Weekly Axis Of Easy #38
- Apple will store iCloud private keys in China
- New Zealand spills the beans: releases full text of TPP
- Twitter purges thousands of “Russian bot” accounts, Conservatives scream “foul”
- Hackernoon: Your Facebook data is creepy as hell
- TIL that the Italian Government has an automated “tax snitch” software system
- Books I’m reading (and you should too): Big Data Policing, Automating Inequality and more
In order to comply with Chinese law, Apple has built a new datacenter in that country and will soon (by the end of Feb, so this week) begin housing all Chinese citizens’ iCloud private keys and account data at that facility.
Human rights activists say this will drastically change the dynamic for political dissidents there because until now, all iCloud keys were stored in Apple facilities in the US and any foreign government agencies that wanted to access iCloud accounts had to go through the US legal system first. Now the Chinese government will simply be able to use their own legal system to obtain iCloud data of Chinese users. Considering that China is the country that most closely resembles an episode of Black Mirror, that’s a low bar.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement was an all encompassing trade deal negotiated amongst our various governments, largely in secret and for the most part agreed to without any public consultations or consent of the governed (apparently not even the rank-and-file elected officials of the governments involved even knew what was in it themselves). It was “fait accompli” until the Trump administration pulled out of the deal putting the whole thing on ice, for now.
Still, it would be nice to know exactly what was in that thing given my personal suspicion is that sooner or later the “people behind the curtains” of our various governments will be back for another kick at the cat.
Now, thanks to the New Zealand government, we can finally see what was in the TPP as they’ve gone ahead and released the entire text online:
Last week Twitter undertook a massive purge of their system, disabling thousands of accounts deemed to be “Russian bots”. Conservatives accuse the platform of shutting down real accounts and many are complaining that their number of followers have been drastically reduced. Liberals counter “if the followers were bots, who cares?”. Point taken. For awhile there it seemed that a huge chunk of our Twitter followers were weird sex bots and Dynect salespeople. It wouldn’t bug us if Twitter cleared those out.
(If you’re not already following us on Twitter and you’re not a bot, and you’re reasonably certain we’re not a bot, then you should follow us.)
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Terms and Conditions May Apply” (it’s on Netflix if you haven’t, check it out) you probably remember the part where the guy obtained his entire Facebook history and he realized everything was there, including stuff he had deleted. Well as this article points out, nowadays it is actually quite easy to download your entire Facebook profile and timeline. I did and it looked like a full-on dossier. And I helped them construct it. We all do.
Today I came across Simon Black’s “Sovereign Man” recent blog post about “Redditometro”, an automated, Big Data software suite the government of Italy uses that compares your income with your spending habits and flags any anomalies. Things like spending more money or buying more assets than your income level could reasonably afford. The program has been talked about since 2013. Black mentions that the risparmiometro system went live last month but I can’t find another English reference for that.
(But the Simon Black article has a nice retelling of Diocletian, which is how I came across it. He is in my mind the third most interesting Roman Emperor after Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius. I discovered Diocletian about a year ago when I was trying to find any other historic parallel for negative interest rates. The closest I could find was a reference to Diocletian, who was born a slave and rose to become Emperor near the tail end of the Roman Empire. He instituted wage and price controls – see Black’s article. What is lesser known is that he also reportedly issued new coinage that had a face value less than the gold content of the coins. Instead of spending the coins, people melted them down and hoarded the gold instead. Money velocity crashed, as did the economy, and Diocletian abdicated. The only Roman Emperor to do so).
Read: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-21064030 (2013 article)
Books I’m reading (and you should too): Big Data Policing, Automating Inequality and more
More than usual books relevant to what we talk about here in #AxisOfEasy arrived on my desk last week, including:
- The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race & The Future of Law Enforcement by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson
- Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet by Yasha Levine
- Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks
- Medusa’s Head: The Rise of Joseph Fouché, Inventor of the Modern Police State (he ran Napoleon’s secret police)