Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Suspends Program That Records Users Having Sex And Buying Drugs, by Tyler Durden

Apple must have caught a lot of flack when news came out that their phones were recording and transmitting sexual liaisons and other intimate details of some users’ lives to Apple employees. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Last week, we reported a shocking revelation about Apple’s friendly personal assistant tool for mass surveillance Siri: The app “regularly” records people having sex, discussing private medical information, participating in drug deals and other “countless” invasive moments which it promptly sends to Apple contractors for their listening pleasure – all for the sake of “quality control”.

Now, in the face of the latest privacy scandal to rock one of the major American tech giants, Apple has reportedly decided to suspend its global internal program for “grading” users’ Siri commands following the public backlash over the Guardian’s revelations, which came courtesy of a whistleblower.

Previously, Apple contractors listened to less than 1% of Siri commands as part of the program, which was intended to improve the quality and accuracy of the voice-based digital assistant. Yet, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide, the Cupertino-based consumer tech giant was effectively monitoring a huge chunk of the American population without their explicit knowledge.

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Siri “Regularly” Listens In On Your Sexual Encounters, Apple Insists “Only For A Few Seconds”, by Tyler Durden

Siri is neither as nice as she sounds nor as discreet as advertised. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Should it come as any surprise? And yet the details are shocking and outrageous. A whistleblower working for Apple has revealed to The Guardian that its popular voice activated spying device helpful virtual assistant Siri, now in millions of households, “regularly” records people having sex, and captures other “countless” invasive moments which it promptly sends to Apple contractors for their listening pleasure “quality control”:

Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or “grading”, the company’s Siri voice assistant, the Guardian has learned.

We’ve long pointed out that according to Amazon’s Alexa terms of use, the company collects and stores most of what you say to Alexa (or perhaps what you groan) – including the geolocation of the product along with your voice instructions.

However, what’s not disclosed or at least not well known up to this point is that a “small proportion” of all Siri recordings of what consumers thought were private settings are actually forwarded to Apple contractors around the world, according to the new report. Supposedly this is to ensure Siri is responding properly and can continue to distinguish dictation. Apple says, according to The Guardian, the data “is used to help Siri and dictation… understand you better and recognise what you say”.

 

Vicious Cycle: The Pentagon Creates Tech Giants and Then Buys their Services, by T.J. Coles

How the military-industrial-intelligence complex works. From T.J. Coles at counterpunch.org:

Photograph Source: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force – Public Domain

The US Department of Defense’s bloated budget, along with CIA venture capital, helped to create tech giants, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and PayPal. The government then contracts those companies to help its military and intelligence operations. In doing so, it makes the tech giants even bigger.

In recent years, the traditional banking, energy and industrial Fortune 500 companies have been losing ground to tech giants like Apple and Facebook. But the technology on which they rely emerged from the taxpayer-funded research and development of bygone decades. The internet started as ARPANET, an invention of Honeywell-Raytheon working under a Department of Defense (DoD) contract. The same satellites that enable modern internet communications also enable US jets to bomb their enemies, as does the GPS that enables online retailers to deliver products with pinpoint accuracy. Apple’s touchscreen technology originated as a US Air Force tool. The same drones that record breath-taking video are modified versions of Reapers and Predators.

Tax-funded DoD research is the backbone of the modern, hi-tech economy. But these technologies are dual-use. The companies that many of us take for granted–including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and PayPal–are connected indirectly and sometimes very directly to the US military-intelligence complex.

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Apple’s Rotten Core, by Charles Hugh Smith

A company is lucky to have one product like Apple’s iPhone—very high margin with tremendous consumer demand—during its entire lifespan. It’s a success Apple will almost certainly not be able to duplicate. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Entering commoditized, fiercely competitive low-margin services cannot substitute for the high-margin profits that will be lost as global recession and saturation erode iPhone sales.
Apple has always been equally an enterprise and a secular religion. The Apple Faithful do not tolerate heretics or critics, and non-believers “just don’t get it.”
So the first thing any critic must do is establish their credentials as a Believer: My first Mac model 0001 was the 21,447th made in week 32 of 1984 in Fremont, California. Now that we’ve established that, we can move on to my profound sense of anguished abandonment that Apple ceased producing the iPhone SE, the only form factor that works for me.
But Apple Faithful are accustomed to repeated bouts of anguished abandonment; it’s just one of the burdens the faithful must bear.
Focusing on the enterprise rather than the religion, Apple’s core–its revenue and profit potential–is rotten. As the charts below illustrate, despite all the happy talk about growing “services,” the hardware-software iPhone generates nearly 60% of Apple’s revenues. The iPhone ecosystem is also the foundation of the “services” currently being hyped as replacement sources of revenue.
The problem is that the proprietary features of the iPhone that have generated strong demand as prices kept rising are reaching diminishing returns. People want the status of owning an iPhone, but there are limits on what the bottom 90% can pay for that status.
The new features of the $1,000 iPhones have also reached diminishing returns. This is analogous with adding memory to a computer or increasing the pixel count in a digital camera: at some point, the added feature no longer has any impact on the user experience.

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The Snowflake Barons Are Eating Each Other, by Mytheos Holt

Things aren’t going so well for the social media and tech barons. From Mytheos Holt at spectator.org:

In 2008’s iconic superhero film The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker barks at Christian Bale’s Batman:

Don’t talk like one of [the cops]; you’re not! Even if you’d like to be. To them, you’re just a freak, like me. They need you now, but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out like a leper. See, their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke, to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. I’ll show you, when the chips are down, these civilized people? They’ll eat each other.

He might as well have been talking about Silicon Valley.

Twenty-eighteen was a bad year for the totalitarian titans of tech. Faced with one scandal after another, the industry retreated behind a wall of lobbying money, hoping their bank accounts would shield them from their increasingly ugly image in the public eye as politically bigoted, misanthropic, overgrown children, incapable of following rules, norms, or even laws.

Twenty-nineteen doesn’t look to be much better. European governments, and the European Union itself, have begun sharpening their swords for the industry, albeit sometimes in ill-advised ways. California has passed a brutal consumer protection bill that opens big tech to a host of lawsuits for privacy-related offenses. President Donald Trump’s own son has raised stern alarms about the industry’s power and “gross hypocrisy,” as he put it. Publications formerly friendly to the industry are blasting it for betraying the creators who sustain its business. Like bad imitations of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, the industry finds itself surrounded by filth, with the walls closing in. But, their research into AI withstanding, there is no Threepio around to save them, and unlike Han, Leia, and Luke, Big Tech are the evil empire.

As a result, the industry is doing what any group of cornered predators does, and eating each other to try to stay alive. Thus, a piece in Forbes magazine informs the reader that:

Microsoft, the industry’s journeyman of governmental warfare, is cleverly advocating regulation of a narrow slice of potentially creepy technology: facial recognition. Apple is pointing fingers, suggesting its data-privacy stance is holier than Facebook’s and Google’s. Facebook, in a preview of how the industry will battle its adversaries, has simultaneously called for some form of regulation while darkly warning of the unintended consequences of the wrong kind. (One argument certain to get Donald Trump’s attention: Regulate us too severely, and you’ll only empower our Chinese competitors.)

Probably the most encouraging development listed is Apple’s turn against Facebook and Google. Where once Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google were regarded as an impregnable block of interests, nicknamed (with predatory appropriateness) FAANG, now the only fangs involved are being stuck in each other.

Politically, they may be the only ones left to care about those fangs. The industry’s pervasive, irrational, and wild hostility to Republicans has converted even the stodgiest establishmentarians, including current (and former) Attorney General William Barr, into vocal public critics of tech. And the aforementioned California privacy law represents a complete failure of the industry’s political power even within its effectively monopartisan own backyard, which suggests that Democrats are no longer willing to carry water for the most vicious monopolists this side of Cornelius Vanderbilt, no matter how performatively “woke” they are.

Indeed, that California law puts tech between a rock and a hard place, as other business interests — and even some tech companies — seem to be anxious to pass a (presumably less stringent) national privacy law aimed at pre-empting the California law before it goes into place. Due to the support of big business, that national plan has the support of Republicans, but that is cold comfort for the biggest tech companies, seeing as debating a national consumer privacy law forces them into a conversation they’ve wanted to avoid for ages: namely, how much consumers’ privacy — in other words, their data — should be protected. What’s worse, having that conversation at the national level may well lead to regulations as strict, or stricter, than California’s being imposed on the entire United States. And even if the regulations aren’t as strict, the days of hoovering up data and violating privacy without anyone’s batting an eye are unquestionably over. Heads, the American people win. Tails, tech loses.

Hence, the nattering nabobs of the net, caught in a trap built from their own missteps, are trying frantically to chew through each other to escape. It will not work. Accountability has come for the snowflake barons, and while defection from the whole may spare some of them the same pain as others, there is no doubt that all of them will be put through pain. It’s about time. After all, their morals, their code, and especially their terms of service are a bad joke to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. And the more Americans realize this, the more they will be ahead of the curve.

 

 

China Won’t Be Taking Over, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

China’s got a lot of wood to chop before it can take over the world. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

In the New Year, after a close to the old one that was sort of terrible for our zombie markets, do prepare for a whole lot of stories about China (on top of Brexit and Yellow Vests and many more windmills fighting the Donald). And don’t count on too many positive ones that don’t originate in the country itself. Beijing will especially be full of feel-good tales about a month from now, around Chinese New Year 2019, which is February 5.

And we won’t get an easy and coherent true story, it’ll be bits and pieces stitched together. What will remain is that China did the same we did, just on steroids. It took us 100 years to build our manufacturing capacity, they did it in under 20 (and made ours obsolete). It took us 100 years to borrow enough to get a debt-to-GDP ratio of 300%, they did it in 10.

In the process they also accumulated 10 times more non-productive assets than us, idle factories, bridges to nowhere and empty cities, but they thought that would be alright, that demand would catch up with supply. And if you look at how much unproductive stuff we ourselves have gathered around us, who can blame them for thinking that? Perhaps their biggest mistake has been misreading our actual wealth situation; they didn’t see how poorly off we really are.

Xiang Songzuo, “a relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing”, expressed some dire warnings about the Chinese economy in a December 15 speech. He didn’t get much attention, not even in the West. Not overly surprising, since both Beijing and Wall Street have a vested interest in the continuing China growth story.

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The “Stock Market Crash Of 2018” Is Rapidly Transforming Into “The Financial Crisis Of 2019”, by Michael Snyder

Nothing goes up forever, and when stock markets stop going up, it often means the economy will go down, too. From Michael Snyder at theeconomiccollapseblog.com:

Stock markets are crashing all over the world, we are seeing extremely violent “flash crashes” in the forex marketplace, economic conditions are slowing down all over the globe, and fear is causing many investors to become extremely trigger happy.  The stock market crash of 2018 wiped out approximately 12 trillion dollars in global stock market wealth, but things were supposed to calm down once we got into 2019.  But clearly that is not happening.  After Apple announced that their sales during the first quarter are going to be much, much lower than previously anticipated, Apple’s stock price started shooting down like a rocket and by the end of the session on Wednesday the company had lost 75 billion dollars in market capitalization.  Meanwhile, “flash crashes” caused some of the most violent swings that we have ever seen in the foreign exchange markets…

It took seven minutes for the yen to surge through levels that have held through almost a decade.

In those wild minutes from about 9:30 a.m. Sydney, the yen jumped almost 8 percent against the Australian dollar to its strongest since 2009, and surged 10 percent versus the Turkish lira. The Japanese currency rose at least 1 percent versus all its Group-of-10 peers, bursting through the 72 per Aussie level that has held through a trade war, a stock rout, Italy’s budget dispute and Federal Reserve rate hikes.

This is the kind of chaos that we only see during a financial crisis.

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