Privacy

  • It looks like the UK Labour party will soon call for closer scrutiny of tech firms and their algorithms. If all goes well, it just won’t work, and that will the end of it. Otherwise, it will be really bad.After the 2016 Christmas break, a Labour’s industrial paper will call for suggestions on “how tech firms could be more closely supervised by government”. The algorithms, that is the formulas and rules used by those firms to run their services, are closely guarded trade secrets.
  • By now, you probably already know that Yahoo scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence”, and if you haven’t you can read all the details in the previous link, or in many other places. Here, I only want to point out one thing, mainly but not only to software geeks, and to any organizations whose goal include promoting privacy: this whole Yahoo story is just one more perfect example that one of the most urgent things to do in the digital sphere is to give everybody their very own, personal email server, at the smallest possible cost.
  • It’s always fun, and useful, when two or more news, that somehow go against each other, are published in the same day. Last Friday we had: From the UK: Internet of Things is Driving the [Global Market of Homes and Buildings] to New Heights… the residential market is expected to be the subject of the battle between utilities, telcos, technology companies and others From Denmark: a survey found support for digital smart city services [but also] concern about abuse of personal information: 45 percent said they would be unwilling to supply the data to make such services possible… 28 percent of respondents were “very concerned” about data misuse So, who is right?
  • Screenshot source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKggZezZf2M FBI says that Apple must help them, because nobody else can do it, to unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter. The complete story is quite more complex than this one-sentence summary, but there is **one part of it that, as far as I can see has received almost zero *attention so far ():if the only entity in a given country who can actually monitor someone’s “private data and conversations” is ONE corporation, then who actually holds police power in that country, and is actually ruling it, is that corporation, not the official government.
  • Here are three critical quotes from an article about DeepFace, the Facebook automatic face recognition system, followed by my explanation of what they really mean (text in parentheses is my own synthesis or comment): “Appear in a photo taken at a protest march, a gay bar, or an abortion clinic, and your friends might recognize you. But a machine probably won’t - at least for now.
  • The ubiquitousness of no-brain-required social networks and mobile apps has made many people forget, or never learn, a boring truth of digital life: a LOT non-ephemeral online communication still happens via less glamorous, but much more effective tools like email and mailing list. This can have unintended consequences. It is in your interest to understand this, because it is still almost impossible that you can live an adult life without using email at all, and it will be so for a few more years, at least.
  • One year ago I launched a proposal, with related fundraiser, for an alternative to Facebook, Gmail and similar services really usable by normal people, the percloud. That fundraiser did not succeed, which is no problem at all for me, because I do have many other things to do. I am writing this post only because I believe that something like the percloud is still sorely needed, and the sooner anybody does it, the better.
  • (please note that this was just the second part of this other post!) Don’t you see that the percloud could never be as secure, performant, flexible etc as [some other project]? Of course it couldn’t. It doesn’t even try to, it just aims to be actually used by many people. I propose it as an intermediate step towards such solutions, that it is absolutely necessary to provide as soon as possible.
  • Sometimes support comes in the most unexpected ways. Today the NSA, the super-secret spy agency that intercepts countless digital communications worldwide, greatly helped me, by providing evidence that a little project of mine is a really great idea that is sorely needed NOW.Thanks NSA. I mean it. And the reason is that (full story here): the NSA is gathering contact lists in large numbers that amount to a sizable fraction of the world’s e-mail and instant messaging accounts.
  • Shortly after launching my proposal for a personal, p2p replacement of Facebook, Gmail and similar services I was contacted by the developers of Cozy Cloud. We had a very interesting discussion, which ended with their proposal to write a post for their blog, to explain what similarities, differences and possible synergies I see between the two projects. Here I am, looking forward to your feedback! (this post had been sent on 2013/10/08 to the cozycloud team for immediate publication on their blog.