Yet More “Stealth wear”: Face Camoflauge

Yet another entertaining technofashion concept: face camoflauge, specifically intended to defeat face recognition software. Like other “steathware“, CVDazzle plays on popular displeasure at ubiquitous surveillance, and provides supposed technical countermeasures based on classic stories from Art History class.

Fortunately, this is “art”, so all that matters it that it looks and sounds sexy.  In this case, a “participatory” aspect is included, offering you an opportunity to test your own camo against easily available civilian algorithms.

It’s all quite adorable, and perhaps some people will learn a little about face recognition from this. All to the good.

But this is certainly not going to make you invisible to electronic surveillance. Even if these techniques defeat some algorithms today, it will be very simple matter for them to learn your camo patterns–they are far easier to ID than your face.  Unless you have a new camo every hour or so, you are actually making it much easier to track you by your distinctive dazzle.

One thing to consider is what “threat” the camo is supposed to defeat.  Basically, you are trying to deal with someone tracking you in otherwise anonymous public spaces, such as crowds. The other case of interest is picking your face out of images on the internet.  In both these cases, your camo will only work until there is an online link between your name and your camo.  Once anyone, anywhere, tags your camoflauged image, you are known everywhere. I’d say the mean time to recognition could be minutes….

I would also point out some downsides to this concept. There are situations where you want to recognize you, for your own protection from fraud. Obviously, you are not trying to hide your ID from, say, and ATM machine where you are identifying yourself to it. In fact, you probably will be unhappy if your account is frozen because some wierdo with blue hair over his eyes tries to use your back card.

Oh well.  Anyone who expects to go mano-a-mano with extremely powerful bastards, wielding only Art, is fooling himself.

Internet Companies Call for “Principles”. Really?

This week we were treated to an interesting statement of “principles” from the major Internet companies.

Evidently motivated by press reports about NSA and other government data acquisition from these companies–very bad for their business–these companies presented a rare unified front.

There isn’t much meat here, it’s heavy on celebrity names and light on actual policy.  Pretty much what you expect from these political lightweights.  It’s not in any way clear how you would actually do what they ask for, if you wanted to.  Well, obviously, you could all say you follow the principles, and everything would be fine, right?

Can you tell I’m unimpressed?

Of course, the really irritating point is the unbelievable gall of these guys.  They criticize the government for doing what is, essentially, their own business model.  Apparently, Goo-hoo et al. have an inherent right to collect as much data for any reason without permission, but it is wrong for the government to do so?  Really?

The general goal is:

“ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action.”

I would certainly endorse a broader version of this principle:

ensuring that [companies and governments] are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on [companies and] governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action.

If you guys are serious, then take the first step:  implement these principles yourself. Now.  Give us complete control of our own data.  Stop exploiting us.  Be transparent.  If you don’t collect it, there won’t be anything to subpoena.

Honestly, this letter was a big mistake, it will be embarrassing for years to come.

NSA Narrative In One Picture

A routine satellite launch this week. The NSA can’t conceal the launch, so they turn the inevitable publicity into an opportunity to promulgate The Narrative: we are watching you.  No further comment is needed here.

Bitcoin “Crash”, just as predicted

As I predicted earlier, Bitcoin is proving to be yet another casino game. Lot’s of people are losing a lot of money this month.

There has been huge volatility in the last few months, which appears to be driven by speculation, news, and in some cases fraud. This hacker’s virtual Utopia has been invaded by thieves and regulated by real world regulators.

It is ironic (though completely predictable) that most of the risk comes not from the much despised governments of the world, but from the lack of government action. Astonishingly enough, technology has neither changed or defeated actual human behavior.

Bitcoins give you most of the disadvantages of gold, while avoiding the few advantages (gold is, by anyone’s standards, pretty to look at).

Book Reviews: Good, Bad, and Ugly from the Business Shelves

The business section of my local bookstores is a weird place. A Martian visiting the planet would wonder what “business” is all about.  At the same time, some of the best books about contemporary business are in the fiction sections.

I see books ranging from the expected junk (“how to get rich without working”, “how ‘those people’ are stealing all your cheese”, “memoirs of <some tycoon>”), stuff that used to be pop psychology (“believe in yourself”, “believe in others”, “lead by example”, “who moved my chicken soup?”), and, these days, Internet-ty stuff  (“the world is two dimensional”,  “networks/big data/<other flavor of the month> changes everything”).

Not only are the topics all over the map, if you actually read everything, you’d be paralyzed by contradictions.  Should I look out for myself, or trust others?  How do I share everything for free, and also get rich without working?  Are big companies obsolete or what we want to grow to be?  Is the problem with government that it does its job too well or too poorly?

Being more or less a Dumb Old Socialist (TM), I’m neither impressed nor intimidated by this mush.  But there are occasionally some notable titles shelved under “business”.

Here is roundup with a Good, a Bad, and an Ugly one.  Plus another an “interesting” one.  Full Post.

Good: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley (Crown Business, 2013)

Bad? Work Like a Spy:  Business Tipsfrom a Former CIA Officer. By J. C. Carelson (Penguin, 2013).

Ugly. Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton (Penquin, 2013)

Interesting. The Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work by Scott Berkun (Jossey-Bass, 2013)

Full Post.

Buzzfeed doesn’t give bad reviews?

Hmm.  I don’t pay attention to Buzzfeed—life is far too short—but they made news this month as they entered an arena I play in:  book reviews.   After initially imagining there could be book reviews without human supervision, they hired Isaac Fitzgerald as editor.

Things got exciting because Fitzgerald gave a misguided interview in which he proposed to eight say something nice or not say anything—no negative comments.

I guess I could say, “that just leave more for me”, and ignore the fool.  But, as Bob Garfield suggests in a NYT Op-Ed, this is actually a serious business.  Since Buzzfeed is involved in selling books (via click throughs), there is a gigantic conflict of interest.  Bad reviews don’t sell as many books.

Essentially, Buzzfeed reviews are disguised advertising copy, from a not disinterested source.

What business is it of mine?

Aside from a concern for honesty and the public good, I also review books.  But I have a different philosophy.

I admit that I prefer to give positive comments, rather than negative.  There are many books I read that are simply not worth the time to read and complain about them. Governor Palin’s oeuvre, for example.  But some things are harmful to human culture and simply must be complained about.

When I do criticize, I don’t bother with snarky stuff.  That’s too easy, no karma points awarded.  If I have a complaint I work hard to make it rational or at least explain my own emotional reaction.

A few of other points, in case anyone cares.

  • I always read the book before reviewing it.
  • I always purchase a copy of what I review.
  • I do not accept payment for my reviews.
  • My reviews are signed and acknowledged as my own opinions.

For better or worse, there you have it.  You get what you get.

Mythbusters Citizen Science Opportunity

It’s about the halfway mark in the Mythbusters Internet agronomy exercise.

Here’s your opportunity to do some citizen science, or at least kind-of-sciency-stuff.

The website doesn’t give complete information about the “experimental conditions”, so we don’t quite know what the comparison actually is.

Nevermind, that’s really not important.  We already know that sound can affect how well plants grow, though I’m not aware of any reasonable explanation for this common finding.  (And I’m pretty sure that other factors are more important, such as soil, light, and water.)

Unfortunately, I can’t participate, since it requires you to use Twitter.  Ain’t gonna happen with me.

Kind of a clever idea, though not nearly as cool as, say, remotely interacting with your chicken….

I look forward to seeing the episode.

A personal blog.

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