Ring just gets creepier and creepier. While the basic home security idea isn’t bad, the implementation, especially when combined with the (existing or just discussed) partnerships with law enforcement, giving them unfettered access to the video captured by the cameras, is really, really disturbing.

(I have friends who have Ring cameras, some of whom have been very glad to have them when weird things have happened at their place. I don’t want to discount the benefits that these systems can provide. But for people who have been considering a Ring system, it’s worth thinking seriously about the potential wider concerns with the system and considering other options; for those who do have a Ring system, it might be worth reviewing the settings to see how much, if any, of the data sharing can be opted out of.)

In its public-relations efforts, Ring has maintained that only thieves and would-be criminals need to worry about the company’s surveillance network and the Neighbors app. From the way Ring’s products are designed to the way they’re marketed, the notion of “suspicion” remains front and center; Ring promises a future in which “suspicious” people up to “suspicious” things can be safely monitored and deterred from afar.

But “suspicious” is an entirely squishy concept with some very potentially dangerous interpretations, a byword of dog-whistling neighborhood racists who hope to drape garden-variety prejudice beneath the mantle of public safety. The fact remains that anyone moving past a home equipped with Ring cameras is unavoidably sucked into a tech company dragnet, potential fodder for overeager chatter among the suburban xenophobe set. To civil libertarians, privacy scholars, and anyone generally nervous about the prospect of their neighbors forming a collective, artificially intelligent video panopticon maintained by Amazon for unregulated use by police, Ring’s potential consequences for a community are clear.

A “proactive” approach to information sharing could mean flagging someone who happens to cross into a Ring video camera’s frame based on some cross-referenced list of “suspects,” however defined. Paired with the reference to a facial recognition watch list and Ring’s generally cozy relationship with local police departments across the country, it’s easy to imagine a system in which individuals are arbitrarily profiled, tracked, and silently reported upon based on a system owned and operated solely by Amazon, without legal recourse or any semblance of due process.

Five Senators Join the Fight to Learn Just How Bad Ring Really Is: “…if police want to request footage from a person’s front door in reference to a car break-in on that street, there is no need for police to verify that footage would be helpful to solving that incident, or whether the footage would even be used for that particular incident and not for other purposes. If a person agrees to share their footage with police, police then have that footage forever and can share it with whoever they want without oversight or restrictions. This means footage from your door, requested by local police to catch an alleged thief in the neighborhood, could end up being used by another law enforcement agency for a completely attenuated purpose, such as identifying someone for deportation—without your knowledge or direct consent.”

Sometime between January 11th and January 23rd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Sometime between September 23rd and October 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Well, this is a good way to keep me from visiting New Zealand:: "New Zealand's Customs and Excise Act 2018 went into effect today. That means travelers who refuse to give their phone or laptop password to customs officials will be fined NZ$5000. In addition, their devices will be confiscated and forensically searched." Not that I had plans to visit New Zealand, but this sure puts a damper on any interest.
  • The Eternal Life of the Instant Noodle: “Last year, across the globe, more than 100 billion servings of instant noodles were eaten. That’s more than 13 servings for every person on the planet.”
  • Science Says Toxic Masculinity — More Than Alcohol — Leads To Sexual Assault: "Every drink is downed amid cultural expectations and societally mediated attitudes about women and power. Those things — and how young men absorb them — have a stronger causal influence than the alcohol alone. When a man feels entitled to assault someone, he may get drunk before he does it, but the decision to act was ultimately his alone."
  • iOS 12 Siri shortcut for traffic stops: Pauses music, dims the screen, turns on Do Not Disturb, and activates video recording on the front-facing camera. When done, sends the video to a trusted contact or uploads the file to Dropbox. Clever.
  • Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong: “For decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives. It’s time for a new paradigm.”

Sometime between September 3rd and September 23rd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

So, security and privacy have been in the news a lot lately, particularly with Apple’s fight against the FBI over accessing data on an iPhone. This is something that I pay attention to, and try to make sure I have the option to do, not because I feel I’m doing anything that needs to be hidden, but because I believe that personal privacy is important, and because I don’t think the government (or Facebook, or Apple, or Google, or any other company) really needs to have unfettered access into my life.

But I’m a little curious how many people I know actually take steps to protect their communications. I’ve only seen a few people actually mention using overtly privacy-conscious applications, and though I have a few installed, since I don’t know of that many other people that bother, they don’t really get used all that much.

Here’s what I’m set up with at the moment, in case anyone’s interested. I’m also open to suggestions for other possibilities.

For email, I have Apple Mail on my desktop computer set up to use PGP encryption (through the GPG Tools suite), and have iPGMail on my iPhone and iPad so that I can en/de-crypt messages when mobile (it’s a little kludgy, but workable).

For messaging, I have both the Signal and Telegram messaging apps on my iPhone, both of which boast secure end-to-end encryption for chats. I can be reached through each of those via my phone number, which either you have, or can be asked for, since I tend not to post that entirely publicly.

While killing time the other day, I ran into a weird little “feature” on Twitter that, I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand.

Twitter's FInd FriendsAs part of their new interface, there’s a tab at the top titled “Who to Follow”, when then has a tab called “Find Friends” that allows you to hook into your Gmail (or Yahoo, MSN/Hotmail, AOL, or LinkedIn) address book to discover people that you might not know are already on Twitter. So far, so good.

So, I pop my email address in, authorize with Gmail, and let Twitter think for a moment. After a moment of thinking, I get a long list of Twitter accounts that are associated with the email addresses in my address book (most of which I was already following). Once again, so far so good — this is all what I would expect to have happen.

But as I scrolled down, things got a little more odd. I started getting hits for a bunch of people with the cryptic message, “This person is on Twitter, but isn’t yet findable by email. Let them know you’d like to follow them.” When I clicked the “Follow” button on a few of those entries, Twitter kindly let me know that it had sent a message to let them know I was interested in following them.

Not Findable?

This morning, I got a note from one of the people behind those accounts letting me know that that account was unused. They were kind enough to forward the message that Twitter sends, however:

On Jan 28, 2011 11:13 PM, “Twitter” discover-wrejneera=tznvy.pbz-5591e@postmaster.twitter.com wrote:

Michael Hanscom (@djwudi) would like to follow your tweets (@—–) on Twitter.

Michael Hanscom knows your email address: @—–@—–.com. But Twitter can’t suggest you to users like Michael Hanscom because your account (@—–) isn’t configured to let users find you if they know your email address.

So here’s what I don’t understand. These accounts are set to hide their email address, and to not be searchable by email address. This is even mentioned twice, once in the listing after Twitter read through my address book, and again in the email sent out after I hit the “Follow” button. However, that’s exactly how I found the accounts: by their email address.

Sure, Twitter isn’t showing me the account name, so I can’t follow directly. Instead, I have to send a request, and the account owner then has to approve (or disapprove) the request. It does, however, let me know that there is a Twitter account associated with that email address…which seems to run counter to the intent of the account owners who have set their accounts to not be findable by email address.

Is this a bug? A feature? A privacy concern? Or is there something that I’m just not grokking, and this actually makes perfect sense and is how things should work?

Anybody want to toss their two cents in the ring (yes, mixed metaphor, I know)?