Click Is the New Clap With the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT), while hard to define, captures the idea of a world where everything is connected and communicating. Techopedia explains it as a computing concept where someday in the future, everyday object will connect to the Internet. These “things” will have the ability to identify themselves to other devices, making them worth more than the object by themselves, establishing an “ambient intelligence” when these objects work in unison (Janssen, 2014).

Movies such as In Time and Her, are predicting this future of an IoT world, with electronic life countdowns inserted into humans wrists and operating systems that can communicate and feel emotions. While these may be extremes that seem unlikely to exist, the Internet of Things is very present today.

Beginning as a Kickstarter project, LIFX have created Wi-Fi enabled LED light bulbs, that are controlled with your smartphone. The click is the new clap where users have the ability to change the colour of the light, dim, and turn off and on their household lights from a single device, without having to move. While these lights seem like more of a novelty than anything else, they also have the ability to naturally wake you up with the lights slowly increasing in the morning, and dimming off at night to improve the quality of your sleep (LIFX, 2014).

Another example of the Internet of Things, created by Fuseproject, is the Kernel of Life. The concept is that the wearable device allows people in developing countries to test themselves for symptoms of chronic illnesses such as Malaria. Users would test their saliva, urine, blood or breath using the device, and transfer results to doctors via a smartphone app.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 10.05.18 PM

Fuseproject developer Yves Behar stated, “When the nearest doctor is days away, both treatment and diagnosis can be accomplished through the cloud-based and embedded medical test that Kernel offers.” The reusable device can be worn as a necklace and can also measure the users temperature. While the technology required to make the Kernel of Life is currently too expensive and not durable enough for its intended use, Fuseproject predicts it could be perfected in five to ten years (Griffiths, 2013).

Through the rapid growth of the Internet of things, the word “product” no long applies to tangible things only. According to an article in Forbes by Dan Woods, “Product can mean a device, a service powered by software or other technology, a service provided by people, a flow of data, a software application for monitoring, automation, or analysis, or in many cases all of the above.” (2014). The LIFX and the Kernel of Life are both examples of this change. It is not just the physical product itself that is key to its use, rather its connection with the Internet.

While many fear the inevitability of the Internet of things, I find it exciting. Some argue these creative innovations might only be making us lazier because the object does all the work. This may be the case for some “things”, but certainly not all. Wired editors Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly established the term “quantified self” describing it as using technology to collect data on aspects of a persons life, such as food intake, sleeping patterns, exercise, etc. (Lupton, 2013). Designs such as the Kernel of Life support the quantified self and have the potential to improve lives and solve many issues; it would seem to be a step backwards to not embrace the Internet of things.

Sources

Griffiths, Alyn 2013, ‘Wearable device could detect disease “when the nearest doctor is days away”’, De Zeen Magazine, 28 November, viewed 24 October 2014, < http://www.dezeen.com/2013/11/28/fuseproject-designs-wearable-device-that-diagnoses-disease/&gt;.

Jenssen, Cory 2014, Internet of Things (IoT), Techopedia, viewed 24 November 2014, <http://www.techopedia.com/definition/28247/internet-of-things-iot&gt;.

LIFX 2014, The Lightbulb Reinvented, LIFX, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://au.lifx.co&gt;.

Lupton, Deborah 2013, ‘Understanding the human machine’, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 25-30.

Woods, Dan 2014, ‘How the “Internet of Things” Is Transforming the Meaning of Product’, Forbes, 25 June, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/danwoods/2014/06/25/how-the-iot-is-transforming-the-meaning-of-product/&gt;.

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A Series of Unfortunate Events

In my last post, ‘Hacktivists: The Hero or villain’, I looked at the rise of hacktivism, with people like Julian Assange using this technique of retrieving information online for social and/or political reasons. While this is the larger issue at hand, it is necessary for us to be aware of our risks as Internet users, because hackers don’t discriminate when they choose their targets.

In late August of this year, an anonymous hacker posted nude photos of over 100 celebrities on 4chan. These images were illegally obtained though iCloud, being a major invasion of privacy. Many of the victims as well as other celebrities have spoken out about the incident on twitter such as Mary E. Winstead.

While many offered support and sympathy for those affect others took to social media to shame and blame these victims for the invasion of privacy.

Less then two months after this incident, another anonymous hacker took to 4chan to release thousand of nude photos from snapchat. Known as “the snappening”, this release was not just targeted at celebrities but anyone who used apps such as SnapSaved, that lets users save snap chats. Snapchat issued the following statement after the leaks:

“We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security. We vigilantly monitor the App Store and Google Play for illegal third-party apps and have succeeded in getting many of these removed” (Snapchat, 2014).

I’m sure many others, like myself, didn’t stop to check these terms and conditions when we downloaded the app. While this doesn’t give hackers the right to infiltrate personal information, but it does make it a lot easier for them to get away with it.

I in no way, shape or form blame the victims of these hacks, but rather the technologies we are so trusting of. Whether it’s snapchat or iCloud it seems as though the content we put online or on our devices, no longer has the ability to remain private. Mashable has released an article, ‘How to Protect Your Photos (Nude or Otherwise) From Hackers on iCloud’ and the Independent have posted an article, ‘How to keep Snapchat pictures and videos private’, both worth a read. As it stands, the answers to this problem are not yet known, and we haven’t outsmarted hackers, so it doesn’t hurt to take precautions.

Sources

Halleck, Thomas 2014, ‘Snapchat Hack: Snapsaved Claims Responsibility For ‘Snappening’ Nude Photo Scandal, But Questions Remain’, International Business Times, 13 October, viewed 22 October 2014, <http://www.ibtimes.com/snapchat-hack-snapsaved-claims-responsibility-snappening-nude-photo-scandal-questions-1703992&gt;.

Reader, Ruth 2014, Snapchat blames users of ‘illegal third-party apps’ for nude photo hack, Venture Beat, weblog post, 10 October, viewed 22 October 2014, < http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/10/snapchat-responds-to-nude-photo-hack-passes-blame-to-users/&gt;.

2014, ‘Timeline of the Celebrity Nude Photo Leak–Everything You Need to Know’, Glamour Page, 3 September, viewed 22 October 2014, <http://www.glamourpage.com/timeline-of-the-celebrity-nude-photo-leak-everything-you-need-to-know/>.

Hactivists: The hero or the villain?

We live in a world that is consumed by the Internet. It is embedded into our daily lives so much so that when it fails us we feel as though our world is crumbing. While the Internet may give us the freedom to do what we want, whenever we want, it does not guarantee our privacy, as many of us like to forget. This opens the door to an array of ethical issues surrounding the Internet and our right to access it all.

Online hacking is any technical effort to infiltrate, extract and/or manipulate networked data (Mitchell, 2014). Any news headline including the word “hacker” immediately brings thoughts of malicious activity and disaster, however there are many who argue this movement is not necessarily bad, rather a new form of whistleblowing.

Wikileaks is a prime example of this new age, known as ‘hacktivism’, breaking into computer systems, for politically or socially motivated reasons. The website, created by Julian Assange and his team, publishes secret footage, documents, emails and anything else of value from their thousands of sources who have the ability to remain anonymous. In Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker article, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, he describes Assange’s mission as “a way to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events” (2010). Not everyone will like what it is posted but Assange feels as though it is information society needs to be aware of.

Many see Assange’s work as a harmful act against society for self gain. In an article for The Sydney Morning Herald, Gerard Henderson wrote that hacktivism is a form of treachery. Traitors like Assange, “are alienated individuals who detest their own society and wish to see it overturned. [They] are openly proud of their alienation and do not seem to regard any nation or any leader as better than any alternative. Moreover, both show evident signs of narcissism” (Henderson, 2013)

On the other hand there are many who see Assange as a new age hero, his super power being the ability to share the truth. 85% of respondents believe Assange should receive government assistance because he is fighting for humanity. An anonymous author made the point that, the information that WikiLeaks has shared with the world is information we have a right to know. It is information that governments don’t want us to know – and for that reason it is even more important that we do” (Green Left Weekly, 2012). Similarly, Bruce Sterling believes that Assange has, the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness” (Sterling, 2013).

I find it hard to define Assange as the hero or the villain as there are still so many aspects of his story I am unaware of. It is also hard to determine how good something has to be for it to outweigh the bad. While the arguments against Assange are supported, the fact remains he has brought the worlds attention to serious issues that we would not be aware of if Wikileaks didn’t exist.

Sources

Anonymous 2012, ‘Why we must support Wikileaks and Julian Assange’, Green Left Weekly, 1 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51189&gt;.

Henderson, Gerard 2013, ‘Assange’s acts of defiance have narcissistic edge’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/assanges-acts-of-defiance-have-narcissistic-edge-20130617-2oeic.html#ixzz2WVCUW9tA&gt;.

Khatchadourian, Raffi 2010, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets&gt;.

Mitchell, Bradley 2014, ‘What Is a Hacker?’, About Technology, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://compnetworking.about.com/od/networksecurityprivacy/f/what-is-hacking.htm&gt;.

Sterling, B 2013, The Ecuadorian library or, the blast shack after three years, Medium, weblog post, 2 August, viewed 18 October 2014, <https://medium.com/@bruces/the-ecuadorian-library-a1ebd2b4a0e5>.

Tools for Change: The role of social media in activism

How many times has a picture of a starving child, living in poverty come up on your news feed with a caption reading, “1 LIKE = 1 PRAY and $1 DONATED” come up on your news feed? I have personally lost track of the times I have continued scrolling past said posts without stopping. But that didn’t change the fact that these pictures have thousands of growing likes.

This idea of using social media to create positive change is known as clicktivism. After recently being added to the Oxford English Dictionary, clicktivism is officially defined as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.”  Social media is changing the way we communicate and is giving a voice to the voiceless. You don’t need to be famous, rich or powerful to tweet, just Internet connection. Many, like Malcolm Gladwell, believe Twitter will not be saving the world any time soon. Gladwell stated in a New Yorker article, “Social media is build around weak ties…where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools” (Gladwell, 2010). While examples like the one I gave above emphasise the idea of ‘slacktivism’, which is participating in online activism with no effort or involvement truly put in, there are many cases that have proved these theories wrong.

Take for example the recent activity in Ferguson. In early August, an unarmed African American teen, Michael Brown, was shot dead by a police officer in Ferguson, a suburb in St. Louis in the U.S. While the circumstances of the incident are in dispute, the African American community of Ferguson felt as though it was a clear example of the continuing racial discrimination existing in the 21st century so they began to protest, physically and online. With the use of social media, the story spread and gained attention and support all over the world. Twitter was overflowing with tweets using #Ferguson to show support for the people of Ferguson and the issues at hand.

The following link shows the explosion of the #Ferguson on twitter across the world, over the 11 days after the shooting.
http://srogers.cartodb.com/viz/4a5eb582-23ed-11e4-bd6b-0e230854a1cb/public_map

So did social media help the cause? While it didn’t stop protests or bring an end to discrimination, it started a conversation. How easily Ferguson’s “small town” issues could have flown under the radar. Social media gave the people of Ferguson the ability to get their story out. Brittney Packnett, the executive director of Teach for America – St Louis, stated “This movement is not about an organisation, but rather about giving young people in Ferguson an outlet to channel raw energy to be productive and have their concerns be heard” (2014).

There will always be positives and negatives to social media. It has strengths and weaknesses like anything else and I believe this is the key to successfully using social media for activism. Like Gladwell said, “we are defined by our tools” (2014), but these tools are connecting the world together to create a community open to change.

Sources

Buchanan, L, Fessenden, F, Park, H, Parlapiano, A & Wallace, T 2014, ‘What Happened in Ferguson?’, The New York Times, 22 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/ferguson-missouri-town-under-siege-after-police-shooting.html

Gladwell, Malcolm 2014, ‘Small Change’, The New Yorker, 4 October, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/10/04/small-change-3

Moffitt, Kelly 2014, ‘How social media is playing a role in Ferguson’, St Louis Business Journal, 14 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/blog/2014/08/how-social-media-is-playing-a-role-in-ferguson.html?page=all

Zak, Elana 2014, ‘How #Ferguson Has Unfolded on Twitter’, The Wall Street Journal, 18 August, viewed 1 October 2014, http://blogs.wsj.com/dispatch/2014/08/18/how-ferguson-has-unfolded-on-twitter/