Wednesday 12th of December 2018

home invasion...

the lot

I don't know if I should mention this... It's the home invasion of dumb artificial intelligence.

We have the car that talks and the TomTom that tells you "where to go". But then one has to think of people who are lonely or disabled. These devices, mentioned, lampooned and adopted by the GRUEN team of experts, last night on ABC/TV, Alexa by Amazon, and others such as by Google and Apple, are designed to respond to your command in your home — actually make sure you're awake, awake, awake as you live your now excitingly product-managed life. There is a lot of cash to be made from this device, not for you but for whoever is selling you pizza, pineApple and lightbulbs. And the machine cares about you. You are important to the machine.

Well there are advantages, the device does not give cheek like recalcitrant kids, does not answer back with a flying-fish like an angry partner, nor does it lie... Does not lie? On this one, the jury is out. Alexa is not authorised yet to make HER own commentary on the news nor the food. Maybe it should come with a warning from Alexa: "I am not responsible for the salmonella nor for the already pre-digested news content". "And do not forget there is 40 per cent chance of rain today. take 40 per cent of an umbrella..." 


the experts on advertising...



Can Alexa vote on your behalf in a democratic world where the machines have equal rights?

home invasion part II...


As Alexa, see above, is able to collect algorithms on your behaviour and product purchases, the NSA has been collecting your dick picks and other items you would not want Alexa to know about... What could stop the NSA to control your "Alexa" or even plant one in your home — Ah yes it's known as "bugging":


A new report indicating US President Donald Trump requested CIA Director Mike Pompeo meet with NSA expert Bill Binney to get "the facts" about so-called "Russian hacking" has led to a predictable, if lamentable, online smear campaign against the whistleblower.


Binney has argued, along with many in the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, a group of former US Intelligence Community professionals, that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks were leaked by someone inside the DNC. This blows up a major chapter in the "RussiaGate" narrative, which holds that Russians hacked the emails and supplied them to WikiLeaks — a claim which has never been indisputably proven.

@raymcgovern #CNN just demoted #NSA's ex-Global Intel Director, Bill Binney, to "DNC hack 'conspiracy theorist'"--How long can this lie hold?

— Joan S. Livingston (@jslives) November 8, 2017

​CNN referred to the Pennsylvania native as a "DNC hack conspiracy theorist," parroting a similar mischaracterization proffered by Mother Jones. Lawfare, The Hill and NBC more accurately described Binney as a former US intelligence professional turned whistleblower and critic.

— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) November 8, 2017


The slander and fake news raises an important question: Who Is Bill Binney?

William Edward Binney is a 30-year veteran of the National Security Agency who resigned from his position there on October 31, 2001, in frustration and disgust at malpractice that he believed cost American lives.

— Tim Pool (@Timcast) November 8, 2017


The reason was straightforward: Binney had worked on a wiretapping and data analysis program that he said could have prevented the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against the US, but was halted by the agency just weeks before the attack. Binney and two colleagues, J. Kirk Wiebe and Edward Loomis, later filed a complaint with the Pentagon's Office of Inspector General over NSA's fateful decision to continue a program dubbed "Trailblazer" over the program Binney had worked on, "ThinThread."

ThinThread was less intrusive and more effective than Trailblazer, Binney contended, and, crucially, it was a working prototype at the time it was cancelled, while Trailblazer was only a concept on paper. The functioning ThinThread could have even stopped 9/11, Binney told Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear last year.

​Binney and his colleagues attempted to resolve their differences with NSA leadership and draw attention to what they characterized as malpractice by notifying the Department of Defense, the standard procedure for bringing serious grievances to light. They were stifled. It was the example of Binney and his treatment that ultimately propelled NSA contractor Edward Snowden to resort to extra-legal channels when to blow the whistle of the US government's massive and illegal surveillance programs, because Snowden had seen that following regular channels within the government would lead nowhere.

Binney has become increasingly critical of surveillance against US citizens, which he told The Nation in 2013 has become "better than anything [the] Gestapo or SS ever had." And Binney should know: he "created many of the collection systems still in use" at the NSA and told VIPS "that NSA's ‘cast-iron' coverage… would have almost certainly yielded a record of transfer from Russia to Wikileaks."

Indeed, the man who is being smeared today has been used as a credible source for information about NSA programs and government surveillance for more than a decade. Binney was likely a key source for a bombshell New York Times article published in December 2005 revealing that President George W. Bush authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on American citizens and others in the US without the court approval normally required for such spy operations. The government was "keeping all these crimes in secret," Binney told Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear in 2016.

After being interviewed by the FBI on three occasions in spring 2007, Binney was cleared of wrongdoing for potential contributions to the NYT piece. In June 2007, a dozen FBI agents stormed his house with assault rifles, pointed a gun at his head while he was taking a shower and confiscated his computers, documents and other records. The story was told in the 2015 documentary "A Good American," which has become a regular feature on online streaming sites like Netflix, where it was available to watch as recently as last month.

PBS, a TV channel funded by the US federal government, broadcast a "Frontline" segment on Binney in 2013 titled: "United States of Secrets."

— Elizabeth Lea Vos (@ElizabethleaVos) November 8, 2017

​While 9/11 is always used to justify egregious domestic espionage programs, the fact of that attack doesn't make the illegal legal. Those programs were illegal the day the intelligence community started them, and they are in violation of the constitution today. Not only is the Fourth Amendment breached — "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" — NSA surveillance violates the first, fifth and sixth amendments, too, Binney told Sputnik News.

Binney noted the First Amendment says each person has the right to free association. "It doesn't say you have the right to free association as long as NSA or the rest of the government knows about it." 


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the "white" news...


The well-deserved outcry regarding the New York Times’ insufficiently critical profile about a Nazi in the American heartland has exposed a commonly held myth about journalism: that our profession is objective. This is a lie.

When a reporter at the American “paper of record” can admit that his story didn’t hold up and their editor chose to assign significant resources towards it and published it anyway, journalism is clearly not based on meritocracy or neutrality.

Rather, with journalism jobs going to white people 87% of the time in the US and a staggering 94% in Britain, journalism is practically a white-people-only club that will reward mediocre white journalists before it will advance excellent journalists of color who can bring needed perspectives.

Our racially monolithic mainstream press is particularly ill equipped to cover an increasingly non-white world when it declares itself to be “objective”. Like other parts of the society, journalism operates within an ideology which bell hooks describes as “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy”.

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is alexa going to be like hal in 2001's space odyssey?

One of my kids has asked for a Google Home Mini. But hold up, Santa.

It’s been three years since Amazon debuted Echo, a speaker that came with a talking digital assistant named Alexa, which you can ask to order a pizza or play a song or a great many other things. Since then, such smart speakers have proliferated, with 24 million expected to sell worldwide this year.

Amazon said last month it was bringing Alexa to the workplace, where it can help set up conference calls or track appointments. Google has priced its Home Mini under $30 for the holiday season. And Apple is coming out with its own competitor, the HomePod, next year.

But I’m not sure I’m ready. I just bought an Atari and a record player, so I’ve been reverting to the technology of my youth. But more important, there are some secrets I don’t want within earshot of an open microphone. I put on a Barbra Streisand album the other day. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but these are complicated times and it happened. How do I explain that to Alexa?

Of course, we’ve been trading off privacy for the wonder and convenience of technology for years. How comfortable we are with gradually ceding more data to the machines is probably inversely correlated with how many times we’ve watched “The Terminator.” And I’ve watched it. A lot.


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secret commands...


Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Secret Command. You Can’t.

Researchers can send hidden audio instructions undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.



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alexa the spy...

A family in the United States has vowed to never use Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa again after the device recorded a private conversation in their home and sent it to a random contact.

Danielle (surname withheld) told KIRO-TV she received a call from an employee of her husband who urged them to unplug their Echo devices, which use the Alexa software.

She said the employee then revealed he had been sent an audio file of what was going on in their Portland home.

The employee lived in Seattle — 282 kilometres away.

"I felt invaded, like total privacy invasion," Danielle said.

"I'm never plugging that device in again — I can't trust it."

Danielle said when she contacted Amazon, an Alexa engineer confirmed the conversation had been recorded and sent it to a contact without their consent.

She said the engineer told her Alexa had "guessed" what they were saying.

"He apologised like 15 times in a matter of 30 minutes and said, 'We really appreciate you bringing this to our attention, this is something we need to fix'," she said.

Amazon has described the event as an "extremely rare occurrence".


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smart dumb news...

If instead of rummaging through search results and newspaper headlines, you leave it up to your Alexa to feed you the news, you could be locking yourself in an echo chamber, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warn.

The pro-information freedom NGO is sounding the alarm over the impact that smart tech is having on the way we consume news. In a Thursday report, it says the development of voice assistants – like Amazon's Alexa, or Siri, or Google Assistant – "raises the question of guarantees for pluralism in news and information."

RSF is concerned that when you ask "What's the news?" and submit to the mercy of your virtual assistant, you could be allowing someone else to cherry pick your sources for you. "Voice assistants are liable to reinforce the opaque and often pay-based methods of media content distribution that exist already,"says RSF's Journalism and Technology head Elodie Vialle. And while the media is happy to report on the futuristic technology itself, it diverts attention from its potential implications.

The selective news-feeding is not the only thing worrying RSF about virtual assistants. There's also the constant surveillance of their environment and owner, and of course, the annoying bugs.

A combination of those last two factors caused one of Alexa's biggest fumbles of late: in March, one US couple's digital helper recorded their private conversation about hardwood floors and sent it to one of the husband's employees. Amazon explained it away by saying Alexa had misheard some of the words in the conversation as a weirdly specific series of commands. Still, the couple said they would never plug the device in again.


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bonding with the machine...

The main thing about robots and voice-activation software in general is that, as per the creepy Joaquin Phoenix movie Her, they imperil us by generating actual emotions: in my case, fooling me into bonding with a 10in-high cylindrical speaker. It’s true that a few years ago, when I first bought a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, I was inclined to apologise to it when I got in its way. It’s also true that when Alexa’s perimeter flashes red to indicate poor signal health, I feel a surge of emotion.


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