Posts Tagged ‘internet’

Windows 10 buys your soul (with your consent)

August 2, 2015

I suppose I have little option but to upgrade.

And I am resigned to being “targeted” by advertisers selected specifically for me. I take some comfort in the fact that I cannot recall actually buying anything because of a web advertisement. I suppose I am just too old for them.

Image result for windows 10

The soul – however you want to define it – is manifested (not defined) in your behaviour. The advent of the internet and its apparent anonymity actually makes visible some parts of your hidden self.  People visit sites and make comments that they would never otherwise do if they were in public view. Of course much of that anonymity is only a perception. Your internet “self” (ID, email, passwords, sites visited, on-line community memberships,…. ) comes closer to painting a picture of your soul than just your visible behaviour.

And Windows 10 acquires more of your soul than ever before – and all with your consent.  It is with your consent because few will ever read and understand the 45 pages of terms and conditions that must be agreed to. Not that Apple and Google are not also involved in photographing and capturing your soul. But even an on-line presence is only a manifestation of your soul and each of Microsoft or Google or Apple have have their own painting of your essence. And these perceptions of who you are, these paintings of your soul, are theirs to sell – to advertisers or to governments or to other interested parties.

The Guardian:

Hundreds of commenters on sites such as Hacker News and Reddit have criticised default settings that send personal information to Microsoft, use bandwidth to upload data to other computers running the operating system, share Wi-Fi passwords with online friends and remove the ability to opt out of security updates.

Many of the complaints relate to the new personalised adverts embedded in Windows 10. When the OS is installed, Microsoft assigns the user a unique advertising ID, which it ties to the email address registered with the company. That email address is also associated with a raft of other services, such as the company’s productivity and communication programs, as well as app downloads and cloud-storage uploads.

Using that information, Microsoft is able to personalise ads to the user, during both web surfing and, for newer apps downloaded from the Windows Store, app usage. Microsoft itself is leading the way on that front, even turning the in-built version of Solitaire (the card game that has been a staple of Windows installations since 1990’s Windows 3.0) into a freemium game, complete with unskippable video adverts.

Elsewhere, Windows 10 also harvests user information in order to teach the built-in personal digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri. To enable Cortana, the company says, it “collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device”.

“There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency’.”

……. The European digital rights organisation (EDRi) sums up the company’s 45 pages of terms and conditions by saying: “Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.”

In many ways, however, Windows 10 is merely moving closer towards what has become the new normal thanks to mobile operating systems. Both Siri and Google Now require access to the user’s personal information to personalise responses, while both Apple and Google offer developers the ability to deliver personalised ads to users based on information such as app installs.

Global warming will contaminate signals and cut internet speeds

April 1, 2013

Over the coming years we can all expect to spend more time staring at our download dialog boxes, waiting for our music or our videos to buffer and clicking away impatiently as we wait for our web pages to reload.

And it will not be the OS or our internet service providers who are to blame. It will be the effects of global warming.

As global warming sets in and the seas warm the performance of all the undersea cables that are a critical part of global connections will be affected. A significant part of voice and data signals are transmitted through these cables and many communications services companies are entirely dependent on them. As the seas warm they will absorb increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn acidic. While fish and all marine life have evolution to fall back upon and will adapt to the changing conditions, undersea cables being inanimate and unable to reproduce will suffer. Firstly the increasing temperature itself will cause the component fibres in the undersea cable to expand; both in length and in diameter. Secondly the acidic environment will cause them to corrode and distort.

Undersea Cable Map – The Big Picture (

These cables, which connect land-based transmission terminal stations across continents, are laid for tens of thousands of kilometres along the seabed. It is well known that these thick optic fibre cables can be disrupted due to many natural phenomena, such as temperature, earthquakes, extreme turbidity, current, or by coming in contact with fishing vessels or being attacked by marine life ranging from plankton to sharks.

It has now been shown conclusively by research at the International Marine Cable Research Centre (IMCRC) that increasing global temperatures will lead not only to the slowing down of signals as the marine cables expand in length, but that the integrity of signals being carried will suffer as the cable distortions lead to intertwined parallel signals getting mixed up with each other.

Just having cables in parallel cannot solve this problem. Global warming will affect all the cables. Longer cables will be affected most. Scientists at the IMCRC have modelled the performance under deteriorating conditions and calculate that these cables could become completely unusable as quickly as within 1,000 years. “We are working on an innovative solution”, said Dr. Peter Sellers, Director of the IMCRC. The International project to find a solution is being led by Dr. Martin Strangelove of the University of Pennsylvania who says, A drastic problem requires a drastic solution. We are now working on ways in which we can trigger a new ice age as a comprehensive global solution. Not only will undersea temperatures reduce but in many places alternative cables could be placed on the surface of the newly created ice sheets”.

(XPI – 1st April 2013)

Being on-line and anonymous does not eliminate accountability and responsibility

March 6, 2013

The Washington Post considers the pluses and minuses of anonymity in the on-line world but typically just stays on the fence. “It’s complicated”. In an abundance of indecision and of  “political correctness” it reaches no conclusion.

But I take a rather simplistic and uncomplicated view. “On-line” is just one more medium through which “publishing” can take place. This medium may be much more immediate and with greater global spread than other media. But whatever the medium may be, responsibility and accountability for what is published cannot just vanish. It cannot just disappear into some black hole between an author and his publisher. Either the publisher or the author must take responsibility and be accountable for whatever is published. The publisher controls the medium. Whether he wishes to allow anonymity or not is his prerogative. But if the publisher (the on-line web-site host) allows his authors to keep their identities secret from the public then he must take responsibility and be accountable for what is published.  It is also then his call as to whether he himself wishes to know the identity of those using the platform he provides. Where, however, the author is publicly identified then the publisher is effectively indemnified.

Where comments (on a blog or a web-site or a forum) are allowed anonymously then applying moderation is the host’s call but he cannot escape the responsibility or the accountability for the content he allows.

Anonymity does not eliminate responsibility and accountability. It merely shifts responsibility from the author to the publisher. The buck has to stop somewhere.

Washington Post: It shields the whistleblower from blowback and the deep-background source from getting deep-sixed. It helped women publish novels way back when . . . when that was a pretty novel idea. But it can also embolden the kook to get kookier and the racist to get . . . well, you get the picture.

….. Fey and Pexton, whose thoughts have gotten the viral launch that only a lengthy discussion on NBC’s “Today” show can provide, veer toward an age-old question. Does anonymity make us good? Or does it make us bad? And now that we’ve had a good long while to get used to splashing around online, there’s another question to ponder: Does the Internet make it easier for us to be anonymously bad or anonymously better?

The answer isn’t so simple. Consider 4Chan, a hugely popular and emphatically anonymous Internet board that began as a place to discuss Japanese anime and has swelled into dozens of boards focused on everything from “science & math” to “Sexy Beautiful Women.”

The site can get raunchy. The posters can get rough with each other. Anonymity has the effect of making the users less inhibited, said Michael S. Bernstein, who studied the site’s “/b/ – random” board with colleagues at MIT and the University of Southampton in Britain. That lack of inhibition has led to plenty of “gore, pornography and racism,” Bernstein, now a computer science professor at Stanford University, said in an interview.

But amid all the offensive behavior, Bernstein and his fellow researchers also found that anonymity had a lot of positive effects. One of the most notable was the creation of a culture that fostered experimentation and new ideas. Since no names were being used, the users felt more comfortable taking risks. They’ve ended up contributing to the creation of an Internet culture and to a proliferation of memes. ….

…. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of the respected journal Science, was concerned enough to commission a study that concluded anonymity was something worth striving to preserve. “There was talk at the time about making anonymity difficult or impossible,” said Albert H. Teich, a professor at George Washington University who was director of science and policy programs at AAAS when the study was released.

The scientists wanted the Internet to be a place where political opinions could be expressed freely without fear of repercussions; where, say, a teen struggling to come to grips with his sexuality could discreetly seek advice.

…. Still, he’s torn. Terrorism gives him an argument against anonymity. Protecting contacts who were helping AAAS combat human rights violations in Central America gives him a reason to protect anonymity. …..

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