Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more...]

Getting information about a person just by staring

There is a new app that would give anyone access to  facial recognition software.  Use Google Glasses to look at someone, whereupon you will then tap into that person’s online profiles, social media networks, relationship status, arrest records, and whatever else is online.  Right now, Google is not allowing this app for use on its glasses, but the potential is there and the software can potentially be used on other devices.

This is being called “The End of Privacy.”  The app seems to have been written for guys in bars trying to pick up women.

Again, I ask, if it would be wrong for the government to violate people’s privacy like this, why is it OK for corporate America or individuals wearing geeky-looking glasses to violate people’s privacy?

[Read more...]

Privacy vs. anonymity

Yale constitutional law professor Jed Rubenfeld makes a distinction that, I think, advances the debate over government and corporate surveillance:  Privacy refers to the content of our communications, which is protected constitutionally.  But the fact of our communications, which the NSA is exploiting, is not.  What we need, Prof. Rubenfeld says, is legal protection for anonymity, so that individuals cannot be identified without due process. [Read more...]

Google invading your car

If you have a newish car, you can already integrate it with your smartphone, answering your cell with a button on your steering wheel and carrying on cellphone conversations through your car’s speakers.  You can even buy “apps” for your car.  But when your car is your phone and your computer, outside entities are getting their hooks into you.  The price of getting information from the web is that the web is getting information on you.

Now Google has announced new initiatives with auto manufacturers, turning cars into Android devices.  This will allow Google–along with its client companies and its government snoopers–to collect all kinds of personal information about the drivers.  Google will be able to place ads– tailor made just for you and your buying weaknesses–right into your car.

Won’t that be a great advance in automotive technology? [Read more...]

The sensorization of consumer tech

The big thing out of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas?  Biometrics.  Eye-tracking devices to see what ads you pay attention to.  Mood-sensing ear buds.  Pupil dilation sensors to see how much you are “aroused.”  And, what I’m trying to get my mind around, bras that analyze brain waves.

After the jump, read all about it.  But then I have some serious questions I want to raise. [Read more...]

NSA tracking porn visits to discredit enemies

According to a document leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA has been tracking visits to porn sites and other questionable activities as a way to discredit or perhaps blackmail suspected Muslim terrorists.  Read about it after the jump.  Is this a brilliant tactic that should be expanded to combat the pornography plague or a dangerous precedent-setting invasion of privacy?  Or what? [Read more...]


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