Tag Archives: General Michael Hayden

The danger of Colbert and the Press

When we see an interview with General Michael Hayden and Stephen Colbert, it is hard to imagine, but it is actually Stephen Colbert who is endangering the lives of many. Did you realise that? First, the interview (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buI8aO7nRDM) should be watched. It is a brilliant interview. Getting a former CIA and NSA director in view is always a little awesome and the man plays the audience brilliantly. Now, I say ‘play’ and I mean that in the best positive way. He is funny direct and answers the questions clearly. It is Hayden that gets the applause and it was an applause that was well deserved. He debunks conspiracy theorists and cuckoo cases all over America. Then something happens, suddenly Colbert does something dangerous and stupid. At 4:55 he plays the game regarding Smart TV’s spying on you, he plays us all as he is linking this to the CIA. What happened was that on February 6th the FTC fined Vizio $2.2 million for collecting viewing histories without users consent (at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/02/vizio-pay-22-million-ftc-state-new-jersey-settle-charges-it), pretty much the same thing that Microsoft seems to be doing to its Xbox population at present and uploading their data into the Azure cloud (without consent).

This might seem like a nuisance, but it is a lot more than that. Large corporations have run out of spreadable funds and like any other corporations, they now need to optimise. It is almost the same situation that SPSS was selling when it offered companies a product called AnswerTree (back in 1997). Marketing firms had to get a certain quota, let’s say 4%, now to get there you could either throw more money on it, and going from 2% to 4% did not just mean a little over 100% more to get the growth. No, with their product AnswerTree, you could make an inventory of who you mailed and who responded and started to prune the tree of those who responded a lot below quota, so basically, the mailings became more efficient, a more clever path to the people buying and it is all perfectly legal and acceptable. That is what is happening now in new ways and Vizio got caught because it happened in an automated way without any level of consent. So who did not get caught? Because I can tell you right now that the bulk of the people with a smart TV have not considered where this data is being logged.

Now, I am going to ask you a question: ‘If marketing is harassment, is the marketing contact that you purchase from still a harasser?

If we have all the do not call registers, how long until these marketeers use other methods? Free games, free apps and free TV shows, all connected, you just have to agree to advertisements connected to them. It is a mere reward for exposure which is all perfectly valid. In all this the CIA was not a factor or a danger. It is the large corporations that are classifying you, more important, it is the links that they can resell that are a danger to your way of life, which is why at times smart TV’s are sold with 60% discount (speculation from my side).

In 2015 I would never have expected to be able to afford a 55 inch smart TV, it is huge (and I was happy with my 42 inch one) but it broke, I had a decent job, but the surprise that a brand new 100 Hz Sony 55 inch was priced down from $1900 to $800 (very lucky me), which was just ridiculous as the next TV (almost the same as my broken one) was a 40 inch at $699, which was perfectly decently priced for those days. Now, we can hang onto the idea that it was just a crazy sales, which does happen, but to flood the market with something almost twice the size, with much higher specifications at next to the same price as a small B-brand TV is too weird. It is almost like having a Canon 5D at the normal $2500 and offering next to it a Hasselblad X1D-50c at $3000, which would be awesome as these babies go for $13,000. It would be 20Mp versus 50Mp. As a photographer I can tell you that I would kill for a Hasselblad 50 Megapixel camera (and as I know the Evidence Act 1995, I might get away with it).

So, I hope you understand the weirdness of such good deals. And in all this, Sony has the ability to capture this data (I am not accusing them of doing this, I have no evidence of any kind that this is happening), but the threat to our privacy is real. Now you might not think that this is important. Yet consider that this data could be sold, how many hours are you not sporting, how many hours do you watch TV and what do you watch? How long until you suddenly get a 12% spike in health insurance? There is where the difference is! You see, these players are very very interested in that data, minimise their risk and charge extra to anyone that is a risk. In my case it does not matter, my smart TV is connected to my console and my Blu-ray player, so there is no ‘smart’ data to capture. What is important for these sales people that the 0.5% of the group that I represent is not the issue, their value is the 80%+ that does connect their TV for Netflix and other reasons, that is where their value is and it is potentially bringing in millions, so the 60% discount is a joke to them. That is the part Colbert smoothly walked over whilst he joked about the CIA and the press at large stayed away from that FTC ruling, so there is one of the dangers.

The other danger is organised crime. How long until people realise that being away from home means no TV? That means that the smart TV logs are not showing movement. How long until the criminals can connect smart TV usage and social media action into, which house is empty? Oh and as you advertise on Facebook that you are on Cuba, how long until you realise that you gave away the info that your house is unprotected? More important the quote “Oversharing on social media could not only leave you open to burglary but it could also invalidate your home insurance policy” is not a joke, this quote was given 2 years ago. Justice Gibson of the District Court of New South Wales raised the issue as early as 2014, the courts are not ready for this and for the most, they are only dealing with the fallout that Contract Law is giving them, more precisely the contracts that Insurance agencies have been working on. With currently well over 80% of Australians on social media (which is actually low compared to Scandinavian nations), the consideration of implementing certain risks is an essential need for any insurance agent. Yet, at what point can usage of social media be seen as evidence towards negligence? Mobile phones tells us where we are, smartphones tell everyone what we do (through our usage), and Smart TV’s give us what we watch, out interests and our activities, or lack thereof. At what point is any of this evidence to act, to surcharge to act as a penalty or as an option to nullify the security of insurance?

That is the part not considered and it gets even worse!

This is seen in the news that is hitting us now through what is marketed as Vault 7. CNN Money (at http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/09/technology/cia-smart-tv-wikileaks-public-hacks/) gives us the news on how the CIA is spying, although they do also mention “security researchers say the methods imitate exploits that were discovered — and made public years ago“, So when I see “Samsung warned users about exactly this type of susceptibility in 2015. The company told CNNTech this week that it is ‘urgently looking into the matter.’“, my question becomes: ‘How much data did you collect?‘, so as the warning is 2 years old, apart from making batteries explode, did you do anything to stop this threat? And as we see Dan Trentler, CEO of the Phobos Group security firm state: ‘That appears to be the same exploit he witnessed in action onstage at a security conference in 2013, he said‘, can we give accusation that there is nothing innocent going on and the level of negligence shown in one article spanning 3 years of events, that is enough to warrant a much larger investigation into privacy invasion by large corporations?

 

It is not about just consent, they are mining our choices and leaving us with less. You might not consider this or comprehend this, but it is an optimised way of American business. I have to explain this.

I was confronted with a larger group of board members of a large firm. As an ‘upper’ grunt I had two distinct jobs. One give the best service to my clients and protect them as much as possible from any negative event, which is what any good Technical consultant does. And I had to be faithful and supportive to my bosses, which is what a loyal employee does. Now consider the meeting where we get the premise: ‘What if you cannot service your client 100%, but only 80%, would that be acceptable?

Now, the danger here is that my answer would be a solid ‘No!’ A danger from the corporation side when we consider the introduction of service level agreements, the introduction that the client was unwilling to pay for the service given. How do you take a stand (driven by wisdom) at that point?

This is where you the consumer are at, but it comes from another direction. Places like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, HP, IBM and Apple are all in the optimisation phase, because the economy is still not great and most of us would only be able to afford one of these devices, perhaps a second one for Christmas if we are lucky. So as we can get 2 out of 5, so how do corporations go about getting the largest share you can? Now we get to the AnswerTree part, you become smarter in how you get to your audience to choose you, not merely marketing but marketing to the most likely buying population. The question then becomes what options you have at your disposal. Do you sacrifice one device so you get an option to see 2 more options for alternative sale and get the contribution needed? The reasons is that in this day and age, it is not about revenue, when you are a listed company, when you have stakeholders, it will be about contribution (revenue minus costs), if you fail that, no great bonus, no mistress, no fast car and in the end no job.

So here we see the rundown on how Stephen Colbert became a danger to you, he made it into a CIA joke, whilst the bitter and solemn truth is that the real danger is the invitation you readily give out to all manner of freebie givers, only to learn the hard way that they get back what they gave out in tenfold, just by collecting your inactions and sell it to whomever can transform that into personal profit. So whilst some people are falling asleep reading (at http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/essentialguide/Providers-adjusting-to-greater-use-of-social-media-in-healthcare) how social media is interacting in health care, consider what an insurer would give to know that you visited a free clinic for the third time this quarter. It might not cost them anything, but it will set a flag to raise premiums the next year. Did you consider that? And as we shrug at seeing “Social media analysis done with natural language processing has given care facilities a more efficient way to get patient feedback“, many will ignore, just like the previous example on raising premiums. Even as you consider a visit for planned parenthood to be perfectly natural and normal (which it is), but when the insurer realises that you will be needing to visit an OBGYN in the near future, you better realise that you are lucky if your premium rises with only 5%. That is the way business is done and the initial ‘risk’ numbers to which you were held at premium are 10 years old and you fall in a much higher group. Only the super healthy teenager who does not get sick gets the low increase, that whilst he was actually a 0% risk. How fair is that and why is the media not all over that on a daily basis?

The CIA was never worthy to be mentioned in this regard, for 99% of the Americans they are nothing as these 99% of Americans were harmless so the CIA never cared to begin with and that is the group Colbert was aiming for which is odd in one way and on the other hand, we do get that he is a comedian who is trying to entertain 100% of his clients, those who tune in on his version of humour. He cannot be faulted for that, the press at large however can be faulted and they should but they stay away from it for other reasons. Mainly because they want a slice of the Samsung $700 million advertisement budget (that is for the USA alone), Microsoft and Sony are in similar predicaments, which is why certain events will not make the front cover any day soon. The reason of data collection being the most obvious one, but at times it can be trivialised as they are only gamers, or it is only a console and consent is overrated. I’ll let you be the judge of what matters and what not, just remember, when you are no longer within the 80% of the group they cater for and you already bought the device, where will your rights be, or your service provider? Perhaps you get the same answer Microsoft gave me: ‘we have no control over uploads, that is all with your internet provider!‘ Interesting how my consent was manoeuvred around in all of this.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics, Science