We Robot 2021: Sept 21-23
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Since the first settlers hacked their way into the mangrove tangles and drained much of the swampland, sunny South Florida has been virtually synonymous with shady deals and scams.
The endlessly creative crooks come up with fake Jamaican lotteries, false marriages for immigration purposes, mediocre seafood marketed as better seafood, insurance rip-offs from fake accidents and fires — even foreign substandard cheese passed off as domestic top shelf. But the big money is in a trio of major fraud trends: Medicare, mortgage and identity theft-tax refunds.
By almost any measure, South Florida is the nation’s organized fraud capital, although authorities say it’s not entirely clear why.
“Is it the weather? Is it because it’s beautiful and the fraudsters want to live here? Is it because it’s such a melting pot and you have organized crime from all ethnic groups?” said Kelly Jackson, top agent in the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigative division in South Florida. “Any fraud, it always seems to start here.”
Paul George, a Miami-Dade College history professor who specializes in South Florida, noted that the region’s reputation as a haven for schemers dates to the land speculation boom of the 1920s, when alligator-infested swampland was marketed to Northerners as a slice of tropical paradise. Today, with the area such a melting pot, it’s no wonder South Florida is also a cauldron of creative crime, he said.
“It goes back to the roots of Miami. It’s always been a place for starting over again,” George said. “People move here either from the north or the south. People have some anonymity, maybe they think they can pull off something here.”
They love us, they really love us.
Juan Cole identifies the Top Six Signs ISIL/ Daesh is Doomed. His blog, Informed Comment, has a good track record on the Middle East, so I tend to think it’s more reliable than my daily scare sheet. Here’s how he starts:
It has been over a year since Mosul fell to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). In some ways the organization has continued to make advances since then, taking Ramadi and Palmyra in the past few months. It isn’t as important as FBI director James Comey says it is, though. People in government security agencies feel they have to hype threats so as to ensure next year’s budget.
I maintain that the Daesh menace has been exaggerated from day one. I doubt four million people live under its rule, not the 9 million often alleged. Most of its territory is barren desert and lightly populated. It has no obvious purchase in the United States. And, it has lost key assets in the past year in the Middle East.
I’m off to Ottawa for the 2nd Annual Privacy Personas and Segmentation (PPS) Workshop which is being held in conjunction with the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS).
The organizers selected me to give the keynote for the workshop, and I’ve produced a provocation for them. Here is the introduction:
Users are notoriously bad at safeguarding their online privacy. They do not read privacy policies, which in any case are mostly contracts of adhesion. They make over-optimistic assumptions about protections and dangers. They use weak passwords (and repeat them), accept cookies, and leave their cell phones on thus facilitating location tracking, which is vastly more destructive to privacy than almost any user grasps.  Contrary to Alan Westin’s privacy segmentation analysis , most privacy choices are not knowing and deliberate because they are not within the user’s control (e.g. surveillance in public). Other ‘choices’ happen because users believe, correctly, that they in fact have no choice if they want the services (e.g. Google, mobile telephony) that large numbers of consumers consider necessary for modern life. 
The systematic exposure of the so-called “privacy vulnerable” user  suits important public and private interests. Marketers, law enforcement, and (as a result) hardware and software designers tend towards making technology surveillance-friendly and tend towards making communications and transactions easily linkable.
If we each have only one identity capable of transacting–even if it is mediated through multiple logins–and if our access to communications resources, such as ISPs and email, requires payment or authentication, then all too quickly everything we do online is at risk of being linked to one master dossier. The growth of real-world surveillance, and the ease with which cell phone tracking and face recognition will allow linkage to virtual identities, only adds to the size of that dossier. The consequences are that one is, effectively, always being watched as one speaks or reads, buys or sells, or joins with friends, colleagues, co-religionists, fellow activists, or hobbyists. In the long term, a world of near-total surveillance and endless record-keeping is likely to be one with less liberty, less experimentation, and certainly far less joy  (except maybe for the watchers). In a country such as the US where robust data-protection law is deeply unlikely, a technological solution is required if privacy is to continue to be relevant in the era of big data; one such, perhaps the best such, technological improvement would be to create an IMA designed to give every person multiple privacy-protective transaction-empowered digital personae. Roger Clarke provides a good working definition of the “digital persona” as “a model of an individual’s public personality based on data and maintained by transactions, and intended for use as a proxy for the individual.” 
Whereas Clarke presciently saw (and critiqued) the ‘dataveillance’ project as being an effort to create a single, increasingly accurate, digital persona connected to the person, the objective here is to undermine that linkage by having multiple personae that would not be as easy to link to each other or to the person.
(Updated to correct link to workshop.)
Today’s top quote on President Obama’s tour of a federal prison:
As David Maraniss reported in his biography, Mr. Obama and his friends were so enthusiastic about their marijuana that they called their group the Choom Gang. Unlike the men he met on Thursday, however, Mr. Obama escaped that life and ultimately ended up at Harvard Law School, the Senate and now the White House.
He, too, has security around the clock. But they work for him.
Bonus quotes, not from today, in James Fallows’s Obama’s Grace, a very fine essay about President Obama’s eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney. It contains many sharp observations including this one:
Obama, certainly on purpose, “code switched” with regularity through the speech. Sometimes he spoke almost as if he were an A.M.E. preacher, and certainly as if he was so comfortable in this setting as to know its stresses and pronunciations and styles. Listen for the words “Shout Hallelujah!” about 12 minutes into the speech to hear this tone. …
In other places—including, fascinatingly, his most explicit discourse on racial justice late in the speech—Obama sounds as neutrally professional-class-white-American as he does in most speeches from the Oval Office.
It also includes this sharp aside, which is not about the President:
Political writers wonder when the Republican party will produce its next really shrewd strategist, the one who knows how to pick his battles rather than getting mired in obstructive pandering to the base. Such a figure already exists. His name is John Roberts.