Hey Alexa, Regift Yourself: Google Overtakes Amazon in Biometric Data Acquisition Tools

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According to the Canalys research outfit, Google has taken the lead over Amazon for the first time in the acquisition of biometric identifying data–aka “smart speakers”.  It should come as no surprise that Google is vastly more interested in acquiring “phonemes” by which to identify users and track them through a variety of means.

The “smart speaker” is the latest step in government contractor Google’s long running campaign to track users and build speech-to-text and speech recognition tools.

The program goes back to at least 2007 when Marissa Meyer said of “GOOG-411”:

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that.

So who do you think the customers are for speech-to-text and speech recognition tools to whom government contractors like Google and Amazon might be selling your biometric data?  The biometrics harvesting tools allows Big Tech to connect your voice print and maybe your fingerprints to all the other data that they have already harvested about you from other means.  And of course when you add in facial recognition or iris recognition it’s game, set and match.

Think about that when you enable your fingerprint, iris or facial recognition authentication or talk to Alexa or your Google Home Mini.   Or you could just ask the Shoe Gazer at the Internet Association.

“Hey Alexa, re-gift yourself.”

 

@nickconfessore: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

[A teachable moment in activism that’s an important read to see all the swamp monster machinations that Silicon Valley puts us all through.  The post is extremely well-written but does take a bit of a commitment to read to the end.  Highly recommended that you stick with it to the end of the story.]

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out….

Facebook and Google were following people around the rest of the internet…using an elaborate and invisible network of browsing bugs — they had, within little more than a decade, created a private surveillance apparatus of extraordinary reach and sophistication. Mactaggart thought that something ought to be done. He began to wonder whether he should be the one to do it….

Almost by accident, though, Mactaggart had thrust himself into the greatest resource grab of the 21st century. To Silicon Valley, personal information had become a kind of limitless natural deposit, formed in the digital ether by ordinary people as they browsed, used apps and messaged their friends. Like the oil barons before them, they had collected and refined that resource to build some of the most valuable companies in the world, including Facebook and Google, an emerging duopoly that today controls more than half of the worldwide market in online advertising. But the entire business model — what the philosopher and business theorist Shoshana Zuboff calls “surveillance capitalism” — rests on untrammeled access to your personal data. The tech industry didn’t want to give up its powers of surveillance. It wanted to entrench them. And as Mactaggart would soon learn, Silicon Valley almost always got what it wanted.

Read the post on The New York Times.

@zeynep: It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech

 

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Emporers Zuck and Medvedev

 

For most of modern history, the easiest way to block the spread of an idea was to keep it from being mechanically disseminated. Shutter the news­paper, pressure the broad­cast chief, install an official censor at the publishing house. Or, if push came to shove, hold a loaded gun to the announcer’s head….

In today’s networked environment, when anyone can broadcast live or post their thoughts to a social network, it would seem that censorship ought to be impossible. This should be the golden age of free speech….

And sure, it is a golden age of free speech—if you can believe your lying eyes. Is that footage you’re watching real? Was it really filmed where and when it says it was? Is it being shared by alt-right trolls or a swarm of Russian bots? Was it maybe even generated with the help of artificial intelligence? (Yes, there are systems that can create increasingly convincing fake videos.)

Or let’s say you were the one who posted that video. If so, is anyone even watching it? Or has it been lost in a sea of posts from hundreds of millions of content pro­ducers? Does it play well with Facebook’s algorithm? Is YouTube recommending it?….

Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

Read the post on Wired

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Michael H. Keller: The Flourishing Business of Fake YouTube Views

Martin Vassilev makes a good living selling fake views on YouTube videos. Working from home in Ottawa, he has sold about 15 million views so far this year, putting him on track to bring in more than $200,000, records show.

Mr. Vassilev, 32, does not provide the views himself. His website, 500Views.com, connects customers with services that offer views, likes and dislikes generated by computers, not humans. When a supplier cannot fulfill an order, Mr. Vassilev — like a modern switchboard operator — quickly connects with another.

“I can deliver an unlimited amount of views to a video,” Mr. Vassilev said in an interview. “They’ve tried to stop it for so many years, but they can’t stop it. There’s always a way around.”

After Google, more people search on YouTube than on any other site. It is the most popular platform among teenagers, according to a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, beating out giants like Facebook and Instagram. With billions of views a day, the video site helps spur global cultural sensations, spawn careers, sell brands and promote political agendas.

Read the post on the New York Times

@GiniaNYT: Uber and the False Hopes of the Sharing Economy

The passage of extensive legislation by New York’s City Council on Wednesday, curtailing the previously unchecked powers of Uber and other ride-hailing services, suggests the extent to which the false promises of the sharing economy are becoming better understood and, how much more aggressively they still could be counteracted.

From the beginning, Uber appealed to drivers on the premise that partnering with the company would allow them to do what they really wanted to do, which was not ferrying 24-year-olds to beer halls or actuaries to the airport as a means of full-time employment.

A series of Uber ads that ran in conjunction with the Grammy Awards this year showed some of the artists nominated, in cars, with drivers who were singers and producers themselves. Other ads introduced us to drivers who were nursing students or aspiring businessmen — Uber could fund your creative and professional ambitions, or make it easier to go to Disney World or buy new appliances.

The reality though appears quite different.

Read the post on the New York Times

Labels Follow BMG Rights with Lawsuit Against Cox Communications for Massive Infringement of Sound Recordings

Some of you may recall the resounding victory scored by BMG Rights against Cox Communications challenging the gaping holes in Cox’s alleged repeat infringer policy as documented by Rightscorp.  (Read the hilarious transcript from BMG v. Cox case denying EFF’s amicus brief as quoted in the Supreme Court amicus brief filed by David Lowery, Blake Morgan, East Bay Ray and Guy Forsyth in the current cy pres case brought by Ted Frank.)

In a follow on from the BMG Rights case, a group of record companies are essentially drafting behind BMG on the sound recording side in their own lawsuit against Cox.  This, of course, was to be expected since the evidence unearthed by BMG reflected such a cavalier disregard for the company’s repeat infringer policy and what infringes the song also infringes the sound recording.

Why is that repeat infringer policy so important?  In an oversimplified (but accurate) interpretation, no repeat infringer policy, no safe harbor.  That is enough to send the shredders humming all over the world and explains why the EFF was so interested in trying to influence the outcome of the case.  It also explains why Rightsflow’s investigative services are so important to rights holders as they were instrumental in proving the basic case (although Cox did a very good job of measuring the rope and testing their own noose all by themselves).

It also must be said that Cox never participated in the Copyright Alert System (to my knowledge) which could have gone a long way to helping them getting their repeat infringer policy in line with something that existed in the known universe.  They had a chance.  One final point is that it is an odd thing that BMG is to date the only publisher to enforce their rights against an ISP that I know of, although I’m happy to be educated otherwise.

If you think lions are lying down with lambs, think again.

According to Celebrity Access:

The plaintiffs allege in their suit that Cox is not effectively policing their subscribers who are violating copyrights, even when those alleged violators are brought to their attention by rights holders.

Per the lawsuit:

“Cox deliberately refused to take reasonable measures to curb its customers from using its Internet services to infringe on others’ copyrights—even once Cox became aware of particular customers engaging in specific, repeated acts of infringement. Plaintiffs’ representatives (as well as others) sent hundreds of thousands of statutory infringement notices to Cox, under penalty of perjury, advising Cox of its subscribers’ blatant and systematic use of Cox’s Internet service to illegally download, copy, and distribute Plaintiffs’ copyrighted music through BitTorrent and other online file-sharing services.”

The lawsuit takes issue with a provision of the DMCA, a law passed in 1998 that creates a safe harbor for online service providers such as Cox against copyright infringement liability, provided that they have an effective plan in place to deal with infringers.

The lawsuit cites a previous suit brought against Cox by a group of labels led by BMG. In that case, BMG Rights Mgmt. LLC v. Cox Communications, Inc. and CoxCom, LLC, BMG made substantially similar accusations against Cox, claiming that the company did little to deter rampant copyright infringement taking place via its service.

In 2015, a jury agreed with BMG Et Al. and awarded them a $25 million dollar judgment in that case. The judgment was later overturned on appeal, but the appeals court largely sided with the label’s challenge to Cox’s implementation of the DCMA rules.

ipolicy: CyberTurfing: The Way Democracy Ends

On August 3, 2017 the Moab, Utah Times-Independent published an innocuous-looking letter urging support for net neutrality. Moab, in Utah’s 3rd Congressional district, was facing a special election to replace retiring Representative Jason Chaffetz and the writer argued that support for net neutrality and Title II should be an issue:

It’s time for policymakers in Congress to take a firm stand for our access to a fast, free, and open internet. Unfortunately, we in Moab no longer have a congressperson whom we can urge to speak to this issue. We need a congressperson who will come out in support of strong net neutrality protections — specifically the Open Internet Order and Title II.

The letter was completely fake, however. It was generated by a “CyberTurfing” tool marketed by a company that runs fake grass-roots campaigns for any company or cause willing to pay its price. We know this because the company – New/Mode – brags about it on their web site (click on “like this one”). (The mention of Title II is suspicious in its own right since most people have no idea what it entails.)

Read the post on High Tech Forum