democracy, politics, privacy, technology, tips

Verizon and the Sale of the Customer

According to Verizon’s latest update to their privacy policy, they will now “share” (i.e. sell) lots of information that may make customers uncomfortable. Verizon’s changes to their privacy policy, one must assume the term privacy is being used ironically, includes sharing:

Mobile Usage Information:

  • Addresses of websites you visit when using our wireless service. These data strings (or URLs) may include search terms you have used
  • Location of your device (“Location Information”)
  • App and device feature usage

Consumer Information:

  • Information about your use of Verizon products and services (such as data and calling features, device type, and amount of use)
  • Demographic and interest categories provided to us by other companies, such as gender, age range, sports fan, frequent diner, or pet owner (“Demographics”)

Verizon is trying to make users feel better about this by quietly offering a opt out and promising that no personally identifiable information is being sent. It should be noted that this doesn’t mean your personal information isn’t being held back, it just means your name, account number, and the like aren’t being sent.

This is the loop-hole that corporations have carved out for themselves in order to commodify customers. Sell everything about the customer, except for their names. It is a good way to make money. Companies like Verizon are charging people to use the service and then having those customers create a product that it can sell. In return for the service the customer provides Verizon the customer gets nothing. Even as this erosion and commodification of privacy becomes common practice these days, there is not much customers can do.

Corporations like Verizon have the upper-hand and can simply place the onus on the customer and the free-market. If you don’t like how they collect data, don’t give them your business. Never mind that the next company will do the same. Never mind that services like internet and cellphones are essential to modern society.

Giving those who oppose regulations the benefit of the doubt, lets say they often miss this important fact— that corporations have only their best interest at heart, and that many (though obviously not all) of their services are not optional. A democratic society should protect its citizen from the corporations which have become micro-oligarchs.

Standard
technology

OLED TV's Will Make Your LCD's and Plasmas Look Like Poo

Well not really, not yet anyway. Sony recently announced that the first OLED (organic light emitting diode) TV will hit the market in December of 2007, but at ¥200,000 (~$1700 USD) for 11 inches it isn’t going to take the world by storm.

However this news brings OLED one step closer to become a practical alternative to LCD and Plasma TV’s. Why, you ask, would anyone consider an OLED TV? Here’s the list of ways that OLED can compete with LCD so far. OLED has:

  • brighter colors
  • sharper contrast
  • much thinner
  • weighs less
  • more energy efficient
  • faster video relay (no blur like LCD & Plasma)

But here is why you don’t want one today:

  • expensive
  • small viewing size (only 11″ diagonal)
  • limited life span (sort of, 30,000 hours which is roughly 10 years of viewing it 8 hours a day)

It seems at this point that OLED will be the standard, but it isn’t ready for the spot light just yet. Once they get cheaper, larger, and last longer they’ll be ready for prime time.

meanwhile there are lots of other potential applications of OLED in our futures. Take a look at what else it can do.

Standard
politics, technology

US Government's Slippery Slope Into Our Lives Doesn't Excuse China or the US Companies that Help China

There was an article on TechDirt yesterday that made an interesting connection and then bizarrely came up with a ridiculous conclusion.

The article pointed to a NY Times article about China’s high-tech surveillance campaign backed by technology from US companies, and connects that to two Boston Globe articles about the US efforts to track its citizens[1][2].

The TechDirt article gets all antsy about folks in congress not liking US companies helping China’s evil government when we are doing essentially the same thing here in the US, but instead of saying that it is time to check our own policies and stop US companies from doing inhuman things the author simple concludes that:

…unless we’re willing to look at the same issues in the US, it seems rather hypocritical to complain about US firms supplying the technology for China to do something quite similar to what we’re doing at home.

Clearly, we need to look at the same issues in the US, and I think in a small way we are. Do we need to do that more extensively? Of course. Does our government’s foray into totalitarianism mean that we should excuse the US companies supply technology that will be used to abuse human rights? No. Never.

When it comes to human rights no one country gets to set the standard, that standard is predetermined. The only question is how each country lives up to that standard. The US government has taken some steps back, and there is no excuse for that. The thing to realize is that nothing done in the US excuses the terrible things the Chinese government does and the US companies helping China can not be given a free pass.

Standard