Mind Dump, Tech And Life Blog
written by Ivan Alenko
published under license Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)copy! share!
posted at 01. Oct '18

Fuck Telemetry and Other Data Siphons

You might heard of the word telemetry since it’s been very popular this year.

I guess tele stands for remote and metry for measurement. Currently the term is so fucking broadly defined and nobody really knows what exactly it means. And this fact is used agaist users and authorities. A pioneer in invasive telemetry is, of course, Android operating system. And Facebook.

We’re fools. When you realize what can be achieved with computers, you either go insane or paranoid or both. For example shadow profiles are just fucking brilliant. It’s like detecting black holes by monitoring matter and light warping around it.

I sort of miss the old times of Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 5.5 where, as far as I know, there was no telemetry. When there was a JavaScript error in a web page, an alert box popped and I could click “OK” or run a debugger. Or many alert boxes and I had to restart computer to get rid of them. I couldn’t even comprehend what am I looking at back then and what debugger is and I was scared.

When a program failed, usually I saw BSOD or sometimes developer begged to send backtrace via email and sometimes via embedded debug sender. But I had to give consent.

I get it, people don’t care about sending backtraces back to developers and are scared when they see something they are not familiar with. Well, maybe not anymore since this is not year 2001, but 2018, right? Things are supposed to get better.

Unless they aren’t.

PC and Android platforms are fragmented and very diverse. It makes sense to collect performance and error data. Even homogenous platforms and devices need this when we take insane complexity of technology into consideration. But with the consent of users. Since when we decided that technology we hold in our hands, spend lives with and most of all, depend on, is not under our reasonable control?

I wouldn’t care if telemetry was handled by a neutral foundation in cyberspace, not related to any country or any center of power. But that is not the case. Borders became very important in cyberspace for some reason. Software from USA can by controlled by US government in the worst case. The same is for Chinese or Russian can be controlled by their respective governments too. The software from other countries - here it depends which center of power a country revolves around. In case of Slovakia and Czechia, it’s “western” alliance (EU, NATO) currently.

As Tesla shows us, telemetry is useful for learning their artificial intelligence and development. The technology moves so fast and it’s so important to be ahead and win over others, that it’s required to use their users as workers. Yeah, whatever. Overmind would be proud.

But we don’t have hive-like tech everywhere, so we don’t need Is OnePlus Spying on You? Not Today. Why should my OnePlus phone send data to OnePlus when I unlock my screen? Or Google can remotely change the settings of your Pixel or Pie phone, and it just did it by mistake. A mistake…right. Yes, welcome in my phone and do whatever your fucking developers or whoever wants to do. The result will be probably China’s Xinjiang surveillance is the dystopian future nobody wants.

There were multiple cases when phones for western markets got “Chinese” features which means rootkit and spyware. By mistake. Since quarterly 300 milion of smartphones are sold, I’m not really surprised if a factory messes up something.

I just wonder when these “Chinese” features are requested by western goverments to be present in phones to fight against something, usually terrorism, piracy, porn, counterfeit goods and illegal betting, or as time passes, against anything in oposition to whoever is in power (Leaked Australian blacklist reveals banned sites). I always believed in police and courts to handle this responsibly. Machines shouldn’t control everything we access. Parents should have proper relationships with children and explain them how things go. With only an inhuman filter they’ll become wild. It’s nice to have child mode though.

When I was a child and teenager I had an insane hunger for information. And I found much way above my perceived age. Fortunately nobody cared and I was responsible enough. There must be a better way to control access to information than block everything “dangerous”, so those who are ready can educate themselves.

Amyways, and when the “remote execution and control architecture” is finally ready then what? We’ll all be best friends forever and walk to the rays of a sunset?

Or somebody comes in and says “I’m assuming control (and you’re fucked)”. Things won’t be that harsh propbably. When you are president Xi and have one bilion of people under your heels, you can chip off luxuries or basic utilities to people to behave properly. Once social status is fully implemented, I don’t really expect many new philosophers and thought leaders from China. To stay under the radar, it’s easier to shut up and do easy stuff than think.

We, former Czechoslovakia, do have an experience in getting people in line. During cold war there was State Security (StB) to protect us against western influcence and anti-state actions. StB had at least 75 000 agents and confidants. But when you have one or handful of centralized systems it’s much easier and cheaper to monitor and do actions in a society.

Even if everything ended in getting the bestest, the targetestest advertisement, what would it tell about our society? Do we want to consider selling goods a pinnacle of our modern civilization?

To me that sounds insane. Finally we have freedom to not be hungry and cold, but we put very different kind of shackles on ourselves.

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