[AxisOfEasy] Is WeWork ringing the bell at the top of the tech bubble?

Weekly Axis Of Easy #114

Last Week’s Quote was:  “Deception is a state of mind and the mind of the state”….by US counter-intelligence czar, James “Jesus” Angleton. Nobody got it. 

This Week’s Quote:  “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false” ….by ????

THE RULES: No searching up the answer, must be posted below. 

The Prize: First person to post the correct answer gets their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.

We’ve added a podcast version of #AxisOfEasy! You can listen to this week’s edition:
In this issue:

  • Swedish man fined for not deleting somebody else’s Facebook comments
  • Class actions suits launched at Lowes, Home Depot for biometric scans 
  • “Hey Alexa, wipe my…”:   Smart toilets use microphones to listen to you
  • Smart TV’s caught sending telemetry data to Facebook and Netflix
  • US Gov files civil suit to freeze Snowden book revenues
  • Secret FBI subpoenas for personal data finally under public scrutiny
  • Is WeWork ringing the bell at the top of the tech bubble?
  • Perfectly real deep fakes are only 6 months away

Swedish man fined for not deleting somebody else’s Facebook comments

A court in Sweden has handed down a first ever decision of this nature, fining a citizen who is a moderator of a Facebook group for not deleting comments posted by somebody else.  Several comments made to the group “Stand Up for Sweden” were deemed to be “hate speech” directed against ethnic minorities. The court rejected the defendant’s defence that he had simply not seen the comments in question, at least two of them were specifically brought to his attention.

He’s been given a suspended sentence and fined 19,200 kronor (~ $2,070 USD)

Class actions suits launched at Lowes, Home Depot for biometric scans 

A group of plaintiffs citing Illinois state’s biometric privacy laws have initiated class action suits against home improvement retailers Lowes (filed in Chicago) and Home Depot (filed in Atlanta). The problem is both chains installed facial recognition cameras that scan shoppers faces as they enter the stores.

Here’s a conundrum: The libertarian in me thinks that if private stores want to do this to reduce theft, it’s their prerogative, although some manner of informed consent should be present and some reasonable oversight regimen for the collected data. The thinking is, if it becomes excessive, then the market will punish them and open up space for stores that have more respect for customer privacy. But then, were that to happen, all the shoplifters would gravitate toward the stores that they have perceived the laxer anti-theft systems (they may not).

“Hey Alexa, wipe my…”:   Smart toilets use microphones to listen to you

Various smart home accessories are making use of home automation assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to make the herculean tasks of turning on the tap or warming water less cumbersome. Delta Faucet has a “VoiceIQ” system which “pairs with existing devices to dispense the exact amount of water needed, all with a simple voice command.”

Meanwhile, over in the bathroom the Kohler company has come out with an intelligent toilet, The “Numi 2.0”, it’s voice activated and integrates with Alexa to access news, weather, traffic reports, etc. The Numi enables Alexa to “monitor how often you go the bathroom and how much water you use”  and it also has a smartphone app.  Gives whole new literal meaning to the phrase “Internet of Sh*t”.

Smart TV’s caught sending telemetry data to Facebook and Netflix

Following on a theme, a Financial Times article (paywall, reported via Zerohedge) notes that with social media companies increasingly coming under scrutiny for their data collection and sharing practices, the Internet of Things (IoT) landscape is lagging. They cited a study conducted by researchers at Northeastern University and Imperial College who found that smart TVs including:  Samsung and LG, along with streaming dongles like Roku and Amazon Fire, “are leaking sensitive data to advertisers.”

“The models would share data like location and IP address with Netflix, Facebook and third-party advertisers”


US Gov files civil suit to freeze Snowden book revenues

As noted, last week Edward Snowden’s “Permanent Record” bio-tell-all came out. The US government wasted no time filing a civil suit against the whistleblower who broke the story that the US and other western governments basically surveil their entire citizenry all the time. While the suit does not seek to block publication of the book, it is looking to recover all revenues derived from its sale. The central theme of the action is that in publishing his memoirs, Snowden violated his NDAs with both the CIA and NSA.

Also worth noting is that this is not a defamation suit. That means that the veracity of all claims made by Snowden in the book are not being disputed by the US government or its intelligence apparatus.

Secret FBI subpoenas for personal data finally under public scrutiny 

Further to this point, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been pursuing a lawsuit of their own, seeking to have National Security Letters released under the Freedom of Information Act. These NSLs enable the FBI to obtain comprehensive data about citizens from various vendors and companies, including ISPs, and they typically contain blanket gag orders that prevent the companies from making any disclosures about it.

As the New York Times article also covers the gag order aspect of these letters, which accompany nearly every request and prevent the recipient — typically indefinitely — from disclosing even the existence of the letter. The federal government has argued that the secrecy is necessary to avoid alerting targets, giving would-be terrorists clues about how the government conducts its surveillance or hurting diplomatic relations.”  (Translation: our allies don’t like it when we spy in them).

Read: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/05/victory-eff-wins-national-security-letter-transparency-lawsuit (from May)

Is WeWork ringing the bell at the top of the tech bubble?

My cousins Christian and Daniel, who live in Berlin, have been corresponding with me lately about WeWork.  This morning they sent me Scott Galloway’s article “WeWTF Part 2” which chronicles the air being let out of the high flying unicorn’s balloon. Plunging from a 45B valuation to….. it literally has no bid now, given that the IPO has been shelved, my remarks back to the twins were that I don’t see any We IPO happening until Adam Neumann is ousted. It may not happen at all.

Given that the last few tech unicorn IPOs including Uber, Lyft, Tencent Music, a few from previous years (SNAP, BOX) are all trading below their issue price. Many more are off their highs or even in a bear market, it makes me wonder if this is the bell being rung near the top. It’s a profitless faux-tech company, really just a glorified office space rental agency (I was going to type “REIT” but there’s no income to distribute!). With a narcissistic, plundering CEO at the helm and suddenly the market balks, despite all that high-powered VC trying to ram it down the lumpenvestors’ throats.

(I didn’t realize until now that Galloway is the author of “The Algebra of Happiness” which I’ve been seeing in my local bookshop’s window and have been meaning to pick up).

Perfectly real deep fakes are only 6 months away

According to deep fake artist Hao Li, perfectly rendered “deep fakes” in which an artificially constructed video depicts somebody saying or doing something completely synthetic, will be a reality within 6 months. “Soon, it’s going to get to the point where there is no way that we can actually detect deepfakes anymore, so we have to look at other types of solutions”. 

Given the story we ran last week, where a cyberheist was executed by deepfaking the CEOs voice to initiate a wire transfer, it seems to me like the only way around it is to start digitally signing everything.

6 thoughts on “[AxisOfEasy] Is WeWork ringing the bell at the top of the tech bubble?

  1. Hypothetical question: What happens if Lowes or Home Depot’s biometric imaging system detects someone trying to steal a smart toilet? Does their virtual security guard call Alexis and tell her to disable the smart toilet or ask her for the toilet’s IP address when it’s installed? And…will these smart toilets communicate with smart refrigerators? The system sees you remove food, sets a timer and after a calculation based on the person that took the food, the toilet prepares for that person’s download? These are questions that need to be answered to prevent really messy situations! Society is DOOMED!

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