Weekly Axis Of Easy #58
This week’s quote: “Two hundred years from now, when the great companies and billionaires and revolutionaries of our age are crushed down below the horizon of history, it is the movements of states and populations, the alternations of war and peace, that will remain in the collective human memory” —by ????
Last Week’s Quote was “Man’s habits change more rapidly than his instincts”, J.B.S Haldane. Nobody ventured a guess.
THE RULES: No Googling the answer, must be posted in the comments below
The Prize: First person to post get their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.
- Privacy concerns around Walmart patent to eavesdrop on workers
- New variant of the old email bitcoin extortion
- Hola VPN Chrome plugin hacked
- New York Times sees dystopia in China but not at home
- Facebook drops user profiling tag “treason” for ad targeting
- Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify to judiciary hearing
- CRTC hands down first fines for malware ads in Canada
- This is how Google will collapse
News that Walmart has obtained a patent for “audio surveillance technology that measures workers’ performance, and could even listen to their conversations with customers at checkout.” Is garnering privacy concerns. The system, dubbed “listening to the frontend” describes a series of sensors at the front of the store near the cash stations that can “measure workers’ performance and could even listen to their conversations”.
Granted, this is a privacy concern, but also bear in mind we are all already inculcated to having our phone calls recorded and monitored every time we interact with a business anyway, is this any different or worse? (I ask rhetorically, feel free to weigh-in below
In case you get one of those “I know what you’ve been perving out on online” extortion emails, be aware that a new variant has appeared where the hacker includes a copy of a password you are known to use in the blackmail email as a method of proving their claims that they’ve hacked your computer. They then demand a payment via bitcoin.
You can safely ignore these emails. There are vast databases of credential dumps and breached passwords circulating in the wild, we’ve mentioned a couple of them before here and we’ve even run scans on about a half-billion leaked passwords to make sure anybody who was using a leaked password on their easyDNS account did a password reset.
(That said, if you are still using the password they reveal to you in that email, you know you should stop and change it, right?)
For about 5 hours last week, hackers were able to take over the Hola VPN developer account in the Google store and replace the official Hola VPN plugin with malware. Whenever somebody using a compromised plugin attempted to go to MyEtherWallet crypto wallet, they were directed to a lookalike phishing site instead. MyEtherWallet seems to be a favourite target of hackers, if you use them, you should install Metamask, as it attempts to block a lot of the attempts at MyEtherWallet phishing domains.
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (a.k.a Fair.org), has called out the New York Times on their reporting of Chinese surveillance dystopia (which it is, and which FAIR isn’t disputing). However what the NYT fails to address is that, in FAIR’s words, “NYT Sees ‘Dystopia’ in Chinese Surveillance—Which Looks a Lot Like US Surveillance”. And nobody’s talking too much about that.
The media criticism organization termed the NYT article a category of story “them not us” reporting, calling attention to problems abroad (Chinese surveillance) whilst ignoring the same problems at home (US and “Five-eyes” countries’ surveillance).
It took the Danish State broadcaster DR to notice it and report on the fact that Facebook advertisers could use “treason” as a user attribute to target ads on the platform. Facebook designated it “an interest category” but DR cited privacy experts who voiced concerns that the tag could be used by intelligence agencies in authoritarian regimes to identify citizens considered “subversive”.
Facebook has since eliminated the categorization. What I find more curious (and unanswered) is how exactly Facebook’s algo’s analyzed user behaviour on the system to attribute that particular tag.
Reps from the big network Gulags will be facing a House Judiciary Committee hearing on social media filtering this week to “answer questions on their content moderation practices and how they can be better stewards of free speech in the United States and abroad”.
In the same ballpark, this is old news, but I didn’t know about it until recently: I learned that Google, and Facebook actually run their Political Action Committees (PACs), and they also sell ads to PACs from both sides.
So similar to the time Zuckerberg got called into a Congressional hearing for a dose of political theatre (Facebook had contributed financially to most of the members of the panel) I’m not expecting the platforms to get much of a grilling from the Committee.
Meanwhile, in Canada… the CRTC handed out the first ever fines under Canada’s new anti-spam laws, finding that two ad networks broke the rules by accepting ads from entities without a written contract that they would comply with Canadian anti spam law, without knowing who the entities were and without properly vetting their ads. Those entities ended up placing ads containing malicious malware which infected end-users.
The two companies, Sunlight Media and Datablocks were fined $100,000 and $150,000 respectively.
Read the investigation notes: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2018/vt1807
Interesting thought piece via Medium “from a near, post-Google future”, positing the decline and fall of the search giant. The case for atrophy hinging on mega trends such as a shift in user behaviour from “search” to “discovery”, putting Google at a disadvantage to Amazon; and Apple – whose iOS devices drive 75% of Google’s mobile revenues, enabling ad blocking; and a missed chance to pivot into the home automation space as effectively as Amazon (again). Yes, it’s speculative, but it’s plausible and it underscores something I’ve said before myself: in the Internet space whoever seems unassailable today can be disrupted out of relevance tomorrow.
I think this is overlooked in much of the business thought today, from Peter Thiel’s pronouncement in “Zero to One” about investing in companies “who will dominate for the next thirty years”, to Joshua Cooper Ramo’s “The Seventh Sense”, in which he observes that Internet businesses tend to move opposite to legacy industrial ones, increasing profits over time into a monopoly footing and where winner takes all leaves nobody in second place. Which is somewhat true, but we’re too early into this Internet age to see the larger pattern which I suspect is emerging: platform monopolies are the digital equivalent to shale oil – they may be solid producers, for a while, but then they have a habit of “running dry” with a startling suddenness as the next wave of disruption (which are coming at us in tighter intervals) severely undercuts their relevance.
In case you missed the announcement: My book Managing Mission Critical Domains & DNS: Demystifying nameservers, DNS and domain names” published on June 30th via Packt Publishing. W00t.
Via Amazon: https://amzn.to/2NnvlL1
If you’ve read it, please review it on Amazon. Thx!