Israeli Supreme Court Rejects Family Petition To Bury Trans Woman As Their “Son”

Israeli Supreme Court Rejects Family Petition To Bury Trans Woman As Their “Son”

Peleg, who was 31, had long been concerned about a battle with her ultra-orthodox family after her death. Their beliefs forbid cremation, and she worried they would attempt to have a religious burial under her male name. Peleg paid for her own cremation in March 2014 at the one funeral home in Jerusalem that performs the service, and filed a will with an attorney a day before her suicide and asked that he fight for her wishes if her family attempted to interfere.

This is heartening. No one should be driven to suicide by discrimination against who they are, but the ultimate insult is ignorance of one’s post-death wishes, because when are we more vulnerable than in death?

Adele’s ’25’ on Pandora

Adele’s ’25’ on Pandora

Pandora confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that every track from Adele’e new album is available through its radio service. That’s not going to be a particularly great way of listening to 25 — because Pandora is a radio service, it means you can’t choose what to listen to and will have to wait for a station to play the new songs — but it does mean that Adele’s album is streaming in some form. You just have to be really, really patient to hear it all.

Pandora’s strange licensing niche usually works against it by here, despite the inability to listen through the songs in order, Pandora has something like an exclusive.

I wonder if Adele’s lawyers told her that keeping it off the on-demand streaming services means the track order she chose will not be the one many people hear the first time they hear the songs.

I don’t know how much that matters to modern musicians, or to someone like Adele, who doesn’t really have a customer acquisition problem.

For the, er, record, I prefer to listen to an album in order if possible.

Restraining orders in the age of drones

Today Joshua Goldman of CNET reports that the FAA recommends requiring drone pilots to register instead of registering every single drone:

On November 21, the FAA task force made its registration recommendations, and instead of keeping track of each and every drone out there, it suggested registering the names and street addresses of the pilots (mailing address, email address, phone number and serial number of the aircraft are optional). The registration requirement will apply to any UAS less than 55 pounds (25kg) and heavier than half a pound (250 grams) and owners must be at least 13 years old. A parent or guardian can register for anyone younger than 13 years old.

That makes perfect sense to me. I am concerned, however, about the implications for drone use when it comes to what are widely known as restraining orders, although in Pennsylvania they are called protection from abuse orders. The function of such orders is simple: make the defendant’s physical proximity to or remote contact via telephone or third parties with the plaintiff an indirect criminal contempt. This triggers the ability to sanction and if necessary imprison a violating defendant.

As you can imagine, these are especially useful in domestic violence situations, custody disputes and stalking circumstances. Pennsylvania orders can last up to three years based on the judge’s discretion, while New Jersey orders can theoretically last forever. Importantly, in both states a protection order prohibits the defendant from owning or receiving firearms. The goal is obvious: you don’t want a nutcase kept 100 yards from his ex-wife by a protective order to have a gun with three times that range with which to attack her.

This is where my concern about drones comes into play. I think FAA registration of drone pilots is a great idea. However, the surveillance and yes, even remote attack capabilities of drones require the prohibition of their use by defendants in protection order matters. The FAA maintains a public-facing database of registered aircraft pilots in three categories, Airline Transport Pilot, Commercial Pilot and Private Pilot. It could add a fourth category, Drone Pilot. Then it could add registration information to its Web Services, for which it provides an API with which developers can interface with the data and present it to end users.

This would allow authorities to cross-reference their own protection order registries, like Pennsylvania’s Protection From Abuse Database, with the FAA registration information and remove drones when the state police remove firearms from the defendant’s possession. Drones are an awesome technology but their value to filmmakers, scientists and geeks generally shouldn’t blind to the fact that they can be put to nefarious uses as well.

Vizio TVs spy on you, here’s how to disable it

Vizio TVs spy on you, here’s how to disable it

Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address – the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.

This is a damn good reason not to buy a Vizio TV. I won’t rant about opt-out/opt-in again. But I found Vizio generally had a good price-to-quality ratio: not top shelf hardware, but not top shelf prices, either. So this shadiness is a shame.

A shamey-ness?

Anyway, props to Samsung and LG, who, according to Julia Angwin at ProPublica, require user consent before enabling the sort of tracking Vizio turns on by default.

Disable Vizio “Smart Interactivity”

Vizio obviously knows how shady its default spying is because they have a page named after the feature which begins with information on how to turn it off:

VIA TV Interface

  1. Press the MENU button on your TV’s remote.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  4. Press RIGHT arrow to change setting to Off.

VIA Plus TV Interface

  1. Press the MENU button on your TV’s remote or open HDTV Settings app.
  2. Select System.
  3. Select Reset & Admin.
  4. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  5. Press RIGHT arrow to change setting to Off.

The how and why of sneaky ultrasonic ad tracking

Dan Goodin reports over at Ars Technica on the development of technology which can use inaudible frequencies to tie together multiple unconnected devices. He explains:

The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can’t be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.

Goodin cites a letter from the Center for Democracy and Technology to the Federal Trade Commission [PDF] describing the technical aspects of the practice and the privacy implications. I won’t repeat what Goodin or CDT have already explained with clarity. Instead, I wanted to talk about the inability of users like us to opt out of cross-device tracking.

Why don’t the companies developing and using these tracking technologies just tell us what they’re doing and give us the option to opt out? Obviously, requiring us to opt in would be the most honorable and least user-hostile approach. But I’ll concede that as being firmly in the “never gonna happen” column.

I am open to the possibility that I set up a straw man in the next section of this article, so feel free to point it out to me if that’s what you think. Just be constructive.

Concerns about using a straw man aside, the only logic I can see undergirding the failure to offer an opt-out mechanism is a concern that a large number of users would in fact opt out. That would obviously reduce or, in a worst-case scenario for tracking companies, eliminate the population of tracked individuals.

The only problem with that is that it’s bullshit.

We opt in to terms of service and privacy policy all over the web every day without reading a word of them. Projects like ToS;DR and TOSback aim to make us better informed about what we’re agreeing to and how those agreements change over time. They are fascinating and important projects but primarily the domain of geeks like me (and, since you’re reading this, possibly you, as well).

The truth is the overwhelming majority of people click “Yes” or “Agree” or “Continue” or whatever other button or link gets them to the web content or software they want to use. Here’s a quote from an AdWeek article published in May 2015, citing a survey done by photography website ScoopShot:

More than 30 percent of the 1,270 survey respondents said they never read the ToS when signing up to a social network. 49.53 percent only read the ToS ‘sometimes,’ and only 17.56 percent of people ‘always’ read the ToS.

Yes, that’s only one study, and yes, it was conducted on SurveyMonkey, but it’s a decent sample size. And can you honestly tell me that you or anyone else you know read the terms and policies of the sites and software you use? Probably not.

Is there any other reason, then, that creepy advertising tracking technology doesn’t offer an opt-out, just like the ones we never actually make use of throughout the rest of the web? Yes, I think there is.

Most websites have terms of service and privacy policies, although they are usually relegated to miniscule links at the very bottom of the website’s footer section. The European Union requires cookie notifications. But when is the last time you decided not to use a website like Facebook or the BBC website because you read their policies and didn’t consent to them? I’ll answer for the overwhelming majority of us: never, ever.

It’s their ubiquity coupled with the dominant user response of wildly clicking “Yes” until you get what you came for that makes website policies such a compelling topic of discussion. The companies building the technology that uses inaudible sound to tell advertisers that your phone, computer, television and tablet all belong to the same person can minimize conversation about their products by refusing to present you with an opt-out mechanism.

It’s that desire to remain invisible and as uncontroversial as possible for as long as possible that motivates them to be so sneaky. One commenter on Goodin’s Ars article puts it very well:

that advertisers keep basing their technological “progress” off of malware research and techniques is very telling.

It sure is. The reality is that I am one of those weirdos who doesn’t care if I’m tracked, but I do care when I’m not asked to consent to it. I propose that some privacy-minded geeks more intelligent than I develop some sort of ultrasonic ad-cancelling noise generation software for us to use in our homes and offices to thwart secret ultrasonic cross-device ad tracking. You have to take that one and run with it, I’m just an ideas man.

Is the Russian kamikaze sub misinformation or an inadvertent warning to the West?

Is the Russian kamikaze sub misinformation or an inadvertent warning to the West?


The screen capture depicts a project called “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6.'” The weapon would apparently be delivered by a nuclear-powered underwater drone, carried externally by a nuclear submarine. The drone would be capable of depths of up to 3,280 feet and capable of speeds of up to 65 miles an hour. It would also have a range of 6,213 miles.

A weapon like this could take out the transatlantic data cables as mere collateral damage…

Russian Ships Too Close to Data Cables for U.S. Comfort

Russian Ships Too Close to Data Cables for U.S. Comfort

The first of two this-is-really-concerning posts you’ll find here today:

The role of the cables is more important than ever before. They carry global business worth more than $10 trillion a day, including from financial institutions that settle transactions on them every second. Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital. The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications.

I hope there are ways for at least economic, government and military organizations to route around those cables via satellite if necessary…

Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface

Apple has learned nothing from Microsoft’s Surface – The Verge

iPad sales are indeed down, but it does not follow from that fact that iPad use is down. This Time article did the yeoman’s work of aggregating some data about iPad sales. The bottom line is that in the five years since the iPad’s 2010 launch, Apple has sold more than 258 million of the tablets. That’s more iPads in the wild than people living in Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, Iran, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Thailand, France, United Kingdom, or Italy (thanks Wolfram|Alpha).

My dad has an Android tablet and a Windows PC. Since he got the tablet (which, interestingly from a marketing perspective, he insists on calling an iPad) he does nothing on the PC except pay bills, and that’s primarily because most of the apps you use to pay bills on mobile devices are, to put it mildly, user-hostile antichrists of design and experience.

He is a sample of one, but my dad isn’t even your typical cutting edge older gentleman. For example, he was on Aol dial-up until sometime around 2013, and refuses to use a non-clamshell mobile phone. So his taking so quickly to using a tablet implies to me that the replacement of PCs by iPads and other tablets may be closer than Tom Warren of The Verge thinks, although still far off.

I don’t see my dad using an iPad Pro though because most of his use is on the couch as a second screen. I suspect that the second screen use case coupled with the price point will dampen iPad Pro sales outside of the geek and artist demographics.

Much of the online harassment of women is terrorism

South By Southwest has changed its mind on the cancellation of two scheduled panels about the harassment of women in tech. Correct me if I’m wrong or being too soft on them, but I think this admission of their mistake and full 180 is the best way to make up for the mistake:

The summit will include Randi Harper, Katherine Cross and Caroline Sinders from “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games,” as well as Perry Jones, Mercedes Carrera, and Lynn Walsh from “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community.” We are working with both groups to develop the most productive focus for their appearances.

There are also a ton more confirmed speakers, too:

  • Monika Bickert (Head of Product Policy, Facebook)
  • Soraya Chemaly (Writer/Director, WMC Speech Project)
  • Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts)
  • Wendy Davis (Women’s Rights Advocate; former TX State Senator)
  • Mark DeLoura (VP Technology, formerly with Sony, Nintendo, Google, and White House OSTP)
  • Mary Anne Franks (Law Professor, University of Miami School of Law and Legislative & Tech Policy Director, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative)
  • Jonathan Greenblatt (CEO and National Director, Anti-Defamation League)
  • Umair Haque (
  • Sarah Jeong (Contributing Editor, Vice Motherboard)
  • Emma J. Llansó (Director, Free Expression Project, Center for Democracy & Technology)
  • Emily May (Co-founder and Executive Director, Hollaback!)
  • Kelly McBride (Vice President of Academic Programs, The Poynter Institute)
  • Shireen Mitchell (Founder, Digital Sisters and Stop Online Violence Against Women)
  • Nika Nour (Director, Communications and Creative Strategies, Internet Association)
  • Meredith L. Patterson (Security Researcher)
  • Joseph Reagle (Northeastern University and Author, “Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web”)
  • Jeffrey Rosen (President & CEO, National Constitution Center)
  • Lee Rowland (Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project)
  • Ari Ezra Waldman (Associate Professor of Law, New York Law School)
  • Brianna Wu (Head of Development, Giant Spacekat)

People frequently talk about the “women in tech” problem, but the women in tech aren’t the problem. What it really is and should be called is the “lonely losers misdirecting profound insecurities and self-loathing into unmitigated expressions of anger and hatred toward women in tech” problem.

Few issues illustrate more forecfully the need to continue the conversations about how to marginalize and silence the Dark Side than this problem. That’s counterintuitive to some people, paticularly because the best way to deal with bullies is usually to disempower them with total ignorance of everything they say and do.

But that doesn’t work against online harassment, probably because the offenses are distributed, as are so many other network-based phenomena. You may silence one or two nutcases by ignoring them, but the supply of nutcases on the internet is an “infinite scroll” situation, there’s always someone else to take up the torch of jackassery and often flat-out domestic terrorism.

If that sounds hyperbolic to you, let me explain further. The FBI website explains that domestic terrorism is any activity with the following three characteristics:

  1. Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  2. Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  3. Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

Numbers (2) and (3) are self-explanatory and I don’t think anyone is going to object to characterizing much of the harassment perpetrated online as fitting those two characteristics.

Number (1) is a bit more nuanced because it may not be immediately obvious to some people that online harassment frequently involves “acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law.” One example is the act of swatting, “the act of tricking an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into dispatching an emergency response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident.”

Swatting often results in a militaristic police response that can very much get people badly hurt. A Google News search turns up “about 24,000 results”, most of which relate to the dangerous act described above. It has even happened to Lil Wayne.

Many women deal with a steady onslaught of harassment in many forms, and they’re not immune to swatting, hence my proposition that the phrase “domestic terrorism” is accurately descriptive of much of the online harassment perpetrated on women.

Oh, and if swatting isn’t enough to convince you, there have also been suicides and death threats.

My proposition is therefore most accurately expressed as “failing to refer to the online harassment of women as anything but domestic terrorism is inaccurate at best and at worst a major component of the problem itself.”

I want to be a part of the solution, or at least the conversation. And since I’m not quite sure how best to contribute, I’m starting by stating my position as clearly as I possibly can, that’s what this article is meant to do:

Those who harass women and anyone else online using any of the methods discussed in this article or any other methods intended to result in physical or psychological harm are terrorists, and their conduct is terrorism.