Dig out your tinfoil hat! Consumer neurotech is here to stay – and it needs more scrutiny

“Thoughts are free and subject to no rule. On them rests the freedom of man, and they tower above the light of nature”

Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (1493-1541)

This week, Facebook Reality Labs revealed the latest piece of hardware gadgetry that it hopes will introduce eager consumers to a new world of augmented and mixed reality. The wristband is a type of technology known as a neural — or brain-computer — interface, and can read the electrical nerve signals our brain sends to our muscles and interpret them as instructions.

In other words, you don’t have to move. You can just *think* your movements.

You’d be forgiven for wondering if we’ve evolved too far..

A jazzy, high production video features grinning young San Francisco-type execs describing this new, immersive experience. They’ve invented it, and they’ll be damned if they aren’t going to foist it upon us.  “The wrist is a great starting point for us technologically,” one chirps, “because it opens up new and dynamic forms of control.” Quite. 

Continue reading

Here Are Five Reasons Consumers Won’t Buy Your Smart Home Device

This blog was originally posted on the Hill + Knowlton Strategies website.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Hl3QN85Gk5yd72A0J5GBI-kZ9DeAyDBAHOEFcMaTu5pXWXBpxdN16bgst-RwRs7O_2Nl3p3OGmi_Tv62ecEZ1cgEriJyW-SSJTG7IgA2IEZsIvzhKVGR4TtZiqBZE0qKNwGc-lBH
The Aware Home

In 2000, a group of researchers at Georgia Tech launched a project they called “The Aware Home.” The collective of computer scientists and engineers built a three-story experimental home with the intent of producing an environment that was “capable of knowing information about itself and the whereabouts and activities of its inhabitants.” The team installed a vast network of “context aware sensors” throughout the house and on wearable computers worn by the home’s occupants. The hope was to establish an entirely new domain of knowledge — one that would create efficiencies in home management, improve health and well-being, and provide support for groups like the elderly.

Continue reading

Why Employee Surveillance Is Not Okay

File:An analysis of horsemanship - teaching the whole art of riding, in the manege, military, hunting, racing, and travelling system - together with the method of breaking horses, for every purpose to (18165467302).jpg

Writing for Aeon last week, Martin Parker, a professor of organization studies at the University of Bristol in the UK, relayed the origins of the word “management”, explaining:

“It is derived from the Italian mano, meaning hand, and it’s expansion into maneggiare, the activity of handling and training a horse carried out in a maneggio – a riding school. From this form of manual control, the word has expanded into a general activity of training and handling people. It is a word that originates with ideas of control, of a docile or wilful creature that must be subordinated to the instructions of the master.”

Though we might prefer to believe that its meaning has evolved since then to convey something more respectful and collaborative, it is still the case that workplace leaders and managers have mastery over their staff. Promotions, opportunities, hirings and firings — all life-altering events — are subject to their authority. 

It is a mighty responsibility, and abuse of managerial power can have devastating consequences. 

Continue reading

Trying on wearables

This article by Fiona J McEvoy (YouTheData.com) was originally posted on All Turtles.

MannGlas_and_GoogleGlass1_crop.jpg

The dramatic failures of Google Glass and Snapchat Spectacles demonstrated the countless challenges faced by wearable technologies. Beyond the ubiquitous activity trackers and smartwatches, wearable consumer products have yet to yield a mass-market success. Though the idea of wearable tech and human-technology synergy still gets marketers excited, product designers have yet to hit upon a breakout device that will prove as popular and indispensable as blue jeans. Still, the allure of developing such a product remains irresistible.

Continue reading

Designing for Bad Intentions: Wearables and Cyber Risks

YouTheData.com is delighted to feature a guest post by John Gray, the co-founder of MentionMapp Analytics. John is a media researcher and entrepreneur exploring how issues like the spread of misinformation, and the exploitation of personal privacy are eroding trust in our social institutions and discourse. He’s written numerous case studies and has co-authored “The Ecosystem of Fake: Bots, Information and Distorted Realities.” 

Wearable.jpg

It’s the bad people with bad intent that’s causing the problem, not technology” – Shane Luke, Sr. Director of Digital Innovation, Nike

We exude data, like the sweat that streams off our skin. It’s the norm. Just as another new normal is the news of the latest PR tour by data breach apologists full like empty promises of we’ll do better”. Like the soles of an ultra-marathoners shoes, the cliched technocratic mind-set of “moving fast, breaking things” and “asking for forgiveness rather than permission”, is beginning to wear thin.

We accept the devices in our pockets, and on our wrists, feet, and even our faces are communicating data. Yet the data they produce becomes a target for bad-actors. As technology weaves deeper into what we wear, there’s more to our fashion statements than meets the eye.

Continue reading

Why Can’t We #DeleteFacebook?: 4 Reasons We’re Reluctant

Facebook Addiction

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is still reverberating in the media, garnering almost as much daily coverage as when the story broke in The New York Times on March 17. Facebook’s mishandling of user data has catalyzed a collective public reaction of disgust and indignation, and perhaps the most prominent public manifestation of this is the #DeleteFacebook movement. This vocal campaign is urging us to do exactly what it says: To vote with our feet. To boycott. To not just deactivate our Facebook accounts, but to eliminate them entirely. Continue reading

Ready To Be “Deepfaked”? 3 Reasons You Should Be Concerned About The Internet’s Creepiest Data Heist

fake

Fraudsters typically line their pockets by forging our signatures, cloning our credit cards, and stealing our personal identities. Yet, we’d like to think that folks who know us personally – our family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances – would catch these counterfeiters out if they brazenly claimed to be us in public. After all, seeing is believing isn’t it? If you don’t look like me, you’re not me. If you do look like me, the chances are that you are me. Right?

Well…maybe. And this could soon become the subject of some confusion.

But how?

Well, imagine if stealing your identity could include stealing your image. And if scammers could then use that image to put words in your mouth and – in some cases – fake your very actions. This isn’t just some outlandish thought experiment, but a foreseeable hazard if we fail to prepare for a surge in the production of “deepfakes”.  Continue reading

In the future, we could solve all crime. But at what cost?

It’s difficult to read, or even talk about technology at the moment without that word “ethics” creeping in. How will AI products affect users down-the-line? Can algorithmic decisions factor in the good of society? How might we reduce the number of fatal road collisions? What tools can we employ to prevent or solve all crime?

surveillance

Now, let’s just make it clear from the off: these are all entirely honorable motives, and their proponents should be lauded. But sometimes even the drive toward an admiral aim – the prevention bad consequences – can ignore critical tensions that have been vexing thinkers for years.

Even if we agree that the consequences of an act are of real import, there are still other human values that can – and should – compete with them when we’re assimilating the best course of action. Continue reading

If you aren’t paying, are your kids the product?

There’s a phrase – from where I don’t know – which says: “If you aren’t paying, you’re the product.”  Never has this felt truer than in the context of social media. Particularly Facebook, with its fan-pages and features, games and gizmos, plus never-ending updates and improvements. Who is paying for this, if not you…and what are they getting in return? The answer is actually quite straightforward.

children

Continue reading

Facebook wants you naked…and it’s for your own good

revenge porn

***UPDATE: Contrary to yesterday’s reporting, the BBC has now corrected its article on Facebook’s new “revenge porn” AI to include this rather critical detail:

“Humans rather than algorithms will view the naked images voluntarily sent to Facebook in a scheme being trialled in Australia to combat revenge porn. The BBC understands that members of Facebook’s community operations team will look at the images in order to make a “fingerprint” of them to prevent them being uploaded again.”

So now young victims will have the choice of mass humiliation, or faceless scrutiny… Continue reading