Weekend Reads 091418


You install a new app on your phone, and it asks for access to your email accounts. Should you, or shouldn’t you? TL;DR? You shouldn’t. When an app asks for access to your email, they are probably reading your email, performing analytics across it, and selling that information. Something to think about: how do they train their analytics models? By giving humans the job of reading it.

When you shut your computer down, the contents of memory are not wiped. This means an attacker can sometimes grab your data while the computer is booting, before any password is entered. Since 2008, computers have included a subsystem that wipes system memory before starting any O/S launch—but researchers have found a way around this memory wipe.

You know when your annoying friend talks about the dangers of IoT when you bragging about your latest install of that great new electronic doorlock that works off your phone? You know the one I’m talking about. Maybe that annoying friend has some things right, and we should really be paying more attention to the problems inherent in large scale IoT deployments. For instance, what would happen if you could get the electrical grid in hot water using… hot water heaters?


One of the seemingly intractable problems facing content creators today is copyright—this is largely an untold story, and it is also often “little folks” against “big folks.” As copyright infringement detection is automated, it is likely to become a big mess. One way to think about it: a thousand monkeys typing at a thousand typewriters are not going to produce the works of any great artist. On the other hand, a thousand humans writing pieces on the same new product announcements are bound to same the same things in the same way at some point. When everyone hits “publish” at the same time, and the bots of the big folks start calling for takedown on content written by a little folk, the disparity in legal resources that can be brought to bear is the controlling factor. This problem is made worse by the mandatory implementation of said bots through government action.

Other Stories

While most people think of monopolies in terms of physical goods, it seems possible for monopolies to form around information and services, as well. In fact, it would seem that control of information is at the heart of every monopoly. As anti-trust forces grow against the big content providers in the U.S., the courts will need to sort out when controlling access to information, by itself, becomes a monopoly. Who are the big targets, and what would a case look like against them?

Finally, Google wants to kill the URL. Is this a good idea, or a bad one? My initial reaction is—this is a bad idea. Users certainly find URL’s confusing, but this is in part our own fault. Why are URL’s confusing? Primarily because we have allowed systems to tack so much state information onto them. Perhaps an alternate solution is not to bury the complexity, forcing users to trust the machine, make the interface simple again, so users can actually tell what is going on. Of course, one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book is to make something so complicated that users cannot understand it, then offer to sell them a solution for the complexity you have created.