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"Oh Dave!  Dave!  Oh my, oh, oh!, OOHHHHHHHHHH!"

Yes, that's you, Virginia, having an orgasm.  But Dave's not your boyfriend -- or husband.  He's your next door neighbor.  Your husband is at work, and you're playing around.  All privately, or so you believe.

Unfortunately that's not quite true.  See, Jim, your husband, has suspected you're having an affair.  Now in days gone past he might have bought a tape recorder and hid it somewhere, hoping to catch you in the act.  Today he just asked your TV to turn on its microphone -- the same TV that you think is off -- and..... divorce papers will be served within the hour.

"Heh Mike, let's smoke that joint, shall we?"

"OPEN UP!  This is the POLICE!  You're under arrest!"

How did they know you were about to smoke that joint in your own living room?  Simple -- your TV was recording your voice, and guess what -- the cops were listening.  No warrant required.

How dumb are you America?

Very.  You have invited unknown, faceless strangers -- and your government -- right into your living room -- and bedroom.

I just bought a new TV. The old one had a good run, but after the volume got stuck on 63, I decided it was time to replace it. I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which promises to deliver streaming multimedia content, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too.

The only problem is that I’m now afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how, and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.


The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

Like the name of your lover, or even voicing that you have one (like, for instance, having an orgasm where it can hear you when your husband or wife is at work!)  Or, the cough of a slightly too-big hit off the bong, or the invitation to roll that doobie.

Yeah, America, you invited this into your living room, which would be bad enough -- but what's worse is that you also invited it into your bedroom.  And there it will be, faceless and, you think, "off" -- when reality is that it is plugged in and very much "on."

Uh huh.

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Jeezus the people in this nation -- and at the BBC -- are stupid.

Facebook has created the ability for users to connect directly to the social network via anonymising "dark web" service Tor.

While it was already possible to access Facebook via Tor, the new set-up means all data is encrypted and Tor users are not mistaken for hacked accounts.

Users could access the site "without losing the cryptographic protections" of Tor, Facebook said.

Utter nonsense.

If you're dumb enough to do this you will be disclosing anything that cross-links your activity to Facebook, which then can (and will!) comply with any government demand for that data.

In other words using a site like Facebook, where you have to sign in, effectively destroys the value that "Tor" would otherwise bring to you -- other than potentially circumventing a complete block on the site.

You already have in-transit data protection using https on Facebook.  

But Tor and similar services provide "masking" that you're using Facebook at all -- provided the network itself is not compromised.

That masking instantly disappears the moment you provide a sign-in credential if the site you access, such as Facebook, has data-sharing with other entities.

He explained users would still need to log-in, using real-name credentials, to access the site.

He told the BBC: "It's quite hard to use a social network completely anonymously, it somewhat defeats the point, unless you're just reading information.

"But just because you want to tell Facebook your name, doesn't mean they should be able to find out your location and your browsing habits."

Ah, but that protection (to the extent it's available) already exists over HTTPS.  The value of Tor and similar networks is found in the ability to mask who you are while accessing the site.

As soon as you go to a site that demands real name identification (as opposed to being able to claim you're "Joe Blow") poof -- you've given up that protection.

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There are two problems with Apple Pay -- and both are problematic.

The first is that not everyone has an IOS device, or one that supports it.  And not everyone ever will, despite the wet dreams of the entire Dallas Cowboys team blowing Tim Cook nightly that dance in his head.

The second is that the "carrot" Apple Pay tries to offer is claimed to be an "escape" from the fee structure of the interbank system that currently is used by various credit and debit vendors -- typically 2-3% of the ticket size.

However, there is an issue with that second "problem" -- the belief that these "alternatives" will be materially cheaper all-in, including risk allocation, is unproved at best.

Remember that cost is not just the discount rate, although that's certainly a factor (and it's not just the 2% or 3% charge, it's also the ticket fee, usually a quarter or fifty cents, that many of these merchant processors charge -- for small charges this is ruinously expensive for the merchant.)  That ticket charge, by the way, is why you see signs in some stores saying "$10 minimum for credit cards" and similar even though such restrictions are a direct violation of every merchant agreement I've seen -- and I've seen a lot of them.

The other costs include the terminal and software integration expense (that can be quite significant too), the data exposed to the merchant (or not) and who knows it (and what they can do with it) and exactly how fraud costs and chargebacks are allocated; that is, when does that risk pass to someone other than the merchant.

But at the core the problem is that ~72% of US consumers own a "smart phone" in the United States, and of them ~41% of them own Apple devices.  A proprietary "solution" thus has a penetration problem in that it serves something like a third of the market; the other two-thirds are not served, yet you must install the hardware and software everywhere anyway.

I suspect the root of CVS and Rite-Aid's problem lies in the data stream and risk allocation -- but that's speculation.  Apple allegedly managed to negotiate a 15-25 basis point reduction in the "discount rate" from the issuers, but in exchange for that they assumed some of the fraud risk -- and exactly how that will play over time is unknown.

The big problem that Apple Pay has, beyond my implementation and security concerns (which are very real, by the way) is that they did not in fact do much of anything, if anything at all, to disrupt the current card issuer/network model -- and thus there is no dramatic change in the fee structure either.  As a result the incentives for merchants to sign on for this are muted at best, especially when it comes with costs.  If that "cost" includes a shift of data ownership away from the retailer then from the retailer's point of view it's a very bad deal as it is really nothing more than Apple trying to grab ownership of something they have never had access to in exchange for nothing from the retailer's point of view.

My money is on this initiative being as successful as Apple's "Beacon" nonsense -- which, incidentally, I note, has gone exactly nowhere since being announced.

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