All cars to come with a location beacon

It says in the always-recommended Freedom to Tinker blog that

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing a requirement that every car should broadcast a cleartext message specifying its exact position, speed, and heading ten times per second. In comments filed in April, during the 90-day comment period, we (specifically, Leo Reyzin, Anna Lysyanskaya, Vitaly Shmatikov, Adam Smith, together with the CDT via Joseph Lorenzo Hall and Joseph Jerome) argued that this requirement will result in a significant loss to privacy. Others have aptly argued that the proposed system also has serious security challenges and cannot prevent potentially deadly malicious broadcasts, and that it will be outdated before it is deployed. In this post I focus on privacy, though I think security problems and resulting safety risks are also important to consider.

I actually like this proposal. I’m post privacy, in the sense of being someone who has concluded that privacy is a technological impossibility and therefore a lost cause. The requirement for cleartext is something I see as a feature rather than a bug. What peeves me off royally, far more than the amount of data I’m shoveling to the data brokers with “my” devices, is that there isn’t a legible copy of that data stream for my own use, in self discovery, or what was meant by “quantified self” in a more innocent time, before that term (along with “sharing economy”) got brutally co-opted. My casus belli these days, rather than privacy (or even transparency, which unfortunately has become a weasel word) is information asymmetry, more precisely, the amelioration and preferably neutralization of it. I’m personally more comfortable (actually, less uncomfortable) with data about me being accessible to the world at large than available to paying clients under the understanding that it’s proprietary data. Plus I like the idea of the world of traffic analysis being opened to open source/open data/pubwan types and not just purveyors of “secret sauce” solutions to emerging industries like semi-autonomous vehicles, optimization of logistics, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I do see a downside to this. Most importantly, the security concerns. Many people place some value on the largely empty phrase “privacy policy” because it promises that access to personal data will be vetted, so supposedly it will be aggressively kept out of the hands of cybercriminals. If it’s put into the hands of narrowcasters and precision-target marketers, well, at least they’re not criminals, and as they say, TANSTAAFL. Also, even my post-privacy self would like some trips to be discreet. I’m thinking I can live with plaintext geotelemetry being either allowed or required, if a hard off switch is provided. But since the “selling point” of this is helping “emergency services,” we can be pretty sure that’s one feature which will be disallowed. Honestly, just the stated reasons are reason enough for a NO vote from me. But I do sorely wish there were a place in the world for an internet of nonproprietary things, that communicate with the world at large, and generate data that somehow manages to be actionable without being monetized. I know, I know, information wants to be valuable. (Sigh)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Data donor cards

I propose we create a new category of consumer. The way we do that is by some of us announcing that we are, in fact, consumers of this new type. I propose that some number of us (myself included) proclaim ourselves to the world (on the public record) that we the type of consumers who #VolunteerInformation. In the spirit of free software embracing both “free as in beer” and “free as in speech” (or free as in freedom), I want the world to know that by “volunteer” I mean both “volunteer as in voluntary” and “volunteer as in unpaid.” The latter provision is every bit as important as the former, as I believe that monetization necessarily implies value subtraction (or at least the delivery of diminished value by the imposition of artificial rivalry and excludability). For such consumers as myself (and hopefully I can recruit numerous others) it would be ideal if clinical facilities have easy access to our “data donor cards” as well as any “organ donor cards” we may or may not have. Perhaps open data licenses, like open software licences, can come with some restrictions regarding proprietary use, or at least require publication of findings in open access journals. Perhaps a data donor card itself can be rigged in such a way that “reading” the card automatically triggers data transmission into the public realm, sort of like some of those cop-cam apps that supposedly share video in real time. If there can be a data donor card for clinical use, why not for point of sale use and perhaps other uses?

Of course there are privacy concerns, but let’s all step back three feet and recall why privacy is of value in the first place. Here’s a hint: It’s not of value only to those who “have something to hide.” For most of us it’s most likely to be of value when we have reason to “play our cards close to the vest,” such as negotiating things like wages or prices. Well, guess what? The business community (in this context it really is that monolithic) already knows your “price points” and “pain points,” and the location of all the “cliffs” in your own personal many-dimensional “utility function.” After all, a business doesn’t have to be a “tech giant” to have purchased enough “data products” from “HR consulting firms” or “marketing consulting firms” to have a decisively advantageous level of #InformationAsymmetry relative to a mere individual. Even if you’re applying for a job with a small business, you probably had to sign away your privacy rights as part of the process, and your life is an utterly open book to them already. Privacy is already a lost cause, and the reasons are rooted in technology and not amenable to legal reforms. Thinking about it in terms of opportunity cost, whatever privacy you lose (donate!) to the public domain has already been lost to the data silos. Plus you get to stick it to the man, at least in a small way, by diluting the exchange value (which exists only due to exclusivity) of the data confidentiality you’ve already lost to the proprietary version of knowledge discovery.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stingray devices and the seeming paucity of civilian countermeasures

Kevin Collier: This Is How Many Stingray Devices Exist in Trump’s America

Surely there must be at least the theoretical possibility of a warchalking technique capable of differentiating spoofs from legit transponders. Are there still people who apply hacker ethic to solving technical problems, though? It seems we’re living in very careerist times, in which activities that aren’t monetized are activities that simply don’t take place.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Post-autistic economics meets the competition ethic

There’s workplace accommodations for disabilities, but making extroversion (“excellent communication skills”) no longer a prerequisite for employability (in virtually any occupation) would be pulling the thread that unravels the whole fabric of capitalist society. That’s my pet hypothesis, anyway.

I don’t have anything against extroverts. I’m just sick of extroversion being the ticket of admission, even to the occupations people think of as nerdy. It’s like Lake Wobegon. All the children are above average, and all the employed adults have excellent communication skills. Sounds like a broken society to me.

I think the HR-sphere gets it about portfolios of skills, but currently in a way where a portfolio that doesn’t include communication skills is basically unmarketable regardless of what things it does have. Any skill adds value to a skills portfolio, but communication is the one “make or break” skill.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quotebag #118

Gail Tverberg:
Unfortunately, Adam Smith was right; there is an invisible hand guiding the economy.
Mike Konczal:
Those that would trade decommodification and worker power for basic income deserve neither.
Choice is a fuzzy concept.
The obsession with IQ is one of the great irrationalites of the rationalsphere.
Rick Falkvinge:
The way governments want to tap all money flows in order to fund itself is not entirely unlike how the surveillance agencies want to tap all information flows in order to have an information advantage.
Heather Marsh:
Society without science, and without an effective way to integrate epistemic communities, will always be a society dissociated and easily controlled.
Eureka Springs:
A couple generations is probably not long enough to learn how to shake off puritanical, neoliberal shackles. And if we allow the old company store to take a big/jig revenue stream for far far more than they are worth… like banks, credit cards, payday loansters, prison profiteers, cable and telcos and pharma, insurance, etc do today… then we are just plain stupid indeed.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maybe I’m a high modernist

I became aware of the terminology “high modernist” by reading Scott Alexander’s review of Seeing Like a State by James Scott. Scott A:

But the High Modernists were pawns in service of a deeper motive: the centralized state wanted the world to be “legible”, ie arranged in a way that made it easy to monitor and control. An intact forest might be more productive than an evenly-spaced rectangular grid of Norway spruce, but it was harder to legislate rules for, or assess taxes on.

Now I have no desire to be anyone’s pawn, but I desperately want to live in a world that is legible. It just occurred to me that that is the central reason I came up with the idea of pubwan, a central reason I came up with the idea of anagorism and, now that I think about it, probably what I really would most like to do for a living, to think of as not just a livelihood but a calling, is work to increase legibility of the world. I wouldn’t want to be a party to the kinds of scorched-earth policies described by J. Scott and Scott A., so it looks like I have to look elsewhere for a professional calling, which is sad, because I’m really fresh out of ideas as to how I might make something of myself.

I want to know why legibility enhancement has been as problematic as it has been. The following possibilities occur to me:

  • legibility is inherently problematic, and therefore I am a bad person for wanting it
  • legibility would have been good for humanity had its promoters not sold out and worked in service to the state
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Quotebag #117

Paul Ford:
The entire world of emulation is filled with references to very specific things that you should not seek out, that you must never Google, that you should definitely not obtain.
If suffering proves absolutely necessarily for conscious and intelligence, then at that point I’d conclude it’s best to just wipe out life entirely. (I’d share this insight and commit suicide.) I doubt that’s the case. We can engineer superior motivational structures.
Scott Dunn:
Advertising. I avoid it whenever possible because I consider it garbage for the brain.
Richard C. Longworth:
What is the purpose of an economy? If it is not solely for the well-being of the people who live within it, what is an economy for?
Liberals think that life is supposed to be a positive experience, and that when it is not, that is a problem for society to address and (if possible) fix. Conservatives think that life is supposed to suck, and that if you’re enjoying the experience too much, that is a problem for society to address and (if possible) “fix”. The whole “comfort kills careers” meme is the tip of that iceberg.
Posted in quotebag | Leave a comment