22 November 2017

I See Nothing!


I really want to stop living in Bizarro World:
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, released a statement on Wednesday apologizing for a graphic nude photo of him that circulated on social media earlier this week.

"While separated from my second wife, prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women," he said. "Each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down."

It is still unclear how the photo got onto social media, who put it there, or whether its posting would constitute revenge porn, which is illegal under Texas law.

Barton, who announced his re-election bid earlier this month, is navigating in a political environment charged with emerging stories of sexual misbehavior in politics, in business and in the media. The photo, which appeared on an anonymous Twitter account, set off speculation within Texas GOP circles about his political future.
Seriously.  Don't.  Just don't.  Ever.

21 November 2017

Travis Kalanick Continues to Leave a Trail of Slime

It turns out that Uber had a major data breach, with frightening levels of personal data taken about their drivers, and their response was to pay off the hackers and cover the whole affair up:
Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.

Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said.
I'm not inclined to believe Uber's statements as to the limited scope of the breach.
At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.
That is so Uber.
Hackers have successfully infiltrated numerous companies in recent years. The Uber breach, while large, is dwarfed by those at Yahoo, MySpace, Target Corp., Anthem Inc. and Equifax Inc. What’s more alarming are the extreme measures Uber took to hide the attack. The breach is the latest scandal Khosrowshahi inherits from his predecessor, Travis Kalanick. 
Like the chicken said, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred."

BTW, Kalanick knew of the hack almost as soon as it happened.

Dara Khosrowshahi may have the worst job on the face of the earth.

Now John Conyers

More allegations of sexual harassment, this time John Conyers (D-MI), and the allegations are pretty f%$#ing awful:
Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

Conyers confirmed he made the settlement in a statement Tuesday afternoon, hours after this story was published, but said that he "vehemently denied" the claims of sexual harassment at the time and continues to do so.
This is seriously f%$#ed up.

Being Evil………

Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?

Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

………

The practice is troubling for people who’d prefer they weren’t tracked, especially for those such as law-enforcement officials or victims of domestic abuse who turn off location services thinking they’re fully concealing their whereabouts. Although the data sent to Google is encrypted, it could potentially be sent to a third party if the phone had been compromised with spyware or other methods of hacking. Each phone has a unique ID number, with which the location data can be associated.

The revelation comes as Google and other internet companies are under fire from lawmakers and regulators, including for the extent to which they vacuum up data about users. Such personal data, ranging from users’ political views to their purchase histories to their locations, are foundational to the business successes of companies like Facebook and Alphabet, built on targeted advertising and personalization and together valued at over $1.2 trillion by investors.
Clearly the solution to Google cyber-stalking us is to eliminate regulatory oversight.  That way the market will solve everything.

Finally


Meet the New Boss………
Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 and once proclaimed that “only God will remove me,” resigned as president on Tuesday shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him.

The speaker of the Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, read out a letter in which Mr. Mugabe said he was stepping down “with immediate effect” for “the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power.”

Lawmakers erupted into cheers, and jubilant residents poured into the streets of Harare, the capital. It seemed to be an abrupt capitulation by Mr. Mugabe, 93, the world’s oldest head of state and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to Zimbabwe,” Perseverance Sande, 20, said in central Harare minutes after news of the resignation began spreading, as crowds of people started singing around her. “I’ve been waiting so long for this moment.”
It is widely expected that Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former VP, whose firing precipitated the coup, will succeed him, so I'm not expecting much in the way of political change.

Mnangagwa was, after all, hip deep in the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in the early 1980s.

Linkage


A high tech automotive fraud.  It reminds me of Tesla:

20 November 2017

The Value of a Liberal Arts Education

With a rather evocative headline, "How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into evil," John Naughton explains how the people involved in tech these days are profoundly and deeply ignorant and incurious about the potential effects of what they are doing.

The Germans have a word for this, "Fachidiot," and Japanese word for this is "専門バカ":
One of the biggest puzzles about our current predicament with fake news and the weaponisation of social media is why the folks who built this technology are so taken aback by what has happened. Exhibit A is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, whose political education I recently chronicled. But he’s not alone. In fact I’d say he is quite representative of many of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world. We have a burgeoning genre of “OMG, what have we done?” angst coming from former Facebook and Google employees who have begun to realise that the cool stuff they worked on might have had, well, antisocial consequences.

Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users’ personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves.

The purpose of this infrastructure was to enable companies to target people with carefully customised commercial messages and, as far as we know, they are pretty good at that. (Though some advertisers are beginning to wonder if these systems are quite as good as Google and Facebook claim.) And in doing this, Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and co wrote themselves licences to print money and build insanely profitable companies.

It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? The cynical answer is they knew about the potential dark side all along and didn’t care, because to acknowledge it might have undermined the aforementioned licences to print money. Which is another way of saying that most tech leaders are sociopaths. Personally I think that’s unlikely, although among their number are some very peculiar characters: one thinks, for example, of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – Trump’s favourite techie; and Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.
I would actually argue that some in the tech field are willfully blind because their paycheck depends on this lack of awareness, while others are blind because they feel that they are somehow above such "mundane" concerns.

In either case, they aren't people that we can trust with our future.

Tweet of the Day


This is brilliant.

Please note my profanity expurgation exception for Twitter.

19 November 2017

Well, You Could Talk with Die Linke

Angela Merkel's negotiations to form a government have collapsed:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged early Monday to maintain stability after the Free Democratic Party pulled out of talks on forming a new government with her conservative bloc and the left-leaning Greens, raising the possibility of new elections.

Merkel told reporters that the parties had been close to reaching a consensus on how to proceed with formal coalition talks but that the Free Democrats decided abruptly to pull out just before midnight Sunday — a move she said she respected, but found “regrettable.”

She said she would consult with Germany’s president later in the day to brief him on the negotiations and discuss what comes next.

Without bringing the Free Democrats back to the table, Merkel will be forced to try to continue her current governing coalition with the Social Democrats, although that center-left party has said it will not do so, or she could try to form a minority government, which was seen as unlikely. Otherwise Germany will have to hold new elections.

“It is at least a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany,” Merkel said. “But I will do everything possible to ensure that this country will be well led through these difficult weeks.”

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and sister Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens had already blown past Merkel’s own deadline of Thursday to agree on a basis for opening formal negotiations on a coalition of all four parties, a configuration that has never been tried at a national level in Germany.

Key sticking points were the issues of migration and climate change.

Among other things the Greens were pushing for Germany to end its use of coal and combustion engines by 2030, though they had signaled they were open to some compromise.
Assuming that the SDP is true to its word when it says that it won't join the coalition, and the fact that no one wants to make a coalition with the 3rd place AfD is a group of fascist bigots, there are not a whole bunch of options for Merkel.

One option is to enter into negotiations with Die Linke (The Left) party as well as the Greens.

That would put them over the critical 50%.

Of course, the many of the policies of Die Linke are an anathema to Merkel and the CDU, and the fact that it is technically the successor party of the East German Communists from East Germany presents an optics problem.

Still, opening up a dialogue with Die Linke would also put a lot of pressure on the FDP to return to the table.

So, it's not going to happen, even though it might make sense, because it's simply inconceivable given the norms of German political orthodoxy.

Oh Snap

Ron Wyden is calling for ads to be blocked from all government systems, because of their role in serving up malware:
A US Senator trying to eradicate the Internet scourge known as malvertising is proposing that all federal agencies block ads delivered to worker computers unless advertisers can ensure their networks are free of content that contains malicious code.

In a letter sent today, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Rob Joyce to begin discussions with advertising industry officials to ensure ads displayed on websites can't be used to infect US government computers. If, after 180 days, Joyce isn't "completely confident" the industry has curbed the problem, Wyden asked that Joyce direct the US Department of Homeland Security to issue a directive "requiring federal agencies to block the delivery to employees' computers of all Internet ads containing executable code."

"Malware is increasingly delivered through code embedded in seemingly innocuous advertisements online," Wyden wrote. "Individuals do not even need to click on ads to get infected: this malicious software, including ransomware, is delivered without any interaction by the user."
You have to figure that there is a LOT of people who surf the web during their lunch hour, and if ads are blocked, internet firms will take a major hit.