A spy under the tree for the holidays?

The Observer on IOT and spying

Quite enjoyed Guardian’s piece about the raff of home iot devices coming to the home these holidays.

If you’ve so far withstood the temptation to install a smart speaker in your home, worried about the potential privacy pitfalls and a bit embarrassed about the notion of chatting aimlessly to an inanimate object, brace yourselves. This Christmas, the world’s biggest tech giants, including Amazon, Google and Facebook, are making another bid for your living room, announcing a range of new devices that resemble tablets you can talk to.

It was a real welcome surprise to read/hear Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino too. Her new book Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life is pretty much on the money.

“It’s very clear what they’re trying to do: sell you more stuff through third-party use of your own information,”

The fear about whether or not such devices are actually always on causes some users to relegate their smart speakers to corridors. “Think about where in the home you want to use these things, particularly if you think they might be listening all the time,”

I had the joy of capturing some of Alexandra’s early thoughts while putting together the ethics of personal data video interviews back in 2015.

I think the only thing missing from the article is a link to Mozilla’s buyers guide, which charts in a friendly consumer fashion whats actually going on underneath the surface of the iot devices we may get over the holiday period.

Remember what Zuckerberg said about its trusted users?

Mark Zuckerberg is “deluded” by his own faith in Facebook’s ability to be a force for good in the world.

I have so many pieces saved in my wallabag archive about the faccebook/cambridge analytica data issues (it is not a breach!). As I read, more information comes to light.

But I am always reminded of what Zuckerberg said about its trusted users… and it sums up so much.

Dumb fucks…

The thing about the statement is although it might be throw away in nature it speaks volumes about the way Zuckerberg thinks about Facebook users. It also interesting to think how Facebook is makes users feel that way, taking the power and control out of their hands. The reactions to the reveals have been so-so like when Edward Snowdon revealed the mass surveillance of millions of citizens around the world.

But its super clear, no matter how powerless we all feel, its super important to not lose sight that these giant companies have weaponised data, algorithms and psychology against us all. Running from one service to another isn’t so helpful in the long run.

We need to be more conscious about our decisions physically, mentally and virtually or be the dumb fucks Zuckerberg talked about.

Snowden & Bunnie against the law

Quite a few people shared with me Forbidden Research
at MIT Media Lab. It going to be streamed live, which I hope to be tuned into. Its got Edward Snowdon and Bunnie (yes the orginal xbox hacker!)

In a world where seemingly anything is possible, there are still lines of inquiry and research that—for a host of reasons—remain forbidden. Exploring restricted scientific and cultural topics in the face of social and moral constraints requires a willingness to buck the rules; to disobey them conscientiously. You don’t win a Nobel prize by doing what you’re told, but there is a fuzzy line—sometimes obvious only in retrospect—between disobedience that helps society and disobedience that doesn’t.

Run a session in the tale of two cities at Mozfest

Global Village at Mozfest

The call for proposals is up and Mozilla are asking for diverse, interactive and workshops from the savvy public. This year the proposals can be in French, Spanish and Arabic. Also this year the theme in the physical area is the Tale of Two Cities

A tale of two cities

Dilemmas in connected spaces

This space will allow makers and learners to explore these dilemmas through a series of interactive experiences and mischievous interventions. Participants might nap on a squishy chair that generates sleep data; cook a snack in a connected kitchen where appliances only sometimes do as you say; and hack on IoT hardware.

The theme builds on 2014’s ethic dilemma cafe and raises the stakes by forcing people to consider the choices we all make during our digital and physical lives.

Are you a consumer or maker? Rather do your bit in the open garden or prefer the confort of a walled garden? Want everything free or rather pay what you like? Rather device automation or manuel control?

Each one of these have different factors and considerations, and we will let them play out as physical spaces. We’d love to see workshops which explored these types of decisions we make with our physical & digital interactions. There are many more we haven’t even considered, which I know you will…

Sessions don’t have to be super sketched out, we can work it up into something special together. You will also be able to see how we discuss and select sessions on Github, as we did last year. Radical transparancy could be a nice dilemma to explore?

You know what to do… Put in a proposal before August 1st

BBC RD ethics of data videos on youtube

The ethics of data videos we created a year ago are now finally on youtube for everybody to watch on the BBC R&D channel.

You might remember it was a project which I talked about last year.  I have personally refereed these videos many times and would still like to see the hours of footage we shot, be used in the future. I mean we had some great guests and a lot of what they said was gold dust.

These videos are also the first public videos to run through a new experimental R&D tool for automatically putting transcriptions into a existing video for subtitling.

If you haven’t seen the videos, this is the time to go check them out, very relevant even now, and enjoy the automated positioned subtitles.

Your home needs a blockchain

Grandpa's Pocket Ledger & My Field Notes

The internet of things or web of things has always been quite interesting,, even with the terrible ideas to marry the internet with certain objects in bad ways (cue the internet connected fridge).

Even myself have started to purchase a number of objects and appliances which are internet connected, such as my philips Hue lights. Not necessary so I could turn them on and off anywhere in the world but I like the colour control and have ambitions of doing something similar to redshift/flux/twilight Still need to work on this part.

I’m very peed off that Philips just pushed an firmware update which blocks 3rd party support for their bulbs. Luckily they saw the error of their ways.

This is only the beginning of course….  (don’t even go there about ethics of data). Something I have been keeping an eye on using Diigo groups.

Thinking about this quite a bit, especially during the build up for Mozilla Festival this year. We planned to connect as many things  together via their open API’s (now you see the connection with the Philips Hue lights), log it to a life-stream and then printed out into a number of books.

Global Village at Mozfest

Why?

Part of it is making data physical, one of the underlying ideas behind the iotsignals idea, which drifted into the ethics of data. Which is fitting because….I can point you to Alexandra and Aleks in the ethics of data.

Aleks – If we had a status life for every single time that light over there was communicating with that lift, or that thing over there was talking to that thing at the bank. If we had a status every time we would just be completely frantic and totally dizzy with inputs.

There is a trend to internet enable everything.

Alexandra – I think the potential of IOT emerged when technology was cheap enough that you may want to put it anywhere.

The Nest thermostat, Smart TV, Smart fridge, Hue lights, etc, etc… You don’t want to know the up to date status of everything.

Nest Thermostat

But you may want to know or understand why your heating keeps turning off just as you finish cooking dinner?

Smart devices should log all communication/transactions/decisions with other devices. If the Nest decides the temperature is too high, it should be logged somewhere. Giving an insight into the underlying algorithm and decisions. Why and what triggers it… This is one step on the very long road to build trust with devices.

Of course if you haven’t guessed lifestream isn’t the right thing. What is needed is a home wide blockchain system.

From reading, about blockchain.

In essence it is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. The participants in a blockchain system collectively keep the ledger up to date: it can be amended only according to strict rules and by general agreement. Bitcoin’s blockchain ledger prevents double-spending and keeps track of transactions continuously.

This could be the perfect ledger/logging technology for building reputation and trust with devices/things. Of course the participants would be things, who all agree to update the home blockchain..

This level of transparency in what the systems and things around you are doing allows for inspection by people. I don’t assume most people will care till something happens. Same as when people have their identity stolen or compromised in some way. Like the GPL (general public licence) enables, you can have somebody else inspect, consult, recommend, etc on your behalf if you allow them permission.

This should be a start to the little black boxes appearing one day. Worst than Doctor Who is the little black boxes can change their function based on a external demands. Yes you may get a email saying read our new EULA update but honestly most people delete it or ignore it. Its only once something stops working or acting differently from before, people may actually start to wonder.

It seems pretty obvious to me but I’d love to hear why I’m wrong or how it can’t work…. Even Big Blue gets it, somewhat.

Our rights in the data/digital/cyberspace

Doc Searls

We have two selves in the world at any given time now. We have the physical self, our flesh and blood, our voice, our presence in the world which extends beyond our bodies but lives in this physical space. There’s this other space, we started out calling cyberspace a long time ago, but it’s a real thing. It’s a data space.”

…Doc Searls

There is one charity I always give time and money to, the Open Rights Group. For me our human rights transcend (must/should)  into the digital domain. Its the new battleground. Its also something lots of people are not really aware of or take for granted. But every week there’s another news story of our digital rights being taken for granted and abused on unimaginable scales.

Digital rights are your human rights in the digital age. They are one of the most important aspects of your human rights today: privacy and free expression online are among the most contested. The digital rights movement exists because we need people to understand how technology is shaping our rights, for good and for ill, and who it is who is seeking to employ and capture technology for their benefit rather than yours.

There are positive and negative sides which I have written about many times.

Its becoming clear that the services we use, connected objects and spaces we inhabit are collecting our personal data. What they are doing with that data is only one of the question asked in ethics of data documentaries.

The documentaries which were put together by BBC R&D, exploring the implications for  digital right through the lens of the physical internet, personal data, data ownership and data management.

Alexander DS

Why the physical internet?

For many people the internet is still an entity which exists in a box, be it a desktop computer or laptop. This notion is pretty much broken by mobile devices and smart tvs. LG and Samsung have both been caught out using personal data in ways undesirable by most people were not expecting. But thats only the tip of the iceberg as Alex says…

You could make a good case for technology to be imbedded in everything we know. What kind of technology it is and what does it do, and what purpose does it serve is always the next question

Its time to consider a much wider context that most people think about when they hear internet of things. Think smart homes, cars, spaces and cities.

Jon Rogers

You’re personal data and privacy?

The comments made by the likes of Vint Serf about privacy being an anomaly and this being a digital dark age. It made sense to try and tackle the big issue of privacy in the digital age. There so much which could be explored as this is a very deep  and complex subject. There is only so much you can explore in minutes, but I feel Jon highlights why this is more critical than ever before.

We always make mistakes and we always want to forget them and the trouble with the internet is that we can’t forget them.”

Adriana lukus

Its about ownership and choice?

It all seems pretty scary and negative, and it never was meant to be. So to underline the choices people need/should make, we looked into ownership and choice. Something I have through a lot about especially with my history with dataportability. Early adopters are not only collecting their own data but also analysing it and quantifying it. As Adriana says…

“The quantified self is that, is the living, breathing part of the web or the technology scene where people genuinely care about data.”

The documentaries are made so you can comment directly on parts (thanks to reframed.tv), so please do. We look forward to the discussion and don’t forget to join our diigo group bookmarking related news stories.