor whose facial recognition database was hacked, along with hundreds of gigs' worth of internal files? 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

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