Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Sept 2019)

johnny mnemonic

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking down at our feet or watch how democracy is being gamed and broken. 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.

With a focus on new models in business, technology, society, policy, processes, etc. I present my public service internet newsletter.

You are seeing aspects of this happening as people rethink public transport.

Don’t forget if you find this useful, you will find “Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?” at the RSA London on 21st October  2019, right up your street.

Reflections on capitalism gone wild system

Ian thinks: Rushkoff’s monologue at Betaworks Studio is breathless, funny, tragic and worth every minute of your time.

Ghosts in the smart home

Ian thinks: Lancaster University’s short about smart homes, is a design fiction which is fun, informative and enjoyable to watch. Sure some the living room of the future and petras workstream had a influence?

Black lives matter’s alternative systems

Ian thinks: Theres a question later about the media, Alicia talks about creating their own systems not just relying on what already exists.

Surveillance systems head to head 

Ian thinks: Cambridge Analytica’s whistle blower and Russian investigative journalist, go head to head discussing surveillance capitalism and government surveillance.

Suicide Is an epidemic and therapy apps are not helping

Ian thinks: As we turn to apps for everything a thoughtful look at therapy apps market good and bad. Theres not an app for everything.

The real johnny mnemonic (contains surgery pictures)

Ian thinks: Ever since Quantified Self people started embedding NFC under the skin, I wondered how far it would go. Perfect name for the software

We are not ready, privacy in 2019

Ian thinks: Really good list of the leaks, abuses, dumps and thoughts if we are ready for even more? Question is how many more before the end of year?

Emotional and erotic intelligence for an enlighten future (NSFW)

Ian thinks: Although a talk about sextech is uncomfortable for people, the subject of intimacy, human connection and self reflection are so much more important than our personal discomfort.

Danilo Milovanović public space interventions

Ian thinks: Excellent to see more thoughtful playful artistic interventions in the public realm.

Facebook cafe with free drinks and privacy check-ups?

https://twitter.com/wearesorryfor/status/1162346869017763853

When I saw Jasmine’s reply to Claires tweet. I thought exactly the same thing. Its the ethical dilemma cafe, only 5 years out too late.

Facebook is looking to take the initiative in the social media privacy debate by opening a network of pop-up cafes around the UK. Each will offer patrons free drinks and a privacy checkup, to help assuage consumer concerns about their privacy online.

Facebook Café will run from 28 August to 5 September in a bid to encourage Britons to get on top of their digital footprint, helped along by free-flowing caffeine.

One of these will be located within The Attendant on Great Eastern Street, London, in response to surveys indicating that 27% of Londoners have no idea how to personalise their social media privacy parameters.

Free coffee (what kind) and teas in exchange for? Privacy advice from Facebook, Wifi snooping like most, a honeypot, or maybe a bit of social engineering from FB staff (Scientology style)?

Is it worth it? I very much doubt it but it would be fun to mess with the FB cafe staff and systems. Don’t you think?

What is Web 3.0 and Why Do We Need It?

Web 3, Parity, Polkadot, Substrate, ipfs, blockchain? Wtf?

While visiting Republica 2019 and writing my presentation about it, I was trying to make sense of the deeper decentralised web stack. Jutta Steiner gave a talk at Republica but I was a little lost in what she was talking about. It was clear it was important but I was lost in the terms.

Watching her talk from tech open air (TOA19) was a lot clearer.

She also reminded me about the web3 summit, which I wish I could attend but always felt like I might not be quite the right person for it. I look forward to hearing what comes out of it however because its clear as Jutta says

…The first time I interacted with the web like everything was open and somehow that was the the perception like we now have this great tool and sort of thought like it’s not this these closed intranets. But it’s the information superhighway we can do whatever we want but what happened really over the 30 or so years afterwards was we replicated or built a ton of intermediaries that basically sit between us and anybody we want to interact on the with on the web online, be that through what’s that when we text to someone through Facebook, venmo, whatever you use you buy anything there’s always an intermediary for something that really should be a general p2p interaction. So the problem with this really is what’s underneath this and what led to this mass these mass centralization and of power and data in the hands of very few people is the fact that we had to do this in a very centralized way because this is just how the Internet technologies of where to work so we have an underlying architecture with centralized servers where all the data is gathered because of network effect the power accumulates and accumulates, and this is a very fraught way of doing things because you have a central point of failure and that was massively exposed by the Snowden revelations I mean partly because also backdoors are built into it but partly because it’s it’s centralized architecture…

Clear reason why web 3, I think…

#web30: The world wide web at 30 years old

We owe a lot to Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the 30th Anniversary of the web.

Tim Berners-Lee helped invent the world wide web 30 years ago. And he has consistently pointed out that the original dream that gave rise to it is under threat.

It is exactly 30 years since Sir Tim submitted a paper to his colleagues at CERN, suggesting a way of sharing data across networks, under the title “Information Management: A Proposal”. The humble title belies the importance of what was contained inside, which included a complete sketch for the networked information system that would on to become the internet we know today.

But its really important to think about the next 30 years.

Surveillance capitalism and governmental/state control are hot topics which very much threaten the fabric of the web. But so does our use of the web and the way we treat each other.

I had a really good 10min talk with Sir Tim Berners-Lee during the last Mozilla Festival, while talking about Solid, Databox and data trust. What got me as we talked, was ultimately we were talking about power and where it lies. Power in the hands of governments (Chinese model) , corporations (American model) or people? (could be the European model?)

I think remembering their are humans, not eyeballs, not lefties/rightwingers, etc is so important. Lets celebrate the people of the web!

https://twitter.com/whynotadoc/status/1105400124447039489

Airbnb illegal audio monitoring?

Airbnb monitoring warning

Me and my partner decided on Airbnb for our trip to Barcelona. We found one  and booked it. Generally the flat was ok,

However there was a warning on the kitchen door, stating they are listening for noise 24 hours a day and will cancel bookings if there is loud noise. Looking around I think the device is this thing…?

Airbnb monitoring warning

It certainly put a terrible taste in our mouth and made us feel uncomfortable. Although we didn’t complain straight away and by the time we thought about it, the internet connection was down and if its really connected and not a poor joke; it was no longer going to work. Didn’t cause the host(s) to come and find out what was wrong, even with us complaining about the lack of internet (I debugged it as much as I could, but ultimately we had European roaming data and wasn’t in the flat that much)

This has to be a breach of privacy and I’ve finally complained to Airbnb. Especially after rethinking and re-reading things like this.

Update – Thursday 13th Sept

Since my tweets/toots and this blog post. I had quite a lot of people and journalists get in touch… But I still have seen nothing from Airbnb or the host. So I decided to take one of the journalists up on their offer in a form of social justice. No idea how what I wrote will come across or be edited but as I was seeking out the legal ramifications of what the host had done, I saw this on the Airbnb help site…

Rules for hosts
If you’re a host and you have any type of surveillance device in or around a listing, even if it’s not turned on or hooked up, we require that you indicate its presence in your House Rules. We also require you to disclose if an active recording is taking place. If a host discloses the device after booking, Airbnb will allow the guest to cancel the reservation and receive a refund. Host cancellation penalties may apply.

With that I rewrote to Airbnb and Airbnbhelp to demand a refund on top of everything else I previously complained about.

Sure to update everyone once I hear something….

Update – Friday 15th Sept

I was contacted by Airbnb by phone, the woman ran through a few questions and we talked about what happened again. She agreed this was clearly a breach of the Airbnb terms and could see the listening device and the warning in a few of the photos (as like me, knew what to look for). She said they would block/ban that listing which they have done. They also issued a refund to me and my partner, which is great news as our un-comfortableness certainly had a slight affect on the holiday in Barcelona.

Personally I’m glad I found the Airbnb term above, as that drove things along much quicker. Previous to that, it seemed not a lot was being done?

In our conversation, it was worth noting an Alexa, Google Home, Baby monitors, etc would count as listening devices which must be declared upfront before the guest books.

From Airbnb…

To summarize, we will follow up and investigate the host’s account following your report of a surveillance device in the listing. We take these reports very seriously, once again, thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. Your participation helps keep Airbnb a safe and trusted community.

The realm of third-party trackers on Android

Luman android root cert

I was excited to learn about Lumen Privacy Monitor, as I’ve always wondered about the apps I have installed even when I have restricted the permissions wanted from the installed app.

New research co-authored by Mozilla Fellow Rishab Nithyanand explores just this: The opaque realm of third-party trackers and what they know about us. The research is titled “Apps, Trackers, Privacy, and Regulators: A Global Study of the Mobile Tracking Ecosystem,” and is authored by researchers at Stony Brook University, Data & Society, IMDEA Networks, ICSI, Princeton University, Corelight, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“This is the start of a long project to uncover all the hidden data collection and data dissemination practices on the internet,” Nithyanand explains.

“There’s a huge lack of transparency around how mobile applications behave,” adds Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, a co-author and researcher at ICSI. “People install software, but don’t know what that software is doing.”

The paper’s introduction lays out a troubling scenario: “Third-party services inherit the set of application permissions requested by the host app, allowing them access to a wealth of valuable user data, often beyond what they need to provide the expected service.”

To study this scenario, the researchers used Lumen Privacy Monitor, an Android app they built themselves over a two-year period.

So I installed it just to see what was going on with my Android devices. But there is a problem… Best summed up in this comment from Wcat.

Not open source? TLS interception? Before you install this stop and think about TLS interception. “Those who would trade privacy for security deserve neither.”

Luman asks for permissions to install its own root certificate, and this deeply worries me. TLS inception isn’t a trivial thing to be honest, I know its needed but it had me questioning how I really want to monitor the apps? Also if I remove the app, will the certificate be removed too/how would I know?

Right now, I’m keeping an eye on the app but haven’t installed the root cert yet.

Do you trust grammarly?

grammarly - better writing made easy

Been looking at Grammarly for a while and to be fair they have been massively advertising too. Obviously Google & Facebook know I’m dyslexic and I imagine Grammarly are targeting people like me.

But I’m not keen on the process of sending the text to their centralised server. I understand but I think there is another way to do this, however that way conflicts with their business model. Maybe its a another case for something which should be a public service not left to the private sector?

I’m not the only one asking questions; I have been browsing the terms and conditions too and not keen on what I’ve read so far, the privacy policy alone speaks volumes.

I’ve been using Language tool as their privacy policy seems more reasonable to me and it can work offline and in a more decentralised manner.

Be interested to hear how others get on with it, maybe the benefits greatly outweigh the data ethical concerns?

 

Why VPNs are essential regardless what others say

I tweeted during a ride on the Manchester Metrolink tram but things didn’t seem to come across as I was hoping.

My main point is the image from the mainstream media is VPNs is for pirates and the darkweb. But in actual fact its part of modern day web usage.

I was trying to tweet something but needed to look for a slide presentation which I thought I had on slideshare.net. When looking at slideshare on the metrolink wifi I got a Cisco page about content filtering.

I thought this was just because some of my slides might trigger something but nope its the whole of slideshare.net.

I was pretty annoyed about the whole thing and fired up my home VPN.

Done…

Only took my journey from MediaCityUK to St Peters Square to do all this, hence the confused tweeting. Plus I couldn’t work out where the new Google assistant saves the screenshots.

Didn’t find what I thought I had on my slideshare but I did find it elsewhere, I’ll go into details in my next blog post.

 

Dark data experiments?

Untitled - man in the dark
I have a lot of curiosity and one of the things which has consistently got me curious, is the challenges of the hidden. Hidden being the trick, the data, the technique, the place or the knowledge. This is why I’m very interested in Hacker House (it was almost added to my new years resolutions for 2017 even).

Currently data is the hidden which intrugued me the moment, hence my massive interest in data ethics. There’s been 3 experiments which have really got me jumping up and down about this all… thought I’d share while I eat cheese and drink wine on Christmas day

  • Click Click Click
    A perfect and fun demonstration of mouse tracking on websites using just JavaScript. This is the data the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc use to track users dwell time and implicit actions on the website. Found via some folks on our BBC R&D internal slack.
  • I know what you downloaded (…last summer or even last Christmas)
    This site collects IPs from public torrent swarms by parsing torrent sites and listening to the DHT network. They have more than 500.000 torrents which where classified and have data on peers sharing habits. The slightly twisted feature is the ability to share a link and see what people have been sharing. I promise not to do this but highlights the problem with shortern urls and long query strings you can’t be bother to read or don’t understand how they work (knowledge). Found via Torrentfreak
  • Find my phone
    Man’s smartphone is stolen in Amsterdam, so the same man decides to root another phone and deliberately track the phone. Along with the person who stole it! The results are turned into a video which you can watch on youtube.
    Found via Schneier

Why I stopped caring about what most people think about privacy

PUBLIC DOMAIN DEDICATION - Pixabay-Pexels digionbew 14. 01-08-16 Feet up LOW RES DSC07732

Simon Davis’ post about “Why I’ve stopped caring about what the public thinks about privacy” is such a great piece. I’m sorry to Simon but I had to copy a lot to give the full context.

To put it bluntly, I’ve stopped worrying about whether the public cares about privacy – and I believe privacy advocates should stop worrying about it too.

Unless human rights activists and their philanthropic backers abandon their focus on public opinion, the prospects for reform of mass surveillance will disintegrate.

I’ll go even further. Unless human rights activists and their philanthropic backers abandon their focus on public opinion, the prospects for reform of mass surveillance will disintegrate.

I’m aware that these thoughts might sound wildly contradictory – if not insane. Over the past three years I’ve tested them out on audiences across the world and experienced waves of disbelief. That’s one reason why I’m certain those ideas are on the right track.

In summary, my belief is that too many of us are obsessing about whether X percent of people change their default privacy settings, or whether Y+4 percent “care very much” about privacy – or indeed whether those figures went up or down in the last few months or were influenced by loaded questions, etc etc.

As advocates, we should never buy into that formula; it’s a trap. And for funding organisations to think that way is a betrayal of fundamental rights. A program director for a medium sized philanthropic foundation told me earlier this month that her board had “given up” on privacy because “we can’t measure any change in people’s habits”. I don’t see that equation being used as a measure of the importance of other rights.

In the failed rationale of opinion and user behaviour statistics, the relative importance of privacy depends on the level of active popular interest in the topic. According to some commentators, privacy is a non-issue if only a minority of people actually adopt privacy protection in their social networking or mobile use.

Imagine if that logic extended to other fundamental rights. It would mean that the right to a fair trial would be destabilized every time there was a shift in public sentiment. And it would mean that Unfair Contract protections in consumer law would never have been adopted – replaced instead with a “Buyer Beware” ideology.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying public opinion isn’t relevant. Nor am I saying that public support isn’t a laudable goal. We should always strive to positively influence thoughts and beliefs. It’s certainly true that for some specific campaigns, changing the hearts and minds of the majority is critically important.

The struggle for human rights – or indeed the struggle for progress generally – rarely depended on the involvement of the majority (or even the support of the majority).

However, on the broader level, there’s a risk that we will end up cementing both our belief system and our program objectives to the latest bar talk or some dubiously constructed stats about online user behaviour. Or, at least, the funding organisations will do so.

It seems to me we’ve been collectively sucked into the mindset that privacy protection somehow depends on scale of adoption. That populist formula is killing any hope that this fragile right will survive the overwhelming public lust for greater safety and more useful data.

I’ve noticed an enduring (and possibly growing) argument that public support for privacy is largely theoretical because relatively few people put their beliefs into practice. Conversations on that topic tend to dwell depressingly on public hypocrisy, with detractors pointing out that the general population fails to use the privacy tools that are on offer. Even worse, whole populations avidly feed off the very data streams that they claim to be wary of. Apparently this alleged public disinterest and hypocrisy invalidates arguments for stronger privacy.

(As a side point, I don’t believe that the situation is so black and white. People have become far more privacy aware in recent years, and their expectations of good practice by organisations have increased. People change their behaviour slowly over time, and yet there has been real progress in recent years.)

I also (generally) am less caring of what the general public think about these issues. In recent times, people have convinced me to join different services and tactfully decline. I do sometimes forget my world isn’t the mainstream, and wonder why are we still having these discussions.

Don’t get me wrong, its always interesting good to have the discussion, especially because most people still see privacy in a binary way but when pressed are much less binary about their decisions. A while ago I started calling it data ethics as privacy alone leaves the door open to worries about security for example.

Context and experience has a lot to do with it and in the discussion this becomes much clearer. Just ask anyone who has had their idenity stolen, hacked or abused. Most of the public will never (luckily) experience this.

I’d chalk this one up as listen to the experts

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.

What data is personal to you?

Alex data ethics

On International data privacy day, BBC R&D has posted a video asking a bunch of smart people what data is personal to them?

As I have been working on the project for quite sometime, I can happily say there is a lot more to come. Including ways to feedback. Go check have a look and see if you agree with the opinions of our industry experts?

You might have seen the theme of the work in the blog post ethics of data and what we setup at Mozilla Festival. Expect more in the future…

 

Ello and welcome to no pesky ads

inspired by ello, the network

Been keeping my eye on the move to create ethical social networks which don’t take the living piss with our data. Things like Tent.io, Known and now Ello are gathering some momentum…

We originally built Ello as a private social network. Over time, so many people wanted to join Ello that we built a public version of Ello for everyone to use.

Ello recently got quite serious about its non-ad and no selling of personal data.

Ad-free

Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties.

Virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. You’re the product that’s being bought and sold.

Collecting and selling your personal data, reading your posts to your friends, and mapping your social connections for profit is both creepy and unethical. Under the guise of offering a “free” service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.

We also think ads are tacky, that they insult our intelligence and that we’re better without them.

To be fair its way off being something massive, but thats what makes it interesting I feel. I’m now on the network, so if you are interested in a invite and we are friends, drop me a email or tweet…

Do you want to know a secret?

Secret

I have installed the Secret app but everytime I look at it, can’t decide if I should sign up or not.

If you don’t know Secret app

Secret is a mobile app (iOS and finally Android) that allows people to share messages anonymously within their circle of friends, friends of friends, and publicly. It differs from other anonymous sharing apps such as PostSecret and Whisper in that it is intended for sharing primarily with friends, potentially making it more interesting and addictive for people reading the updates wondering if its a friend they know.

The problem I have is, do I trust them to keep my secrets secret? First clue is usually in the Terms of Conditions and Privacy statement.

Looking at the ToC and Privacy, theres nothing insane described but I’m sure when Facebook was first described in the EULA it was all smiles but….

We change these Terms of Service every so often. If we make changes, we will notify you by revising the date at the top of the policy and, in some cases, provide you with additional notice

I imagine after a few months the terms will change and suddenly the secrets are less ummmmm secret?

The best of the rest of Thinking Digital 2014

Thinking Digital 2014

As mentioned in the previous 2 blog posts. Thinking Digital 2014 was excellent and further proves this conference is getting better everytime.

I pulled out 2 great talks and already wrote about them previously…

But there were more great talks, worthy of talking about.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jeni Tennison
Got to love Jeni, shes wonderful, warm and so down to earth. I’ve known her from my XML/XSLT days. Her talk reminded me of the struggles and endless fight to liberate data when I was leading BBC Backstage. Those fights are almost never ending… Glad to hear some of the battles are finally being won.

Thinking Digital 2014

Meri Williams
I have known Meri for years and years and always associate her with Newcastle. But I knew she worked very internationally. Her talk was great and had me thinking alot about my own position. She said we should all be asking ourselves, “Can someone like me can be successful here?” I specially like pointers to Dan Pink’s Drive and the term seagulls management. Great talk Meri, lots to take away…

Thinking Digital 2014

Mariana Mazzucato
Never heard of Mariana but after an introduction from Chi Onwurah the local MP for Newcastle or Gateshead. Mariana launched into a massive talk, outlining how the public sector should/could act more like the private sector. Ultimately she started to debunk the myths of public vs private as she does in her book entrepreneurial state (must look into this). This renew my faith in the public sector again.

Thinking Digital 2014

Erin McKean
Returning to the Thinking Digital stage again, Erin this time turned her talk towards new types of discovery. She said discovery should be ambient and contextual. Almost feeling like serendipity. I would suggest perceptive as a way to think about this stuff?

Thinking Digital 2014

Jennifer Gardy and Peter Gregson
Another returning speakers and this time teaming up together to do something new. This time Jennifer and Peter decided to visualise DNA through the medium of music. Some artistic direction was applied but the result was beautiful.

Thinking Digital 2014

Hayley Parkes
Hayley provided more music and what stunning music. So stunning that I dare not take a picture while Hayley was playing because the sound of the prism spinning might distract from the music. I was amazed at the story of Hayley and further provides me with the joy to know that the debate over nature vs nurture is wide open.

Thinking Digital 2014

Suzy Muclahy
Following Jennifer and Peter, Suzy Muclahy explained a number of the processes in the brain and body. The most interesting one for me was the stroke, which is something like #mybrushwithdeath. I later spoke to Suzy about a number of things including . Such a shame we didn’t get to spend more time talking, because we were bouncing from subject to subject.

Thinking Digital 2014

Steve Mould
Wasn’t expecting much but Steve’s talk about science and ultimately self siphoning beads was funny, witty and entertaining. I especially love the dubstep remix.

Thinking Digital 2014

Jemima Kiss with Christian Payne and Meri Williams
In a nice turn around for Thinking Digital, Jemima chaired a panel discussion mainly about the post-snowden era and whereables. As you can imagine, it was all about post-snowden and Aral’s recent talk. The last 5mins was about whereables and to be fair it wasn’t anywhere as interesting as the rest of the debate. Great to hear Jemima go through the timeline of what changed since last year.

Thinking Digital 2014

Tom Scott
After Aral’s talk and the panel discussion with Jemima Kiss, the mode and tone was low. Not because of the great talks but because there was a feeling that things were not right in the digital world.

Tom Scott’s finishing talk was Tom in 2030 looking back and talking to us in 2014. The main message was don’t panic, humanity will live out and we will prevail. And he’s right, don’t get me wrong. Everything is worth fighting for, but in the end we will prevail. We owe a lot to each and everyone of the whistle-blowers, hackers, journalists, etc which help us make sense of whats happening out there. Privacy is a human right and there will be a massive backlash once people feel its gone too far. The question is when enough people think its gone far enough…?

Thinking Digital 2014

A very fitting and uplifting end to another fantastic Thinking Digital conference. I’ll be clear and say all the speakers were great and although they may not have gotten on to my highlights list, they were all great. Thanks Herb and his wonderful team for putting on yet another great show, I especially like the Q&A by the way (more questions from the crowd please!)

Tickets for 2015 are live now by the way. Looking forward to another exciting thinking digital…