Preview: The SDK: The Privacy Edition 2015.03.11 includes stories regarding the FTC, a down-right frightenging tale of a Wi-Fi connected “Hello Barbie” (which Privacy groups have come to call “Eavesdropping Barbie”), Qualcomm’s artificial neurons, and more.
Legit, Important, News.
FTC Enters into Memorandum of Understanding with Dutch Data Protection Authority, Hunton Privacy Log, March 9, 2015
The Memorandum, available here, “does not create legally binding obligations on the FTC or the Dutch DPA, focuses on the following five objectives: [1)] cooperating when enforcing applicable privacy laws such as the FTC Act and the Dutch Data Protection Act, including sharing relevant information about complaints; [2)] facilitating research and education about how to protect personal information; aiding the mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise between the two entities via training programs and staff exchanges; [3)]promoting the understanding of economic and legal conditions and theories that impact the enforcement of applicable privacy laws; [4)]and informing each other of privacy-related developments in their respective countries.”
DirecTV has been tricking consumers into paying more for TV, the FTC says, The Washington Post, March 11, 2015
Announcement Available here. “The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that it is charging DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite television provider, with deceptive advertising — alleging the television provider tried to trick consumers into deals that would leave them paying more than expected for television service.. . . ‘DirecTV misled consumers about the cost of its satellite television services and cancellation fees,’ FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a press release. ‘DirecTV sought to lock customers into longer and more expensive contracts and premium packages that were not adequately disclosed. It’s a bedrock principle that the key terms of an offer to a consumer must be clear and conspicuous, not hidden in fine print.’”
Note: Transparency? Whaaat? How dare we, as consumers, expect that.
Say What Now?
Privacy advocates try to keep ‘creepy,’ ‘eavesdropping’ Hello Barbie from hitting shelves, The Washington Post, March 11, 2015
“In a recent demonstration of its Internet-connected doll, Hello Barbie, a Mattel spokesperson greeted the souped-up version of the iconic doll by saying, ‘Welcome to New York, Barbie.’ Thanks to voice-recognition technology, Barbie was able to analyze that remark and give a relevant, conversational response: ‘I love New York! Don’t you? Tell me, what’s your favorite part about the city? The food, fashion or the sights?’ The company promises that the software will enable the doll ‘to listen and learn each girl’s preferences and then adapt to those accordingly.’. . . But a children’s privacy advocacy group is calling for the company to cease production of the toy, saying Hello Barbie might more accurately be called ‘eavesdropping’ Barbie. Because the doll works by recording children’s speech with an embedded microphone and then sending that data over the Web, these advocates call the technology “creepy” and say it could leave children vulnerable to stealth advertising tactics.”
Note: Psh, I made my Barbies talk when I was a kid, and I was sure they had their own lives, “Toy Story” style. If we should be concerned about anything, it’s more that this will take away kids’ imagination (In all seriousness, this is completely creepy).
Smartphones Will Soon Learn to Recognize Faces and More, MIT Technology Review, March 9, 2015
“Smartphone apps will be able to perceive objects and perform other intelligent tricks thanks to Qualcomm’s newest mobile chips.. . . As well as processing images, the Zeroth software is designed to allow phones to recognize speech or other sounds, and to learn to spot patterns of activity from a device’s sensors. The technology uses an approach to machine learning known as deep learning that has led to recent advances in speech and object recognition, as well as software able to play Atari games with superhuman skill (see “Google’s Intelligence Designer”). Deep learning software is loosely modeled on some features of brains. It can be trained to recognize certain objects in images by processing many example photos through a network of artificial “neurons” arranged into hierarchical layers. Tim Leland, a vice president of product management with Qualcomm, . . . wouldn’t say exactly what those apps might do, but Qualcomm’s demonstrations of the technology have so far focused mostly on enhancing the features of camera apps.”
Note: With great power, comes great responsibility. Apparently, our phones are soon going to have a serious level of responsibility.
Really, Not So Bad
Yik Yak: The anonymous messaging app with a terrible rep is actually pretty great, Slate, March 10, 2015
“The anonymous messaging app gets a ton of bad press, but actually, it’s pretty great. . . Yik Yak is a year-old app that allows people to post random anonymous thoughts to other users within a radius of a couple miles, then up-vote the messages they like and down-vote the ones they don’t. According to the Times, the hyperlocal aspect of Yik Yak has made it popular on high school and college campuses, while the anonymous part has made it fashionable among cowardly jerks. . . Some of the positivity I noticed may result from Yik Yak’s concerted effort to boost its community’s tone. The first rule of Yik Yak is: “You do not bully or specifically target other yakkers.” The second rule of Yik Yak is: “You DO NOT bully or specifically target other yakkers.” Users are encouraged to down-vote or report “useless or offensive” messages; if a yak gets enough negative votes, it disappears from the app; chronically offensive users are threatened with suspension. And the app’s founders have added new features in an attempt to keep things civil: In addition to the virtual schoolyard fences, the Times reports that Buffington and Droll recently added “filters to prevent full names from being posted” and a new warning message that pops up when users type certain sensitive words, like “bomb.” Most social networks can’t be bothered to exert a fraction of that effort.”
Note: All I knew about Yik Yak before reading this is that Facebook is for “old people”, and today’s “youth” (High School/College kids) uses Yik Yak. I’m now slightly more okay with the idea that they’re all using this anonymous app.
Apple’s contribution to the smartwatch: An app-centric approach and Wi-Fi, Ars Technica, March 11, 2015
“Key differences make Android Wear and Apple Watch two very different platforms. . . . With Wi-Fi, an Apple Watch will be useful in the entire house. You won’t have to haul your smartphone around just to get an Internet connection.”
Note: Just wanted to let you know that Apple Watch is cool. Not just nerdy. So there.
Food For Thought
We are citizens, not mere physical masses of data for harvesting, The Guardian, March 11, 2015
“The deal we have struck with the information society over the extent to which our lives are shaped and our privacy invaded requires urgent renegotiation. . . Julie E Cohen, a prominent thinker on networked information technologies, . . . describes how today’s information merchants have exploited a narrative [validating] “openness” and “participation”, through the particular form of voluntary, public and perpetual sharing of personal information with platforms.”
Note: Absolutely true. If we’re not careful about allowing information merchants to use social pressure to compel us to “participate” in society by sharing all of our private information, we’re doomed to wind up in the world described in Dave Egger’s book The Circle, where the thesis is “Privacy is Theft”.