(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘privacy

“There are no private lives. This a most important aspect of modern life.”*…

The idea that China gives every citizen a “social credit score” continues to capture the horrified imagination of many. But it is more bogeyman than reality. Instead, we should be worrying about other, more invasive surveillance practices – and not just in China, argues MERICS analyst Vincent Brussee

“What if every action that you took in your life was recorded in a score like it was a video game?” … “If your score drops to 950, you will be subject to re-education.” … “It is the beginning of slavery, complete control, and the disappearance of all freedoms … In China, they call it social credit.” These are just some of the statements made in parliamentary debates in Europe and online commentaries about China’s Social Credit System. Given the vehemence of these views, and the attention they attract, it must have come as a real headscratcher to many when China recently pledged that would ban the use of AI for social scoring.  

So, what are the facts relating to China’s Social Credit System (SoCS)? First, a system does exist, but it is very different from what is imagined by many critics outside China. The biggest disconnect is around the notion of scores. Some commentators seem to imagine that a magic algorithm draws from AI cameras and internet surveillance all over the country to calculate a score that determines everyone’s place in society. In reality, the SoCS is not the techno-dystopian nightmare we fear: it is lowly digitalized, highly fragmented, and primarily focuses on businesses. Most importantly, such a score simply does not exist.

… this does not mean that the SoCS is benign. It also does not imply that China’s broader surveillance apparatus is a myth – quite to the contrary. However, public debates typically do not focus on these aspects. Rather, the interest in the system often stems from broader anxieties about digital technologies, as reflected in the UN pledge and similar actions taken by other countries. Often, the SoCS is merely invoked as a metaphor: either to depict some technological threat at home or to portray a techno-dystopian China. 

This is symptomatic of a tendency to see China not as a real place with real people, but as an abstract “negative opposite” of “us.” While our discussions on tech in China remain overshadowed by largely fictional scoring, we ignore real threats of surveillance to exactly those people in China. And when we use the SoCS to invoke the image of a technological threat at home, we lose sight of potentially acute technological threats much closer to reality. 

In both cases, the real losers are the people that those making the claims say they want to protect…

More at “China’s social credit score – untangling myth from reality,” from @Vincent_WDB at @merics_eu.

See also: “China just announced a new social credit law. Here’s what it means- The West has largely gotten China’s social credit system wrong. But draft legislation introduced in November offers a more accurate picture of the reality,” in @techreview.

[Image above: source]

* Philip K. Dick, who also said “There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me’.”

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As we ponder the panopticon, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation– that’s to say, inaugurating the Atomic Age.

“…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
– Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society) source

Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 2, 2022 at 1:00 am

“There are only two different types of companies in the world: those that have been breached and know it and those that have been breached and don’t know it.”*…

Enrique Mendoza Tincopa (and here) with a visualization of what’s on offer on the dark web and what it costs…

Did you know that the internet you’re familiar with is only 10% of the total data that makes up the World Wide Web?

The rest of the web is hidden from plain sight, and requires special access to view. It’s known as the Deep Web, and nestled far down in the depths of it is a dark, sometimes dangerous place, known as the darknet, or Dark Web

Visual Capitalist

For a larger version, click here

And for a look at the research that underlies the graphic, click here.

What’s your personal information worth? “The Dark Web Price Index 2022,” from @DatavizAdventuR via @VisualCap.

(Image at top: source)

Ted Schlein

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As we harden our defenses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that arguments began in the case of United States vs. David LaMacchia, in which David LaMacchia stood accused of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud. He had allegedly operated the “Cynosure” bulletin board system (BBS) for six weeks, to hosting pirated software on Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) servers. Federal prosecutors didn’t directly charge LaMacchia with violating copyright statutes; rather they chose to charge him under a federal wire fraud statute that had been enacted in 1952 to prevent the use of telephone systems for interstate fraud. But the court ruled that as he had no commercial motive (he was not charging for the shared software), copyright violation could not be prosecuted under the wire fraud statute; LaMacchia was found not guilty– giving rise to what became known as “the LaMacchia loophole”… and spurring legislative action to try to close that gap.

Background documents from the case are here.

The MIT student paper, covering the case (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 18, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows”*…

Low Earth Orbit Satellites are objects that orbit the earth at lower altitudes than geosynchronous satellites, usually at between 160 km and 1000 km above the earth. They’re primarily used for imaging (think Google Maps/Earth, military reconnaissance, spying, and the like) or communications (signal relay, a la Starlink‘s new satellite internet service).

Even as there are concerns about the proliferation of objects in the sky at that altitude– ranging from the occlusion of the view into space through privacy to the accumulating layer of junk that defunct satellites could become— the rush to launch is on.

Leo Labs (@LeoLabs_Space) is a platform that aims to support developers and operators of LEOs. They provide a handy (and mesmerizing) real-time visualization of all of the LEOs aloft.

* a recurring line on Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour, a radio show that aired from 1934-1948 (then became Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour on television).

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As we look up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that President John F. Kennedy (and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson) visited newly-minted American hero John Glenn at Cape Canaveral to congratulate Glenn on becoming the first American to orbit the earth. Piloting Friendship 7, he had orbited the earth three times before splashing down in the Atlantic.

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“Foresight begins when we accept that we are now creating a civilization of risk”*…

There have been a handful folks– Vernor Vinge, Don Michael, Sherry Turkle, to name a few– who were, decades ago, exceptionally foresightful about the technologically-meditated present in which we live. Philip Agre belongs in their number…

In 1994 — before most Americans had an email address or Internet access or even a personal computer — Philip Agre foresaw that computers would one day facilitate the mass collection of data on everything in society.

That process would change and simplify human behavior, wrote the then-UCLA humanities professor. And because that data would be collected not by a single, powerful “big brother” government but by lots of entities for lots of different purposes, he predicted that people would willingly part with massive amounts of information about their most personal fears and desires.

“Genuinely worrisome developments can seem ‘not so bad’ simply for lacking the overt horrors of Orwell’s dystopia,” wrote Agre, who has a doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an academic paper.

Nearly 30 years later, Agre’s paper seems eerily prescient, a startling vision of a future that has come to pass in the form of a data industrial complex that knows no borders and few laws. Data collected by disparate ad networks and mobile apps for myriad purposes is being used to sway elections or, in at least one case, to out a gay priest. But Agre didn’t stop there. He foresaw the authoritarian misuse of facial recognition technology, he predicted our inability to resist well-crafted disinformation and he foretold that artificial intelligence would be put to dark uses if not subjected to moral and philosophical inquiry.

Then, no one listened. Now, many of Agre’s former colleagues and friends say they’ve been thinking about him more in recent years, and rereading his work, as pitfalls of the Internet’s explosive and unchecked growth have come into relief, eroding democracy and helping to facilitate a violent uprising on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in January.

“We’re living in the aftermath of ignoring people like Phil,” said Marc Rotenberg, who edited a book with Agre in 1998 on technology and privacy, and is now founder and executive director for the Center for AI and Digital Policy…

As Reed Albergotti (@ReedAlbergotti) explains, better late than never: “He predicted the dark side of the Internet 30 years ago. Why did no one listen?

Agre’s papers are here.

* Jacques Ellul

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As we consider consequences, we might recall that it was on this date in 1858 that Queen Victoria sent the first official telegraph message across the Atlantic Ocean from London to U. S. President James Buchanan, in Washington D.C.– an initiated a new era in global communications.

Transmission of the message began at 10:50am and wasn’t completed until 4:30am the next day, taking nearly eighteen hours to reach Newfoundland, Canada. Ninety-nine words, containing five hundred nine letters, were transmitted at a rate of about two minutes per letter.

After White House staff had satisfied themselves that it wasn’t a hoax, the President sent a reply of 143 words in a relatively rapid ten hours. Without the cable, a dispatch in one direction alone would have taken rouighly twelve days by the speediest combination of inland telegraph and fast steamer.

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“The proper definition of a man is an animal that writes letters”*…

If you sent a letter in 17th-century Europe, there was a good chance it would pass through one of the continent’s so-called “Black Chambers”—secret rooms attached to post offices and staffed by intelligence units, where mail was opened, copied, resealed, and sent on its way, with the writer and recipient none the wiser.

Nadine Akkerman, a senior lecturer at Leiden University, is an expert in 16th- and 17th-century espionage. But during her research into the Black Chambers, she ran across something perplexing—a document by Samuel Morland, a British spymaster, in which he bragged about his talent for opening and resealing letters. “Wait,” she thought to herself. “Can’t we all do that?”

It wasn’t until she met Jana Dambrogio and Daniel Starza Smith—researchers studying letters and document security during this period—that Morland’s braggadocio began to make sense. As it turns out, letters in the 1600s didn’t look exactly like letters today. Mass-produced envelopes weren’t invented until the 1830s, meaning that most 17th-century letter writers folded their correspondence in such a way that it became its own envelope—a process Dambrogio had dubbed “letterlocking.” Letterlocks could be simple, just a series of quick folds without any sort of adhesive. But they could also be incredibly complex, even booby-trapped to reveal evidence of tampering…

Postal privacy– “Cracking the Code of Letterlocking“: a tale of Black Chambers, lost correspondence, and high technology.

* Lewis Carroll

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As we muse on missives, we might recall that it was on this date in 1997 that the U.S. Postal Service issued the Bugs Bunny stamp– the first stamp honoring an animated character.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 22, 2021 at 1:01 am

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