Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Mar 2024)

Scene from movie Her. Main character sits on a modern bench outside talking to his AI partner

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed with fake funeral live streams on Facebookmore algorithm problems and Mozilla Hubs coming to a end.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with Air Canada’s forced to honour their refund policy chatbot, the 4 day working week being taken forward in the UK and finally dating monopoly Match group, sued for addictive design and more.


PublicSpaces conference: Taking Back the Internet in 2024

Ian thinks: The Netherlands PublicSpaces conference is such a fascinating conference full of public internet culture. Don’t miss it this year, put a mark in the calendar for Thurs 6-7th June 2024. Not to be missed and there is a call for proposals here.

Questioning the quantified industry

Ian thinks: Previously as a quantified self person, I found this episode of tech won’t save us a struggle. However I do agree with the insanity of the tech industry trying to quantify every single thing including relationships, dreams and more. I also enjoyed the thoughtful piece by Zach

Its the microplastics which will get you?

Ian thinks: Its good to get a view of the problem of microplastics and some of the latest research. Its clear this is a huge public health issue which people and companies should spend more time on now, rather than some point in the future.

AI partners, a sign of the times

Ian thinks: Everyone points to the film Her, when thinking about AI partners. However it doesn’t even scratch the surface of whats happening with the data, the epidemic of loneliness and the real human problems as described so well in Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.

Webmotization coming to the Chromium project

Ian thinks: Just when you thought Micropayments via WebMontization was gone. Its found its way into the Chromium project which is the base for Chrome, Edge, Brave and so much more. Don’t expect a quick adoption but its positive news for one of the alternative ethical web native business models.

Filterworld, how the algorithm took over culture?

Ian thinks: This book, which I haven’t read sounds perfectly timed for 2024 and the continuing interest in underlying the algorithms. From the review it sounds like a cross between Filter bubble and Get rich or lie lying.

Build your own Bluesky instance?

Ian thinks: It was due to happen. Now Bluesky has pushed the button. This move will put more emphasis on decentralised & federated social networks, although the interoperability back and forth about the AT protocol and ActivityPub will continue.

$50,000 in a shoe box, the Amazon fake call

Ian thinks: Every-once in a while there is a scam which gives me chills. This scam story in the unusual place of The Cut, is very detailed and although the social engineering signs are there. 5 hours on a phone is heavy interrogation and every phone can be spoofed including government ones!

Encryption is a human right, in the EU

Ian thinks: Could it be true, its certainly heading that way. Which has large ramifications for many things we have taken for granted, as you will read in at Techrader.

Lockbit owned and trolled by the security services

Ian thinks: Although its quite fun to watch what has happened to lockbit, its important to remember the damage it has done across the world. This video is a good summary of the security services fun and seriousness of lockbit. if you are not aware.


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Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Aug 2023)

Blue hand holding a key

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed thinking about the eyeball scanning worldcoin, Tesla’s secret range suppression team and dare I even mention @x.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with the BBC joining the fediverse, all those Firefox tips in one video. and EU plans to force replaceable batteries in smartphones.


UK’s online safety bill breaks encryption

Ian thinks: Its clear the UK government like most governments around the world have a difficult problem with end to end encryption. In my own experience anything which weakens encryption means there is no encryption. Anything which weaken encryption is an open door with a door mat and bright lights saying try here and welcome.

AI everywhere, bias everywhere

Ian thinks: This is a disturbing piece about shop owners using facial recognition to protect their stock in the UK. Face-watch is a worrying trend especially knowing how much AI systems are desperate for more training data.

PublicSpaces 2023: The collective of videos

Ian thinks: All the Publicspaces videos are now on peertube and linked on this page. If you only watch one video, I highly recommend the keynotes from Ruha Benjamin, Levien Nordeman and Eli Parser

Race, class, fame and harm: our current social media

Ian thinks: I didn’t see this live in Mozilla House Amsterdam but had a really good talk with Symeon who convinced me to finally read his amazing book.

Is it time to give up on the global internet?

Ian thinks: I hate to say it but this piece has some really good points and its hard to argue against them. The vision of a global internet has been torn apart by many companies, governments and pure greed.

The Eliza effect is big business

Ian thinks: With all the talk about AI, you can’t help but stumble into the chatbot space. Although its easy to laugh, we already know there is a demand to connect with people and there is a ton of companies willing to supply them with better versions of clippy. But do spare a deep thought of all the data being shared and sold too.

A old form of colonialism in effect?

Ian thinks: It was through the tech won’t save us podcast I came across the paper on Open AI’s whisper and indigenous languages. This isn’t just a cautionary tale, its actually as close to the playbook of colonialism. Glad the author and the community are call it out.

Had enough of Captcha’s?

Ian thinks: Although a emerging technology, privacy pass could bring an end to those captcha’s which are annoying, don’t stop a lot of malicious activity, are basically free labour which is used to sell to others. Could this client-side privacy pass protocol which uses un-linkable cryptographic tokens finally put an end to them for good?

Posting without consent is immoral?

Ian thinks: This is a question which has existed for a long time. Even mentioning a persons name can have dire consequences. Two things which were not mention is the interconnected nature of this all.and the EU laws around the right to be forgotten.

RIP Free Kevin

Ian thinks: When i heard Kevin Mitnick died aged 59, I thought back to all the things I had learned through his books, experiences and the free Kevin movement. Well worth re-reading his books and this piece in the register. Rest in piece Kevin.


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Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (May 2023)

Weaken encryption cyberpunk

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the environmental impact of ChatGPT, the fascination to force people back into the office and that musk interview.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with a new right to repair for up to 10 years. how solar got so cheap and John Oliver’s 2nd reaction to cryptocurrencies.


Weakening encryption is a idea which needs to die

Ian thinks: There is so much to say about the potential UK online safety bill, when it comes to encryption. In my personal experience, weaken encryption is no encryption. I’m not the only one. There is a reason why no one uses MD5 anymore.

Using photosynthesis as a source of clean energy?

Ian thinks: This energy hack is exciting to say the very least. Although very exciting its very early. I certainly encourage reading the details of the Cambridge research here.

Heating our homes using abandoned coal mines?

Ian thinks: Novel use of the many shut down coal mines, is a gem of not just an idea but something being put into practice in other countries.

The bright future of Homomorphic encryption, 

Ian thinks: This interview with Rand Hindi of zama.ai is very enlightening. The idea of Homomorphic encryption at every level is fascinating. Could it be quantum resistant? Well Rand certainly thinks so. I also expect we will be hearing a lot more about this in the next 2 years and will be a building block for the public service internet.

Bluesky finally on Android but join the waiting list

Ian thinks: Its good to finally see an Android version of Bluesky, as there is growing interest in Bluesky and the actively developed AT protocol. There is also a lot of pumped up tension from some about Mastodon vs Bluesky which is just nonsense and a waste of energy.

The danger of stochastic parrots

Ian thinks: This very shared piece calls out the real problems of the new range of “AI Chatbot.” Bender runs through history and her challenging sometimes ignorant experiences talking with those evangelising the AI future. Its well worth the read if you haven’t come across it somewhere else already.

The stochastic parrots which drives us insane

Ian thinks: Jaron’s thought on the affects of AI on our well-being is spot on. Be it consistently doubting, double checking or just the overload of AI generated content. It always makes me think an adversarial AI bot working for you makes a lot of sense.

The detailed evidence of the impact of social media on teen girls

Ian thinks: This very detailed post outlines with countless data points summarising the effect of social media on young girls. Just incase you were not clear already?

Is Kevin Kelly’s technium, unrealistic or genius?

Ian thinks: This interview was a difficult one to hear, mainly because I usually find Kevin Kelly a good thinker. However his general thoughts on tech will save us, painful to listen to and it runs through most of his thoughts. Worth a listen with a sharp critical mind.


Find  the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Mar 2023)

See no evil: Loopholes in Google's Data Safety Labels

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing AI for everything, Elon changing the twitter algorithm to insure reach and even the BBC blue check mistake.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with large scale eink screens coming, BBC R&D’s remote interaction guidelines and young people falling out of love with cars.


Mozilla Festival and so much more

Ian thinks: March is the month of the 3rd virtual Mozilla festival, tickets are available now., Mozilla is also responsible for some hard cutting research into the recent data safety labels in the Android play store, which leads to even more Tiktok privacy worries.

The Public Spaces Incubator

Ian thinks: A whole number of public service broadcaster join New_Public to reclaim public spaces with a new incubator looking to tackle so many of the ills online right now. Will it be successful, I hope so, and will be a sign of the great collaborations to come

The internet in transition

Ian thinks: Another long thoughtful piece about the state of the internet within a larger existence of time and history. A lot forgotten in the endless cycle of short term news snippets

Stop talking and buy our stuff, the endless battle

Ian thinks: A reminder of the commercialisation of the internet, services and ultimately community. This thoughtful pieces is a clear reminder of the endless battle, which has been running for so long.

Leaving tech to the private sector is a mistake

Ian thinks: Rosie gets right into the nub of the problem with outsourcing technology to the private sector. In this detailed interview with Paris, you are left with the question of what happened and why?

Its so much worst for workers caught in the a dystopia of our making

Ian thinks: Another reminder of all those people doing your wishes and for so little. The separation from that buy to the dystopia, is so deliberate and carefully done. The only thing which will make it change is our conscious buying?

Encryption burn in the potential era of the UK safety bill

Ian thinks: Signal threatens to leave the UK, Meta and most others are clear this would be a bad idea to weaken encryption to save the children. Its the endless battle but we are getting a glimpse of the real result of this bill.

The illustrated field guide to social media

Ian thinks: Zuckerman and Rajendra-Nicolucci’s illustrated guide although old is a clearly engaging and a neat way to make a point specially now.

The third room metaverse update

Ian thinks: I have been following the third room work for a while now, and was very impressed to see the FOSDEM update. If this isn’t a sign of a open, decentralised, immersive metaverse – what is?


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Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Feb 2023)

The Bank of Dave

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing last pass scramble, the royal mail cyber attack and apple’s data use.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with the new range of biobatteries, Mozilla planning their own instance of Mastodon and the drop in ransomware payouts.


Channel 4’s privatisation U-turn

Ian thinks: Channel 4 survives the governments privatisation plans for now, but I do wonder for how long till the plans change again?

The on-demand economy debate isn’t finished

Ian thinks: A really good summary of the debate which has gone mainly quiet since the pandemic put the whole thing on pause. There hasn’t been much discussion since and Paris highlights the need for society

Breaking out of the Crystal Prison

Ian thinks: Its great to hear Bunnie talking, as its been a long time since the xbox hacking and the controversy at the time. Its also a good relaunch of the EFF podcast which is always full of good ideas.

Encryption still a difficult debate in Europe

Ian thinks: There is a lot of great privacy laws from the EU but as this wired post with Andy Yen points out. There is a lot of tension around encryption, which could under-mind the privacy laws created by the EU.

Fooled by randomness?

Ian thinks: So many people think Tiktok is magic but as explained in this post, its relatively high emphasis on exploration is higher than others and likely fooling people. However the point about the user interface is critical to its success and something to remember.

Has China gained a foothold in the so called publicspace?

Ian thinks: The link between Twitter and China propaganda is quite striking, as talked about in this video. What happens next is a good question, Its also worth reading through the New York Times piece if you prefer text.

Mark think about your obituaries

Ian thinks: Nobel laureate Maria Ressa recently cleared of tax evasion in Philippines, has a lot to say about social media and even more to say to Mark Zuckerberg.

A business model which works for a community

Ian thinks: Its not common I mention a film in the notes but the bank of dave is actually quite a good watch. More importantly is the true story and the banking business model which has been distorted beyond its original roots.


See the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Sept 2022)

a group of people walking down a street next to tall buildings, cyberpunk art by Ji Sheng, cgsociety, afrofuturism, concept art HQ
a group of people walking down a street next to tall buildings, cyberpunk art by Ji Sheng, cgsociety, afrofuturism, concept art HQ – via Midjourney

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing the ring door bell show, twitter not taking security seriously and Android stalkerware with a flaw affecting millions.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

You are seeing aspects of this with some cameras which can optically not see objects and people. Facebook messager pushed into deploying some-kind of encryption and Chokepoint capitalism look very well timed indeed.


1.5 million people avoided ransomware

Ian thinks: Ransomware is awful and is such a big problem. Interpol and others decided to do something about it, to encourage victims from paying out. The 1.5 million victims helped in a short time is impressive

Side by side, the differences between AI image generators

Ian thinks: Over the last few months, the AI image generation world has gone in overdrive. I found this comparison really intriguing although the story of midjourney speaks volumes.

The privacy and security problems of frictionless design

Ian thinks:: What Tiktok is doing is deeply worrying but it raises the bigger question of usability to avoid user agency and data rights.

Terraform: Stories from the future?

Ian thinks: I’m not usually a reader of Sci-Fi but now Black Mirror is cancelled, I am looking out for the audiobook of this book. Interesting short stories about the future we are slowly walking towards.

Could we ever trust robots?

Ian thinks: This talk from the Thinking Digital Conference in Newcastle, made me chuckle but highlights a lot of the problems with the future dreams of robots around the home. Its worth checking out the rest of the conference videos too.

In machines we trust?

Ian thinks: MIT’s podcast about the automation of everything is a good listen. Well thought out and I’m looking forward to the next season in this ongoing question about trust and machines.

The future is bright for open podcasting

Ian thinks: I am still fascinated and still impressed the podcasting industry is holding tight against the larger players. Innovating together and for the benefit of all, a great example of the public focused future.

What can be learned from Netflix’s downturn?

Ian thinks: Everyone has been beating up on Netflix recently, but I found this summary sensible, logical and raises questions about the multipliers of tech companies.

Have you ever considered the term social warming?

Ian thinks: For a long time, I have thought about a term which sums up the downsides of social media/networking. In the book Social Warming: The dangerous and polarising effects of social media, I feel Charles Arthur has found the perfect term.


Find the archive here

Signal or Threema or how about both?

I have been a fan and person encouraging the use of signal over the likes of whatsapp. Its been good to me but like every piece of software there are things I would change about them. For example the whole pin code thing is not only concerning but also a real challenge for casual users.

The pin code thing and phone number thing is not that much of a concern for most but I’ve been keeping an eye on others coming into the space. Threema is one such messaging app which seems to have all the privacy and security needed backed with its strong European base in Switzerland.

I wrote it off in my mind because it didn’t have a open code base for security  experts to view openly. However that recently changed with them opensourcing the code base.

Because of this change I’m relooking at the Threema, although I don’t think I’ll be dumping Signal as a result but rather using both?

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Jan 2020)

Greta Thunberg

Good day, happy new year and looking forward to a new decade with you all!

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the next US election or at the endless denial about explainable algorithms.

To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

You are seeing aspects of this happening with Finland’s new prime minister, Sanna Marin at the age of 34, focusing on climate change.

 

The threat of quantum computing explained

Ian thinks: This is a serious challenger for so much of the encrypted systems we rely on daily.

Why do people listen to Greta?

Ian thinks: Makes a really strong point about creativity. It something I also worry we forget as it doesn’t conveniently fit our tired metrics.

A critical look at economical value

Ian thinks: Mariana makes some great points about different types of value.

Anarchy, Federation, IndieWeb the Fedverse

Ian thinks: Defining yourself in opposition to something else, doesn’t give you enough conceptual space is why I always quoting Buckminster Fuller

EFF’s deep dive into public key encryption

Ian thinks: Its one of those things which is banded about but few people when asked can explain it as well as the EFF

Webxray gives an insight behind the webpage

Ian thinks: The Webxray tool which runs on Linux & Mac is quite impressive to use. Gives a real insight into whats going on in the web when it comes tracking and the advertisement ecosystem

Decentralisation isn’t just about the internet

Ian thinks: The importance of decentralised networks applies to more than just the internet

Jason Silva interviews Kevin Kelly

Ian thinks: Technology, drugs, spiritualism its all in there and its quite a interview too.

Real People, Doing Real Things segment on teamhuman

Ian thinks: The new segment is welcomed on teamhuman and botsentinel is a good project to start with.

Jack Dorsey funding a decentralised twitter

Ian thinks: When I first heard this I almost fell off my chair, then thought this is classic innovators dilemma or twitter seeing the writing on the wall?

What happens when a country’s entire population is hacked?

Hack the planet

I was reading about how a 20-year-old man was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Tuesday afternoon and was charged with an unprecedented hack of the country’s tax authority, ending with the theft of sensitive personal records from nearly every adult in Bulgaria.

The question is what happens when a country’s entire adult population is hacked?

The scope of this attack is vast, and the number of unanswered questions remains significant.

The email the hacker sent to journalists with the leaked data came from a Russian email address. No one is quite sure what that means yet, but given the tension between Russia and Europe, especially in cyberspace, it’s a detail that’s attracted immediate attention.

Closer to home, the Bulgarians are looking at their government and wondering what went so badly wrong.

Its quite a thing when someone else (trusted?) loses control of your data like this. But its happening more and more.

More of a reason to be more choosy about who you trust with your personal data but also more of a reason why companies may want to rethink holding the data at all! Zero-knowledge proof, client side processing, etc is all part of this. But asking that question about the value of holding such data and liability of doing so is even more important.

Till we finally get a grip on this, more headlines like this will become more common place.

Standardnotes my alternative choice to Evernote

Standardnotes

This is continuous fight I keep having with myself… For quite some time I’ve been looking for an alternative to Evernote on Linux & Android. I got it down to 3, Turtl, laverna and standardnotes.

In the end I decided Standardnotes mainly because I needed something which easily syncs like simplenote and I guess evernote. I liked the idea of being able to run my own standardnote server in the future. But the biggest thing for me was being able to convert my evernote notes. Yes it costs but I was happy with the terms (client side encryption) and comfortable with the payment which is less than evernote anyway. I also been looking a little deeper at Standardnotes. The privacy and sustainability statements are just stuff of dreams. Theres very few other services which can say and do these things.

What about the others?

Turtl, was good but the interface drove me a little nutty, having to login each time and no offline support? Maybe in a few years if the project gets more development it grow into something special and I’ll check it out again.

laverna is also good and is very quick and easy to get going but its mainly built around the browser as it uses javascript. There is a android app coming but its not there yet and syncing is tricky because it stores everything in the browser. I think you can move this to a sync container like dropbox, google drive, etc.

Standardnotes

With Standardnotes., I have added it to Wavebox, installed the Android apps (doesn’t install on my ereader as it needs Android 5+) and paid for a year subscription.

So far so good!

I do still use Simplenote for quick and temporary notes, but not I installed the the Linux app, this may go away too. Now I just need to sort out my imported 2177 evernotes!

Storj: A p2p decentralised storage model

Storj: Decentralizing Cloud Storage from Storj on Vimeo.

Storj is an open-source, decentralized, cloud storage platform. It is based on the cryptocurrency Bitcoin’s (BTC) blockchain technology and peer-to-peer protocols. The Storj network uses its own cryptocurrency, Storjcoin X (SJCX), while its front-end software supports the use of other digital currencies such as Bitcoin and more traditional forms of payment like the dollar. Unlike traditional cloud storage providers, Storj keeps data spread across a decentralized network eliminating the problem of having a single point of failure. It also encrypts all data making it impossible for anyone, including Storj, to snoop on users’ files without having a user’s private encryption key. In return for offering storage space to the network, users are paid cryptocurrency.

Imagine storing all your private data across other peoples drives in encrypted form? Imagine getting paid to store this encrypted data?

Well this is Storj and its frankly quite an amazing concept whoses time as come.

This is a very attractve setup for someone like me with many terabytes of storage and hyperfast broadband. Unlike the risks of running an Tor exit node, everything is strongly encrypted and the host has zero knowledge of whats being stored or transfered.

I already have an account as I’d be interested to see how it works. First heard on Steal this show, how the swarm will beat the cloud.