|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] get off the grid
I'm depressed these days about the future. It is very bleak, the
bleakest i can remember. It is even worse now than it was right after 9-11
there are two articles here, and one insidious like to an exploitative
"non-profit" adventure called codeday, which in reality is a mean to
exploit very young adults (children) who are being indoctrinated into a
world they can't begin to understand.
This has steamrolled out of control. It feels like Logan's Run.
In 1949, George Orwell published a book that conveyed a dystopian
society in a perpetual state of war under the watch of its totalitarian
dictator, "Big Brother." At the time, it was a fascinating concept
partly because it echoed the deepening fears around the danger of
absolute political authority in Spain, Germany and the Soviet Union.
Now, in the Digital Age, “1984” is becoming eerily relevant once
again—not because of the political environment, but because of how
surveillance technology has started to potentially compromise our privacy.
“1984” is becoming eerily relevant once again because of how
surveillance technology has started to potentially compromise our privacy.
In 2013, sixty-four years after it was published, sales of the dystopian
more than 5,800 percent, suddenly skyrocketing from No. 7,397 to No. 125
on Amazon's best-seller list. This spike in popularity occurred in the
wake of the ongoing National Security Administration surveillance
scandal. In August of that year, President Barack Obama appeared on
national television, reassuring Americans that there was no domestic
spying program in place.
But recent developments have stoked citizens’ concerns once again.
Your devices may be spying on you
In Orwell’s fictional setting of Oceania, most inhabitants’ apartments
and work stations are equipped with two-way telescreens
that enable the government to
watch and listen to them at all times. These telescreens are also found
in many public places, along with hidden microphones.
Earlier this month, Samsung issued a warning to customers
to be careful about what they discuss in front of their smart television
sets when using the voice activation feature. That’s because the TV set
can “listen” to what is being said when that feature is active.
"If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information,
that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a
third party,” the policy reads.
Corynne McSherry, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic
Frontier Foundation which campaigns on digital rights issues, told the
that the third party was likely the company providing speech-to-text
conversion for Samsung, which happens to be Bedford, Mass.-based Nuance
Communications. But she noted that Samsung's move to not disclose where
that information was going—or whether it was being transmitted in a
secure form—is a little suspicious.
Before long, the comparisons to “1984” were rampant. In response to the
media outcry that followed, the electronics company quickly clarified
its policy in a blog titled “Samsung Smart TVs Do Not Monitor Living
The company emphasized that the voice recognition feature, which is
activated using the TV's remote control, is optional, adding that it
does not retail or sell voice data that’s captured. This scenario is
disturbingly similar to one in 2013, when a UK IT consultant discovered
that his LG TV was gathering information about his viewing habits.
Eventually, as BBC reported
, the company updated the
software to ensure customers could turn this feature off.
But this is just a drop in the bucket in terms of data collection. Two
years ago LG was accused of allegedly collectinginformation on
consumers’ TV viewing habits and selling it to advertisers.
Amazon Fire TV also uses voice recognition—and according to the
company’s terms and conditions, voice recordings may be collected on
servers outside the country you live and shared with “third parties.”
All the emails you send via Google are read by the company so that it
can provide more targeted ads. And even the seemingly innocent
flashlight app asks for permissions to track your location, access your
photo and media files, read, modify or delete the contents on your USB
storage and view Wi-Fi connections.
Swelling government accusations
Even more worrying is that time and again, inside sources have made
allegations about actions that are remarkably Big Brother-like. Back in
2005, former NSA employee Russ Tice, triggered a surveillance
controversy after claiming that the NSA and DIA (under the Bush
Administration) had used wiretaps to unlawfully spy on U.S. citizens
without court approval.
"What is going on is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone
has ever suspected or imagined,” said Tice in a 2013 interview with The
Guardian. “ I figured it would probably be about 2015 [before the NSA
had] the computer capacity ... to collect all digital communications
word for word ... But I think I'm wrong. I think they have it right now."
Leslie Cauley of USA Today also revealed in 2006 that she knew the NSA
was keeping a massive database of Americans' phone calls. Then,
journalist Michael Hastings reported in 2012 that protestors of the
Occupy Wall Street movement were under constant surveillance.
For government agencies, the argument for validating these questionable
violations of privacy is that it involves the safety of our country’s
citizens. So what’s the justification for consumer technology companies?
The capabilities of our technologies today far surpass what Orwell was
even able to imagine.
In Orwell’s “1984,” everyone simply assumed they were always being
watched, and furthermore, most of them no longer cared. While that can’t
be said of our modern-day world quite yet, the entire technology
landscape has changed since Orwell penned his novel. And that is perhaps
what’s most terrifying: the capabilities of our technologies today far
surpass what Orwell was able to imagine. Companies like Samsung and LG
are not the only ones with the capacity to gather information on us. As
more electronics, devices and social media sites track our every move,
the question becomes not “what if?” but “why?"
So, your TV might be spying on you
It probably just wanted to join in with the rest of the technology in
your life, because let’s face it: if you live in the 21st century you’re
probably monitored by half a dozen companies from the moment you wake up
to the moment you go to sleep. (And if you wear a sleep tracker, it
doesn’t even stop then.)
Compared with some of the technology that keeps a beady eye fixed on
discuss sensitive information in front of their smart TVs is actually
fairly tame. The warning relates to a voice-recognition feature that has
to be explicitly invoked, and which only begins transmitting data when
you say the activation phrase “hi, TV”.
Psst! Your phone is snooping on you. What you need to know and how to
But other tech that spies on you might not be so genteel. The
uncomfortable fact is that your personal data is just another way to pay
for products and services these days.
The adage “if you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re
the product being sold” was coined in 2010, a lifetime ago in web terms,
but it’s as true today as it always has been. What’s changed now,
though, is the number of ways companies are discovering to make sharing
our data with them not something we grudgingly accept, but
enthusiastically embrace. Sure, they tell us, you can turn it off. But
do you really want to?
1. Facebook’s ‘like’ button
Even if you don’t use Facebook
, you will have seen the
company’s “like” button springing up in more and more places around the
internet, like a nasty case of chicken pox. If you click on it, you can
like the page of a company, person or brand, all without leaving the
website you’re on.
The uncomfortable fact is that your personal data is just another
way to pay for products and services
And then there’s Facebook share buttons (like the one at the top of this
page) and Facebook comments, both of which hook in to the company’s
servers to provide their own features. But it’s a two-way relationship:
the price you pay for being able to interact with Facebook even without
going to their website is that they can see the other websites you’re
on, following you around the internet and using that information to
better target ads and content to you back on the mothership.
*How to stop it: *if you log out of Facebook when you’re done, the
site’s ability to track your browsing is severely hampered. Of course,
equally hampered is your ability to like things and comment on posts.
Are you happy making that trade-off?
2. Smartphone location services
If you have an iPhone, try this: click on settings, then privacy, then
location services, system services and frequent locations. You’ll notice
a list of all the cities you’re in regularly. Click on any specific
city, and you’ll find that your phone knows all the locations you
frequently visit. For me, that includes my home, local tube station and
office, but also the pub I play Netrunner in, the house of one of my
best friends and the comics shop I frequent.
Don’t feel smug if you use Android instead: Google
keeps just as copious
notes on your location and, unlike Apple, it is stored in the cloud,
where it can theoretically be subpoenaed by law enforcement or accessed
by a suspicious partner who happens to know your password.
*How to turn it off:* both companies let you turn off location histories
from the same pages you can look at yours. But if you do that, they’ll
get a lot worse at giving you accurate and useful location suggestions.
There’s that pesky trade-off again.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that a company that sells you cheap cabs
through a slick app keeps data on your journeys. And that data is
well-used by Uber to reassure customers that their journey is safe: the
company will show you your ride history as well as information about
your driver which can be crucial for solving disputes or, if the worst
happens, ensuring justice.
But Uber hasn’t got the best history of using that data well. The
company has had to apologise before for accessing a journalist’s journey
details in order to make rhetorical points, as well as remove a piece of
“data journalism” looking at ride histories in aggregate to find out how
many of their customers were using the service for one-night stands.
They titled the post “rides of glory”.
How to turn it off: the best way is not to use Uber
*How to turn it off: *the best way would be not to use Uber. But there’s
that trade-off again: old-school taxis, whether hailed from the street
or called from a dispatch office, are going to end up charging you a lot
more for your newly anonymous journey.
4. Mobile phone networks
Your mobile phone works by sending encrypted communications to and from
masts, known as “cells”. Of course, especially in a built-up area,
there’s likely to be more than one cell in range of your phone at any
given time, and things would get confusing if they were all trying to
run the call at the same time. So your phone pairs with one particular
cell, and “hands off” to a new one when you move around (the annoying
clicks you get if you leave a phone next to an unshielded speaker is
your phone checking in with a cell, to confirm it’s still alive).
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realise what this means: your
mobile phone network has a record of where you’ve been, accurate to at
least the range of the closest phone tower. In practice, it’s probably
quite a bit more accurate than that, as they can triangulate in using
information from other towers in your area.
*How to turn it off:* stop using a mobile phone. Seriously, this one
isn’t going away. If you’ve got a removable battery, you can try taking
that out when you don’t want to be tracked, but whenever you turn your
phone back on, your mobile phone network is going to know where you are.
5. Exif data in your pictures
Did you know that digital photographs contain information about the
picture? Known as Exif data, the standard was created to hold stuff that
photographers might find useful to know alongside the image, such as the
focal length and aperture they used while taking it. It’s used by
professionals to embed contact information and copyright details, as well.
Of course, as with most standards, there’s been a bit of feature-creep,
and these days, Exif data can contain a whole lot more information. In
fact, if you’ve taken a picture with a smartphone, or even a modern
digital camera, there’s a good chance that the picture records where it
was taken using the built-in GPS. That’s great for building maps of your
holidays, but not so good if you’re trading snaps with strangers.
Built-in GPS – great for building maps of your holidays. Not so good
if you're trading snaps with strangers
*How to turn it off:* most cameras let you disable embedding location
data in the files, but the good news is that social networks are one
step ahead of you – and this time, they’re on your side. Facebook and
Twitter both strip the metadata from images uploaded to the site,
causing a headache for users who need the extra information but
protecting those who don’t know that they’re uploading potentially
6. Facial recognition
Have you ever used Facebook’s tag suggest feature? The social network
can scan through your uploaded pictures to find ones with friends in who
haven’t been tagged, and offer you suggestions for who to add. It’s a
wonderful time-saver over doing it the manual way, even if careless use
can lead to some social faux pas (try to avoid tagging someone you don’t
like just because they’re in the background of another picture).
But Facebook, and Google – which offers a similar feature – can only do
that because it’s been running facial-recognition software on photos
uploaded to the site for years. In September 2012, Facebook was even
forced to disable the feature
after the Irish data protection commissioner scolded it for doing so
*How to turn it off:* try to avoid being in photos or having friends. Easy!
CodeDay is a 24-hour programming event for students. This fall,
CodeDay will take place in 30 cities across the US, attracting
many thousands of students.
Unlike hackathons, CodeDay isn't focused on showing off to win thousands
of dollars in prizes or building a hot startup. Students attend CodeDay
to have fun. As a result, we attract only attendees who genuinely love
technology, and they tend to be the best in their field. Many of the
students who you’ve seen publish successful apps and games, succeed at
large university and industry hackathons, and start companies were
inspired at CodeDay. We are a non-profit working to get students excited
about building tech projects. Each year we identify a select number of
organizations we believe can be beneficial to our participants, and to
whom we believe we can provide great value, and offer them an
opportunity to partner.
The sponsorships listed are presented per-event, e.g. for CodeDay
Seattle Spring 2014. If you are interested in sponsoring multiple events
or sponsoring year-round, please contact us.
* Logo on website
* Set up a banner
* Hand out swag
* Host activity
* Thanked during kickoff
* 1 Minute kickoff speech
* Branded prize *
* 5 Minute kickoff speech
* + *
* Bring mentors
* 60 Minute workshop
* Student resumes
* Bring recruiters
* Share recruiting materials
Alternative sponsorship options:
* Pay for a meal ($500 value)
* Provide venue for CodeDay ($2,000 value)
* You must supply all of your prizes.
Cannot exceed $100/person cash value.
Map of CodeDay events.
This is your reach.
Become a global sponsor and support the next innovator.