our dark future

Everything is a Microphone: VibraPhone

A very intriguing research paper (PDF) just came out of the University of Illinois Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. PhD candidate Nirupam Roy and associate professor Romit Roy Choudhury have devised an ingenious use for the vibration motors commonly found your phone, activity tracker, smartwatch, and any other electronic device that can vibrate: a ubiquitous microphone. Dubbed VibraPhone, the researchers realized that the construction of a vibration motor is very similar to that of a microphone diaphragm. Microphones work at their simplest level by having a moving piece (a diaphragm) that vibrates in sync with the sound vibrations that travel through the air. These vibrations... read more »

Google Allo is Fucking Stupid

Yesterday, Google announced their new messaging app (after several previous attempts and failures in the space) Allo (pronounced Aloe). I'm going to spare you the circlejerk the tech media world has had over the "groundbreaking tech" and just go over the ways Google fucked up. Incognito Mode One of Google's big features for Allo is the inclusion of an end to end encrypted "incognito mode." The encryption for this is provided in partnership with Open Whisper System's signal protocol which is considered the state of the art for encrypted mobile messaging (and can be found in WhatsApp and OWS's own Signal application). This is big news... read more »

Facial Tracking Gets an App

No longer is facial tracking relegated to the realm of governments, retailers, or hackers. Russian startup FindFace marries facial recognition technology and public databases to create an app that can identifies of strangers with over 70% accuracy. Scared yet? In terms of functionality, the tool couldn't be more simple. Take a picture of a stranger, submit the photo, and the app will search through photos on VK (Eastern Europe's Facebook equivalent) to find the top matches. The neural net algorithm from NTechLab behind this tech is the same one that the won MegaFace with 73% accuracy. Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab performed a quick test in... read more »

Eavesdropping on the Commute

It was 2015 and New Jersey Transit was in panic. Passengers on their light rail line had been hit by rash of phone robberies throughout the previous year. It was a crime wave that needed an equally serious solution. With the generous help of the Department of Homeland Security, NJT was able to install millions of dollars of CCTV equipment on their trains ensuring the good people of New Jersey would be safe under the watchful eye of transit police. Or at least that's how Transit would like the story to run. In reality, in a couple dozen of the millions of annual trips on New... read more »

Poorly Written Thoughts on Privacy and Our Dark Future

I've written this dozens of times. Each time it's been edited, rewritten, edited again, rewritten some more, and ultimately trashed. Yet here I am, trying again. I've struggled a lot with the tone of this piece: everything from endless numbers and sources, swear words, to whatever you can imagine in between. I'm tired of writing this over and over again so here it is: stream of consciousness. Every day I encounter a new development or thought or technology or idea that comes back to everything here and builds upon it or forces it in a new direction. This constant barrage eventually became too much, which is... read more »