Privacy concerns

Written on 13 November 2015, 09:44am

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This is another post in the weekly links series, with all the links below grouped by a common topic: privacy.

First, a post that explains why you should be concerned about it:

If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.
How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?
Wired: Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance

Then, a post about the day-to-day implications of the facial recognition:

Obviously, facial recognition is here to stay. The convenience factor for consumers and the data mining potential for big business are too compelling. The erosion of privacy is unfortunately like sea level rise. We know it’s happening, we know the consequences, but we’re either powerless or unwilling to act in our best, long-term interests.
PetaPixel – The Unsettling Future of Facial Recognition

Third, a thought about the future of the Internet and how it could better protect our privacy:

It’s easy to forget that because of its short life, the Internet has actually changed many times over the last 30 years or so. It started in the ’70s as a military project, morphed in the 1980s to an academic network, co-opted by commercial companies in the ’90s, and then invaded by all of us via social media in the noughties, but I think it’s going to change again. And I think things like the dark net markets — creative, secure, difficult to censor — I think that’s the future.
And the reason it’s the future is because we’re all worried about our privacy. Surveys consistently show concerns about privacy. The more time we spend online, the more we worry about them, and those surveys show our worries are growing. We’re worried about what happens to our data. We’re worried about who might be watching us.
Jamie Bartlett TED Talk How the mysterious dark net is going mainstream

Yesterday, the BBC reported that the FBI allegedly paid an US university to launch an attack on the Tor network:

Anonymity network Tor, notorious for illegal activity, has claimed that researchers at US Carnegie Mellon university were paid by the FBI to launch an attack on them.
“This attack sets a troubling precedent,” the Tor Project wrote. “Civil liberties are under attack if law enforcement believes it can circumvent the rules of evidence by outsourcing police work to universities,” it added.
BBC – FBI accused of paying US university for dark net attack

Finally, a very recent interview with Edward Snowden, where he explains a little bit about the tools that you can use to protect your online privacy:

If you interact with the internet … the typical methods of communication today betray you silently, quietly, invisibly, at every click. At every page that you land on, information is being stolen. It’s being collected, intercepted, analyzed, and stored by governments, foreign and domestic, and by companies. You can reduce this by taking a few key steps. Basic things. If information is being collected about you, make sure it’s being done in a voluntary way.
Edward Snowden explains how to reclaim your privacy


Weekly links #3

Written on 30 October 2015, 12:11pm

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Daniel Craig on his series of Bond movies

One of the greatest problems we face today is people’s self-awareness. It’s all about “Who am I?” instead of “What am I doing?”

The best acting is when you’re not concerned about the surface. And Bond is the opposite of that. You have to be bothered about how you’re looking. It’s a struggle. I know that how Bond wears a suit and walks into a room is important. But as an actor I don’t want to give a fuck about what I look like! So I have to play with both things. In a way that works, as that’s Bond: he looks good and he doesn’t give a fuck what you think he looks like!’

Greenland is melting away

“We scientists love to sit at our computers and use climate models to make those predictions. […] But to really know what’s happening, that kind of understanding can only come about through empirical measurements in the field.”

Each year, the federal government spends about $1 billion to support Arctic and Antarctic research by thousands of scientists […] But the research is under increasing fire by some Republican leaders in Congress, who deny or question the scientific consensus that human activities contribute to climate change.
NY Times

Two interesting concepts

Negative externality – or unaccounted-for cost:

In the auto industry, CO2 emissions are the negative externality. If you have a cheap and easy way to build cars that dump garbage into the atmosphere and no one makes you pay for it, why would you ever change anything?
This kind of negative externality is how tobacco companies got away with murder for so many decades.
Wait but why

Normalization of deviance

“Social normalization of deviance means that people within the organization become so much accustomed to a deviant behavior that they don’t consider it as deviant, despite the fact that they far exceed their own rules for the elementary safety”
Diane Vaughan

The scandal wouldn’t have been caused by a few rogue engineers, though, so much as by the nature of engineering organizations themselves. Faced with an expensively engineered diesel engine that couldn’t meet strict emissions standards, Volkswagen engineers “tuned” their engine software. And they kept on tuning it, normalizing deviance along the way, until they were far from where they started, to the point of gaming the emissions tests by detecting test conditions and re-calibrating the engine accordingly on the fly.
An engineering theory of the VW scandal

EU does something right, but…

27 oct 2015:
The European Parliament today voted in favor of net neutrality rules that, in theory, will prevent ISPs from blocking and throttling traffic or implementing paid fast lanes. But MEPs did not adopt amendments designed to strengthen the rules by closing potential loopholes.
Ars Technica

Today, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of a resolution to drop charges against Edward Snowden, who is currently wanted by the US under charges defined by the ‘Espionage Act’. But the vote is not as concrete as people might think it is. It was merely a suggestion instead of a binding law, thanks to Europe’s hugely convoluted legal system.
Snowden, I’m happy for you, but don’t start packing your bags anytime soon.
The Next Web


Weekly links #2

Written on 12 October 2015, 08:34am

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Apple Camera?

I, for one, would love to see Apple develop an iPhone 7P. The “P” is for photography. Add back 2mm to the device’s profile, which would enable a larger battery, and install an even better camera (bigger lens, bigger sensor) for people who love photography. I would easily pay a $100 premium for the specialized device. I have to think they would sell more of these than the iPhone 6c.
The One Thing Apple Understands is Photography
plus 5 reasons Apple should make a professional camera


An European alternative to Soylent:

Update, 1 month later: I could not get used to the taste. And I’m sorry about that, the prospect was extremely appealing :(

Eating a diet considered healthy by scientific standards is difficult. These requirements can only be met with a varied and well thought out diet.
We have developed a formula which combines all nutrients recommended by dietitians in a powder, which we call BERTRAND.


Security Keys

With 2-Step Verification, Google requires something you know (your password) and something you have (like your phone) to sign in. Google sends a verification code to your phone when you try to sign in to confirm it’s you. However, sophisticated attackers could set up lookalike sites that ask you to provide your verification codes to them, instead of Google. Security Key offers better protection against this kind of attack, because it uses cryptography instead of verification codes and automatically works only with the website it’s supposed to work with.
Using Security Key for 2-Step Verification

A few notes about security keys in general and YubiKey in particular:
– the security keys do not need batteries or mobile connectivity (as the cell phones receiving security codes)
– full YubiKey product lineup
– the blue YubiKey implements the U2F standard and works with GMail, Dropbox and GitHub
– the most expensive YubiKey version works also via NFC with the supported devices
– the other ones must rely on a recent Chrome version and on a device with an USB port
– if the security key is not available, the normal security codes (received on cell phones) still work
yubi keys