On Brexit and the task of confronting technofeudalism

ONE YEAR since the final deal for Brexit was announced, it remains one of the most divisive political subjects for a generation. Perhaps unknown to most, the incendiary B-word had its genesis in the term “Grexit” — coined during tumultuous years after the 2008 credit crunch when a Greek exit from the EU was speculated, as the nation’s people suffered punitive austerity measures imposed by the “troika” of EU Commission, central bank and IMF.
After subsequent periods of mass civil unrest, rioting and national catastrophe, the democratic socialist party Syriza was elected in 2015, with Yanis Varoufakis serving as finance minister during crucial crisis talks with the deep establishment of the EU, as dramatised in the 2019 movie Adults in the Room.
Varoufakis became a familiar face in British media during the Brexit period and expresses dismay concerning some of the dogma surrounding the debate.
“Undoubtedly, the hard Remainers were as unsophisticated in their narrative as the hard Brexiteers. Mirroring the latter, for whom the EU was the source of all evil, the hard Remainers portrayed the EU as a splendid utopia — and in so doing they did enormous damage to the cause of Remain.

— source yanisvaroufakis.eu | Yanis Varoufakis | 03/01/2022

Nullius in verba


Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block

A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on

— source propublica.org | Julia Angwin | Jul 21, 2014

Nullius in verba


US Opposes a Ban on Killer Robots

human rights activists in some countries are calling for an all-out ban on the use of lethal autonomous weapons known as “killer robots” that can make the final order to kill without a human overseeing the process. They are coming under review during high-level talks on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons next week. The Washington Post reports at least 30 countries have called for a ban on killer robots. Last Tuesday, New Zealand said it would join the international coalition demanding a ban, declaring “the prospect of a future where the decision to take a human life is delegated to machines is abhorrent.” But so far, the Biden administration has rejected calls to ban the use of killer robots. During a U.N. meeting in Geneva Thursday, the U.S. instead proposed establishing a code of conduct for their use.

— source democracynow.org | Dec 06, 2021

[Does things clear? US even does not obey their own law.]

Nullius in verba


Teaching Cybersecurity in an Age of ‘Fake Security’

I teach cybersecurity. It’s something I really believe in, but it’s hard work for all the wrong reasons. First day homework for students is watching Brazil, No Country for Old Men, Chinatown, The Empire Strikes Back, or any other film where evil triumphs and the bad guys win. This establishes the right mindset – like the medics at the Omaha beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. Not to be pessimistic, but cybersecurity is a lost cause, at least as things stand today. If we define computer security to be the combination of confidentiality, integrity, and availability for data, and as resilience, reliability and safety for systems, then we are failing terribly on all points.

As a “proof” after a fashion, my students use a combination of Blotto analysis from military game theory, and Lubarsky’s law (“there’s always one more bug”). It is a dispiriting exercise to see how logic stacks up against the defenders, according to which “the terrorists always win”. Fortunately, game theory frequently fails to explain a reality where we are not all psychopathically selfish Bayesian utility maximisers (unlike corporations which are programmed to be). Occasionally hope, compassion, gratitude, and neighbourly love win out.

Could things be worse than having mathematics against you? Actually yes. You could live in a duplicitous culture antithetical to security but favouring a profitable facsimile of

— source techrights.org | Andy Farnell | 11.29.21

Nullius in verba


Life without a smartphone is getting harder and harder

I’ve always gotten by fine without owning a smartphone – until now. Covid has made my already obsolete 90s-designed Nokia flip-phone nearly useless. I’m suddenly surrounded by QR codes. There are now Airbnb doors I can’t open, cars I can’t start, menus I can’t read. Paper menus have vanished; ordering food has become an ordeal.

At a recent dinner with friends, after some initial chatting, everyone stared at menus on their phones. I sat there for a minute looking around the table and then whispered to my neighbor, discreetly asking to look on. When I eat out alone, I show my flip-phone to the waiter and ask for a proper menu. After an eye-roll, they’ll either bring out a paper menu from some vault in the back or hand me their own phone to use.

It’s awkward when I ask a stranger for directions and they pull out their smart phone, looking at me as if to say, “where’s your phone?” My brother says I’m like a smoker who won’t buy her own pack, but smokes everyone else’s. I never wanted to start smoking at all, but the world is conspiring to make me bum one. If I bought my own, I know I’d be smoking a pack a day.

Americans check their smartphones an average of 96 times a day, which works out to once every 15 minutes. Two-thirds of Americans check their phones 160 times every day. Social

— source theguardian.com | Jen Wasserstein | 4 Nov 2021

Nullius in verba


Intelligence outfit at center of US digital vaccine passport push

Described as “the most important organization you’ve never heard of,” MITRE rakes in massive security state contracts to pioneer invasive spy tech. Now it’s at the heart of a campaign to implement digital vaccine passports.

While vaccine passports have been marketed as a boon to public health, promising safety, privacy, and convenience for those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, the pivotal role a shadowy military-intelligence organization is playing in the push to implement the system in digital form has raised serious civil liberties concerns.

Known as MITRE, the organization is a non-profit corporation led almost entirely by military-intelligence professionals and sustained by sizable contracts with the Department of Defense, FBI, and national security sector.

The effort “to expand QR code vaccine passports beyond states like California and New York” now revolves around a public-private partnership known as the Vaccine Credential

— source thegrayzone.com | Jeremy Loffredo, Max Blumenthal | Oct 26, 2021

Nullius in verba


If We’re Not Careful, Tech Could Hurt the Fight against COVID-19

When COVID-19 emerged, many of us felt the instinct to use our technical skills to contribute something—and fast. But as researchers and technologists at Stanford, we also felt deep concern, having witnessed technologists’ blind spots and biases give birth to many dangerous technologies, including digital gaydar, deepfakes, discriminatory AI, AI surveillance and more. Even well-meant technologies can shift power away from those they purport to help. We have come to recognize that while the desire to help during COVID-19 is right, the rush to push just any COVID-19 technology is wrong and even has the potential to kill.

Trying to innovate their way back to normal, many technologists without previous medical or ethical expertise have proposed or deployed projects to calculate risk scores, trace contacts, model disease patterns and enforce quarantines. This inundation of ill-advised projects has led people to fall victim to misinformation and scams, eroded trust in science and provided cover for governments to expand their powers. Most new COVID-19 technologies risk adding to the chaos and eroding fundamental freedoms. With the stakes so

— source scientificamerican.com | Ria Kalluri, Lauren Gillespie, Agata Foryciarz, Wren Elhai, Sanjana Srivastava, Argyri Panezi, Lisa Einstein | May 18, 2020

Nullius in verba


How Companies Like Google Plan to Profit in High-Tech COVID Dystopia

the billionaires I was referring to is, he didn’t just announce that partnership with Eric Schmidt, who will be chairing this blue-ribbon commission to, quote-unquote, “reopen” New York state with an emphasis on telehealth, remote learning, working from home, increased broadband. That’s what they announced during that briefing. He also announced that he would be kind of outsourcing the tracing of the virus to Michael Bloomberg, another megabillionaire. And the day before, at the briefing, Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to, quote-unquote, “reimagine” education.

And during all of these announcements, there’s just been sort of effusive praise heaped on these billionaires. They’re called “visionaries” over and over again. And the governor talks about how this is an unprecedented opportunity to put their preexisting ideas into action. And this is what I’ve described as the shock doctrine previously.

And we have talked on the show during the pandemic about what I would describe as kind of lower-tech shock doctrines of the kind we’ve seen before — immediately going after Social Security, immediately bailing out fossil fuel companies. And I want to stress that all of this is still happening, right? The suspending of EPA regulations. So, there’s still this kind of lower-tech

— source democracynow.org | May 13, 2020

Digital Farm Technology Is Not the Climate Panacea Corporations Want You to Think It Is

Smartphones have revolutionised our way of living. No need to visit a library when looking for information—we just go online. Convenience is convincing. But can digital technology solve all the problems in the world?

The idea of going high-tech in agriculture gained traction as a silver bullet against world hunger and climate breakdown during the corporate-backed UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) last month.

“New and innovative technologies such as biotechnologies, precision agriculture and digital agriculture […] need to be harnessed to improve food systems,” in the words of the UNFSS Scientific Group.

Conglomerate

While technology is often associated with the pursuit of comfort and progress, it isn’t always so. Not everyone ends up as a winner.

— source theecologist.org | Astrud Lea Beringer | Oct 19, 2021

Nullius in verba