Count me amongst the users of Ghostery who didn’t know it was owned and supported by the ad industry:
Whenever discussion starts about how to hide from the tracking code that follows users around the Web to serve them targeted ads, recommendations soon pile up for a browser add-on called Ghostery. It blocks tracking code, noticeably speeds up how quickly pages load as a result, and has roughly 19 million users. Yet few of those who advocate Ghostery as a way to escape the clutches of the online ad industry realize that the company behind it, Evidon, is in fact part of that selfsame industry.
Evidon helps companies that want to improve their use of tracking code by selling them data collected from the eight million Ghostery users that have enabled a data-sharing feature in the tool.
If, in 1995, some cypherpunks had published a book about the upcoming “postmodern surveillance dystopia,” most commentators would have shrugged it off as just a wee bit paranoid and ushered them into the Philip K. Dick Reading Room. Now, it is more likely that people will shrug and say, “that ship has already sailed.”
I wrote about the extreme quantification of work for Wired:
Tesco — the company that runs a chain of grocery stores across Great Britain — uses digital armbands to track the performance of its warehouse staff.
A former Tesco employee told The Independent newspaper that the armbands provide a score of 100 if a task is completed within a given time frame, but a score of 200 if it’s completed twice that fast. “The guys who made the scores were sweating buckets and throwing stuff around the place,” he told the paper.
Tesco representatives said the devices allow users to switch into a “break mode” for up to 25 minutes a day. But that anonymous employee claimed that using the toilet without logging the trip as a break would result in a surprisingly low score, even if the task was finished within the allotted time.
That’s just one of the many ways that employers are using technology to track employee productivity. Call centers have long used metrics such as call time to rank employees, and gamification software may take it to new levels. Darpa wants to track soldiers’ health. Apparently, IBM has a tool for detecting disgruntled employees. And Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff has boasted of a “Chatterlytics” system for ranking employees on their use of the company’s internal social network.
Our work is being re-quantified — in a big way — and Chris Dancy, a director in the office of the chief technology officer at BMC Software, thinks it’s time for employees to take these metrics into their own hands. “If you can measure it, someone will,” he says, “and that somebody should be you.”
Dancy is connected to at least three sensors all day, every day. Sometimes, it’s as much as five. They measure his pulse, his REM sleep, his skin temperature, and more. He also has sensors all over his house. There’s even one on his toilet so he can look for correlations between his bathroom habits and his sleep patterns.
He’s on the cutting edge of the “quantified self” movement kickstarted by Wired’s Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly. But it’s not just his body and environment that Dancy tracks. He constantly takes screenshots of his work, and everything he does — every meeting, every document he creates, every Tweet he sends, every file he shares, every screenshot he takes — is logged in Google Calendar, providing him with a timeline and his entire work life. If you ask him what he did on a particular day, he can tell you with great precision.
And he thinks every white collar worker will need to adopt a similar regimen soon.
Jon Evans at TechCrunch (one of my employers) on TrapWire:
Is it being used for “monitoring every single person via facial recognition“? Probably not. Doesn’t matter. Let’s not kid ourselves: the point is that as cameras get cheaper and more connected and more ubiquitous, facial recognition gets more accurate, and data-mining software gets better, something like conspiracy theorists’ worst nightmarish fantasies of Trapwire will come to pass. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: this is only a matter of time, and not all that much of it.
Little pieces of the panopticon are already being built all around you. […]
Even relatively enlightened governments are becoming, if anything, more secretive than ever. Did you know that the Obama administration has persecuted more whistleblowers than every other presidency in history combined? Did you know that (PDF) government security classification activities alone cost more than $10 billion a year? These are not exactly statistics that fill me with hope for our panopticon future. In the name of so-called security, we’re charging headlong into a future filled with one-way mirrors behind which the rich spy on the poor, and the strong on the weak. It’s a disconcerting thought.
The AP ran a story recently on the use of drones on U.S. soil by civilians. I’m interested in the examples Republicans Rand Paul and Austin Scott give for curbing the use of drones in the U.S.:
“I just don’t like the concept of drones flying over barbecues in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates,” Paul said in an interview, referring to a New York City ban on supersized soft drinks.
He acknowledged that was an “extreme example,” but he added: “They might just say we’d be safer from muggings if we had constant surveillance crisscrossing the street all the time. But then the question becomes, ‘What about jaywalking? What about eating too many donuts? What about putting mayonnaise on your hamburger?’ Where does it stop?” […]
Discussion of the issue has been colored by exaggerated drone tales spread largely by conservative media and bloggers.
Scott said he was prompted to introduce his bill in part by news reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has been using drones to spy on cattle ranchers in Nebraska. The agency has indeed been searching for illegal dumping of waste into streams, but it is doing it with piloted planes.
On the one hand, maybe I should welcome whatever it takes to get conservatives concerned about civil liberties. But I worry about this sort of nanny state fear mongering, especially since it seems to obscure some of the more serious issues regarding policing and invasion of privacy by private corporations – not to mention the questionable use of weaponized drones by the military in the first place.
A long range surveillance drone developed by the Moran Office of Maritime and Port Security
The Sea Shepherd crew has intercepted the Japanese whaling fleet on Christmas Day, a thousand miles north of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The Sea Shepherd ship, Steve Irwin, deployed a drone to successfully locate and photograph the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru on December 24th. Once the pursuit began, three Japanese harpoon/security ships moved in on the Steve Irwin to shield the Nisshin Maru to allow it to escape.
This time however the Japanese tactic of tailing the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker will not work because the drones, one on the Steve Irwin and the other on the Bob Barker, can track and follow the Nisshin Maru and can relay the positions back to the Sea Shepherd ships.
Right now, only 1 percent or so of America’s population contributes to the country’s defense and offense. In its new budget, Darpa announces a $25 million effort to build tools that’ll rope in the other 99 percent. Doesn’t exactly explain how. But think crowd-sourcing, plus a touch of machine learning to pair peeps up. The program is called “Unconventional Warfighters,” and the idea is to tap three pools of potential contributors.First, Darpa is looking to plug in “futurists, inventors, hobbyists and tinkerers who approach military problems from an unconventional perspective.” Then, the agency would like to call upon “military Veterans, including disabled Veterans, who have deep knowledge of the missions and the operational environment.” Lastly, Darpa wants those veterans’ pets.“Animals are another class of potential contributors,” the agency explains in its budget. “This is not a new idea, as animals possessing special abilities such as dogs and dolphins have been used before to perform military tasks such as mine detection. The new aspect to be examined under Unconventional Warfighters is the potential for creating new sensor, processing, communication and actuator systems specially adapted to enable animals to execute tasks beyond their natural capabilities.”
Designer Thomas Thwaites (who built this DIY toaster with iron ore gathered by hand) has created a project called “Policing Genes,” envisioning a future in which bees are used for genetic surveillance:
Other than a few obvious illegal narcotic plants, it hadn’t occurred to me that the genetics of what is growing in a person’s garden could become a police matter. Even more intriguing/trippy was the possibility of the police using bees for surveillance and for forensically identifying the pollen that the bees came back with. If that pollen is genetically outside of the law, the police could use the bees to track a person right to the house he or she lives in. […]
Thomas Thwaites, however, has put a great deal of thought into genetic engineering and the policing of those genes. Thwaites pointed out that the ability to insert genes into plants is now DIY technology available to both the amateur and the criminal. “Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.”