Fighting Facial Recognition

Fighting Facial Recognition

Friday, Feb 5, 2021

Listening To: Destructos - Blast
Photo: A Tandy 102 portable computer (and Willy). Used by field reporters for many years as it ran up to twenty hours on common batteries and included a modem to file reports with. Still works!

The various Privacy Watchdogs of Canada just filed a report finding that Clearview AI’s facial recognition software use in Canada was not legal. It seemed obvious from the outset (scraping copyrighted images and using them without consent) but various corporate and government entities resisted and even denied using the technology until leaked documents exposed them.

Joint investigation of Clearview AI, Inc. by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec, the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, and the Information Privacy Commissioner of Alberta

is the source but you can find both interviews and summaries from various media outlets. (TYEE) (CBC)

How to protect against this? The best thing an individual can do is familiarise themselves with the present privacy laws (Federal, Provincial (BC), Document Act) and have a good think before giving away any personal information. Especially to government and businesses who have proven not only to disrespect it, but often seem unwilling or unable to protect it. I worked with a woman who, several years after the Sony Hack, was still feeling the effects of identity theft.

If you are refused a job, good or service because of your application of the privacy laws, there is a formal grievance process through the office of your local Privacy Commissioner. It can be considered a form of actionable discrimination. There is often a thirty day cool-down period for the parties to negotiate before the formal application can be made, but I found submitting the complaint documentation directly to the head office of the company you are dealing with makes for swift action.

Seems nobody wants a government privacy audit of their practices.

Funny that.

2 minutes read
Matrix My Way

Matrix My Way

Monday, Feb 1, 2021

Photo: Otto Von Bismark and Audrey Hepburn (aka “the buns of destruction”) - rescue rabbits from VRRA
Listening to: Joe Jackson - Awkward Age (it should come as no surprise that this one resonates with me):

“You look at me like I know what’s going on
I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong
I really thought by now a few things might just clarify
I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days
And a body that sometimes disobeys
I get into the parties but I hate them ‘cause I’m shy
Oh my
I’m still at an awkward age”

One of the few disadvantages of using external services for communication is that on occasion, they don’t last, whether they be commercial or community supported. Alas, I just received a message telling me my Matrix server of choice is being taken off-line before the end of the month.

In an effort to turn adversity into advantage, an effort is underway to set up my own server (the software is called Synapse). That way this never has to happen again as the entire system is under my own control. I may even host it from home as texting takes next to no bandwidth.

Presently I’m experimenting in a non-destructive environment with a server on Linode. The advantage is that you can create snapshots, screw up, create and destroy servers at a whim. And it only costs about $0.007/hour. Seven cents. Ha.

Failure is part of the learning process (or so I keep telling myself).

2 minutes read
Pinephone Mobian Update

Pinephone Mobian Update

Monday, Jan 25, 2021

Listening to: Yuka Zolo - Bleed

Mobian is running well on my Braveheart Pinephone. I’m still going to order the updated motherboard when it comes available again, but stick with this for now. Besides the camera not yet working, the only other gotcha is that it’s easier to install new software and update via the command line. Not a problem for me, but I could see it turning off your non tech-savvy user. There is a GUI-based software hub but it doesn’t appear functional yet (or perhaps it’s my older hardware). Time to move over all my RSS feeds, podcast feeds, songs and contacts. Snagged a 128 gig SD card so I can fit all my music. The trials of a Bandcamp junkie with boxes full of albums and CD’s.

ps. If you’re upbeat and hopeful today, don’t read Pharmaceutical giants not ready for next pandemic, report warns

1 minutes read
Bullying

Bullying

Tuesday, Jan 19, 2021

Listening to: Still Little Fingers - Inflammable Material
Rule: Call it out when you see it.

Two incident over the last month have reinforced my views on free speech, end-to-end encrypted private messaging and hatred of bullies. Growing up as foreign-accented mouthy kid in prairie Canada, I saw a lot of the latter first-hand.

The first incident was in a coffee shop just before Christmas. A staff member seemingly wanted to talk to a customer but was literally shouted down by another employee. The offender let off a endless verbal barrage intended to purge the room of any other speech. I can’t imagine what they thought justified the behaviour or the motivations behind it but reactions in the room varied from uncomfortable to outright horrified.

The second was a article released today by The Guardian: Woman jailed for record 43 years for insulting Thai monarchy. I thought I misread the headline at first. It’s sad to think governments are so repressive (and “the west” is not immune. Business use SLAPP tactics to silence criticism, governments give themselves permission to assassinate their own citizens and reporters are routinely murdered worldwide.)

While the scales are vastly different, both of the examples above were intended to end discourse.

To prevent constructive (edit: changed from “free” in light of recent events) speech and suppress any further attempts.

Objecting to something on legitimate grounds is something to be encouraged. To discuss an issue in an open and fair manner. The matter may never result in agreement, but to prevent the conversation in the first place is:

Bullying

2 minutes read
Mobian

Mobian

Monday, Jan 18, 2021

Listening to: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Coma Girl (video)
Rule: every time I do something “brave”, I get a delicious treat. As a result, I don’t eat much pastry.

Well, that didn’t work out. Previously, I’d started “dog-fooding” Ubuntu Touch on the Pinephone. Not quite ready, had some issues with connectivity, both wi-fi and cellular. Almost there but receiving messages reliably is a must.

Just flashed Mobian. It’s not only reported to be the most mature of the options, but it’s also presently shipping as a special edition of the Pinephone (I’d say “get one, it’s only $150 USD”, but expect a bit of nerding over the next few months).

Round #2. Let’s see how it goes…

1 minutes read
Signal Down Enter The Matrix

Signal Down Enter The Matrix

Friday, Jan 15, 2021

Listening to: Aerial East - Running Up That Hill
Photo: I hate sleeping alone. Inanimate anthropomorphic objects are not an acceptable substitute.

After WhatsApp’s recently announced policy changes (now “delayed” three months), a lot of folks are trying to switch to Signal. Which is awesome. But Signal is struggling with the influx of users at the moment (read: it’s down).

Another option, one I use, is Matrix. It’s easy to get going, just install one of the many Matrix Apps on your device and there is usually a wizard to step you through signing up. You may get a choice of servers to use and there are… thousands. Do the research or just accept the default. They are all independent but communicate with each other. It’ll be fine.

Matrix is arguably more powerful than Signal, and is also IP based (so you need a data plan or WiFi). No need to hand out your phone number thou (umm, don’t), in fact most logins just require an e-mail address for verification and password resets etc.

ping me @flay@ubports.chat if you do sign up.

ps. I use Fluffychat but Element is a good bet for most users. Hell, try a few.

1 minutes read
Dog Fooding

Dog Fooding

Thursday, Jan 14, 2021

Listening to: Joan Jett - Crimson and Clover (video)
Photo: Old phone takes pic of new phone. In a saucepan. Classy.

“Dog Fooding” is a strange term I only heard a couple of years ago. In this context it refers to using a technology full-time while still in development. Bugs and all. Beta testing full-time.

My old phone had died (well before it’s time, grrrrr!) so I’d purchased a used Google Nexus 5 and flashed it with a series of alternative operating systems. Ended up on one called “Ubuntu Touch”, a version of linux for mobile devices originally created by Canonical then taken over by the “Ubports Foundation”. It’s been great. But the phone itself is growing old now and the battery isn’t lasting long. Not being an easily replaceable part (also grrrrr!), the next step had to be researched.

Enter the PinePhone. A device created by Pine64, a non-profit collective, for the express purpose of open-source operating system development (“build the hardware and they will come”). I bought in early with an edition simply known as “Braveheart”. There was no shipped OS but several were in development, none yet ready to be a used on a daily basis. Over the last year over half a dozen usable operating systems have appeared. Later versions of the device had updated hardware so this Braveheart version only runs a couple of projects well. One of them being the same OS, Ubuntu Touch.

Switched the SIM card over today. While not yet ready for the general public, it’s good enough for my day-to-day use. Let’s call it “quirky” at the moment. The camera isn’t presently reliable but otherwise it seems to work fine. I often carry a Panasonic G85 about anyway (it goes in a small sling bag with a couple of lenses).

And will order the motherboard update so it can run some of the other projects built for later Pinephone versions. Oh, did I mention? The Pinephone (and indeed most of what Pine64 creates) is entirely user repairable and up-gradable. They even guarantee part availability for five years. The later version will also work as a (low power, albeit) desktop computer if you connect it to a available dock, keyboard and monitor. That’s called “convergence”.

Neato.

2 minutes read
C-11

C-11

Wednesday, Jan 13, 2021

Listening to: Tom Tom Club - Genius of Live   Photo: Home on a Sunny Day (built around 1913)

The CBC has an opinion piece posted “Digital privacy law is being updated for the first time in decades, and it’s imperative we get it right” about the upcoming digital privacy bill C-11. It’s important.

People’s lives are their own and they should have control on who has access to the details of it. Let’s not let the corporate mono/duopolyies decide.

1 minutes read
Goodbye (and good riddance)

Goodbye (and good riddance)

Thursday, Jan 7, 2021

Listening to: Lisa Mitchell - Coin Laundry (Video).

One week until Facebook (finally) deletes my account. It’s only been used once or twice during the last year so there is no need to keep a big database of personal information online. Instagram has been deleted for awhile as have many other commercial services. Google is mostly detached, I just need to transfer some final online account contacts to my personal e-mail first (which is hosted by Protonmail).

Instead, a few of us are talking about starting our own local social network, probably something based on Mastodon. The intent is to provide a private place for marginalised local communities to communicate safely. DIY bands could promote without the platform artificially restricting their audience (because $$). Conversations about what kind of privacy model to use are ongoing but the tech groundwork has started. I posted before about Fosstodon’s Code of Conduct being a good model, and perhaps it’s one to adopt. There’s also talk of our own video streaming server. That’d be fun. Anything to do with encoders and codecs makes makes me wiggly (hey, judge not lest ye be…).

First up on my personal list is a Matrix instance to use for messaging. Given the recent news that WhatsApp is forcing users to quit or have their data sent to parent Facebook, I suspect most won’t care some local folks may want a privacy-respecting alternative. Especially those in marginalised communities. It’s super easy to use with apps for every platform.

There is an argument to be made that some of this comes off a little paranoid. Perhaps. But it also means I get to do a lot of learning while regaining control over aspects of my life. In a increasingly globalised world that seems to be spiralling out of control, one could argue it’s may even be good for one’s mental health.

Naw, it’s about the dorking.

2 minutes read

About Me

A dorky artist living in Vancouver, BC.

email: flay@pm.me

Matrix: @bunnyhuffer:matrix.org

Mastodon: https://fosstodon.org/@flay

text/Telegram/Signal:

2 x 3 =

6 x 0 =

2 x 2 =

2 x 3 + 1 =

1 x 2 =

1 + 2 =

2 + 2 + 1 =

1 + 1 + 1 =

5 - 2 =

12 - 8 =

Bandcamp

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Buy merch. Buy music.

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(Yes, I know. I have a problem.)