Category Archives: Internet

In Which I Take Google’s New “Poemportraits” for a Spin

Google has a new toy, created by Es Devlin called the PoemPortrait. Google, unpretentiously, calls it

An experiment at the boundaries of AI and human collaboration.

We are all invited to

Donate a word to become part of an ever evolving collective poem and create your own POEMPORTRAIT.

So I went to try it. It starts by asking you to “donate” a word. At that point, philistine that I am, all I could think of was Groucho Marx on the old game show ‘You Bet Your Life’, which always began with Groucho telling contestants that “Say the secret word and a duck will come down and give you 100 dollars.” (Shockingly, there seems to be no ringtone online with Grouch saying that. So here’s a video clip instead:)

Anyway, back to Google. I gave it my word (“Discourse” of course) and it announced that “An algorithm trained on over 20 million words of 19th century poetry is generating your unique POEMPORTRAIT.” I declined the offer to have my picture taken, and…voilà:

The poem was

That discourse of the word,
Spellbind the corn, sighing and streaming.

It offered me a chance to save the ‘portrait’ so I did.  But this is how it came out:

I’m reassured to see that AI’s too can be dyslexic.

Posted in Internet, Kultcha | 1 Comment

Traffic Simulator

Check out the Traffic Simulator.

Being from Miami, first thing I did is set the slider to simulate less-polite drivers under “lane-changing behavior”. Chaos ensues.

Next up, traffic cones everywhere.  Pretty soon it will look just like local roads!

Posted in Internet, Miami | 1 Comment

Twitter Follower Audit

SparkToro analyzes a random sample of 2,000 of your Twitter followers and tries to estimate how many are fake.  I did OK (love the spike at 9 out of 10), and given the methodology I think the 12% fake number is probably a slight over-estimate..

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10 Things You Can Do to Protect e-Privacy & Autonomy

At UM’s Data Privacy Day event I made 10 suggestions about what you can do to protect your e-privacy and autonomy.  Here they are:

  1. Trust cyber-civil liberties NGOs like EFF to recommend things to use and to do. If you take away nothing else, remember this URL: Eff.org.
    1. Use EFF’s Privacy Badger browser plugin.
    2. Take their audit – Panopticlick – of how unique your browser fingerprint is.  Unique fingerprints are a way you can be tracked. Block cookies and super-cookies.
    3. Use their Https Everywhere tool
    4. Find the EFF surveillance self-defense guide. It offers advice tailored for different groups that might have greater / lesser needs for privacy/defense (e.g. LGBTQ, activists, journalists, lawyers, activists).
  2. Use VPNs — virtual private networks.  And only use good ones – be careful about jurisdiction and policies:
    1. The UM off-campus VPN is a valuable service, and good to protect against third parties … but not against UM. Does UM log your usage? Do they record your originating IP#? The sites you visit? Despite some frantic Google searches, I can’t tell — it seems they don’t say. I think therefore you have to assume they do. And if were the UM General Counsel my first instinct would probably be to say they need to do the logging to protect themselves.
    2. Is your VPN service dirt-cheap or free? Does the service cost only a few dollars for a lifetime service? There’s probably a reason for that and your browsing history may be the actual product that the company is selling to others.
        1. Look for establishment in a democratic country with a strong commitment to the rule of law.  Without that, even the best promises in the Terms of Service (ToS) to not log web page access OR IP# and access times is meaningless.  Note that many, probably most, VPNs in most other countries are required to do some logging.https://it.miami.edu/a-z-listing/virtual-private-network/index.html
        2. Does the VPN promise to prevent DNS leakage to your ISP?
        3. Ideally, the VPN should support IPv6 as well as IPv4 to prevent leakage when the remote site is on IPv6. This will become more important in the future as more and more sites move to IPv6.
  3. Use Tor as much as possible.  (But see #8 below.)
  4. Inspect your browser settings on your phone and computer to set max privacy options (including blocking 3rd party cookies and enabling Do Not Track).  Use a privacy hardened browser on your phone such as the Warp browser.  On both computer and phone always use a search engine such as Duckduckgo that will not track you.
  5. Encrypt every drive, every email (when possible), and especially all cloud-stored data before uploading it.
  6. Get a password manager and use it – never re-use a password. Use 2-factor authentication for google, other services that support it. (Only 10% of google users do!)
  7. Don’t put any apps on your phone that connect to anything financial (due to risk of ID theft if phone stolen).
  8. Lobby UM to make it easier to use VPNs and Tor, on both the wired and wireless networks.  Ask UM to be more transparent about what cookies its web pages set and what they track and record.  And, importantly, ask UM to not require you take every single UM cookie in order to use the “remember me for 30 days” feature of its authentication app DUO.  Also, ask UM to promise that it has your back, and that it will challenge any request for your data to the maximum extent the law allows (right now it makes no such promises at all; even National Security letters are sometimes withdrawn if the data-holding entity says it will go to court to ask for it to be reviewed).
  9. Lobby for privacy laws that limit data collection – once data are collected major First Amendment issues come into play, making it hard to limit use and re-use of accurate data. Also lobby to stop the US government secretly introducing vulnerabilities into fundamental crypto standards.
  10. Resist the frame: understand that the true definition of the ‘greater good’ is one in which the individual is able to flourish. Remember that ‘terrorist’ is a label that fits best after conviction – before that what we have is a ‘suspect’; conceivably any of us can be a suspect. So arguments that we should control crypto or prevent privacy in order to give law enforcement access to all our data when they decide they need it should be viewed with great caution and a firm eye on how the powers they want could be misused by them or by others who get hold of their tools. And even if we someday find ourselves in a world where things have gone badly wrong, and we do find ourselves subject to pervasive surveillance, follow Vaclav Havel, who in his great work ‘Living in Truth’ reminded us that so long as we choose not to self-censor we have chosen not to surrender a key part of our freedom.

(Some links added after original posting)

Posted in Cryptography, Internet, Law: Privacy, Surveillance, Talks & Conferences | 1 Comment

Firefox Hates On Its Users

Ok, maybe FF57 is faster, but it’s uglier and less functional. They finally pulled the trigger and killed off thousands of add-ons. My workflow just got noticeably worse.

I just lost about 30 enhancements and extensions. Admittedly, many were just frills. But I’ll particularly miss Tab Mix Plus, Autocopy, CoLT, Tab Mix Plus, Zoom Page and the beautiful and functional Nautipolis theme.

Oh, and did I mention I’m missing Tab Mix Plus?

With this revision and the disabling of key customizations, FireFox eliminates its #1 advantage over Chrome. After all these years, I may just switch.

Posted in Internet, Software | 4 Comments

Back Up All Google Data

Google Takeout–I didn’t know this was even possible, but you can download a copy of your email,  contacts, calendar, google drive, and indeed everything google, in .zip format.  Alas there is no way obvious way to automate it.  So do it right away, or you’ll forget.

Thank you to Stefan Krasowski for the pointer.

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