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Bots, non-existant privacy and Surveillance

Bot = robot

A BOT is a software application designed to handle widespread automation. Bots can be created to search and retrieve information, conduct bank transactions, etc. And, bots make decisions for: primarily us-as participants in modern life, the corporations, and thieves...

Below is are excerpts from a lecture given by Daniel Suarez, called "Daemon: Bot-Mediated Reality"

full lecture link:

I have excerpted his talk regarding security, and left out many of his other ideas, including the DarkNet idea -- where a new internet could be created to mediate reality and create a truly democratic world, which personally I find ridiculous, what do I know?
They power the modern world and that's because the modern world consists largely of data. We've created mountains of data and they aren't enough people to go through it all and bots are supremely efficient at pouring through mountains of data that the modern world creates and that's what gives them so much power over us as people. Finance, telecom, security, and manufacturing all creating these data it's worth noting that bots determine whether you get a mortgage such as FICO score. As a matter of fact bots might determine whether you get a job interview because resume scanners look for keywords. But bots also affect us in a much more personal level even than that. Radiology and MRI, these films are examined pre-screened by bots for follow-up by doctors if an anomaly is detected. So instead of hiring a hundred doctors you can hire ten. It's hard to imagine the more direct impact on your life as a matter of fact you better hope they've written these bots well but of course bots are also scanning for all of your medical records to see whether you need to have your medical insurance canceled. So they're mining all of this data but they're also listening to us as well and speaking to us. If you called an airline or credit card company recently you have probably spoken to a bot within the confines of a given business transaction, bots can understand and speak reasonably well with humans. As a matter of fact, typical synthetic speech voice based entirely on text, synthetic voices seem rather fanciful. ... these voices allow a cost reduction of up to 90% in call centers and that's the key once again is that bots are more efficient than human but of course bots are also listening to us in other ways.

Bots are largely responsible for the removal of any limitation on wiretapping because bots can listen for key terms and once again notify a human being for follow up. So that's the key thing -- they removed any limitations on wiretapping. But bots are of course also watching us. The ballooning number of surveillance cameras out in the society is made possible largely by software because there aren't enough people to watch all of these computer monitors. There are a million in the city of Shenzhen, China and it's software that watches these monitors looking for suspicious behavior like a sudden grouping of six or more people. There are five hundred thousand surveillance cameras in the city of London and they are increasingly able to recognize us by the way we walk, by our facial features and they can also identify people by race. So bots are really an unblinking eye and ever listening ear and of course they make key decisions about our lives based on our data. Well that's why it's worrying that our collective control of the internet seems to be slipping somewhat.

Human beings are also programmable. As we've seen in certain social setups. Any society that values obedience and devalues independent thought goes into this category. Now, the disciplines of propaganda and advertising have been honed to a razor's edge to press our buttons and get a predictable response. So, if you can't tell a human from a bot what's to prevent a bot from pushing your buttons from getting you to react in certain specific ways? We might think that would require that we'd be visible to bots moment by moment and actually, as bots are exploding in size and influence over us so too is our visibility to them. As a matter of fact, you're probably wearing this handy tracking device, the cell phone. Every few seconds its position is recorded in three-dimensional space and that data doesn't go away, it accumulates. Same is true of your financial transactions. All these things build a picture of you, who you are, and what you're doing. Now, Bruce Schneier, the renowned cryptographer and security expert, calls this data pollution. That's the cost of gathering data, storing it, retrieving it, has essentially dropped to zero which means data never goes away so that over time, you can go back and determine where somebody has been for years, every single moment. Remember, bots are uniquely good at mining data and you may not have a problem with this actually. You might trust your government or whomever, but what about 10 years from now or what if that data gets sold or maybe even to a foreign government and if you travel that might be a concern as well, because it builds a complete profile of you. Probably, more than you know about even yourself. In 2005, MIT research in Nathan Eagle did a study called reality mining where they track a thousand cell phones as they moved around campus and at the end of that study, they wrote an algorithm that could predict with 85% accuracy what any individual was going to do next and that's the power of simple software. No conspiracy necessary.

So, you might wonder what sort of data is being gathered on a routine basis out there in reality. Now, this is a typical urban street and once again, this is today; we zoom in, we can see surveillance cameras. Of course, these are wired in once again to a system, the data's archive, and software is analyzing the images, keeping it for long periods of time but those aren't the only surveillance cameras out in the world, there's private surveillance cameras. Possibly nowhere near as well secured data for sale to divorce attorneys and then officers of course, up at the end of the block, some weird guy with a webcam pointed at the street, once again, available to the web, visible to bots. All of this visual data creates a context for the other data points that are being gathered by cell phones, by smart phones, emails, and so forth.

Then of course, there's the almost legacy process of gathering license plate numbers programmatically to track automobiles but that's less and less necessary because new technologies make it easier. Many of you have Bluetooth devices in your car but you may not know about the TPMS system; this is the Tire Pressure Monitoring System. It was federally mandated by the fall of 2000 TREAD Act. That's right. You all remember voting for this, right? It says that any car manufactured by 2007 [80% by 2005, 100% by Sept 2007] has to have wireless nozzle pressure measurement devices that communicate with the computer on-board the car to see that your tires are safely inflated. Now, they have to have a unique I.D. so that the computer knows your tires from the car next to you and of course, it is an open standard and makes it very simple to track the unique identity of an automobile; but of course, to do that you would have to have devices scanning. Fortunately, such scanners have started to spring up at choke points throughout modern cities. These are privately owned scanners with the data being gathered and stored again because it's cheap to store data, vast amounts of data. This data can be piled up along with your financial transactions and anything else and bots can mine through it to find persons of interest or they just find patterns or even just to sell you stuff.

I'll give you an example of just a few such devices as a BlueSweep scanner and a BlueSweep scanner is a device that is able to identify all bluetooth devices within its radius, identify what there capabilities are, and what exploits they might be vulnerable to. A BlueSniper can do this up to a kilometer away. Let's go a little further down the wall. There's the Bluesnarfer you were all expecting. Now Bluesnarfer can use an exploit and given to it by a Bluesweeper to steal your address book, your text messages, your calendar, your pictures of your kitties, and bluetooth car whisperer can push advertising into your car speakers through your car's bluetooth system. Now more worrisome, it could also be used to hook into your car bluetooth phone system to eavesdrop on conversations in the car. Now, if you combine that with something like the TPMS system or any future open standard device, you could pretty much track a car and listen to it's occupants as they move throughout the city at any point in the future or at the moment it's happening. Now, so you're walking through this gauntlet of scanning activity with all the wireless devices and again, I'm sure we were all aware of this, and then there's of course financial transactions every time we buy stuff with a debit card or a credit card. Who, what, where, and when? Combine that with visual data and all of the other points that tell us who was there with you, where you were going can be used to tell some very interesting stories. So it's a great constellation of information being gathered on us at all times and then of course privately owned devices gathering up all this information. So this is the world you live in right now. Who knows what it will be like 10 years from now?

The human race is expanding in numbers and that's good, we have learned how to fix nitrogen into the soil, but what about us individually? What about the value of human life? There's a little different story and this is a disagreeable looking slide because it's about slavery and many people think that slavery is a thing of the past but unfortunately we are living right now through a golden age of slavery of 27 million slaves known in the planet right now. It's more than at any point in recorded human history. So we look at the United States, what a healthy male sold for, adjusted for inflation was a $40,000 in 1850. In the year 2000, traffickers sell a healthy male laborer for $600. So clearly our human stock is dropping which is surprising because we're big brained animals, we're the most innovative, we're capable of great flexibility and yet a rack server, a good one, goes for a about a $1000.