Listen now (66 mins) | Ralph welcomes the Washington Post’s technology columnist, Geoffrey Fowler, to explain all the ways your smart devices are gathering information about you, your garage door, your soap dispenser, your vacuum cleaner and even your toilet. Geoffrey Fowler
As I always do, I listened to this episode on my non-traceable pre-paid phone while out on one of my bi-weekly 5 mile walks. And yes, I do use earbuds. Thank you for adding the download MP3 link to your site, I would have stopped listening if it required going through one of the "3rd party parasite apps." After hearing Mr. Fowler's terrific piece, I switched over to the long list of singles I also have on the phone. You're not going to believe this, but I SWEAR it's true, the VERY FIRST tune which played was "Every Breath you Take" by "The Police." For those not familiar with the song, its lyrics begin:
Every breath you take
And every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you
Every single day
And every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
Oh, can't you see
You belong to me?
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take?
Every move you make
And every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
Could be Alexa's theme song, don't you think?
For those who would like to be able to access a huge array of digital media, music and much more, without having concerns about your privacy, get on the web and search "Usenet" and/or "Binary Newsgroups." Been using it for decades, never a problem.
I look forward to every episode of the Radio Hour, and appreciate the longer version available on your page.
Long time listener
Like Klassik I feel I'm avoiding most of these issues by running free and open source software (and flushing my own toilet): Linux, GNU, BSD, that sort of thing. In fact, you all are too, since Google, Amazon, Apple, all of them, don't start from scratch but base their products on a large substrate of free software developed by independent developers. Except in your case you've got that layer of nasty in between doing what we can't fully know.
That said, I love you bringing up these topics and think Jeffery Fowler is writing in just the right place to address where most people are with their technology. And yet I can't avoid the thought that these pains are all of the kind Richard Stallman had in mind way back in 1984 when he started the Free Software Foundation.
The FSF and others in that space have come a long way in their ability to bring non-programmers into their movement or to use Free Software directly, and yet there's still this massive gap such that I'd feel glib telling you that you just need to replace MacOS or Windows on you computer with GNU/Linux, use the f-droid app store which examines source for malfeasance like spying (actually, if you've got Android, that's not that hard a step), or replace your phone's operating system with postmarketOS (in progress) from this wonderful German programmer who wants to give the world a path to a ten year lifespan for phones. How can tech. enthusiasts like me who, I have to admit, lack social and political organizing skills combine with people like you to help bridge the gap to where we can trust the software we run?
for adding a download button!!!!!!
As there are no comments on your blog I am commenting on your recent blog here.
While you point out the fantasies of the Deathocrats that lead to losing winnable elections to the Republikillers you fail to recognize your fantasy that the Deathocrats are not doing it on purpose as part of a good cop/bad cop deception to create the illusion that the Deathocrats and Republikillers are opposition parties when they are each one half of the one big money party.
You correctly point out how it began many years ago with the Deathocrats taking corporate money but fail to recognize that the solution must also start with citizens demanding that no candidate takes big money and enforce that demand with our votes.
If citizens keep voting for big money Deathocrat and Republikiller candidates we will keep getting big money legislators.
You can keep offering advice to the Deathocrats such as winningamerica.net and waste the next two years or you can begin the process of organizing citizens to demand small donor candidates and enforce that demand with our votes in 2024 now so it can begin to be effective in 2024.
You asked in the midterm postmortem episode when are we going say it's the voters responsibility.
Great question, but you are ignoring the answer by not taking action to encourage citizens to take on that responsibility by making the demand for small donor candidates and enforcing that demand with our votes.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Just as I was thinking about getting a robot vacuum cleaner. Bummer! I am tired of the manual labor of vacuuming the whole house, with two cats and a lot of dirty from the grassy outside, lol. I am also old and thought I deserved just a little break. Oh well.
I have some thoughts about technology and spying beyond what I wrote in my initial comment. One issue that might need assessment is the use of technology to spy on workers and also students. There are reports in the media about how Amazon spies on/tracks employees. I believe Russell Mokhiber has reported on this during previous RNRH episodes, but if not, it has been reported elsewhere. There is that kind of surveillance, but there have also been reports of surveillance of employees working from home and I know there have been privacy complaints lodged by college students, and perhaps also K-12 students, against surveillance software that records videos of students taking assessments at home.
Even putting aside some of the labor issues with technology I mentioned in my initial comment, there are other issues labor can have with technology. Many employees report having to take work phone calls and having to answer work e-mails/texts when they are supposed to be off the clock. Work from home can be a benefit for employees, and certainly we’ve seen the benefit of that technology during the pandemic, but there are costs associated with work from home/study from home. Junior employees may struggle to learn about jobs outside of their own when they are removed from a physical workplace. Senior workers might become less aware of the needs of junior workers. Networking might be difficult in a virtual environment even with all the social media technology. Being in a workplace setting can force people to mingle with other workers, such as office custodians and cafeteria workers, whom they might not interact with at all in an online environment. This obviously has social implications, and thus political implications, as well when people become less aware of their neighbors. All of this probably applies to students learning from home as well.
There is a lot more that can be said about the advantages and disadvantages of workplace technology. I have not even mentioned how work from home technology can be used by western companies to replace lower level white-collar jobs with cheaper foreign outsourced labor. White-collar workers often voted for politicians advocating for corporate/neoliberal policies which clearly hurt blue-collar workers from the 1980s onward with the thought that such corporate ideology would not hurt their white-collar jobs, but perhaps technology is at the point now that white-collar jobs are at risk.
I believe corporate culture tries to convince people that technology will make work easier for people, but I think labor needs to assess these claims with some suspicion. Some technology might be beneficial, but perhaps not all of it and there may need to be some level of regulation to ensure employers do not cross boundaries with technology. These are just some more things to think about and it could make for an interesting RNRH show if Steve, David, Mr. Nader, and company can find a guest with expertise in the area.
corporate-government collaborative spying and censorship is very profitable - if Congress taxed it they could give themselves big raises!
As someone who has been tinkering around with electronics since I was old enough to use a screwdriver, the topic of technology in society and the regulation of technology is an interesting topic to me. I enjoyed this episode and I appreciate having my comment from last week about sports labor unions read on the show.
Just as a car enthusiast can be someone interested in safe, fuel efficient cars rather than sports cars, I suppose Mr. Fowler and I are different kinds of technology enthusiasts. Mr. Fowler indicated that everyone has Apple EarPods, but I do not own wireless headphones of any kind specifically because I am aware of the limitations mentioned by Mr. Fowler. On a lighter note, I suspect Mr. Nader isn’t walking around town with EarPods in his ears either!
I do agree with Mr. Fowler on many points. I don’t know how feasible this would be, but I’ve long felt that electronic manufacturers and dealers should legally be required to warranty their products, especially batteries, for a lengthy period of time. Perhaps this would reduce e-waste and it would keep tech companies from profiting from planned obsolescence. Also, regulation ought to force tech companies to offer software security updates for a certain number of years on networked devices such as any kind of ‘smart’ technology. This should reduce e-waste as well. Regulation ought to be passed that prevents companies from making devices hard to repair by forcing manufacturers to use industry standard conventions. The ATX standards for desktop computers, for example, made upgrading PCs much easier when PC manufacturers followed those standards in the 1990s-2000s.
Modern PCs become obsolete far sooner than they should simply because Microsoft and Apple design them to become obsolete. PCs from the early 2010s and such are still very capable machines for routine tasks such as browsing the web, watching online videos, typing, and so forth, but these computers are now too old to run the latest versions of Windows and MacOS. Those who do not have specialized software needs, and these specialized needs are becoming less common as software becomes more web-based that runs through a browser, can run desktop Linux on this old hardware and it will run perfectly fine especially if the hard drives are upgraded to SSDs. The computer I’m using to type this comment is way too old to even run Windows 10, much less Windows 11, but I am running Linux Mint on it and things are just as fast and smooth for this task as my relatively new Windows 10 computer at work. The computer updates much more smoothly than Windows and it doesn’t ‘phone home’ to Microsoft to send them information they don’t need. Modern, secure operating systems can run on older hardware, but Apple and Microsoft want people to buy new computers. They purposely design their operating systems so that they do not work with older machines. For many/most people, this is an avoidable problem by not using corporate software designed to please shareholders more than the end users.
Broadly speaking, as Mr. Nader alludes to, there are benefits to technology, but the benefits come at a cost. Look at labor, for example. Technology is designed to reduce human labor. Even when the good of technology outweighs the bad, society still has work to do to ensure full employment. Corporate narratives push blind adherence to technology as being part of the progressive ideology, but I believe progressives need to be careful in assessing technology’s rôle in society. Not all forms of technology, especially corporate forms, have a net benefit on society. Even when there are net benefits, there are still negatives which must be addressed or people will be left behind in terms of employment and in other areas.
Just to give a modern example of this, a local TV station here in Houston did a segment recently about a robot being used by the restaurant management program at one of the local universities, the University of Houston. The faculty talk about how this benefits restaurant workers, but even the most naïve members of the public ought to know that for every restaurant who uses robotic servers, there will be hundreds of restaurants who use these robotic servers to replace human labor rather than to help the human labor. These robotic servers might help restaurant management, and maybe the customers will like them, but what about the restaurant staff? Will they be left behind?
The technology is impressive, but perhaps we should be thinking more about all the implications of the technology rather than just being amazed by it so that the technology is used in a way that benefits everyone, not just a select few. Link to the story about the robotic restaurant servers: https://abc13.com/robot-server-servi-robots-university-of-houston/12534786/
Thanks for the shoutout! I'm just leaving the website again here: https://represent.us/unbreaking-america/
And their youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@RepresentUs