Tagsurveillance

How Schools Groom Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance

Jessy Irwin writes:

Since 2011, billions of dollars of venture capital investment have poured into public education through private, for-profit technologies that promise to revolutionize education. Designed for the “21st century” classroom, these tools promise to remedy the many, many societal ills facing public education with artificial intelligence, machine learning, data mining, and other technological advancements.

They are also being used to track and record every move students make in the classroom, grooming students for a lifetime of surveillance and turning education into one of the most data-intensive industries on the face of the earth. The NSA has nothing on the monitoring tools that education technologists have developed in to “personalize” and “adapt” learning for students in public school districts across the United States.

Full Story: Model View Culture: Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance

Democratizing Drones

Artist Ingrid Burrington talks about the problems with “drones for good”:

The best possible scenarios for drone technologies being used in the future center on the question of who owns them? It’s mainly proprietary technology, mostly in the hands of the military, if we are talking about the large, heavy-duty, and weaponized drones, while the smaller hobbyist and consumer-grade drones still are beyond the price point of the average consumer. The concept of using drones for good, while very well intentioned, still feels very much like it’s coming from this neoliberal, nonprofit, industrial-complex mentality, which weirds me out. So the potential for drones having positive social impacts has to do with drones becoming an available tool to those who could use them for establishing equitable power relations. The problem is that drones are tools that by default operate with asymmetrical power relations: the operator can see lots of things that you can’t see. So improving the scenario becomes about allowing people to see what drones see.

Full Story: art21: Drones: An Interview with Ingrid Burrington

There are cheap drones like the Parrot AR, but I’m guessing she’s referring to ones that can fly further and longer. This brings to mind nanosattelites that let you rent time on them to do your own space research. Perhaps we need something similar but for drones?

This reminds me that I’ve been meaning to post this video of the drones panel at the Theorizing the Web conference:

The panel included The New Aesthetic coiner James Bridle, Weird Shift Con and Murmeration co-organizer Adam Rothstein, other Murmeration co-organizer Olivia Rosane and Briar developer Eleanor Saitta.

One of my favorite bits is Bridle saying “the history of all aerial stuff is the history of weaponization.” I thought he said the first military use of aerial weapons happened during a Russian attack on Vienna in 1790, but I’m not sure what battle he was referring to. Perhaps my notes are wrong. Wikipedia tells me that the first military use of observation balloons was by the French in 1794. Also, the Chinese were using paper lanterns for military signaling as far back as the 2nd century.

The weirdest way to subvert paparazzi culture

The face privitisizer

This is an old link, freshly excavated from the depths of my Pocket account. Rob Walker writes about the strange way that Vanessa Stiviano , the alleged mistress of the former owner of the LA Clippers, subverts paparazzi culture:

What I’m interested in is how Stiviano is using it: Not to protect herself from the sun’s glare, but rather from the media glare. In other words, she is misusing, but I’d say rather effectively. This is a pretty good object-use hack.

And the aesthetics are, in my view, amazing: Unlike the traditional coat draped over a bowed head, or whatever, this visor allows her to do more than thwart perp-walk aesthetics. Instead she rather brazenly defies paparazzi culture. And indeed she seems to know what she’s doing, as she pairs her weird Darth Vader headgear with overtly camera-ready outfits — from semi-blingy-business attire to ostentatiously “casual” combinations of silly T shirts and cutoffs.

Full Story: Design Observer: Object in the News: The Face Privatizer

Not on a Social Network? You’ve Still Got a Privacy Problem

Bob McMillan writes:

We already know that if you use an online social network, you give up a serious slice of your privacy thanks to the omnivorous way companies like Google and Facebook gather your personal data. But new academic research offers a glimpse of what these companies may be learning about people who don’t use their massive web services. And it’s a bit scary.

Because they couldn’t get their hands on data from the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn, the researchers studied publicly available data archived from an older social network, Friendster. They found that if Friendster had used certain state-of-the-art prediction algorithms, it could have divined sensitive information about non-members, including their sexual orientation. “At the time, it was possible for Friendster to predict the sexual orientation of people who did not have an account on Friendster,” says David Garcia, a postdoctoral researcher with Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university, who co-authored the study.

Full Story: Wired: Not on a Social Network? You’ve Still Got a Privacy Problem

This can be done through what are called “shadow profiles.” For example, if five of your friends invite you to join a new site called NeoSocial Company by punching your email address into a form on the site, the company could create a social graph based simply on your email address and who invited you, even if you don’t sign up for the service. They could even start to make some inferences about you based on what they know about your friends. Many sites also encourage you to upload your address book when you sign-up, so that i can help you connect with people you know who may already be using the service, or even to alert you if they sign-up later. If you do this, you could be helping these companies build shadow profiles of your contacts.

As Bob notes, an audit by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner confirmed that Facebook doesn’t keep shadow profiles. But the technical capability is always there, and we have no real idea what sites that haven’t been audited are doing. What’s more, law enforcement can build social network graphs based on seized address books and cell phones, or even metadata demanded from telephone companies.

So even if you don’t have a cell phone, if a friend called your landline, then traveled to your house, then to another location, and then back to your house, someone with access to that information could make an educated guess that you went with that friend to that particular location.

That may sound paranoise, but don’t forget that the reason the Northwest Four were arrested probably to gather information on their contacts, not to prosecute them specifically.

Mutation Vectors 6/8/2014

Stratfor

Journalism

My favorite things of the week were probably David Graeber’s essay on Thomas Picketty and why capitalism isn’t going to tame itself, and Thomas Frank’s interview with Graeber about bullshit jobs, the divide between anarchists and socialists on work ethic and why the working class resents middle class liberals.

But surveillance was, as it often is, the big theme of the week. For the one year anniversary of the publication of the first of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, superstar investor and Netscape co-founder Marc Andresseen, told the world that he thinks Snowden is a traitor. Rusty Foster then told the world that he thinks Andreeseen is a douchebag. But also recognizes that there’s a douchebag living inside his own head:

When I see Marc Andreessen, what I’m really seeing is this liar in my soul. It knows I always had a leg up, it knows I went to private school, I never had to conform to anyone else’s schedule, I never had to work as hard as anyone else, I always skated by on a good vocabulary and a plausible excuse. It knows all this but it doesn’t care, because it still believes that I’m special anyway, innately, not just that I got to live life on the easy setting and that I happened to be dropping out of college right when the internet came along to support my lazy ass.

Perhaps also in recognition of the NSA leaks anniversary, Vodaphone revealed that it has secret wires into its networks that allow intelligence agencies in various companies tap right in and listen to and record conversations, or collect metadata.

Speaking of phone companies, telcos are astroturfing opposition to the idea of regulating them like utilities, even though they like being thought of as utilities when it benefits them.

And remember the Stratfor hack? It turns out it was orchestrated by Hector “Sabu” Monsegur while he was an FBI informant. So were a bunch of major hacks in Brazil. The FBI could have stopped all of this stuff from happening, but thought it would be better to give the hackers it was watching enough rope to hang themselves, damn the consequences.

Returning to Snowden for a moment: the dude has said that encryption still works. And PGP is probably the best way to encrypt your e-mail. So this week Google released the code for a Chrome plugin that should make it easier to use PGP in the browser, but Ella Saitta explained why that might not be a good thing. One of the reasons was paraphrased by L. Rhodes on Twitter: Google might end up doing to crypto what they did to RSS.

Also from me this week on things that might actually be bad, maybe dumping a bazillion new devices into the environment isn’t such a good idea. But if you must make an Internet of Things thing, maybe you should use Contiki.

Flashback of the week: Generation U by Jason Lubyk, the inspiration for my term “Urchin Economy.”

Television

This week I watched all six episodes of Nathan Barley for the first time. It’s sort of like Portlandia if Portlandia took place in Hackney and was actually funny.

Other

I went to Evan Meaney‘s presentation on glitches and hauntology at Weird Shift, which gave me plenty to think about. A PDF of his standard talk is here and he has a paper here.

Today in Drones: Weed Farms, Wi-Fi Hotspots and Graffiti

Katsu's Open Source Graffiti Drone

For the drone spotters out there:

The Independent: Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers:

One such man, an unnamed 33-year-old, told the Halesowen News that after finding a property with a cannabis farm he and his crew either burgle or “tax” the victim.

“They are fair game,” he said. “It is not like I’m using my drone to see if people have nice televisions. I am just after drugs to steal and sell, if you break the law then you enter me and my drone’s world.

“Half the time we don’t even need to use violence to get the crop. Growing cannabis has gone mainstream and the people growing it are not gangsters, especially in places like Halesowen, Cradley Heath and Oldbury.”

Wired: Darpa Turns Aging Surveillance Drones Into Wi-Fi Hotspots:

A fleet of surveillance drones once deployed in the skies over Iraq is being repurposed to provide aerial Wi-Fi in far-flung corners of the world, according to Darpa.

RQ-7 Shadow drones that the Army flew in Iraq for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions are now becoming wireless hubs for connectivity in remote conflict zones where challenging communication environments can mean the difference between being ambushed and getting reinforcements.

Wired: This Open Source Graffiti Drone Will Give Cops Nightmares:

“What does it mean that I’m able to be throwing these strokes up and across a canvas that is 30 feet wide and is suspended 25 feet in the air?,” he asks. “Painting in these ways just wasn’t previously possible.” Much in the way that smartphones have become an extension of our minds, Katsu wonders if drones could someday serve as a commonplace way to extend our physical selves. Of course, in that sort of drone-filled future, you’d have to imagine that cops would have their own drones, too–anti-graffiti UAVs that chase rogue robot artists through alleyways and across rooftops, or else just clean-up quadcopters that scan walls for illegal art and clean them autonomously with high-powered water weaponry.

U.S. Drone Assassination Program Uses the NSA’s Cell Phone Data to Locate Targets

Here’s Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Schahill’s first article for The Interceptor, the first publication from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new media company:

The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.

The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

Full Story: The Interceptor: The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program

If you’re feeling like doing something about it, don’t forget that today is The Day We Fight Back (see my coverage here).

See also:

Democracy Now interview with Greenwald and Schahill about the article and about First Look.

After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

A Hard Look At the Non-Profit Behind Glenn Greenwald’s New Publication

Ad Blocking Tool Ghostery Sends Data To The Ad Industry

Count me amongst the users of Ghostery who didn’t know it was owned and supported by the ad industry:

Whenever discussion starts about how to hide from the tracking code that follows users around the Web to serve them targeted ads, recommendations soon pile up for a browser add-on called Ghostery. It blocks tracking code, noticeably speeds up how quickly pages load as a result, and has roughly 19 million users. Yet few of those who advocate Ghostery as a way to escape the clutches of the online ad industry realize that the company behind it, Evidon, is in fact part of that selfsame industry.

Evidon helps companies that want to improve their use of tracking code by selling them data collected from the eight million Ghostery users that have enabled a data-sharing feature in the tool.

Full Story: MIT Technology Review: A Popular Ad Blocker Also Helps the Ad Industry

(via Paleofuture)

Cypherpunk Rising: WikiLeaks, Encryption, And The Coming Surveillance Dystopia

Cypherpunks

R.U. Sirius wrote:

If, in 1995, some cypherpunks had published a book about the upcoming “postmodern surveillance dystopia,” most commentators would have shrugged it off as just a wee bit paranoid and ushered them into the Philip K. Dick Reading Room. Now, it is more likely that people will shrug and say, “that ship has already sailed.”

Full Story: The Verge: Cypherpunk rising: WikiLeaks, encryption, and the coming surveillance dystopia

The Quantified Man: How an Obsolete Tech Guy Rebuilt Himself for the Future

Chris Dancy

I wrote about the extreme quantification of work for Wired:

Tesco — the company that runs a chain of grocery stores across Great Britain — uses digital armbands to track the performance of its warehouse staff.

A former Tesco employee told The Independent newspaper that the armbands provide a score of 100 if a task is completed within a given time frame, but a score of 200 if it’s completed twice that fast. “The guys who made the scores were sweating buckets and throwing stuff around the place,” he told the paper.

Tesco representatives said the devices allow users to switch into a “break mode” for up to 25 minutes a day. But that anonymous employee claimed that using the toilet without logging the trip as a break would result in a surprisingly low score, even if the task was finished within the allotted time.

That’s just one of the many ways that employers are using technology to track employee productivity. Call centers have long used metrics such as call time to rank employees, and gamification software may take it to new levels. Darpa wants to track soldiers’ health. Apparently, IBM has a tool for detecting disgruntled employees. And Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has boasted of a “Chatterlytics” system for ranking employees on their use of the company’s internal social network.

Our work is being re-quantified — in a big way — and Chris Dancy, a director in the office of the chief technology officer at BMC Software, thinks it’s time for employees to take these metrics into their own hands. “If you can measure it, someone will,” he says, “and that somebody should be you.”

Dancy is connected to at least three sensors all day, every day. Sometimes, it’s as much as five. They measure his pulse, his REM sleep, his skin temperature, and more. He also has sensors all over his house. There’s even one on his toilet so he can look for correlations between his bathroom habits and his sleep patterns.

He’s on the cutting edge of the “quantified self” movement kickstarted by Wired’s Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. But it’s not just his body and environment that Dancy tracks. He constantly takes screenshots of his work, and everything he does — every meeting, every document he creates, every Tweet he sends, every file he shares, every screenshot he takes — is logged in Google Calendar, providing him with a timeline and his entire work life. If you ask him what he did on a particular day, he can tell you with great precision.

And he thinks every white collar worker will need to adopt a similar regimen soon.

Full Story: Wired Enterprise: The Quantified Man: How an Obsolete Tech Guy Rebuilt Himself for the Future

See Also:

The first half or so of Marshall Brain’s design fiction novella Manna

The Rise Of Workplace Surveillance

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