More big multi-national tech companies have blasted the Australian government over the shitty Assistance and Access Bill. Cisco's recently released submission to the Bill's farcical consultation process states that they "define a backdoor to include any surveillance capability that is intentionally created and not transparently disclosed" and that an "undisclosed surveillance function would violate our public pronouncements to the contrary". Apple's submission was also released, saying that the Bill's "capabilities should be as alarming to every Australian as they are to us". Meanwhile, the ALP is "concerned at the haste with which the Bill was introduced to Parliament" - let's see if they have a spine and vote against the Bill in Parliament when it comes up.
A Senate Inquiry into that other government IT fuckup, My Health Record, has resulted in just a single recommendation: pass the amendments that have already been discussed by the Health Minister once media attention focused on MHR. Those were making cops get a warrant to view data in it, remove the ability for people to access someone's record "for purposes of securing government revenue" and make the system actually delete contents if someone asks for it to be deleted - none of that "we'll keep it there, but hide it from view" bullshit. The Greens and ALP still want to make a specific provision banning private health insurers accessing MHR and preventing the privatisation of MHR and its maintenance. The whole damn thing should be scrapped IMHO.
Remember that Facebook "hack" where 50 million people had their personal info snatched due to a bug in how the "View As" feature worked? That's now been revised down to 30 million, and out of those 30 million, 14 million had info like such as "name and contact details (phone number, email, or both, depending on what people had on their profiles), username, gender, locale/language, relationship status, religion, hometown, self-reported current city, birthdate, device types used to access Facebook, education, work, the last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in, website, people or Pages they follow, and the 15 most recent searches" stolen. There's still no hard evidence of this data being used against people, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time. You can use this link to see if you've been caught up in this mess.
Following Google's decision to drop out of the race for the huge US$10b Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project to run the US military's cloud computing setup, Microsoft's employees have published an open letter pleading with their bosses to do the same. From the letter, "many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war. When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of "empowering every person on the planet to achieve more", not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality". The Microsoft employees go on to say that "Earlier this year Microsoft published "The Future Computed," examining the applications and potential dangers of A.I. It argues that strong ethical principles are necessary for the development of A.I. that will benefit people, and defines six core principles: "fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable." With JEDI, Microsoft executives are on track to betray these principles in exchange for short-term profits". Spot on my Seattle comrades.
Apple is strapping heavy looking backpacks full of LiDAR sensors and god knows what else to humans I assume they're paying minimum wage, and telling them to wander around San Francisco. As usual for Apple, not sure what this data collection is for exactly, but according to MacRumours, "data gathered on foot will likely be used to improve pedestrian directions in major cities like San Francisco". Dunno what else to write about this as anything I say would be pure speculation, but the image of a bloke stalking San Francisco's filthy streets with almost $100k of sensors on his back is very San Francisco.
Pretty sure I've mentioned the Zappi electric car charger before - it can be configured to only send electricity to your car when there's excess solar energy. Fully Charged has a cool video on how it works. Normally that excess electricity would be sold off to the grid for a few cents, but EVolution argues (who sells the Zappi in Australia) when that excess is placed in your electric car instead of sold off to the grid, you're extracting even more value from your solar panel investment, leading to a faster ROI. I wrote a little blog post on Drive Zero to try work out how much I'd save consuming the excess energy in an EV instead of selling it to the grid.
That delightful scamp foone on Twitter has dug up another vintage piece of technology that amused me. Something called "FISK" entered foone's lab/shack/basement and as they went on to describe, it's basically a floppy disk drive stuck to a modem that let you send the data from the floppy, to a blank floppy inside someone else's FISK (hmmm). Back in 1993, when this thing was released, the internet wasn't really a thing most people had access to. Sending data over the phone line, directly to the person you want to receive it, at 2 kilobytes a second (!!) was our daily struggle. Foone's Twitter feed is constantly bringing up fun retro tech posts like these, well worth a follow imho.
That's it, see ya tomorrow!