The reasons you can’t be anonymous anymore

The reasons you can’t be anonymous anymore
In today’s hyper-connected world, it is becoming harder and harder for anyone to maintain their privacy. Is it time we just gave up on the idea altogether?
By Bryan Lufkin
May 29 2017

Imagine walking into a roomful of strangers. Perhaps you’ve travelled to a new city. You don’t know anyone, and no one knows you. You’re free to do anything or go anywhere or talk to anyone. How do you feel?

Perhaps you feel free of the judgment and scrutiny from acquaintances or associates. Perhaps you feel energised that you can use this opportunity to experience life on your terms, at your own speed. But whatever your feelings would be, you would at least safely assume that you can enter this isolated situation without being monitored or tracked by a far-flung company or individual – right?

Wrong. What you’re experiencing as you walk into that room is anonymity: a sociocultural phenomenon that’s afforded privacy and freedom. But in the year 2017, it’s pretty much all but dead. It’s emerging as one of the major challenges of our age: how should we go about both ensuring national security and enhancing our lives through technology, whilst also maintaining a basic right to privacy that feels like it has existed since the beginning of human history?”

The internet made us stop caring 

Anonymity, which is Greek for “no name,” is a uniquely human psychological experience: it’s the idea that we all have identities to present to the world, but under certain circumstances, can switch the identity off and operate in total secrecy.

“We need a public self to navigate the social world of family, friends, peers and co-workers,” says John Suler, professor of psychology at Rider University in New Jersey, and author of The Psychology of Cyberspace. “But we also need a private self – an internal space where we can reflect on our own thoughts and feelings apart from outside influence, where we can just be with our own psyche. Our identity is formed by both. Without one or the other, our wellbeing can easily become disrupted.”

Being anonymous allows us to try new things or express ideas without being judged. In 2013, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania published a study in which they conducted in-depth interviews with dozens of internet users on four continents. One interviewee, for instance, created an anonymous online community for English learners to practise their language skills. Anonymity helped them better manage certain spheres of their lives. One participant said that he frequented message boards to help people solve technical problems, but sought to avoid unwanted commitments through the detached nature of the internet. Plus, being anonymous in an environment like the internet can help safeguard personal safety.

“Our results show that people from all walks of life had reason, at one time or another, to seek anonymity,” the researchers wrote of the 44 interviewees.

But according to a 2013 study from the Pew Research Center, while most internet users would like to remain anonymous, most don’t think it’s entirely possible. The study found that 59% of American internet users believe it is impossible to completely hide your identity online.

And while some people are taking basic steps to preserve anonymity, like deleting their browsing history, many users who say they value anonymity aren’t really walking the walk.

Earlier this year, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Communicationexplored something called the “privacy paradox”: the idea that, while people value privacy, they do little in practice to preserve it. Think about it: when was the last time you actually read one of those many, lengthy privacy policy updates before clicking “I agree”? Our attitude toward privacy has become increasingly blasé.

One could even argue it’s even detrimental not to divulge at least some info. Career coaches worldwide trumpet the professional importance of having a fleshed-out public LinkedIn photo complete with full name, headshot, full work history and more.

Perhaps this is more of a cultural thawing toward previously uptight attitudes. I remember getting on the internet for the first time. It was the 1990s and on my father’s work computer. In those days, internet service providers went to great, paranoid lengths to discourage users from divulging even basic tidbits in their public profiles, like first name, city, even gender.


Violence is soaring in the Mexican towns that feed America’s heroin habit

Violence is soaring in the Mexican towns that feed America’s heroin habit
By Joshua Partlow
May 30 2017

A Mexican soldier throws poppies onto a fire during an eradication operation in Guerrero state’s Tierra Caliente, or Hot Lands, where flowers that are used to produce heroin are grown and where violence has skyrocketed.

In this skittish town on Mexico’s heroin highway, civilians with rusty shotguns shake down passing cars for contributions to the public defense. The police were disbanded years ago. The mayor recently got a death threat and fled in the governor’s helicopter.

But it’s when Highway 51 drops down from the rolling hills, and runs west in two lonely lanes across the scorched valley floor, that danger really starts to poison people’s lives. Drug bosses known as “the Tequila Man”and “the Fish” rule like feudal lords, at war with each other and the vigilante groups that have risen against them. Residents get kidnapped in groups. Tortured corpses are discarded in the valley, left to sear on hot pavement.

The opioid epidemic that has caused so much pain in the United States is also savaging Mexico, contributing to a breakdown of order in rural areas. Heroin is like steroids for drug gangs, pumping money and muscle into their fight to control territory and transportation routes to the United States.

Mexico provides more than 90 percent of America’s heroin, up from less than 10 percent in 2003, when Colombia was the main supplier. Poppy production has expanded by about 800 percent in a decade as U.S. demand has soared. The western state of Guerrero is the center of this business, producing more than half of Mexico’s opium poppies, the base ingredient for heroin. Guerrero also has become the most violent state in Mexico, with more than 2,200 killings last year.

“These groups have transformed themselves into a super-criminal power,” said Ricardo Mejia Berdeja, the head of the security committee in the Guerrero state congress. “The anchor for organized crime is heroin poppy.”

Guerrero has produced marijuana and poppies for decades. But organized crime used to be more organized, with one main cartel in the state quietly paying off police and officials and moving drugs. The booming heroin business has encouraged the rise of new gun-toting trafficking bands, which in turn has triggered the rise of citizen militias.

Along this 110-mile stretch of Highway 51 in the region known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Lands,below the poppy-carpeted slopes of the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains, the social breakdown is plain to see. More than 200 schools have closed periodicallyin recent months as striking teachers protested rampant criminality. The Mexican army moved into one town this month to wrest control from a civilian militia that was threatening a nearby village.

“This is a land without law,” said one businessman who works in the region.


Coal Is in a Death Spiral as India Cancels New Plants and Solar Prices Plummet

Coal Is in a Death Spiral as India Cancels New Plants and Solar Prices Plummet
By Juan Cole
May 30 2017

China and India have knocked the United States off the top spot of the index of best places to invest in renewables.  Analysts cite the impact of Trump’s policies in favor of coal and petroleum.

Meanwhile, as Trump talks up a return of coal in the US, global coal markets have been shaken to the core by the Indian government’s decision to cancel planned 14 gigawatts of coal plants.  They took the decision because solar power has fallen in price so dramatically that the coal plants were no longer competitive.

India’s plans for so many dirty coal plants had raised alarms among climate activists, who suggested that they would make it impossible for New Delhi to meet its emissions reduction goals under the Paris climate treaty.  That consideration has now been removed.

Solar’s share of India’s electricity output increased 80 percent last year.. India added 10 gigawatts of solar in 2016.  It has a goal of 100 gigawatts from solar by 2022.

The renewable energy sector in India already accounts for 60,000 jobs, and will add a similar number by 2022.

India is able to generate electricity by solar panels for 4.4 cents a kilowatt hour without any subsidy, undercutting not only coal but all other sources of electricity generation.  Analysts are wondering whether at these prices India will ever build another coal plant.


Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse

Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse
The agency is so harmful to civil rights, there’s a good argument it should be disbanded altogether. Unfortunately they are only becoming more emboldened
By Trevor Timm
May 31 2017

With arrests of non-violent undocumented immigrants exploding across the country, it’s almost as if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents are having an internal contest to see who can participate in the most cruel and inhumane arrest possible. The agency, emboldened by Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, is out of control – and Congress is doing little to stop them.

Last week, Ice agents ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant, complimented the chef on their meal, and then proceeded to arrest three members of the restautants kitchen staff, according to the owner. 

Depraved stories like this are now almost too prevalent to comprehensively count: Ice has arrested undocumented immigrants showing up for scheduled green card appointments at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. They’ve arrested a father after dropping his daughter off at school. An Ice detainee was even removed forcefully against her will from a hospital where she was receiving treatment for a brain tumor.

In a particularly dangerous policy, Ice been arresting people inside US courthouses around the country. “Attorneys and prosecutors in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado have all reported teams of Ice agents — some in uniform, some not — sweeping into courtrooms or lurking outside court complexes, waiting to arrest immigrants who are in the country illegally,” reported the LA Times in March.

It apparently doesn’t matter that the agency has faced stiff resistance from judges and prosecutors over this policy, who have both claimed that it will mean people won’t show up to court. And fears are not just conjecture: a Denver city attorney was recently forced to drop four domestic violence cases because the witnesses were too afraid to come into court for fear of being deported.

Many groups, including the ACLU, have also accused Ice of targeting non-violent activists who protest the Trump administration’s increasingly draconian immigration policy with arrest.

While the anecdotes are horrifying, the numbers tell a similar story. Arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased substantially over Trump’s first few months in office. According to numbers released by the government, over Trump’s first one hundred days, Ice arrested over 41,000 individuals – a 37.6% increase over a year earlier, which they openly bragged about on the Ice website.

Worse, the arrests of non-violent immigrants with no criminal record whatsoever has exploded, more than doubling from 4,242 people to 10,845 over the same period from 2016 to 2017. And as the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday: “Men and women held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are on pace to die at double the rate of those who died in Ice custody last year.”


Supreme Court Rules Patent Laws Can’t Be Used to Prevent Reselling

Supreme Court Rules Patent Laws Can’t Be Used to Prevent Reselling
May 30 2017

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday placed sharp limits on how much control patent holders have over how their products are used after they are sold.

The case concerned Lexmark International, which makes toner cartridges for use in its printers. The court ruled that the company could not use patent law to stop companies from refilling and selling the cartridges.

Mark Lemley, director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, said that anyone who refurbished, repaired or resold used products would now be protected from patent infringement claims. The ruling will also prevent manufacturers from forcing consumers to buy supplies only from the original source.

“It’s good for consumers,” Mr. Lemley said. “It’s going to reduce consumer prices.”

Lexmark sold the cartridges on the condition that they not be reused after the ink ran out. Impression Products, a small company in Charleston, W.Va., nonetheless bought Lexmark cartridges in the United States and abroad, refurbished and refilled them, and sold them more cheaply than Lexmark does.

Lexmark sued for patent infringement, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized court in Washington, accepted both of its main arguments, concerning domestic and international sales.

The appeals court acknowledged that the general rule was that buyers of patented products could do with them what they wished. But it said the conditions Lexmark placed on the sale of its cartridges could be enforced as a matter of patent law for sales in the United States.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for a unanimous Supreme Court on this point, disagreed. He said Lexmark could not use the patent laws to enforce the contractual conditions it placed on the sale of its cartridges. Under the doctrine of “patent exhaustion,” he wrote, once a patent holder sells an item, it can no longer control the item through the patent laws.

“The purchaser and all subsequent owners are free to use or resell the product just like any other item of personal property, without fear of an infringement lawsuit,” the chief justice wrote.

He used an illustration to make the point.

“Take a shop that restores and sells used cars,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “The business works because the shop can rest assured that, so long as those bringing in the cars own them, the shop is free to repair and resell those vehicles. That smooth flow of commerce would sputter if companies that make the thousands of parts that go into a vehicle could keep their patent rights after the first sale.”


Technology is making the world more unequal. Only technology can fix this

Technology is making the world more unequal. Only technology can fix this
The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology – but it’s also easier than ever to destabilise these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?
By Cory Doctorow
May 31 2017

Here’s the bad news: technology – specifically, surveillance technology – makes it easier to police disaffected populations, and that gives badly run, corrupt states enough stability to get themselves into real trouble.

Here’s the good news: technology – specifically, networked technology – makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilise, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states.

Inequality creates instability, and not just because of the resentments the increasingly poor majority harbours against the increasingly rich minority. Everyone has a mix of good ideas and terrible ones, but for most of us, the harm from our terrible ideas is capped by our lack of political power and the checks that others – including the state – impose on us.

As rich people get richer, however, their wealth translates into political influence, and their ideas – especially their terrible ideas – take on outsized importance.

In Saudi Arabia, the delusional superstitions of a tiny, super-rich elite exclude nearly 45% of the population from full participation in civic life. This is unequivocally bad for the gulf state, whose next cure for cancer or post-oil economic transition may never emerge because its inventor was stuck indoors waiting for her “male guardian” to drive her somewhere.

But we needn’t only look to the Middle East to find rich people’s bad ideas making everyone worse off.

While Saudi hydrocarbonism denies humanity to women, American hydrocarbonism denies credibility to climate scientists. This is a much more democratically stupid idea in that it will kill rich people as well as poor: even the best-guarded McMansionis still epidemiologically linked to the people dying of tuberculosis outside its walls, and mosquito-borne Zika doesn’t care about your wealth.

In Britain we have the weaponisation of shelter, in which homes become a speculative investment instead of a human right, which massively unbalances the UK economy while distorting work, education and family life – even as our cities fill up with empty tower blocks laden with celestial safe-deposit boxes that may be money laundries for offshore criminals first, and only incidentally places where someone might live, someday.

But this inequality-instability contains the seeds of its own downfall. Letting small elites enforce their cherished, foolish ideas as iron-clad law eventually produces a state so badly run that it collapses, either through revolution or massive reforms (see, for example, Brazil). Smart unequal societies prevent collapse by convincing their elites to hand over some of their earnings to the rest of the country, producing broadly shared prosperity and a sense of national solidarity that transcends class resentments (see, for example, Sweden).


Millimetre wave.. omigerd it’s going nowherrr.. Apple, you say?

[Note:  This item comes from friend Joly MacFie.  DLH]

Millimetre wave.. omigerd it’s going nowherrr.. Apple, you say?
Guess who’s joined the bandwagon…
By Wireless Watch
May 30 2017

Apple may not be the invincible force it once was in mobile, but it is still unrivalled in its ability to scatter stardust over new technologies – just ask the companies which struggled to push Wi-Fi Calling or wireless charging into the mainstream before the iPhone maker came along. Now it has kindled new sparks of enthusiasm, or perhaps hype, around millimetre wave spectrum by applying for an experimental licence to test high frequency bands in the US.

The mmWave bands are being closely watched as a potential new source of plentiful spectrum capacity. However, despite some interesting trials in Japan and South Korea, the major commercially oriented activity is confined to the US and fixed wireless access. Also, the challenges of deploying in these bands are starting to be fully appreciated, risking a bursting of the bubble.

Apple plans mmWave tests in California

So it is timely for mmWave enthusiasts that Apple has helped restore the faith. It has asked the FCC for permission to test in 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands – the main ones which are envisaged for commercial services from Verizon and AT&T from next year. Verizon is, so far, the major holder of these airwaves, having made several acquisitions to secure licences in both bands. AT&T has 39 GHz licences and T-Mobile gained some 28 GHz spectrum when it bought MetroPCS. Further mmWave airwaves will be auctioned at a future, as-yet undecided date.

Apple aims to carry out the tests at its Silicon Valley headquarters and in Milpitas, California. “Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum. These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks,” the company said in its filing.

Light Reading reported in November that Apple was advertising for “multi-gigabit” mmWave chip designers, though there are many issues with implementing these high frequency radios in mobile devices at affordable cost and acceptable battery life. Complex antenna design and beamsteering will be required to address the limited propagation of low power equipment in high frequencies – the most prominent trial of mobile services, outside the lab, is being undertaken by Softbank and Ericsson in Japan.

Millimetre wave bands are in use already in wireless – for point-to-point “wireless fibre” high speed links including backhaul, and in the 60 GHz band, which supports the Wi-Fi-like WiGig. This has been implemented in chipsets suited to handsets although its main commercial use so far has been for high speed, short range connectivity between devices – to transfer video between TVs and tablets in the home, for instance, or to link PCs to peripherals.

However, Apple could get into the 28 GHz/39 GHz game early by designing a home gateway, Apple TV or iPad which could link to the operators’ fixed wireless services (the tablet could still have a sub-6 GHz radio for mobility purposes). Apple has tested its DirecTV services in 39 GHz.