Home/Tag: tech

This new world of ambient surveillance.

In the regulatory context, discussion of privacy invariably means data privacy—the idea of protecting designated sensitive material from unauthorized access.


But there is a second, more fundamental sense of the word privacy, one which until recently was so common and unremarkable that it would have made no sense to try to describe it.

That is the idea that there exists a sphere of life that should remain outside public scrutiny, in which we can be sure that our words, actions, thoughts and feelings are not being indelibly recorded. This includes not only intimate spaces like the home, but also the many semi-private places where people gather and engage with one another in the common activities of daily life—the workplace, church, club or union hall. As these interactions move online, our privacy in this deeper sense withers away.

Maciej Cegłowski in his testimony to the US Senate.

Cegłowski is the guy who runs Pinboard, for those of you who’ll recognize the service but not the name.

2019-07-08T14:01:46+10:008th November, 2019|Tags: privacy, tech|


So this article is specifically about the increasing standardization of UX design jobs, though it’s by no means limited to that particularly sector.

Incidentally, while the term “McDonaldization” was coined in the 90s, the concept is much older; Marx, for example, talks extensively about it in Capital while describing the ways previously artisanal traditional crafts—everything from making furniture to bread to lace—were changed to accommodate factory production. What we’re seeing now, and what the linked article is a symptom of, is that those same processes are now starting to creep into the formerly white collar professions, particularly in IT.

IT has historically been a bit insulated from McDonaldization because it’s a young industry, meaning a lot of its forms and processes and, importantly, integrations with existing capitalist structures (i.e. businesses) so on weren’t standardized. Inventing the hamburger menu in 1982 made you a world leader in UX. Implementing one today means mindlessly copying forty years of prior art…

2019-07-08T12:09:38+10:005th November, 2019|Tags: design, tech, webdesign|


A web-based chat client written entirely in CSS. On the other hand, as someone who loathes the JavaScriptification of the web, I lol’d. On the other, while this is a cute proof-of-concept, what the tech behind it actually more likely to be used for (and, in fact, what the inspiration Tweet was talking about) is circumventing client-side JavaScript blocking for the purpose of online surveillance.

So, yanno. Welcome to our dystopian internet hellhole, and all that…

2019-07-08T11:47:57+10:003rd November, 2019|Tags: css, privacy, tech, webdev|

Junk mail v2.0.

Let’s also be clear about the myth, spread by the “interactive” (aka “relevant” and “interest-based”) advertising business, that the best online advertising is also the most targeted. That’s not the kind of advertising that made Madison Avenue, created nearly every brand you can name, and has sponsored publishers and other media for the duration. Instead it’s the goal of direct marketing, aka direct response marketing. Both of those labels are euphemistic re-brandings that the direct mail business gave itself after the world started calling it junk mail. Sure, much (or most) of the paid messages we see online are called advertising, and look like advertising; but as long as they want to get personal, they’re direct marketing.

Doc Searls on adtech.

2019-07-01T13:50:07+10:001st November, 2019|Tags: advertising, tech|

Physical equivalent.

In some library conference talks I’ve done, I’ve groped toward a formulation I’m now calling “physical-equivalent privacy.” That is, if we wouldn’t track a print book, or a person using the physical library, in a particular way, the digital analogue to that tracking behavior is also not okay. Put more formally, “the library patron using library-provided electronic information should enjoy privacy protection equal to that of the same patron using the same information via a library-provided physical information carrier.” This is not a perfect analogy, let me just state that up-front—physical surveillance is also ramping up in all too many contexts, even in libraries—but it productively tickles most folks’ sense of what’s creepy, and I think it also activates a lot of tacit operational-privacy knowledge in librarianship.

Dorothea Salo on privacy.

… I really like this analogy and I will definitely be stealing it in future.

2019-07-01T09:57:09+10:0029th October, 2019|Tags: privacy, tech|


Tl;dr the GDPR has been rendered effectively toothless by the fact that its “lead prosecutor”, Ireland, is too in the pocket of big tech companies to take regulatory action against them.

2019-07-31T09:40:06+10:0026th October, 2019|Tags: privacy, tech|

Change uncontrol.

Tl;dr one team at YouTube (intentionally) made an unauthorized code change and it effectively ended use of IE6.

On the one hand, by the time this happened, IE6 definitely “should” have been replaced or upgraded. On the other, the fact that a small handful of people at one company were able to effect this change on a worldwide scale really should be… concerning.

2019-07-31T09:40:03+10:0023rd October, 2019|Tags: google, internet explorer, tech|