DIGITAL AMERICA

Author Archives: Kindall

America the Great. (But Really… We are. Just not at this.)

// Posted by Kindall on 06/11/2015 (12:29 PM)

Slade writes that “deliberate obsolescence in all it’s forms — technological, psychological, or planned — is a uniquely American invention.” The videos we watched, especially “E-Waste Hell”, focus on how we “outsource” our garbage- harming others in the process.… Read more

Slade writes that “deliberate obsolescence in all it’s forms — technological, psychological, or planned — is a uniquely American invention.” The videos we watched, especially “E-Waste Hell”, focus on how we “outsource” our garbage- harming others in the process. This all made me wonder… If we are exploiting others as landfills and exporting our problems… then we have most certainly exported our unquenchable desire for repetitive consumption as well.

Let’s talk about eating disorders. Anorexia Nervosa.  Body Dismorphic Disorder. Bulimia Nervosa. Binge Eating Disorder.

All of these diseases are American born and grown, and they are now in countries across the globe. We know, for a fact, that we socially infected others as patient zero. That leads me to ask: Are we patient zero in wastefulness and planned obsolescence as well? I always assumed that other countries used disposable goods (if they were economically sound enough) and they tossed aside their non recyclable electronics… just like us. Now I think they are doing these things BECAUSE of us.

(This is an excellent piece about how culture-specific disorders can spread: 10psyche-t.html?_r=0)

We seem to think that because our nation is basically still in its infancy compared to other ancient and historic societies, that whatever we do… must have come from them, in some way, at some point. But now we know that theory is not true.

Since we have potentially infected nations, across the globe, with “Planned Obsolescence Disorder”- it’s our responsibility to lead a campaign to stop it. Or, at the very least, we should start cleaning up our own mess and managing our own trash.

We are bringing electronics (that we simply throw away for updated models) to countries and continents where the majority of its people cannot count on running water each day. Does that seem a little messed up to anyone else?

I am not saying America is evil. Because we’re not. We are hardly the worst… but it is time we stop pretending we are the best. – Shout to HBO’s “Newsroom” for pointing this out: (the clip is 4 minutes long but worth it)

The Explicit Truth About America

Perhaps the first step of re-establishing our greatness as a superpower is taking on our electronic waste and finding a way to deal with our own problems, rather than creating them for others.

I work in communications and marketing. I am all for stabilizing a brand and pushing a product or service. In fact, in order to survive, we need constant consumption. So, if getting rid of disposable products isn’t the answer, then maybe we should focus on the PROPER disposable of these goods.

Hey, Apple (who I love dearly… seriously I am a FanGirl about their new gadgets): Instead of making me buy a new iPhone that is practically the same as the last, make new features attachable, or have us pay for upgrades instead of new hardware.

We need to be talking about this more. So, who begins the conversation? Is anyone willing to sacrifice a few dollars to do it? If nothing else, tech companies should be swooning over the positive PR of being the pioneer on cleaning up America’s E-waste.

 

 


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Democracy Depends on Options

// Posted by Kindall on 06/04/2015 (3:43 PM)

Our reading really made me stop and think about technology all around the world. In America, we wear rose-colored glasses as we think about the internet. We see it as a way to expose truths and speak our minds… but… Read more

Our reading really made me stop and think about technology all around the world. In America, we wear rose-colored glasses as we think about the internet. We see it as a way to expose truths and speak our minds… but what about the use of technology in deceiving others? Enron is astutely mentioned as a prime example of a company using technology and computerization to puff up numbers and lie to clients.

When you consider the video we watched last class on the misconception that internet access will certainly lead to democracy and the ways that technology can be used to deceive people, things start to seem pretty scary.

We already do it in our own nation: Fox News is conservative, CNN is liberal, and in my opinion, Politico is the only bipartisan news outlet out there. But when it comes to where we get our information, we have the ability to shop around and pick a favorite. People in other countries don’t have this choice. Several nations have one, centralized news source which is controlled by the government. It is much like the web browsers that we discussed on Monday that are designed strictly for certain areas, where the material is censored.

Perhaps technology and access to the internet doesn’t always spread democracy. Since the internet can also be tailored to fit the standards and limitations of any regime, (for the first time ever) this American is realizing that technology could be making communism and socialism stronger.

We spoke about North Korea and how they only learn that the outside world is not evil by smuggled material. Without those USBs, those people believe what their government, news, and technology tells them.

Speaking of Politico, here is an interesting article from the perspective of a former reporter for Russia:

“I Was Putin’s Pawn: What it was like to work for the Russian propaganda machine, and why I quit on live TV.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/liz-wahl-quit-russia-today-putins-pawn-104888.html#ixzz3c7jgTqhX

Viewing these hyper-monitored and censored internet browsers and news networks, is undoubtedly spreading some radical beliefs. This happens in America all the time. The difference here is that there are all types of opinions floating out there. You can look at multiple ideas. In places like North Korea, Russia, China, and ISIS controlled Iraq, you see only what they want you to see. And looking away, closing the tab, or finding another source is not an option.

I think, in many ways, pushing for the spread of technology and the internet in anti-democratic places of the world may come back to bite us. The goal is to expose these people to outsiders’ lives and opinions, but many times- they never see them. Access doesn’t mean freedom, and in many cases, it just means further indoctrination. The reading talks about the relationship of empowerment as it applies to visibility. If only one option is visible… and you’ve never known otherwise, why wouldn’t you believe/empower it?

But in some cases, access is the catalyst for revolution. This link depicts the ways some Middle Eastern nations believe technology helped lead them to a better way of life, politically.

Does the Internet Encourage Democracy?

 

 

 


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NSA Surveillance- Best by 5/31/15

// Posted by Kindall on 05/31/2015 (8:23 PM)

As we have been talking about the NSA and surveillance, the nation has been anxiously awaiting a decision on whether or not to renew parts of the Patriot Act. The senate held a rare Sunday session to discuss parts of… Read more

As we have been talking about the NSA and surveillance, the nation has been anxiously awaiting a decision on whether or not to renew parts of the Patriot Act. The senate held a rare Sunday session to discuss parts of the act that are set to expire.

With all eyes on the NSA and our government’s ability to overreach in the name of “security”, I was somewhat surprised to see and hear some of our points mimicked by litigators and politicians.

It seems that the people have spoken (maybe even largely thanks to Snowden- although I wouldn’t begin to cast him as some kind of hero). This piece from the Post sums it up nicely:

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE


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There are limitations…

// Posted by Kindall on 05/30/2015 (12:19 PM)

Our fears of online privacy breaching is known across the board. There is even an organization in place that works to create operating rules and regulations for automated billing. It is known as the NACHA- The Electronic Payments Association, and… Read more

Our fears of online privacy breaching is known across the board. There is even an organization in place that works to create operating rules and regulations for automated billing. It is known as the NACHA- The Electronic Payments Association, and it is a not-for-profit trade association.

The purpose of NACHA is to regulate and monitor electronic payments as a part of trade commerce. While there may be few limitations for e-billing, it puts my mind at ease some that an agency exists to create rules for corporations and companies online involvement.

With things like Bitcoin (digital currency), the world is changing around us. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told I “should really enroll in Apple Pay”. No one controls Bitcoin, the currency is produced by individuals and businesses. I won’t pretend to understand exactly how it works, and all explanations I found where a little over my head… but the idea does seem revolutionary when you consider things like Blockchain which assigns a unique identity to a piece of data.

It is, essentially, the gold standard to the dollar… but for Bitcoin currency. It ensures secure communication where the data sent and received cannot be replicated or copied. The information is not retained so it cant be passed along to other companies or copied.

If you send someone a Bitcoin, they cannot retain it, and you receive confirmation and peace of mind knowing that your original message cannot be copied and kept.

While the internet may be a scary place for some people, technology can also be manipulated to protect your privacy and secure your personal information.

Are programs like this our future? Why aren’t they more mainstream now, considering how pioneering they are? Lego even capitalized on the idea… 


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WMDs (Worms of Mass Destruction)

// Posted by Kindall on 05/28/2015 (2:10 PM)

Admittedly, I knew nothing about computer viruses, worms, and trojans before the reading. Now, I still know very little but I have a better understanding of the large-scale damage these tech infestations can cause. Stuxnet was 500k bytes which I’ve… Read more

Admittedly, I knew nothing about computer viruses, worms, and trojans before the reading. Now, I still know very little but I have a better understanding of the large-scale damage these tech infestations can cause. Stuxnet was 500k bytes which I’ve come to learn is 50 times larger than the average malware, and according to the experts, it was complex.

It was the first act of cyber warfare, and it set the bar very high. While the damage was catastrophic, this time it seems (to me) that we used our power for good rather than evil. I mean, who really wants Iran to play with nuclear weapons?… Not me. We fought weapons of mass destruction with worms of the same.

The big issue with Stuxnet is the fact that we could do it. We dreamed it up and created a monster. That means other nations and superpowers can too, and they are. What do we do when this type of 3 prong attack hits our government system?

Is it possible for an attack like this to not only compromise nuclear research but to cause cataclysmic damage? Imagine the Chernobyl disaster- because of a worm.  We have seen these viruses and tech-invaders destroy systems in films: System Failure. And many of us have experienced the work of a computer virus at home, but I cannot imagine the new scale of trauma that can be caused by codes, worms, link files, and rootkits. We are beyond Truman “pushing the red button”. We are talking about hackers and software savants inciting a third World War with the click of a mouse.

That may be grim and over-the-top, but it is possible and that is terrifying. Stuxnet may have crippled the work of a frenemy nation’s research, but the malware could have certainly been used to cause much more harm, rather than prevent it.

As we cross further and further into the electronic frontier, I wonder how the relationship of technology and weaponry will evolve or devolve. We could be headed back to a state of paranoia where a new Morse Code is constructed and people trust nothing more than horseback- delivered telegrams.

I guess we will see. I rest easy at night knowing that many bright minds in Silicon Valley are focused on creating new apps and improving our quality of life. And on that note, a funny clip to lighten the mood but support the point that our minds are perhaps more preoccupied with life hacks than warfare: Pivoting


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Transparency All Around

// Posted by Kindall on 05/26/2015 (9:50 PM)

This week’s reading was so interesting. As Americans, and largely thanks to Snowden, we are paranoid that our every move may be watched and every call recorded. While I do not believe this is true, I do wonder- what is… Read more

This week’s reading was so interesting. As Americans, and largely thanks to Snowden, we are paranoid that our every move may be watched and every call recorded. While I do not believe this is true, I do wonder- what is the real definition of transparency?

Snowden claims that “harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

I can understand that he felt a true injustice was going on. Everyone fears Big Brother and being oppressed by an overpowering government. However, do the American people also owe a certain level of transparency to our government? I am not sure what level of privacy we are “entitled” to. Especially when, as citizens, we all submit to a social contract of sorts. We trade in some civil liberties for protection. The hard part about this exposure and Wikileaks is determining where the line is when it comes to privacy and protection.

This is well described by Time as the article reports that “there’s a counterargument, which is that you have to strike a balance between public-spiritedly debugging the world’s software on the one hand, and defending the county on the other”.

Snowden believed the NSA and CIA had crossed that line and in return, he fought fire with fire. The bigger question to me is… would we be mad if we were made aware from the start? Is it the secretive nature of the government that upsets us?

Would Americans sign away their privacy if they were told they had a choice: You can either use the iphone OR have all of the privacy you want.

As important as my privacy is, it would be a hard choice to make. And I truly believe the majority of Americans would subject ourselves to surveillance in order to use the internet, be helped by the police, receive public education, get unemployment and disability benefits when needed, etc.

When the work of the NSA was exposed, people were shocked and outraged. But how easy would it be for the government to gain our permission? Service providers gain our acceptance constantly through service agreements.

Even though I know I should, I cannot remember the last time I truly read the terms and conditions agreements presented when downloading an app or program. If given the choice of losing our internet connection and ease-of-life provided by apps, would most people sign over their right to privacy? Would they even notice they were doing it?

The biggest question, it turns out, is not the definition of “transparency” but what the price of it is. The link below hits my point perfectly:

Terms and Conditions

Is the NSA the problem, or are we? We seem to be more compliant than we like to admit. In regards to a terms and conditions agreement, “Not surprisingly, most of the 2500 users flew past this page.  The median time users spent on the license page was only 6 seconds! Generating a confidence interval around this sample tells us that we can be 95% sure at least 70% of users spend less than 12 seconds on the license page… Assuming it takes a minimum of two minutes to read the License Agreement (which itself is fast) we can be 95% confident no more than 8% of users read the License Agreement in full.” (http://www.measuringu.com/blog/eula.php)

Perhaps Snowden wasn’t protecting us from the government. Maybe his leaks will, instead, inspire us to protect us from ourselves. (But I doubt the average American will choose to be excluded from Google, Facebook, or Apple software all in the name of “privacy”.)

After all, the “Leaky Geopolitics” article says it best: “Overreliance on the Internet can undermine other forms of political action”… such as the civil liberties revolution and campaign led by a former NSA and Booze Allen employee.


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Anonymous: The Modern Day Acid Phreak

// Posted by Kindall on 05/21/2015 (2:27 PM)

If you search the term “Anonymous” in a Google browser, the second link will take you to a Wikipedia page which describes the topic as “Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is a loosely associated international network… Read more

If you search the term “Anonymous” in a Google browser, the second link will take you to a Wikipedia page which describes the topic as “Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is a loosely associated international network of activist and hacktivist entities. A website nominally associated with the group describes it as “an internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”.[2] The group became known for a series of well-publicized publicity stunts and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on government, religious, and corporate websites.”

The group reminds me of our beloved Acid Phreak from Chapter 5. He bluntly and boldly suggested that hacking is really meant to be “infectious” to institutions. Anonymous takes this digital adage to heart as they hack government and corporate sites at home and abroad. This group claims to fight for free speech and the “lowly middle man” by exposing the hypocrisy and wrong-doing of certain institutions.

Everywhere I turn, Anonymous is there telling me that they are fighting for me and my rights… by doing what is “right”, “ethical”, and “moral”. But if you examine what Acid Phreak said in the Hacking Forum where he debates Barlow and others, he claims that there “is no one hacker ethic.” So, like many before me, I ask: How does Anonymous decide what is ethical/right and wrong? Who makes that call in their own, hierarchical and structured organization? Do they have their own agenda?

Personally, I think they do. Even if their ideas are rooted in good intentions, have they fallen into the same patterns as the institutions they work so hard to bring down and expose? Just think about how easy it was for them to hack into the St. Louis law enforcement system and leak details of the racially charged murder of Eric Holder in Ferguson. They released the home address of the officer (Darren Wilson) in question during a time of dangerous unrest. Anonymous has the ability to hack into various systems and release this damaging information, daily. And yet, they only choose to act when an incident occurs that will place them at center stage as our “protectors”.

I find the group so interesting, and I admire their gumption. I just wonder what their true agenda is. Who pushes their buttons and pulls their strings? Is anyone really a “digital Robin Hood” for us common folk?

Brief CNN Video Coverage of Anonymous

 


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