""...I've gotten these with Happy Meals for my kids and they are pretty much useless. One supposedly blinks slow or fast depending on the level of activity or motion. It merely blinks at  any motion, but not always and not necessarily faster with more intense activity. Battery lasts about two hours at best. The step counter just does the same thing as the blinking version but increments a number display. Unfortunately, a single "step" is often counted as a dozen or more and other times movements/step are not counted at all. Battery lasted an hour before the device stopped working completely. Most don't work at all, having dead batteries from the start.Perhaps it's the gesture that counts but these items are essentially garbage. My five year old just pretends that they are wrist-based computers/communicators."

Read more - https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/16/mcdonalds-activity-trackers-happy-meal/

Posted
Authoralexanderhayes
Categoriesnormalising

It never ceases to amaze me just how stupid screen culture is.

But now it's even parodying itself---in the way only the online spectacle can: by folding back into itself to keep us watching.

The problems and concerns, long since established, are all now just a big joke. Short attention spans. Superficial engagement with information. Advertising masquerading as content. The convergence of extremely powerful corporate empires that influence what we think, feel, and do, in a way never before possible. Distraction from the real world, while the real world burns.

The story of this first short is about the end of the world, and nobody even cares.  Could that be any more close to home?

There's also a short about an "Uber for people," invoking the themes of exploitation, surveillance, and the enslavement-addiction to technological solutions that parodies the screen culture of today---especially the mindset of "apps fix all."

Can we see this as one thing in terms of another?

Likewise with, "Enter the Hive Mind."

What will you do, when it's time you're asked to put your whole self into the global computer even more completely than now? What is your personal threshold? Will you continue to "breathe life" into the machine?

Source: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLuK...

Computer security expert and privacy specialist Bruce Schneier writes:

The Internet of Things is the name given to the computerization of everything in our lives. Already you can buy Internet-enabled thermostats, light bulbs, refrigerators, and cars. Soon everything will be on the Internet: the things we own, the things we interact with in public, autonomous things that interact with each other.

These “things” will have two separate parts. One part will be sensors that collect data about us and our environment. Already our smartphones know our location and, with their onboard accelerometers, track our movements. Things like our thermostats and light bulbs will know who is in the room. Internet-enabled street and highway sensors will know how many people are out and about­ — and eventually who they are. Sensors will collect environmental data from all over the world.

The other part will be actuators. They’ll affect our environment. Our smart thermostats aren’t collecting information about ambient temperature and who’s in the room for nothing; they set the temperature accordingly. Phones already know our location, and send that information back to Google Maps and Waze to determine where traffic congestion is; when they’re linked to driverless cars, they’ll automatically route us around that congestion. Amazon already wants autonomous drones to deliver packages. The Internet of Things will increasingly perform actions for us and in our name.

Increasingly, human intervention will be unnecessary. The sensors will collect data. The system’s smarts will interpret the data and figure out what to do. And the actuators will do things in our world. You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the Internet, the actuators as the hands and feet of the Internet, and the stuff in the middle as the brain. This makes the future clearer. The Internet now senses, thinks, and acts.

We’re building a world-sized robot, and we don’t even realize it.
Source: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/201...

"With widespread adoption among law enforcement, advertisers, and even churches, face recognition has undoubtedly become one of the biggest threats to privacy out there.

By itself, the ability to instantly identify anyone just by seeing their face already creates massive power imbalances, with serious implications for free speech and political protest."

Microsoft pitches technology that can read facial expressions at political rallies

Microsoft pitches technology that can read facial expressions at political rallies

"But more recently, researchers have demonstrated that even when faces are blurred or otherwise obscured, algorithms can be trained to identify people by matching previously-observed patterns around their head and body.

In a new paper uploaded to the ArXiv pre-print server, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany demonstrate a method of identifying individuals even when most of their photos are un-tagged or obscured. The researchers' system, which they call the “Faceless Recognition System,” trains a neural network on a set of photos containing both obscured and visible faces, then uses that knowledge to predict the identity of obscured faces by looking for similarities in the area around a person's head and body."

[...]

"In the past, Facebook has shown its face recognition algorithms can predict the identity of users when they obscure their face with 83% accuracy, using cues such as their stance and body type. But the researchers say their system is the first to do so using a trainable system that uses a full range of body cues surrounding blurred and blacked-out faces."

 

Source: https://motherboard.vice.com/read/faceless...

In a very COINTELPRO-esque context, the ACLU has received more than 18 hours of video from surveillance cameras installed on FBI aircraft that flew over Baltimore in the days after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in 2015. The footage offers a rare insight into the workings of a government surveillance operation targeting protests.

The cache is likely the most comprehensive collection of aerial surveillance footage ever released by a US law enforcement agency... The footage shows the crowds of protesters captured in a combination of visible light and infrared spectrum video taken by the planes’ wing-mounted FLIR Talon cameras. While individual faces are not clearly visible in the videos, it’s frighteningly easy to imagine how cameras with a slightly improved zoom resolution and face recognition technology could be used to identify protesters in the future.

The collection of aerial surveillance footage of Baltimore protests from April 29, 2015 to May 3, 2015, from FBI archives is available on their website, or better yet, the Internet Archive.

"Records from the Federal Aviation Administration showed that the FBI’s aircraft, which were registered to front companies to conceal their ownership, carried sophisticated camera systems on board, complete with night-vision capabilities."

The FBI says they're only using the planes to track specific suspects in "serious crime investigations," and that "the FBI flew their spy planes more than 3,500 times in the last six months of 2015, according to an analysis of data collected by the aircraft-tracking site FlightRadar24."

"The FBI has been criticized in the recent past for its actions regarding domestic advocacy groups. A 2010 report by the Department of Justice Inspector General found the FBI opened investigations connected to organizations such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker movement that classified possible “trespassing or vandalism” as domestic terrorism cases. The report also found the FBI’s National Press Office “made false and misleading statements” when questioned by the media about documents obtained by public records requests."

This pompously narrated documentary nevertheless provides an overview of the television series Mr. Robot, exploring how the show echoes and has even predicted events in real life of today's technology-gripped culture. It is an interesting interplay of pop-culture and hacker happening, the blurring of the line between the real world and storytelling and visa versa. Using interviews with cast and crew members, as well as the opinions of experts and journalists in the fields of hacking and cyber security, Mr. Robot Decoded examines the technical accuracy of the Mr. Robot series, while also discussing the show's cultural impact.

Contrasted with The Hacker Wars, a film which explores the strange duality of the modern-day computer-hacker as a mischievous provocateur, but also in some cases, societal activists with underlying political fervour, serious or not. This documentary explores this by profiling some of the renowned characters that have tickled the secretive inner workings of corporations and government agencies, IRL, for various reasons—ranging from the nefarious and narcissistic, to the political and scandalous. Some do it for the lulz, others do it to prove a point, and others still do it to speak truth to corrupt power. In any event, many have faced severe punishments as a result. Weaving through this, The Hacker Wars touches on issues of whistleblowing, social justice and power relations, in a time where computer technologies represent extreme power and control. But for whom? And what? This poses the question in deciphering the personalities of the hackers themselves. Are they troublemakers driven solely by a need to instigate havoc and chaos? Or are they in part activists with good intentions?

In 2013, Privacy International announced the Surveillance Industry Index, a comprehensive publicly available database about the capabilities, technologies and mindset of the private surveillance sector.

Also relevant is BuggedPlanet.info, a wiki in the public domain about "Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT), Tactical and Strategical Measures used to intercept Communications and the Vendors and Governmental and Private Operators of this Technology."

Likewise with Project PM, a wiki of a "centralized, actionable data set regarding the intelligence contracting industry, the PR industry's interface with totalitarian regimes, the mushrooming infosec/"cybersecurity" industry, and other issues constituting threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions." Entities of particular interest are PRISM, Trapwire, In-Q-Tel, and Stratfor.

Posted
AuthorJordan Brown
The BBC is to spy on internet users in their homes by deploying a new generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching its programmes online.

The BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to “sniff out” those who have not paid the licence fee.

The corporation has been given legal dispensation to use the new technology, which is typically only available to crime-fighting agencies, to enforce the new requirement that people watching BBC programmes via the iPlayer must have a TV licence.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/05...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

Mark Serrels writes in The Age about how he knows he's addicted to his phone. He says "he's too far gone," "living inside your own head can be terrifying," and that he's addicted to the escapism over confronting the real world.

"Yes, social media is a poisoned chalice of pure narcissism," but, "if you have someone who depends on you, particularly children, it's probably a good idea to have a functioning mobile phone on you at all times. And that's precisely why I decided to stop being silly and get a mobile phone again."

"Nah, just kidding. It was totally social media. I gotta get those Facebook likes. I need that validation. And the podcasts. I really missed the podcasts."

Emphasis added.

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/technology/techno...
A cocktail bar owner has installed a Faraday cage in his walls to prevent mobile phone signals entering the building. Steve Tyler of the Gin Tub, in Hove, East Sussex, is hoping customers will be encouraged to talk to each other rather than looking at their screens. He has installed metal mesh in the walls and ceiling of the bar which absorbs and redistributes the electromagnetic signals from phones and wireless devices to prevent them entering the interior of the building.

Mr Tyler said he wanted to force “people to interact in the real world” and remember how to socialise. “I just wanted people to enjoy a night out in my bar, without being interrupted by their phones,” he said. “So rather than asking them not to use their phones, I stopped the phones working. I want you to enjoy the experience of going out.”
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/08...
Posted
AuthorJordan Brown

"A Dark Pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, they wouldn't normally do."

"Normally when you think of “bad design”, you think of the creator as being sloppy or lazy but with no ill intent. This type of bad design is known as a “UI anti-pattern”. Dark Patterns are different – they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind."

"London-based UX designer Harry Brignull documents this on his website, darkpatterns.org, offering plenty of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces. These dark patterns trick unsuspecting users into a gamut of actions: setting up recurring payments, purchasing items surreptitiously added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through prechecked forms on Facebook games, etc."

Source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/07/da...
A crashed metal drone disguised as a bird has been discovered in Mogadishu, the troubled capital of Somalia.

Both governments [Somalia and the United States] and drone companies are experimenting with different types of aircraft, including nanobots and swarm-style technology.
Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/tech/drone-disguis...

"Social media has changed. After 10 years of popular use, the information in our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profiles is no longer just about the current moment or instant connections. Instead of simply broadcasting our thoughts and actions as they happen, these platforms have become a biographical archive of our lives, storing our photos and recording where we went and who we were with. The result of this archiving is that social media is taking on a new role in the way that we remember."

So if we rely more and more on social media to archive our memories, how will it shape how we remember? As time passes, more of people’s lives will be captured in these profiles. And when we want to remember our lives and the lives of the people we connect with, we will inevitably turn to the data stored in these social media archives. Our memories might then be shaped by the types of things that we choose to include in our visible social media profiles, or even in less visible spaces protected by our privacy settings (as included in the Memories feature).
Source: http://www.theage.com.au/technology/techno...

Coinciding with a continued rise in public cynicism and a legitimate mistrust of mainstream media beholden to systems of power that are discredited, it seems most people turn to social media networks to get their news now. But this seemingly doesn't fix the problem. Rather than a "democratisation" of the media and/or a mass reclamation of investigative journalism (as technology pundits continuously purport), there's arguably been the opposite.

Now, with the convergence of closed social media networks that are beholden to nefarious algorithms such as The Filter Bubble and the personalisation of information, as an article in the Guardian explains, "Social media has swallowed the news – threatening the funding of public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts. But the consequences go far beyond journalism."

Twenty-five years after the first website went online, it is clear that we are living through a period of dizzying transition. For 500 years after Gutenberg, the dominant form of information was the printed page: knowledge was primarily delivered in a fixed format, one that encouraged readers to believe in stable and settled truths.

Now, we are caught in a series of confusing battles between opposing forces: between truth and falsehood, fact and rumour, kindness and cruelty; between the few and the many, the connected and the alienated; between the open platform of the web as its architects envisioned it and the gated enclosures of Facebook and other social networks; between an informed public and a misguided mob.

What is common to these struggles – and what makes their resolution an urgent matter – is that they all involve the diminishing status of truth. This does not mean that there are no truths. It simply means, as this year has made very clear, that we cannot agree on what those truths are, and when there is no consensus about the truth and no way to achieve it, chaos soon follows.

Increasingly, what counts as a fact is merely a view that someone feels to be true – and technology has made it very easy for these “facts” to circulate with a speed and reach that was unimaginable in the Gutenberg era (or even a decade ago).

Too much of the press often exhibited a bias towards the status quo and a deference to authority, and it was prohibitively difficult for ordinary people to challenge the power of the press. Now, people distrust much of what is presented as fact – particularly if the facts in question are uncomfortable, or out of sync with their own views – and while some of that distrust is misplaced, some of it is not.

In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true – as we often see in emergency situations, when news is breaking in real time.

It's like the well-oiled tactics of the tobacco industry that have since permeated pretty much all industries---confuse the hell out of people so they don't know what's true anymore. It's a popular PR tactic honed over decades for social control and manipulation of democracy, and it's that element that exists and is especially reinforced online (particularly in real time), in the giant echo chamber of corporate social media networks, where the user is constantly subjected to streams and streams of information about current events---most devoid of context, analysis, or even significant depth in the time and space of a tweet.

The grounding that gives rise to physical reality and epistemological truths goes missing when we're tied to screens that simply reflect our projections.

In the words of Sherry Turkle, the issues facing our planet right now cannot be solved in the time-space of texting/tweeting. So if the way we understand, perceive and relate to the world through the prism of media (mainstream media and social media alike) is in decline, it should tell us volumes about the state of democracy...

Global Voices' adds: "The need for fact-checking hasn't gone away. As new technologies have spawned new forms of media which lend themselves to the spread of various kinds of disinformation, this need has in fact grown. Much of the information that's spread online, even by news outlets, is not checked, as outlets simply copy-paste -- or in some instances, plagiarise -- "click-worthy" content generated by others. Politicians, especially populists prone to manipulative tactics, have embraced this new media environment by making alliances with tabloid tycoons or by becoming media owners themselves.

UPDATE 29/7 -- Example, of sorts. "#SaveMarinaJoyce conspiracy theories about British YouTuber go viral." News reporting social media rumours, facts from source ignite disbelief and cynicism, confirmation bias at work, etc.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul...

Since its release Wednesday night, a new game, Pokémon Go has already gone on to become the top-grossing game in the three countries where it's currently available, adding nearly $11 billion to the value of Nintendo in less than a week.

The game, which "marries a classic 20-year old franchise with augmented reality," allows players to walk around "real-life" neighbourhoods while seeking "virtual Pokemon game characters" on their smartphone screens. Basically, a glorified fake scavenger hunt, similar to games like Ingress, etc.

In the United States, by July 8--just two days after its release--the game was installed on more than "5 percent of Android devices in the country, is now on more Android phones than dating app Tinder, has daily active users neck and neck with that of social network Twitter, and is also being played an average of 43 minutes a day--more time spent than on WhatsApp or Instagram."

"Some fans are now tweeting about playing the game while driving, and one user already reports, "Pokemon Go put me in the ER last night... Not even 30 minutes after the release...I slipped and fell down a ditch." In Australia the game has been leading some players into their local police station, and a woman in Wyoming reports that the game actually led her to a dead body floating in a river. One Pokemon Go screenshot has also gone viral. It shows a man capturing a Pokemon while his wife gives birth..."

The app's popularity has created lagging servers and forced the company Niantic to delay its international roll-out, meaning "Those who have already downloaded the game in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand can still play it, while those in the U.K., the Netherlands and other countries will have to wait."

Meanwhile, as people clearly can't wait, there has been a flood of downloads of unofficial copies of the game, exposing users to hackers who are circulating malicious versions of the game in order to backdoor their devices. "A remote access tool (RAT), known as DroidJack (or SandroRAT), has been added to some APK files, allowing third parties to gain full control over the users' mobile devices. Permissions granted then include: being able to directly call phone numbers, reading phone status' and identities, editing and reading text messages, sending SMS messages and recording audio."

It surely is spurious times...

UPDATE 13/7 -- Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokemon here. "Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism," Andrew Hollinger, the museum's communications director, said. "We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game."

UPDATE 14/7 -- "Law enforcement agencies around the globe are reminding citizens to obey trespassing laws and follow common sense when playing Pokemon Go. The new crazy-popular mobile game has led to some frightening results in recent days, such as the location of a dead body and robberies of players in Missouri. Now, San Francisco Police Department Captain Raj Vaswani warned in one online posting for players to "obey traffic laws, please. Do not run into trees, meters, and things that are attached to the sidewalk; they hurt," he said. "Do not drive or ride your bike / skateboard / hipster techie device while interacting with the app. Know where your kids are going when playing with the app, set limits on where they can go, so they don't keep going trying to get that Pokemon."

UPDATE 19/7 -- "Pokemon Go is now the biggest mobile game of all time in the United States. Not only has it surpassed Twitter's daily users, but it is seeing people spend more time in its app than in Facebook. The game also surpassed Tinder in terms of popularity (based on installations) on July 7th."

UPDATE 29/7 -- "It turns out that the stairs of the Internet Archive’s San Francisco headquarters are a PokéGym, a site where players can train their Pokémon and fight with other Pokémon. Fortunately, the Pokémon warriors aren’t rowdy or disruptive; they resemble somnambulistic zombies stumbling around under the control of their glowing smartphone screens."

UPDATE 8/8 -- How Pokemon Go will make money from you. "Augmented reality games like Ingress and Pokemon Go have the potential to open up a very lucrative new revenue stream based on the acquisition and sale of data – not just personal data, but aggregated spatial data about urban activity patterns. There has already been some controversy about the terms of service for players, which give Niantic access to all manner of data on their phones – including email contacts and social media profiles. This data could potentially be sold to third parties with an interest in targeted advertising. But it is not only individually identifiable personal data that interests Niantic. They are also interested in the spatial data that is generated by Pokemon Go players. As has been widely observed, playing the game rapidly drains phone batteries, because when the game is open your phone is constantly in touch with Niantic servers and providing location information about your movements. [...] Niantic is now harvesting "geospatial data" about millions of people's movements: about how far they are prepared to travel as part of game play; about the kinds of places they stop during game play; about the groups they travel with; and the connections they make during game play, and much more."

UPDATE 18/8 -- I recently discovered some interesting background to the company Niantic Inc.---the company that developed Pokémon Go and indeed Ingress. The company was formed in 2010 by the founder of Keyhole Inc., John Hanke as "Niantic Labs," being an internal startup within Google. Niantic left Google in October 2015.

Keyhole Inc., founded in 2001, was a "software development company specialising in geospatial data visualisation applications and was acquired by Google in 2004." Keyhole was backed by Sony venture capital, NVIDIA and the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, with the majority of In-Q-Tel' funds coming from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. "Keyhole's marquee application suite, Earth Viewer, emerged as the highly successful Google Earth application in 2005; other aspects of core technology survive in Google Maps, Google Mobile and the Keyhole Markup Language. The name "Keyhole" is a homage to the KH reconnaissance satellites, the original eye-in-the-sky military reconnaissance system now some 50 years old."

Just like how now smartphones are the new "eye-in-the-sky" on the ground...

Minutes after a police officer shot Philando Castile in Minnesota, United States, a live video was published on Facebook of the aftermath. Castile was captured in some harrowing detail and streamed to Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, using the live video tool on her smartphone. She narrates the footage with a contrasting mix of eerie calm and anguish. But the video was removed from Facebook due to, as company says, a "technical glitch." The video has since been restored, but with a "Warning -- Graphic Video," disclaimer.

Now an article has come out commenting on how Facebook has become the "de-facto platform" for such "controversial" videos, and that there's a pattern in these so called glitches--as they happen very often time after "questionable content" is streamed.

It has long been obvious to anyone paying attention that Facebook operates various nefarious controls over all aspects of how information is displayed and disseminated on their network, not just with advertising and the filter bubble:

As Facebook continues to build out its Live video platform, the world’s most popular social network has become the de-facto choice for important, breaking, and controversial videos. Several times, Facebook has blocked political or newsworthy content only to later say that the removal was a “technical glitch” or an “error.” Nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media, and two thirds of Facebook users say they use the site to get news. If Facebook is going to become the middleman that delivers the world’s most popular news events to the masses, technical glitches and erroneous content removals could be devastating to information dissemination efforts. More importantly, Facebook has become the self-appointed gatekeeper for what is acceptable content to show the public, which is an incredibly important and powerful position to be in. By censoring anything, Facebook has created the expectation that there are rules for using its platform (most would agree that some rules are necessary). But because the public relies on the website so much, Facebook’s rules and judgments have an outsized impact on public debate.
Source: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/philando-...

Sevdet Besim pleaded guilty to planning a terrorist act.

"...The AFP argued during a 10-day hearing, which concluded earlier this month, the tracking device was "by far the single most important control" in reducing the risk of a terrorist act.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/victoria/tracking-device-removed-from-former-anzac-day-terror-plot-accused-harun-causevic-20160708-gq1m7l.html#ixzz4DnmauiaL 
 

Make note of the screen culture symptoms: lack of linear narrative, increase in speed, shorter attention span, skimming, less engagement with content/meaning, "efficiency", increase in scatterbrain, etc. Also, the descriptions about how this behaviour effects the perception of reality.

I watch television and films in fast forward. This has become increasingly easy to do with computers (I’ll show you how) and the time savings are enormous. [...] I started doing this years ago to make my life more efficient.

[...]

As I’ve come to consume all my television on my computer, I’ve developed other habits, too. I don’t watch linearly anymore; I often scrub back and forth to savor complex scenes or to skim over slow ones. In other words, I watch television like I read a book. I jump around. I re-read. Sometimes I speed up. Sometimes I slow down.

I confess these new viewing techniques have done something strange to my sense of reality. I can’t watch television in real-time anymore. Movie theaters feel suffocating. I need to be able to fast-forward and rewind and accelerate and slow down, to be able to parcel my attention where it’s needed.

[...]

We risk transforming, perhaps permanently, the ways in which our brains perceive people, time, space, emotion. And isn’t that marvelous?
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/w...