Weekend Thoughts - 5.26.18


Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. Assuming that things continue in the same direction that they're heading, some technology companies are poised to become pretty closely enmeshed with the country's policing industry. This week we learned that Amazon is selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement. The technology, dubbed "Rekognition", obviously raises some privacy concerns, not the least of which is due to the fact that the company also sells smart devices to consumers that are capable of recording audio and video. What's to stop Amazon or the police from using data obtained from a consumer smart device to improve the facial recognition tech? Not to mention that also this week a woman claimed that her Amazon device recorded a private conversation and sent it out to a random contact without her consent! I personally never recommended anyone purchase an Amazon smart device and now I definitely won't. The fact is, Amazon has shown that it is more than willing to collaborate with law enforcement in order to bring about increased surveillance. The lesson we can take from this news is that it is becoming increasingly important to carefully assess the amount (and type) of data that you are willing to provide to each technology company.

2. It turns out that the electric scooter rental business has become a cutthroat business for many teens and young professionals. The task of "bird hunting", which involves locating and charging the Bird brand of scooters, can be performed by kids after they are done with school for the day. The bird hunters comb through cities each night, looking for and gathering as many electric scooters as they can carry, shoving them in their cars and charging them at home overnight before placing them back on the streets in the morning. Since each scooter can only be captured once, some kids are getting a bit territorial in especially crowded areas, even resorting to violence on occasion. Not only is this is a fascinating story to read about because it shows consumers a bit of how the sausage is made in this industry—it's totally worth your time to watch the video of the bird hunter with a huge score, which is embedded in the article linked above.

3. Out of the blue, Pornhub made a VPN. The virtual private network will supposedly keep your browsing activity protected from snoopers and censors. This is a pretty interesting move. I definitely didn't anticipate that the world's biggest adult video website would create a VPN, and I'm not sure how successful or secure it will be, but I certainly applaud their effort.

It's time to say goodbye to Weekend Thoughts—today's post is going to be the last one in the series. That's because I have decided to replace the weekly "link roundup" blog post model with a trickle of individual link posts that will be published whenever something worth commenting about is happening in the news. So you can expect to see short posts linking to other blogs and publications in the very near future. Until then, keep thinking wilder.

Image by Ro & Allister, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.