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The Internet of “Things” is the Jonestown of Privacy

The latest lunacy to arrive for the internet is the Internet of Things. Things being any device that takes electricity and can be equipped with a wireless transceiver.
I’m not sure who coined it, nor do I care, as it has to be the single dumbest meme since Social Networking.

Social Networking is the Jonestown of the Advertising Industry.

The Internet of Things theory is we interconnect our computers and or ‘smart’ phones with every other appliance and gadget we own. Really? Status updates from your appliances, car and TV?

Google’s Nest Labs which makes Thermostats and smoke alarms is the poster child for this lunacy. Here we have a device with an LED display that can be programmed to allegedly save you money by learning your habits and patterns, and stop unnecessary heating and cooling. Having an ‘app’ on your phone to play with your thermostat is just a bit nuts. Most folks look at their thermostat twice a year, during heating and cooling seasons.

The first problem with this is your house is probably not airtight, and its construction negates any ‘savings’ you may achieve. Raising the temperature when you are not home and lowering it before you arrive is a nice theory, and the electric companies make a compelling case for setting your temps higher.
(You can live life at 79 degrees in the summer) The problem comes in the physics of temperature control. By raising and or lowering your temps, your HVAC unit has to work much harder to control this swing, negating any ‘savings’.

Being WiFi enabled just gives hackers another opening into your life either by war driving or compromising your smart phone. To add insult to injury having the phone company flogging these products on their sites and the information traveling over their networks just adds another bit of surveillance information that gets passed along to three letter agencies.

SMART TV’s are Back in the News again. I have written about this before. The latest revelations concern any brand of Smart TV sold that is compatible with the new HbbTV standard (short for hybrid broadcast-broadband) which is giving advertisers a gigantic pulsing erection to TARGET you with Messages. This is not some obscure hack only discussed in hacker forums, but is a real threat.

From Forbes comes this nugget
“Broadcasters and advertisers have been eager to use the HbbTV to target ads more precisely and add interactive content, polls, shopping and apps, to home viewers. But millions of TV sets would be vulnerable to hackers with the right gear, as long as the sets are receiving an over-the-air digital broadcast signal.”
Source Forbes.com

Now if your TV is connected to your home network, or smart phone your life is gonna be basically over.

The Internet of Things is not content to screw around with your house, they also want to fuck up your driving as well.

GM whose first foray into automotive spyware interactive driving was OnStar, billed as a safety feature originally. Their latest brainchild is an app that lets you scan a license plate, then text the driver.

New ways to practice road rage.

the creep factor is enormous..
……
Hi Hal I noticed you have a large pack of toilet paper in your back seat, Would like us to come and check out your plumbing?
…..

Hey baby, how about pulling over at the rest stop?
….

Hello Hal. This is the Onstar dispute resolution APP. We noticed that You texted another driver about an un-signaled lane change, would you like us to help you resolve this?
…..

Hello Hal. Your last text to another driver contained threats regarding bodily harm. The Police have been notified and your car will be shut down in 30 seconds, so please move to the shoulder and await the authorities.
…..

To add insult to injury having the phone company transmitting this information over their networks just adds another bit of surveillance information that gets passed along to three letter agencies.

One important point that is not mentioned by the IOT weenies is every electrical device has an OFF Switch.

The Internet of Things is the Jonestown of Privacy

Stop DRM in HTML 5


The web works because the underlying code HTML has up until now been open. Some folks want to close it down.

“Encrypted Media Extensions” is a proposal to allow DRM style proprietary types of content into the web. Dumb Move.

Read More:

Don’t let the myths fool you: the W3C’s plan for DRM in HTML5 is a betrayal to all Web users.

Take Action:
More than 22,000 people have signed.
Help us reach 50,000!
Tell W3C: We don’t want the Hollyweb

We already have too many bad media extensions like Flash, Java, and Silverlight, which constantly put users at risk with constant security updates. It is time to get off this treadmill.

All Things Digital – Frontrunner or Weasel Text

Privacy on the Internet is starting to get some mainstream traction as more and more folks are getting a clue, the collection and sale of browsing information is becoming big business, and arguably the premier business publication the Wall Street Journal posted an incredibly detailed series.The ouroboros elegance of this business publication opening the trenchcoat of online business is stunning.

All Things Digital is technology website owned by the Wall Street Journal.  In an interesting turn of events like “eating their own dogfood” which is geek speak for practicing what you preach, your first time to All Things Digital, or if you clear all your cookies will bring you to the front page with a yellow banner.

Here is a screenshot of a page from All Things Digital for Oct. 1, 2010. Note the yellow banner entitled “A note about tracking cookies”

“Some of the advertisers and Web analytics firms used on this site may place “tracking cookies” on your computer. We are telling you about them right upfront, and we want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies if you like. Read more »”

 

That they are telling us upfront is a fib since they have been online a number of years and this is the first I have seen it. This is ‘advancing to the rear’ and or  a PR Stunt to make you like getting your privacy violated. Put it away right now as we follow the Read more link.

 

Here is the text of their explanation:

Tracking cookies are small text files that can tell such companies what you are doing online, even though they usually don’t record your name or other personably identifiable information. These cookies are used by these companies to try and match ads to a user’s interests. They are used all over the Web, but in most cases, their presence is only disclosed deep inside privacy policies.

We want you to know how to get rid of these tracking cookies if you like. Here are links to pages where you can opt out of the cookies set by our ad-placement contractor and our analytics contractor:

* http://www.doubleclick.com/privacy/index.aspx
* http://www.omniture.com/privacy/2o7

We’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as we know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one as of now.

If you want to clean out all tracking cookies from all your Web sites, here are links where you can download three programs that can clean out tracking cookies:

* http://www.lavasoftusa.com/products/ad-aware_se_personal.php
* http://www.spybot.info/en/download/index.html
* http://www.webroot.com/consumer/products/spysweeper/

You can also change the preferences or settings in your Web browser to control cookies. In some cases, you can choose to accept cookies from the primary site, but block them from third parties. In others, you can block cookies from specific advertisers, or clear out all cookies.

Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Like most other Web sites, ours may place cookies on your computer, in addition to any placed by advertisers. But ours aren’t “tracking cookies.” They merely do things like save your registration information, if you choose to register. They do not tell us what you do or where you go online.

Frontrunner or Weasel Text?

Frontrunner. They are being upfront and providing an explanation.
Weasel Text. You only see it once. This is the same crap that commercial websites do to you when you register and by default you accept Terms and Conditions by registering. The T&C is where you agree to be tracked, screwed, blued, tatooed, and have any information about you packaged and sold to the highest bidder or anyone with a checkbook. But that is a different rant.

Frontrunner. They do tell you how to get rid of certain cookies, of their ad-placement contractor and analytics contractor, but do not discuss web beacons, or Flash Cookies which are a whole ‘nother story.

Weasel Text. They go on to say this:

“We’d prefer a totally opt-in system, but, as far as we know, the ad industry doesn’t have a practical one as of now.”

 

My question is “Why the fuck is it the ad industry’s job to come up with a solution to a problem they themselves  support by using these companies?” 

Practical? WTF? You mean easy. You mean letting the same abrogation of responsibility continue.

They don’t tell you about Ad Blockers so you don’t have to see the ads in the first place, but make you jump through hoops to visit their site without being collected, collated, and sold off. Although these are good steps to regain your privacy, they neglect to tell you about the performance penalty that is imposes on your  computer. Your browser is slower as these programs have to run before you see any of the ‘content’.

All Things Digital gets an ‘atta boy’ for stepping up with this information, but gets an ‘aw shit’ for not making the note a permanent part of their site.

Privacy

Just about every commercial website has a privacy policy. Usually buried at the bottom or in an inconvenient location, telling you that they are really the good guys and it is those nasty but necessary “Third Party’s” and or “Partners” that are tracking you.

The reality is that no website requires cookies. Counting visits and page views are recorded in the logfiles of every site on the web. However counting this way gives you raw numbers only without identifying individual users or computers. Which is a good thing if you value your privacy. It is a bad thing if you are relying on advertisers to support you.

Advertising supported publication is a dead end. Just ask the Newspaper Industry. It is alive on the web because nobody has thought of a better way to support sites. Paywalls don’t work. Advertisers and Tracking companies are using the value proposition of tracking you to present ‘relevant’ ads. They sell this shit to sites in a Faustian bargain of taking over the chore of counting and ad sales in exchange for tracking information which in most cases is not shared with the sites and is packaged and sold to anybody with a checkbook. This is why there is always a disclaimer about  ”those nasty but necessary “Third Party’s” and or “Partners”‘.

This ‘get out of responsibility’  should make you stop and think for a moment about any site’s veracity, ethical or moral compass in the information they present. If they are so quick to give up control of their site, and make your visit a target to sell you shit, what if any faith of trust should you have in the information they present?

 

Twitter and HTML

In the latest adventure on the web, Twitter the texting darling application that supposes that all the worlds news and intelligence can be explained in 140 characters, has been compromised by none other than exploiting and using JavaScript. Shelley has the goods here.

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, which at one time was about getting text on the screen with the odd image. The Hyper stood for the transport protocol. Not anymore especially among the AJAX fools and Flashturbators, whose idea of a good time is to plant code on your computer, track you across the web and sell that information to anybody with a checkbook who will hire some dumb young designer to create ‘ads’ that target you for shit you can probably do without.

Using JavaScript to plant more shit on your machine and follow you around even more. (If your browser is slow, don’t blame your connection, but rather the sites you are surfing and all of the connections they are making with webbugs, cookies, flash cookies, IFrames, that load in the background and foreground before you actually see the text that originally brought you to a site. I mentioned this 10 years ago.

You want VRM? This is where you start.

Keep you money in your pocket until these folks figure out that spying and pickpocketing you is not acceptable.

What is not happening is calling out the sites that use the ‘not responsible for third party behavior’ crap.
Sites that want to count shit have log files to look at, which have been used and generated since the first webserver went online.  I am not buying the ad supported web. If folks have stuff to sell they can be upfront about it, and not get sucked into the ‘other peoples money’ game’ . This is what is fucking  journalism on the web now and is not gonna get any better before the heat death of the universe.

 

More JavaScript madness. But before you go all VRM or NoScript, stop a moment and bitchslap the Browser Makers who include JavaScript engines in their browsers.

The largest enabler in this game are the browser makers including javascript engines in their browsers allowing the whole tracking game to be played. Scripting is how the majority of tracking cookies get set.
Flash cookies are a whole different game.

Second up is the <iframe> html tag allowing a webpage to send truckloads of privacy invaders into your machines.

The privacy settings in browsers you see are so much bullshit. If they were serious about your privacy, they would have an automatic cookie decoder to let you know what they are trying to get, and the ability to slam the door on them.

Until the browser makers slam the door and web designers get back to emphasizing the Text and kicking the Hyper in the balls, you will not see any improvement in honest presentation or representation of goods and services.

Any Privacy you want is out the window.

 

 

Typepad: Tacky, Tacky, Tacky

I moved my remodeling for geeks blog from Typepad on Oct. 16th 2009. You don’t have enough time for me to go through the myriad reasons for this. Suffice to say that Typepad is real tacky even after I left.
Here is a current screen shot of the old URL the headlemur.typepad.com

Basically they are sucking every bit of google juice they can. They are also spying on everybody who lands there with a Quantcast cookie as well. You can view source in your browser over there and see for yourself. Using the 1pixel gif dodge.

Start Quantcast tag
script src=”http://edge.quantserve.com/quant.js” type=”text/javascript” /script script type=”text/javascript”

a href=”http://www.quantcast.com/p-fcYWUmj5YbYKM” target=”_blank”
img src=”http://pixel.quantserve.com/pixel/p-fcYWUmj5YbYKM.gif?tags=typepad.core” style=”display: none” border=”0″ height=”1″ width=”1″ alt=”Quantcast”

End Quantcast tag

I wonder who is making money on this?
Tacky Tacky Tacky

====================================================================

UPDATE: 1/19/2010

Finally deleted it after only 3 months.

Health Care Rationing and Death Derivatives

We need a Public Health Care Plan. Available to all, Covers everything. Full Stop.
The folks who want to scream Socialism only need to read this sentence, “Public Schooling gave you the ability to read this.” Available to all, covers everybody.
That private for profit Insurance Companies are offering to take anyone regardless of condition is bullshit. Let me count the ways they will slide. Claim Denials, Rescission, Cost. There has never been an insurance scheme that has resulted in lower costs. No Fault Insurance states are the poster child of this. Every time private insurance companies get to sell policies under mandates, the price goes up.

Health Care Rationing
According to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee
California’s Real Death Panels: Insurers Deny 21% of Claims PacifiCare’s Denials 40%, Cigna’s 33% in First Half of 2009

Death Derivatives
The NYT has a story on the latest wrinkle on investing.

Wall Street Pursues Profit in Bundles of Life Insurance
“After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.”

“The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.”

“The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.”
Link

This is the next credit-default swap, and or collateralized debt obligation, backed by your illness. You know how well those worked out.

Rescission Math

Rescission is the retroactive cancellation of individual health insurance policies.  This is used by the health insurance industry to keep their medical loss ratio low and avoid paying for expensive or chronic health problems. Which is what you bought insurance for, but who knew.

Unconscionable Math is a posting at Taunter Media that shows your chances of being cancelled if you get sick or need expensive care is a whole lot higher than the health insurance industry is telling you. Highly Recommended.

KindleGate or Amazon’s Notion of Ownership

Last week, owners of the Amazon Kindle discovered that those who had purchased certain copies of 1984 had them deleted by Amazon. They were given a refund, but it was some time before an explanation of this unilateral action was made.  Amazon stated that the copies deleted were sold without ‘some’ copyright.

The Kindle is one of those ‘dancing bear’ devices. Some folks such as myself see how badly the thing works with a monochrome screen ‘ fer christsakes, a single format, being smeared with  fecal DRM, and a case of the paranoids long before Kindlegate. The idea that when you turn it on, it phones home, and you having no idea of who is maintaining the connection, what information they are gathering, who they are selling it to, or giving it away either in explicitly personal terms or aggregate.  Then there are the folks who actually ‘bought’ one because they are amazed that the bear dances at all. And having a dancing bear somehow validates their geekiness without  actually understanding what is wrong with dancing bears.

The irony of 1984 being the poster child of Amazon’s ability to remove things you bought at their discretion underscores why digital books and devices are not ready for prime time. This action is like your bookstore sending a clerk into your house, removing a book you bought and paid for and  leaving money on the nightstand. Like they will get past my dogs.

Stowe Boyd has the “Agreement” on his site with a few pithy comments.

Every ugly’ fuck the customer’ term and condition is there. Mandatory Arbitration, DMCA proscriptions, licensing rather than selling the material neatly sidestepping the First Sale Doctrine, that allows you to sell things you buy that have copyright like books, CD’s, DVD’s, etc. , unilateral changes to the agreement by Amazon without your consent, and further more your automatic agreement with their actions.

If i want to rent a book, there are things called Public Library’s that are a hell of a lot cheaper. If I Buy something I Own IT!

If you ever see me with a Kindle in my hands, just shoot me. Really.

Digital Thug – Abandonment Tracker Pro

Online website sales provide a company a cost effective way to offer products and services without a lot of the overhead with physical locations. They also provide physical stores the ability to reach prospects on a global scale.

In the online world there are many tricks that websites use to track you. From requiring cookies to be turned on to use websites, placing multiple cookies on your computer from third party ad servers, to requiring registration with personal information for use.
The goals of these are ‘stated’ as being necessary to bring you superior service and separate you from your money. Everybody says that they keep this information private, and only share it with the people in the company, and online partners, who they disclaim and disavow in terms of what they do with this information. Basically your ass gets sold down the river to anybody with a checkbook.

Online Shopping carts get abandoned all the time for any number of reasons. One of the biggest factors in this the ability to get Quality, Price, and Service, which, off line you had to settle for one or two and could not get all three.

Getting you to buy is magic. There is no script, offering, or sale that will convert lookers into buyers. Online merchants have tried all sorts of things. Usually when you left a site, you were done, just like walking out of a store at the mall. You moved on, they moved on.  But there continue to be various digital schemes to convert you into a cash cow.

The latest scheme is the Digital Thug of the Week – Abandonment Tracker Pro

This NYT article Just Browsing? A Web Store May Follow You Out the Door gives you a good overview of how this technology works.

Abandonment Tracker Pro which says “Abandonment Tracker Pro’s real-time behavioral targeting algorithms automatically tune themselves to your site’s unique characteristics,” like these:

Automated abandonment follow-up campaigns

* First response in real time
* Multi-stage campaigns to maximize conversion
* Intelligent handling of repeat visitors ensures offer integrity

Self-learning behavioral targeting

* Self-optimizing follow up optimizes revenues
* Advanced behavioral analytics
* Learns when an offer is needed to maximize conversion

Easy integration

* Prepackaged integration with major email systems
* Prepackaged integration with major CRM systems
* Easy integration with your internal systems

Source http://www.seewhy.com/atpro

This is digital thuggery.

Imagine walking out of a store and having a salesperson following you down the street, screaming “Why didn’t You BUY!!!” This is the digital equivelent of what these people are offering. You get demoted from customer or prospect to ‘abandoner’.
Getting an email and or a phone call from an online shopping expedition is the ugliest thing I have encountered to date. Companies that use this technology, may see a short term sales rise, but once the implications of this sink in, they will not get any repeat business.

Offering me shopping is one thing, but stalking me because I didn’t buy, guarantees that I will never darken your site or door again.
The sites that will take the biggest ass whooping are those that make you put items in the shopping cart to see the ‘best price’.

Here is their most recent customer list. At least those that actually admit to using this.

Rescission, Health Insurance and Universal Health Care

From Legal Explanations.com comes a definition of Rescission

Rescission(n) Rescission is the mutual agreement between the partied to an agreement or contract, deciding to nullify, cancel or otherwise terminate the agreement entered among them and restore the position prior to that agreement
Source Legal Explanations.com

Most folks have never heard rescission in their daily lives, but it impacts them more than they know. Consider the three day grace period on a lot of major purchases. Consider 30 day money back guarantees. Both of these are examples of rescission, which protect you against high pressure sales, bad faith, crappy products, and not having to pay for something that just is not going to work for you. This is the right of rescission, which was made into the law of the land in the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968. The Health Insurance Industry however looks at it as a 2 YEAR get out of coverage/payment card.

More Bad Faith

The LA Times reports that Health Net, one of the largest Health insurers in California has been found to have breached their contract and displayed bad faith to the tune of $9 Million bucks.
Health Net ordered to pay $9 million after canceling cancer patient’s policy
The Money Shot

“At the arbitration hearing, internal company documents were disclosed showing that Health Net had paid employee bonuses for meeting a cancellation quota and for the amount of money saved.”
“It’s difficult to imagine a policy more reprehensible than tying bonuses to encourage the rescission of health insurance that keeps the public well and alive,” the judge wrote.

Link to .pdf of the Bates Arbitration Decision

That Health Care Insurance is considered an Industry like making ground beef or cars should cause danger music to play in your ears.

The Politics of Health Care
The current Democratic Presidential Candidates both agree we need health care. Both of them however are blinded by the belief that the Insurance Industry is the One True Way.
Hillary Clinton says that Health Insurance needs to be Mandatory. This is an ass backwards idea of universal health care. The idea is that with everybody covered, the cost of care and insurance will go down, and we will all live happily ever after, or at least through the next re-election cycle.

Barack Obama is offering National Insurance which sounds good, but is still predicated on the Health Care Insurance Industry managing it.

The funniest or most tragic point of both plans is that they are modeling their plans on the coverage that members of Congress get. Which are outstanding plans, that we are paying for already.

Both of these candidates are living under the delusion that the Health Care Industry is actually concerned about health care, and that economies of scale will bring us to the promised land of a country of Shiny Happy Healthy People.

Why Neither of these Plans will Work
Let me set the stage for you with a couple of little know facts.
The Insurance Industry is Exempt from Antitrust. Antitrust is where companies in the same industry compare notes, pricing, and other information. In every other business in the US this is Illegal. But the insurance industry has massive databases of information, including pricing, coverage and information on anybody who has ever paid a single premium for insurance of any type.
They own MIB which warehouses this information.
In reality this is the first stop in denying coverage and or canceling your coverage.

Pricing Information. The Health Care Industry has another database used to determine payments to not only plan providers, but also everybody who may provide health care.

Yet Health Care Insurance neither insures very well, create cost savings, or is affordable.