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  1. Car manufacturers, like most companies, navigate a narrow lane between the benefits of using free and open-source software and the perceived or real importance of hiding their trade secrets. Many are using free software in some of the myriad software components that make up a modern car, and even work in consortia to develop free software. At the recent LibrePlanet conference, free-software advocate Jeremiah Foster covered progress in the automotive sector and made an impassioned case for more free software in their embedded systems. Foster has worked in automotive free software for many years and has played a leading role in the GENIVI Alliance, which is dedicated to incorporating free software into in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. He is currently the community manager for the GENIVI Alliance.
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  2. Where is Facebook located? Well, if you're the taxman, Facebook's global HQ is a tiny shed somewhere in Ireland, where Facebook can escape virtually all taxation; but on the other hand, if you're the EU, Facebook is headquartered in America, where the General Data Protection Regulation doesn't apply.

    It's a remarkably ballsy bit of legal fictioneering: Facebook has spent a decade solemnly swearing that it is a European company, able to take advantage of Ireland's lawless tax-havens. But European companies have to comply with the most stringent privacy rules in the world, so Facebook is claiming to straddle multiple jurisdictions, being European for tax purposes and American for privacy purposes.

    To accomplish this fiction, Facebook is making 1.5 billion users click through a new EULA that says, "By clicking I Agree, I acknowledge that I am a user of Facebook, USA's services, and have no connection with those filthy, privacy-respecting Europeans." And voila, with the click of a mouse, the solemn, decade-long arrangement by which Facebook has claimed that its users were inextricably, utterly connected to Ireland is severed like the frayed thread it always was.

    This is the third leg of the Big Tech/jurisdiction question. Telegram can outmanuever Russia by hiding behind giant US cloud companies; the US bases of the cloud giants means that the US exports all its worst laws to the whole world -- and Facebook's ridiculous games with territorial fictions shows us how fragile the whole thing is, because companies are not US-based or EU-based under late-stage capitalism: they are freefloating entities who exist everywhere and nowhere at once, depending on which fiction suits them best.

    Don't miss this kicker: "Facebook said the latest change does not have tax implications."
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  3. Popular internet platforms that currently mediate our everyday communications become more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information, rendering their users more and more addicted and dependent on them. Alternative, more organic options like community networks do exist and they can empower citizens to build their own local networks from the bottom up. This chapter explores such technological options together with the adoption of a healthier internet diet in the context of a wider vision of sustainable living in an energy-limited world.

    The popular Internet platforms that mediate a significant portion of our everyday communications become thus more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information. In turn, they also become more and more knowledgeable about designing user interaction design techniques that increase addiction, or “stickiness” when described as a performance metric, and dependency. This renders their users more and more addicted and dependent on them, subject to manipulation and exploitation for commercial and political objectives. This could be characterized as the second watershed of the Internet in the context of Illich’s analysis on the lifecycle of tools. As in the case of medicine and education, the Internet at its early stages was extremely useful. It dramatically increased our access to knowledge and to people all over the world. However, to achieve this, it relied on big organizations offering efficient and reliable services. These services now depend more and more on the participation of people and on the exploitation of the corresponding data produced for platforms to survive. This creates a vicious cycle between addictive design practices and unfair competition which breach the principle of net neutrality, and unethical uses of privately owned knowledge on human behavior which are generated through analyses of the data produced from our everyday online activities.

    In addition to the tremendous social, political, and economic implications of centralizing power on the Internet, there are also significant ecological consequences. At first glance, these seem to be positive. The centralization of online platforms has allowed their owners to build huge data centers in cold climates and invest in technologies that keep servers cool with lower energy costs. However, at the same time, the main aim of online platforms is to maximize the total time spent online as much as possible and to maximize the amount of information exchanged, not only between people but also between “things!” Their profitability depends on the processing of huge amounts of information that produces knowledge which can be sold to advertisers and politicians. Like the pharmaceutical companies, they create and maintain a world in which they are very much needed. This also explains why corporations like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are at the forefront of the efforts to provide “Internet access to all” and why at the same time local communities face so many economic, political, and legal hurdles that encumber them to build, maintain, and control their own infrastructures.

    To achieve a sustainable level of Internet usage, one needs to provide the appropriate tools and processes for local communities to make decisions on the design of their ICT tools, including appropriate alternative and/or complementary design of places, institutions, and rituals that can impose certain constraints and replace online communications when these are not really necessary. To answer this demand, one should first answer a more fundamental question: How much online communication is needed in an energy-restricted world? In the case of food and housing, there are some reasonable basic needs. For example, each person should consume 2000 calories per day or 35 m2 of habitat (see P.M., 2014). But, how many Mbs does someone need to consume to sustain a good quality of life? What would be the analogy for a restricted vegetarian or even vegan Internet diet?
    The answer might differ depending on the services considered (social activities, collaborative work, or media) and the type of access to the network discussed above. For example, is it really necessary to have wireless connectivity “everywhere, anytime” using expensive mobile devices, or is it enough to have old-fashioned Internet cafes and only wired connections at home? Would it make sense to have Internet-free zones in cities? Can we imagine “shared” Internet usage in public spaces—a group of people interacting together in front of a screen and alternating in showing their favorite YouTube videos (a sort of an Internet jukebox)? There is a variety of more or less novel constraints which could be imposed on different dimensions:

    Time and Volume: A communications network owned by a local community, instead of a global or local corporation, could shut down for certain period of time each day if this is what the community decides. Or community members could agree to have certain time quotas for using the network (e.g., not more than 4 hours per day or 150 hours per month). Such constraints would not only reduce energy consumption; they would also enforce a healthier lifestyle and encourage face-to-face interactions.

    Reducing quotas on the speed (bandwidth) and volume (MB) that each person consumes is another way to restrict Internet consumption. Actually people are already used to such limits especially for 3G/4G connectivity. The difference is that a volume constraint does not necessarily translate to time constraints (if someone uses low volume services such as e-mail). So, volume constraints could encourage the use of less voluminous services (e.g., downloading a movie with low instead of High Definition resolution if this is to be watched in a low definition screen anyway) while time constraints might have the opposite effect (people using as much bandwidth as possible in their available time).

    However, to enforce such constraints, both time and volume based, on an individual basis, the network needs to know who is connecting to it and keep track of the overall usage. This raises the question of privacy and identification online and again the trade-off of trusting local vs. global institutions to take this role. Enforcing time or volume constraints for groups of people (e.g., the residents of a cooperative housing complex) is an interesting option to be considered when privacy is considered important.

    Devices: Energy consumption depends on the type of equipment used to access the Internet. For example, if access to the Internet happens only through desktop computers or laptops using ethernet cables instead of mobile smartphones, then the total energy consumed for a given service would be significantly reduced. Usage would also be dramatically affected: On the positive side, many people would spend less time online and use the Internet only for important tasks. On the negative side, others might stay at home more often and sacrifice outdoors activities in favor of Internet communications.
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  4. Journalists have been asking me whether the revulsion against the abuse of Facebook data could be a turning point for the campaign to recover privacy. That could happen, if the public makes its campaign broader and deeper.

    Broader, meaning extending to all surveillance systems, not just Facebook. Deeper, meaning to advance from regulating the use of data to regulating the accumulation of data. Because surveillance is so pervasive, restoring privacy is necessarily a big change, and requires powerful measures.
    After the Facebook scandal it’s time to base the digital economy on public v private ownership of data
    Evgeny Morozov
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    The surveillance imposed on us today far exceeds that of the Soviet Union. For freedom and democracy’s sake, we need to eliminate most of it. There are so many ways to use data to hurt people that the only safe database is the one that was never collected. Thus, instead of the EU’s approach of mainly regulating how personal data may be used (in its General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR), I propose a law to stop systems from collecting personal data.

    The robust way to do that, the way that can’t be set aside at the whim of a government, is to require systems to be built so as not to collect data about a person. The basic principle is that a system must be designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be carried out without that data.

    Data about who travels where is particularly sensitive, because it is an ideal basis for repressing any chosen target. We can take the London trains and buses as a case for study.

    The Transport for London digital payment card system centrally records the trips any given Oyster or bank card has paid for. When a passenger feeds the card digitally, the system associates the card with the passenger’s identity. This adds up to complete surveillance.

    I expect the transport system can justify this practice under the GDPR’s rules. My proposal, by contrast, would require the system to stop tracking who goes where. The card’s basic function is to pay for transport. That can be done without centralising that data, so the transport system would have to stop doing so. When it accepts digital payments, it should do so through an anonymous payment system.

    Frills on the system, such as the feature of letting a passenger review the list of past journeys, are not part of the basic function, so they can’t justify incorporating any additional surveillance.
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  5. Zuckerberg a giorni compirà 34 anni, è sposato, ha due figli, ed è a capo di una delle aziende più potenti del mondo, 40 miliardi di fatturato, 15 di utile netto nel 2017. E i tempi dell’università dovrebbero essere belli che passati (chi scrive ha la stessa età di Zuckerberg, non ha studiato ad Harvard e non ha il suo patrimonio - 64 miliardi di dollari - ma ritiene piuttosto strambo pensarsi un ventenne all’università. O giustificare i propri errori come se lo si fosse ancora, in qualche modo).

    Facebook è stato fondato 14 anni fa ed è un tempo considerevole per qualsiasi azienda. Giocarsi la carta dell’inesperienza e della giovinezza per giustificare gli errori potrebbe essere una accurata strategia comunicativa davanti ai membri del Senato, molti di loro hanno più del doppio della sua età, ma suona all’ennesima riproposizione fiacca, e a tratti comincia anche a diventare stucchevole.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-12)
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  6. “I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used.

    “That’s why, every single time you go to share something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo in Facebook, or a message, every single time, there’s a control right there about who you’re going to be sharing it with ... and you can change that and control that in line.

    “To your broader point about the privacy policy ... long privacy policies are very confusing. And if you make it long and spell out all the detail, then you’re probably going to reduce the per cent of people who read it and make it accessible to them.”
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  7. Should there be regulation?#
    Yes. On privacy disclosure, and prohibiting the most draconian uses of user data. It should not be possible for users to give those rights up in exchange for use of a social system like Facebook. The idea is similar to the law in California that says that most non-competes are not enforceable. The benefit you receive has to be somewhat equivalent to the data you give up. #
    What about Google, Apple, Amazon?#
    This is the really important stuff.#
    This affair should get users, government and the press to look at other tech companies who have business models based on getting users to disclose ever-more-intimate information. Here are some examples.#
    Google, through Android, knows every place you go. They use that data. Do they sell it? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure you can use it to target ads. Apple, through the iPhone also knows where you go.#
    Apps on Android or iPhones can be told where you go. Many of them are only useful if you let them have the info. Apps can also have all your pictures, contacts. Face recognition makes it possible to construct a social graph without any access to the Facebook API.#
    Google and Apple can listen to all your phone calls.#
    Google, through their Chrome browser, knows everywhere you go on the web, and everything you type into the browser. #
    Amazon Echo and Google Home are always listening. Imagine a leak based on conversations at home, phone calls, personal habits, arguments you have with your spouse, kids, any illegal activities that might be going on in your home. #
    If you have a Gmail account, Google reads your mail, and targets ads at you based on what you're writing about. They also read the email that people send to you, people who may not also be Gmail users. Some examples of how creepy this can be -- they seem to know what my investments are, btw -- I assume they figured this out through email. Recently they told me when a friend's flight to NYC was arriving. I don't know how they made this connection. I assume it was through email.#
    Amazon, of course, knows everything you buy through Amazon. #
    Google knows everything you search for. #
    And on and on. We've reconstructed our whole society around companies having all the data about us that they want. It's kind of funny that we're all freaking out about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The problem is so much bigger. #
    It seems like a non-event to me. The press knew all about the API going back to 2012. That they didn't foresee the problem then is a result of the press accepting the hype of big tech companies on their terms, and not trying to find out what the implications of technology are from non-partisan experts. This was a story that could have and should have been written in 2010, warning users of a hidden cost to Facebook.#
    Today's scandal, the equivalent of the one in 2010, is that Google is attempting to turn the web into a corporate platform. Once they control the web as Facebook controls the Social Graph, we'll have another impossibly huge problem to deal with. Better to head this one off with regulation, now, when it can do some good
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  8. Noi pensavamo ai diritti. E più a quelli civili (ci sono storie di amore, di sofferenze indicibili, non voglio essere frainteso). Bene, benissimo. Meno bene è stato fermarsi non appena quei diritti si tingevano di una qualche sfumatura sociale, come sullo ius soli. Il fatto, però, è che accanto ai diritti erano tornati i bisogni. E noi nemmeno li riconoscevamo più. Erano esplosi con la crisi ma la ripresa li lasciava intatti, allargando i divari: tra i cittadini, tra le imprese. Una minoranza ce la faceva per tutti, la media cresceva, ma la maggioranza non vedeva vie d’uscita. Avremmo avuto bisogno di ricostruire lo Stato, le istituzioni, dare ad esse credibilità, forza, capacità di incidere, migliorare la vita delle persone. Farlo in Europa, certo. Ma se l’Europa non lo fa? L’eccesso di zelo nella ricerca delle “compatibilità” ci ha fatto perdere di vista ogni interesse nazionale. L’ideologia del “vincolo esterno” – che è stata cara anche alla meglio classe dirigente della sinistra – ha diffuso sfiducia in noi stessi e si è risolta nel suo contrario: ha finito per deresponsabilizzare non solo i cittadini ma anche le classi dirigenti. Se, nel governare, metti il “pilota automatico”, se a scegliere non sei tu, a che servi? A cosa serve la politica? Tutto questo ha privato l’Europa di uno spazio di conflitto politico, e ha privato di ruolo la sinistra. La crisi ci restituiva un’Europa divisa, rivelando nel volgere di pochi anni, dalla vicenda greca (in cui c’è stato il primo suicidio della socialdemocrazia) a quella dei migranti, le falle di una costruzione non “incompiuta”, ma segnata
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  9. Avremmo avuto bisogno di una sinistra che facesse il suo mestiere: combattere le disuguaglianze e le solitudini, redistribuire potere e rappresentanza. Con strumenti nuovi, certo. Ma alcuni strumenti vecchi, usati poco e male, non erano da buttare: la progressività delle imposte, il welfare. Noi pensavamo ai diritti. A quelli civili. Benissimo. Meno bene è stato fermarsi non appena quei diritti si tingevano di qualche sfumatura sociale, come sullo ius soli. Il fatto, però, è che intanto erano tornati i bisogni. E noi nemmeno li riconoscevamo più».

    Primo bisogno: il lavoro.

    «E basta con la stupidaggine che se non hai il lavoro ti metti in un garage e te lo inventi. Tutti Steve Jobs. Start-up. Innovazione. Si è persa ogni sensibilità sociale. Il problema ora non è solo "tornare al popolo", come sento dire da tanti; il problema è anche cosa gli dici, al popolo. Che gli dici? Che dall'altra parte del mondo il tuo amico Elon Musk, fra vent'anni, se hai soldi, ti porta a fare un giro su Marte?».
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  10. The company’s operation in Michigan reveals how it’s dominated the industry by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2018-04-10)
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