Surveillance spreading
By Mark Hurst • September 29, 2023

On this week’s Techtonic I talked about surveillance “in the subway, the store, the stadium, and the sky” – and in some other places, too.

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During the show I note the doublespeak from Google (shown below) about its malware called Chrome. An increase in surveillance is called “enhanced privacy”:


I also discussed this photo: The current mayor of New York City, posing next to the police department’s new surveillance robot. Compare with the photo below that of Peter Cushing as Doctor Who standing next to a Dalek.

The robot is discussed further in a New York Times article that also quotes past Techtonic guest Albert Fox Cahn from the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project:

The K5, described as a “fully autonomous” security robot, is part of a push by the mayor for more law-enforcement technology, which has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

... [Albert Fox] Cahn said he was wary that the K5 might eventually employ facial recognition technology. “If the mayor thinks there aren’t enough cameras in Times Square, then he’s more out of touch than I realized,” Mr. Cahn said. “It’s more surveillance theater,” he added. “This is a mayor who doubles down on public relations stunts rather than public safety any chance he gets.”

Also on the show I covered the NYPD’s decision to float police drones over people’s backyard barbeques on Labor Day . . . just to, y’know, make sure everyone was being safe.

It’s coming for you

Proliferating surveillance is hardly limited to New Yorkers. Near the end of the show I talked about the recent Mozilla report on new cars, which rated major manufacturers for their privacy practices.

Dead last, with unrestrained surveillance of passengers and people outside, was Tesla. The worst.

But close behind, and deserving some sort of This Is Broken award for the sheer creepiness of it all, was Nissan:

Nissan earned its second-to-last spot for collecting some of the creepiest categories of data we have ever seen. It’s worth reading the review in full, but you should know it includes your “sexual activity.” Not to be out done, Kia also mentions they can collect information about your “sex life” in their privacy policy.

The feeling of being spied on, in other words, isn’t limited to highly surveilled cities like New York City. Cars from Tesla, Nissan, and Kia are doing the same thing. In fact, most auto manufacturers are racing to claim as much of your data as possible.

A Cassandra moment

None of this is a surprise to me or any readers who have been following my work for the past several years. I’ve been warning about the rise of surveillance companies, and the surveillance state, since I started Techtonic six years ago this month.

I recall that Cassandra, in Greek mythology, was a priestess who made accurate predictions, but was never listened to. Tech critics like me, and others, feel kinship with the story.

I had another Cassandra moment this past week when I spotted the Rolling Stone article announcing that “NFTs are actually, finally, totally worthless.” Ed Zitron wrote this week that he felt justified in sounding the alarm about NFTs back in October 2021. That reminded me to look up my own column about NFTs.

On March 12, 2021, I published the column Pumping up the worthless with NFTs, in which I described how, and why, NFTs were worth absolutely nothing:

Now Silicon Valley sees the possibility to use NFTs – built with trendy, magical-sounding terms like blockchain and cryptocurrency – to pump up bubbles on anything digital, no matter how worthless. Maybe especially if it’s worthless. Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, who has a stake in NFT marketplaces, put this spin on the purchase of worthless assets: “You’re buying a feeling.” (Note that he doesn’t specify which feeling. My money’s on “regret.”)

Between March 2021, when I publicly exposed the NFT scam, and September 2023, when an industry report validated my analysis, how many people were scammed out of their life savings? How many millions of dollars did tech-industry scammers run away with? (See Ed Zitron’s excellent post for details.)

An announcement

I’ve decided that I need to be a little more forthright. A little louder in my insistence that people listen up. I can see where tech is headed, and how teams can benefit – and I want to push to share this knowledge further.

Thus I am officially announcing three new services:

A new “AI for Customers” seminar, drawing on my recent research and writing on AI

An “Customers Included” workshop, based on my book

A “Bit Literacy” workshop, based on my other book

These are all part of the redesigned Creative Good homepage, where I list all the services and projects in the company.

I’ve already made bookings this fall, so my calendar is filling up. But I have a few slots still available in November and December. If you’re interested in discussing one of the services above, drop me a line.

Finally, I’ll mention that we cover a lot of tech topics – generative AI, the Google and Amazon antitrust lawsuits, poorly designed apps, positive uses of AI, new games, surveillance glasses, and much more – on the members-only Creative Good Forum. Join the Creative Good community now and you can start benefiting from this unique resource. It’s a lens on the tech industry that you won't find elsewhere.

Whether at a workshop, a keynote, or on the Forum, I hope I’ll see you soon.

No more Cassandra.


Mark Hurst, founder, Creative Good – see our services or join as a member
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