Weekly Axis Of Easy #85
This week’s quote: “In such experience as I have had with taxation, there is only one tax that is popular, and that is the tax that is on the other fellow” by ?????
THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted in the comments below:
The Prize: First person to post, gets their next domain or hosting renewal on us.
In this Issue:
Bezos cries personal privacy foul while Amazon builds surveillance state
On Amazon’s practice of knocking off everybody, including their own clients
Google’s Nest Secure units contain an undocumented microphone
Canadian crypto-exchange bankrupt, freezing 180 million in customer assets
German anti-trust regulator bans Facebook’s entire business model
The DNS Privacy Debate
Reddit users revolt over Tencent investment
Tim O’Reilly on the tech unicorn economy
easyMail users: please check your mail client settings
In this Intercept article Glenn Greenwald, the same reporter who broke the Ed Snowden revelations that the NSA spies on everybody, all the time, muses on how Jeff Bezos can be upset about having his privacy being violated on one hand, whilst his company, Amazon, is a key partner in providing the technology platform for the surveillance state. (Amazon’s AWS cloud computing platform is responsible for nearly a quarter of Amazon’s profits, and two of its largest customers are the Pentagon and the NSA.)
This is all part of the new “surveillance-as-a-service” boom which also includes, according to Far East based policy analyst David Dodwell, Facebook and Google, that is “concentrating corporate power and destroying privacy”.
Not only does Amazon actively monetize ubiquitous surveillance, they also tend to cannibalize market verticals by leveraging their quasi-monopoly in online retailing to crowd out innovation, according to this piece in Forbes, which examines the various anti-trust issues. The argument is made that Amazon’s behaviour is anti-competitive, not because it directly hurts consumers, but because it distorts the incentives to innovate, which would hurt consumers as a second-order effect.
For example: when a retailer finds itself having a successful product and sells that product via Amazon, Amazon then uses the data generated and then frequently rolls out its own version of the same product at a lower price – squeezing the original retailer off of the platform. Amazon has over 200 brands launched within the last 2 years to compete in various verticals across its own platform.
Surprise! Turns out there’s an undocumented microphone in Google’s network connected Nest Guard base stations. Android Authority broke the story that Google’s announcement that it was rolling out Assistant functionality to all Nest Secure systems meant that there had to be an undocumented microphone somewhere in the already deployed devices.
Android Authority then updated their column with a statement from Google that confirmed their conclusion: all Nest Guard base stations would be able to operate as a pseudo-Google Home device after an opt-in software update, and that there is a microphone present in the units that is not documented in the official tech specs.
A lot of you have been asking me about my thoughts on this one, the story of the untimely death of QuadrigaCX Gerrald Cotten in India and the consequences of that are the stuff of Hollywood movies. Do I think the entire thing is a spectacular heist? Or did Canada’s largest crypto-currency exchange really allow their CEO’s personal laptop, which is encrypted, to be a Single-Point-Of-Failure for the entire organization and all its depositors? I really don’t know.
(We had some minimal exposure to QuadrigaCX on two fronts: we had a bit of cash in there that we used as a float when paying for services in Bitcoin like our LetsTalkBitcoin sponsorship. More of a loss, QuadrigaCX was the largest beta-test client of our new security platform which they used to detect phishing sites in near real time. If you run a website that is susceptible to phishing attacks and want some relief on that, feel free to drop me a line).
This one was via a reader who forwarded the news to me that Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, that country’s anti-trust regulator passed a ruling last week that
“[Facebook] was exploiting consumers by requiring them to agree to this kind of data collection in order to have an account, and has prohibited the practice going forward. Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts,”
Which is essentially, the entire Facebook business model.
You might have to be a bit of a DNS geek to get full appreciation of this one, but it’s a detailed and lengthy overview of a panel on DNS and privacy at the FOSDEM event, as retold by PowerDNS creator Bert Hubert. This is all about DNS resolvers, those are the servers anybody has to use to conduct all of their DNS lookups – and the growing array of public DNS resolvers like Google (184.108.40.206), Cloudflare (220.127.116.11), Quad9 (18.104.22.168) et al (contrast with authoritative DNS servers, which answer queries for specific domains, the business easyDNS is in).
It is important to bear in mind that your DNS lookups leave a trail of breadcrumbs across the internet about your activities. Anybody offering free DNS resolution services is doing it for a reason. The DNS privacy debate revolves around understanding who you are using for DNS resolution and why that party is offering to resolve your DNS – doing so offers the ability to further track and aggregate data about you.
There are some privacy enhanced DNS lookup options, which are also discussed.
(EasyDNS for some time offered a resolver service which we shuttered for various reasons. We are considering launching an open source decentralized, on-board DNS resolver project. Read the article and if you would be interested in participating in this sort of initiative, let me know.)
Tencent is known among tech hubs as “the Chinese Censorship Giant” owing to their role in building and maintaining the “Great Firewall of China” which blocks much of the content we take for granted here in the West from Chinese citizens, like images of Winnie The Pooh and words like “democracy” and “human rights”.
Reddit bills itself as “The Front Page of the Internet” and built its rep on a largely ‘anything goes’ type forums for discussions of all types. When the news broke that Reddit has accepted a $150 million investment from Tencent, the users began an open revolt, posting memes known to violate Great Firewall of China rules and voicing their objections.
It’s refreshing when a pillar of the industry like Tim O’Reilly comes out with a sober analysis of the trade offs and realities of growing a company organically, like O’Reilly did with his company, or “Blitzscaling” – the term used by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman in his book wherein start-ups scale up super-fast taking on tonnes of venture capital, eat the entire market …usually losing money all the way, before getting their payoff in some big IPO or being acquired.
“Is it a business or a financial instrument?” O’Reilly muses – and that is the defining characteristic of our age. It’s also a topic I delve into in-depth on my Guerrilla-Capitalism blog.
We’ve made some recent upgrades to the easyMail IMAP cluster that requires you updating the server settings in your email clients, if you have old settings. Change your IMAP server from mx.easymail.ca to imap.easymail.ca because mx.easymail.ca is going away.