Future Crimes, Week 3: Chapters 3 and 4

Chapter 3: Moore’s Outlaws

The World of Exponentials: Moore’s law, a concept which references a lily exponentially growing every day, slowly covering a pond can be applied directly to the progress of technology. Technology grows in an exponential fashion, every year bringing more and more to the table. As technology continues to advance however, we are increasingly making ourselves more “connected, dependent, and vulnerable”.

“Take, for example, the iPhone that hundreds of millions of users carry in their pockets today. Incredibly it literally has more computer processing power than which was available to all of NASA during the Apollo 11 moon landing forty years ago|.

I think that it is absolutely amazing that over the course of forty years, the same technology that was able to power an expedition to the moon can is now compacted into a phone that we carry around in our daily lives. This example really puts Moore’s law into perspective as technology, is truly advancing at an exponential rate. This concept did make me wonder about this expansion in relation to our vulnerability. If our technology is expanding at an exponential rate, is the vulnerability of our privacy and security online also expanding at this same rate? Throughout these two chapters I found that the security issues that Goodman discussed did not directly alarm me in a way that would make me change my lifestyle in regards to how I use technology. A few years down the line though, I wonder how I would feel when more interconnected and involved technology becomes available.

“A technological singularity will take place-that is, a moment in time where computing progress is so rapid it outpaces mankind’s ability to comprehend it and machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence.”

I actually believe that we have already reached the technological singularity that Goodman is referring to. Google itself, houses information that a human brain could never acquire all at the same time. I think the next step in this advancement however is the danger of humans becoming enslaved to technology. This quote brought me back to watching the movie Her, which actually made me fear artificial intelligence. As ridiculous as it sounds, the possibility of humanity being literally enslaved by a.i. doesn’t sound that unrealistic to me. If a.i. grows to know us more than we know ourselves, then it will also know how to exploit us in a way we would never expect. Looking down a hundred years, I would not put it out of the realm of possibility.

The Crime Singularity: As the technology singularity is occurring, the crime singularity is occurring simultaneously. While previous criminals had to rely on less efficient methods for theft, modern day cyber criminals are able to multiply their bounty with a few simple keystrokes. The examples in this section show that even large companies that many consumers trust, are vulnerable to proficient hackers that are able to steal an abundant amount of information on their own.

Control the Code, Control the World: Almost all aspects of our life are controlled by some form of code. Whether we realize it or not, the luxuries that we take for granted our reliant on lines of code, that when compromised can lead to very extreme consequences. While this code provides us with the tools we need, it also provides an easy way for cyber criminals to plan an attack.

“At the same time, man is also growing omnipotent as the world’s objects go online”

While reading Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud in seminar class, I brought up the effects of technology as Freud claimed that man was becoming “omniscient and omnipotent prosthetic Gods”. Like no other generation before, we have access to the lives of our social circle, and even the lives of those we do not know. Some of the most successful people in the world today, are those that are able to manipulate code more effectively than others. The creation of different services like the companies from GAFA give its creators immense power. People like Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos are the embodiment of the prosthetic Gods that Freud predicted to rise. They have control over all our information and all the data that we put out there, and there really is nothing we are able to do about it as their services are integral to most of society. They are simply the puppet masters pulling our strings.

“The very same technology that can save the world and enable that globalization can be used by radicals, criminals, terrorists, and governments to destroy it”.

This is the dynamic that we have to deal with as a society. There’s no way to halt the progression of technology, or even slow it down. The best we could do is make sure that it ends up in the right hands, although that is easier said than done.

Chapter 4: You’re Not the Customer, You’re the Product

Our Growing Digital World-What They Never Told You: Some of the services we use the most are typically branded as free of cost. Services like Google, and the ample amount of social media platforms provide us the opportunity to accomplish many different feats. While its consumers are not paying these companies out of their own pockets, these corporations are still able to make millions and some even billions of dollars off the data that we are providing to them. Google’s diverse suite of features for example includes: an email client, a word processor, and a GPS. While these services provide very convenient access to different tools that are important in today’s world, we are unknowingly surrendering our right to privacy, as the information we offer on these outlets are not completely private.

“A less altruistic explanation might be that each and every one of the aforementioned products was created with the specific intent to trick, cajole, and coax users to reveal an ever-increasing volume of data about themselves and their lives ad infinitum”.

While the business model of these companies may seem underhanded to some, I don’t necessarily believe that these company owners had malicious intent. These companies are a business after all, and they are out to make money. I admire their ingenuity and capability of thinking outside of the box and without them we would not have the different products that we enjoy today. That being said, I do think that there needs to be a change in how the terms of service works in these business models.

“When Google introduces its Maps program and provided gratis GPS and driving directions, it could now track the places you went”.

If there is one service that I am a bit cautious in using, it is the GPS feature on my phone. Myself, and a group of friends are under a family plan in order to save money on different apple software, specifically Apple Music. In line with the family plan setup, the “Find My Iphone” software also links each device to each other. I discovered this as one of my friends’ parents were able to monitor where each of us were at any given time. Of course in this instance, it was a trusted adult that had access to my location, but this information falling into the wrong hands does put me on high alert. It is one thing to have access to my e-mails, and a completely different level to have access to my location.

“By using Google Glass, are you granting the right to capture all the live-streaming moments of your daily life, every thing you see and hear, so that it can sell these data to advertisers?”

Google Glass in particular is why I think that terms and services need to be shown in a different form. Instead of capturing tidbits of our lives, Google Glass captures every waking moment, while FitBits and other sleep trackers capture every sleeping moment. I think that terms of service should be condensed into a manner that people can actually understand. Apart from the discouraging wall of text that is presented, the terms are also presented in unnecessarily technical language, as if it was meant for consumers not to understand. It should be the responsibility of the product to make sure exactly what their consumers are agreeing to.

The Social Network and Its Inventory-You: The internet is able to keep track of every single piece of information you feed it. A google search, a rating on a track, a purchase on amazon, all these pieces of information can be consolidated to form your online profile which will then be used to sell to advertisers.

You’re Leaking — How They Do It: Different methods such as the use of cookies can be used to track our online activities. Apart from this, we are also linked to our online and real life relationships. The cycle of data “leaked” by our friends are also able to be traced back to us.

The Most Expensive Things in Life Are Free: While services like Facebook and Google are free initially, companies are making money of our data. “A study published by the Wall Street Journal in advance of Facebook’s initial public offering estimated the value of each long term Facebook user to be $80.95 to the company”.

Terms and Conditions Apply (Against You): Terms and Services pages set up in ways that consumers are eagerly going to brush by them.

“They are designed to be impossible to read — so we don’t”

I think that this is the root underlying the problems discussed in both chapters. Advancement in technology provides a great opportunity to improve society, and of course, like every other advancement, it comes with its down-sides. I think that we need these advancements, but society’s awareness is also key. There needs to be an effort from both the consumer and the companies in order to have a clear understanding of what they are and are not entitled to.

Mobile Me: We are now in the age of smartphones. Everyone whether it be a student or an adult in their job is reliant on the use of smartphones. Smartphones offer everything that we could ask for: entertainment, productivity, connections to other people, smartphones provide them all. Unfortunately they also provide an opportunity for companies to further look through our data.

“That device in your purse or jeans that you think is a cell phone i in reality a beacon, constantly signaling the world and providing an incessant stream of data about you, your location and your life’s activities”

Not having a smartphone is a large disadvantage in any field. We are almost required to use it, and required to use the software it provides.

Pilfering Your Data? There’s an App for That: Applications were a significant part of the smartphone movement. While we may see data collection coming from other platforms, there are more subtle ways of collection even through games which are the last sources of collection that one would expect.

Location, Location, Location: Apart from using our phones as a GPS, location services are also integrated into other aspects of the software. In social media for example, one could tag a photo with a specific location and publicly share it. Apple’s most highlighted software in Siri, requires the use of location services to be the most functional. We are inclined to enable location services in order to access more features without realizing what we are giving up.

“For example, if a man used Girls Around Me and saw that a young attractive woman had just checked in at the local Starbucks, he could track her, access her Facebook profile, see what high school or college she had attended, learn that she recently vacationed in Las Vegas, and find out the names of her parents, her favorite drink, and the fact that earlier that day she had watched Orange is the New Black on Netflix”

I am not particularly aware of the app-production process and who has the rights to approve or disapprove what gets placed on the app store, but I have absolutely no idea how this app was even approved. I think that providing our information to large companies like Google, wont serve much of a problem for now, but compiling all an individual’s information and making is crossing the line. There is simply too much power given to the user, and not everyone out in the world has good intentions. This app could potentially produce a lot of danger to those who decide to use it.

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