[AxisOfEasy] Nevermind Television, Screen Time Is Rotting Your Kids’ Brains

Weekly Axis Of Easy #72

This week’s quote:  He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.” …by ????

Last Week’s Quote was   “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do” by ….Michael Porter, winner was William Hanisch

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

The Prize: First person to post get their next domain or hosting renewal is on us.

In this issue:

  • Why can media companies legally kick-in your door?
  • Stats Canada obtains banking data on 500K Canadians without consent
  • Nevermind television, screen time is rotting your kids’ brains
  • TSA confirms facial recognition and biometrics to be mandatory on all US travellers 
  • Privacy expert quits Google’s “Smart City” project
  • Twitter challenger Gab deplatformed on “hate speech” concerns
  • ISCC Presents: AI and the Future of Employment November 20th in Toronto

Why can media companies legally kick-in your door?

I heard about this case when it happened but still didn’t know too much about it until this Motherboard article profiled Adam Lackman, the one-man-show behind “TVAddons”, a site that hosts unofficial add-ons for the Kodi Media Player.

One morning in June 2017, around 8am he answered the sound of pounding at his apartment door, and called police when he found several men standing there he didn’t recognize, demanding to be let in. Turns out, they weren’t there to rob him, as he had thought, they were lawyers representing Bell Canada, Rogers and Videotron, and they had court orders granting them the right to search his apartment and make copies of his laptops and computers. They demanded his passwords and logins, stayed for 12 hours “ransacking” the place, and then took his laptop to be copied.

Kodi is an open source media player designed to stream legal content. The Addons community creates various plug-ins to that media player. The big media giants say that it’s piracy. Lackman’s website was taken offline the day of the search and he still hasn’t been to trial.

Stats Canada obtains banking data on 500K Canadians without consent

The Global News network in Canada broke the story that Statistics Canada, a government division that counts stuff, has asked banks across the country for personal and financial data, including social insurance numbers and transaction details on 500,000 Canadian citizens. The citizens whose data was requested were chosen at random and were not informed. It is part of an initiative at StatsCan to create a “new institutional personal information bank.” Quoting an excerpt from a StatsCan document, Global reports that Statistics Canada will be acquiring individual payments and income history information from financial institutions”, including: cash withdrawals from ATMs, credit card payments, electronic money transfers and bank account balances.

So far, not all of the big banks have signed off on it.

Years ago easyDNS was randomly selected to participate in the quarterly business employment survey. It has been ongoing ever since and it includes periodically submitting payroll and salary data to StatsCan. Once chosen, the program is compulsory and we are legally required to respond to the surveys and submit requested data. I guess that’s better than decimation (being randomly chosen by lot to be flogged to death by one’s peers), but it still feels kinda icky.

Nevermind television, screen time is rotting your kids’ brains

When we were kids, our parents worried that TV was rotting our brains. Nowadays, the ubiquity of “screens” makes the television look like tube radios. The New York Times is investigating why more and more Silicon Valley moguls from Tim Cook to Bill Gates are keeping their kids off smartphones and social networks for as long as possible. We already know from Facebook co-founder Sean Parker (covered in [#AxisOfEasy Issue 25) that Facebook was deliberately engineered to be addictive and deliver well-timed dopamine hits; it’s time to start wondering what growing up on these systems is doing to our kids.

TSA confirms facial recognition and biometrics to be mandatory on all US travellers  (add Amazon story)

The US TSA released their updated roadmap for “expanded biometric screening” which confirms what many knew was the direction things were headed: all travelers through US airports, for both international and domestic flights will be subject to automated biometric facial recognition via “mug shots”. “Currently, TSA manually compares the passengers in front of them to their ID photos, but it believes an automated process that can match facial images to photos from passports and visa applications will be more accurate and efficient.”

On a related note, Amazon is pitching their facial recognition software called Rekognition to ICE, which uses artificial intelligence to identify people in photos and videos.

Read: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-23/amazon-pitches-facial-recognition-tools-to-monitor-immigrants

Privacy expert quits Google’s “Smart City” project

Ontario’s former privacy commissioner, Ann Couvakian, has resigned from Google’s Sidewalk Labs initiative to build a “smart city” in Toronto’s Quayside district. Couvakian was brought in as a privacy expert on the project and her one non-negotiable point, which was originally agreed to by Sidewalk Labs, was that all data collected must be “de-identified at source”. But she later found out that Sidewalk Labs had brought in third-parties and could not compel them to adhere to the same standard.

In other words, data collected in the City of the Future will be personally identifiable by third-parties. When she realized her one condition was off the table, she resigned. She’s not alone in her concerns about the project. Blackberry co-founder Jim Balsille calls the project “a colonizing experiment in surveillance capitalism.”

Twitter challenger Gab deplatformed on “hate speech” concerns

The self-declared “free speech” platform Gab has been widely deplatformed after the Squirrel Hill shooter was revealed to have an account on the system and posted anti-semitic diatribes there including one shortly before committing the atrocity. Stripe, PayPal dropped them from their respective payment systems, web provider Joyent kicked them off their network, Godaddy is forcing them to transfer their domain away or face suspension, and Shopify terminated their merchant services.

Is Gab in the same bucket as DailyStormer? (We refused to allow DailyStormer onto easyDNS after they were deplatformed last year), or is this situation different? Service providers are increasingly being called upon to walk a tightrope and I may be writing a longer post on this topic, please feel free to send me your thoughts in the meantime.

ISCC Presents: AI and the Future of Employment November 20th in Toronto

Save the date: Tuesday November 20th in downtown Toronto, the Internet Society Canada Chapter will be hosting an event on the topic of AI and the Future of Employment, The ISCC advocates on behalf of Canadian citizens for an affordable, accessible, safe and fair internet.” and I’m currently on their board for this year. Drop me a line if you’re going and I’ll see you there.

That’s a wrap for this week. If you’re reading this on some place like Godaddy or Gmail, can you make it a point to whitelist our easydns.com domain in your email settings?



P.S. We are now offering co-location services in our Markham, Ontario facility. See the easyColo page for details.

4 thoughts on “[AxisOfEasy] Nevermind Television, Screen Time Is Rotting Your Kids’ Brains

  1. I don’t know if it is the right answer for the quote, but Albert Camus wrote: “Celui qui désespère des événements est un lâche, mais celui qui espère en la condition humaine est un fou.”, which losely translate to “He who despairs of EVENTS is a coward, but he who hopes in the human condition is a madman”… Close enough?

  2. Well, like that other existentialist James Dean, who died crashing his Porsche, this guy died as a passenger when a friend crashed his Facel-Vega- hardly existential and somewhat more upscale than a Porsche.

  3. Regarding Gab’s deplatforming – Thank you for the article and your thoughts. Ironically, I didn’t read that article itself, but I did read both your thoughts on refusing DailyStormer and Cloudflare’s take on it. Free speech is an important issue for me, so I thought I’d take a moment to reply with a few thoughts of my own. Please note that I am not trying to defend or judge any particular viewpoint or decision or individual or group. These are merely reflections.

    I feel, and fear, that the lines are getting blurrier and blurrier. When we hold someone socially accountable for something they say, or some idea they espouse – and we do so by way of silencing them or terminating services of any kind to them, a few things happen. First, we may be seen as exercising our own right to freely speak (and sure, why not?). Second, we haven’t turned that mind around and instead driving the thing underground (where it can and does continue to fester). Third, we willfully and purposefully exercise an act of control over someone else – an act that in actuality we may or may not have a right to. This third point is the blurriest, and it may simply have no good single answer.

    The more frightful thing that seems to be happening is that now we not only hold the individual responsible, but the platform itself responsible. Why? Should the ISP that serves the user’s connection also be responsible for letting that person even access the Internet? Should the email service provider not share in the blame, by allowing that individual the continued ability to communicate with those he or she forms such thoughts and ideas with? If a group rents equipment to loudly broadcast its ideas, or purchases the paper and supplies necessary for its signs, would we or should we hold the suppliers of these things responsible if the group is deemed toxic? How far down the social-justice rabbit-hole can and should we, the society, go? Where will it end?

    I realize this may read a bit like a slippery-slope, but considering what we’ve seen in the world recently, and how increasing inter-connectivity enables large-scale reactions to things we were previously unable to really react to – I think we are now forced to consider these potential outcomes. With the prevalence of social data-mining and life-capture, not only online but in every store we physically visit, every place we go (thanks to our phones), and the sale of this data, it must be only a matter of time before that social history gets linked with our likeness, and becomes an easy buy and even an expectation. And worse than the effect it may have on those we might currently consider deserving of such outcomes, what of those who will have their lives compromised by identity-theft or outright lies? It’s not unreasonable to conjecture how a nefarious individual may easily topple the lives of those who have done no wrong, simply by implanting ideas, messages, allegations, and sufficient coincidence as to hit all the right social-justice buttons. Where would one go to correct that social-credit violation? Who would serve them in the meantime?

    I wouldn’t fear the above conjecture if we could count on people to do their own checking of the sources, and the sources’ sources. Unfortunately, we can’t.

    It’s not very comforting to think that only two polar-opposite states can reliably exist: one of total and complete openness (absolute free-speech), and one of, well, Sesame Credit’s likeness. We are all looking for the right compromise, or maybe any compromise. There was a time in most countries, and in many it still exists, where any blaspheme was punishable by law – and whatever was considered blaspheme was or is up to the leading authorities’ determination (possibly including personal beliefs). The migration away from the archaic ideologies promulgated by religious authorities cannot take place if such conversations are outlawed. However, to those authorities, such conversations are toxic (in their estimation) to the society at large and ought to be silenced. We have fought a hard battle to win the right for the relatively toxic speech to be voiced. But maybe our victory or its possible eventual loss is not one purely of decision.

    Watching the social dynamics play out, it’s easy to understand why any company may feel compelled to protect itself against its own customers. As I asked above, where should culpability cease? If a company does not comply with the current social landscape, it may quickly find itself obliterated – in a Darwin-like manner, as you said. But does that landscape always tend towards the greater freedom, or the greater equality? In other explorations, I have heard my wife defend her right to choose her lifestyle (that of a housewife and home-schooling mom) against those who claim that housewives are damaging to the economic prospects of all women, and ought to be done away with. Henry Ford’s offering of “You can choose any color, so long as it’s black” feels very much like the kind of choice many social pressures tend to exert. In a way, it almost seems to be a battle of freedom against freedom – with subtle differences between what each group considers “freedom.”

    Crusaders and jihadists alike believe, in their hearts, minds and souls, that they are doing the right and good thing. They are convinced of this through and through, as is everyone who, well, isn’t self-loathing and convinced of their own uselessness. Most of us just don’t have the same fervor as those two groups.

    I have pondered at different ways to approach the concept of freedom. Ideas like: “You can do anything you want, so long as it does not injure or diminish the freedoms of another” come to mind. The next step is to throw use-cases against it and see how it holds up. And of course the definitions… What is a freedom? Is a freedom an act you can do, or a thing you allow or disallow to have happen to you? For example, is freedom the right to speak openly, or the right to not be made fearful because of someone else’s speech? Is not being fearful a right or a freedom that one can or should have? While that is certainly one component to the debates about freedom, I know there is also the very real and justifiable fear of what a population of humans can do (and have done), when they are convinced of a cause and compelled to do horrible things for that cause.

    Thanks again!

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