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The ‘internet of things’ is sending us back to the Middle Ages

File 20170831 22397 1vtyfmc

Is this our relationship to tech companies now?

Queen Mary Master

Joshua A.T. Fairfield, Washington and Lee University

Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors and then to the computer used to control them, and from there to other parts of the casino’s network. The intruders were able to copy 10 gigabytes of data to somewhere in Finland.

By gazing into this fish tank, we can see the problem with “internet of things” devices: We don’t really control them. And it’s not always clear who does – though often software designers and advertisers are involved.

In my recent book, “Owned: Property, Privacy and the New Digital Serfdom,” I discuss what it means that our environment is seeded with more sensors than ever before. Our fish tanks, smart televisions, internet-enabled home thermostats, Fitbits and smartphones constantly gather information about us and our environment. That information is valuable not just for us but for people who want to sell us things. They ensure that internet-enabled devices are programmed to be quite eager to share information.

Take, for example, Roomba, the adorable robotic vacuum cleaner. Since 2015, the high-end models have created maps of its users’ homes, to more efficiently navigate through them while cleaning. But as Reuters and Gizmodo reported recently, Roomba’s manufacturer, iRobot, may plan to share those maps of the layouts of people’s private homes with its commercial partners.

Security and privacy breaches are built in

Like the Roomba, other smart devices can be programmed to share our private information with advertisers over back-channels of which we are not aware. In a case even more intimate than the Roomba business plan, a smartphone-controllable erotic massage device, called WeVibe, gathered information about how often, with what settings and at what times of day it was used. The WeVibe app sent that data back to its manufacturer – which agreed to pay a multi-million-dollar legal settlement when customers found out and objected to the invasion of privacy.

Those back-channels are also a serious security weakness. The computer manufacturer Lenovo, for instance, used to sell its computers with a program called “Superfish” preinstalled. The program was intended to allow Lenovo – or companies that paid it – to secretly insert targeted advertisements into the results of users’ web searches. The way it did so was downright dangerous: It hijacked web browsers’ traffic without the user’s knowledge – including web communications users thought were securely encrypted, like connections to banks and online stores for financial transactions.

The underlying problem is ownership

One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside. The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed ownership of the motor.

This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property ownership. John Deere has already told farmers that they don’t really own their tractors but just license the software – so they can’t fix their own farm equipment or even take it to an independent repair shop. The farmers are objecting, but maybe some people are willing to let things slide when it comes to smartphones, which are often bought on a payment installment plan and traded in as soon as possible.

How long will it be before we realize they’re trying to apply the same rules to our smart homes, smart televisions in our living rooms and bedrooms, smart toilets and internet-enabled cars?

A return to feudalism?

The issue of who gets to control property has a long history. In the feudal system of medieval Europe, the king owned almost everything, and everyone else’s property rights depended on their relationship with the king. Peasants lived on land granted by the king to a local lord, and workers didn’t always even own the tools they used for farming or other trades like carpentry and blacksmithing.

Over the centuries, Western economies and legal systems evolved into our modern commercial arrangement: People and private companies often buy and sell items themselves and own land, tools and other objects outright. Apart from a few basic government rules like environmental protection and public health, ownership comes with no trailing strings attached.

This system means that a car company can’t stop me from painting my car a shocking shade of pink or from getting the oil changed at whatever repair shop I choose. I can even try to modify or fix my car myself. The same is true for my television, my farm equipment and my refrigerator.

Yet the expansion of the internet of things seems to be bringing us back to something like that old feudal model, where people didn’t own the items they used every day. In this 21st-century version, companies are using intellectual property law – intended to protect ideas – to control physical objects consumers think they own.

Intellectual property control

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy. Google controls the operating system and the Google Apps that make an Android smartphone work well. Google licenses them to Samsung, which makes its own modification to the Android interface, and sublicenses the right to use my own phone to me – or at least that is the argument that Google and Samsung make. Samsung cuts deals with lots of software providers which want to take my data for their own use.

But this model is flawed, in my view. We need the right to fix our own property. We need the right to kick invasive advertisers out of our devices. We need the ability to shut down the information back-channels to advertisers, not merely because we don’t love being spied on, but because those back doors are security risks, as the stories of Superfish and the hacked fish tank show. If we don’t have the right to control our own property, we don’t really own it. We are just digital peasants, using the things that we have bought and paid for at the whim of our digital lord.

Even though things look grim right now, there is hope. These problems quickly become public relations nightmares for the companies involved. And there is serious bipartisan support for right-to-repair bills that restore some powers of ownership to consumers.

The ConversationRecent years have seen progress in reclaiming ownership from would-be digital barons. What is important is that we recognize and reject what these companies are trying to do, buy accordingly, vigorously exercise our rights to use, repair and modify our smart property, and support efforts to strengthen those rights. The idea of property is still powerful in our cultural imagination, and it won’t die easily. That gives us a window of opportunity. I hope we will take it.

Joshua A.T. Fairfield, Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

  Robot caregivers for the elderly could be just 10 years away (businessinsider.com)

  Your Roomba could be selling maps of your home to Google, Amazon, and Apple (mashable.com)

  Robot vacuum cleaner plans to sell maps of people’s homes (telegraph.co.uk)

  MIT team develops robot that might be a more socially aware pedestrian than some humans (neowin.net)

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Interpretation Bias in Climate Change? (Don’t Tell Me How to Think!)

A recent article (tweeted below) says the3% of “Climate Change Denier” scientific studies are flawed. While reading it I couldn’t help but think… okay, so we are supposed to stop thinking and blindly accept both the findings and interpretation of the 97% Climate Change Affirmer” studies?

I just can’t. It’s too stupid and dictatorial.

Science is a human enterprise and ALWAYS involves bias, selectivity and interpretation.

For the record, I do accept that human activity could be a significant contributing factor. But what about other sources of heat? Like inside the Earth. Nobody really talks about that.

More important, however, is the FACT about interpretation. Most everyone sees the temperature increase as a bad thing. But I can’t help but think of a possible counterexample. I’m no scientist or geologist so please take this hypothetically instead of factually.

Origin of Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Remains a Mystery – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Let’s say something from space hits the Earth. An asteroid. This causes all sorts of junk to fly into the atmosphere which blocks out the sun and forces the Earth’s temperature to drop drastically. Some believe this was the cause of the last ice age.

So in this hypothetical scenario, the fact that we are a little bit warmer now might be a good thing down the road. Who knows, it might save us.

Admittedly, this is pretty far out and probably not scientifically predictable. But the point I’m trying to make is that we cannot know for sure how current warmer temperatures will affect us down the road.

So although mankind might be contributing to climate change, it is a matter of interpretation about how that pans out in the long run.

This isn’t complicated thinking. I think most people – even children – could follow the argument. But what disappoints me is that most adults won’t even consider it.

See – What Killed the Dinosaurs?

and – Did an asteroid kill the dinosaurs?

Exhibit Museum Replica Urtier Prehistoric Times

Don’t DENY the possibility. Check the links.


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Christian conservatives and their flawed reasoning about “natural”


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Zed urges Welsh Government to show fairness to minority religions

English: Diwali celebrations in Coventry, Unit...

Diwali celebrations in Coventry, United Kingdom. Taken by Satinder Singh – Wikipedia

Special to Earthpages.org (article has been edited)

The Welsh Government, whose tagline is “working for a fairer and more prosperous Wales”, has been urged to be fair to minority religions.

Hindu advocate Rajan Zed said that while Hindus had not been granted the requested one-day school holiday on their most popular festival Diwali, Welsh schools would be closing for 20-21 school-days around two religious festivals of the majority religion, according to Welsh Government “School term dates 2017/18”.

Zed urged Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Kirsty Williams to work towards adding Diwali as an official holiday in all the state schools of Wales which falls on October 19 this year (and persuading the independent/private schools to follow), if they were serious about the welfare of “all Welsh people” and not just the majority.

Like all pupils, it is important to meet the religious and spiritual needs of Hindu pupils also and show respect to their faith by closing schools on Diwali. Holidays of all major religions should be honored and no one should be penalized for practicing their religion, Rajan Zed pointed out.

Rajan Zed pic3

Rajan Zed – Wikipedia

As existence of different religions was considered to be favorably willed by God, Welsh Government should also learn to treat them with equality and fairness, Zed stated.

Rajan Zed noted that awareness about other religions thus created by such holidays like Diwali would make Welsh students well-nurtured, well-balanced, and enlightened citizens of tomorrow.

Zed further says that Hinduism is rich in festivals and religious festivals are very dear and sacred to Hindus. Diwali, the festival of lights, aims at dispelling the darkness and lighting up the lives and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.


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What is Big Brother Watching?


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The Lorelei – Review

Title: The Lorelei
Genre: Action/Thriller, MysteryHorror, Fantasy, Drama
Production: Onview Films
Directors/Writers: Mol Smith
Stars:  Kemal YildirimLorie-Lanie ShanksSophie Townsend » See full cast & crew at IMDB

This is your shadow on my wall

~ “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town” by Bowie/Eno from Outside

The legendary Lorelei is a dark enchantress who lures fisherman and sailors to their death. In geography she is a steep rock over 4oo feet high on the bank of the Rhine river.

Her legend survives in countless songs and stories. So Mol Smith’s The Lorelei continues a long tradition of blending feminine beauty, danger and death—in French and in the arts, she’s la femme fatale.

From the opening frames of this Indie film, set and shot around Oxford, I knew I would enjoy it. But not just because the story takes place at Oxford.

Rebecca

After a scenic introduction, The Lorelei quickly moves into a well-paced murder mystery. Holy smokes, the British are good at that, aren’t they?

Canadians have been watching British TV murders for years. Like Rock and Roll, the Brits have a knack for murder mystery. And director Mol Smith is no exception. Smith is actually based in Oxford, and it shows.

I don’t want to write a spoiler. And regurgitating story lines can be tedious, like a high-school project I’d rather avoid. On the plus side, holistic thinkers like me often pick up on things outside the main plot line.

Elizabeth and Martin

So let’s just say there’s a murder at the outset and a supernatural element adds to the mystery. But that’s only the beginning.

Enter the affluent victim’s daughter, a private detective, a cop, along with a Madame and her “girls” who fund their education by selling sexual services.

The main characters’ lives intertwine with several twists and turns that, if outlined here, would ruin the film. But I will comment on the performances.

Mel Mills (Martin) and Tessa McGinn (Elizabeth) also appear in the Mol Smith’s Abduction. I enjoyed Abduction on a metaphysical level but for me The Lorelei is far more immediate. And the interaction between Martin and Elizabeth seems more real and grounded.

Daniel

Mills and McGinn also make a bold statement that so many millennials just don’t get: Seasoned and mature individuals can be just as sneaky, sexual and sexy as anyone else.

I liked this aspect of the film. Our contemporary “script” for normality implies that middle-aged people should behave like stale bread or sour wine. No sexual attractions nor thoughts. Just turn it all off.

Thankfully, Madonna, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and a few other celebrities have shown that, for most creative people, that’s a sham. And repressing rather than expressing, redirecting or maybe transmuting sexuality usually turns out badly. If anything, repression leads to stagnant, judgmental and potentially abusive personalities.

Sarah

So I give The Lorelei full marks for representing its mature characters as full human beings, and not just as packages past their shelf life, as many folks – young and old – tend to see it.

Ageism sucks. And it rarely hits the radar these days.

As for the younger actors in this film, I find them charming. Sophie Townsend plays Sarah, a luminous young woman making her way through uni, as the Brits say, by taking clients on the side.

Sarah could be in an early Beatlemania film. Or maybe she reminds me of a young, female incarnation of David Bowie. I don’t know. But something about her spirited demeanor and slightly retro look won me over.

Sarah and Rebecca

Lorie-Lanie Shanks as Rebecca comes out strong, fulfilling that “rich English babe” stereotype to a tee. Rebecca seems to have an ambiguous sexual preference, which only adds to the uneasy tension between her and Sarah.

Shanks would be perfect in an Agatha Christie movie. Murder on the Orient Express, Fantasy Island, or something like that. That highbrow woman with a poisonous snake in a wicker box for anyone who crosses her.

Kemal Yildirim, also in Abduction, plays the private detective Daniel with a characteristic depth and detachment that invites viewers to wonder what’s going on inside his head. Daniel’s low key ambience is captivating. We can never really know what the quietly intelligent gent is thinking.

Likewise, the alluring Hive Queen in Abduction, Amelie Leroy, appears as “Trouble” in The Lorelei. Leroy’s deceptive character effortlessly switches back and forth among English, French and maybe something else. Trouble charges up the film with loads of presence, awareness and jungle-edged sexuality.

Trouble

So we have a supernaturally tinged mystery, enigmatic leading characters and a solid supporting cast. Together, they forge an unforgettable foray into the fictional underbelly of Oxford life.

At least, those on the outside must assume it is fictional. From what I’ve seen in the far corners of student life, there might be more truth to this fiction than most are willing to admit.

“We don’t get murders in Oxford, you get it?” exclaims Martin. It’s all about image. Elitism. High class. And sex workers? That would certainly rub most Oxford Deans the wrong way.

The Lorelei, true to its name, busts the myth and does so very well. Along with its great, gooey makeup art and delightful soundtrack, this is a film to absorb on many levels.

MC

All Images © Onview Films UK. Used with permission.

 

 

 


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Ditadura e fascismo. É tudo igual?

Use Google translate if necessary. It’s worth it. –MC

Miluramalho's Blog

“Fascismo: O Governo duma ditadura, marcado pelo controle da economia pelo Estado, pela arregimentação social e por uma ideologia de nacionalismo beligerante;

 

Nazismo: Fascismo, segundo praticado pelo Partido Nacional-Socialista dos Trabalhadores Alemães, sob Hitler.

 

A PALAVRA “fascismo” geralmente suscita imagens de milícias militares italianas de camisas pretas e de tropas de assalto alemãs, de uniformes pardos, portando a suástica. Mas outros países também tiveram suas experiências com o fascismo.

Na década de 30, o fascismo ganhou destaque na Hungria, na Romênia e no Japão. Durante a Guerra Civil Espanhola, o apoio fascista ajudou Francisco Franco a obter o controle da Espanha, embora a maioria dos historiadores não encare a ditadura de Franco (1939-75) como tendo sido de natureza genuinamente fascista. A ditadura argentina de Juan D. Perón (1943-55), por outro lado, era fascista.

O termo “fascismo” provém da palavra italiana fascio e refere-se a um antigo símbolo romano de…

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