Checking Email Like Playing the Slots

Seems checking mail provides the same “intermittent variable rewards” that addicts folks to slot machines. That insight, and several others, comes from How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist. I didn’t agree with every word, but there’s a lot there to chew on, and I suspect the thing about email-checking is spot on. (And to the extent it’s not, FOMO does the rest.)

Is reading blogs like checking email? Probably, especially if done via RSS feed – intermittent variable rewards indeed.

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Of Kurdish House Gardens and Modernity

An article on the 6000-year history of Kurdish gardens cites my Habermas article for its alleged account of Habermas’s modernization theory.

Modernization Theory and House Garden Transformation; Erbil City as Case Study, is jointly authored by scholars from an Iranian engineering department and from the Housing, Building, and Planning department in Penang Malaysia University. The article appears in Aro which is an open-access “journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary” based at Koya University. Koya University’s very smart-looking web site describes the city of Koya as a “1.0 hr drive to the East of the Kurdistan Region capital Erbil (Arbil, Hewlér) in Kurdistan Region of F.R. Iraq.”

The article begins by defining a garden:

Gardens can be considered as the mirror of house’s architectural identity. It’s a plane outdoor space that arranges a part for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature as defined by Turner (2005) A garden is “a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure of man: it is, or ought to be, cultivated”.

However, the article quickly takes a turn towards describing Modernization Theory before heading back to a more extended tour of house garden design in Erbil over the last 6000 years. We then get some quantitative info about how gardens have changed, especially since 1930. One notable finding:

The new functional requirements of modern life style (Social factors) and owning more than one vehicle by family members (Economical factors) affected the garden size (to be small or disappeared totally). Moreover, it reduced the ratio of garden area (open spaces) to house build area. These transformations have a direct impact on global warming and energy conservation.

This does seem significant, although I’m not sure we really need Habermas to understand it.

This isn’t the strangest citation to my work ever, but it’s up there.

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My New Paper May Make Some of My Friends Angry

Building Privacy into the Infrastructure: Towards a New Identity Management Architecture comes to what I fear some of my friends in the privacy community will find to be an unacceptable conclusion.

I’ll be presenting it at the Privacy Law Scholars Conference in Washington next week. Hopefully, since many attendees are in fact friends, they won’t bring brickbats.

Posted in Cryptography, Econ & Money, Law: Internet Law, Law: Privacy, Surveillance, Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment

VideoFakes-R-Us

Researchers develop face-capture technology that can alter pre-recorded videos in real-time on low cost computers.

Boing Boing suggests it could be used to make George W Bush or Donald Trump appear intelligent.

I can imagine even worse:

  • Fake ransom videos
  • Horrible pranks of the Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress variety (fake relative’s video suicide/I’m joining ISIS/mass shooter note)
  • Fake Clinton videos admitting complicity in WhiteWater
  • Unretouched videos of Donald Trump

Feel free to add yours below.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Drone Debate

In a Wall Street Journal debate today I argue that drones should not be allowed to overfly private property without the inhabitant’s consent due to the privacy risks, the consequent erosion of the 4th Amendment, and other dangers. This echoes some of the arguments in Self-Defense Against Robots and Drones, the recent Connecticut Law Review article I wrote with Zak Colangelo.

Ryan Calo gives the other side, arguing that overflights should be allowed in order to spur innovation. I think the WSJ sees him as the Bolshevik here, as they sum up the debate like this:

A. Michael Froomkin, the Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein distinguished professor of law at the University of Miami School of Law, says that drones pose a huge threat to security and privacy, and that property owners should be able to keep them from flying over their land. Ryan Calo, an assistant professor of law at the University of Washington, says decisions about where and when drones can fly should be made collectively, not by individual landowners.

Who would have imagined I’d be the right-winger in a debate on the pages of the Wall Street Journal? I suspect that my former boss, Judge Stephen F. Williams, would be quite amused, although he’d probably describe it as vindication.

Posted in Law: Privacy, Robots, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Grey Lady No More

NYT logo

“In the end, it will be a race between a tough, smart lady and someone who is obviously a yuge, um, Antonin Scalia School of Law.”

Krugman in his NYT blog.

Leave aside the question of whether Krugman should have written that line.  Would the Times of even five years ago have printed it? Actually, I suppose some might argue that they haven’t printed it, since it’s ‘just’ in a blog. Not that I see the distinction.

(Title explainer for those who need it.)

Posted in Blogs, The Media | Leave a comment

Is the GlocalMe G2 Is Any Good? Who Knows

GlocalMe G2

The GlocalMe G2

(tl/dr: It takes a lot of effort to tell online if a new product, the GlocalMe G2, is for real, and even then you can’t tell for sure.) I’m planning an extended trip to Europe this summer, in which I’ll be in three countries. It would be nice to have easy and not-too-expensive Internet access while on the move. I will be staying in places that say they have wifi; they say they do, but you never know with airbnb. Plus I’ll be out and about and it would be nice to have data on my phone when I want it when outside the apartment.

My telco offers international roaming at $25/100mb per device. That is not great, but it is not as bad as it can be. Then again, when you figure there are two of us carrying cell phones around, for a month, including some extended train journeys, it could add up. Plus, I travel abroad regularly enough that I’m willing if necessary to consider spending some fixed sum to cut down the variable costs. (Alternately, for $10/day my telco offers me the same data, talk, and text I have at home….which almost sounded tempting until I found out what the telco meant was $10/day per device, so if we used it every day that would $600 instead of $300.)

On the other hand, even though my phone is unlocked, I’m not all that interested in changing SIM cards in my cell phone. I’d like for people to be able to reach me at my usual number in emergencies, and that won’t happen if I take my regular SIM out of the phone to replace my regular SIM with a local pre-paid SIM that offers better rates.

Enter, maybe, the GlocalMe G2, the product of a Kickstarter campaign. For the rather hefty sum of $159, the G2 purports to do three things: First, the G2 offers a SIM-free roaming internet connection, which your phone and other devices can access via wi-fi. Second, the G2 has two slots for local SIM cards, which can be used to access local data, and also get pushed out to my devices via wifi. Third, although I don’t care about this feature, the G2 can offer a modest recharge to an electronic device such as a smartphone.

As regards the SIM-free internet, the GlocalMe G2 comes with 100MB of Internet use pre-provisioned and more can be purchased for 0.05 EUR/mb on pay-as-you-go or you can (as I probably would) buy a 1G global data package at 29.9 Euros — which is less than an eighth of what my telco would charge for one phone, plus the G2’s wifi can be shared.

But is the GlocalMe G2 any good? How is the access abroad? How widespread and how fast? How easy is it to toggle between the inserted SIMs and the default provision? This is where one looks for reviews; but there aren’t any I can find except at Amazon. (A predecessor device has at least one independent review.) On the whole the Amazon reviews are not bad, but there are red flags.

The first red flag is an astonishingly negative attack at Who Gave Them the Money, Is GlocalMe/uCloudlink a fake company that’s tricking consumers and kickstarter? The article suggests that the positive Amazon reviews are fakes.

That analysis is echoed by the second red flag. I ran the reviews through the cool tool at Fakespot and the Amazon reviews of the GlocalMe G2 got a grade of “D”. But then I ran it again and the grade was “B”. So now I’m really puzzled.

A third red flag is the negative reviews on Amazon. They’re in a minority, but they do suggest some bad themes: a poor software update a few months ago that may not have been fixed; once on, the GlocalMe G2 doesn’t turn off even when you ask it to, burning battery and data. Plus at least one of the reviews mentions that the company is offering credits to folks who offer five-star reviews.

So I have doubts about the GlocalMe G2, probably enough to stop me plunking down $156 for it. A hardcore review from someone who’d carried it around Europe would really help. It seems GlocalMe G2’s are also rentable, although that probably would only make sense for a trip of a week ($63) or very little more, after which point you might as well buy one.

Anyway, right now I’m leaning to my telco’s 100mb for $25 deal, which even though it is horribly overpriced, it is easy to use (and to monitor, and to control by turning roaming data off) and, not least, the devil you know.

More generally, this whole mess illustrates one of the great difficulties of shopping online in a world where we cannot trust the user reviews. There’s still an important space for trusted online intermediaries who do reviews. Looks like Consumer Reports may be in business for a long time.

Posted in Shopping | 3 Comments