Ajit Pai

How Corporations Get to Own the Internet

Once upon a time, governments were major stakeholders in most large-scale technological and scientific ventures. Such projects were either built directly by the government, or by companies in which the people had a lot of say. But all that is far behind us. Now-a-days, government isn’t exactly “the people” anymore. And now, it’s corporations who build the telecommunication infrastructure for tomorrow.

I find it rather sad that as I’m typing this, I am pondering which is worse: having my digital life in the hands of corporations that will exploit it however they see fit, or (/and?) allowing governments to keep encroaching on our privacy and freedom? It’s becoming harder to distinguish between the two, especially as corporations have proven time and again that they can easily buy government.

Smartphone Privacy

Why It’s Not Surprising That Smartphone Privacy Is Going from Bad to Worse

Throughout the past years there have been several high-profile occasions when apps were in the news for questionable tracking strategies. Even applications that do not use novel means of compromising our privacy are gobbling up increasing amounts of data while their creators cash in on the profits obtained from selling the user’s digital life to the highest bidder. At the receiving end of this deluge of spyware are we, the people.

Even for those of us that do read the list of permissions an app requests upon installation, it is hard to avoid installing certain apps because they come with other features that we need. It’s an old trick that is akin to the Trojan horse. This is how these dubious app creators get in our back yard: by offering something that is 90% useful and 10% spyware, but which must be accepted as a whole.

Machine Learning and Our Future

Machine Learning and Our Future

Machine Learning is all the rage these days. Be it computer vision, speech recognition, pattern matching or high-speed decisional capabilities, this century is the century of software. Like all technological revolutions, there’s potential for miracles and catastrophes.

Large corporations have started to realize that Machine Learning is a way to prevent smaller competitors from threatening them. This is because small companies can’t (yet) afford the huge infrastructure and Big Data investments that ML requires. It’s not surprising then that Microsoft, Google, FaceBook and others have open-sourced ML platforms, trying to attract developers and smaller companies to their ecosystems.

This post will touch on but a few of the changes we can expect in the coming decades thanks to the upcoming advances in Machine Learning. Looking at our history, we can see how the industrial revolution has supercharged our progress as a species. I believe that the Machine Learning revolution will make the industrial revolution seem like a snail in slow motion. This is both hopeful and scary.

NSA Data Restoration Services

The NSA Goes Commercial with Data Restoration Service

During its first participation at the International Big Data Conference, the National Security Agency made a surprise announcement.

“We are in a fortunate position that allows us to uniquely compete with Amazon, Google, DropBox and other major cloud providers. Since we already have all our potential customers’ data, instead of charging for data storage like our competitors, our service will provide files and passwords restoration. Say you lose a beloved picture, or you forget some password. You just log in to the all-new NSA Data Restoration Portal and, for a moderate fee, you can recover any of your digital information”, declared Eddie Rainhouse, product manager for the NSA’s new Monetization Initiative that has been created within the Data Collection Services Division.

The news has already caused quite a stir in the cloud computing community. Private companies complain that they can’t compete with the NSA’s eleven billion dollars budget and glowing public reputation.

All Your Computers Are Belong To Us

All Your Computers Are Belong to Us

In recent years, Intel has moved towards integrating some pretty nifty remote administration features into its CPUs. While this may be a good idea for certain enterprises, it may quickly turn into a nightmare as soon as exploits and vulnerabilities are found.

Software has bugs. Hey, it happens, everybody makes mistakes. But in this case, the mistakes can’t be corrected in time (before an attacker exploits them). That’s because, in typical monopolist corporation fashion, Intel is obscuring the process by not allowing the security community to analyze whatever code the company decides to shove into our machines. The same argument stands true regarding any proprietary code, especially Microsoft’s Windows, which after 20 years of fixes is still the most vulnerable mainstream operating system.

The Internet Diagram

The Uncertain Future of the Internet

As one of the most, if not the most powerful force for change, the Internet’s future is a cause for concern. In the past decade, governments and corporations have increasingly encroached upon our freedom and privacy. These entities will use every possible excuse to rein-in the transformative power of the Internet.

As more people get connected, the Internet is becoming a mirror of our society. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the horrible, we can all find it online. Our society isn’t perfect. Regulatory bodies are using this aspect to motivate various restrictions as being “for our own good”, this being one of the age-old excuses that our masters have used when trying to deprive us of something.

Sony And Smart Contact Lenses

Smart Contact Lenses Will Soon Be upon Us

After Google experimented with integrating a glucose level sensor on a contact lens, it was only a matter of time before we would see more innovation in this field. A recent patent filing from Sony describes the intention of putting a camera inside a contact lens.

While this toy won’t exactly be invisible –at least not at first – the privacy implications are quite serious. We’re still at least a few years away from market availability, but I imagine that after several product cycles, such a camera could reach a pretty good recording resolution. Coupled with wireless transmission to a storage device, people will eventually be able to record everything they see, everywhere they go.

Microsoft's New Direction Is Not Surprising

Microsoft’s New Direction Is Not Surprising

Together with its new CEO, the software giant is embracing the inevitable: transforming its users into a data product.

What worries me the most is the fact that Microsoft is moving towards transforming Windows into a closed ecosystem, emulating the model established by Apple and, later, Google.

With the upcoming Universal Windows Platform, Microsoft is taking its first steps into placing itself as a leech between developers and customers, charging not only for the operating system but also taking a profit share from producers.