PostHeaderIcon Privacy & Paranoia

On the previous thread, I mentioned to Steel that I had recently acquired an Amazon Echo device, and was having great fun playing with Alexa. He replied with this apropos cartoon:

LOL… Sure, before ordering it, I experienced the old kneejerk paranoia about my privacy. Yet, before I could ask Alexa to spell antidisestablishmentarianism (she did!) or play some Beach Boys, the only time I ever spoke here in my hermitage was to my little dog, or the occasional rare telephone call. I have always assumed that my telephone conversations are being recorded somewhere anyway. Even if I never turned the microphone off, or unplugged her, and Alexa was actually recording every sound here 24/7, those tasked to search through the recordings for my transgressions would be bored to death, unless they shared my nostalgia for the popular music of my youth, and enjoyed the sound of rain, a babbling brook, or ocean waves playing while I am sleeping. 😊

Until one experiences it for themselves, it can be hard to imagine the sense of relief derived from escaping the stultifying paranoia of Big Brother, which is just another weapon in the oligarchs’ tool chest, for maintaining their dualistic society. The ubiquitous ‘us against them’ mindset is designed to keep the sheeple at each other’s throats, rather than their own. All that is required to reacquire personal freedom, is to opt out of their cruel game, as an individual refusing to choose sides. If one concludes he has no need of a ruler, or even a political leader, then it becomes ludicrous to consider sanctioning their authority, by participating in the obnoxious process of choosing one.

Several months ago, it occurred to me that, now in my dotage, I am no longer a threat to the powers that be. If they have nothing to fear from me, I see little point in fearing them. Frankly, at my age, were they to haul me off to prison as a subversive, it would represent a marked improvement in my austere lifestyle. Air conditioning; pest control; three hot meals a day; regular hot showers; laundry service; free medical attention; gym; library; cable TV; internet; armed guards 24/7 to protect an old man from terrorists, gangs, flash mobs, muggers, and lonely widows. No wonder so many codgers who are released, soon deliberately re-offend to get back inside, and resume the carefree lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. It sure sounds more appealing than a retirement home, populated predominantly with addled dementia patients, no?  😉

Since this epiphany, I switched back to using Google as my search engine, and have found I much prefer Google Chrome to Firefox for several reasons, so it is now my default browser. I even stay logged into it and YouTube, with my real identity. I notice that the ad blocking extensions do such a good job, that I have not experienced any of the targeted advertising that is supposed to be so off-putting about allowing Google to collect data on my surfing habits. I do not even experience advertising on YouTube, and appreciate the way it tracks my tastes to offer new clips that might interest me. So, with nothing to hide, what exactly have I lost by relinquishing my privacy? â—„Daveâ–º

38 Responses to “Privacy & Paranoia”

  • Chris says:

    To answer your question, absolutely nothing. I have always used Chrome. My profile name and picture is really me. I have Google locations turned on because I’m on the road a lot and the voice activation and command service on my Android phone makes getting around a breeze. I write nothing online that I wouldn’t say to someones face no matter who they are and everyone knows who I am. Ad Block for Chrome does work quite well too. Welcome out of the shadows. 🙂

    • Well put, Chris. Thanks.

      I’ll go one further. I have been using Kaspersky anti-virus software for many years, and I trust it implicitly. Probably even more so now that the Feds have condemned it. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

      • Chris says:

        Out of curiosity what reason was given for the government condemning an anti-virus software?

        • It is a private Russian company, and suddenly they are being accused of searching through customer’s files and sending any considered interesting to Putin. U.S. Government employees are no longer allowed to use it, in case they have sensitive files on their laptops or home computers. Seems unlikely to me… â—„Daveâ–º

        • That’s a bit oversimplified. It looks like the Israeli government hacked the antivirus people as revenge for them outing Israel as the source of STUXNET. They altered the antivirus software to search user’s computers for keywords of interest to Israel, largely searching names of known US intel programs and classified tags, and sending them the relevant files. It looks like this is how the recent intel people who were hoarding classified data and agency hacking tools at home were outed.

        • Chris says:

          I’ve used Avast free home edition for well over ten years. Never had any infection that I know of. LOL as outlined above there’s really not a whole heck of a lot for them to find anyway. Well unless they are into pictures of my grand kids birthday parties. People ask me why I’m not afraid of identity theft. My answer to them is quite simple. Who the heck would want to be me? Use good passwords and change them frequently on sensitive sites and you have no problem.

  • Chris says:

    By the way. I believe Alexa probably listens locally for the activation command and only actually connects and stores/records voice data to the server when activated. I know storage capabilities are HUGE these days but would probably even then be quickly exhausted recording and saving from every unit out there 24/7 365. Not to mention the wasted bandwidth doing so.

    • Oh, I agree completely. I am impressed that she can still recognize the “Alexa” trigger while playing music, if I raise my voice; but then she pauses it to listen to my request. I would venture to say that quiet conversations across the room while she is playing Rock, couldn’t possibly be recorded with any fidelity anyway. â—„Daveâ–º

    • I expect they’re being scraped rather than recorded. The tech is all about speech recognition, so why save bulky audio files when text and keywords will do?

      I often find that when my wife mentions a product to me, it ends up all over whatever banner ads I come across. I’m not sure what’s doing it since I don’t use any virtual assistants. It could be Bixby, Cortana, or just some advertising algorithm that is linking us across non-shared machines.

      I don’t use ad-blockers except for some scripts I’ve written and plugins that let me pick apart anything I don’t like on a site. The biodiversity of the web has fallen precipitously as sites like this one fall off the radar. I’ve found political blogging unprofitable, but other subjects have been worth it. I like the idea that people can find it profitable to run their own website, and the advertising is so contextual now that It often alerts me to things I actually want to know about.

      The surveillance is hard to avoid if you want to be connected and convenienced. I do think it’s more dangerous the younger you are. The data that is collected will be shared, leaked, and hacked. This will influence dating, hiring, insurance, background checks, and social status. I’m betting future leaks will incite angry mobs to seek out everyone who has triggered some microagression, like saying it’s ok to be white.

      Like anything else in life, use it as you like, but don’t get dependent or complacent.

  • So quickly from anarchist to craving the yoke and trough?

    The stone age did not end for lack of stone. I found smart light bulbs the other day with adjustable color temperature, and really liked the idea. I’m still not on board, but I’ll try it if it ever seems more useful than gimmicky.

    If you aren’t familiar with XKCD, it’s worth browsing.

    • So quickly from anarchist to craving the yoke and trough?

      By no means craving either, just no longer in fear of them. Were I craving a bunk in their retirement home, I would commit some crime to earn one. 😉

      …if it ever seems more useful than gimmicky.

      I was expecting little more than a new toy; but already I have it performing very useful functions for me. E.g. I have four remotes involved with my audio/video system. Cable/DVR; Amazon Prime FireTV; 4K TV; and Sound Bar. The TV has built in chromecast, so I can cast YouTube videos etc, to it from my phone, iPad, or laptop. Switching HDMI inputs on the TV between the various sources, and configuring those sources to watch what I want, used to require that I fuss with several remotes each time. Now, I have macros that control all of them with a single command. Simply saying “Alexa, tell Anymote to execute Fox” causes my IR blaster (Anymote) to execute a macro named “Fox,” which turns on my cable box, switches it to the Fox News channel, turns on my TV, switches its input to the HDMI port the cable box is connected to, and adjusts the volume to my preferred TV viewing level. “Alexa, tell Anymote to execute “Video Off” shuts all three devices back off. Of course, each device is addressable individually, and each button on their remotes can be executed by saying their name.

      A single macro command “Lights on/off” works on three different WIFI enabled devices simultaneously, although each can be addressed by name separately: “Alexa, dim “Desk Lamp” 20%.” In my environment, these are actually useful functions, not just gimmicks. Finally, the Echo device itself is not actually required, and there is no requirement to use voice control. They can all be controlled by touch from the apps on a smartphone or tablet. â—„Daveâ–º

      • Convincing the wife and training the kids are more trouble than just flipping the light switch and pushing the button on the remote. I’ll wait for someone to get some decent augmented reality hardware to market. Should happen within the next couple years.

        • Yeah, there is that. Fortunately my dog can’t say Alexa. 😀

          I too am looking forward to experimenting with VR. Could I have a date with Farrah Fawcett that way? 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

        • Chris says:

          I hear robot “companions” are all the rage in Japan these days. Hey. As long as it can make a sandwich I’m in.

          • From what I read, they have far more intriguing skills than sandwich making. I have also read that they are becoming more popular than the regular fare, in some European brothels. If the price of an advanced model drops under $1K, before I am too old for a new toy, I just might order one. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

          • Chris says:

            LOL As time passes I find the importance of functions of a “companion” are very much on a sliding scale. A perfectly executed BLT has trended to sliding nearly on par with any other function. Probably more at the expense of “conversation” than anything else. “Alexa, shut up and make me a BLT”.

            Back when Garmin and Tom Tom first came out I mused that the default voice for giving directions and most of the choices were female. I could only attribute it to most men being used to women telling them where to go where as women don’t care who’s telling them. They aren’t going to listen anyway.

          • Understood, Chris. I have lived in a woman-free zone for ten years now, and must admit I prefer it. Fortunately, Alexa remains absolutely silent until I call her name. 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

          • Chris says:

            Half way there. Now for the sandwich. 🙂

          • Too risky… If she had the necessary equipment to make a sandwich, she could also scratch my back… then I would no longer be the boss. 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

          • How long until the endless feminist articles decrying men who objectify machines? They’ll push to take away the feminine voices, looks, and BLT functionality.

            Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism: The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking.

          • Let the frumpy feminazi hypocrisisters whine, Steel. Until they give up their personal collections of dildos and vibrators, they have zero credibility on the subject! 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

          • But those are empowering tools of ritual defamation!

            If the patriarchy is allowed to acquire BLTs without first being denied and lectured by a woman, how will they ever be woke enough to realize their rightful position at the bottom of the hierarchy of equality and diversity?

          • Point taken. Does your wife ever read this blog? 😉 â—„Daveâ–º

          • She gets enough of both politics and listening to me that she doesn’t feel the need to seek out more of both online.

          • I suspected as much. Chris & I are single, so we can get away with the ‘male chauvinist pig’ remarks. J9 occasionally participates here herself, so Troy prudently avoids such. You fall in between, and obviously like to live on the edge. 😀 â—„Daveâ–º

          • I do live on the edge. I try not to step over the line, but I also hold the line. If men don’t quit the virtue signalling and develop some self respect, stand up for ourselves, we’ll find ourselves beta males, shuffling around not understanding what it is we’ve just apologized for. If women expect us to live as women, they will be sorely disappointed in our portrayal.

            I stay faithful, non violent, I attempt to be respectful, and on rare occasions, even tactful. I’ve never pretended more. I’m sure you both know to what extent those things are in our nature and to what extent they are aspects we have adopted for the good of society.

          • Very well said, Steel. Respectful and even tactful, without being obsequious. Fortunately, I was always attracted to self-confident and intelligent women, who very much expected a man to act like a man. â—„Daveâ–º

  • Troy Robinson says:

    You need to read Dan Brown’s new book Origin for a fictional, but likely, scenario for the future.


    • On your advice, I immediately went and downloaded the free sample to my Kindle. I would have just purchased the whole thing if the price had been under $10; but it irks me to be asked to pay $15 for an e-book, when the hardback of it is the same price! Of course, being a Dan Brown book, after the first two chapters, I was hooked and purchased it anyway. Interestingly I am now 63% of the way through the page turner, and I am still not quite sure what you were getting at here. All of the hi-tech gadgets mentioned so far already exist, including the live streaming videos on smartphones, and the self-driving Lexus. Perhaps the self-aware sentient computer “Winston” doesn’t seem so implausible to me, because two of my favorite sci-fi books had them over 50 years ago. Clark’s “HAL” in “2001,” and Heinlein’s “Mike” in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

      BTW: As an experiment, I am allowing Alexa to read “Origin” for me, while I follow along on my Kindle app. She is doing a surprisingly exemplary job of it. I am unsure why anyone would buy the “Audible” versions of books anymore… perhaps for commuting. Anyway, thanks for the book recommendation. I was ready for some exciting fiction, and am enjoying it very much. 🙂 â—„Daveâ–º

      • I’ve been reading Permutation City. Not done with it, but you may like it. I like a good dystopia. We seem to be in a race to see which one gets here first.

        Some​ ​say​ ​the​ ​world​ ​will​ ​end​ ​in​ ​fire,
        Some​ ​say​ ​in​ ​ice.
        From​ ​what​ ​I’ve​ ​tasted​ ​of​ ​desire
        I​ ​hold​ ​with​ ​those​ ​who​ ​favor​ ​fire

  • Troy Robinson says:

    BTW, I vehemently disagree with one core thesis of Origions, that if everyone had everything they needed, almost without effort, there would no longer be a basis for conflict.

    It is a fact of humanity that, in general, we value things in direct proportion to the effort required to acquire them. As evidence I offer the well-meant public housing in most of our cities (that is, its almost instant deterioration due to abuse and neglect).

    Of course, I agree with the other notion expressed — that humanity will be much better off once it sheds the self-imposed burden of religious belief. Indeed, I think that this alone will nullify most of the impulse to war. Then, there is the question we dare not ask — is war a necessary component of human existence?

    So many questions, so little nerve to ask them aloud.


    • You need only look at liberals and religious zealots to see that people love to stick their nose in other people’s business. Give them everything they need and they’ll decide the also need someone from the other side to bake them a cake affirming their nonsense.

    • Well, I finished the book the night before last. It was so enjoyable that I was sorry to see it end. Thanks again for the recommendation, Troy.

      Yes, the condemnation of religious dogma was really well done.

      BTW, I vehemently disagree with one core thesis of Origions, that if everyone had everything they needed, almost without effort, there would no longer be a basis for conflict.

      Still, although I thought I was watching for it, somehow I missed where this notion was even suggested, much less established as a core thesis. Perhaps I was too caught up in the plot. Can you please point it out for me?

      Has anyone else read the book? It would be fun to discuss it. â—„Daveâ–º

  • Regarding AI taking over the world, here is a timely article, which might be worth discussing:

    In a setting where computers have the ultimate say in whether or not to engage in hostile acts — even under the guise of defending their own territories or protecting the populations they are programmed to protect — conflicts could escalate much faster than humans have ever seen. Weeks, months, or even years of posturing and diplomacy could turn into mere minutes or even seconds, with missiles flying before humans can even begin to intervene. And then, of course, there’s the issue of the AI being manipulated in unforeseen ways.

    “These will be weapons of mass destruction,” the scientists say. “One programmer will be able to control a whole army. Every other weapon of mass destruction has been banned: chemical weapons, biological weapons, even nuclear weapons. We must add autonomous weapons to the list of weapons that are morally unacceptable to use.”

    I may need to rethink my hope that AI would be less likely to destroy the planet with WMD than human politicians… 😯 â—„Daveâ–º

    • Chris says:

      If AI were actually intelligent it would fight the war in simulation and just declare the winner. Of course all that’s left is to deal with the minor detail of all the people listed as dead that aren’t. But then if all the computers in the world recognize you as dead you might as well be. The fatalities of that sort of war would be the first actual manifestation of an zombie. I almost like that idea.

      • …if all the computers in the world recognize you as dead you might as well be.

        21st Century banishment! What an intriguing concept, Chris. What if “they” simply granted the wishes of all of us demanding our privacy?

        You don’t want your identity in our database? Fine, we will delete your SSN, and your identity will cease to exist in our society!

        You will be totally free; but you will not be able to have…

        – A bank account.
        – Credit/debit cards.
        – Ability to shop online.
        – A regular job.
        – Health insurance.
        – Owned property.
        – An automobile.
        – A driver’s license.
        – A passport.
        – Commercial air travel.
        – Even an Uber ride.
        – …

        I could go on forever; but just the inability to purchase a Kindle e-book with one click on Amazon, and have it delivered in a matter of seconds to my device, would be a deal killer for me. I don’t ever wish to be forced to return to reading paper books, and using a paper dictionary. The very thought of no longer having wide-band access to the internet 24/7, is almost terrifying! Hmm…, I value my Liberty a lot; but I guess Liberty, without the benefits of modern technology and commerce, would be of very little value to modern man… 😯 â—„Daveâ–º

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