Searching for the Super Human

I had the great pleasure of being interviewed today by Ms Anja Taylor in Los Angeles today. Anja works for Wildbear Entertainment that does co-productions with all the major television channels in Australia. She was formerly a researcher and presenter on Catalyst. This interview will form a part of the documentary series: “Searching for the Super Human” that will air on ABC in Australia later this year.

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Here are some of the topic Anja and I talked about:

  1. Brief discussion about the internet of things and the emergence of big data. What effect / impact this is having on society.

  2. You have mentioned “ambient intelligence” in your articles - what is it?

  3. What are “insertable chips” and what is their brief history? What types of new insertable chips are starting to emerge?

  4. Recently we have seen trials for insertable chips which can be used to open doors or pay for public transport, the trials found largely that people found them useful and painless – do you have concerns with these?

  5. What smart chips are you most concerned with?

  6. We are already being tracked with our smartphones – is this different?

  7. Our pets are now chipped as a matter of course – do you see this happening with humans? What are the implications?

  8. Can we not just opt out? Can it be done responsibly?

A special thank you to Luke for filming.

Human Rights Commission raises serious concerns with new encryption laws

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The Human Rights Commission has raised serious concerns about significant threats to human rights with the Federal Government's new encryption laws.

A last-minute deal between Labor and the Coalition saw the laws pass late yesterday.

But there are now calls for critical amendments to be made as soon as possible.

Duration: 2min 51sec

Broadcast: Fri 7 Dec 2018, 12:14pm

More Information

Featured:

Ed Santow, Human Rights Commissioner
Professor Katina Michael, technology expert, University of Wollongong

Citation: Ed Santow and Katina Michael with Nancy Notzon, December 7, 2018, “Human Rights Commission raises serious concerns with new encryption laws”, The World Today: ABC Radio, https://www.abc.net.au/radio/melbourne/programs/worldtoday/human-rights-commission-raises-concerns-new-encryption-laws/10594166

Family Planning NSW Data Breach

Katina Michael with Ally Crew, "Family Planning NSW Data Breach Financially Motivated", ABC Radio National Australia. May 14, 2018.

https://www.fpnsw.org.au/ on May 14, 2018

https://www.fpnsw.org.au/ on May 14, 2018

Thanks to executive producer Eleni Psaltis.

Consumer Digital Touchpoints Online: It's messy

I asked everyone from Facebook to data brokers to Stan for my information. It got messy

It is almost impossible to understand your full Facebook data footprint. (Credit: ABC) 

It is almost impossible to understand your full Facebook data footprint. (Credit: ABC) 

28 April 2018

By technology reporter Ariel Bogle

Brands I've never heard of have my details.

Deciphering your Facebook data can be like leafing through a corporate-owned teen diary.

In 2007, one of my first comments was telling a friend she had a "fashionable mullet", but my online data footprint has exploded since then.

I downloaded my data from Facebook in an effort to understand how brands target me with personalised advertising — an activity that accounted for 98 per cent of the social giant's 2017 revenue.

Your name, age and location are the least of it. Every like, link and interaction can add to your profile, whether it's an inferred political preference — are you liberal or conservative? — or an interest in board games.

But as Wired has detailed, Facebook's data download provides an incomplete picture.

To fix that, I asked for my personal data (you can too, thanks to the Privacy Act) from everyone from data brokers to advertisers.

What did I find? That understanding who knows what about you online is a sisyphean undertaking. One that takes dozens of emails and almost one month.

What do data brokers know?

Ever heard of a data broker? If you haven't, that's no mistake.

"They rarely have a public presence," said Sacha Molitorisz, a digital privacy researcher at the University of Technology Sydney.

"My guess is there is an intuition somewhere there, that what they're doing might not be palatable to customers."

Data brokers are companies that may gather online and offline information — census data, surveys and purchase histories, for example — to create consumer profiles that they serve to advertisers.

In the market for a new car? An expectant mother? These are the types of insights they look for.

If advertisers want to reach these people, they can source special audience information from data brokers and target ads to them on Facebook.

This is allowed under Facebook's Partner Categories program, but after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company said it would be winding the option down.

A Facebook spokesperson said ad campaigns run this way would end by October 1, 2018.

For now, though, Facebook works with three providers in Australia: Quantium, Axciom and Experian.

I contacted all three and asked for my personal data. All three said they had nothing — but that's not the whole story.

How am I targeted?

Earlier this year I was served a Facebook ad for 100% Pure New Zealand. Facebook told me it was based on a dataset provided by the data analytics firm Quantium.

But if Quantium doesn't have my personal details, how does it target me?

The tourism ad was sent to two consumer segments — "outdoor enthusiasts" and "travellers" — a Quantium spokesperson said.

The company received de-identified purchase data, likely from Woolworths Rewards program, which was then used to create anonymous groups likely to purchase something based on their past shopping behaviour.

My de-identified data was probably in there. Then, apparently, Quantium matched it up with my de-identified data from Facebook.

"Publishers like Facebook de-identify their users' personal data utilising the same encryption algorithm used by Quantium," the Quantium spokesperson said.

"The de-identified data from both parties is passed into a secured anonymisation zone for matching purposes. This allows the two datasets to be matched without using any personal information."

In some cases, it gets more mysterious.

In Settings, Facebook lists the advertisers it says are running ads, using contact lists they uploaded to the platform.

Experian said it had no personal information about me, but Experian Data Quality is listed as having uploaded my contact information to Facebook.

A company spokesperson said it could not confirm why I was connected to Experian Data Quality.

"Based on the information you provided to us, we again confirm that Experian's Data Quality and Targeting (Marketing Services) in A/NZ does not hold any personal information on you," she wrote in an email.

Who else has your email?

Brands are only meant to upload contact lists to Facebook for advertising if they have permission to do so.

In the case of the video streaming service Stan, seeing its ad on Facebook made sense — I'm a subscriber, and apparently, I've watched the TV show Billions.

A Stan spokesperson said the ad I saw was intended to remind people "who may be fans of the show" that a new season was available.

It does this to highlight content the company thinks subscribers are interested in, using its internal analytics.

"We matched your encrypted email to data held by Facebook to facilitate the surfacing of that content," she added.

(I also asked for all my personal data from Stan, and the hours of television I've watched makes for a terrifying spreadsheet, by the way.)

 

The contact list mystery

But Stan is not the only brand that has my information.

As I write this article, there are more than 300 brands that Facebook lists as having my contact information — the majority of which I've never heard of.

There's a sushi restaurant in Perth, for example, called Tao Café. I've never visited.

I got in touch, and Tao Café office manager Annette Sparks was equally baffled about its appearance on my list.

But she said that the food delivery company Deliveroo ran ads on behalf of the company, and suggested that's how my contact details may have been bound up with the sushi venue.

So, onto Deliveroo.

While they couldn't discuss my personal situation, a spokesperson said Deliveroo does provide "marketing support" to its restaurant partners — essentially, it runs ads promoting them as part of the delivery service.

Did Deliveroo then share my email with cafes from Perth to Singapore? The company said no.

"Under no circumstances does Deliveroo share any customer details with restaurants or other third parties as part of these marketing campaigns," the spokesperson said.

I'm left none the wiser about why Tao Café was on the list — and there are other mysteries too.

According to Facebook's list, various American political candidates have my contact information.

As does the official Facebook page of the actress Kate Hudson.

What can I do?

Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook users own their data, but it's an unusual kind of ownership.

Ownership feels largely meaningless when your data is scattered around the internet.

There is no one company to blame. The architecture of online advertising is set up this way.

"The issue is that in the digital space … personal data is very much sought after, and there are all [kinds of] different players who stand to benefit from access to that data," Mr Molitorisz said.

"There needs to be greater transparency with how our data is used."

This is the reality of surveillance capitalism, according to Professor Katina Michael, a privacy expert at the University of Wollongong.

Our data is a valuable commodity, and time is not on our side when it comes to understanding who wants it and where it's going.

"We don't measure it, we don't write it down like we do calorie-controlled diets," Professor Michael said. 

"We don't realise how much we're giving away."

Ariel Bogle, April 28, 2018, "I asked everyone from Facebook to data brokers to Stan for my information. It got messy", ABC Radio Nationalhttp://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/2018-04-28/i-asked-everyone-from-facebook-to-data-brokers-to-stan-for-my-information-it-got-messy/1752610

Now that Facebook have acknowledged "mistakes", what's next?

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Citation: Katina Michael with Joe O'Brien, "Now that Facebook have acknowledged "mistakes", what's next?" ABC 24 hrs: Mornings with Joe O'Brien, channel 24, 11am-11.12am.

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Joe O'Brien is the host of ABC News 24's morning news program and was previously co-host on ABC News Breakfast. Joe has more than 20 years experience in journalism and has been with the ABC since 1995. He presented the 7pm ABC News programs in both Queensland and New South Wales, and regularly presented the national Midday Report on ABC TV. Joe's extensive reporting experience covers everything from drought and floods to sport and politics. He was first based for the ABC in Rockhampton, and then in Brisbane as a reporter and presenter. Follow @JoeABCNews

Mandatory Data Breach Notification (2017 Amendment to Privacy Act)

Today I had the pleasure to speak to Meredith Griffiths, reporter of the ABC, on the newly enacted Mandatory Data Breach Notification (MDBN) that take effect on Feburary 28, 2018.

Some of the main points I made in the interview with the help of my colleagues at the Australian Privacy Foundation (primarily David Vaile) were:

MDBN doesn't go far enough because:

  1. small business, <$3m annual turnover are exempt from MDBN
  2. self-assessment of "serious harm" is ambiguous (on what test to companies come forward? and only if PC agrees it is serious? what if slightly serious on one view, and very serious on another- do companies take the easy way out and not disclose?)
  3. companies are given 30 days to make a data breach notification to the privacy commissioner (too long for customers to be kept in the dark and thereafter how long might it take the Privacy Commissioner to determine 'seriousness' and/or publicly response with an unenforceable determination)
  4. what about data breaches offshore (how do Aussies respond to loss of their PI abroad)?
  5. what about 'open data' re-identification thru AI/machine learning?
  6. OAIC is overloaded, slow, determinations are also unenforceable and very rare.

So where does this really leave us? We have a law that neither prevents breaches of personal information nor compensate individuals for privacy breaches. What we need to do is consider the outcomes of the ALRC from 2008 that stipulated we need a tort on the serious invasion of privacy so that individuals CAN sue other individuals (like hackers), or companies (like Google) or government agencies for breaches in their privacy (whether accidental or deliberate or through some form of negligence).

The lack of auditability of the new law means that current practices that rely on de-identification to safeguard people's personal information, say in the case of OPENGOV data initiatives, may not be enough down the track as the threat of increases from machine learning algorithms that can look at patterns of information and highlight individuals like finding a needle in a haystack. The issues of going down this path are grave- including the potential for re-identification and bringing several disaparate treasure troves together like social media data, and government data, and personal records together to be analysed.

Links to MDBN include:

https://www.oaic.gov.au/media-and-speeches/statements/mandatory-data-breach-notification

https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy-law/privacy-act/notifiable-data-breaches-scheme

https://www.oaic.gov.au/media-and-speeches/news/retailers-check-out-mandatory-data-breach-reporting-obligations-and-prepare-for-2018

Having a statutory tort of serious invasion of privacy (like in the UK and US) or a common law tort (like in New Zealand), allows individuals to sue other entities depending on the severity of the privacy breach. Why is Australia lagging so far behind other advanced digital nations? When will this legislation be amended?

Already, we are seeing large ICT companies set up "shop-fronts" in Australia with NO enforceable penalties to international misdemeanours when it comes to amassing treasure troves of data, and data breaches offshore. How do we hold these companies accountable when they are taking in a lot of business from Australian consumers and yet seem to be let out in the "wild" to do as they please, storing data on the Cloud either in the USA or Ireland. Bruce Schneier called this "data as a toxic asset". As the toxicity rises, we can expect major pollution spills.

For now, at least we can say that the MDBN is a step in the right direction despite that it falls short through exemptions and loopholes. It can have some reputational impact on "data addicts" that don't do the right thing via their subscriber base, but little more. Sadly, large corporations can handle this reputational damage in their "risk appetites". The fines are also "measly" when it comes to government or regulatory action, and so corporate and government entities in particular are left to their own devices here in Australia. While well-meaning, it seems that it is nothing more than a theatrical show- data hosts are still not responsible for bettering their security practices or urgently responding and fixing a breach.

Data is a bit like mental illness. You can't see it. It is not tangible. You cannot put a price on mental health, and you cannot put a price on your personal data. While we can manage damage to property very well, because we can see a scratch on a car, or the loss of inventory, we cannot see data as we see a broken arm.

We already have very weak Privacy Legislation- Australia needs to get serious like Europe (through the General Data Protection Regulation, considered the gold standard) has on the value of personal identifiable information (PII). Both the liberal and labour governments need to listen to the commissioned reports by the Australian Law Reform Commission, and act on the implementation of statutory tort legislation with respect to intrusions of privacy. There is no reason why this has not happened yet.

Are you an addict? Turns out we're all tech junkies

How many times have you looked at your phone today?

Chances are you're looking at it right now.

Before you try and deny you're addicted, here are some stats to consider:

Australian men unlock their phones more than anyone in the world - on average 45 to 46 times a day, while for Australian women it is around 42 times.

Those figures have been calculated by AntiSocial, an app developed by Melbourne software company Bugbean, to monitor people's use of social media.

It is a free app with no ads that is only available on Android because the creators say Apple does not allow such monitoring, but the idea is to encourage users to put down their devices.

Australians spend around two hours a day on apps

According to AntiSocial's developer Chris Eade, Australian men and women spend about two hours a day on their phones, and that is not including use for music streaming, video streaming, or making calls - that is pure Facebook, web surfing, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat.

VIDEO: Watch the discussion between Emma Alberici, Adam Atler and Katina Michael (Lateline)

Adam Alter, from the Stern School of Business, has written a book called Irresistible - why we can't stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching.

He told Lateline around 50 per cent of the adult population has some form of behavioural addiction.

"I think you can ask yourself if you have a problem and you'll know," he said.

"[People] feel that their lives are being encroached upon by devices, their social lives, maybe their relationships with their loved ones and friends. They're not experiencing nature. They're not exercising."

Our boredom threshold at rock bottom

Mr Alter said smartphones have changed human behaviour so much that we no longer allow ourselves to experience being bored.

"Our boredom threshold has declined to the point where you'll get in an elevator for five seconds, take out your phone," he said.

Hooked on social media

All in the Mind zooms in on the relationship between social media use and our mental health.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/hooked-on-social-media/7885492

"Boredom is very important for productivity, for creativity and new ideas, and if you never allow yourself to be bored, you will never have those ideas."

Mr Alter has written about a private school near Silicon Valley that uses no technology, yet surprisingly 75 per cent of the students' parents work in the tech sector.

"You'd think their children would be the biggest users of tech. But what you actually find, it's the reverse that a lot of these tech titans refuse to let their kids near technology," he said.

"Steve Jobs in 2010 in an interview said things like, 'you should use this device, but we do not allow it in our home and we won't let our kids near it'. He was talking about the iPad."

How to break up with your device

Katina Michael, from the University of Wollongong's School of Computing and IT, specialises in online addiction, and she told Lateline that tech companies have a lot to answer for.

"I think it's extremely hypocritical," she said.

"The laptop's not made you smarter and more intelligent. I think the companies that Adam was talking about need to recheck their ethics and I think our children need to stop being sold the wrong story about what is going to make their future brighter. We have a lot to answer for as academics."

Professor Michael had this advice for tech addicts looking to wean themselves off their devices:

"Think about replacing the activities that you have done online with offline activities, whether it's going for physical exercise, joining a community group or just getting a job, or just speaking with your family and making real food instead of playing a game about making food," she said.

If you're still questioning whether or not you're addicted, compare how you stack up to AntiSocial's biggest user.

"Our biggest user we have at the moment is a woman in America who uses her phone for 7.5 hours a day, every day on average," Mr Eade said.

"That's a full time job."

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-25/are-you-an-addict-how-australians-are-tech-junkies/8554532