Weekly Axis Of Easy #168
- UK COVID-19 contact tracing data being harvested and sold
- Canadian Heritage Minister questions morality of posting news articles to social media
- How companies game Google for local services ads
- New EU ad tracking and consent model falls short of GDRP requirements
- Microsoft Windows 10 takes over PC, reboots it, installs unwanted apps
- Oops! Canadian military accidentally runs psyop against NS residents
- Big Tech efforts to squelch Hunter Biden expose backfires big time
- Online dictionary changes definition of word after manufactured outrage
- Salon #26: Ben Hunt vs the Necessary Industrial Narratives
UK COVID-19 contact tracing data being harvested and sold
Legal experts in the UK are warning of an impending “privacy crisis” after a study from that country’s The Times found that “track and trace” data being collected at bars and restaurants to fulfill their COVID-19 tracking obligations is being sold to marketers, credit reporting and insurance companies.
The problem arises not from the official NHS contact tracing app nor the mandates that data collected by businesses be retained for 21 days and only be used for “test and trace.” But private solutions have entered the space, such as a QR code service called Pub Track and Trace (PUBTT). It charges pubs a small monthly fee to collect patron contact data for their NHS track and trace obligations, but they also bury additional terms in the fine print of the app, such as:
to “make suggestions and recommendations to you about goods or services that may be of interest to you” and shared with third parties including “service providers or regulatory bodies providing fraud prevention services or credit/background checks.”
As well as to sell your data to third-party services and to retain it for far longer than the 21 days directed by the NHS. For example another company called Ordamo explicitly stipulates a 25 year data retention.
In all the NHS is investigating the practices of 15 companies running this kind of
surveillance capitalism business model.
Read: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/contact-tracing-data-harvested-from-pubs-and-restaurants-being-sold-on-s0d85mkrr (Paywall)
Canadian Heritage Minister questions morality of posting news articles to social media
Canada’s Heritage Minister, Steven Guilbault, has called posting news articles to social media platforms “immoral,” even when those articles have been posted by the news outlets themselves. The remarks came as Guilbault pushes forward with plans to institute some kind of mandatory licensing scheme which would see Big Tech platforms such as Facebook and Twitter pay link fees to Canadian media outlets (known colloquially in Canada as “Approved Media”).
While Guilbault described the social media platforms as “poaching” the content from the media sites, and accusing them of reprinting entire articles, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist’s article shows (and any normal person already knows), only a small preview of the articles are typically posted, but more importantly, that most of the engagement is driven by links the media companies post themselves.
Earlier this year Guilbault endorsed the recommendations of Canada’s Broadband Legislative Telecom Review (we wrote about it in depth here) which called for content creators to obtain a license from the government to operate.
The biggest content poacher of them all, as revealed in the very first issue of #AxisOfEasy (called, at the time, and for only one issue, the “WTF Weekly”), is Google, when they scrape out answers to typical questions frequently asked via the search engine and display the answer inline in their results instead of a link to the source website.
How companies game Google for local services ads
I knew this sort of stuff was happening for a few years because I had a neighbour who owned a plumbing company who used to tell me how his business was impacted by what he called “Google wars.”
This CBC Marketplace piece looks at how companies game the local business listing algos in Google maps to pull in customers by passing themselves off as a local company near the prospect.
They use shell companies, fake websites and locally targeted phone numbers and postal boxes to erect numerous false front “local” businesses in multiple cities and even neighbourhoods and thus can get into the top results whenever consumers search for vendors nearby.
Another exposé also by CBC’s Marketplace last year found similar issues within the locksmith industry.
New EU ad tracking and consent model falls short of GDPR requirements
With the advent of Europe’s General Data Protection Rules (GDPR), the online adtech industry has been scrambling to somehow keep their cake while complying with the new rules. That’s why pretty near every single website you’ve visited since 2018 is pushing a pop up in your face as soon as you hit the site that says, generally…
blah blah blah blah blah yada yada yada
I AGREE 
And hopefully once they make you click that they’ve successfully CYA-ed themselves.
But maybe not, especially in Europe where IAB Europe, the adtech industries policy response body, came out with their Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) later in 2018 designed to address the EU market specifically.
An EU data supervisor in the form of the Belgian DPA undertook a review and has found that the TCF “fails to meet the required legal standards of data protection.” The investigation was launched in response to complaints around the use of personal data in the Real-time Bidding (RTB) component of adtech networks.
(Here in domain land, where easyDNS operates, the big impact was the destruction of the Whois ecosystem as we know it, with the industry still lurching toward RDAP as the next generation of domain lookups.)
Microsoft Windows 10 takes over PC, reboots it, installs unwanted apps
We’ve covered here before how Microsoft Windows 10 installs certain software components on your box whether you want it or not. How their Chromium-based Edge browser tries to automatically set itself as your default browser, and how it cannot be uninstalled.
As widely speculated, Microsoft is now using these un-uninstallable Edge’s to install so-called “Progressive Web Apps” (PWA), which are web based versions of the company’s signature software applications like Microsoft Office.
In fact, TheVerge columnist Sean Hollister was writing an article about this exact thing before he stepped away for dinner. When he got back to his computer, it had rebooted itself and done exactly that to him!
“When my machine finished rebooting, it now contained the exact thing I’d been writing about before I was rudely interrupted. Microsoft had installed unsolicited, unwanted web app versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook onto my computer.”
The update also took the liberty of adding shortcuts for these unwanted apps to his start menu.
We’re about to have dinner here as I write this, thankfully Windows machines have been widely banned within the easyDNS organization for nearly 20 years.
Oops! Canadian military accidentally runs psyop against NS residents
To our Nova Scotia readers: pay no mind to that official looking government notice warning you to beware of roving packs of wolves that were accidentally introduced to the area by the Department of Land and Fisheries. Even if you hear the sounds of them howling in the forest.
That’s just an information warfare unit within the Canadian Armed Forces fscking with your heads, by mistake. The letter? It was a forgery. Those howling sounds in the forest? Those were recordings of wolves being played over speakers placed in the woods.
According to the National Post, it was a unit called the 36 Canadian Brigade Group (CBG), who were running a training exercise to practice the conduct of psychological warfare operations against civilian populations. Apparently it was all a mistake and they’re not actually supposed to be conducting psyops against their own populace.
I don’t know what it is about Nova Scotia and weird, government operations. Remember the shooting spree that induced the Federal government into passing a comprehensive (and incoherent) nationwide gun ban that included websites with gun names in them? An extensive exposé by Macleans indicated that the guy who did that shooting was a confidential RCMP informant.
Big Tech efforts to squelch Hunter Biden exposé backfires big time
I know we’re getting into the home stretch into the US election for our American readers, and it’s a very polarized and contentious issue. As a Canadian and a small government Libertarian I don’t really have a horse in this race and our focus here in #AxisOfEasy is the role of technology, surveillance, privacy, censorship and I guess, hi-tech propaganda.
With that in mind, this story is a case study in the complete and total vindication of what I said in chapter four of my book, Unassailable: Protect Yourself from Deplatform Attacks, Cancel Culture and other Online Disasters, which I made available for a free download earlier this year when I saw how bad Big Tech and mainstream media attacks on non-conforming journalism and free speech was getting.
Chapter Four, “Does Deplatforming Even Work?” answers via numerous historical examples with an emphatic no. As I wrote:
“A lot of these tech platforms seem to think it’s incumbent upon them to judge what is the mind of others, the intent of others, the possible outcome of other people’s actions. Not to mention that when they do, they are frequently, in essence, adjudicating international law…All I, or my company, or any company can competently assess, is what’s happening on our respective systems. Nothing else.”
But we still see it happening, and intensifying every day, with the most recent example being the NYPost’s story about the Hunter S. Biden laptop and the scandalous materials therein. In heretofore unprecedented intensity and in tandem, Facebook and Twitter outright squelched the story, Twitter going so far as to prevent anybody from sharing the NY Post story across the platform, and then even deleting NY Post’s tweets about their own story.
Predictably, as per usual, unsurprisingly and inevitably, Streisand Effect kicked in to push the story further, wider and faster. So much and so far that a US Senate committee summoned @jack, Zuck and Google’s Sundar Pichai to answer questions about big tech bias, but they have refused to appear.
Twitter, for their part felt pressured enough to reverse their course and issue a new policy about how they will in the future
marginalize handle unfavourable content (defined as “anything that contradicts the Woke Social Order” that prevails on Twitter).
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote a good piece about Facebook and Twitter’s Dangerous Double-Standard over on his sub stack.
If you think concerns about Big Tech and Big Media bias are unfounded, ask yourself this: how would the reaction have been if the NY Post story was the same in every detail, except it was about Eric Trump, or Don Jr?
Online dictionary changes definition of word after manufactured outrage
As the US election draws nearer, the aforementioned contention around it is reaching fever pitch and I apologize to the reader if my tone of exasperation and cynicism has seeped through excessively over the course of writing this week’s AxisOfEasy.
Over at the SCOTUS confirmation hearings, Senator Hirono (Dem-HI) took issue with Amy Barrett Coney’s use of the phrase “sexual preference,” a completely innocuous and benign phrase used by countless luminaries (including Joe Biden and Ruth Bader Ginsberg) and hitherto completely uncontroversial.
Within hours after Hirono claimed that the phrase was offensive, Twitter lit up with the new battle (left-of-center blue checks no doubt, frantically scrubbing their timelines of all mentions of “sexual preference”), which, as I say in my blog post on this, would on its own be tiresome and little else.
But what also happened was that the Merriam Webster dictionary changed the meaning of the word ‘preference’, adding that “The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive.”
I found this not only exasperating and unhinged but chilling in its ramifications, so I wrote up a piece about it over on my Out Of The Cave blog. That’s where I try to keep some separation of my more outspoken opinions away from the good people who comprise the easyDNS customer base and AxisOfEasy readership.
Anyhoo, modifying dictionary definitions based on the pronouncement of a single senator on a political vendetta is Orwellian.
Salon #26: Ben Hunt vs the Necessary Industrial Narratives
Then the three of us got together on our weekly salon and we had the honour and the pleasure of welcoming on Dr. Ben Hunt of Epsilon Theory for a talk about The Industrially Necessary Narratives that constrain our society.
Watch it here: https://axisofeasy.com/podcast/salon-26-ben-hunt-vs-the-industrially-necessary-narratives/