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Smart Technology “. . . is actually a stealthy euphemism for ‘surveillance’ . . . . a world where we no longer exert control over objects we’ve bought from corporations, but corporations exert control over us . . .”

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here [1]. The new drive is a 32-gigabyte drive that is current as of the programs and articles posted by early winter of 2016. The new drive (available for a tax-deductible contribution of $65.00 or more.) (The previous flash drive was current through the end of May of 2012.)

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YahooHQ [6]COMMENT: In FTR #’s 851 [7], 859 [8], 866 [9], 867 [10] and 904 [11], we discussed “technocratic fascism.”

The concept was accurately detailed by David Golumbia [12]. . . . Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant corporate-digital leviathan. Hack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (rightly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrongly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . .”

In a short, substantive and altogether accurate piece in The New York Times Magazine, Jacob Silverman makes a point that we have been making–the “internet of things” or “smart technology” is an example of how technocratic fascism has yielded a “surveillance society.”

” . . . what is presented as an upgrade is actually a stealthy euphemism for “surveillance.” While a “smart” lighting system promises to adapt to an owner’s preferences or help the environment by lowering electricity bills, what it also does is provide a company a permanent foothold in a person’s home from which he can be monitored. That smart-­lighting company knows when the owner of its product comes home, when he goes, when he dims the lights for a date and when he leaves them on.

The intelligence given to these devices really serves twin purposes: information collection and control. Smart devices are constantly collecting information, tracking user habits, trying to anticipate and shape their owners’ behaviors and reporting back to the corporate mother ship. Data is our era’s most promising extractive resource, and tech companies have found that connecting more people and devices, collecting information on how they interact with one another and then using that information to sell advertising can be enormously profitable.

And so the makers of smart devices encourage us to make their creations smarter by confessing more to them, by exposing more of ourselves. . . . At its most expansive, “smart” produces a world where we no longer exert control over objects we’ve bought from corporations, but corporations exert control over us through things we pay for the privilege of using. And when “smart” is crudely applied to the cities we live in — to our crumbling infrastructure and militarized police forces — we give in to forces of privatization, algorithmic control and rule by corporate contract. . . . “

As we have noted in our series on “The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook”–the NSA is one of the very last things most people should be worried about. (We have no illusions about NSA, incidentally.)

The NSA doesn’t give a flying (expletive deleted) about the average citizen. The tech corporations, on the other hand, care about EVERYTHING the ordinary citizen is doing and a naive citizenry is giving them all of their personal information.

“All Knowing” by Jacob Silverman; The New York Times Magazine; 6/19/2016. [13]

. . . . .When applied to the latest consumer gadgets, “smart” performs a similar sleight of hand; what is presented as an upgrade is actually a stealthy euphemism for “surveillance.” While a “smart” lighting system promises to adapt to an owner’s preferences or help the environment by lowering electricity bills, what it also does is provide a company a permanent foothold in a person’s home from which he can be monitored. That smart-­lighting company knows when the owner of its product comes home, when he goes, when he dims the lights for a date and when he leaves them on.

The intelligence given to these devices really serves twin purposes: information collection and control. Smart devices are constantly collecting information, tracking user habits, trying to anticipate and shape their owners’ behaviors and reporting back to the corporate mother ship. Data is our era’s most promising extractive resource, and tech companies have found that connecting more people and devices, collecting information on how they interact with one another and then using that information to sell advertising can be enormously profitable.

And so the makers of smart devices encourage us to make their creations smarter by confessing more to them, by exposing more of ourselves. As we open our lives to increasingly self-­aware, autonomous devices, we are encouraged — particularly in the case of all-­purpose personal assistants like Siri and Alexa — to use them as much as possible, feeding them more useful data that will allow our gadgets to “learn” who we are and what we like, and to make decisions that might anticipate our needs.

The commons becomes simply another site for private companies to spy on people.

But the true ingenuity of a “smart” device is the way it upends traditional models of ownership. We don’t really buy and own network-­connected household goods; in essence, we rent and operate these devices on terms set by the company. Because they run on proprietary software, and because they are connected to the internet, their corporate creators can always reach across cyberspace and meddle with them. In 2009, Amazon deleted from customers’ Kindle readers copies of “1984” that were sold without authorization. Dealers have begun installing “starter interrupt devices” on cars bought with loans, so that they can kill the engine from afar should the borrower be late on his payments. Consumers will have little possibility for

Using a smart device for anything but the purposes explicitly sanctioned by its manufacturer risks violating a warranty, bricking a device or even breaking the law. (It’s fitting, albeit a touch melodramatic, that unauthorized tinkering with an iPhone is called “jailbreaking.”) The very same elements making these things smart — connectivity, sophisticated software, semiautonomous intelligence — can also make them more frustrating than any devices we’ve ever seen. . . .

At its most expansive, “smart” produces a world where we no longer exert control over objects we’ve bought from corporations, but corporations exert control over us through things we pay for the privilege of using. And when “smart” is crudely applied to the cities we live in — to our crumbling infrastructure and militarized police forces — we give in to forces of privatization, algorithmic control and rule by corporate contract. It seems an indelible symbol of the times that New York City neglects essential but mundane services like public restrooms while promoting other putative municipal innovations, like the mass conversion of pay phones to Wi-Fi kiosks. As with other smart devices, which subsidize their costs with data collection, these kiosks are free — provided you submit to the collection of your personal information and location data. The commons becomes simply another site for private companies to spy on people. . . .