Hackers enforcing morality?

So the Ashley Madison site, designed to hook up people who want to commit adultery, was hacked, leading to the release of data about some of the website’s 30 million customers (including already disgraced “family values” activist Josh Duggar).

This has created some indignation about the hackers’ “public shaming” of would-be adulterers.  But the fear of public shaming has kept people in line across all cultures for millennia, enforcing the external morality that is necessary for social order (a.k.a. “the first use of the Law”).  The internet has promised to get around that with total secrecy and anonymity, but the web isn’t as secret and anonymous as people assume.

So do you consider the Ashley Madison hacks to be egregious violations of privacy, or a fitting outing of cheating husbands and wives? [Read more...]

Why you hate talking on the phone

Do you dislike having to call up people, in real time, on the phone?  Would you rather text or e-mail?   The Millennial generation tends to feel that way, I learned, and I admit that I do too.

Media scholar Ian Bogost tries to explain why this is.  In doing so, he goes into the difference between talking on cell phones and talking on the old handset devices.  Whereas cell phones are designed to be carried, rather than talked into, and are used in public places, the old landlines were designed to enhance personal conversation in private spaces.  The handset phone, as well as the technology that went into it, created what he calls “a technology of intimacy.”

Well, I didn’t particularly like using the old-style phones either, but Bogost makes a fascinating case for the genius of old technology and design. [Read more...]

Could Google steal the election?

Research shows that whether favorable or unfavorable articles show up on search engines–and the order of those articles–influences the way people vote.  So, conceivably, Google–or, rather, the search algorithm that Google uses–could determine the election.  So warns Wired Magazine. [Read more...]

Hacking your car

As we move into the “internet of things”–objects and devices connected to the internet–we are learning that those things can be hacked.  This is especially true of late-model automobiles, which are packed with computers and online connections.  Hackers can access your car via OnStar, navigation systems, diagnostic programs, bluetooth connections, etc., etc., whereupon they can unlock your doors, start your engine, turn your steering wheel, and shut off your brakes, among other kinds of havoc.

Craig Timberg has written a fascinating article on how all of this is done and the little that automakers are doing to stop it. [Read more...]

The epic cybersecurity fail

A hacker–probably connected to the Chinese government–has hacked into the databases of the Office of Personnel Management, stealing personal records on some 21 million federal employees.  The stolen information includes the results of security clearances, as well as coercion material on people with security clearances, meaning that this is an intelligence disaster.  Nebraska freshman Senator Ben Sasse, perhaps my highest-ranking personal acquaintance, has written perceptively about this in Wired Magazine, no less.  Excerpt and link after the jump.

(HT to Anthony Sacramone, whom you should also read on the subject.) [Read more...]

Making online ‘trolling’ illegal?

New Zealand has passed a law that would punish “harmful digital communication”–harassing, bullying, or indecent internet postings–by up to two years in prison, plus a $50,000 (NZ) fine.  It’s being described as a law against trolling.  It passed parliament by a margin of 116 to 5. [Read more...]


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