Watching. Always Watching.

I received the following email this morning:

On Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 3:16 AM, The Team at Zwift wrote:

Hey Richard,

You made it out of the jungle. Nice work!

Did you enjoy the ancient ruins? Did you see the sloth? You’re among the first 12k Zwifters to explore the Jungle Expansion. We’re happy you had a chance to try it.

Cool. The team at Zwift reached out to me. At first glance, it all seemed so human. Personalized. With some context and a few questions thrown in for good measure.

And then it dawned on me. This was machine generated.

I know. So what? What difference does it make that a machine sent this out?

In the digital domain, it is becoming more difficult to determine what is, or is not, human. And, for that matter, whether the source is genuine or not genuine.

Technically, the email should have been worded this way:

On Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 3:16 AM, Zwift Artificial Intelligence Self-Learning Algorithm Machine 24.45.67.88 generated:

Notice to Zwift Rider Richard Cleaver:

Zwift Mayan Jungle Ride completed at 6:01am, Saturday, October 28th, 2017.

Please complete an online survey of your ride experience. There are 12,000 Zwifters receiving this invitation to participate.

And remember, the Zwift AI Self-Learning Algorithm Machine records everything you are doing. It is watching you. It is always watching you.

Okay. A bit dark perhaps.

I’m still happy that the team at Zwift reached out to me. I love their service. Even if the email was automatically generated by a machine!

It’s the thought that counts right?

Leading Digital

Showed up in my mailbox today.

Hardly ever get books in the mail these days.

And I haven’t read this one. I wonder if I should? So many books though, so little time.

Andrew McAfee I know. I like him. Smart guy.

The Amazon reviews?

  • Eye opening
  • Five Stars
  • Practical and brilliant
  • A huge source of inspiration
  • This book should be mandatory on the MBA

How does the book begin?

“Technology is the biggest story in business today, plain and simple.”

And how does it end?

“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”.

Perhaps there is something in between.

Not sure that it will matter much. The next wave of disruptive technology is AI and instead of leading digital we will be likely be controlled by digital.

“I believe there is no real difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. AI will be able to redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and could be superseded by AI.”

Stephen Hawking

Not Enough Data

And here I thought I was a heavy user of my smartphone.

GBGH, Matthew.

The Best iMac for 2017

My current iMac was purchased February 22, 2014. It was a 27-inch iMac with a 3.5GHz quad-core i7, 3TB Fusion Drive and 32GB of memory along with a 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M graphics processor. That machine set me back around $4,000 taxes included. And it seemed very expensive to me back then.

To get a new top of the line iMac would cost me about $5,700 taxes included if I were to buy one today. Granted, it comes with a stunning 5K display, a faster processor and a beefed up graphics card. But wow, nearly 6 grand? For a computer?

Fortunately I do not have a need to upgrade. The current iMac is doing great.

Snazzy Labs decided to take a bit of a sting out of getting a top of the line iMac in 2017. Interesting video, especially the disassembly. I did not think that it was possible to upgrade the CPU.

Sonos Play 1

I picked up a pair of these Sonos Play 1 wireless speakers for our Class A diesel pusher motorhome. And, I have to admit, they really sound great.

Better as a stereo pair than as a single speaker in my opinion. Surprisingly good bass response when in stereo.

Setup was a snap. I had them up and running within about 10 minutes of unboxing.

Really pleased with this purchase.

The Day MP3 Died

On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS terminated. News release here.

Although I cut most of my CD library in AAC — somewhat redundant now that I rarely even see a CD anymore — I still cut mp3s when working on studio projects. I suspect the format will live on for many, many years.

The Government Gets My Mail

This just came in from Reuters:

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

By coincidence, I happened to be on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website reading about how to protect my privacy online.

Seems like that is a lost cause.

The U.S. government is reading everything. Wikipedia has a recent list of all of their mass surveillance programs:

  • Boundless Informant: A system deployed by the National Security Agency to analyze global electronic information. In March 2013, Boundless Informant gathered 14 billion data reports from Iran, 6.3 billion from India, and 2.8 billion from the United States.
  • BULLRUN: a highly classified U.S. National Security Agency program to preserve its ability to eavesdrop on encrypted communications by influencing and weakening encryption standards, by obtaining master encryption keys, and by gaining access to data before or after it is encrypted either by agreement, by force of law, or by computer network exploitation (hacking).
  • Carnivore: A system implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was designed to monitor email and electronic communications. Apparently replaced by commercial software such as NarusInsight.
  • Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative
  • DCSNet: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s point-and-click surveillance system that can perform instant wiretaps on any telecommunications device located in the United States.
  • Fairview: A mass surveillance program directed at foreign mobile phone users.
  • Financial Crimes Enforcement Network: A bureau of the Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes financial transactions in order to combat financial crimes.
  • ICREACH: Surveillance frontend GUI that is shared with 23 government agencies, including the CIA, DEA, and FBI, to search illegally collected personal records.
  • Magic Lantern: A keystroke logging software deployed by the FBI in the form of an e-mail attachment. When activated, it acts as a trojan horse and allows the FBI to decrypt user communications.
  • Main Core: A personal and financial database storing information of millions of U.S. citizens believed to be threats to national security. The data mostly comes from the NSA, FBI, CIA, as well as other government sources.
  • MAINWAY: NSA database containing metadata for hundreds of billions of telephone calls made through the four largest telephone carriers in the United States.
  • MUSCULAR: Overseas wiretapping of Google’s and Yahoo’s unencrypted internal networks by the NSA.
  • MYSTIC is a voice interception program used by the National Security Agency.
  • Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative: Under this government initiative, a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) may be filed by law enforcers, public safety personnel, owners of critical infrastructure or the general public.
  • NSA ANT catalog: a 50-page document listing technology available to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) ANT division to aid in cyber-surveillance.
  • PRISM: A clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) which can target customers of participating corporations outside or inside the United States.
  • Room 641A: A telecommunication interception facility operated by AT&T for the U.S. National Security Agency.
  • Sentry Eagle: efforts to monitor and attack an adversary’s cyberspace through capabilities include SIGINT, Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), Information Assurance, Computer Network Defense (CND), Network Warfare, and Computer Network Attack (CNA). The efforts included weakening US commercial encryption systems.
  • Special Collection Service (SCS): A black budget program that is responsible for “close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, breaking and entering.” It employs covert listening device technologies to bug foreign embassies, communications centers, computer facilities, fiber-optic networks, and government installations.
  • Stellar Wind (code name): The open secret code name for four surveillance programs.
  • Tailored Access Operations: Intelligence-gathering unit of the NSA that is capable of harvesting approximately 2 petabytes of data per hour.
  • Terrorist Finance Tracking Program: A joint initiative run by the CIA and the Department of the Treasury to access the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) transaction database as part of the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terrorism”. According to the U.S. government, its efforts to counter terrorist activities were compromised after the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was leaked to the media.
  • Turbulance (NSA): Turbulence is a United States National Security Agency (NSA) information-technology project started circa 2005. It was developed in small, inexpensive “test” pieces rather than one grand plan like its failed predecessor, the Trailblazer Project. It also includes offensive cyberwarfare capabilities, like injecting malware into remote computers. The U.S. Congress criticized the project in 2007 for having similar bureaucratic problems as the Trailblazer Project.
  • US Intelligence Community (IC): A cooperative federation of 16 government agencies working together, but also separately, to gather intelligence and conduct espionage.
  • Utah Data Center: The Intelligence Community’s US$1.5 billion data storage center that is designed to store extremely large amounts of data, on the scale of yottabytes.
  • X-Keyscore: A system used by the United States National Security Agency for searching and analysing internet data about foreign nationals.

Canada also spies on its citizens with a massive secret surveillance program.